Abby is a pharmacist with ten years of experience across all facets of the industry including retail, hospital, managed care and public policy. During her tenure at a pharmacy benefit manager Abby held the role of principal state lobbyist, directing all advocacy, lobbying, and policy work across 13 states. In doing this work she became exposed to the complicated, energetic, and dynamic debates occurring within state medical cannabis programs nationwide.
Excited by the enthusiasm around this burgeoning industry and its potential to impact the prescription drug and insurance spaces Abby made a shift from pharmacy benefits to the cannabis industry. In her home state of Minnesota, she was appointed to the Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Review Panel. In this role Abby reviews the current evidence of cannabis medicine for conditions petitioned to be added to the state medical program. For each condition considered the Panel also hears public testimony, which has solidified Abby’s passion for the benefits cannabis can bring to the lives of patients.
Seeing the massive transition a state makes when its market moves from medical only to adult use, Abby headed to Oregon to create a program that carves out space for health and wellness-focused consumers in a crowded, adult-use focused market. Her program, The Client Centered Network, serves new wellness consumers by connecting them to resources from the state’s medical program, cannabis education, and providers looking to serve them. The name of the program is a callback to Abby’s insurance background, where she worked with pharmacy networks for health plans and managed care entities. If you ask her whether or not cannabis will be covered by insurance someday she’ll tell you ‘Yes! And it will be through The Client Centered Network!’.
Where did the idea for The Client Centered Network come from?
In my home state of Minnesota, we have a relatively small, restrictive medical cannabis program, but I don’t believe it will stay that way for long. Once states introduce adult-use, or recreational, cannabis to their programs the medical program can struggle, and though there seems to be cannabis everywhere the needs of patients go by the wayside.
Directories and websites are suddenly focused on coupons, discounts, and brand pop-ups for the high-THC seeking recreational user. This can be great for those folks, but for new users or health focused clients they are completely overwhelmed and underserved.
I started The Client Centered Network to be the solution for this transition – it’s not the former medical program, but it brings in resources, education, and providers focused on the health and wellness user. It’s what I believe the new ‘steady-state’ will be for empowered patients in the cannabis markets of the next 5 and 10 years.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Sales, catching up on regulatory action in the market, sales, monitoring legislative changes, sales, checking on my current accounts, and more sales. Oh yeah – I’m a pharmacist and will pick up relief shifts at a pharmacy in my neighborhood occasionally too, and I still do some pharmacy benefits consulting work on the side. My main productivity device is breaking things into manageable pieces, never trying to boil the ocean all at once. I take a goal, break it down to a few items a day, and stick to it.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The whole idea for The Network began on a giant whiteboard in my living room, and that method continues to move it forward today. Sketching things out, vetting the idea with my fellow entrepreneur colleagues, and then methodically putting pieces into action.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The slow but steady mixing of the traditional pharmaceutical industry with cannabis. In previous roles I monitored drug pipelines, managed formularies, and pharmacy networks. I know that cannabis will eventually find a place in that world. It won’t work exactly like a traditional pharmaceutical, but it will find a niche within insurance, reimbursement, and main stream healthcare. I can’t wait to see that and be a part of it!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Taking breaks for the daily work to join entrepreneur groups, women founder’s groups, and other collectives around startups. They don’t move anything off my to-do list, but I always come back from those experiences energized, hopeful, and with new connections.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Like Aaron Rodgers said in the 2014 season, “R-E-L-A-X. Relax. We’re going to be ok.”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Participating in improv comedy is less stressful than watching it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Meditate. I meditate and journal several times per week and it’s been extremely helpful in keeping my focused and grounded when things get tough.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Finding areas to serve others, even if not directly related to your original goal. For example – my site began as being focused on a dispensary directory. As I learned more about the Oregon program, and listened to the Cannabis Commission hearings, I found other gaps that my site could fill, such as a physician directory. Adding those and other resources to my site has definitely helped me broaden my reach and message.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Setting unrealistic expectations for out-of-the-gate sales and where I would be in a year. As my first B2B sales venture, I completely underestimated the length of the sales cycle and the complexity of the process in cannabis. I thought I had prepared but was still way off the mark! My entrepreneur peers definitely helped support me through this, stay the course and not get discouraged.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A business that collects unused cannabis flower from dispensaries, processes into usable forms, and donates it to hospice centers.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A Shutterfly photo book of my family travels between 2017-2019, you know, back when we could travel places.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love Canva. As someone who does not consider themselves very artsy Canva makes me feel like a professional designer with everything I make. I constantly show my posts and designs to my wife and say “Look what I made! I am an artist now!” She is a very patient and tolerant woman.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron. I read this at the kickoff of my entrepreneurial journey and return to it a lot. The concepts are so deceptively simple but so mind-altering all at once.
What is your favorite quote?
Not so much a quote but a motto – Brene Brown’s ‘FFT’ motto. When things get hard, when I fall on my face, when I feel lost I remember it’s my FFT as a entrepreneur.
- Cannabis will be covered by insurance someday
- Medical cannabis markets will have to adapt and change
- Slow and steady progress and patience are key
- Be flexible and serve others