Podcast Episode: Legacy + Business Education = Success for The People’s Ecosystem

Christine De La Rosa, the co-founder and CEO of The People’s Ecosystem, a Bay Area cannabis company, started out in the legacy market where she built a community of cannabis customers and talent.

De La Rosa also started and ran restaurants, galleries and other “mainstream businesses,” gathering executive experience. But that mainstream experience didn’t prepare De La Rosa for the unique challenges of being in cannabis, such as 280E and raising capital for a federally illegal venture.

De La Rosa and The People’s Ecosystem overcame those challenges and now she’s gifting her insights to fellow cannabis entrepreneurs.

In this episode of Seed to CEO, De La Rosa shares:

How she leveraged her legacy experience – including building a team of legacy talent – in the licensed market.

How small businesses can partner with each other to reduce costs.

The importance of finding and learning from trusted mentors.

Networking to score off-market real estate deals and other deals.

Capital-raising strategies for small businesses.

Who is Christine De La Rosa?

Christina De La Rosa started The People’s Ecosystem, a California-based cannabis company in 2016, but her cannabis business experience extends another 20 years before that in the legacy market. De La Rosa has also started a restaurant and a gallery and worked as a technology and database consultant both independently and for major corporations such as Verizon. De La Rosa is also a member of the National Cannabis Business Industry Association, where she chairs the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee. She also graces the cover of MJBiz Magazine’s May-June 2022 issue.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Seed to CEO, the podcast about making your way in the cannabis business.

I’m Omar Scaribey, a veteran reporter with MJBiz.

This week on Seed to CEO we’re joined by Christine De La Rosa, the co-founder and CEO of the People’s Ecosystem, a Bay Area cannabis company on its way to becoming a multi-state operator. Before launching the people’s ecosystem, De La Rosa and her partner Charleen Cabaye had worked in the legacy cannabis market, an experience that proved ultra valuable in the legal market. They also started and ran restaurants, galleries, and other “mainstream” businesses, which provided valuable executive experience, but that mainstream experience didn’t prepare them for the unique challenges of being in cannabis such as 280E and raising capital for a federally illegal venture.

De La Rosa, who graces MJBiz Magazine’s May/June cover, and The People’s Ecosystem overcame those challenges and build not just a successful company, but a company that adheres to the founders commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Can you relate? Then stick around because Christine has a heck of a story. But first a quick message from Cann Systems.

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Welcome back to Seed to CEO. I’m with Christine Delarosa, CEO of The People’s Ecosystem in California. Great to have you on Christine.

Thanks, Omar. Happy to be here.

Now before we rewind and hear about how you and your team built The People’s Ecosystem, can you tell us briefly about yourselves what you guys do, what you make where you are that kind of thing.

We are a cannabis company. We have products that we have on the market currently both THC and CBD. We started as an underground dispensary, we transitioned to the legal market. Now we have licenses in California for delivery. And we just recently got our licenses in New Mexico for the full vertical. So delivery dispensary consumption, lounge manufacturing distribution, we are in the process of acquiring a few other companies and other states to expand our footprint. And basically what we do is try to create space, both in the cannabis industry but also on those shelves for people of color and women owned businesses.

If I recall correctly from our previous conversation, you had mentioned that you and your partners had worked in the quote unquote, mainstream world running restaurants, I believe galleries, that kind of thing as well as in the underground market. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about how that mainstream experience if you will, helped you and perhaps didn’t help you for the license world that you’re in now?

Well, you know, we’ve had two restaurants like art gallery, a retail shop, we’ve had event production companies. And what was really different from being in the regular, you know, a marketplace, as opposed to the cannabis marketplace is that at any given time, on any given occasion, I could walk into my bank and get a fairly low interest line of credit based on my invoices. So like during the holidays, we would go and get a line of credit for our bank. So we had to buy a bunch of food because we catered a lot during the holidays. You cannot do that in cannabis. So we were really unprepared for that because we had been running companies together for about 14 years to not have access to that as a small business in the cannabis industry has just been detrimental I think for small businesses in general because right now you’re looking at interest rates. Because you can’t go to a bank. The interest rates don’t fall along the lines of the interest rates that we see right now and regular business you’re looking at 16 up to 40% interest rates for small businesses who require a credit line. So that I think has been the biggest thing for me it’s like oh my god, this is so ridiculous.

Yeah, that’s 16 to 40% number that is just mind blowing when you hear that, but that’s that that’s, that’s the kind of stuff that people are up against these days. That’s amazing. Let me ask you this, Christina, when when you guys were starting out thinking about launching the people’s ecosystem, and I believe the first iteration of that was in Portland. How did you all get that off the ground financially? Did you bootstrap? Did you have to take some loans? How did you make that happen?

So we actually raised it to a CF a reg CF, which is crowdfunding. And the dispensary in Oregon was for sale from a mutual person that we knew. And so I was just able to use that money to buy it and buy it outright. So there was really no build up, it was already an operating dispensary, it had product, it had all the things that needed to have. So really, it was a turnkey space for us. And that’s how we were able to do it was to crowdfund from our community, and then go and purchase that because you have to remember prior to Portland, we were legacy operators, meaning that we were in the underground operating of what was called the measure Z store, which is code that was specific on the Oakland municipal code that we were allowed to operate as a collective. But as soon as prop 64 came into effect, we had a year that we were grandfathered in, and then we had to transition to legal. Well, we did not get one of the licenses that we had applied for in Oakland, because people of color didn’t get those licenses for the most part. So we needed to learn about the industry on the legal side. And so this was an easy thing to do, go and buy this Portland store, and get all of our knowledge, learn how to do metric learn how to do the seed to sale tracking, just learn everything on the legal market. And once we learn that, we sold that last year for about three and a half times what we paid for it, which is great, reinvested it into our California businesses. And I’ve been keeping it moving.

Can you tell our listeners, what year that was? And what platform you will use for that effort? And what are sort of the things you had to do to make that crowdfunding effort successful? I mean, you know, a million dollars is not a small amount of change.

Back in 2017. When we raise that capital, there were no platforms available. So we actually had to create our own platform. And we did that by using the Jobs Act, which allows us to have 35 unaccredited investors per company, we wanted to be able to crowdfund and so we created our own crowdfunding way of doing that.

Are there other cannabis companies or even other small businesses? Is this an idea that other people have used? Or did you all pioneer that idea?

I have never heard of anybody doing it quite the way that we’ve done it. Because right after in 2019, we saw platforms come up, like the first major platform was Fontana. But they were only doing real estate. So they didn’t do anything that was plant touching. But at least there was a platform to allow the founders to buy their real estate, and then be able to leverage the real estate to get money to spin up the company. We’ve seen these other crowdfunding platforms that do allow plant touching, come up. But I don’t think anybody had to do what we did. Because we were in a place where there was no platform.

If it’s possible, could you take our listeners into how you guys pull that off? I mean, what does it take to create that platform, the way that you did and what were sort of the rules and regulations that you had to know to make it happen and the people that you had to know,

We had a lot of lawyers also, we had a really, really great advisors, one of my first advisors who recently passed away last year it was Sara Batterby . And she was the one that really helped us put together the first real fundraise like she mentored us, I met with her every week, she had raised a four and a half million dollars for a company in Oregon, she had raised millions upon millions of dollars in Silicon Valley, she used to live in the Bay, to have her in the meetings with the lawyers so that she was protecting our back. So if there was anything I would tell people who are looking to do something similar, is get yourself really good lawyers. First things first, and make sure you have mentors or advisors that have done it before that can take you through it and make sure to, you know, mark any pitfalls that might they might see coming up, That has been, I think our saving grace is to have incredibly good advisors and mentors.

Well, let me ask you this, you know, you received a lot of advice from Christine, can you pick out maybe two or three nuggets, again, focused on this capital raising side that you know, you think people that are in the shoes that you were once in should know when it comes to raising capital, especially on this platform aspect that we’re talking about?

One of the best things that I was ever told was actually by Sara was she’s like, take every meeting, but don’t wait for the cycles. And I didn’t really understand what she meant at the time. But what she was saying — and I now do — is that you always meet with anybody who might be interested in investing, but also understand when they’re just sort of stringing you along so that you’re not going through cycles with them and wasting your time. But the other thing that I think was one of the most influential pieces around fundraising, I actually got from one of my other advisors, her name is Christina Hollenback. And one of the things that she really helped me figure out is how to approach impact investors. So I was super afraid back in 2017. Because what I was seeing out there in terms of people you can raise capital for was mostly male, and mostly white in the cannabis space. And so having this sort of eye-opening experience with Christina, where she like, took me with her to Nexus global, where it’s all like the millennial impact investors and taking me to a bunch of different communities that were not necessarily cannabis investor communities, a really opened my eyes, and B gave me an entire different funnel of people that we could actually get capital into cannabis. Even if they didn’t understand cannabis, they understand what our bigger effort was, which was to create an equitable industry.

Well, it sounds like and please correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like one of the lessons learned is if you’re a cannabis entrepreneur, looking for capital, look beyond cannabis and have a mission that is beyond cannabis, as you all do, and find investors who might have the same mindset. As you all do. When it comes to fulfilling these kinds of missions.

Really, it’s true. I always tell people, I just finished one, our very first cohort of founders, and I told them, I said, look for investors that align with what you want to do, not 100%. Because at the end of the day, of course, investors want to get the return on their investment. But if you find people that are aligned with what your vision is, it’s much easier a to raise the capital, but be to make sure that you don’t have to change the ethos of your company to fit in investors need.

You mentioned, I think one or two of these conferences or venues where you can find millennial investors or other investors who might have the same interests as you all can you share with our listeners, a few of those venues or places where they could look for investors who might be looking to help progressive minded companies.

One of the ones that I really like is a group called Toniic. They are particular investors really on the sustainability side. So if you’re a company that believes in sustainability, you have really good ESG practices, that would probably be a really good group for you to reach out to. And then there’s Nexus global, but Nexus global is not necessarily an investor group. It’s not like a tonic or an ArcView. They do investments. But really what they do is they they put all of the capital together to meet and create projects within their, you know, projects that they’re working on that are global projects. When you go to Nexus global, you’re not allowed to pitch and are allowed to ask for any money, you’re allowed to participate. But you can get tons of great connections through that. Make sure you know the protocol of the people or groups that you’re going to so that you don’t overstep or say something or do something that is not a norm within that group. Know your audience.

You all raised a million dollars easy peasy, right? Tell our listeners what you did with it with regards to the dispensary in Portland and what you know, how did you decide to spend that money? What was your focus in terms of getting that first dispensary launched and off the ground?

Our biggest goal for that was to immediately deploy the capital so it could start working for us. And also, we all movde to Oregon – like, every person in the team moved and went through the dispensary. So we could teach everybody everything. And that was a lot. There is just a ton to learn. We learned METRC, we learned how to file taxes, we learned how to do all of that. The way you file taxes for cannabis company is similar to how you would do it for a restaurant. But then there’s other things you have to make sure you’re doing that’s cannabis specific. And so that’s how we deployed the capital originally, was not only to do that piece, but also to get our delivery license in California, to get our location in California, how to do brand how to do product like we did everything in Oregon gave us everything. They were awesome people there. Everybody was willing to be teaching was willing to teach us. We had a lot of again, really good community there that was like here’s how you would produce a product. Here’s what you need to do here. Here’s how you save money on this. This is what I think is the most amazing thing about community in cannabis. And when I say community cannabis I’m really talking small to mid-size operators is that they really are in community with you. It’s very rare that I have found somebody at that level that didn’t want to help you or didn’t want to share knowledge. And that’s one of the amazing things about cannabis. So being able to put that money to use immediately to help us create revenue streams, and then to expand our minds that we can create other revenue streams. I mean, now we have an entire supply chain in California where we run several brands who that supply chain, but we wouldn’t have known to do that in 2017.

Well, tell me a little bit. What were some of the, I guess, main lessons learned in that Portland experience? And maybe some mistakes that you all made that yours? Uh huh. Okay, we know not to do this. Again, we do it like this for now on.

I think the biggest thing to understand was how important having partners within a vertical even if you didn’t own a vertical, because you’re paying three, four or five times more for your product. And so when you’re going out and competing with companies that have a full vertical in Oregon, or any place, they are giving each other breaks, like they’re getting like cheaper weed, they’re doing cheaper excise tax, like there’s all these things that happen, because you’re part of the vertical. So that was one of the things I think we really learned in Oregon, because we weren’t just a dispensary. The other thing we learned was that there is a huge value into buying collectively. So for instance, if you’re a big company in Oregon, or in California, you can buy pounds upon pounds upon pounds of cannabis at the same time. If you’re a smaller company, you’re buying piecemeal. So what we’ve done and we did there, and we’ve also done here in California, is basically create a Buyer’s Club so that we can buy with our partners together. And the reason this is so important is just to give you a quick number is that if somebody like a small company buys 1,000 pounds a year, and they buy it in 10-pound increments, they’re paying for the certificate of analysis cost of $237,000. For that 1,000 pounds, because they’re buying it in 10-pound increments.  If you’re able to buy that same 1,000 pounds at 50 pound increments, your total cost for your certificate of analysis is $32,000. We needed to combine all of the folks that we could buy together, sell together, share salespeople, because we are not MSOs, we are a smaller company. And that was one thing that I think was very helpful for us in the Oregon market was to understand how that works.

Before I forget, you mentioned that you and I believe all or most of your team had legacy market experience. Can you tell our listeners again about how you all leveraged that legacy market experience in the licensed world, and you know how it can be a benefit, and how it can be a benefit in what you’re doing?

Sure. So we had cultivators, manufacturers, distributors within our operations in our in our founding team. And so one of the things is that we already had access to a large market share in our communities. And I find this to be the case in every state that has legacy, which is every state that the legacy operators actually have a market share that’s way bigger than a lot of the legal, regulated companies. And so what we were able to leverage that to bring them with us into the legal market, and transition them over, but as our customers, right. And so I think that that is a huge value. To be able to transition legacy. We hear people talking about this all the time, I’ve been to two recent conferences where I’ve seen large MSOs up on stage, talking about how we need to get the police involved how we need to like make sure that they’re being punished for operating the legacy market. And I have to tell you, it literally hurts my soul when I hear them say that, because how are you going to create a new prison pipeline for our people. So I think that that’s really one of the biggest things. The second biggest thing is that the cultivators in the legacy market including the cultivators that exist now in our regulated market that are in our C suite are so good at growing amazing cannabis, super amazing cannabis. And at some point I have to believe Omar I have to believe that the market will be like we are no longer going to be taking the skunk weed anymore. Like we’re not going to be doing that anymore. We want craft we want terpenes we want broad spectrum, I have to believe that that’s what’s going to happen that there’s going to be a shift and that right now all of the companies that are getting away with with selling really crappy weed for $15 An eighth eventually that market will dry up or it will stay but that market and who wants better products will expand. So I think that when you’re coming out of legacy, you have a really high touch with your customer that I see a lot of these large MSOs do not have

this really into resting. I’d like to return to the topic of buyers clubs. But before we do that, let’s hear a quick word from Prime Lending.

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Okay, Christine, can you tell us about building these buyers clubs that you were talking about earlier?

Really, it’s just about being in circle with people, right? We’re in a circle with our people in our ecosystem. And so as we meet people, I’m just to be just to sort of clarify, like, in the last six months, I’ve probably met with 140 founders in person who currently hold licenses all across the supply chain. And so as I meet people, and I hear what their pain points are, I’m like, Oh, we’ve solved this pain point, would you like to join this Buyers Club over here, these are the farms that in most of the farms, if not all, of the farms that we work with are in the Emerald triangle Sonoma, and their women run or Black Farmers like these are the people that we deal with. So what we actually get to say, and also in the Central Valley, we have some really great partners there. So as I hear people, like I was talking to this one young lady, and she needed product for her, her brand, and she was like just getting the most terrible, you know, price per pound. And I’m like, Well, if you want to join the Buyers Club, here are all of the strains that we have available to us, we can buy them in 50 pound increments, because there’s five of us buying 10 pounds each but only under one license. And then you can take your 10 pounds and go to your manufacturer and get it done. But you didn’t pay those really expensive cars you didn’t pay because you get a break, if you buy 50 pounds as opposed to 10 pounds, like they give you a break per pound. And so that’s how we’ve done it’s been they’ve been word of mouth and people who we’ve talked to her, we see that we can be a solution for them. So that’s what we’ve done both in California and Oregon. And now in New Mexico, we’re setting up our pipeline right now for our farms. There’s a lot of legacy farmers. And the cool thing about New Mexico is it’s totally open. So everybody who applied for a license is getting a license like there’s no competition, which means we’ve been able to get like our top 10 legacy farmers because our COO used to be a legacy farmer in New Mexico, she knows all of them, we’ve been able to get them to get their licenses so that we know we have a supply chain, from people that we trust, who we know grow good cannabis.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you find those team members and how that kind of experience, you know, whether it be you know, cannabis in the finance world or cannabis in the publishing world, or cannabis in the business world, how you found those people and you know how they together are greater. You know how the sum is greater than the parts.

Melanie Davis and I started working back in 2010. She owned three newspapers in Oregon, and Portland, Oregon. And she was producing events. And I was in California with Charleen — my co-founder Charleen Caabay. She and I were running large scale events in San Francisco, and in Oakland. And so she reached out to me via Facebook back in 2010. She’s like, hey, I want to produce this event with you in Seaside. And so that’s how we started working together was producing events in Seaside so like sort of these custom events where you could be with a chef, do a wine tasting – it was really cute. And I really loved it. And we did that for about three or four years. And then she moved on and I moved on to the restaurant. And we kept in touch. I watched what she was doing to watch what I was doing. And it wasn’t until 2015 When she came to visit me in Oakland that she was like I need to tell you something. I was like okay, what’s going on? And she’s like, “Well, I’m actually, you know, cultivating cannabis in Oregon”. And I was like, “So I need to tell you something: upstairs from my retail shop is that dispensary.”
So I think both were in their system, but we didn’t we didn’t know about that. But we were getting to be better friends. So we wanted to make sure we were totally open with each other. So that was really great because I was like Oh cool. Like you’re there I’m there. And we just kept you know kept going and being being friends and like keeping each other updated. But last year, as I was building out the team, she was the first person that came that came to my mind because a she knew the legacy market, she knew what was good weed, what wasn’t good weed. So she had that knowledge. And so I decided to bring her on as my director of managed services. And then within six months, it was obvious that she needed to be the Chief Operating Officer. So I moved her into that position. The same however, it goes with Anthony Hernandez. Anthony Hernandez is my director of financial strategies. I met him through another founder that was looking to raise capital, and we were on a call. And the minute I heard him talk, I was like, This is my guy. And he was just helping his friend, he wasn’t like actually working for his friend, he was just helping. And so a couple of months later, I had the ability to hire somebody. And so I called him and I said, You are the guy I need for all of our financial strategies. Because A, you worked in the big, you know, financial Wall Street stuff, you know, and you understand that you’ve done valuation. You’ve done M&A. That’s what I’m looking for, when we’re evaluating companies to invest in or companies to work with. He has a very clear understanding of the market, both in the legacy side, but also in the regulated side. So I’ve just been super lucky to be able to find these people have both the legacy and the formal workforce.

Let me go back to California. If you could just tell us about how you launch that business. You know, you had the proceeds from your, you know, the sale in Oregon. How did you leverage that to what you’ve built in California?

Well, the very first thing we did was hire staff, like hire like the director, staff, like people that could actually move the company forward. Up until then, it had just been me and Charleen, that was the very first thing we did. And so that was super exciting, because I’m like, all of a sudden, we had like creative and we had operators and we had, you know, a government folks, that was the very first thing, the second thing we did, is that we knew that we were going to be applying for licenses. And that we have an application open in Fresno right now we of course, closed the one in, in New Mexico. So what were we going to do with the remaining money to create revenue streams while we were waiting for licenses or waiting to purchase licenses. And then we have hoped for the micro business in Fresno right now. And we’re looking to invest in another micro business in San Francisco. So that’s really what we spent August, nope, September, October, November, December of last year, was developing the product line. And we were so lucky, Omar, because we have such a good community in California, that where it takes, you know, six months to produce one product in California, it took us four months to produce 60 products. So we have 60 products skews that we were able to create. Because we know the farmers we know the manufacturers, we know the distributors. And so we were able to clear that up by January, we had all of the things ready to go. And then in March we put them all to manufacture, get them ready to go. And in April we got into our first dispensaries. So that’s going on on its own. So that’s kind of how we spent that money. Now as we have new, we have, you know, revenue generation, we’re going to finalize the race for the Sanford for the New Mexico property and the four licenses there. And then hopefully in Fresno, and in San Francisco, close those out by the end of the year.

The Portland dispensary and the sale all seems like it played a big role and obviously in in fueling California. I probably should have asked this earlier. But before I forget, let me ask what made the Portland deal a successful deal again, for somebody who, you know, may be in the shoes that you were in, you know a couple years ago when you were doing this Portland with us, you know selling the Portland dispensary. What are the do’s and don’ts of having a successful sale like that?

I think for us the successful the reason that we had a successful sale is that was just the right timing. We were just coming out of the pandemic. And what you know, a lot of people like why don’t you just keep it and stay in Portland? I think one of the things that people really have to understand is the makeup of the cannabis regulation in each of the states. So for instance, in Oregon at the time that it became legal, they didn’t have any caps like you could just get a license very wasn’t like an open market like it is for Oklahoma and New Mexico but they didn’t have a cap on it. That’s the first thing. The biggest thing was that they didn’t have a cap on how many one company could own right so one company could own 40 dispensaries. 40 Gross 40 distribution in Oregon, which some people do now they own quite a few of these properties. So if you’re a singular dispensary, you’re having to compete with companies that have vertical in the state, but not only have the vertical in the state, but also can give themselves deep discounts on their cannabis and undercut pretty much all the small businesses we were lucky because we were at the time, there was only one other dispensary in Portland, Oregon, that was run by people of color. So there was only two of us. So obviously, we had a built in community there. And that was really, really awesome. But what we decided to do was that it was at the moment that we were sort of at the end of the knot, we’re not at the end of the pandemic, but you know what I’m saying where that wasn’t as like, treacherous as it was back in 2020, that we knew that we could leverage that money to build out California, which is actually where we were from. And so we definitely wanted to do that. So I would tell anybody who’s looking to leverage a property they currently have, is to make sure that the timing is right, because we had gotten an offer in 2020, that was super low. And I was like, nope, even though 2020 was hard for every small business, I was like, I know, we’re worth more than that. So sure enough, you know, the next year, we got a better offer. So knowing when the time is right, for your company, and also understanding what you’re getting, if you’re not trying to get totally out of the business, understanding how you’re going to leverage that to create even more opportunity for your company.

And it seems like that also takes just some patience and guts, you know, you know, I’m gonna pass on this offer. And, you know, wait, well wait for a better one. But you don’t know if that better one is going to come unless you have faith in yourself. And in your business.

I have faith in myself, I had faith in my co-founder Charleen who was running the business in Oregon, because remember, we couldn’t travel. So she was stuck there. And I was stuck here. And I couldn’t actually travel via plane or anywhere, really, because I’m, I’m sure listeners already know by now. But I have lupus on highly auto immune compromised. So the idea even at that time, if you can recall the crazy of 2020, you were afraid to get off at a gas station to go to the bathroom, if you were afraid to get out of your car, like you are isolating. And so I had a lot of faith in Charleen. And, and because we had been partners, business partners in other companies where she always had my back. So I really did believe that if we waited, the right offer would come through and it did.

Now, tell us a little bit about your current business model. If I recall correctly, you all have your own brands, you have your delivery efforts that are going on. But you also do some, if I recall, correctly, white labeling and some other things. And how do you make that all, you know, work towards towards a profit?

Well, you know, it’s really interesting, because what we did back in 2021, is I created a management company that manages all of the assets of the Holdings Company or the ecosystem. And so what that’s allowed us to do is to allow by being in an in a management company format, where the management company manages the assets of the Holdings Company, it really has been able to free us into creating value and revenue in multiple streams. So we now have revenue streams as we manage other people’s assets as they need us to, we have revenue streams from the white labeling of revenue streams from our own product line. And eventually, soon, hopefully, within the next six to 12 months, we’ll have revenue streams from actual supply chain. So like having our own micro business in California, having our own business in New Mexico, acquiring a couple of places that we’re looking for in Michigan. So again, creating that revenue while we’re waiting for that sort of brick and mortar thing to happen. And so by having the management company allows us to, you know, have this many people assigned to the holding company, but this many people assigned to the brands, who are, you know, running white label for some of these organizations that we work with.

Now, one of the things I also wanted to speak with you about was something we touched on in our earlier interview, but didn’t get a chance to go too deeply into it. And that was, I believe, some kind of a fund that you’re putting together for small businesses to help them get off the ground. And this harkens back to the challenges you faced a few years ago, in terms of raising capital, can you tell our listeners about those efforts, what you hope to do and where those efforts are now?

Sure. We have two efforts, actually. One in this universe, and one in the metaverse. So there’s two things that are actually happening. The first thing is what’s called the People’s Group. And that is a $50 million fund, specifically allocated to invest in BIPOC founders and women founders in the cannabis space. And that’s how I got to speak to 140 founders, because all of them are looking to get funded, right. And so being able to work with them has been really helpful. But what I found out when I met with 140, black and brown and women founders since last September, is that some of them and not most of them don’t fit the investment thesis of the fund, but have really amazing performance financials, data rooms, and I was thinking like how they don’t fit because when you have a fund the investment the CES is very specific. So you have all of these great folks that would actually do well in your ecosystem, but the fund can’t fund them. And that’s how we got to the metaverse with the Dow, the People’s Dow, which is decentralized autonomous organization, this is going to act very much like a community platform where founders are able to go to the Dow, people who belong to the Dow, we’re going to be able to vote on which of these companies we will fund. And so this is very exciting to me to be able to be able to send them over to the Dow, if they don’t fit the fund, and they can present to the Dow and then the Dow is a community decides if they get investment, it is somewhat like crowdfunding, the exception being is that in crowdfunding, there’s all these fees and things that you have to pay to the crowdfunding platform, we’re not going to require that on the Dow. And the Dow also allows us to actually accumulate a lot more capital than we could, even in the fund. So that’s what’s really exciting. Now, the fund has already deployed capital, but we’re still raising capital. But we’ve deployed to three companies already, the Dow in its deal, flow right now has about 20 companies in its deal flow that will present to the investors and all of these, and this is where I feel like it’s super exciting for me, almost everything I talked to you about Omar is off market deals, nobody knows about them, all of our real estate that we’re about to acquire through our prop Cove fund. Those are those are properties that are not on the market. They’re not listed anywhere. They’re not they’re not on anybody’s radar, these are all people in community with us that we are building with. And I think that that’s what’s really special about both the the ecosystem that we’re creating, the fun that we have, and the Dow that we have is that all of these are off market deals, these are not things that other people can get to. So it’s definitely exciting to know that I’m going to buy this facility, from the grandmothers best friend of a best friend, like it’s literally like that, because that’s how it works in our world. And in the world of legacy and people of color and women. It’s all about our relationships. And so we get access to these great deals that are less than market rate, but we are doing really well and making sure that they have some ownership that when we buy that they can still create their own revenue. I think that that’s what’s really excited about what we do.

It sounds like you still can’t or you can’t underestimate networking,

it is literally the most powerful tool, especially when you come out of legacy because everything is built on relationships.

Okay, Christine, it’s been lovely to have you on. But before we finish, I have one more question. But first, we have an important message about MJBizCon.

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Christine, the last question is what does the future hold for you and The People’s Ecosystem?

I think that we’re going to be the largest MSO that nobody’s ever heard of, I think you’re creating all of these relationships so that we can work individually but together that we’re working as a vertical but not as a you know, we don’t own everything. We are part of this like distributed vertical that we’ve built, and everybody walks together. And so if we’re going to be buying over here in California, and we create the Buyers Club, we replicate that in Michigan, we replicate that in New York and replicate that in New Jersey. The thing was, I always think about verticals is that verticals only allow for a very small group of people to benefit from having the vertical, when we’re building a distributed vertical, which we’ve been building for the last two years. That means even the original founders are still making money if they want to if they want to be bought out, that’s cool. If they don’t if they want to still participate, they get to participate on the upside and not through just restricted stocks, because they still own part of their company. And I think it’s super important that when you’re building this kind of network, people will work together and actually create more value as a group and they would do individually. And so what I’m talking about is that, isn’t it going to be awesome when we operate like an MSO but everybody still owns their company.

Hey, Christina, what a pleasure to speak with you today. I really appreciate your time and your insights and really psyched to see what you do in the future.

Thanks so much for the opportunity, Omar.

Thank you, Christine. Awesome insights. I guess networking is just another way of giving power to the people. Now next week we’re going to be doing talking to another cannabis pioneer, Hilary Peckham of Etain Health, the New York state-based MSO. You may have heard Etain was recently bought for a cool $200 million. You’re going to want to hear how that happened and you will and a lot more on Seed to CEO.

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