I am certain that millions of other people, like me, have taken up the terrible habit of grabbing their cell phone first thing in the morning to assess the state of human civilization. The scroll of news and content is self-inflicted psychological terrorism: death, mayhem, and a barrage of all of the ways in which I am failing as a small business owner. The anxiety scroll generally lasts for 10 minutes until I hear the soft footsteps of my mom’s feet padding on the floor above — a grounding reminder of the be here now comforts of COVID quarantine life.
My mom is my business partner at Cosmic View and by the time I make it up the stairs, she’s generally sitting at the dining room table with a stack of invoices and bills. This is supposed to be the busiest time of the year for us. It’s April, and this Monday is April 20 — 420. For those of you not fluent in stoner speak, it’s basically international weed day. This year was supposed to be our biggest 420 yet, with events set up at our two best accounts. The first two years of California’s cannabis legalization had been tough, and we were certain that 2020 would be our year.
You can probably guess how this goes. 2020 thus far, is not our year. It’s the year that may break us as a small company. It’s the year that few craft cannabis companies will emerge from alive. The irony of this situation is that cannabis in California has in fact been deemed an “essential business.” While the world burns down around us — as our favorite restaurants shutter, creative friends get laid off — we are still able to operate. If you read the headlines, you’d also guess that legal cannabis in California is killing it.
The first two weeks of shelter in place were a boon for the industry as consumers flocked to dispensaries to stock up on weed. But then … it dried up. At least for many small companies. We simply don’t have the large pools of marketing dollars to reach consumers in their homes or the margins to slash prices again and again to lure budget-conscious consumers. We also can’t expect that millions of consumers will continue to have money to buy anything outside of daily necessities. Each day, I think about the thousands of people’s lives that have been lost to COVID-19, the businesses that will never reopen and the societal shifts upon us. I spend an equal part of the time thinking about how I, too, can lose everything that I have created over the past three years.
Earlier today, I listened to Cheryl Strayed’s interview of Margaret Atwood on her new podcast, Dear Sugars. The episode was aptly called, “Roll Up Your Sleeves, Girls,” as Atwood spoke about her independent, get er done attitude about everything from making face masks to eliminating nesting squirrels in her roof. At one point, Strayed asked Atwood what advice she would give to listeners and Atwood replied that wisdom means when knowing not to advise at all.
That resonated deeply. During the early moments of my morning wakeups when I am spiraling through the news and Instagram, I am bombarded by advice. How to stay healthy, how to stay busy, how to stay alive as a small business. And I guess this is the point in this blog post where I am supposed to share words of wisdom about finding meaning as a small business during this unprecedented financial disaster.
I’ve had many existential conversations with my mom about our business in the early mornings since I’ve been sheltering in place with my parents. And they go something like this. We are more than our work. All of us. And this period of time is one of deep grief for many of us, even those of us who will emerge with an income and a job. Rather than focusing on how to occupy ourselves with art projects or mastering sourdough bread or planting a new garden, sometimes acknowledging the collective sadness and loss we are experiencing as humans sometimes is enough.
Rolling up my sleeves these days is certainly making face masks, creatively thinking of new ways to reach customers and helping my parents plant their garden for what will be the most bountiful summer harvest yet. But as an entrepreneur and small business owner, it’s also riding through the waves of fear and grief, putting down my phone and taking it one day at a time. And weed, well, weed definitely helps.