Just about the time her state was about legalizing the commercialization of marijuana, Hope Wiseman quit her career as an investment banker to venture into cannabis cultivation, making her the youngest African-American woman to own a marijuana dispensary in the state of Maryland.
Her decision to go into cannabis cultivation was backed by research. As a finance person, Wiseman would monitor the markets and trends and foreshadowed that cannabis was going to be the next big thing in the U.S. and across the globe in the next few years.
According to a Marijuana Business Daily report in 2017, only four percent of African Americans were business owners and founders of cannabis dispensaries with women of color occupying a little over five percent of senior roles in the industry.
Through a series of research, she uncovered the lack of research on how African Americans and other minority groups have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. Also, not only did she see the economic potential of cannabis cultivation but also how she was going to profit from something people who look like her have been arrested for.
As if by divine design, she founded Mary and Main and was licensed to grow marijuana about five minutes down the street where she went to High School. “It’s our community that we’re really a part of. I think that’s exciting, to be able to serve the patients that are going to be coming into our store are going to be people that I know. So, I think that’s really exciting to be able to directly serve the community that I grew up in,” she told Essence.
Wiseman is seeking to establish her firm as the premier dispensary in Maryland and to make sure that her firm is known in the state for great customer service, and for amazing varieties. “We also have some ideas for some proprietary products that we would like to create, and maybe partner with some of the manufacturers here in Maryland, to make them.”
Wiseman comes from a family of matriarchs. Her grandmother was an entrepreneur and her mom, Dr. Octavia Simkins-Wiseman, is also an entrepreneur and a dentist. Entrepreneurship runs in their family, according to her.
The 28-year-old paid a glowing tribute to her mom, who she convinced to join her business as a co-founder. “My mother and I have always had a very healthy mother-daughter relationship. I always say I think my mother has been grooming me for this my whole life, and we just didn’t know,” she says.
“Even when I was a very young girl… she started her dental practice the year I was born. I used to go to work with my mother when she [began] her entrepreneurial journey. We’ve always kind of worked together in our own little way and it’s very natural. My mother is the brains behind everything…She’s still teaching me every little thing that I need to know.”
Wiseman attended Spelman College in Atlanta after High School, majoring in economics. She worked for SunTrust Robinson Humphrey after completion, where she sold stock research to fund managers. However, she lost her job after nine months.
Wiseman’s decision to open a cannabis dispensary means she is playing a pioneering role for other African-American women to venture into an industry that’s traditionally dominated by men and comes with its own prejudice.