Cassandra Farrington, a former Citigroup projects VP, planned on co-founding a niche trade-publishing house. Instead, she became Denver's high priestess of marijuana business intelligence.
--As told to Will Yakowicz:
What We Do
In 2010, I left my job at Citigroup to co-found a business-to-business publishing house with my former boss, Anne Holland. We wanted to create a how-to publication for legal marijuana dispensary owners before they were part of Colorado's economy. I knew the industry was going to be big. Many of the entrepreneurs were coming out of the gray market and had no experience in running a business aboveground. The original idea was to cover things such as why it's important to file taxes. We launched at the same time the federal government ramped up enforcement on the marijuana business in Colorado and California. Very quickly, that dispensary market had no interest in how-to information.
The Big Turn
Marijuana Business Daily was our third launch. We started with other trade publications. But by 2011, a year into it, we found that legal marijuana was a bigger market than we had first imagined, and we knew if we didn't seize this opportunity, we would miss out on something huge. We reached 1,000 subscribers by August 2012, right before Colorado and Washington State passed recreational marijuana initiatives. In 2013, the feds released more guidance for our industry and we reached 5,000 subscribers and a readership of entrepreneurs ranging from dispensary owners to growers, investors, and infused-product manufacturers. Today, we have 36,000 subscribers.
Lows and Highs
MJBizDaily wasn't a runaway success. When we started, the industry was lying low. We hired our editor, Chris Walsh, in 2011, but he had trouble getting sources because business owners thought he was a narc. Also, dispensary owners didn't have budgets to pay for benchmark reports and business information, so our first products didn't sell. But then things turned around: Marijuana became part of the mainstream. We joke that if you're in this industry, you experience marijuana years, which are like dog years. One quarter in the marijuana business is like one year in any other.
No Green Ceiling
Women have a unique opportunity to walk in the door and participate on all levels in this business. According to one of our studies, women hold 36 percent of executive positions in the cannabis industry, along with 63 percent of senior positions at testing labs. Legal marijuana is a harbinger for that new normal, where the white-male hierarchies are broken down. Women and minorities are able to influence, shape, and define the field in ways we have not seen before in business. When you think about it from broad strokes, you see how massive and disruptive the cannabis industry is becoming: from textiles to building materials with industrial hemp, medical and nutritional products with medical cannabis, and recreational products. The opportunity is all of these sectors put together--the sky is truly the limit.