Not a Typical Success Story

Posted by Monica Hoel
Rachel Shenk and Patrick Holcomb are on Colorado’s front line of a new industry: legal cannabis.

Rachel Shenk (E&H ’09) and Patrick Holcomb (E&H ’11) have lived in Colorado for five years, and for the duration of that time they’ve been in the same industry: legal cannabis.

An industry that seems fairly commonplace in 2018 was still unheard of in 2013, but the duo were interested in being part of something new and fresh.

Rachel is now the general manager for for Native Roots Dispensary and Patrick is general manager for Lucy Sky Cannabis Boutique. They each also run hybrid recreational/medical locations for each of their respective companies. Rachel explains these outlets as retail locations where you can legally purchase cannabis with either a Colorado state-issued medical card or valid ID proving that you are over 21 years of age.

The duo enjoy their work, and they like being part of something that will help shape how the rest of the country addresses this new business opportunity as more and more states make cannabis legal. “We are both very happy in our jobs and continue to work towards higher personal and career goals. We have both been in the same industry for the past 5 years and feel that we are on the forefront, blazing a path for the rest of the country.”

Patrick and Rachel each started as entry level employees – “retail cannabis advisors/budtenders.” Now, they manage stores with established companies, and they say they represent the sort of opportunities available in a growing market. “The industry overall offers endless career paths in retail, management, marketing, chemistry, horticulture, research and development, human resources, accounting, compliance, culinary, and more. New roles are being developed on a regular basis as we have seen legalization spread across the country like a weed.”

And they are quick to point out that while people will want to make light of their careers (and clearly, even they enjoy a play on words) the truth is that their work is no laughing matter. “Working in the industry is not all bong rips and blunts. We work in a highly regulated and competitive market that operates in a sticky area of legality in the eyes of the federal government. Many things are more difficult than a normal retail business as regulations change constantly. Legal sales of cannabis generate $1 billion of revenue annually statewide (total sales and profits), and millions of dollars of tax revenue for the state of Colorado.”

And, of course, they are pleased to be part of something that can help medical patients who need access to “mother nature’s healing herb.  While it can be very demanding, it is always a rewarding and exciting thing to be a part of.”

And Emory & Henry helped prepare them both for the roles they’re playing now. Patrick says his E&H business classes gave him a “solid understanding of running a business and managing finance.” Rachel says her college days prepared her in other ways. “The relationships I made with my peers, professors, and other campus staff taught me how to work well with all walks of life which is basically required in this industry. My courses and extra-curriculars (Bonner, Mass Comm, Sociology courses in particular) prepared me for all kinds of responsibilities I have as a manager - reviewing my staff in a constructive way, taking part in community events, and generally understanding how to work well with others towards a bigger common goal.”

  • Rachel Shenk and Patrick Holcomb at a wedding in Northern Virginia.
    Rachel Shenk and Patrick Holcomb at a wedding in Northern Virginia.
“We work in a highly regulated and competitive market that operates in a sticky area of legality in the eyes of the federal government.”

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