In July 2009, the Colorado Board of Health rejected the five-patient limit for caregivers, issuing in the Colorado Green Rush. Almost ten years later, the children of the first cannabis pioneers are coming of age.
Some of these children are helping their parents take their businesses to a whole new level. This is the case at Sweet Mary Jane
, a popular cannabis-infused product manufacturer in Boulder, Colorado.
Lucienne “Lucie” Lazarus was a twenty-year-old student at George Washington University when her mother, Karin Lazarus, told her that she wanted to open a cannabis bakery. Although Lucie thought it was a cool idea, she didn’t know just how huge the industry would become. “Legalization was a big deal in Colorado, but it didn’t even seem like a real thing on the East Coast,” Lucie said.
When she and her boyfriend, Gaetano “Tano” Iannaccone, graduated from college, they moved to Los Angeles. Lucie’s work experience in LA made her think about her mother’s business in a whole new way. “My first job after college was at a chocolate company. That got me interested in the food industry. Ultimately, that’s the industry that Sweet Mary Jane is in—making food,” Lucie said.
The Beginning of Something New (and Infused)
In 2014, Karin asked Lucie and Tano if they would test recipes for her upcoming cookbook, Sweet Mary Jane
. The timing was perfect, so they took the job. Karin was so happy with their work that she asked them to join Sweet Mary Jane permanently.
To her delight, Lucie and Tano agreed. Karin remembered, “I was thrilled. Surprised and thrilled!” Although neither Karin nor Lucie had expected that Lucie would come to work at Sweet Mary Jane until it actually happened, it turned out to be a perfect fit.
Now, Lucie handles sales and marketing and Tano is responsible for the entire tincture line. “I love that Lucie and Tano are so highly skilled, but what’s even more valuable is that I can completely trust them. They have very complex jobs, but they take care of everything themselves. I don’t ever have to check on their work. I can trust them to do things right.”
Karin’s willingness to adopt her daughter’s ideas has directly contributed to Sweet Mary Jane’s success. One of these ideas was the popular and delicious Wake and Cake Brownie
s. “I never would have thought to put so many sprinkles in a brownie,” Karin said, “but it’s one of our most successful products. Lucie is really in touch with what the people of her generation want.”
I asked Lucie how she came up with the idea: “I always wanted to make something cute and fun like Funfetti
,” she divulged. “We’d had a dark chocolate brownie on our menu forever. I just combined ‘dark chocolate brownie’ with ‘birthday cake’ and came up with Wake and Cake!”
Lucie also added CBD to the adult use version of the brownie—a first for Sweet Mary Jane’s recreational baked goods. “Although we had high-CBD products in our tincture line, I realized that the recreational market was swinging towards CBD. I wanted to create a product that would address that shift.”
Changes in Industry, Changes in Business
Lucie is also an asset to Sweet Mary Jane when it comes to business communications. Karin misses the relaxed style of communication she had with dispensary owners when the industry was new. “Although I love all of our customers, I especially loved dealing with the small places. It’s good to speak to someone you know. Now, you call and you’re likely to get a message that says, ‘Press 1 to talk to Customer Service.’”
Since Lucie is comfortable with this style of communication, she was happy to take responsibility for Sweet Mary Jane’s sales calls. “I joined the company when the industry was already becoming more corporate. Many of our long-time customers had already grown into large, multi-store businesses. Since I wasn’t involved from the beginning, I wasn’t expecting personal communications.”
Lucie and Tano have also taken over regulatory compliance for Sweet Mary Jane. Annual regulatory changes can be stressful for industry pioneers who have been dealing with the industry’s growing pains for a decade. “Although I saw the issues my mother was facing in the beginning, I didn’t really work in the industry until Colorado was super-focused on compliance. I have only experienced Sweet Mary Jane as an established business in a booming industry, and regulatory compliance is just a part of that.”
When I asked Lucie about her favorite part of the job, she said that she’s passionate about providing patients with education about edibles, tinctures, and cannabis in general. “It’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
Although it’s sometimes challenging to work with family, Lucie says that it’s more than worth it to have a business partner who she loves and admires. “I never felt connected to a job in this way,” she said. “I have a lot of love for Sweet Mary Jane.”
I asked Karin where Sweet Mary Jane is heading in the future. “We’re deliberately growing at a slow pace. We don’t want to get too big too fast,” Karin said. Lucie agrees with her mother. “I like that we grow slow because it’s worked well for Sweet Mary Jane in the past. It’s hard to plan for the future with so much uncertainty in the industry. Our slower pace has helped us to stay healthy.”
In February 2016, Lucie officially became a partner in Sweet Mary Jane. When I asked Karin if that meant Lucie might manage Sweet Mary Jane sometime soon, Karin laughed. “I suppose I’ll pass it on sometime, but not anytime soon. I love this industry.”
For her part, Lucie feels that she’s found a home at Sweet Mary Jane. “I have a lot of hope for the industry. It seems like it’s here to stay—for now, anyways!”
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