Meet Annu Khot, an Indian-American entrepreneur running a cannabis dispensary in Chicago, Illinois. The dispensary, Sociale, officially opened in June 2023 and is the first dispensary in the Park Ridge neighborhood of the city.

Khot’s journey is both inspirational and unique. Born and raised in India, she moved to the United States in 2008. She became interested in the cannabis industry after cannabis helped her through multiple miscarriages. In India, cannabis is more widely accepted as a traditional medicinal remedy, and Khot wanted to bring this mentality to the US. Marijuana became legal for those over the age of 21 in Chicago in 2020, and Khot started seriously looking into founding a dispensary.

“Being part of the cannabis industry isn’t for the faint of heart–as an industry that’s not legalized on the federal level, we don’t have access to traditional banks and can’t market through social media,” Khot told the Hindustan Times. While cannabis is now legal in 24 states, several restrictions still exist and vary from state to state. Licensing issues and continuously changing rules are obstacles faced by many dispensaries across the country. “Pushing past these challenges has been one of the most difficult parts of owning Socíale. I always remind myself that I just need one ‘yes’ and not to worry about all of the ‘no’s,’” Khot added.

Sociale is one of the world’s first dispensaries owned by an Indian-American woman. Despite the use of cannabis in traditional Indian medicine, Khot still saw some resistance from the Indian community. “Though cannabis has been a part of Indian traditional medicine for decades, there are still major taboos around the plant,” she explained. “Some older family members and friends were skeptical of the idea…and wished we pursued a more mainstream idea!” Khot held firm in her belief that she could help people by giving them better access to cannabis and says that her detractors have started to see things her way as well. “Three months post-launch, they have been floored by the design of our dispensary, our repeat customer base, and the people across age groups who consume cannabis,” she said.

Khot had to fight for acceptance from the Indian and American communities. When she moved to the US, she was surprised to learn that conducting business was very different in America. “It was a steep learning curve,” she noted. “Back in India, I was constantly surrounded by my family and friends–but in the US, you have to make your own village.” As a dispensary owner, Khot was eager to create a place for herself in the Chicago community. She prides herself on finding mentors and guides who have helped her become a successful entrepreneur. “Community exists here–you just need to be more intentional about creating it,” Khot said of the Sociale family. 

Forming a dedicated community is one of many skills to open a successful business. “You need to be fiercely independent and a true risk-taker in order to thrive in the US, and I’m so blessed to have developed those traits,” Khot commented. Forging ahead and being determined to build that community were essential to her success. 

Sociale is located in Park Ridge, Illinois, and is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.