Annu Khot of Socíale Dispensary is Changing the Perception of Cannabis
Meet Annu Khot is the Founder and Managing Partner of Socìale, a female minority-owned Illinois-based dispensary primed to become a national cannabis brand. Annu was born and raised in India, where cannabis has been a part of traditional medicine for centuries.
She discovered cannabis after enduring the physical and mental pain of seven miscarriages and soon decided to start a dispensary of her own. A proud South Asian, Annu is one of the first female South Asian dispensary owners in the US.
Can you start by introducing yourself and telling us in your words, about your inspiring story?
I never thought I’d have a career in the cannabis industry–but here I am! I trained as a lawyer in India and always imagined I would be a corporate attorney my entire career. That ambition shifted when I experienced a number of miscarriages before having my now nine-year-old son. I turned to cannabis as a way to cope with the physical and emotional pain of my miscarriages–and was blown away by the power of this plant. I soon immersed myself in all things cannabis–and quickly changed my career goals to becoming a dispensary owner.
What made you decide to go into business for yourself?
I have always been a self-starter. Prior to founding Socíale, I was the Managing Partner of Rely Services, a professional services and technology firm. When I forged a path in the cannabis space, I knew I wanted to enter as an entrepreneur–as I would be better able to uplift employees, support fellow women and people of color in the industry, and advocate for cannabis social justice.
How do you use social media in your business?
As a business in the cannabis space, it’s incredibly difficult to leverage social media as a promotional tool. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have strict filters preventing any mention of cannabis, so my marketing team and I need to get smart about the content we create. However, LinkedIn has been a fantastic platform for growth (as it doesn’t have any restrictions against cannabis content). It’s been a seamless way to connect with other cannabis entrepreneurs and spread the word about Socíale.
How did you market your business when it was brand new?
As we’re just a few weeks away from launch, we’re currently in this phase! Through engaging social media content, a street team to spread the word in the Park Ridge, IL community, strategic brand partnerships, and word of mouth, we’re hoping to become one of Illinois’s premier dispensaries.
We all face challenges, but looking back, what have been some of the biggest challenges and pitfalls you’ve had to navigate?
As an entrepreneur in the cannabis space, I felt like I heard the word “no” more than my own name on some days! Being part of the cannabis industry isn’t for the faint of heart–as an industry that’s not legalized on the federal level, we don’t have access to traditional banks and can’t market through social media. Pushing past these challenges has been one of the most difficult parts of owning Socíale. I always remind myself that I just need one “yes” and not to worry about all of the “no’s.”
What are the three most important habits to be a successful entrepreneur? What is a typical day like for you?
- Consistency! A successful business isn’t built overnight. I’ve learned that establishing routines with my team (e.g., daily stand-ups, sunset reports) are key to running an efficient business.
- Hiring for grit, not graduate degrees. Many members of my team never previously worked in cannabis. However, their knowledge and passion for cannabis far exceed some who have been in the industry for decades!
- Overcommunicate. With teams working across functions, strategic priorities can get lost. In busy times (like the opening of a dispensary!), it’s key to amplify your message and partner with your team to execute.
How do you boost your self-esteem in moments of doubt?
I think of how far I’ve come–and what my participation in the cannabis industry means for fellow female cannabis entrepreneurs of color. I was one of the first Indian-American dispensary owners in the world–and Socíale was the first dispensary in the world to be blessed by a Hindu priest. I’m humbled that I broke down these barriers –but even more eager for what’s to come.
What advice would you give your younger self when starting this journey?
Always be fearless!
Which female leader do you admire, and why?
Michelle Obama. She has always held a high level of self-respect and respect for others, as seen through her use of words such as decency, integrity, dignity, and pride in her speeches. She defined herself rather than being defined by her president husband.
One of her famous leadership quotes that inspires me is “People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring others together.”
Want more inspiring interviews? Read Ditch Money Shame, Build Wealth and Feel Confident AF with Chloe Elise, or check out our interview with CEO and Entrepreneur Jane Milovanova, part of our interview series spotlighting successful women in business.
Melissa Stewart is the founder of SheOwnsIt.com. She is a Purveyor of Possibility, Entrepreneur Advocate and Coffee Addict. She believes that behind every successful woman is her story. What’s your story?