Living the Dream: Shawn DeNae

Shawn DeNae
CEO
Washington Bud Company
Smokey Point, WA

Sometimes the writing on the wall is still not big enough to get my attention.

Our license was up for renewal in November 2019. I diligently paid the $2,880 fee in October and checked that task off my gangly list of things to do. Sometime later, a notice was sent that any license ending in an even number needed to get re-fingerprinted. Ours does, so I called to schedule prints for the third time in three years, recalling the extreme stress caused when the first set of prints were somehow “lost” in the system in 2016, before our license was even issued.

I scheduled the appointments for me and my husband, Bill, to drive to get fingerprinted again on the Friday before Thanksgiving. (Why they do not use our last fingerprints is a mystery to us. Do they think our prints change year to year?) When we arrived, they had me on the schedule, but not Bill. I completed the short process and we went on our merry way.

Monday arrived with orders to fill before the holiday. Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with deliveries and then we went into the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Come Monday, December 2, I realized I had failed to reschedule the appointment before the end of November! How could I space out something so vital?

Making matters worse was the note I got from one of our biggest retail clients that they would no longer be able to buy from us because our account showed ON HOLD. I called the state Liquor and Cannabis Board and received great news: Our license had been extended through December with a temporary operating permit while they awaited Bill’s fingerprints. Apparently, they have more than 1,800 licenses scheduled to renew every November so they granted extensions that allowed us to continue to do business. But they would not lift the hold notice until the prints were received.

I sent the temporary permit to the concerned retailer, but they would not budge. In the meantime, I rescheduled the fingerprint process for Bill and he got that done right away. We got the hold lifted but as of mid-December, we were still operating under the temporary license while the real one is … well, who knows where that is.

I was recently interviewed by a professor doing a research paper on legalization. He asked about the difference in the level of threat we felt pre- and post-legalization. He was surprised that our livelihood feels no safer today. There are still threats: theft threat increases with public notice of our location, federal scrutiny is still in the back of our minds, lack of full-service banking hasn’t changed, and we now deal with regulatory fees, fierce competition and smaller profit margins so a hiccup along the way could really hurt us financially. A missed deadline, a bad test, an incorrect label, a disruptive rule change or missing fingerprints adds to the threat to our livelihood.

The life lesson I have learned in this fingerprint example is to slow down and pay even closer attention. We have been in “go mode” for so long and slowing down seems counterintuitive but it is the largest writing on the wall for 2020.

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