Start it Up
Mar 18, 2019 06:26PM
With adult-use cannabis rec sales underway across the Bay State, the rest of the business world isn’t wasting any time branching out into the local marketplace from across the country.
Just days before legal cannabis sales began in Massachusetts, Boston University held its second annual [email protected] BU Cannabis Start-Up Competition. Open to graduates of BU and sponsored by Colorado-based cannabis strategy firm Green Lion Partners, finalists gathered in late November for the chance to take home $10,000 and consultation from Green Lion.
“There’s Craigslist, then there’s Angie’s List, so now why not Mary’s List,” says Mary’s List cofounder and CEO Denise Biderman. Biderman and partner/CEO/BU Alum Taylor Aldrege took home the bacon from [email protected] with their creation of a gig-based cannabis digital marketplace. Mary’s List connects businesses with freelance opportunities to professionals looking for work in a variety of fields from marketing to engineering, and even security consultants. But for Biderman and Aldrege, it’s more than just a job board.
“It’s freelance in some respect, but there’s also the element where people just need help finding vendors and different service providers,” Aldrege says.
The five finalists all of whom were charged with presenting “ancillary businesses,” not involved in a grow facility or dispensary. Some ideas included a spray to mitigate the effects of THC, a mobile safe space for cannabis consumption, as well as a delivery service not unlike a HelloFresh or Blue Apron for weed and infused goods.
Armed with a polished pitch and a good once over from Green Lion Partners, contestants presented in front of four judges, three of whom are industry veterans, including Kim Napoli, attorney and cofounder of New England’s The Hempest store.
“It was such a unique and amazing experience. BU’s Business school was unbelievable, I mean Boston University, it’s an institution!” Biderman said. And the win for Mary’s List was what they needed to realize their dream of having a booth at 2018’s MJBizCon in Las Vegas.
“We’ve been on our own trying to figure this out and suddenly this has been a shot in the arm where people believe in us and are willing to listen to us”, Aldrege said.
Biderman chokes up recalling her experience at the convention and the success they’ve experienced. “We had so many people from Boston and New England come up to us saying they saw us in Boston [and] we’re so proud of you,” she said.
The origins of Mary’s List might as well have come out of a storybook. Biderman and Aldrege, having met in-between jobs and a harboring more than average interest in cannabis, were at career crossroads in 2016. Soon the duo moved to Colorado to further investigate a mature market and Aldrege, a B2B and tech marketing professional, and Biderman, a NYC attorney, both had personal connections to the benefits of cannabis, and were hoping to get their hands dirty.
Faced with the unappealing prospect of taking prescribed painkillers after her 4th knee surgery, Biderman reached for cannabis topicals and the occasional vaporizer to mitigate pain when she had an aha moment. “It changed my life, my doctors were blown away at my reduced recovery time. I was on a machine that bent and straightened my leg for 8 hours a day for 2 months. Within about a month and a half of using cannabis topically, I was running on a treadmill, it was nuts.”
Aldrege too has a similar story; dealing with a critical ACL injury in high school, and Stage 4 Osteoarthritis, cannabis had become part of his pain regimen after prescription painkillers made him feel unwell.
In hindsight, the development of Mary’s List seems completely natural, but it was not without its fair share of trial and error. “It took 15 payment processers before we could find one that allowed us to do payouts through the site.” Biderman says. Normalizing the process of paying for services, employers can also pay for projects directly through the new platform.
Mary’s List is more than just a freelance board for the cannabis forward. By creating a space where people can come together and build a community around like-minded interests, new relationships are born on opposite coasts.
“You can get creative and connect with people you may have never otherwise met. A dispensary in San Diego can meet service providers in Virginia, which isn’t a legal stage, and work together.” Aldrege says.
After a nasty bout of health issues related to altitude sickness, the duo has moved the company to New York City, but is continuing to move forward with the development of Mary’s List. With the award money assuredly put to good use, a MJBizCon under their belt, and a good steam propelling them, Mary’s List aims to be one of the largest collections of cannabis specialists in the industry for those hoping to break into the community without breaking the bank.
“The sky’s the limit, as many people as we can help, that’s what we want to do. We’re watching this take shape as we build it.” Biderman says.