A lot has changed in Canada ever since the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2018.
One woman paving the way for the plant to be accessible to consumers in creative and community-inspired environments is Mimi Lam, the founder of Superette, a retail and lifestyle cannabis store. Evio sat down with her and got to know more about her cannabis journey, her thoughts on the stigmas surrounding it, and how she co-founded the now award-winning enterprise.
Getting to the root of it all
Mimi vaguely remembers first using cannabis in high school because everyone else was doing it, without fully knowing its proper use and properties.
After university, she stopped consuming completely. But then she became fraught with stress and insomnia when she started her second job in investment banking. Her then boyfriend, now fiancé, pointed out the harmful effects of sleep deprivation and suggested she drink sleeping pills or try other methods. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to put chemicals or substances into my body,’” she remembers responding.
Because Mimi’s boyfriend had just then started in the cannabis industry, he offered her a weed vape pen instead. Having consumed cannabis before, Mimi agreed. She slowly started reintroducing cannabis into her life and discovered it to be a game-changer. It’s been five years since.
“It’s been a pretty crazy journey since then because I feel like my eyes have been opened,” Mimi explains.
She found herself wanting to learn what it would be like to help grow a company, being unhappy with her first two jobs in venture capital and investment banking. With her picking up on her cannabis consumption and the regulatory framework for cannabis use being established in Canada, she thought it would be a huge business opportunity and a great fit with her desire for a career change.
The birth of Superette
Mimi would next find herself joining Tokyo Smoke, a recreational cannabis lifestyle brand, doing business development and corporate strategy. With all the shifts happening within the company and in the industry, she learned a lot about what it was like to be on the ground level of a company and realized that she had the desire to be an entrepreneur and start something of her own.
It was in Tokyo Smoke where Mimi would also meet Drummond Munro, who would later on co-found Superette with her.
“We really wanted to bring the human connection element back to cannabis and back to cannabis retail,” she shares.
Redefining the consumer experience for cannabis has been at the core of Superette’s business since day one, drawing from people’s innately familiar experiences. “Superette”, a common word used in other parts of the world, means a mini supermarket. “We like to play into that--to the diner booth, to the deli cases, to the tiling up on the walls.”
Understanding the stigma
Despite the growing demand and openness to cannabis, Mimi knows all too well just how highly stigmatized the industry is. This is why Superette goes above and beyond in building a positive community, supporting local businesses. She also knows the many misconceptions surrounding cannabis, as everyone’s consumption is deeply personal.
“I think that whether that be on the personal side or on the business side as well, it’s just an acceptance that cannabis can be fully integrated into someone’s life and not negatively impact them but in fact be a positive benefit to that,” she says. “I think being open-minded to that is really important.”
As an Asian-American female, Mimi tries to suspend her assumptions of what other people’s perceptions of her are. She admits that female minorities in cannabis and in other industries are still underrepresented, creating emotional pressure.
“Oftentimes I do feel like I’m put on a bit of a pedestal that people now assume that I have all the answers, that I’m this perfect human being, that I need to be able to juggle everything great and I have it all under control,” she shares.
Although she doesn’t consider herself a role model, Mimi recognizes that women look up to her. “I think back to why I’m here,” she says. “I think about all the other people I might be lifting up and that’s something that is truly magical.”
What’s next for Superette?
Exciting times ahead for Superette, as they open its third location in Spadina in Toronto by the end of November, and in Dundas one in early 2021. They’ll also have a second location in Ottawa, which will add up to five stores up and running.
Superette is also working on a lot of new offerings, including its own line of cannabis products, which for Mimi is like a dream come true. They’re also working on lifestyle, apparel, and other home goods.
At the end of the day, it’s all about authenticity.“A lot of what we do at Suprette as a team are the things that we personally like and enjoy, and we’re authentic to that,” Mimi says. “A lot of what we come up with, whether it be campaigns or a product, it’s because we like it. Not for any sort of external pressures. We’re doing what we think is cool.”