Balancing the Grind with Lisa Nguyen, CEO & Founder of Astrid

Lisa Nguyen, founder of Astrid Dispensary and Clinic, shares her journey from working as a pharmacist to pioneering in the medicinal cannabis sector in Australia. Starting Astrid in the challenging year of 2020, she aimed to improve access to medicinal cannabis and challenge the surrounding stigma. 

Lisa talks about her daily responsibilities, balancing leadership roles with personal well-being, and the importance of self-care and community support. She also gives a peek into the resources that help her stay balanced, emphasising the value of persistence, community, and impact in building a meaningful career and life.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

I’m Lisa Nguyen – I’m an Australian trained pharmacist as well as the founder of Astrid Dispensary and Clinic. My cannabis career started in 2017, shortly after medical legalisation. For over five years, I acted as a medical science liaison educating doctors, nurses and pharmacists about the benefits of cannabis in a pharmaceutical setting.

In 2019, I joined a globally listed cannabis company with both a recreational and medicinal arm. I was able to travel to Canada where I met and worked alongside amazing global cannabis leaders. It was truly life-changing seeing how cannabis was helping so many people in Canada, and this led me to starting Astrid in 2020. 

2020 was a wild year to start a company – but those early days really showed me what our patients need as I got to speak with every single patient who came through the Astrid doors. 

What truly inspired me to start Astrid was the desire to improve patient access to medicinal cannabis and raise awareness and remove the stigma associated with cannabis.

With two dispensaries currently operating and a third on the horizon for 2024, I’d love to continue building more dispensaries in Australia, be the best leader I can be at at Astrid, educate more pharmacists, doctors and patients about the benefits of medicinal cannabis, and help make the patient journey in Australia more accessible and accepted.  

I am currently also an Advisor for various cannabinoid research projects involving Data Safety Monitoring and Endometriosis Clinical Research. 

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

I’ve got two main jobs as a founder: problem solving and leadership. Everyday is so different but on any day, I could be participating in online or in-person meetings, brainstorming new strategies, reviewing patient care processes, advising the government on policy change, or even speaking to patients in one of our dispensaries. 

At Astrid, we have two main teams within our dispensary and clinic areas made up of pharmacists, doctors, nurses, product leaders, and other healthcare professionals all dedicated to supporting our patients with their health and wellness journey.

I’ve spent time intentionally building our team with leaders who I learn from and who impress me everyday through their innovative thinking. I encourage my team to make mistakes, try new things so we all can learn. 

When I first started Astrid, I was the first person people saw when they visited our spaces. And now, I work to support and empower my team to bring my big ideas to life.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

It can be hard to have balance. I love my work and I also work with my husband whom I love – but without boundaries around when it’s ok to be in work mode or ok to relax, our bodies can struggle. 

I find it really helpful to pause, relax, spend some time thinking and creating a future that we want. I believe that pausing is self-care. Self-reflection is self-care. I’ve always got many goals on the go and I make a conscious effort to break them down to small habits and realistic sprints – so that these goals are more attainable and sustainable. 

Within the Astrid team, I try to foster a positive environment and we have regular team bonding events, such as trivia games, self-care outings, and end of quarter activities. I believe that maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential to creating a workplace where the team feels supported and valued. 

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

I’m a really dedicated and passionate person so sometimes it can take a lot for me to slow down. I love running Astrid, visiting family, spending time with my husband and friends, 

I’ve dedicated Sundays to mental health, wellness and self-care. 

I believe all growth starts with mindset. So I dedicate a lot of time to ensuring I focus where I need to and take time to slow down. 

There are small things I try to do throughout the day as well as longer breaks that I try to schedule in throughout the year. During the day, it might be a mindful coffee or a journaling session. 

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

I absolutely love the KIC app. It’s created by two Melbourne women who have become powerhouses supporting women to feel good and improve their health. I use the app for gentle workouts and meditation. It’s definitely helped my wellbeing over time.

In regards to the news, I try to stay up to date with business news for women via Women’s Agenda and Missing Perspectives. I think they’re doing great work sharing knowledge about women’s issues. I also regularly read Forbes and Smart Company to see what other innovative companies are doing in Australia.  

I love podcasts too – they’re such a great way to learn. I’ve enjoyed both being on and listening to the Funny Business podcast with two really fun Aussie blokes, and the Level: Asian podcast where Asian Australian leaders share their journeys. I think it’s important to look for inspiration from people who have done incredible things in their lives – because we only have one life here and we need to dream big.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

During the early days of Astrid, there were several challenges from securing funds and navigating the obstacles posed by the covid-19 pandemic, to combating the prevailing stereotype surrounding cannabis in Australia.

One of the obstacles I had to face was funding from banks. Ultimately, they saw: cannabis, no proof of concept, no cash in the bank, no prior experience in business – and said no. But from there I learned to never give up.

Keep hustling. Keep going. Never take no for an answer. There’s always a way and we found a way. Four years later, I have an incredible team that is only growing, two dispensaries (with more in the works) and a brand that I am wholeheartedly proud of and obsessed with. 

The past years have taught me several life lessons, one being that community is key. Surrounding yourself with passionate people who are on the same path will only help you grow. 

It’s not what you do that matters, it’s how you make people feel and the impact you leave on them that matters. I’ve realised how important legacy building is. I love my patients and my team beyond anything else in this world – and I work hard at this brand for them, my people and my patients. 

About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.