Podcast Episode: If I Can Make It Here: Etain’s Women-led New York Success Story

Hillary Peckham initially had zero interest when her mother called to see if she’d consider starting a medical marijuana company together.

But the younger Peckham changed her mind after researching cannabis and learning the benefits it provides to people across the country.

In 2015, Etain Health was born in New York state. As chief operating officer – a post she still holds today – Hillary helped steer Etain through the New York market’s lean early days when there was a dearth of patients.

But the company survived and in March was acquired by RIV Capital for $250 million.

In this episode, you’ll learn Etain’s keys to success including:
  • Establishing a strong narrative and team.
  • Partnering with area institutions and offering philanthropic giveback to garner respect and loyalty in local communities.
  • Tips for financing and launching a vertical operation in a short period of time.
  • How to get unique products to customers before your competitors.
  • What a medical business should do to prepare for a recreational market.
  • Navigating a successful exit.
Who is Hillary Peckman?

Hillary Peckham is the co-founder and chief operating officer of Etain Health, a vertically integrated cannabis company in New York state that was recently acquired for $250 million. Before getting into the cannabis industry eight years ago, Peckham worked at her family’s construction business, helping with marketing operations. She is also a piano teacher who still accompanies bands and Broadway vocal coaches.

Episode Transcript

Chris Walsh: Hello, and welcome to Seed to CEO, the podcast about making your way in the cannabis business. I’m Chris Walsh the CEO of MJBiz, and the host of this show. 

So, I want you to think back to what you were doing in your early 20s. For me, that was a lifetime ago, kind of sad to admit that. I was finishing up college and then getting ready to start a job as a reporter at a newspaper, I believe it paid about $27,000 annually, so yeah I date myself there. But it wasn’t like gas cost a quarter or anything. It wasn’t that long ago; journalism just doesn’t pay much. So that’s what I was doing in my early 20s. 

My guest today, Hillary Peckham, was finishing up her bachelor’s degree in music in her early 20s when she got a call from her mother who asked if she was interested in working together to start a medical cannabis company to help patients. Hillary initially had zero interest, but then as she started researching the industry her mind changed, and then New York legalized medical cannabis shortly thereafter. So, Hillary and her sister joined their mother to launch Etain, which is one of the first licensed cannabis companies in New York.  

Hillary played a key role in helping Etain get off the ground. She served as its chief operating officer, and this is still the role she holds today, COO.  

Now, Etain has survived in a very, very difficult market. There were almost no patients at the beginning. New York regulars moved the launch date around and just getting off the ground was very difficult. But Etain navigated through those challenges and recently announced some big news: a $247 million sale to the Canadian investment firm RIV Capital.  

In this episode I’m going to talk to Hillary about how she learned the ins and outs of the cannabis industry at a very young age, how Etain has overcome hurdles in a very challenging medical marijuana market and what’s next for her and the company.  

We’ll get to all this after a quick message.   


Chris: And welcome back to Seed to CEO, we now have Hillary Peckham on the show. Welcome Hillary. 

Hillary Peckham: Hi. Thanks so much for having me. 

Chris: I ran into you briefly in New York recently and you had a bright pink shirt on that said, buy weed from women. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Hillary: Yeah, that’s one of my favorite shirts. Um, so part of the brand we’re women-founded, women-led, women-run and we’re women-owned. We partner with a lot of local women-owned brands and Jasmine Mans is the creator of Buy Weed From Women, and we’ve done a lot of collaborations in work. We also retail her items in our store, and I always love to represent the brands that we carry in our stores and other strong women in the cannabis industry. So, I am usually, if I’m out and about wearing one of her, um, one of her shirts. 

Chris: Yeah, that was, that was great to see, it carries a good message and then it supports another brand in the industry. So, tell us, first of all, about Etain. You have 4 dispensaries in New York? 

Hillary: Yep, so we are a vertically integrated company. We have a cultivation and manufacturing facility up in Chestertown, New York which is in Warren County, and then we have four dispensaries across the state, so Syracuse, Kingston, Yonkers and New York City. We’re currently a medical cannabis company right now, and we’re one of None registered organizations in the state. 

Chris: And you were one of the first five, or was it four or five in that first round? 

Hillary: First five, yep. Back in 2015.  

Chris: Yeah, and we’ve written a lot about Etain and Hillary and their family at MJBiz and MJBiz Magazine. Great story that we’re going to dive into. Can you give us any fun stats about the traction you have now? How many patients you serve or revenue or anything that gives us an indication of how big you’ve become? 

Hillary: So, we’ve seen close to about, I think it’s close to 30,000 patients at this point in the program. I guess it will soon be a reporting metric for our new merger.  

Chris: Yes, and speaking of that, toward the end of the discussion when we look at where you’re at and what’s next, we’ll talk a little bit more about this. But I just wanted to pick your brain. Two months ago, you had this huge announcement, you know agreeing to be acquired by Canadian investment firm for around $247 million, mostly in cash but also with some stock. It’s an amazing deal for you and your family and congrats to you and the team. Where does the deal stand at this point? 

Hillary: Thank you so much. We’re really excited about it. I think it’s really the best next step for the brand and for the family, so we’re currently waiting on regulatory approval for the license to transfer and then the Etain company, um, the license holder in New York will transfer to RIV Capital. Then as part of the deal, we are all staying on and this will actually better help us expand the brand and the opportunities for Etain moving forward. 

Chris: And kind of get out of the operations and move into the bigger picture kind of brand-building I imagine and strategy? 

Hillary: Yeah, I think you know I’ll still be heavily involved in operations for a long time, but my role will switch to mostly being about like expansion of the Etain brand and just focusing on Etain, as opposed to the sort of wider range of operations that are going to exist within RIV. 

Chris: We’ve got a really inspirational story. A great cannabis success story about starting, you know, bootstrapping and going into a market that was very difficult, and navigating through that successfully and getting to not the end here, as you said you’ve got a long way to go with Etain going forward. It’s not like you’re going off and buying an island and retiring. When people look to this industry as entrepreneurs, I mean this is the dream right? You start small and you grow to a prominent company and then you have an exit event occur that really recognizes all the hard work you put into it, and especially with this being women-run and family-run, some unique, fantastic aspects about it. So, let’s go back a bit and talk about the formation of the company. You and your mother, I think your family ran a construction company that is very well known in New York, then you made the switch to cannabis as a family. Talk about how that developed.  

Hillary: We actually started this process, I was still in college and the Compassionate Care Act was being proposed in New York state legislature, so it hadn’t passed or anything and it was right after my grandmother had passed away from ALS. During her battle with that disease, which is a terminal illness, my mom was her caretaker and all of my grandmother’s doctors were recommending medical cannabis for her but there was no legal way to procure it in New York. And so, my grandmother wasn’t comfortable with it, but it did spark sort of my mom looking into it and then what the actual operations are involved with and how to how to get into the cannabis industry. So my mom got really taken by all these stories of patient success out in Colorado and California which were really the only states we had to sort of measure with um that had legal programs at the time that we were looking. And she called me, it was my senior year, and she said, ‘would you be interested?’ And I said, ‘absolutely not,’ and I wasn’t really interested in that, but I did start researching it. For me, I had a failed hip surgery, and I actually lost the use of my right leg for about two years. I had to re-learn how to walk, and really saw how pain could be mismanaged. And knowing my grandmother’s story, and seeing how end-of-life care could be mismanaged, and hearing all these stories of success for patients, my mom and I actually wound up actually really getting captured by this and the impact it could have. We were looking at it originally as an expansion of the family business because we own a lot of industrial land in New York that’s not being utilized, but because of the federal status, we could not do this as part of the original family venture, so my mom, my sister and I really kind of spun off and went into the cannabis industry. So right after I graduated, the Compassionate Care Act was passed in New York, and we went and found Women Grow and went to the very first meeting in New York and then out to a meeting in Colorado, and we started assembling a team together, and put together our application and sort of ventured off as the women of the Peckham family into the cannabis space.  

Chris: You kind of made the commitment. You were gonna, you and your mother and then eventually your sister joined this too. Was she involved at this stage? 

Hillary: No, she joined during the application and then really, as soon as we got the license she moved out. She was also in college in Louisiana, and she is a horticultural therapist. And so, she had the sort of botanical background that we needed, so once we got our license she moved up to New York and started cultivating for us. 

Chris: So, you’re in your early 20s, you’re the senior in college majoring in piano. How did you help move this forward? I know you played a key role in that your mom kind of had the spark right of the idea and then you really hit the ground running and dove in.  

Hillary: Yeah, so you know my mom is very much a vision-oriented person. I think where my role is really in the company is moving things forward and more putting that vision into an action. I said to her one day, I was like, ‘If we’re going to do this, if this is something you want, we have to we have to really do it.’ The two of us kind of sat down and started researching. Where I have helped is pushing this along to be from a dream to becoming a reality and I think I also am good at organizing and processes and so that’s why I eventually came into the role of COO because I was able to manage and build different processes and structures, departments. My siblings, who work with me, and my brother-in-law and my husband would all say I’m just very bossy, but I think that I’m pretty good at moving things forward and making decisions. 

Chris: But you were out there at a very young age, and my understanding is you were finding the lawyers and you were figuring out the licensing application and how best to position it and lining up the right support and systems and I find that amazing. What did you take away from all of that and how did you grow during that time? 

Hillary: I think I just really was not afraid to try things and to speak to people. I always showed up and and just kept trying to move things forward. I say I’m always more cautious than I was then, but I’ve learned everything. You know, I continued to work on chemistry and biology because obviously we’re dealing with it with plant science here. I’ve also I really grown I think from a management perspective. So, I really had a unique opportunity I’m immensely grateful for where I’ve gotten to learn every aspect of the business and also how to work and make sure things are functional within a family which is a unique task in of itself. 

Chris: Is there a is there a quick takeaway, it was a long time ago, things have changed a lot, but there are still people and markets that are in a similar situation where it was a very limited number of licenses, just a handful, and you’re one of the first applicants. What do you think made you successful in that process against all the other people who applied? 

Hillary: I think we were really well-prepared. So, we had a team from an operational perspective, that could execute on every kind of facet of the business, from seed to sale realistically, and we had a really well-prepared application that had a very strong narrative that I think was very compelling. We were established in our application that we were ready to go, which was something that was really important in the legislation. So as soon as we got the license the next day, we started construction on our facility. Um, and I think also something that is important to each state that is letting licenses, is how we establish ourselves in the community and making sure that wherever we were citing a facility we had some connection to that community and some commitment to give back. And I think that having been a long-term New York family, there was the knowledge that that would be genuine, and we also had a deep understanding of New York communities just being here at boots on the ground. So anywhere you apply I really highly recommend having a community partner or people who are on the ground in that region, because it will make you build a more authentic application, and I think that that’s something that really speaks to the people who are grading this, and generally initiatives that are set in any legislation. 

Chris: How much would you say you had to invest, from due diligence to winning the license to opening your first dispensary? 

Hillary: Yeah, so I would say anyone that is looking to get into this space, generally it was about, um, $1 million dollars to apply for the license. And then it was, it really depends on the scale that you want to be building, but I generally, if I’m speaking to others in the industry, to get a dispensary off the ground in either a small market or a very competitive market, I would say you need $1 million or $2 million per dispensary. We did everything on a much smaller budget, so we got up and running with about $5 million.  

Chris: Talk about the first couple years. New York was a really, really tough market, I guess to some degree it still is when you compare it to other markets, but there were a lot of issues. Can you talk about some of those underlying challenges that you faced and how you navigated through them? 

Hillary: Um, you know the first challenge we had when we got our license was we had to be up and running in 180 days, which meant building our facility, growing our plants, getting our storefronts open, and getting product to market under extremely stringent product safety standards that you only see in a pharmaceutical industry. So, when you’re applying this to like an organic, plant material, it becomes much more complicated, and nobody had ever done [it] before. So, that was, I thought, the big hurdle. But then we actually got to opening day, and because of the rush timeline to get to market, there actually were no patients in the program. I think there were like 50 listed on the website but they didn’t actively have their cards, and so they couldn’t come and purchase anything from the stores, and so we sat for a couple of weeks and hadn’t even seen a single customer. And then the growth of the program from that point forward was also very slow and restrictive. There was a limited list of conditions that patients could qualify under and a very limited framework for how to get registered. There wasn’t like the telehealth online certifications at the beginning, so the growth was really, really slow at the beginning of the program. I think that New York overall has struggled to kind of keep up and make changes and adaptations to the medical program that keep it in line with what we’re seeing across the country and so it’s just been very, very slow throughout the last few years.  

Chris: What was one of the key things that you did to stay afloat, to make it through that really tough time, to help develop the market and to, honestly, keep the lights on? 

Hillary: We had to be very strategic and aligned like as a family for how we wanted to keep things running because the market itself, and being a privately held family-run company, this was all our money, and we weren’t interested, especially at the time, in doing any kind of fundraising. So, we had to be very stringent and diligent with how we utilized our funds. All of the family members also fulfilling strategic roles within the company at a higher-level executive-like function saved us a lot of money, and also I think because we were all family it made us very agile and able to pivot and adapt to the market, and I think that that’s really what’s very helpful and how we survived for so long in a very difficult market is that we were very lean. We always stayed under at least 100 employees, if not, usually under 50 employees, and the whole family was committed to the success of the business before like personal interests factored into this. 

Chris: So you had some unique advantages and benefits from having a substantial successful company that the family had already built and then getting the full buy-in of family members to pitch in where needed to have the long-term picture in place, and you were able to capitalize on those advantages that you had. Was there a key decision when you look back from a business point of view where you made a big pivot or maybe you did something a lot differently than you had planned to that you look back and say that was a key move in those first couple of years? 

Hillary: I think that one of our successes has been in creating products and getting products to market before our competitors and then also in unique ways that appeal to customers and weren’t necessarily like quote-unquote allowed. Obviously, they got approved for the department, so they are but what I mean is we have never been able to produce edibles, as an example. So, we actually created, and it’s patented now, but a water-soluble powder that you can bake with and we got that to market very quickly so that we could offer our customers a unique product that you couldn’t really find anywhere, especially with the illicit market being so strong it didn’t exist there in New York either was created appeal. Um, that also served the function of getting edibles to market which we were really limited by and so that has turned out to be a really strong and appealing product for our consumer base. We also got lozenges utilizing those like as a medical device because of lozenges but effectively they’re a hard candy. And then we were the first organization to figure out a way to get sort of bulk ah flower material. It was ground to market which hadn’t existed before. And so I think we’ve been very good at adapting to regulation, understanding the sort of intent behind them and then being able to utilize them in a way that we can still function and operate like a normal business, but knowing that we obviously have to deal with these extra hurdles. 

Chris: Well and it shows the ability to, as you said, understand regulations and where they’re going and then prepare and tie that into how you’re serving the market. Where did the water-soluble powder idea come from? Those types of products are gaining more steam on the beverage side, I don’t know if yours can be mixed into beverages or if there’s a difference just for baking.  

Hillary: Yeah, no, actually it’s a wonderful product and it’s really only got two ingredients which really aligned with sort of our values. We’re very ingredient conscious as a company, and we try to make sure things are as healthy and safe for the consumer as possible. The concept was we had seen some teas, and we were looking at sort of hard-pressed capsules and I didn’t like the ingredients that were in either and it was actually kind of a fun day in the laboratory but some of the lab employees had never seen the kind of trick where you take like cornstarch and water and it turns into a liquid and a solid and it was like a third-grade science experiment of mine. But then we started adding cannabis to like different powdered material and so the adult version was we started adding cannabis for fun to see what would happen. And then I got really captured by the idea of a powder because I think that it has so many uses for people. Ours, you know it holds suspension in cold or hot liquid so you can freeze it. You can also bake with it, so I think it’s really versatile. So, after trying you know hundreds of different kind of ingredient combos we settled on this one and it’s been really, really well received by our customers. And it’s something that’s discreet that they can kind of take with them anywhere. It does kind of mask the flavor so it just met all of the criteria that we’d want, and especially for a consumer in New York where it’s still so medically focused and they don’t necessarily want the cannabis flavor, or know how to use like flower, as an example, or of vape pen. The powder is something that is really easy for them to understand, and from a dexterity standpoint they can dose it because it’s a one fourth teaspoon in a way that’s very familiar. 

Chris: Yeah, so on that, I want to stay on this subject for a minute. The R&D product development side is really interesting in how companies approach it. So were you, what steps did you take to see if this was going to really latch on with consumers or did you just say, ‘Hey, we think we’ve got a good idea. We’ll do some basic kind of outreach and then we’re just going to push this on the market and educate them,’ or was this more you know very heavily patient-based where you did a lot of focus groups and things like that and said okay we think there’s a market here? 

Hillary: Yeah, no, we definitely did not do that. So, that’s a funny question. So for some of our products like the lozenge or something we had a lot of data that patients wanted like a candy or something like that. But for the powder, it was really just sort of an intellectual concept, and then we were like, ‘Listen I think we’ve got a good idea. Let’s do it.’ 

Yep, so we’ve tried it from both directions and had success either way but this one, it’s just kind of funny, me, my brother-in-law and our laboratory manager all kind of put that together and we loved the concept and kind of rolled with it.  

We knew we wanted to be producing a variety of products, so that was kind of the mandate from my mom and was that we need to find a way to get new products to market because it was very stagnant at that point there was just tincture, capsules and vapes. So we knew it met that criteria, and then otherwise we just kind of were like ‘Let’s see what the demand is.’ 

Chris: So as the business evolved and the market evolved slowly, when did you feel that the business turned the corner? Was there a certain moment, a certain regulatory development, a certain period where you all said, ‘Okay, you know, now we think we’re in a decent place?’ 

Hillary: So, I think the real like pivotal moment for us where I sort of solidified our vision and we were able to be like, ‘Okay I understand what we’re gonna do and I think it’s working,’ was really the relaunch of the brand in 2020. We had spent about a year working with an agency very collaboratively on how we want to reframe the Etain brand and project that to the customers. So, we were updating the logo all over digital assets, the design packaging formulations, we basically overhauled the whole front-facing part of the business, and we found a space in Manhattan that’s now our flagship location, and we launched in August, and it was so well received. Also the ability to kind of update our formulations and make them easier for the consumer to understand, it just started working and so also with that rebrand, we were able to start doing more things that we had always kind of set out to do, which was doing more collaborations with other brands really integrating ourselves into the cannabis community and even though we’re still a medical organization, we have been able to collaborate with brands like CBD brands and other women in the space. With that 2020 launch, we were really able to function as the brand we’d always aspired to be, and it has just gotten better from there.  

Chris: On the financial side, how long did it take to get to kind of a breakeven scenario? 

Hillary: So ,we were actually able to get to a break-even scenario pretty quickly within the first couple years, and then pretty much the program has not grown. We did reach profitability and then you know additional organizations were let in New York, and then we’re kind of back to a break-even status. But even that is unique in the cannabis industry, and I think that everyone kind of thinks there’s so much money to be made here but with 280e it’s a lot more complicated than that. So, for us, it was, you know, holding the organization together even as we were growing and continuing to break even and then hopefully being able to make this transition to serve not just the medical community but the adult-use one.  

Chris: So that was kind of the longer-term vision as this played out, you saw adult-use taking hold around the country and it’s kind of like let’s gear up for that eventuality here? 

Hillary: Yep, and also you know, we had some time to think about it for New York because they proposed the MRTA and it was seriously considered for like two or three times before it actually passed in New York, so each year we thought we were going to have adult-use and it didn’t happen. So it wasn’t a new concept to us. It was one that I think also was very much needed as a result of the MRA like being proposed. They really halted any sort of medical progress because everyone thought that the bill would be passed, and so we were really waiting and needed those changes and that bill to pass in order to not just enter the adult-use, but see necessary medical changes to make this program survive. 

Chris: What do you think is the biggest barrier to New York opening up its structure here to make the medical side more viable? I mean that might be a moot point as recreational comes along. We’ve seen other states like Washington that have melded the two, and in others where the medical starts dipping you know a year or two after recreational, but I’m just trying to get a sense. In a lot of states, you do that are only medical, they might start restrictive and then they open up pretty hugely and you know Illinois is ah a really good example and New York is still as you said, really, really tough. Why? They seem to embrace cannabis there. They’re moving forward with recreational, and it got some support of government officials. What have been the barriers there and is there anything what have you done as a business to kind of help influence where that goes? 

Hillary: Yeah, so you know education has been a focus of ours. So we’re always sort of in the conversation, and I’ve continued to speak with elected officials on this topic. I think New York really wanted the actual MRTA adult-use bill to pass and so they were waiting for that to pass in order to update the cannabis program in the state overall because their MRTA addressed medical, adult-use and hemp in one bill. So rather than address them in a piecemeal fashion, they would rather have done it this way. So it kind of halted some progress for us.  

I do tend to take a somewhat pessimistic view on the medical program and I’m hoping that some changes come. Well, we hopefully will see some regulations soon. Where I do worry that because of the restrictive nature of the program and the sort of slow momentum we’ve had to open it up, I’m not sure that the the program survives this next wave because I think adult-use will be much more present and I think the sort of biggest risk to the medical program is that I’m not sure under the current legislation or regulation if medical products will be able to be sold at every dispensary or not. Consequently, if we have, I think it’s 40 dispensaries throughout the state that can sell medical products, which should be expanding to 80, versus 300-500 adult-use dispensaries, just the sort of inconvenience to the patient to have to go to a medical-only store, as opposed to being able to sell it at any dispensary, I think is going to be the main driver for the decline of the of the medical program. So if I were to see a change, what I’d like to see is that medical products could be sold at any dispensary across the state because ease of access is one of the key things that’s going to drive users to the medical program. 

The second thing is maintaining a sort of a price and bulk purchase option and incentive in the medical program, and I do think that that exists in the current framework. But I don’t think that people will drive an extra hour to a medical dispensary to pay slightly less if they have an adult-use store you know around the corner. 

I do worry about the medical program moving forward, and we obviously have had a deep commitment to it since day one and we’ll continue to do so, but I do think it will have limited viability.  

Chris: So how are you and the team preparing for the adult-use market there? 

Hillary: So many ways. So, you know one of the biggest things is we saw the bill language we saw the market dynamics and the capital required to expand and really fully realized the capacity of our license which should have a pretty large cultivation capacity. We’ll have these dispensaries which is unique to this license. We did sort of come to the realization that we needed to either find investment or find more of a strategic partner moving forward, and so we did undertake um that process and finally you know it announced at the end of March that we have sold to RIV and then this deal will allow us to continue on with the brand and expanding that, hopefully nationally. So that was one of the, you know, that was obviously the biggest change, but I’m still in operations and still you know very much running day-to-day ops right now. And in the meantime, what we’re doing physically is we just, were almost complete with an expansion of our existing facility in Chestertown, and so that will give us additional cultivation capacity as well as manufacturing. Then we are undergoing with like design firms how to redo the dispensaries for higher throughput, identifying new dispensary locations, buying equipment so that we can scale up our current operations. So we’re sort of embarking on all aspects of scaling up at every department in the in the company. 

Chris: So speaking of expansion, what are you thinking on that end? 

Hillary: RIV Is entering the cannabis space in New York I think as sort of their flagship site and I think, you know, very much hopes to be a national player and I think the intent is to hopefully have Etain then expand with them as they do nationally, but no concrete plans at this point that I have to discuss. 

Chris: So we’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs in the medical cannabis industry start spreading out into other states just as we’re seeing on the adult-use side. Did you did you all ever consider doing that and moving outside of New York earlier? 

Hillary: Yep, so we do have a license. We were awarded a license just last year in New Jersey, and that was not part of the transaction with RIV, but that is a medical cannabis license that can also convert to adult-use. So that is also ah underway right now looking at buildout plans, getting our dispensary ready, and I’m overseeing operations there too. Originally, we had applied in a few different states. The RFP in New Jersey, we actually had to wait two years for answers so we didn’t know if it was a real thing or not. But the capital required was really a barrier for us and particularly on the East Coast with the infrastructure requirements and things like that, we were limited and strategic and where we would apply because we just didn’t have the capital to do it. You know large publicly traded companies are doing it and apply everywhere. 

Chris: Well, if you could just touch on the acquisition process. We just went through it ourselves at MJBiz and we were acquired by EmeraldX, so I have first-hand experience and I think it’s a lot different than what people expect. Can you walk us through what some of the major I guess challenges were in that process? You have to put a lot of time and effort into, you know, cleaning up your books, even if they’re really good to start with, the negotiations, the back-and-forth, you can get distracted from running the business. What are some of your takeaways from that process? 

Hillary: Yeah, you know for me, it was actually a really unique time. I had just had a baby when we kicked off the process as well.  

Chris: Congratulations.  

Hillary: Thank you! So, I was about a month postpartum when we kicked off our process. But you know, the first thing is to find a really good financial advisor, that was really critical for us, and a law firm that could help us through the process. They really helped set things up to make sure that when we did sort of initiate the fact that we were looking for money and looking for an acquirer, to make sure that we got the best possible offer on the table that met a lot of our criteria and for us it wasn’t purely financial. It was who would be a good strategic partner for the brand and commit to employees and the locations that we currently exist. And so that was really, really important for us, and I think that people don’t recognize how much work this kind of process is so you know we started in early fall and, you know, only got to the signing. It took about six months to get to signing and I was working around the clock as was my family and it was extremely difficult to continue running the business while you’re also dealing with negotiations and just a large amount of paperwork. So I do think that’s important for for people to know, is that it’s not very simple, it and it generally requires a lot of time. Being a very small operator and very lean, it meant the same people running the business also had to be dealing with this deal. But you know, for us, we really found a good strategic partner that will help the brand and so we were all really excited about it moving forward together, and so it’s something that I think is for the best and I’ve been really thrilled to sort of join the RIV team and start working with them now on the future. 

Chris: Fantastic. Well, we’re going to wrap up with one last question here after a quick word about MJBizCon.  


Chris: Alright Hillary, I just wanted to end something you mentioned at the beginning so we’ll kind of come full circle here. Talk to me about operating a business with your family. I know you’ve been asked this a lot, but it is intriguing to a lot of people and what are some of the things you’ve learned about doing that successfully? 

Hillary: Yeah, so just for context, it was my mom and I who started this. My mom is CEO, I’m the COO, my sister came in as the chief horticultural officer. My husband is in charge of all the information and technology, my brother-in-law is in charge of all the production, manufacturing, engineering, now overseas product development and my twin brother is in charge of real estate. So, it’s very, very much a family affair here.  

It definitely gets complicated, I think that where we’ve been able to make it work is each person has their own role and something that they like to do and that they’re good at, and we help to prioritize that so that not all of us are involved in sort of each other’s business. But I think that all of us were deeply committed to the work that we were doing and the values. More than anything, all of us are committed to creating a really high-quality product that is safe for the consumer. For the most part, I think we work together really well.  

Chris: Well, that’s pretty amazing. I mean most people can’t get together with their family and their extended family you know for three days over for the holidays, let alone you know working every day together, and also spending time on holidays together. Well thank you so much for being on. I appreciate it. A fantastic story, and it couldn’t have happened to better people.  

Hillary: Thank you so much.  

Chris: Thank you all for listening. Next week my guest will be Brett Novi, the CEO of PharmaCann, which is one of the largest and most well-known private multi-state operators in the country. Brett and I will talk about how he climbed the c-suite ladder at PharmaCann, we’ll talk about the recent acquisition of Livewell, which is a big deal, and we’ll also talk about how Brett is expanding the company’s footprint across the U.S. Should be a good conversation, hope you’ll tune in then. Thank you.  

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