Written by Ashley Priest
Those in the cannabis space are no strangers to innovation. Industry-goers are resourceful when it comes to solving problems. Several top cannabis companies started with a problem, in which they used an innovative way to solve it. Mary’s List, winner of the 2018 Boston University Cannabis Startup Competition, was founded by Denise Biderman. This month, Emerald Magazine had the opportunity to speak with Denise about her Do-It-Yourself mission in providing a unique solution for freelancers and other DIY go-getters in the cannabis space.
Q&A With Denise Biderman—Founder and CEO of Mary’s List:
Emerald Magazine: In your own words, what is Mary’s List?
Denise Biderman: Mary’s List is the first professional services marketplace for the cannabis industry that connects businesses of all sizes with freelancers and service providers on a project-to-project basis. Businesses can source professionals from around the country and pay them for services provided directly through the platform, leaving out the guesswork of how to get paid in the cannabis industry.
EM: What inspired you to start Mary’s List?
DB: Two things inspired me to create Mary’s List. While I was living in Colorado, I was working for an amazing consulting firm. The company’s reputation brought with it a hefty price tag; only a very select group could afford to pay $250,000-plus on a licensing consultant. That was hard for me to swallow. I kept wondering how I could help people from all income brackets apply for a license, while in the meantime, the altitude in Colorado was devastating to my health. I was so sick that after my last CAT scan, we decided it was time to move. While trying to find work, I decided that I could freelance as a licensing consultant. However, when I went to look for cannabis clients and source all the professionals I needed for a licensing application, such as a grow consultant or security consultant, there was no specific resource for me to do that. That’s when it dawned on me. I turned to my partner and said, “There’s Craigslist, there’s Angie’s List … why not Mary’s List? Mary’s List can be the hub for all things needed to help your cannabis business grow, from licensing to execution. Thus, Mary’s List was born in March of 2018.
EM: What were the biggest obstacles that you faced during the process?
DB: Finding a payment processor that could do payouts for us was absolutely this biggest hurdle we faced. We went through 14 before finding the right partner, lucky number 15! We’d all but given up. We thought about changing our entire business model and replacing it with a pay-to-introduce model without offering a payout solution, but our prayers were answered at the last hour, and we forged ahead. Now, every professional can become a vendor on our site, vetted through our processor, and they’ll receive payment right to their bank account for their work. Businesses can effectively pay for these services via credit card. I think this is a huge win for the cannabis industry.
EM: What is the biggest problem you were looking to resolve?
DB: Mary’s List was developed to solve three key issues:
1. Giving people an equitable chance at sourcing the professionals they need for a licensing application.
2. Opening up the talent pool in the space: Perhaps a graphic designer based out of West Virginia that familiarizes themselves with the regulations is the best fit for a California dispensary.
3. Giving people on the outside looking in an opportunity to enter the cannabis industry. There are lots of seasoned professionals out there who have tons of experience in their field but have not worked in cannabis. This is a way for them to transition into the space, one project at a time.
EM: How has cannabis personally helped you?
DB: Aside from anxiety relief and helping with my insomnia, when I was faced with my fourth knee surgery to have cadaver bone grafted into a hole in my knee, I was resolute that I did not want to use opioids but rather cannabis. I did my research. I found the right ointments and strains and only used cannabis post-recovery. After having used a machine that bent and straightened my knee for eight hours a day post-surgery, I was running on a treadmill within two months after that. That was when I decided to put my previous life as an attorney aside and put my research and writing skills to good use. Mary’s List not only provides a platform for professionals and business owners in the cannabis space to connect for projects, it also is a valuable tool for freelancers already working in the sector. It will be fascinating to see the continued success of Mary’s List and other DIY solutions in the cannabis industry in the years to come.