Sanctuary Spotlight: Samantha Williams
When did you move to Florida, and how did you break into the cannabis industry?
I moved to Florida about five years ago after I graduated from college in 2015 with my Bachelor’s in political science and my minor in international business. I’m originally from New York and just wanted a big change. I moved down to Florida with my mother because she was feeling the same thing. She’s from Jamaica originally; she was up [in New York] about 25 years from the time I was born, and she decided to make that big change with me.
I kind of hopped around a little bit and tried to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated. I had a number of jobs; I think the job I had before I got into cannabis was Lowe’s. I applied at Surterra, which is now Parallel, and was with them for almost three years.
How did you then make your way to Sanctuary?
After I was with Surterra for about two, almost three years, I was promoted to be an assistant general manager. After being in that position for a year, I decided that I wanted to become a general manager. I started interviewing around, getting the feel of it and really deciding on going into that next role. I remember applying for a role at Sanctuary on Indeed. After a week, I told my mother and was like, “Nope, I’m never going to get it. It’s okay. They’re not going to call me.” She said, “Yeah, it happens. Just keep it moving.”
One day, I got this phone call and I couldn’t hear anything–I think it was a bad reception. Then, I got another phone call a couple hours later. I ran out the door because they were saying, “Hey, we’re from Sanctuary, you interviewed for the GM position,” and I just remember being super excited!
During the third interview, one of the questions I remember asking was about how Sanctuary formats things because I love the medicinal side of cannabis and I love being able to explain that to customers. That’s my most important piece of working with this company; I want to make sure that we’re still going to be teaching our customers and it’s not just going to be us pushing something on someone like, “Hey, it’s all about sales, here you go,” and that wasn’t the case. Once they explained to me the nature of the process and how we’re still going to be following those same concepts, I’m thinking, ‘Okay, great. This is a company I want to work for!’
What makes the Florida cannabis market unique and exciting?
I think it’s more the patient interaction. Down here, that’s the biggest thing–that one-on-one feel. Being at Sanctuary a couple of weeks and having my store open, I’m starting to memorize the patient bases again. We have those patients that aren’t new to cannabis, but they’re new to us, and it’s just about teaching. They’re still learning, even if they’ve been on the registry for a year or if they’ve been using this for almost 60 years.
It’s funny to see how much they’re learning when they come to see us. I once taught a guy how to smoke; he said every time he smoked, he coughed and I said, “You’re absolutely doing it wrong.” He was just like, “What do you know? I’ve been smoking longer than you’ve been alive.” I just pointed to him and said, “Hey, try it my way.” He came back to me a week later and he was like, “How did you know any of that? I did it just the way you said and I stopped coughing.” I just thought that was hilarious.
How has working in cannabis shaped you as a young adult?
The one thing I’ve learned with cannabis is that you just have to go with the flow all the time. You can’t be locked into rigid boxes because it changes every single day. That’s why I always tell people, “Hey, don’t get mad at the things that you can’t control and just keep going.” That’s my biggest motto of being in the cannabis industry because it’s the Florida market and things change every single day.
That has just shaped me a lot. Just working through that, going with the flow, and seeing what it’s going to have to take. We’ve got the daily instructions, having to set up a store, making sure we stay very compliant. That’s the number one rule: stay compliant. The Florida market is just so regulated, it’s so compliance-based. From the patient registry to the product information to how we speak to the patients, it’s been an amazing field to be in and I absolutely love it.
What have you enjoyed most about being a GM so far, and what are you most excited for in the future?
This is my first store, so I’m very excited. I’m very proud, especially for the whole team and just for our location in general. I tell them everyday, “We’re the third store to open up, but I want us to be number one. I want to see number one in sales. I want us to be number one in average tickets and how many customers we get.”
I told them to enjoy the time right now because it’s slow. We’re building up that patient clientele; we’re not even 30 days in, and I can already see the growth happening, new customers that are coming every single day and returning! It’s almost a 50-50 split. It’s just so exciting to see that sales aspect go up and really having our patients talk about the products and what we mean to them. I’m super excited to start telling our patients we have Shatter!
I’m most excited to see my dispensary growth in the next six months to a year. I know that’s where we’re going to see a lot of our data and how much we’re building as a company. We’re just going to keep growing, moving forward and taking those next steps!