How Success Happened for Charlotte Hanna
The founder of Rebelle says curiosity about people and moving through change can be jet fuel for growth.
Charlotte Hanna is the Founder of women- and minority-owned cannabis company, Rebelle, the top-rated dispensary in Great Barrington, MA she established in 2020. Her company's rise is as meteoric as the $90 billion dollar cannabis industry itself. The company recently launched HALØ, a new line of cannabis-wellness products, and Rebelle is poised to open its second location in Boston and another store in New York City, her hometown.
Charlotte's path sounds circuitous, but the desire to try new things has been a consistent throughline. That, and helping people through meaningful work that is of value to society. She started out as an activist, working with the homeless, raising money for community programs, and working at a shelter all through college. Soon, San Francisco was calling to her, and she met a true change-agent while there named Ruth Brinker. Ruth had started the first food delivery service amid the AIDS crisis in SF, bringing meals to homebound neighbors stricken with AIDS.
"Ruth had approached my nonprofit to startup micro-organic urban farms in vacant lots around town — this is Hayes Valley, the Tenderloin, before the tech companies moved in," says Charlotte. "We were probably squatting, but Ruth didn't care, she could get it done."
Related: How Success Happened for Rich Kelleman, Co-Founder of Bond Pet Foods
Charlotte asked her one day, "'how do you do it?'" "She said to me, 'Charlotte, I've changed my career a few times in my life, and I think because I've successfully been able to change so much, I feel I can do anything." This was a life lesson Charlotte took to heart. "My Mom, too, she would tell me, 'The only thing stopping you is yourself.' I think these two women, bearing this same advice, had a big impact on me and shaped my ability to move through my career and take chances.
Charlotte worked in nonprofits for a decade longer and eventually moved to NY. It was while working in local economic development that she thought she might like to try consulting. At the time, she was working for a woman who was running the MBA program at Columbia University, and Charlotte's client was Goldman Sachs. "They said, 'you should come work here,' and I liked how fast-paced it was and how quickly things happened. In the nonprofit world, you're always raising money, so it was nice to be at a place where I had a budget and ran a program that was 25 times what I was working with to bring ideas to a school."
Related: How Success Happened for Emilia Fazzalari, Co-Founder and CEO of Cincoro Tequila
Channeling her creative side, she tapped into her love for interior design and architecture and decided to turn to buying and developing real estate. Though she enjoyed this new adventure, she knew she wanted more. Charlotte had been following marijuana legalization efforts and saw it was going to become an opportunity, and she thought, "let me be an early mover."
She started to research and understand all aspects of the business. "The way the cannabis industry does business insists upon social equity, particularly for those hurt by the war on drugs, and this felt like a way for me to make sense of the different stops along my career." She thought it would be good to start a business that solves some problems for other businesses.
Charlotte has used plant-based medicine and practiced wellness and preventive healthcare her whole life. "Cannabis is just another plant that has been a part of my rituals since I was a young woman." Being a part of changing people's hearts and minds on the many healthful properties of cannabis is what has been really exciting to Charlotte. "Cannabis has helped me personally with my own healthcare; that's what has gotten me into the industry."
Charlotte loves how the industry is a blank canvas with so much opportunity to innovate, create, and bring something new to the consumer. "I love helping people; people who are coming to a dispensary for the first time is one of my favorite things to be a part of. I love the discovery process." And it's one of Charlotte's keys to success with Rebelle. "You don't have to throw a lot of money at an opportunity, better to spend it wisely and work in iterative learning pilots."
This was a big part of getting their new wellness brand, HALØ, out to market. They launched the brand with a singular product line of microdose mists, three different sublingual sprays each with microdose amounts of THC.
A big part of what Rebelle does, and what stands out about the brand, is in the way it distinguishes itself outside of cannabis and bridges into everyday wellness. HALØ's chic packaging and innovative form factor gives people a modern way to consume cannabis. HALØ will continue to roll out new form factors as the brand expands over time.
Related: How the Leaders of Trip Tribe Wellness Grew a Business Based on Their Shared Love of Health and Travel
"Scale is a big deal, and we want to continue having those step-ups and building out our scale. I want to prove that it is possible to grow a cannabis company organically rather than buying accretive revenue through M&A only. We're playing the long game and investing in brand loyalty - a strategy we know will help us win in the long run."