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Tech Thursday: 6 Cannabis Entrepreneurs You Should Watch
Exponential industry growth meets game-changing talent
By: Melanie Bigalke

Tech Thursday: 6 Cannabis Entrepreneurs You Should Watch 1
Joel Milton, BAKER

The end of cannabis prohibition signals a shift in the social conversation on cannabis, and a rising awareness of the issues of social justice. Cannabis represents freedom for human beings. Entrepreneurs entering the space are excited about the potential for innovation, community, and change that cannabis represents, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make this industry work. From leaving high-paying jobs to moonlighting, these motivated and innovative entrepreneurs are creating the future of cannabis now.

Colorado – Joel Milton, BAKER

Ever been in line at the deli behind another customer that has apparently never seen cheese before? Frustrating as well can be the wait in line at a dispensary while a tourist or a newbie gets advice from their budtender.

Enter Baker, an app geared toward making cannabis purchasing easy and user-friendly with beautiful, simplistic software. Users can check on the availability of their favorite products and place orders in advance, sometimes with a discount. For medical patients, this is an important service that prevents wasted trips. For regular recreational users it’s a way to speed up the process and guarantee the product they desire is waiting for them. Eventually Baker is looking to provide delivery services as well.

The app is free, offering dispensaries the ability to know and serve their regular customers in a new way. Currently completing a million-dollar round of financing, they’ll be expanding into more stores in the Northwest soon. “We want to completely remove the stigma,” says CEO Joel Milton. “Fifteen years ago no one would have rented out their apartment to a stranger for a weekend; it would have been unthinkable, or getting into a stranger’s car for a ride? Crazy. But Airbnb and Uber changed the scene.” According to Milton, “Technology is a game changer. It’s an exciting time. The conversation is shifting, and we’re going to shift it even further.”

Oregon – Amy Peradotta, Independent

Amy Peradotta cannabis entrepreneurs
Amy Peradotta with handfuls of hemp

Amy Peradotta is an independent project manager specializing in industrial hemp. She has a master’s degree in public administration, and wrote her senior thesis on the “asinine” policies preventing industrial hemp from being utilized as a major renewable resource in the United States. Amy is passionate about the difference that cannabis can make in the world. “I believe in advocating for the entire cannabis genus. There is a use for every strain, every cultivar, every variety. In whatever composition its cannabinoids, whatever that ratio might be, there is value that can be useful.”

Peradotta has been involved with projects all over the country, and is especially interested in her home state of Illinois, where she is currently coordinating a research project on industrial hemp economies with Western Illinois University. In Oregon, she is working with farmers, industry leaders, and legislators to develop the foundation for a robust hemp industry. She’s also been managing film shoots for Doug Fine’s upcoming documentary on hemp, and working with Oregon Hemp Works on the 2016 launch of their hempcrete workshop in Oregon City, Oregon (The Oregon Trail Hemporium) while holding down a full-time job.

Amy is definitely passionate and articulate. “My goal is to create regional hemp economies state by state,” she says. “I think that cannabis represents freedom for humans. If people knew that they could grow their home, their food, that they could make paper, fuel, power sources, and batteries. If people really knew and understood the full potential of the cannabis plant, from hemp to recreational use, we would create a direct threat to corporate capitalist consumerism. Those in power are terrified of absolute cannabis freedom because it is a direct threat to the existing structures of society.”

Oregon – Camille Messina, Messina Bitters

Camille Messina cannabis entrepreneurs
Photo: Messina Bitters, Camille Messina and her line of bitters

Camille Messina founded Messina Bitters in May 2015 in Portland, Oregon. Her company is the first legal, cannabis-infused bitters company in the world.

“Plants are my passion. When I was a kid, my mother and I created an herb sanctuary. We grew medicinal plants, hung them in the kitchen to cure, and mixed them together in novel creations of leaves, roots, and flowers. One plant that particularly interested me was cannabis. My father was a strong advocate for legalization, and he used it to help treat his pain from cancer when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I saw firsthand how [cannabis] allowed him to live out the rest of his life with dignity. It inspired me to learn more about how plants could help people.”

With numerous dispensaries already carrying her products, Camille is poised to expand further into the Portland market, and she has her eye on expansion to Eugene, Oregon. She’s currently running a one-woman operation with the occasional help of contractors and advisors, Such as the chemist she consults with to maintain consistent dosage levels and purity.

Washington – Jason Hinojosa, BUDBUDS

Jason Hinojosa, CEO and founder of Budbuds, is a graduate of Pinchot University with an MBA in sustainable business. He created Budbuds, an app that provides curated cannabis recommendations based on your desired experience. Hinojosa explains, “Whether you’re treating a medical condition or looking to unwind with friends, Budbuds takes the guesswork out of buying cannabis. Just answer a few questions and let us do the rest.”

Passionate about cannabis access and change he explains “I didn’t become a regular user until I encountered health problems a few years ago. In lieu of taking prescription painkillers, I medicated with cannabis to assist in my recovery after removing a kidney because of a cancerous tumor. Since that time, I’ve witnessed the power the plant has on the mind and spirit. Carl Sagan said it best when he wrote that cannabis use helped him ‘produce a very rich array of insights.’ When used responsibly, cannabis can enhance many activities, and Budbuds gives me a platform to share that information with the world.”

Budbuds is a part-time passion project for Hinojosa, who also holds down a full-time job but he clarifies “I was born to be an entrepreneur. As far back as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed envisioning all the possibilities the future could hold.” Budbuds is set to launch in early 2016.

Oregon – Dan Mahr, StoryWYZE Strategies

Dan Mahr cannabis entrepreneurs
Dan Mahr

Dan Mahr and his business partner Peter Zuckerman founded StoryWYZE Strategies in 2015 and are serving cannabis businesses with a combination of communications strategies, storytelling, and marketing. According to Mahr, “Having a killer product doesn’t guarantee success. Today’s cannabis consumers have options. It’s their connection to the brand that makes it stand out.”

StoryWYZE is focusing on businesses that give back to the drug policy reform movement. “We’re lucky that we get to choose who we work with,” says Mahr. “Businesses that are doing it the right way – helping the movement while making money – that’s where cannabis consumers want to spend their dollars.”

In 2014, Mahr managed Oregon’s Measure 91 campaign that legalized cannabis for adults over 21. With a background in politics and campaigning, he doesn’t shy away from a good policy fight. “Coming from the legalization campaign, we’re committed to advancing good [cannabis] policy and continuing to fight the drug war. This is about improving culture. Politics and cannabis are now inextricably linked, and it’s vital to understand both worlds.”

With nearly 30 years of combined experience in communications and campaigns, the StoryWYZE guys know how to help other cannapreneurs craft their strategy – and win.

California – Emily Paxhia, Poseidon Asset Management

Emily Paxhia cannabis entrepreneurs
Emily Paxhia

Emily Paxhia is a founding partner and the Director of Relations for Poseidon Asset Management, a California-based personal asset management and hedge fund firm specializing in the cannabis industry. With over ten years experience working as a brand consultant and researcher, her work has included primary and secondary marketplace research and consulting in a number of categories and industries.

Paxhia and her brother chose to enter the cannabis space based on their own experience of loss. “We lost both of our parents to cancer very early in our life,” Emily says. “Our dad had really wanted to gain access to cannabis for nausea when he was sick, but didn’t because of the stigma against it. We know cannabis would have helped him. That’s something that has made a permanent impact on us. Why should anyone not have access to a plant that can help to alleviate symptoms and suffering with very little side effects?”

In 2013, the siblings launched Poseidon, now considered a pioneer in the cannabis hedge fund space. “We knew that this industry was the right place to step out as entrepreneurs, as we understood that any entrepreneurial endeavor would require passion and dedication. We are all very passionate about cannabis,” Emily adds.

The partners are most excited by the young professional management teams that are entering the space. “The time is now. The talent, drive, and passion of founders entering the market now really has us excited about the future of the industry.”

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