She worked in sales and marketing; her friend taught high school English. They retired and settled into their golden years.
“Retirement was nice but certainly it left you lighter in the pocketbook,” Barbara Diner, a 30-year veteran of the cable television and telecommunications, says.
Feeling restless and wanting to put a little more green in their pockets, Diner and her longtime pal Deb Baker decided to do something a little out of their comfort zone in their late professional lives. They got jobs in the lucrative legal weed industry.
Their company Higher Standard Packaging supplies containers for storing marijuana in all its forms (from loose plant material to weed-laced gummies) to dispensaries and infused-product manufacturers in Colorado. They have sold nearly seven million units of packaging in the state and have their sights set on California, where recreational sales become legal in 2018.
The multibillion-dollar legal marijuana market has created some interesting shadow industries, including on-demand delivery, “seed-to-sale” software solutions, and packaging. In Colorado, state law requires all marijuana products leave dispensaries in opaque, child-proof containers.
While Diner declined to share revenue numbers, the company has about 50 customers.
The pair had no experience in the marijuana industry before taking on a contract in marijuana packaging in 2014. “I certainly didn’t carry a red card,” Diner says, referring to the medical marijuana registration program in her homestate.
But the excitement around the industry and the opportunities it presented for women — who face barriers to leadership in more established businesses — appealed to them. They made market-research visits to dispensaries and cultivation sites and studied up on state regulations.
Diner summoned her three decades of experience in sales and marketing and, along with Baker, cold-called more than 100 businesses in the Denver area to find customers.
In the early years of recreational sales, most transactions were handled in cash. It forced dispensary owners to place enormous amounts of trust in their suppliers, who could potentially run off with the cash before providing the products or containers due. Diner says her and Baker’s appearances may have helped them earn customers’ trust under the circumstances.
“If they were going to give cash to someone, it might as well be women who look like their mothers,” Diner says.