Dr Najifa Choudhury of Dr Peace Lily: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis or CBD Business
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
I wish I knew how hard it would be to open a business bank. Even though my products are from the hemp plant and contain no THC, it’s very hard or expensive to open a business bank account. One bank wanted to charge me $1,500 just for the application fee and there was no guarantee that they would approve my application to even start a bank account there.
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Najifa Choudhury.
Dr. Najifa Choudhury is a licensed pharmacist and passionate about educating others about the benefits of CBD oil. She launched her cannabis company Dr. Peace Lily in 2019 when she realized how unregulated the CBD industry was and wanted to come up with organic products to offer to others who were also hesitant to try out CBD oil. She recently left her six-figure pharmacist job to work on her business full time. Along with being the owner of a thriving business, she hosts retreats and is a life coach.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Several years ago, I was experiencing a lot of stress and started looking for a more natural way to manage it. During my research, I learned about CBD oil, but initially I was a little hesitant. I did not know how it differentiated from THC. But as months went on, I kept hearing from other friends how much CBD was helping them and finally decided to give it a try. I was really taken aback by how much CBD helped my stress level and my mood. When I started sharing my own success story with patients and friends, I realized there was a big knowledge gap when it came to understanding what CBD is and how it can help. I also realized how unregulated the industry is and the lack of quality in most products. I decided to combine my passion and educational background to go into the cannabis industry and launched my own CBD line.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
A top magazine in Bangladesh recently reached out to interview me. This is exciting given that is my birthplace. I am amazed at how countries around the world are finding out about my small business making me truly realize the impact I have around the world and not just in my city. Sometimes I feel like I’m only a local business owner making local impacts, but that’s far from the truth with the internet nowadays, especially because I am so active virtually now. I’m seeing everyday what social media can do for growing businesses like mine and how I can influence and help so many people internationally. I never would have thought my business could reach from country to country. It is crazy to think I immigrated from Bangladesh to move to America without knowing an ounce of English and now here I am as a female entrepreneur acknowledged by a magazine from my birthplace. This is huge considering women back home are not encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship. Within two years of launching my company, I learned that I could use my voice to inspire female minorities around the globe and educate others about holistic healing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started my company, I was interviewing someone for a position in the company, and I had butchered her name completely. I pronounced it so wrong that she herself didn’t even know I was saying her name and looked very confused on the Zoom call. She said “huh” and then I proceeded to say her name (completely wrong) once again. After seeing her confused face on the Zoom call, I realized my big mistake. I was so embarrassed and did not have the heart to mention I was saying her name wrong or ask her how to properly pronounce her name.
She ended up getting the job, but for the first month I was still so embarrassed regarding the incident and afraid of saying her name wrong that all together I avoided saying her name. What I learned from that lesson is to always Google name pronunciation prior to a meeting and if it’s a name I’m unsure of then to start off the meeting by saying “I’m sorry, I don’t want to say your name wrong. Would you mind pronouncing it for me?”
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m currently launching my coaching business and planning my next retreat. People are constantly messaging me on social media and telling me how much I’m motivating and inspiring them to go after their dreams. Friends come to me with their problems, and I’m always there to listen and dig deeper with them to figure out the cause of the problem and help guide them to a solution. I have already found myself coaching without a title and now that I left my pharmacist job, I have more time to explore my other passions and impact more lives.
My goal and intention of hosting business retreats is to help others grow their business or start one. I remember how lonely the journey was when I first started my company and I want others to be able to come to my retreats to build a support system for themselves and for me to share all of my knowledge with them. As they say, “Sharing is caring.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m so grateful towards my husband for all the help and support. Bless his heart, he didn’t know a thing about designing or building a website, but he spent probably over 100 hours to build me a website when I first started my company, because I couldn’t afford to pay someone thousands of dollars. Two months ago, when I thought about quitting my six-figure pharmacy job to work on Dr. Peace Lily full time, he was the first one that I told. I was so nervous to share my thoughts with him because I had just spent eight years getting my doctorate degree but only worked in my career for two years. But as always, he was super supportive of my decision and encouraged me to go after my dreams.
This industry is young, dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
What I found has helped grow my company the most is collaborating with local businesses for pop-up events or working with local yoga instructors to put on events for the community. When people are purchasing from me, they are not buying a product but a whole experience. I believe for larger legacy companies to continue to grow, they need to help curate such experiences for their customers, as well, and collaborate with local businesses that they have synergy with.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that most excite me about this industry is that it is cutting edge, constantly evolving, and people are more curious and accepting about healing with cannabis. Three things that concern me the most is how many people are entering this industry to make a quick dollar, how unregulated it is, and the lack of quality or integrity displayed by many businesses. This can cause confusion and uncertainty for customers, which could eventually lead to false propaganda.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish I knew how hard it would be to open a business bank. Even though my products are from the hemp plant and contain no THC, it’s very hard or expensive to open a business bank account. One bank wanted to charge me $1,500 just for the application fee and there was no guarantee that they would approve my application to even start a bank account there.
- Payment processing and obtaining business insurance. A typical product-based business with a similar yearly revenue as mine would only pay a fraction of what I have to pay for product insurance. With this industry being so young, insurance companies do not know how to assess risk and therefore it’s a much higher premium.
- You cannot pay for Google, Facebook, or IG ads. Most businesses are able to grow through paying for ads to attract new customers, but in the cannabis industry you cannot do that.
- I am not only a product-based business selling an item, but I’m making an impactful difference in my customers’ lives. Yesterday, I attended a city at my local Chamber of Commerce and after introductions, one of the members rushed up to me because she was so intrigued about my business and wanted to learn more. She shared with me how her daughter is 19 years old, does not like to take any medications but needs something to help calm her down and increase her mood. After learning about my personal story and how CBD oil has helped me, she was so grateful for all the work I am doing in this space. She gave me the biggest hug and said she’s so glad she attended this meeting because she was able to meet me. Before I started my business, I never realized what a positive impact I would be making in the world.
- The initial judgment from colleagues and friends. Coming from the STEM background, my whole circle consists of pharmacists, doctors, and engineers. Majority of them also come from conservative backgrounds and they are not educated on how cannabis can be used for medicinal use. I was very nervous to disclose to my colleagues about my business due to some of the judgment that I received. I was also afraid of the professional repercussions I might receive from my employer if they found out I was in the cannabis business and I was unsure how to navigate such conversations. For the first year of my business, I did not disclose to any of my colleagues about my business and was even nervous to tell my friends and family. But then I learned to be much more comfortable in my skin and realized that more people need to know what I’m doing because they might benefit from my products.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My advice is to build a relationship with your employees and actually get to know them. They have dreams and aspirations and as CEOs, we should help others achieve their dreams and hope your time and investment is fruitful towards your business. You want to encourage your employees to grow within the company and not remain stagnant. I also believe it’s really important to be open minded and learn from your employees. We all have our unique blind spots due to our upbringing, culture, and mindset and sometimes we need others to help broaden our worldly prospective. Lastly, I love sharing my knowledge with my employees. I don’t believe in hoarding knowledge and being afraid to see others succeed. I want to elevate everyone around me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m so fortunate that I have already inspired a holistic healing movement amongst my networks. I want to inspire more people to dig deep and to figure out how to bring about holistic healing to every aspect of their lives to truly make a difference. Even as a pharmacist, I don’t believe in solely pushing a pill to relieve your pain. There are outside resources to healing and I am here to educate others on the different options.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Dr. Najifa Choudhury of Dr Peace Lily: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a C was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.