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Retirees’ Startup Comes from Unexpected Place

People may not associate a teacher and marketing executive with the legal marijuana industry. Two retirees in Colorado, however, are starting to change that. Deb Baker and Barb Diner have been friends for 27 years, and decided to jump into the industry as the doldrums of retirement began to catch up with them.

They found the opportunity during a marketing research visit to one of the new dispensaries in the area, taken aback by the overwhelmingly potent smell. They thought consumers would want their marijuana products in FDA-approved, storage safe containers, and looked first at using recycled milk jugs.

Thus began Higher Standard Packaging (pun presumably intended). The legal marijuana industry is growing, with revenues reaching almost $7 billion in 2016, a 34% increase over the previous year. The two have sold over 7 million units to dispensaries in Colorado and beyond since starting just a couple years ago.

Deb and Barb are happy have gotten in on the growth, even as friends and family laughed, thinking this was just an amusing side project. They have plans to expand sales into Canada and around the U.S., assuming the legalization of marijuana continues to spread.

The industry is a bit up in the air, however, as the appointment of Jeff Sessions casts doubt on other markets opening up in the near-term. Sessions is a loud, outspoken opponent of the industry, and has sworn to do what he can in order to shut it down. But if other states are able to pass legalization measures, Colorado will likely be used as a model.

A growing market, combined with in-flux regulations, mean the future isn’t entirely laid out. For two women who wanted a little excitement, that’s just fine. They’re happy staying nimble and flexible in order to make their venture work, and enjoy seeing how quickly the industry embraces and adapts to innovative ideas.

In today’s changing economy, new jobs are unlikely to come from old places. Deb and Barb were able to match their need for something new and exciting with an industry that promises a lot of it.

NYTIMES.COM