Member Spotlight: Navāda Labs

Member Spotlight: Navāda Labs

About Navāda Labs, LLC

 

Ron Miller

Navāda Labs, LLC: Navāda Labs.com

Ron Miller and his siblings are the principal owners of Navāda Labs, which currently has dispensary and transportation licenses in Illinois, and plans to expand into the craft grow sector.

What makes your company interesting and unique?

Navāda is a social equity applicant that has been in business since 2019. We’re a family business, started by my siblings and I, and named as a portmanteau of our grandmother (Navie) and mother (Ada) names who inspired us to achieve personal and professional successes. We’re fortunate to be a part of Cresco’s Social Equity & Education Development™ program, which is helping us learn how to operate in the cannabis industry and further our work to provide health and wellness to the community through cannabis.

Based on our experience in developing a deep understanding of our shoppers and consumers, Navāda will provide branded products and a unique shopping experience of superior quality and value that improve the lives of consumers. We want to ensure that we are providing products that fit the needs of both recreational users and health and wellness users. Just like any industry, different consumers have different tastes and preferences, so we’re undergoing significant consumer research to ensure that we have the best understanding of what Illinoisans desire.

Miller Family of Navāda Labs

What role does your company plan in serving the cannabis industry?

We currently have transportation and dispensary licenses but are actively working to expand into the craft grow sector as well. Our goal is to build premium dispensaries and craft grow locations, with the intent to have some of the best products and best-in-class locations. One day – when home deliveries are legalized – we’ll be ready to use our fleet of electric transportation vehicles to transform the industry by delivering products directly to consumers, as well as transporting our brands across the state.

We also seek to leverage the capabilities of our architectural/engineering and technology affiliates to help other social equity applicants realize their market entry dreams.  As an outcome, we expect to create opportunities for a multitude of other disadvantaged professionals and tradespeople to participate in the lucrative cannabis supply chain a substantial and sustainable manner.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

The biggest thing that excites us is the ability to provide a service to the community. Three generations of our family lived and grew up on the west side of Chicago, where we were witnesses to the war on drugs. So, it means a lot to us to have a role in this industry and help shape what it looks like, while providing opportunities to the communities and people that have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

The licensing process has proved to be a major hurdle, because we’ve been forced to recreate our business plan, financial strategies, marketing plan, facility plans, and our talent acquisition plan.

Additionally, we are concerned that continued delays will drain the diverse pool of qualified social equity competitors, who have had fewer resources to sustain the opening delays. So, if the market contracts too rapidly, it might be difficult for disadvantaged entities to enter the market compete effectively.

 

What do you like about being a CBAI member?

CBAI always has its ear to the ground on what’s happening in the industry and does a great job keeping members updated. It’s been a treasure trove of information and, in an evolving industry, that’s invaluable. The association also provides great opportunities for marketing with both established cannabis businesses and those working to enter and grow in the industry.

Member Spotlight: LK Pure Labs

Member Spotlight: LK Pure Labs

About LK Pure Labs

 

Stephen Keith

LK Pure Labs.: LKPureLabs.com

Stephen Keith is the founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs, the first testing laboratory to be licensed in the state of Illinois. Steven’s background is in biological research, with a particular emphasis on plant life.

Tell us about your company?

We started LK Pure Labs in 2013 and were the first lab in the state of Illinois that was licensed to test cannabis. The focus of our 20-member team is on providing accurate, timely results, without sacrificing our stringent standards and testing policies. We believe our methods and practices make us the most accurate lab operating in the state of Illinois.

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

We work with growers to test their cannabis to ensure it meets state standards for commercial consumption. LK Pure Labs is ISO accredited and state-certified to provide all testing requirements for cannabis-related consumer products produced in the state.  So we evaluate things like how potent the cannabis is and evaluate things like pesticides and microbials, all before it can be sold at the store.

Stephen Keith, Founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs

Stephen Keith is the founder and CEO of LK Pure Labs, the first testing laboratory to be licensed in the state of Illinois. Steven’s background is in biological research, with a particular emphasis on plant life.

What drew you into the cannabis industry?

From my background as a research biologist, I see cannabis first and foremost as a plant and I’ve worked with plants my whole life. And as far as a plant goes, it’s gotten a pretty bad rap over the years. But I’ve seen the benefits that cannabis has had on people’s lives, particularly those suffering from PTSD and people struggling with things like seizures.

So, when I saw an opportunity to bring the same stringent practices from my biological research business into the cannabis testing business, I jumped at it.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

The industry is going so quickly: it feels like it’s gone from 0 to 100 in about two seconds. That makes for a really exciting environment and a lot of opportunities to shape what testing will – and should – look like. And there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in determining how useful cannabis can be.

 

What are the biggest challenges you face?

From a business standpoint, we of course find ourselves competing with other laboratories, some of which don’t have the same practices and methodologies that we employ. In many ways, the standard operating procedures are still being developed. Illinois has implemented the strongest and safest product standards in the country. These “gold” standards are in place every step of the way when cultivating a product that can be sold, including batch size, equipment purchasing, timing, processing, etc. Other states are more lenient. Through CBAI, we are working directly with the current cannabis operators and relevant stakeholders to create best practices for the industry and our consumers, because while the standards are high, there are no set “rules” for the steps you take to meet them.

As for LK Pure Labs, we are never going to sacrifice our standards. Meeting the gold standard isn’t necessarily easy, but I’ve always told my team we’re going to keep our head down, stick with our practices and focus on our goal of getting the most accurate results.  

Member Spotlight: Justice Cannabis Co.

Member Spotlight: Justice Cannabis Co.

About Justice Cannabis Co.

 

Ashley Peterson

Justice Cannabis Co.: justicecannabisco.com/ 

 

Ashley Peterson is Executive Vice President of Operations and the Regional Head of Illinois at Justice Cannabis Co., a cultivation center that started in Illinois and has branched to seven other states.

Tell us about your company?

Justice Cannabis Co. (formerly Justice Grown) is a cultivation center based in Illinois, with operations in seven other states. We employ about 250 people across the country, including roughly 50 in Illinois. As our company name suggests, we’re founded on principles of civil rights and social justice and actively work to instill those principles in our business and in the industry. We host expungement education events, employ those who have been incarcerated and work to bring those who have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis into the industry.

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

We grow what we refer to as “craft cannabis”, which is thoughtfully produced, high quality cannabis. We steer clear of synthetic pesticides and have implemented sustainable practices because we think it creates a better product for our customers.

Ashley Peterson, Executive Vice President of Operations & Regional Head of Illinois, Justice Cannabis Co

Ashley Peterson is Executive Vice President of Operations and the Regional Head of Illinois at Justice Cannabis Co., a cultivation center that started in Illinois and has branched to seven other states.

What drew you and your company’s founders into the cannabis industry?

Our CEO, Darin Carpenter, is a veteran who served as an Army medic, and he saw countless other veterans struggling to return to civilian life after returning from Afghanistan. And because of his medical background, he knew how cannabis could help, but at the time it was still stigmatized and hard to access. So Darin saw an opportunity to help this industry grow so that it could provide the product to help these who needed it.

On a personal level, I’ve benefited from using cannabis to address anxiety and insomnia. In my early twenties I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis and all of a sudden, I found myself lying awake, not being able to get out of bed and go to work in the morning. I tried anti-anxiety medication, but the side-effects were too severe. Switching to cannabis has been a lifesaver because it relaxes me and helps me sleep without interacting with my other medication or any other side effects.

So, these types of personal experiences really showed us how important cannabis could be in helping people and got us excited to enter the cannabis industry.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

It’s thrilling to be in on the ground floor of the industry, where we’re all really shaping what exactly it’s going to look like. And what so many people in the cannabis industry are focused on is addressing barriers to entry for people of color and women and ensuring growth opportunities. But just wanting to create opportunities or have the conversation about it is not enough, which is why Justice Cannabis Co. is so focused on the principles of civil rights and social justice. We have the opportunity and the ability to make this industry inclusive and beneficial for generations. That’s the kind of thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

One of the ways we’re working to make a difference is our work with non-profits. In keeping with our company’s commitment to community partnership and involvement, all employees are granted 16 hours each year to volunteer at a registered non-profit that we have partnered with. It is a program we developed in 2021 and will be available for employees to utilize in 2022.

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

The first thing that always comes to mind is the banking aspect of it: because cannabis is still illegal on a federal level, banks don’t want to get involved in funding or providing financial services for the industry.

More locally, the Illinois hemp and cannabis industries should work more closely together to provide safe, regulated, tested products to consumers.

 

How is operating in other states different than in Illinois?

In addition to Illinois, we operate in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Utah, Missouri and California. Illinois was our first state and it made us feel that, if we could operate in Illinois, we could operate anywhere. The regulations in Illinois are a bit stricter than in other states and it can be a little more difficult to navigate through the regulatory environment. But all in all, that’s a good thing because it means that Illinois has exceptionally high standards, which is exactly where you want to be for a burgeoning industry.

Connect with Ashley and

Justice Cannabis Co.!

 

Member Spotlight: Bridge City Collective

Member Spotlight: Bridge City Collective

About Bridge City Collective

 

Portia Mittons

Bridge City Collective: BridgeCityCollective.com

Portia Mittons serves as co-chair of CBAI’s Minority Access Committee, where she works to help social equity applicants thrive in the cannabis industry. She is a partner at Bridge City Collective, and the company’s Vice President of  Retail in Illinois, as well as the co-owner of the cannabis dispensary Coughie Pot in Sumpter, Oregon, and a board member of the Oregon Retailer’s Cannabis Association.

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Tell us about your company?

Bridge City Collective is a multi-state cannabis business with a focus on education and wellness that has a presence in Oregon, Massachusetts, Ohio, Missouri, New Jersey and Illinois. Our tag line is “the new approach to wellness.”

Tell us about your role on the Minority Access Committee.

The Minority Access Committee helps social equity applicants get into and thrive in the cannabis business in Illinois. Many of these companies and individuals are facing a steep learning curve, so the committee serves as a resource to help them navigate the application process and grow their business.

My role is to assist social equity applicants to the best of my ability, capability, and capacity, with whatever they need: resources, connections, information, you name it. As a previous applicant myself, I have the benefit of experience that I can share with other social equity applicants: the opportunities I took advantage of, the errors I made. I’ve met a lot of people whose feelings and fears and frustrations I can relate to because I’ve gone through the process myself. And as I meet and talk to other people, I learn about their challenges and successes, which helps me to better help other applicants going forward. Bringing our experiences together makes us all a bit smarter and stronger and – maybe – a little ahead of the eight ball.

Portia Mittons, Partner, Bridge City Collective

Portia Mittons serves as co-chair of CBAI’s Minority Access Committee, where she works to help social equity applicants thrive in the cannabis industry. She is a partner at Bridge City Collective, and the company’s Director of Retail Operations in Illinois, as well as the co-owner of the cannabis dispensary Coughie Pot in Sumpter, Oregon.

How would you like to see the Minority Access Committee grow or evolve?

My goal is to make CBAI and the Minority Access Committee a hub of information on how to be effective in the cannabis space: how to get involved, how to run a successful business and how to grow that business. We want to foster connections to others in the industry, including ancillary businesses like construction, accounting or IT, and share educational resources on things like the latest industry developments or new technology. The bottom line is we want to be a continued resource for social equity applicants here in Illinois.

 

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

We provide a holistic approach to the cannabis space, focus on quality products and helping people become better educated about how cannabis can contribute to their health and well-being.

 

What drew you into the cannabis industry?

One of my father’s friends in Oregon had been jailed for cannabis possession, but when he got out of jail, cannabis was legal. He worked to become a medical cannabis grower in Oregon and, after a while, he reached out because he was looking to help support the cannabis community and see it grow to benefit communities that had been disproportionately impacted by its criminalization. He could not secure a commercial license because of his conviction for cannabis possession, but he was adamant that the Black community should be an active participant in the cannabis business. So, with his help, support and encouragement, I moved to Oregon and opened my own dispensary in 2017.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of teamwork and the benefits of having a diverse group of people with different skillsets. I’ve also received a fast education in real estate and zoning, the order in which those things need to happen and navigating each municipality’s different rules and ordinances.

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

One of the biggest things that excites me is the health and wellness benefits people see from cannabis, especially among older generations and those who suffer from anxiety and PTSD. It’s interesting to see people shed the notion that cannabis makes people lazy and unproductive and understand that it can really be a benefit in their lives. What also excites me is the opportunity for black and brown people and those who were affected the most by the war on drugs to have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this industry to help right the wrongs that were done to them through legislative work & making money in the industry as business owners/operators.

 

Connect with Portia and

Bridge City Collective!

 

Member Spotlight: GreenFlex Financial

Member Spotlight: GreenFlex Financial

About GreenFlex Financial

 

Molly Mayfield, MAcc, CPA

GreenFlex Financial: greenflexfinancial.com

Molly Mayfield and her team at GreenFlex Financial provide world-class accounting services to cannabis businesses across the country, with a special focus on social equity and minority businesses.

Tell us about your company?

I started GreenFlex Financial in 2021 and our specialty is offering world class accounting services to business owners in the cannabis industry. I run a lean team which allows me to be personally very hands-on when it comes to providing financial analysis and advisory services to our clients.

Cannabis is a niche industry I really believe in supporting. Many professionals in the accounting industry have been a little timid to enter the market, but I saw it as an opportunity to step up to the plate and merge my extensive Professional Accounting expertise with the needs the industry is facing right now, especially the development of sound accounting practices. With cannabis being illegal at the federal level and legal at the state level, it creates complexity for the back office in serving the accounting function well. That’s where we come in.

What role does your company play in serving the cannabis industry?

At GreenFlex Financial, we know that cannabis owners in particular face unique challenges in managing their back office, keeping pristine accounting records and maintaining audit trails. We help ensure these practices can be transparent when necessary, so investors and stakeholders receive timely and accurate financial statements and analysis consistently.

What drew you into the cannabis industry?

I’ve witnessed acquaintances, professional colleagues, friends and loved ones live in a more whole and healing way with the help of cannabis, especially as opposed to other harsher substances. From seeing their experiences, I know cannabis can be a positive tool that one can have in their toolbox.

My family owned a retail, health-focused business for about 40 years. I worked a lot of different positions during my time working for our business, but my passion was the financial side of the business: everything from being a cashier starting at the age of 7, to helping my mother pay the bills and then in more mature years managing a 20,000 skew Inventory scenario along with loan package preparation. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, that’s where my passion for accounting was born. I put those two worlds together in creating GreenFlex Financial PLLC.

 

What excites you about the cannabis industry?

I want to help the cannabis industry grow as a whole, but I’m really excited about the opportunity to help social equity applicants and minority business owners succeed in this industry. Our social equity applicants and minority business owners have already been through so many challenges in their journey of entrepreneurship and they need relief in the way of making sure their Accounting and Business Processes run smoothly and accurately.  That is where GreenFlex comes in!

 

What are the biggest challenges facing your business?

On the one hand, the federal government calls cannabis illegal. On the other hand, cannabis businesses are still required to pay federal taxes on the money they’re making legally within state boundaries. It’s a really interesting point in the journey. And contrary to many other businesses, cash is still king in the cannabis industry. Not only do they have to sometimes pay the IRS or sales tax in cash but they often have to pay suppliers in cash as well. Cash presents much more risk: it’s easier to handle inappropriately and it’s harder to keep track of. But at the end of the day, businesses still need accurate accounting records to be able to share with their stakeholders. Businesses need to work with an experienced Professional Accountant who has expert-level knowledge of how to perform Accounting and Back Office functions within the Cannabis Industry.  This will help set them up for the best success.