7 Minutes with Matt Willer and a Little Cannabis Alliteration
June 18th, 2019
App, Exclusive, Top Story
Marcus Lemonis, the iconic entrepreneurial Profit, is famously known for building successful businesses under the mantra of “people, process and product.” If there is a company employing the “3 P’s” recipe in the cannabis space, it’s STWC Holdings Inc. (OTCQB: STWC), or Strainwise Consulting as it is often called, a company steeped with experience building a suite of services that shepherd success for its clients.
When it comes right down to it, Strainwise could add two more P’s: partners and profits. As explained by Matt Willer, President of Strainwise, in an interview with CFN Media’s Nova Gaver, the company takes its work and the success of its clients very personally.
“Ultimately, we’re a partner in each of these entities, whether that’s formally or informally. We look at them as an extension of our business,” said Willer, adding, “Success is measured by our client’s bottom line. We’re feeling that we had a successful engagement or partnership when we’re improving someone’s business and obviously that is largely displayed by profit and loss.”
Strainwise’s diverse business model means the company could provide services for cash or equity (or a combination of both) or even make an investment in the client/partner if the opportunity is ripe.
Strainwise’s roots go as deep into the legal cannabis industry as anyone. Co-founder and CEO Erin Phillips has the distinction of securing the first ever recreational marijuana license in the United States, that for a Strainwise branded dispensary. With Erin spearheading the consulting and regulatory end of business, husband and co-founder Shawn Phillips took care of operations, with the duo growing from a single dispensary and 4,000 square feet of production capacity in 2010 to nine retail shops in Colorado, more than three dozen licenses and 90,000 square feet of cultivation space.
The Phillips are the type of people that when licenses to expand grow operations were unexpectedly delayed by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division resulted in employees needing to be temporarily laid off, the couple worked to place their staffers with other companies in the industry so they didn’t have to go without work. It’s is this personal and deeply-experienced approach that Strainwise leadership brings to its partners that differentiates it from competitors.
Willer who was promoted to the position of President at Strainwise in February, is relatively new to the cannabis industry, but brings a wealth of knowledge of the capital markets to the company underscored by two decades of serving on boards and executive positions at public companies.
During his time as the former President and Director at Assure Holdings (TSX-V: IOM), Willer took the company public and was instrumental in a four-fold increase in market capitalization in 12 months. Willer also served as President of the U.S. division of Xylitol Canada, which experience 10x revenue growth under his tutelage.
There is something to be said for sticking to what you do best and letting others do what they do best in building a company. Willer can see the synergies, in particular the skill set each person at Strainwise possesses as advantageous to growth.
“[The Phillips] learned from the school of hard knocks. They started a business; They grew it; They went through the challenges like any business owner would. Through those years of experience, we’re able to translate that into a more efficient roadmap for our clients,” said Willer in the interview.
“The challenge that we have in the capital market is not specific to any one industry and the challenges that are dealt with at the operational level are really a shot into Erin’s domain. By allowing them to focus on helping our clients and grow the operational piece, it relieves them from the responsibilities that are more in my domain,” he added.
The process, as the Phillips found out with decision timelines for regulators being a moving target, can be the greatest challenge to any company in the cannabis space. The simple fact that the emerging industry is still so nascent inherently means that changes are incessant.
“It’s constantly trying to understand what is happening at the local, state or even federal level, which often times falls into compliance and legal issues, etc.,” said Willer. “In that murky environment, you still have to be able to run a business. What we’re trying to do is alleviate that stress of all these moving parts; let them know that they’re partnered with someone that can look after their best efforts and monitor all these dynamic movements,” he continued.
As an example, Willer noted a company in Oklahoma City that came to Strainwise in its infancy. Strainwise led the new partner from concept to fruition, advising them through the licensing procedure to building-out their first dispensary and successful launch of the business.
For Strainwise, the lines between process and product can be somewhat blurred. There is, of course, the company’s own products. At the same time that it broadens the STWC footprint in its home state, as well as Oklahoma, into the massive California markets and down into Puerto Rico, the company is growing horizontally too.
“Growth is not just more dispensary partners or more cultivation partners,” Willer explained.
Strainwise is executing on a broad strategy to build a robust ecosystem providing products and services that will augment legacy consulting revenue and allow partners to save on capex by working directly with Strainwise.
For instance, the company in April launched a new packaging division offering customizable and compliant cannabis product packaging options to its clients. Elsewhere, Strainwise partnered with Dana Ress of Denver’s RedPoint Solutions on a joint venture for the purpose of developing a software solution called Supergrower. The customizable software is designed to address the complexities of operating in the legal marijuana space, with functionality across all four cannabis verticals: cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail. The JV is targeting July for Supergrower, giving investors something to look forward to in the near term.
Back to the People
In closing, Willer circled right back to the people as clear differentiators setting Strainwise apart from others in the cannabis business. The Phillips as bona fide industry pioneers speaks for itself in building the brand that is starting to gain momentum.
Willer succinctly summarized the importance of the team, offering, “The people are really what drives this business. I think that as an extension of that – and that our partners would say – that you can trust us like a partner. We do what we say on time and on budget. I’d say 95 percent of our business comes by way of referral, which I think is a testimony to the caliber of people that we have in the organization.”
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