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Industry Q&A: Ashley Hutson, Buyer at Rebelle

Ashley Hutson
Intro Title
Having worked for years in fashion retail, the COVID-19 pandemic compelled Ashley to consider a career change, which led her to the growing field of cannabis retail. Since she made that transition, Ashley has noticed many transferable skills between these two industries, specifically around branding and business practices.

Please tell us about the career path that’s led to where you are.
Most of my career experience is in education and fashion retail. I worked as a Special Education aide and periodically as a substitute teacher.

In 2015, I went back to school at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, launching me into the fashion industry. I started at Bloomingdale’s as a part-time sales associate, later becoming an operations assistant. After leaving Bloomingdale’s, I became an assistant store Manager at Joie; but two months later, Joie temporarily closed due to COVID.

In November of 2020, I started at Rebelle—a female-founded, minority-led cannabis dispensary—as a part-time Assistant Buyer. Eventually, I got promoted to Buyer.

What was it like transitioning from working in fashion to working in the cannabis industry?
It was entirely unexpected, but very timely! I never imagined I’d work in cannabis, but due to COVID’s impact, I thought it was a great opportunity to switch lanes.

In the 10 months I’ve been at Rebelle, I’ve learned retail is retail whether you’re selling clothes and shoes or cannabis—retail math, aesthetic and branding, these are still highly applicable. Everything I am doing now is transferable to other industries, and I certainly don’t feel pigeon-holed.

...retail is retail whether you’re selling clothes and shoes or cannabis—retail math, aesthetic and branding, these are still highly applicable.

Please say a little about the growth opportunity you see in cannabis, both for the industry itself and for those working within it.
What I think Rebelle knows, which not all cannabis businesses do, is the benefit of structuring themselves like a fashion brand. This is probably because much of Rebelle’s leadership team used to work in the fashion industry. They understand the importance of aesthetic and using that to develop a strong brand. LIM students are at an advantage in this regard, because they know these aspects of maintaining a strong retail business. They have a lot to offer an industry that’s still very new and rapidly growing!

What are your thoughts on LIM College launching a BBA in The Business of Cannabis
I think LIM College’s launch of a bachelor’s degree focused on the cannabis business is very timely and something young people should take advantage of. The last year-and-a-half has been hard on all aspects of retail, and focusing on such a rapidly growing area is a key way to counter that negative impact.

LIM's BBA program in The Business of Cannabis is currently accepting first-year applications for the class entering in Fall 2022.