Rosie and James Yagielo of HempStaff, a cannabis recruiting and training company, aren’t just business partners—they’ve also been married for eight years. They’re around one another nearly twenty-four hours a day, and, other than Christmas, only take four days off a year to go on a cruise. But even on vacation, James admits he checks his emails. “We work every day,” says Rosie.
Welcome to the life of a cannabusiness couple.
Relationships are hard enough—add forging a business in the ever-changing cannabis industry into the mix and things get a whole lot more interesting. I ask if they ever get on one another’s nerves. “We’re good at separating,” Rosie laughs, and states that issues with work don’t arise because they “have such a strong common goal.” “We understand when the other one is staying late,” James adds.
Even though they’re workhorses, they institute a “no devices” rule at the dinner table. I assumed they also had a “no shop talk” policy during dinner, but Rosie declares, “We actually do some of our best [business] brainstorming during dinner! Without phones or tablets we can think better.”
HempStaff travels to 30 cannabis-friendly states across the country to teach their courses, which are mostly focused on dispensary agent training. There are two trainers per class: one is more employment-focused, detailing how to get a job in the industry, while the other trainer explains important cannabis basics—cultivation techniques, terpenes, cannabinoids, CBD vs. THC and more. Rosie reports that attendees are typically a 70/30 split of men to women in the 35-55 age range, but James notes they’ve had clients ranging from fresh out of high school to people in their ‘70s. Some are doctors and pharmacists, while others have only retail experience. Cannabusiness owners bring their staff to keep them up-to-date on laws and regulations, while medical personnel brush up on the benefits of cannabis missing from their medical school textbooks. About 10% of attendees are medical patients and caregivers who’d like to learn more about our healing plant.
There are unique challenges to presenting a course on cannabis laws and regulations, given the lack of federal legalization. New laws passed on a Friday mean Monday’s presentation is now factually incorrect. Rosie recalled the time they published a book that almost immediately became obsolete, emphasizing the importance of all their trainers’ intimate knowledge of the industry in every region of the country.
Rosie teaches a number of classes herself, and at one point was on the road three out of four weekends a month. I asked if the travel put a strain on their relationship, but she and James, unsurprisingly, have a system all worked out. They check in with one another frequently and ensure that the weekend she is home is dedicated to one another. “James is the rock of the office—and of the house,” Rosie professes. He knows how much she enjoys teaching, but does acknowledge it makes doing certain activities they used to enjoy, like going to concerts and festivals, more difficult. “Neither of us regret anything,” James happily remarks, noting its simply the tradeoff of owning your own business.
Professionalism is stressed throughout their curriculum. “It’s just getting more and more professional as more states get on board [with legalization],” Rosie emphasizes. “Gone are the days of ‘Oh, this is just a head shop.’ People want to know what they’re consuming. ‘What percentage THC? CBD?’” Patients are becoming more educated about cannabis, and budtenders need to keep up.
But HempStaff doesn’t just teach classes, they also handle recruiting for cannabis jobs. Regarding budtenders, the industry has thankfully evolved: “People are no longer sending in ‘body shot’ photos with their resumes, if you know what I mean,” Rosie chuckles. “We’ve grown up from that. This is a legitimate industry. Gone are the days of spandex and halter top uniforms!”
It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s clear the Yagielos love what they do. Owning your own cannabusiness isn’t easy, nor is becoming business partners with your romantic partner. Put in the work every single day, come up with a plan that works for the two of you, and the sky is the limit!