The name "Abi Roach" is a staple in the Canadian cannabis industry, especially in the Toronto scene.
You may simply know her as the founder of the iconic HotBox Cafe located in the heart of Kensington Market in Toronto but Abi wears many hats. Abi is also the founding director of the OCCRA (Ontario Cannabis Consumer & Retail Alliance) and the newly appointed Executive Chair of NORML Canada.
A true industry pioneer, Abi has dedicated her whole life to the freedom of cannabis consumers, and the normalization and legalization of cannabis.
We sat down with Abi for a Q&A reflecting on her experience as a cannabis entrepreneur and more.
1. You're an industry pioneer and Hotbox is a Toronto landmark. How did it all start for you?
Some people are born to be artists, some mathematicians, I was a born entrepreneur. Starting my first business at the age of 13, selling my handmade jewellery, was where I first learned about hemp. The advice I got was to do what you love. Cannabis was my passion, so I opened Roach-O-Rama when I was 19 years old, barely 20.
I opened the HOTBOX Cafe in 2003, and have been experimenting with inventing cannabiz ever since.
I suppose you can say I was born for this.
2. Now that cannabis is legal, what excites you most?
Legalization excites me with opportunity. As an entrepreneur, I always seek fresh new concepts. Legalization brings a world of innovation for me to explore.
3. Now that cannabis is legal, what worries you the most?
I was most concerned that big money will steal all my concepts and leave me in the dust... then I said NEVER, and forged forward :)
A good entrepreneur will never let an obstacle stop them. It just requires a new creative solution.
4. What is your advice for women starting off in the industry, looking at the opportunities and wondering how to get in?
Two pieces of advice:
- You are not a woman looking for an opportunity. You are a smart, creative, person looking to enter a fresh new industry.
- Seek an opportunity in which your existing skills set works. There is room for everyone, no need to re-invent yourself.
5. Do you have any suggestions on how Canadians can help normalize cannabis?
Simple, come out of the "grow closet". Cannabis is now a legal substance, the shame and fear you felt with criminalization, is over. Be you!
6. Name 5 of your favorite women in weed that you'd like to give a shout out too.
Lisa Campbell – PR genius which has taught me tons, and is a close friend and comrade in arms.
Trina Fraser – Powerful and smart, Trina stands by her values. And she’s a badass lawyer.
Amy Brown – Amy gives me power, she has so much of it.
Carol Gwilt – Carol is fearless!
Cheryl Shuman - Badass businesswoman.