#9 Women in Weed- Sitting down with cannabis business consultant and published author of “Breaking the Grass Ceiling”
Ashley Picillo shares her whirlwind story of how she got into cannabis business consulting, how to build an inclusive and diverse team, and the personal journey she took when gathering intimate stories of women in cannabis.
Chris: Hello everyone welcome to Cannalaw Connections, I'm your host Chris Hoo. I'm the owner of Evergreen Law and the founder of Cannalaw Connections which is our meetup, our newsletter, and what you're listening to now, our podcast. So, I'm joined tonight with a very, very special guest Ashley Picillo and I'm going to invite her to introduce herself in a bit. But I'm also joined together with my special co-hosting team, Veronica Steele and Nicholas Romary. Nicholas welcome to the show.
Nicholas: Thanks Chris. Hi, Nicholas Romary here, I'm the manufacturing associate with Evergreen Law, also joining us is Veronica Steele, the director of entrepreneurship.
Veronica: Yes, yes, it's been an exciting time and I'm here with a mentor of mine and a woman that I met at the Cannabis Women's empowerment summit this past summer. And we met there, and she was actually the keynote speaker, so I'm very proud to introduce right now Ashley Picillo, she is the CEO of Point Seven Group and she is a leading woman that is also the author of Breaking the Grass Ceiling. So, we're honored to have Ashley here on Cannalaw Connections. Thank you so much for joining us.
Ashley: Thank you so much for having me, this is exciting.
Veronica: Yes, yes, so Ashley I understand that you know it's been your experience where you've come from Colorado, and you know, you have taken on a huge mission to come to California and to change the market and to help a lot of entrepreneurs like myself.
So, you know, for the most part I would like to understand your background, and can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ashley: Yeah, absolutely. So, I'm actually from Massachusetts originally, I grew up there, I was born and raised, went to college there. After college found my way to New York and then shortly after that found my way to Hawaii where I did a three-year teaching program. So, my road to Cannabis is diverse for sure and was probably not part of a plan that I had growing up, but I sort of stumbled into Cannabis at the start of legalization in 2014. So, I had come out to Colorado, was only planning to be there for a couple of months as I awaited a new position that I was supposed to be starting in New York. And I wound up with a couple of small cannabis clients in Colorado who were looking for support with everything from event coordination, marketing. And so, it just sort of fell into my lap, and the rest is history I guess. So, I was in Colorado up until the start of this year when I decided to move to California. Our staff is still in Colorado, so our primary offices are there.
We have a team of eight that are working out of Denver and I think we'll keep Denver because it is such an important part of the cannabis legalization story, but also central to the clients that we have all over the country. So, we have clients now I think in nineteen or twenty different states and Colorado is obviously convenient in terms of servicing those groups and making sure that we're staying connected to them. But yeah, it's been an exciting year, coming up to L.A. has not been without it's challenges. It's a tricky market obviously it's delayed in a lot of ways so that's been something interesting to kind of navigate, but overall, I think it's an important part of my professional journey so to speak to be here meeting so many true pioneering people who have been, you know, moving cannabis forward since the late ‘90s when all of this started.
Veronica: Yeah, so something that I found really interesting about your background is that you come from Teach for America. And I think that's really fascinating because there's a huge need for education in the cannabis market and that's something that we really focus on with this podcast and our meetup called Cannalaw connections because we really want to provide services for people, and that's what Point Seven is doing as well. So, what would you say, you know, are some things that you really hope for the nation in terms of education with cannabis? Because that's a huge initiative that all of us need to partake in because of course you're coming from a mecca center of Colorado and then moving to California. And you know, these are places that they really understand the benefits of the plans. And we need to extend that beyond and really provide education for people in States where, you know, it's more limited.
So, what would you say we can all do a part of the cannabis community and within the industry of California and Colorado to extend, you know, deacetylation and propelling people to be able to be more open?
Ashley: That's a really good question, and I'm glad you asked that. I guess speaking to how we educate and the importance of that, it's clear to me especially being from the East Coast and from the North east, the North east tends to be a very liberal part of the country in a lot of ways, but it's funny how the puritan values that sort of govern the North east have prevented a lot of people from being able to see cannabis the way that I see cannabis now. I grew up in, you know, like I said a pretty liberal part of the world. In Massachusetts my family is a very like liberal family, but not with drugs and marijuana was absolutely a drug. I was definitely a dare kid, I was raised to think that this will absolutely ruin your future and prohibit you from ever amounting to anything. So, my journey from that into cannabis is an important part of the story to tell because I think it serves as an illustration of how people's minds can change.
And younger people especially are more willing to consider their own ideals and where they come from and whether or not they might be outdated or if they're actually grounded in anything. Whereas I think when people get older it can be harder to sort of change the way that you see the world and the way that you see issues like this. But I have high hopes for people being able to do that. I look at my own parents and they're sort of acceptance of this now, they've become massive advocates for this as they've begun to really understand this from a medical perspective. I've found that the adult use side is often harder for people to wrap their heads around as far as legalization goes but I think that part of our role, at least my role in owning a company and our role as a greater community is really understanding how to meet people where they are and their own process.
You know, I don't believe in forcing this down people's throats, but I think, you know, even at the airport yesterday I was sitting with two people who had pretty, you know, ridged views on this and by the end of our hour-long conversation I guess sitting at the airport you could tell that there was at least some movement in the way that they saw things. And that was definitely the imperious for writing the book because I- Especially targeting women in the book, there's twenty-one women who are featured as part of that collection. And I think that women are in some ways more approachable as far as cannabis goes and I think we run against that stereotype of what cannabis looks like, moms and teachers and doctors. You know, I tried to put together kind of a balanced collection but the whole purpose for that book was to educate people into try and tell stories that put a different face on what this industry is. I don't think this industry is anything like the stereotypes that I certainly was raised to believe, that it was, and I think that's true for a lot of people. But we have to be respectful of the face that, you know, everyone out there is coming at this from a different perspective, there's a lot of people that I've met who have been very negatively impacted by drug addiction and substance abuse and truly see cannabis as a, you know, doorway into that world.
So, I'm not the right person to say that they're right or wrong I think it's more important to talk about the ethnicity of this for people and, you know, do I think marijuana works for everyone across the board? No. But do I think it's a lot safer as a medicine than a lot of the other alternative options out there? Absolutely. So, it's important to kind of understand where those hesitations stem from with people when you're talking to them. And I think as an industry we're doing a good job coming at this from, you know, an advocacy perspective, a legislative perspective, lobbying. I know you had visited or participated in lobby days back in May. So, you know, those conversations will go a long way in changing the way people see this in the long-term.
Veronica: Wow, wow, an incredible response. And you know, I absolutely agree with you, I think it's important to understand where each individual is coming from when they see the plant and know that there's a lot of meaning and power that becomes a part of it. And you know, just as we were discussing before, Chris and I, you know there's people that are, you know, honestly just affected by hundreds of seizures a day and they're completely transformed just by CBD alone which is non-psycho active. But then there's also the aspect of THC and it’s important to respectively see each part but know that we have so much more research and we have so much more time that needs to progress forward and really help more people and become a more centralized and sophisticated scientific community. And that's why I'm just, you know, so happy to be here with you as a leading industry part of, you know, the San Monica and California experience and bringing Colorado as well. So, you know, basically what would you say right now is the main dilemma happening? Because you know Chris and I, Nicholas, we see it we're a part of a lot of, you know, different networking opportunities and we go out to events in Los Angeles, San Diego, we have our own meetup presence there. So, what would you say is happening right now in the grounds? What do you have your ear to the ground to and what would you say, you know, people from an outside world, or on the North east just like you and I we're both from the North east they're probably wondering like what is it really like right now. And I just would really like to see, you know,
what your perspective is and if you can kind of, you know, illustrate the scene here?
Ashley: Sure. The scene is a difficult one to describe. I think because it's so different from one marketplace to the next, so from my perspective and vantage point working throughout the country I think the number one thing to realize there is that each market is distinct and very different both from a regulatory perspective through, you know, and appreciation and a background in cannabis. So, when you move towards the North east and you look at some of those states that have recently gone through silencing, Ohio being one, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania, a lot of these States are, you know, they're farmer conservative in a lot of ways, but specifically with Massachusetts, Pennsylvania there's always been an emphasis in those states on education. Those are, you know meccas for research institutes and, you know, massive amount of colleges and universities especially leading ones. So, I think it's really interesting how different this all is from one coast to the next. My experience so far as you move west into Colorado and California, you've got a lot of people with substantial cannabis experience. I mean, people have been at this for decades, multi-generation farmers. And then of course as you move east it's sort of the reverse, you have people who may have more of a business approach to this. A lot of the clients we work with have a pharmaceutical background, they come out of traditional banking, traditional industries. So, it's interesting how the two coast are so unique.
And what's been enjoyable for me and for my team, and for our company is sort of watching the groups that we work with on the east coast come up to speed on all things cannabis and watching a lot of our clients on the west coast and Colorado and Oregon and Washington understand that they're going to need to change the way that they operate within this sphere because, you know, this can't continue to happen the way that it has for the last few decades. Regulations are here, process needs to be put into place, the SOPs and procedural things that are being required of operators in California, those are not just to be put down on paper and submitted, those are really supposed to govern how you do things. And there's reason for that. This is a consumable product, there are implications. If this is not cultivated, manufactured, and dispensed compliantly and safely.
And you know, that's going back to your comments about legalization, that's you know, one of the major things we stand to gain through legalization is more oversight, more ability to conduct research. In the U.S. right now as you guys know it's near impossible to do an ethnicity study on this plant. We can study all day the effects it will have on drug addiction and we can poke holes in all of the things that might be wrong with this and explore concerns people have, but our hands are tied behind our backs is when it comes to studying this plant as an actual medicine. So, I think that there's, the scene is a tough one to describe in a distinct way just because each marketplace is so unique, but I think as scheduling is reconsidered here we'll see more commonality between each of these markets. And of thing that I've really loved seeing especially over the last year the number o, you know, players in these markets that are open to learning from, you know, another state or another jurisdiction.
So, I think California, a lot of operators here stand to learn a lot from Colorado, not everything, obviously California has a much richer history when it comes to cannabis, but we've been through metric, we've been through seed to sale, we've been through, you know, that transition. And I think that the operators who take ego out of this and really think about wanting to learn and wanting to push themselves to be the best are, you know, to do that it means looking at other operators and understanding what you can glean from those experiences. Each State that creates a new set of regulations, they're cherry picking those regulations from other places, and that's a good thing. You know, Colorado did a lot right, there are things that the State didn't do right. And I think that, you know, it stands to make every other state a lot stronger if they're open to considering the good and the bad. So, we're at an interesting place, but obviously the markets are still very segregated now because of the way scheduling is.
Chris: Thank you Ashley, what a great answer. And also, I'm so glad that you mentioned checking the ego and not thinking you know everything and cherry picking what regulations the states want because obviously we're not reinventing the wheel. With their like you said states sometimes do things right and sometimes do things wrong and we can learn from each other. And that's definitely how we've been doing our market research in terms of what we think the future of California is and how we've been setting up our regulatory system here. So, on that note:
Where do you see the California cannabis market in five years or ten years?
Ashley: Oh, well I definitely think it depends on the day that you ask that question which is more a reflection on our political climate as a country. As of late I've found myself becoming very frustrated with our federal government because I'm starting to feel strongly that we're handing away, you know, what is one of the fastest growing biggest industries in the world and we're handing that over to Europe and to Canada and to massive operators in South America. And you know if we don't figure out our role in this quickly we'll be completely left behind. California plays such an important role in this because of the size of the market and because of that very rich history, but you know, I do think the future of California cannabis rest a lot on what we do as a nation, not just as a state because we're talking about countries now that are already knee deep in import and export laws and developing, you know, protocols for that. We can't even come close, we can't play ball there and you know by the time we can, if we can even in the near future it might be too late.
So, it's hard to answer the five to ten-year plan. I know that California will definitely always be a big part of the United States market, but I think it might point in saying I fear that we are giving this away as a country. What I mean by that is, you know, yes there will always be grows here and there will always be manufactures and there will always be dispensaries, but I don't know if there will be U.S. owned businesses. I'm not sure they won't be, you know, massive Canadian companies that just start scooping up licenses and converting them, we're already seeing that. You know, distributors up and down the state are being poached, so are all kinds of operators and a lot of that is coming in through the Canadian market now that's federally legal and a lot of these companies are being publicly traded. So, it's hard to forecast that one. You know, I did not believe that we would see federal changes related to marijuana policy during Trump's presidency, but then there's moments where I think he could just tweet it out tomorrow. So, it's really hard to say.
Nicholas: Well, thanks Ashley, I completely agree. I actually want to change gears a little bit here and talk about you.
So, with that how did you conceptualize starting a cannabis consulting firm that is entirely female owned, operated, and ran?
Ashley: That's a good question. I can honestly say I didn't. I was really fortunate after moving to Colorado to be offered a position with a large operator in the states. They were a vertically integrated operator that had a number of dispensaries and manufacturing facility and a cultivation facility. So, in the role that I had there which started as a marketing position but quickly became marketing sales logistics, operations, product development, I wound up touching quite literally every corner of the business. And then by the end of my ten year there the company had started looking at licensing and other markets. So, that was the first time I understood the process for getting the license. In Colorado originally at the start of 2014, I don't want to say it was as simple as, but it was a lot less difficult, excuse me, than it is in a lot of other places in the sense that you filled out some paperwork, you brought in a check and you passed a background check and you could get a license. So, that's the free market approach that we see in some states and then other states have moved towards more competitive licensing which we can talk about. But in any event in that role I got the exposure that I needed I guess to see how a group like the one I was working with could move into a new marketplace. So, that was the first step.
And then at the start of 2016 I resigned from my position, they were my first client, so we left on really good terms and they've been a huge ally to me and to my company over the years, but I decided to start looking at the licensing and educational side of the space because I realized that there's so much need for information, especially on the east coast. There were a number of different states that were starting to build out their regulatory process and their application process. So, at the time especially in Colorado there were a number of law firms that were doing this kind of work. But very few of those firms, and I spoke with them and interviewed some of them, but very few had actually been in a facility like this and had any hands-on experience actually running this kind of an operation. And then I met with a number of cannabis consultants who had an extensive amount of experience, but no real ability to document that experience in a way that could be submitted through a state licensing process. So, that was the first time I decided, okay, let's see if there's something here. I was working with a few colleagues in Denver at the time and really fell in love with the line of work because it was a fusion of, you know, a writing background that I had, operations experience developing what these facilities actually looked like and I've always had a passion for entrepreneurship and startup life and just developing a business strategy.
So, ultimately in our role now we work with clients from the very beginning, so some groups come to us and they woke up and they wanted to start a dispensary. And we walked them through basically the whole process. So, all of licensing once they get that license we help them through a turn key operations process and then from there we can work with groups on more of a miniatous capacity to make sure that they're hitting the mark, they're staying compliant. And from there we've added a number of other services ranging from facility design to marketing, branding. As our team started to scale to support this client base and all of these services, I found that I was constantly drawn to hiring women. And I think that, you know, we're in a place as an industry where we can shape this still and to being whatever kind of industry that we want. And I think we talk a lot in cannabis, but in lots of different parts of business about inclusion and diversity and the importance of that, but it doesn't always happen in practicality. I think a lot of times we talk about it and then there's not always the follow through in actions. So, as a business owner I think it's my responsibility to make sure that whenever I can I'm making those kinds of decision and that that's an obvious thing to do during the hiring process.
So, we do have a couple of men on our team now, they are definitely outnumbered significantly by women and most of our sub-contractors are women as well, but we also work with a number of veteran groups and we work with a number of minority business enterprises across different categories. So, I try to make that decision every time that I can, but in the end, you know, we also want to make sure that we have the best people possible fulfilling the work that we have. So, it's a process but I'm really proud to be a certified women owned business and would expect that to be a part of our story and on the go forward in something that we'll continue to move forward with.
Veronica: Yeah, and you talk about story and you talk about women and really empowering them. So, you know, of course we'd love to hear more about breaking the grass ceiling and you know the twenty-one stories that were shared. And we would love to hear the story behind the story. And you know, really see how you piece that together because I remember when you were addressing, you know, hundreds of women that day and that cannabis women's empowerment summit. You were saying, you know, it was a project that I really felt I needed to do, and you had a tight deadline and you got it out there. And you know, it's changed a lot of people's lives, and it's helped a lot of young women believe in the power that, you know, you actually do have a presence here and you actually can make a change in the world. So, you know, I'd love to hear more about how you found those twenty-one women and their stories and what inclined you to take on, you know, such an amazing project with such a short deadline.
Chris: And also, remind us the name of your book?
Ashley: Yeah, so the book is called Breaking the Grass Ceiling. And it is a biographical collection featuring twenty-one women in the cannabis space. I love the story behind the story because there certainly is one. But in I guess the summery cliff note version of that I had attended South by Southwest the year prior to publishing, so that was I guess I was an attendee in March of 2016. And in attending that event I mean I absolutely fell in love with what South by Southwest represented. It's for those of you who don't know it's a fusion of a music conference, a film festival and a business entrepreneurship conference all in one. So, at the time I'd been in cannabis for a little while, a couple of years at that point. And you know, anyone in cannabis can tell you it's really easy to just live and breathe cannabis all the time and that's all you talk about, that's all you think about, it's all anyone ever askes you about. So, for me South By was saying opportunity to just watch some cool movies and listen to music and kind of look at cannabis through a different lens. And so, while I was there I was thinking man, it's crazy to me that there is not any kind of cannabis track given how much growth that is in this space and, you know, this is held in Austin, it's held in a very liberal edgy part of Texas where they're really pushing the envelope in a lot of ways. So, I thought it was a little strange that there wasn't more emphasis on cannabis and decided when I left I was going to do everything possible to get a panel accepted to South By, by the next year.
So, that fall I put in a submission to do a panel I was to moderate three women in this proposal who had all been in the cannabis space for a while. And the panel was called Breaking the Grass Ceiling. So, I was really excited to find out in November I believe that it had been accepted. So, this was now November of 2016. And so, I was hard at work assembling that and making sure logistically we'd figured everything out. And in one of the conversations I had with our South by Southwest point of contact she happened to mention that if I had a book I could put it in the bookstore at South by Southwest. So, the bookstore there is unlike most in the sense that it's every major business author or science author, you know, artistic person. It's a really well curated beautifully done bookstore. It's very small, but it's really just featuring the people that are part of South by Southwest. And the range of people speaking at this event, I mean, anyone from the Obamas to Tim Farris talking about business stuff. So, it's a pretty wide range of people. And when she said it I thought oh man, I wonder if I could get something down on paper before this event. So, this is now, you know, late November. So, I called my friend Lauren who had that point had been working with me doing some social media and helping me with some random things. She was thinking about getting into the industry and I was like, "Okay, I have this idea, it's crazy, but I think it can be done, what do you think?" So, I definitely couldn't have put it together without Lauren and I am still amazed that she thought this was a good idea. But basically, by early December we started this process.
And the kicker is that we had to have the book printed and in their hands within basically it was forty-five days from the time we started this process. So, not a feat I would recommend others, but it is certainly doable. I can answer any questions people have about the publishing world. We did self-publish, so I looked at a number of avenues for that, Amazon was the best one for our timeline and the process was actually pretty easy once I got my arms around what had to happen. But yeah, it all went fast from there. I was drawing the cover on a napkin and calling this designer who I knew, and she just is amazing at sort of taking my descriptions and making them real beautiful graphically designed things. We were able to find an editor pretty quickly and then the challenge of choosing the women sort of came about. So, people ask all the time kind of how we picked those twenty-one, why they were picked, what the goal was. I knew that I wanted to represent as many different regions as possible, so regional diversity was a big piece. I also wanted to choose women who had different backgrounds in this space. So, in the final piece, you know, we have someone who is well versed in edibles and someone who has been doing consulting work, another is an attorney, another is a physician, another is a mother who has a really unbelievable story as it relates to her son who suffers from epilepsy.
So, I wanted to tell the story of the industry through different eyes and I would say the as tricks there in choosing them and one of the big decision makers there was who could do their interview within like seven days of me coming up with this idea because ultimately, we needed to get through these twenty-one interviews and get pen to paper and get it to print within a matter of weeks. So, there are some pretty tremendous women that we spoke with that I would definitely include in a second edition, but it just didn't quite come together because of the timeline of things. So, it was a little bit of that, but I am proud of the diversity and the representation there. You know, if I were to do it again I would definitely try to spread it out a bit more regionally. There's so many women now doing things in other countries, and there are a lot of people in California that I did not include because I didn't have a direct relationship with them at the time. So, I certainly have some thoughts about putting it together another collection so to speak, but that's the story behind this story.
Nicholas: Wow, that's amazing.
Veronica: Yeah, sounds like there's going to be a few collections to come.
Ashley: There definitely could be.
Ashley: Absolutely, which I think that to me also says that there's a lot of women in this space doing amazing things. And I have another colleague in the cannabis space, he's also an author and he and I have kind of been kicking around a few ideas because I don't think it's, you know, the story here doesn't just need to be about women, I think for me that was something that I really wanted to do that I was passionate about, but there is people from all walks of life doing cool stuff in this space. So, I hope that there's more documentation of those stories because they are worth telling and hearing about and they help shift mindsets. I mean, when we think about those people we were talking about earlier that are kind of stuck in their ways, I think learning about the space through people's stories is a really good way to kind of build acceptance.
Veronica: Absolutely, that's why we're all here tonight and that's the beautiful of the essence of tonight, you know, and Cannalaw Connections, that's what it's all about.
Nicholas: That's an amazing story. I'm so impressed that you took, you know, basically a dare to write a book in forty-five days and made it happen.
Ashley: Thank you, yep, impressive.
Veronica: Super woman. [Chuckle]
Nicholas: I'm really interested in the process. So, you know, South by Southwest was upcoming, you knew that you wanted to get something down, what type of vision did you have, and how does that vision at that time compare to the actual product?
Ashley: Yeah, I would say that the vision and the outcome are very close, although, you know, I've gone back. I've obviously read the book, we've done a lot of edits and I see little typos and I see things and kind of cringe, but I'm also very transparent that it's not perfect. There was no way it could be in that timeframe, so I'm very forthcoming about what it is and what it isn't. It's not the best thing that's ever been written, but the stories are so beautiful. You know, and I talk about the book a lot as far as it being a really powerful book and a really, what I think is a really interesting book. And I feel like I could say that because even though its mine, the stories aren't mine, the stories belong to these women and what they've done and what they've been through.
So, I definitely still feel quite privileged that I got to share some of them. The tricky part was cutting down so much information about each of them and trying to figure out what the best, you know, snippets were to include. But the vision I had really was tell these stories the only way I could do this in the timeframe I had was through an interview process. I would not have been able to write a book of this length if it wasn't driven by those interviews. So, everything was conducted prior and then we went through a process of basically transcribing those interviews and figuring out, you know, what the right order was for these women so that the book had kind of a natural flow. We really thought about okay, if someone is picking this up and they do live in the south east and they are very conservative and someone hands it to them, what stories should be at the front of the book to kind of open the door and really get them engaged?
So, we really spent a lot of time thinking about the order. But yeah, I'm still really proud of how it came out but in saying that I'm really proud of the, you know, the caliber of the women that were included and what they've actually done. I don't know if they fully realize, at least some of them do not fully realize the impact that they've had by just sharing, you know, the things that they've gone through. I think about Amy a lot and her story and dealing with her son, she's from Oklahoma, very conservative. Her son had been treated with pharmaceutical drugs for his epilepsy throughout his life and at that point had been told, you know, that those drugs were now systematically shutting down his organs and there was no- There was literally nothing else they could do, and so she decided to leave her husband with their two other kids and she took her son to Colorado where she pursed cannabis medicine for him and it's been several years. And you know, he's not in perfect health, but he's now he's functional in a totally different way. He has a different quality of life.
And she and her husband have a different quality of life because they've been able to get their arms around those seizures much better than when he was working through those seizures on pharmaceuticals. So, I think her story always stands out to me because there's so many people coast to coast that can relate to, you know being a mom and putting moms and dads will do anything for their kids. And if, you know, you're given that kind of news about your child and the outcomes for him or her, yeah, I think people they'll do anything, they'll go to the ends of the earth and that's what she did. So, she's kind of a representation of a non- She's now very heavily involved in the space, but I think it's important to- It was important for me to tell the story from like a consumer perspective, parenting perspective advocacy and so on.
Veronica: Yeah, I mean something that you know is going on here in Los Angeles tonight at the Roosevelt Hotel is Saving Sophie and that has to do with, you know, a four-year-old girl that suffered from a brain tumor and her life has been completely transformed because of cannabis. And it's because of CBD which is, you know, completely non-psycho active element of cannabis and that's what people need to realize coast to coast, there's a lot of conservative people out there. But the truth of the matter like we've been discussing tonight and like you've clearly outlined is there's true benefits to choose cannabis over, you know, other alternative medicines that are not natural. So, you know, with that being said different projects that are going on,
What are some things that you're, you know, leaning towards supporting and initiatives?
And you know any upcoming speaking opportunities, or you know, anything that we can align ourselves with as people that really care about the patients out there and people that really want to put forth, you know, the research aspect?
Ashley: Yeah, that's a great question. And it's tricky, there's so many events happening nationwide related to cannabis, so it's actually one of our priorities right now as a company is kind of looking at all of the conferences, all of the summits, all of the, you know, fund raising events to really try and figure out where we want to be. In starting this company a few years ago and anyone who started a start-up can appreciate this, but you know, when you get going you'll kind of take any client, you'll go to any event, you'll take anything that's thrown at you sometimes without being as discerning as you should be, or as you would like to be. So, in growing as a business I think the thing I'm probably most proud of as a company is that we have finally reached that place where we do, we only take on clients where their values truly align with ours. We've gone to a place where we can be picky in a good way. So, we're really proud of some of the groups that we're working with and there's an organization where we work very close to, they've been a client of ours for about a year and a half. And their entire business model is anchored around clinical research and the beginnings of clinical trials. A lot of that is, as you know, is not permissible, but they're working really hard within their state to change the law surrounding research and they've played a huge role in actually introducing new license types that will be more oriented towards that.
So, in our work we are looking to connect with clients and various projects that actually stand to make a difference. And all of our clients are doing, you know, in their own ways they're all doing really good things I'm proud of most of the groups that we work with. And you know I see a lot of promise from those teams, but there's a few that stand out that are really anchored around clinical research and trials and education. So, we'll keep doing that. As far as attending different events I've heard about the one that you were speaking to in L.A. and Sophie's story is such a touch one because it's just been a never-ending battle and I think every time they think they've reached the other side there's unfortunately been more sad news for her. But I really appreciate what her family has done in terms of sharing that story because it's not an easy one to share. It would be very easy for them to pull up in their house and be with their daughter and just kind of stay out of the limelight, but I think they're so remarkable because they're willing to show what's really going on. They share videos and they share sound bites and they're making Sophie's story a publicly known one which, in the end stands to really change the way people see this especially parents who might have issues with cannabis but can completely understand what I was saying previously about, you know, showing up for your kids and doing whatever needs to be done to keep your kids alive and healthy. So, I think it's really impressive and I'm really grateful that they, and you know, people like Amy who I was speaking about earlier are willing to put those difficult stories out there because they will make a difference and they already have.
Chris: Thanks Ashley for sharing basically insider tips about how to start your cannabis business and what you've learned over the past few years. On that, in that vein,
Can you tell us a little bit about your vision for Point Seven Group and how your vision and goals have evolved overtime?
Ashley: Absolutely, so Point Seven has, it's definitely shifted a lot over the years I laugh a lot that if you'd ask me, you know, if you asked me a year ago where we'd be now, I would not have described this and that's kind of been the truth all the way through from the beginning. We are a highly adaptable organization, we've made a lot of changes, and we've really try to listen to what our clients need so that we can be as well positioned to serve those needs as possible. As far as Point Seven goes we have very high hopes for working in a broader more international capacity. There are a couple of things going on now that I can't fully speak to you yet, but if it all pans out we would be all involved in a more governing capacity, so we're very used to working on the client side of things, but we have also reached a point where we are so well versed in how this goes and we have a very good sense for the programs that work and the ones that don't that I'd like to see us taking a more active role in actually developing programs and developing regulations and developing application processes, so, that's definitely a hope of mine.
We also launched a second company which is called Timber Docks and basically Timber was built to support a broader range of customers that still need access to high quality content, SOPs, job descriptions, maintenance forms, check list, you know, the things that you'll actually put into practice within your facility, but don't have necessarily the budget for high level service consulting, especially in states like Colorado and Michigan and California where you have such volume of people moving through the process. We wanted to try and find a different way to support those groups that was a little bit less intensive as far as consulting goes which is very, very difficult to kind of scale and forecast for. So, Timber has done very well since launch at the end of July, and right now we're hyper-focusing on California, but we'll be releasing our Michigan set of materials in late November. So, I'm really excited about that, but I mean, the future is definitely bright, but I'd be crazy to try and predict exactly what it looks like. So, hopefully it's more great connections like this one with all of you and hopefully we're kind of moving together into some of these new markets all over the place.
Nicholas: Oh, that's fantastic. I really look forward to seeing what the next year holds and where you guys go as far as international and just continuing to expand.
Ashley: Thank you.
Nicholas: I know for now you mentioned that you have an office here in Los Angeles, you have another in Denver, how did you pick that, or those two locations? Was it to meet your customer's needs? To meet your employee’s needs? Maybe a little bit of both?
Ashley: Yeah, Denver was, you know, a natural fit based on where I started in all of this and there's so much talent in Denver that that's why that office is still there. Our team is very much alive and well and enjoying Denver living, so we'll definitely keep that one. I moved to California on a solo mission at the start of the year because I realized, well one, I was here it felt like almost every other week, so that was not a sustainable. And two I've started to realize that California is very, it's very relationship driven, and I think that because you have so many people who have been in this for decades, having that face time and really getting to know, you know, the groups that you're going to engage to work with you is important to the clients that we have here. So, I've found that to be very interesting. I mean, we have clients in other parts of the country that we've never even met in person. We've met them on Google Hangouts and we've done some travel, but generally it's remotely done work. And in California it really felt like people wanted to meet me, or members of our team before they were going to sign on with us.
And I think that's a reflection of, you know, this sort of pioneering group of people, like I said, who have been here for a while and this massive influx of consultant and experts and many of whom are self-described experts in different things. They've been here for five minutes and, you know, already can tell you everything you need to know about the space. So, it is always a little difficult for us to kind of, you know, brand ourselves differently and make sure people understand that we, you know, we operate with a lot of integrity and there is we have over thirty-five years of regulated market experience across our team, so we do know what we're doing. But I think that in California because it's so relationship driven it made sense to be here and to be able to give people that face time that I think's really important to them.
Veronica: Yeah, absolutely. I mean credibility is so important nowadays and of course, you know, the California market is very much so relationship based. And I do have to agree coming from the east coast it's mostly about your educational background, but when you move out to the west coast it's really, you know, how to you vibe with people and what are the trust that you have, and you know, what are the kind of relationships that you create. But a part of that does fall back on, well, you know, there's a lot of people that you can get along with, but what is their background and what certifications do they have?
So, what I wanted to, you know, talk to you about is being a certified woman's business enterprise, what kind of benefits does that come with and you know what can one do if one wants to get certified as a business that has that enterprise?
Ashley: Yep, that's a great question. So, we're certified through WeBank, and it was not a- It wasn't a terribly difficult process, but you know, you have to be, they do check in on everything. For me and because I own this company outright on the paperwork side of things it wasn't terribly complicated to prove that I was actually the owner and I'm actually a woman and all of that stuff. So, that part went pretty well. But yeah, they're looking to see that you're not just a women owned business that's really controlled by men, which does happen where you have, you know, someone's wife is serving as the CEO. Or you know, a woman owns the business, but the funding and the actual control over where the business goes actually lies in the hands of someone else. So, they do take the time to understand that and to make sure that you mean why you say. It was a very worthwhile process for us in a lot of ways. As far as, you know, one of the benefits there are states like Pennsylvania as an example that will actually give you more points on your application if you are engaging with certified women owned minority owned veteran owned etc. owned organization.
So, there's actually- We have actually won work over our competitors because of that designation. There's a lot of female clients that we have and they're like, "Nope, we're working with you guys because you're on the same and we want to work with other women." So, that's very, very cool. You know, I think our clients need to, you got to choose whoever is best and you've got to find a firm whether it's a law firm like yourselves, or it's consulting, or it's something else. You've got to find- You want to work with people you enjoy working with and that's really important regardless of, you know, gender or background, or any of it. It's about vibing and getting along with someone. But we've definitely done very well in some states because of that designation. So, if there are women listening that own their own businesses I can say that the organization and the process we went through was definitely worth pursuing.
Chris: Thank you Ashley. And from what you've described to us and all the services you provide to your clients we can tell that you're a jack-of-all-trades.
Can you tell us about the broad range of services that your provide to your clients? And how is your team professional and personal diversity fit into this mantra of offering so many broad services to your clients?
Ashley: So, when I set out to build this I wanted to develop a team that was very balanced, so I think that we're there certainly making adjustments as we go, but as of today, about half our team are very much anchored in client management, client success, technical writing, regulatory breakdown, so really focused on what are these rules, what is our scope of work, how are we going to fulfill that, how are we going to write this. And then on the other side we have subject matter experts who represent, you know, many, many years of cultivation or dispensary operations. There's one woman that we work with pretty frequently who has a degree in biochemistry and you know has a lot of experience when it comes to manufacturing facilities and product developments. So, I try to find the most talented people that I could for specific subject matter areas and then pair them with members of our team that can bring that vision to life on paper which is obviously very important on the licensing side. So, we definitely started on just looking at operational efficiently and basically story telling through the licensing process and then as we grew and then as the number of clients we had increased we were finding that if you get a client through licensing which could be very, very difficult they tend to stay with you. And one thing I'm very proud of is the level of loyalty our clients have to us and vice versa because we do produce great work and I'm privileged really to work with the team that I have, they're all exceptional in their own right and their own experience levels. So, we've added services over time to meet growing needs. Our clients that are now through licensing have a totally different set of needs then they did when they met them and now it's about running their business as effectively as they can. So, you know, we're really covering a lot more of the spectrum now than we were about a year ago and I think with the introduction of Timber, which again, is more document based then service based we can cover even more ground and hopefully help some of the smaller enterprises get to the same level in terms of compliance and operational excellence as some of our bigger clients.
Nicholas: So, it sounds like you partner with a lot of people.
Ashley: We try to, yes.
Nicholas: As mentioned before just partnerships and networking is a huge piece of this industry particularly here in California. How do you go about finding those partners and getting them engaged and maintaining those relationships? And once you have that established, you know,
How do you determine when maybe a partnership has run its course and how to separate just all those business, I guess business type logistics?
Ashley: It's definitely a valid and tough question because, you know, we take a long time to move into partnership with a new team. Before we'll sign off on anything we generally worked with these groups, so one person that comes to mind his name is Steve Garner, he's one of thee most talented cultivation people I've met. He's an unbelievable designer when it comes to greenhouses and greenhouse automation. He's been, you know, in the horticulture space for a long time. So, I worked with Steve on a couple of projects and through that experience, just using him as an example, you learn what someone is made of, you learn who's going to follow through with the things that they said they were going to do similar to what I said previously about sharing the same values with our clients, our partners need to kind of operate in the same way. And again, we've reached a place as a company where I don't want to work with gross people, I want to work with people who are fun and people who are down to pulling all-nighters if that is what is necessary. And you know, it's true in any field, you want to enjoy the people who are sitting in the office and hanging out with you. So, that's really important too, cultural fit, shared values.
And of course, if we are bringing you to the table and you're going to be intimately involved with our team, or with our clients then I need to know that you will do what you say you'll do, and that integrity means something to you. So, it’s not always a quick process and of course there are relationships that change overtime, people's priorities change. You know, I don't think that we've had any partnerships at this point go south, but there's certainly partners we work with a little bit more frequently than others based on what our clients are looking to do at any given time. But we're always looking to find other, you know, caliber teams. We work with a lot of companies that actually are competitors as well and I'm a big-time believer in collaboration and there's definitely groups that in some situations we are direct competitors and we have to draw that line but there's situations where we've actually brought our teams together to take on something much bigger. So, there's that going on in the space too and that's something I'm actually really excited about that, yes, we can compete but at the end of the day we're all kind of sharing the same path and we're all moving the same agenda forward which is changing the way that this plant is scheduled, making sure it's accessible to people and making sure that its cultivated, manufactured, distributed, dispensed, compliantly and safely so that people can really enjoy this in the right way.
Veronica: Yes, yes, Ashley I mean you just bring a true era of sophistication and professionalism and I truly look up to you. And all of our listeners here are probably wondering, you know, what are your future plans? And you know, you talk about making the right partnerships and something that Evergreen Law always says is, you know, you're stronger when you link arms. And that's why we made this partnership here tonight. So, I just wanted to ask you, you know, in the next few years, decade,
How do you see yourself expanding, what kind of partnerships are you looking to do? And you know, how do you see yourself in the international market as well?
Ashley: That's a good one. So, there's part of me personality wise I'm a very type A person, I'm a control freak sometimes, I like to have a plan, I like to see the plan, I like to cross things off the list, and there's that side of me that will always kind of be there. Cannabis has taken that side of my personality and flipped it on its head more times than I can count. So, I think this experience for me has taught me a lot about being flexible and being comfortable throwing your own plans in the trash when they're not as good as you thought they were. So, that's something that governs everything that I do every single day. I don't believe that I'm the only person on our team, or in this community that knows the best way, or the right way to get something done. So, if someone has something better, or faster, or smarter than let's do that. And I think that's really good advice for anyone getting into this that, you know, this is a fast-growing industry and there's opportunity here for everyone, but you know, be careful getting too married to your own ideas. I'm a big proponent of doing before you think things through too much. And I say that- I'll back up and kind of explain that a little bit more, but it's- This is definitely an industry where it's moving a mile a minute and so I'm met a lot of people along the way that are spending a great deal of time developing a business plan, or a strategy and getting it perfectly written down on paper and figuring out their financials and all this stuff and by the time they actually go and do the thing someone else has done the thing, the industry is a year ahead and that thing isn't even relevant anymore.
So, I'm a big believer in coming up with something, trying it, just go do it, do it for a little while, get a proof of concept, see if it makes any sense. If it does, go back to the drawing board, formalize that, get that down and go through those steps. As it relates to me and our team and our future I think that we've got a number of irons in the fire certainly on the paths that we're already on related to the two companies, but there's new doors that open every week. And that's a reality in this space, it can be hard sometimes to not get like shining object syndrome with all of the good ideas and opportunities that surface. But I can tell you that I am consistently looking for more opportunities with women, I am looking for expansion opportunities with women, I am looking for expansion opportunities because I'd like to work with groups that are moving into their second, or third or tenth state, or starting to consider how to go into a new part of the world. So, those are the things that get me most excited, Of course what we do every day is exciting as it is, but I'm very eager to see what will happen over the next six to twelve months because things really do they change so quickly. I think we've done the right things in terms of staffing, in terms of planning, but in some ways it's anyone’s guess where we will end up in the next year.
Veronica: Yeah, yeah, and I just wanted to say for our listeners here,
How can people find the book, and how can people find you online to make sure that they stay connected to not only your visions but Point Seven and you know to be able to see you at future events and speak?
Ashley: Thank you. The book is on our website, it's also on amazon and because we published on Amazon it is available on Prime, so you can get that there. It's also offered in Kindle format if you're reading on Kindle. As far as connecting with us, our website is pointsevengroup.com, the word seven is spelled out, and you can connect with our team or with me through the website. I'm always, you know, I try to make myself as available as I can to answering questions especially people who have taken the time to pick up that book and read it and are learning from it or it resonated with them, I do my very best to get back with people, so we can talk through it. But I have our staff is incredible and there's a number of people on our team that would be happy to chat with you. So, whether it's interest in potentially working with us or learning more about our story, or certainly learning more about the book those are the best ways to connect with it.
Chris: Great, thank you so much Ashley and it was great chatting with you and hearing about your vision for the future and your background. Do you have any closing remarks, or any final plugs that you would like to-?
Ashley: No, I think this was great, thank you so much for having me on and I think that this kind of a format through podcast is a really smart way to educate and to engage with a broader community. I think there are still people out there that we know that are not going to go into a dispensary and are probably not going to spend a few hundred dollars going to a cannabis conference, but that doesn't mean they are not looking for answers and looking for ways to understand what we are doing as an industry or what this plan is capable of. So, thank you guys for putting this together and taking the time to do it, it's a really important thing for the industry and for the community that we're in.
Chris: Alright, well you heard it right from the jack-of-all-trades mouth, Ashley Picillo, thank you Ashley. And that concludes another episode of Cannalaw Connections. Like I said, I'm Chris Hoo with Evergreen Law here with Nicholas Romary our manufacturing associate and Veronica Steele our entrepreneurship director recording again from Los Angeles, California. And again, as always follow us on Instagram evergreen_law and you can visit our website evergreenlaw.co.
Thanks everyone have a good night.