As states continue to abolish cannabis prohibition, it’s no wonder that business people from every other industry are eager to get in on the “Green Rush.” CULTURE found five promising up-and-coming entrepreneurs who are ready to revolutionize the industry. With folks from various professional backgrounds ranging from food and beverage companies to the toy and the farming industry rushing into this business, it’s clear—the seeds are planted, and this crop of new entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry is looking pretty good in 2019.
Edward M. Schmults
CEO of Calyx Peak Capital
Edward M. Schmults has worn many hats in his career. As the former CEO of FAO Schwarz and COO of Patagonia, Schmults is at home in the C-Suite. So it makes sense that Calyx Peak Capital sent a headhunter to seek Schmults out as CEO. Before Schmults was contacted about the position, he had never considered the cannabis industry. As a prudent businessman is wont to do, Schmults decided to research the cannabis industry. After consulting industry research reports, trade press, medical research and “talking heads on CNBC,” among other sources, and with the enthusiastic support of his friends, family and former colleagues, Schmults decided to go for it.
With Schmults onboard, Calyx Peak Capital is set to expand in 2019. “We are poised to have a successful 2019 as our cultivation and processing rolls out in California, Nevada and Ohio and Massachusetts (pending). By the end of 2019, we will be bringing to market a number of innovative form factors for customers and looking for new opportunities that align with our brands.”
Schmults believes that one of the key challenges for the industry will be balancing new cannabis businesspeople with those who have built the industry thus far. “A key challenge for this industry is how to hold on to some sense of authenticity. There is so much money chasing rich valuations right now, and the people who got the industry here are being crowded out,” Schmults said. “A healthy industry will allow the traditional people and the new money business people to work together or succeed with different approaches.”
“A healthy industry will allow the traditional people and the new money business people to work together or succeed with different approaches.”
CEO and Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme
In 2008, Jilea Hemmings began her journey as an entrepreneur when she created Greenie Tots, a frozen, meatless entrée line for kids. This was after she’d spent several years successfully revamping business development campaigns for Fortune 500 companies including Bank of America, Joseph E. Seagrams & Sons, Pfizer Inc. and Baptist Health South Florida. Next, Hemmings started Eshe Consulting, where she continues to help small, medium and start-up companies with all their business needs.
When she decided to enter the cannabis sector, a personal experience with cannabis revealed to her a need for more reliable and trusted information about cannabis retailers and brands. “My cousin who is like my brother was faced with an inoperable tumor and was told he was a dead man walking by many medical experts and cannabis saved his life. This was my first introduction to cannabis and I immediately fell in love with this amazing plant,” she said.
Out of this experience, Leaf Tyme was born. The app also aims to educate users about cannabis laws in each state with Know The Law, and the medical uses of cannabis with Leaf Tyme MD.
The biggest news on the horizon for Leaf Tyme in 2019 will be international expansion. “In 2019, Leaf Tyme will expand into the Canadian Market and partner with dispensaries, brands and ancillary services to continue to provide a robust information hub for the cannabis community.”
CEO of Iron Angel Ranch
From mom to organic farmer, wedding venue owner, farmer of 20 acres of cannabis and holder of the most cannabis permits in Santa Barbara County, California, Frannie Shulman’s journey has been a long, winding one, to say the least.
After losing a son, and her organic farm and wedding venue due to a bad business deal, Shulman was in a bad place. She was living in her car, eating ketchup sandwiches, and had little reason to be hopeful. Still, on a whim one day, she hopped on her beloved Harley and rode through the Santa Barbara mountains she had loved and gazed at for 25 years.
During the ride, she saw a small for sale sign that turned out to change her destiny forever. That mountain she loved, 1,100 acres of it, was for sale. With hardly any money or income, or experience managing that much land, Shulman somehow managed to buy it. That hill became Iron Angel Ranch & Retreat, a cannabis farm in Santa Barbara’s wine country.
“When tragedy struck my family and I lost my son, I was taught, trained, guided into all sorts of non-chemical and chemical ways to help me find rebalance. But that never felt right to me. Cannabis, on a very personal level, helped me reconnect to that part of myself in a dark point of my life.”
Now, she sees her continued success growing into the new year and beyond. “In 2019, I hope to watch our output continue to grow. I hope to help create accessibility and understanding surrounding cannabis and cannabis use. I hope to see the people I know in this industry, who have worked tirelessly to help us all get to this point, start to see the social, economic and emotional fruits of their labor. And mostly, I hope to help people,” she said.
Co-Founder + Cannavist of Humble Bloom
Solonje Burnett is a modern renaissance woman whose immersive event experiences and conference production have benefited festivals live like Grey and AFROPUNK FEST. Burnett has also provided entertainment programming for a variety of clients at her previous entrepreneurial venture, Den Entertainment. Additionally, Burnett has worked at nonprofits and as a consultant for workplace culture, diversity and inclusion. And now, she’s lending her skills to the cannabis industry, with Humble Bloom, a cannabis-centered boutique firm out of Brooklyn.
Burnett’s experience working as an inclusion and diversity consultant will help bring more diversity into the cannabis industry. “The plant has been criminalized and demonized to control black and brown bodies so the status quo of fattening the type-A businessman’s pockets—profit over people rules. We can’t let that happen in this industry and in communities who’ve used this plant for healing therapy forever. We’ve flipped the model,” she said.
Throughout the next year, Burnett will be taking her expertise across the United States as part of Humble Bloom’s Field Trip Series. “We are in talks with institutions of higher learning in New York and Massachusetts to spark conversation amongst those soon to enter the workforce who are canna-curious. We are talking to farms from the East to the West Coast to lock in dates for the next in our HB Field Trip Series,” Burnett said. “In an effort to lean into our vibe of cross-pollination, we will also launch comedic content, dinner experiences, educational workshops and focus in on brand strategy as a vehicle to influence the industry.”
CEO of Stone Road Farms
Raised in New York City, Lex Corwin knows that in order to succeed, you have to be better, faster and stronger than your competitors. This mentality has stuck with him through his foray into the cannabis industry and helped him get ahead. Corwin is only 25 years old, but despite his young age, he has accomplished a lot.
Corwin stepped into a real estate development right out of college and helped launch several startups including the first MatchaBar in the U.S., a beverage company that is now sold in Whole Foods. The young entrepreneur took his knowledge from the beverage world and applied it to the cannabis world.
Perhaps Corwin’s startup mentality is responsible for his brainchild, the Stone Road rewards app, which offers customers free tickets to cannabis-friendly events. The app helped gather data on users, and shape Stone Roads Farms into the brand it is today. Overcoming many challenges along the way, Corwin remains dedicated to responsible growth of his brand. “My toughest challenge was choosing business partners. Both former partners left the company within the first six months for varying reasons,” Corwin shared. “I overcame this challenge by putting in a ridiculous amount of work. 18-hour days for weeks on end. Doing literally every job myself.
The new year is expected to bring exciting expansion, although it won’t be at the sake of the brand’s identity. “My main goal is to be able to scale the business without sacrificing quality,” Corwin concluded.