Living the Dream: Helen Cho

Helen Cho

Director of Strategy

Aloha Green Apothecary

Honolulu, HI

There is always so much to do.

As a startup cannabis company blazing the path forward for a new industry in Hawaii, we are in a position of great potential and of high expectations. There is no playbook to follow, and everyone — including licensees, the Department of Health (regulators) and legislators — is figuring it out as we go. Aloha Green Apothecary is always juggling numerous objectives, many with moving targets. This business has us honing our prioritization and timing skills on a daily basis — and it’s not always glamorous.

Our office, two years into starting the company, is a mix of free, old, Craigslisted and broken-but-still-working, jerry-rigged furniture. There are boxes and products everywhere — the office doubles as secondary storage space for things we never knew we’d have to put somewhere. 

We also still haven’t learned how to use all the filesharing services that could make all our lives easier, and we have yet to put a TV on the TV rack we screwed into the wall more than a year ago. It’s garage-style glam. It’s slowly growing on all of us.

We’ll get to all those things — eventually. Instead, we’ve been focusing our resources on things that are, first and foremost, strategically important or time-sensitive/urgent. There is a constant struggle to balance the long- and short-term goals of the company, each department, every team and employee. Early on, the executive team decided to work smart and united. The key for us is communication and vision.

It takes vision, teamwork and discipline. For example, we made the sad decision to only go to conferences and expos where we are speaking. Traveling to and from Hawaii takes too big of a toll on our bodies and is hard on our teams to be without members. Every day we put in the effort to keep all levels of the company on the same page; it goes a long way and prevents all sorts of turmoil when everyone understands why things are handled the way they are.

We focus on the bigger picture to help us prioritize the day’s needs. With this focus, we’ve been able to establish HEALTH, the dispensary trade association in Hawaii, and be the first to build a vertically integrated cannabis company on Oahu. As the market establishes itself, we have shifted our focus to expanding our production facility and getting ready to manufacture concentrates.

Of course, building out a laboratory comes with its own host of problems that need solutions, adding to our endless list of things to do — new packaging, rules, regulations, etc. But our concentrates and pre-filled vape cartridges will hit the market the day they are legal on July 1. We are also now licensing the Aloha Green Apothecary brand on the mainland and in Canada. So, yes, we probably won’t figure out where we should hang those whiteboards in our office, but our brand book has gone through four iterations and has been shared with parties ready to talk business.

It’s all about prioritization.

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