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#AskTheCEO: Melanie Coddington

If you’ve been following Sungrown Studio’s journey, you will know the story of our inimitable founder, Melanie Coddington. Coddington developed her uber successful interior design company in 2005 and decided to take a leap into the world of cannabis in 2017. We compiled all the questions we personally had for Melanie to get an insight into what made her join the green rush.

What made you start Sungrown Studio?

I had reached a level of success with my interior design company, Coddington Design I never thought possible, when I started to think about other possibilities. Around this time, recreational marijuana was about to become legal in California. I was always cannabis curious, growing up in Humboldt County and living in the Bay, but the thought of going into a dark pot shop with posters of women in skimpy outfits was not appealing to me. I kept thinking someone needs to design dispensaries that are bright and open and welcoming to women. Then I thought – well why not me?

What advice do you have for women who want to start their own business?

Do it. Do it now.

Don’t listen to the voice that says “you aren’t ready, you aren’t good enough, or someone else will do it”. I try to fail doing something new every week that scares the hell out of me! That is how you learn and how you get better. Lena Waithe is a big inspiration for me. One of my favorite quotes of hers is “The only way you really see change is by helping to create it.” Cannabis has helped me and I knew it can help others. I felt compelled to take action and be brave. 

How do you end up going from luxury interior design into the cannabis industry?

I started Sungrown as a side-hustle in 2017, partly because I was fearful of what my luxury clients would think. I’ve always been open about being lesbian in the press and to my high-end residential clients. Working in luxury interior design, I had a few wealthy clients who had more conservative leanings. Honestly, I was more nervous about coming out of the cannabis closet than I was about disclosing my sexual orientation! Now, it’s a completely different story. I have taken ownership of my cannabis positive business and I’m fully committed to building this company. Being an “out” woman, I fully understand the value of supporting other women and the pressure that is on us, so I try to mentor and help as many female entrepreneurs as I can.

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What is good dispensary design?

Good dispensary design is simply good retail design.

Good dispensary design allows customers to feel welcome, cared for, and to find what they need quickly with no friction. Ultimately, it should give store owners security and support them in selling their products and maximize profits per square footage- every angle and space matters. Good dispensary design allows employees to support their customers and the revenue goals of the company. In the past, cannabis was so scarce that stores could look bad, function terribly, and people would still wait in line. Now the retail design standards are elevated and both dispensary owners and consumers are looking for light, open and friendly atmosphere. Good dispensary design helps break the taboo of consuming cannabis, helps facilitate conversation and creates a desire to return back.

Is there a project you have worked on recently that you are especially proud of?

We finished this beautiful cannabis dispensary, Flora Terra in Sonoma County, California that has a wonderfully clean aesthetic. Our client wanted something that had never been done in the cannabis dispensary world. Usually, you see cannabis confections and paraphernalia behind glass cases, which is a good way of displaying your product but you always need someone to be standing by all the time.

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Flora Terra wanted the store to have “grab-and-shop” merchandise, and though it wasn’t an easy task, we made that happen! All of their merchandise is exquisitely packaged, ready for the customers to pick for themselves and bring to the counter. We made sure the shopping experience was luxurious yet intuitive. Another feature that I love about this dispensary is that we created a window where you can see cannabis plants growing. Since they are a destination dispensary, they offer behind-the-scenes tours. It was great facilitating that transparency between their customers and their dispensary.

What is the biggest misconception about cannabis?

That cannabis is a “gateway drug”!  This is completely false. Cannabis is non-addictive and literally no one has ever died from it. In fact, it is proven to help people lessen their dependencies on opioids and alcohol. We have just started to scratch the surface with what we can do to benefit from cannabis so it is important to discard outdated ideas and notions about the dangers of the plant. These misconceptions are what get in the way of scientific research and our understanding of how cannabis can help our wellbeing and our communities.

 What do you value most about the cannabis culture?

I really love how excited everyone is about the potential of the industry. The atmosphere is promising and buzzing, which not only makes me excited to be a part of the community but there is a feeling of camaraderie. Everyone has been very welcoming and there is an almost unsaid code of sisterhood with the women entrepreneurs in this arena.

And lastly, what are your hopes for the future of cannabis?

I cannot wait until the prohibition era is behind us! The more it is seen as a lucrative industry, the more dispensaries will be as comfortable and safe to shop in as your local whole foods. I can see so clearly a future in which my hometown, Humboldt County, has a thriving tourist industry akin to Napa. I feel positively about the future of cannabis, because there is still so much to learn about this magical plant.

Sungrown Studio is a women operated and run cannabis dispensary design studio that believes in excellent luxury design with equity and heart. 

To get to know more about Melanie and our values, click here. Read more about her top picks for 2020 here.

To get inspired and learn more about us visit



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