For This Cancer Survivor-Turned-Cannabis Delivery Driver, A Story Of Triumph
A courageous driver shares her advice for those who are considering entering the in-demand role.
To be a modern cannabis delivery driver is to be an essential worker—a veritable hero to those medical patients who need access to their cannabis, but may not have mobility or access. Delivery is even more essential in a time where many people are still laying low, coming out of quarantine slowly, or avoiding storefronts altogether.
In our desire to see what the day in the life of a delivery driver looks like, we met Carol Neal. Neal is a driver at Sava, a cannabis delivery company based in Northern California. She is part of a large fleet that legally brings cannabis to the doorstep of thousands of consumers. According to Sava representative Amanda Denz, the company has had to hire additional workers to meet the massive delivery demand that the pandemic has brought on.
The modern legal cannabis delivery driving career is a lucrative one. Many companies, including Sava, that offer delivery services reported sales spikes, and delivery demand spikes following the COVID-19 lockdown.
Neal speaks to why she was called to helping patients and adult-use consumers through her career as a driver, what it looks like versus the romanticized version of the role as seen on TV, and why she recommends the job to anyone who may be looking for a career now.
How is the job different than what you may have expected? Are the customers the type of people you expected when you first joined the company?
Carol Neal: When I first started, of course, I knew I was delivering cannabis, but I didn't realize the need for it. Sava is great about delivering a lot of medical cannabis so I found a lot of people wanted to talk to me about their medical problems. I started delivering products for people with arthritis. It was different than what I thought delivery cannabis would be. I was learning a lot about the need for it, recreational or for medical reasons.
People would ask me, "How did you get into it? Can I be a driver? Are they hiring? I would get all these questions.
A lot of people wanted to tell me about the issues they have. I talk to a lot of people and I have a lot of repeat customers with Sava, they love it and they continue to use it. They are using cannabis or so many different ailments: chemo, arthritis, a lot of sleep problems. It's really interesting to me that people really are using this for this reason because I am into health and the natural way of living. They're getting off of pharmaceutical drugs that they get from their doctor, which is so great. So I think it's just going to get bigger and bigger.
What is one key piece of advice you have for other entrepreneurs who are drivers, or who want to maybe become one?
A lot of people want my job. They say, "Wow, you drive around, and meet people, and get tips?" I joke, 'I'm the pizza lady, but I'm even better than that.' And because I've grown a rapport with a lot of these customers, I do quite well. I'm the North Bay driver, north of San Francisco. I really like the job.
What would I tell someone that's going into it? If they like customer service, if they like people, and if they would like to get into this business, go out there and get online and find out who's hiring and try it out. Because most of the drivers I work with over the last couple of years love the job. They do. Every day is different. It's not just an office job where you go in 9-5. It is very interesting, especially the people you meet.
I have grown to know a lot of people I deliver to. Just today, I look at my route and go 'Oh, I’m going to go see Susan or Sarah this morning.' I find that It's nice to connect with these people. It's great to have all these repeat customers. So I find, it is very interesting job.
What has your career experience looked like to lead you to this delivery cannabis driver career?
Before I did this, I was living in Florida three and a half years ago. I came down with stage-four lung cancer. And so I came out here and I went to the hospital and I am cured right now, for which I am so grateful.
But when I was in Florida, I would be in Florida in the wintertime, I would go to New England in the summer. I had a little motorhome and traveled around and I entertained. I did karaoke with nursing homes, senior centers, Alzheimer's health centers. I was in contact with people all the time. I would go to health centers and sing with 50 people sitting in wheelchairs. I loved my job. I would get all dressed up and sing with these people before I came down with cancer.
Today, I am cancer-free. I am so grateful. I moved to San Francisco, I had a chance to get a job at Sava. I thought, 'Wow this is great.' I started working a few hours, and then a couple days, three days, four days. And now I work five days a week.
I find it all goes with customer service. I try to be efficient. When I was entertaining at a retirement home, doing a show from 2-3 p.m., I had to be there. I try to be efficient in this job. If I have a 2 o'clock delivery, I want to be there. It all goes hand in hand.
Prior to that, I did fine dining in restaurants. So again, I had a long career in customer service. Knowing that If I did the best job I could do, people would return to the restaurant and they’d ask for me. And I would get good tips. All my life it's been working with people. But this one is very interesting and I get so many different walks of life.
Do you recommend this career to people who ask?
I would recommend that anybody who likes to work with people, who likes to get out there and drive, that it’s great. It’s a great job. Whether it’s New York, Colorado, or California, it's still growing and there are a lot of job opportunities to get out there and market.
It's a great opportunity. It’s flexible, it offers the freedom of the hours they might want to work or not work. The people get medicine, the drivers get tips. The more customer service they offer, the better. There are a lot of benefits to the job. I do recommend it.
I'm speaking for the other drivers that I work with also. We talk as we go in and out of the door, you know, 'how many deliveries do you have today?' and 'how many days are you working this week?' They talk about how much they love their job, how much they like their customers. Everybody seems to get along. The drivers want to get together and have a party so really, it's a great community that we have working here.
What is one crazy/unexpected story from your time as a driver?
The one that pops up is one when I first started delivering. I was to meet a lady at a coffee shop to give her her product, outside of the coffee shop. She was so thrilled to get the product that she gave me a double tip, and then she bought me a cup of coffee.
And it was like, 'Woah, this job is great.' I will never forget that.
This is about making people happy. I have never delivered to anybody I have seen with a gloomy face. People are happy to get the product. Whatever is delivered to them, they are happy. It makes me happy to deliver, whether it's topicals or creams for their arthritis or their neuropathy, or their dog might have seizures, people get tinctures for their dogs. And it is great.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the cannabis delivery/delivery driver industry specifically? Is it demand, safety?
What I've seen in the last couple of years is the amount of competition now.
The cannabis industry has to keep up with the products, always trying to improve them, or get products that no other cannabis companies have. I find that a lot, when I ask the people why they chose Sava, they will say, because they can't get the product anywhere else. I strive to tell the customer that Sava is known for how important it is to them to have a very good product, organic product, made locally, and this means a lot. I think that it is the competition.
It is important to get drivers who like their jobs. We have a great group of people at the office. Anybody would like to work at this store, in their office. Safety is, of course, important. But I think that the biggest challenge is striving to keep up with the products and offer the best customer service that they can. And I see that Sava is doing that.