When Hope Wiseman lost her job just eight months after being hired, she was heartbroken.
It was the first job she snagged after graduating from Spelman College.
“I worked so hard to get to that point. It was definitely a prestigious job offer at that age. I had just turned 22 and was devastated. I thought, ‘How will I be able to bounce back?’” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Her clinically-diagnosed anxiety made test-taking a challenge, and she didn’t pass one of the required government exams needed to maintain her investment banking gig at SunTrust in Atlanta.
“I was a little upset. No, I was a lot of upset,” she admitted. “I felt like everything I had worked for in college was in vain. I didn’t know where to go next.”
But there was one career path that had seeped into the back of her mind outside of banking − the marijuana industry.
As a financier and economics major in college, she had been studying emerging markets and trends in the economy for years, and the cannabis business was on the rise. North American sales are projected to hit $20.2 billion by 2021, according to a Forbes article.
“It jumped out at me. I saw this huge opportunity there for African-Americans for a field that is still shaping. Most large corporations are dominated by white men, and I wanted a chance to be a part of this one,” she said.
So she began researching the business extensively, learning everything about it from its economic advantages to its influence on the health world. After exploring a few options, she decided she would open her own medical cannabis dispensary in her hometown of Prince George’s County.
“I talked to my mother, who became my business partner. We went to another third business partner, and that’s how it all started,” she said.
For the next few years, Wiseman and her team worked on security and operational and marketing strategies to develop a business plan based on Maryland’s regulations for dispensaries. They later snagged a license to begin the build-out. The process was grueling, but her HBCU helped groom her.
“Spelman taught me how to juggle a lot of things at once. They teach you how to be multi-facted. That’s been my biggest strong suit,” said Wiseman, who also has a real-estate license and is a cast member on E!’s reality series WAGS Atlanta.
But Wiseman isn’t just multifaceted. She’s a historymaker, too. The entrepreneur said she will become the youngest black woman dispensary owner in America at 25 once her store, Mary & Main, opens this winter.
“When I first heard the news, I thought, ‘Wait, is it true? Let’s make sure,’” she laughed. “Essentially, I started to realize this is what I wanted. I wanted to inspire people, and I’m able to do that on a large scale. I now have the platform to encourage other people to follow their dreams even if they are a little bit unconventional.”
Mary & Main is definitely unique. Not only will her shop offer a variety of items and treatment therapies, it will also be a spot for cooking, science and history classes on marijuana. And she plans to open more across the country in the future.
It’s now been about three years since Wiseman left her banking job. Although the ride has been bumpy, she’s learned to enjoy the journey.
“I don’t want people to look at their failures as setbacks,” she said. “When I got let go, I was so confused and so lost. Now, I look at it as a stepping stone. It was necessary. It was a part of my story.”