Sanctuary Spotlight: Kera Duguay
How did your path lead you to cannabis and, by extension, Sanctuary?
Entering the Cannabis industry was an organic process for me. It was a product I knew well and something I was passionate about. I attended the Sanctuary town meeting in Gardner when they were still going through the approval process [in 2017]. I walked right up to the CEO, shook his hand and said, “My name is Kera, and I would like to be a member of your team.” The rest is history!
You’ve been MA’s Regional Manager/Dispensary Coordinator for over a year but started as a budtender in 2018. How did you ascend?
I began in late 2017 as a budtender. Over time, my skills progressed, and I was promoted to a sales lead position in 2018. In 2019, I became the Assistant General Manager of our co-located Gardner dispensary and soon after became the General Manager. Leading my team through the start of the pandemic was a huge undertaking. Through those unprecedented times, I learned how to become a stronger leader, mentor and manager. In 2021, I was promoted to Dispensary Coordinator, which then became the Regional Dispensary Manager position I am in now. I oversee all five of our locations in MA and am loving every second of it!
What got me this far is having the willingness to overcome adversity, the ability to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing work environment and the passion to never give up.
What were some bits of advice or early lessons learned that helped you grow within the company? Any that stick with you to this day?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with an array of talented individuals, all of whom gave me valuable lessons along the way. One great piece of advice I continue to keep in the forefront of my mind and at the core of my management style is that it is okay to ask for help and to not know the answer to something. This approach allows you to learn, grow and thrive.
Given the cannabis industry and, by extension, cannabis companies are so young, institutional knowledge becomes important. How has 1) holding various roles at retail and corporate levels 2) spending years in the industry helped you grow and advance?
Although the cannabis industry is new, selling products in general is not. I’ve been able to apply past skills to this environment with ease. Getting in at the ground floor gave me the opportunity to learn from and observe many people along the way. The most important thing is to be receptive to change, continue learning about the industry even when you are off the clock and be a good, respectful person even if your opinions differ from someone else’s
What is unique, exciting or challenging about the MA cannabis market?
I believe Massachusetts is a progressive state in general. We tend to have the highest standards for just about everything, and cannabis is no different. The biggest hurdle–yet also the most satisfying aspect–of this job is the stigma around cannabis and, in turn, watching that melt away.
As a young professional and young woman in cannabis, how has this industry specifically shaped or empowered your professional development?
I work alongside countless unbelievably talented women every single day, most of whom are in leadership roles and have held high-level roles in areas of business beyond cannabis. We collaborate and learn from one another. It is empowering to know that our workplace encourages these types of relationships and this level of equality. Sanctuary, unlike many, is not a male-dominated company, and women, for the most part, are running the show here.
What are some of your hopes or goals for the future, both for yourself and the industry?
Personally, I am working toward a Director of Dispensary Operations position, either in this state or another, while continuing to break glass ceilings everyday. I’d also like to connect and cultivate deeper relationships with women in the cannabis industry. Finally, I’m working on being a stronger mentor, becoming more self-aware and confident, and furthering my education in Business Administration and Marketing.
For the industry, I’m just hoping we continue to become more efficient and cannabis becomes more readily available to all those who wish to obtain cannabis and cannabis knowledge safely and compliantly.
What is the personal significance of being a mother in cannabis? What are some markers of progress and, conversely, areas where growth is needed?
Most importantly, I will be able to educate my son on the facts of cannabis as he gets older. It will be an open discussion topic in my household, as I hope to undo the demonization of cannabis and properly prepare him for his teenage and adult years.
Women and mothers go through emotional, hormonal and physical changes in their bodies constantly. Cannabis is an aid that can be used to relieve the effects of these ailments so we can continue to be productive. Women are more confident about coming in and asking for help for these reasons specifically. However, judgment still exists, and I hope cannabis can be accepted the same way Midol or a glass of wine is. No woman or mother should be shamed for choosing cannabis over other pharmaceutical alternatives. Smoke the joint, momma!
What are your favorite Sanctuary products?
If you could create and name a strain, what would it be and why?
I would call mine Peace & Quiet because there’s nothing better than a bit of peace and quiet!