A June 2018 report from Morgan Stanley found that 50% of freelance workers could represent 50% of the workforce within the next decade. While this does not apply directly to the cannabis industry, data has shown that the cannabis workforce’s numbers do largely reflect the American job market.
Freelance platforms exist in rather large numbers. Sites like Upwork, Fiverr and several others have provided freelancers with a destination to find work without having to sift through full-time leads on LinkedIn, Indeed and numerous others.
And while the cannabis industry does use these sites to list work, a shortage of listings are clearly noticed across each platform. Until recently, the industry’s job seekers mostly had Vangst, a full-time cannabis career search platform, as its only option.
This is something Denise Biderman witnessed first-hand as she attempted to find work as a consultant in the cannabis space. Transitioning from a career as a lawyer and living in Denver, she sought to ply her trade in cannabis. However, the grass was not so green at that time.
“I saw how expensive it was for anyone to engage a consultant,” she explained. On top of the expense it cost to engage with a consultant, Biderman wasn’t having an ideal experience on the other side of the market. “I wanted to freelance and continue consulting on licensing applications, but there was no place for me to really find cannabis-specific clients.”
She told her partner, Taylor Aldredge, a PR and marketing expert, that this solution did not exist yet. She expanded on what the lack of cannabis-specific search platforms meant for businesses and freelancers. “There’s no freelance marketplace specifically dedicated to cannabis. There is an opportunity for businesses to expand resources. [They can] expand their pool of talent and also minimize costs of hiring somebody full time.” With that, Biderman and Aldredge sought out to create the solution to a growing problem while allowing professionals to find cannabis work – even without being in a legalized state.
This was the beginning of Mary’s List and its journey to launching.
Getting Mary’s List to the public would not come easily for Biderman and Aldredge. Denver’s altitude was not sitting well with Biderman, and a move away from the Mile High City was needed. In March 2018, the two would move from Denver to another cannabis hotbed, Los Angeles. For about six months, the couple called the West Coast home before a move back East brought them back to New York City.
Living in these three distinct markets gave the two an idea about cannabis culture in America. Aldredge noted that while New York and Los Angeles shared a self-made, self-starter sort of mentality, the differing legality of the plant in each state made market awareness more difficult back East. That said, a buzz about Mary’s List did begin to swell in both freelance-heavy markets.
While some buzz has generated, market awareness continues to be an issue for the bootstrapped startup. Aldredge called generating such awareness the company’s biggest hurdle to date. “I think what we’re facing as a company is that we’re trying to overcome how we can educate people more on how to freelance in cannabis, how to consult, how to run your own company or operation. It’s not just waiting around for a job to show up, but actually making your own way.”
Aldredge explained how early milestones helped get the word out on the brand. These milestones included winning the second annual Innovate@BU cannabis startup competition. The win earned Mary’s List buzz in cannabis publications and, in turn, increased market validity. It also earned the company $10,000 to help the business grow.
Today, the company has set its sights on content as a market awareness driver. Content is not limited to a blog post or copywriting either. Social media is another driver. Aldredge and Biderman also pointed towards their online engagement for helping spread the word while connecting them to the community online.
However, like most cannabis companies, Mary’s List could be banned by social media and Google ad platforms for advertising as a cannabis business. As such, Mary’s List stays to all organic efforts online. “People say we should try it [social ads], but we think the risk outweighs the reward,” Aldredge explained.
Content extends even further to the content of the brand’s character. The same goes for its partners. To show its character and meet like-minded people in the business, Biderman and Aldredge have become fixtures at New York events and beyond, such as MJBizCon in Las Vegas.
Beyond networking and expos, Mary’s List makes it known that it aligns with cannabis ethos. “We try to align ourselves with those [like-minded] organizations that we share the same values with. That has been one of the biggest drivers of our brand awareness.”
With Denise spearheading the endeavor, Mary’s List works with groups like The Drug Policy Alliance and other cannabis cultural events to do good for the cannabis community. If the word gets out about their platform, even better. But that is not the primary goal of their endeavor.
Today, as the two work with their family to turn the platform from a bootstrapped family operation to a full-blown freelance platform, Biderman and Aldredge are where they need to be. “For me,” Biderman starts, “it feels like I’m home. I love everyone in the [New York cannabis] community. We are all so supportive of one another.”
Aldredge is also thrilled to be back East as well, where an entrepreneurial drive is rather standard. He explained that he enjoys the “creativity that comes out of New York City. No one’s waiting around for something to arrive.” He added, “The thing I love most about New York is people are like, ‘I’m going to take this into my own hands. I got this.’”
With Mary’s List now just a few months into its official launch, both Biderman and Aldredge are set on growing their endeavor. They’ll need to obtain the awareness they need. To achieve their goals, the two will continue touring the country and making their presence felt in New York and all over, listening to the needs of the market.
Now, as other cannabis-specific platforms start to emerge, the two face a trying fight to achieve their dreams. But what in this world, especially cannabis entrepreneurship, isn’t worth fighting for?
While achieving the awareness may seem steep, the partnership of Biderman and Aldredge is self-made, confident and willing to go the extra mile to succeed. With that and their ethics as its foundation, Mary’s List poses an excellent chance of clearing its hurdles.