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Setting Up Your High-Risk Business for Success in 2023


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January 18, 2023

When it comes to starting a business, most entrepreneurs know the process isn’t easy. It can be especially difficult for those breaking into a new or high-risk industry. That’s why it’s imperative that business owners do their research and establish a solid foundation before trying to open its doors.

The first step in starting a high-risk business is to do your research. As a business owner you want to understand the laws and regulations that apply to your local market as well as what it takes for you to get a license. 

Understanding the Regulatory Landscape

High-risk industries, like casinos, bars and liquor stores, tend to be highly regulated by the government. For those operating in the legalized cannabis market, those regulations are not only greater, but also vary from state to state. While it remains illegal under federal law, there will continue to be additional obstacles you may have to face.

How to Apply for a License

The next step in launching your high-risk business is to apply for a license. There are two types of licenses available: Retailer/Distributor and Cannabis Business Manager. Each one has its own application process and requirements, so it’s important that you do your research before submitting an application.

The first step in the process is registering for a state business license. You can generally find more info on your state’s business license website. Once you’ve been approved, it’s time to start collecting all the necessary documents needed when applying for either type of license. Here’s a sample of what you may need to do:

  • Proof of business ownership if filing as an individual; or proof of your company’s existence if filing as a corporation or LLC (Limited Liability Company)
  • Business operating plan with details about how long you plan on operating in your state
  • Original articles of incorporation or partnership agreement if applicable
  • All federal tax returns filed since inception
  • Certificate(s) from city/county/state showing zoning approval for location where business will operate
  • Certificate(s) from city/county/state showing no criminal history convictions related specifically to cannabis use, distribution or cultivation within 10 years prior to applying, AND a copy of any police reports involving cannabis arrests within 10 years prior to applying
  • A solid Security Plan that ensures your facility is designed, hardened, and fitted with the equipment needed to protect inventory, cash, and people.

NOTE: these requirements may vary by state, so please follow the steps outlined by your local government entity

Consider Your Location’s Security Needs

Having a security plan in place is imperative to protecting your business’ assets and employees. Here are just a few things to consider:


Surveillance cameras provide the ability to monitor a facility at all times. The following should be in view of the system at all times:

  • All building access points (entrances/exits)
  • ATMs
  • Point-of-sale systems and cash recyclers
  • Company safes and SmartSafes
  • Asset storage areas

To take full advantage of surveillance systems, recording devices should be in place to store footage in the event historical data needs to be accessed – this includes compliance purposes as well as in the event of suspected theft or damage to business property. In addition, quality systems offer web-based portals for remote access, allowing business owners and managers to have 24/7 remote visibility.


Alarm systems can assist in catching criminals, but more importantly, they can deter further action during an attempted break in. After hours, placing alarms on building access points can alert law enforcement as well as provide a powerful deterrent when triggering sound and/or lighting at the facility. This draws unwanted attention and makes the target less desirable. 


In addition to having security lights inside your store or facility, business owners should also carefully plan the exterior lighting of a building. Well-lit entrances and back alleyways discourage intruders, but also make visuals more clear on security monitoring devices. Lighting should be bright and cover as much real estate as possible, including both inside and outside the store, and surrounding parking lots if possible. 


Physical security can be the ultimate tool to prevent in-store theft. When hiring a security partner, it is crucial to look for those who understand how to build custom service models specific to your needs and have existing relationships with local law enforcement. 

For more on navigating industry safety and security regulations, check out our blog here

Open a Business Banking Account

For most industries, opening a bank account is just another item to check off the list; however, it’s not so simple for those operating in high-risk industries. These industries continue to be plagued by financial hurdles. For fear of federal ramifications, many financial institutions are hesitant to work with high-risk businesses. Establishing the right partnerships will help business owners get the financial help they need to conduct business with vendors, process consumer transactions, conduct employee payroll and more. Dive deeper into these challenges and potential solutions here.   

Invest in a Secure Cash Management System

It may seem like cash is a thing of the past but the reality is that many high-risk industries still rely on the ability to process large amounts of physical money on a daily basis. While technology has eased the burden of money counting and logging, many operations still lack the appropriate protocols to mitigate common risks, including human error and theft. A few things you can do to establish a secure cash management system include:

  • Setting consistent cash handling protocols among staff
  • Ongoing employee training to ensure compliance
  • Utilizing “smart” technology like smart safes and cash recyclers for further transparency in cash operations
  • Auditing transactions frequently and leave a “paper” trail
  • Establishing relationships with crucial cash management partners like a cash-in-transit (CIT) company

Learn more about our five best practices for cash handling.

Get Started

In the end, starting a high-risk business is no easy feat, but with proper planning and preparation, you can set yourself up for success. Utilizing a partner like OSS can help make this process easier. By offering a holistic approach that analyzes every aspect of your business, our experienced team can help business owners navigate industry regulations, the licensing process, coordinate financial institution relationships, consult on security plans and facility buildouts, as well as handle your CIT and cash management needs. 

t safes are created equal, so having the right partner for your operation is key. OSS provides comprehensive cash management solutions for cash-intensive businesses. As a trusted partner, we can guide you through the process of streamlining operations and finding the right partnerships for your business, including a smart safe provider. Click here to tell us a bit more about your business and receive our free cash management solution brief.