Over the past few weeks, we have taken a look back at the entrepreneurs we were able to spotlight in 2018, and we are thrilled to state that we ended the year featuring over 100 Entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry. In an industry where visibility and role models can make an enormous difference, we are happy to do our part — and motivated to do even better next year.

As we prepare for a new year, we reached out to the DCN community and put together a compilation of fresh advice on how to do things differently for the next year. Take it with you, and make 2019 your year. We’ll be rooting for you (as we write even more).

Andrea BurnettAndrea Burnett, Founder of the 4Twenty Group, LLC. 

“BE PR READY! We work with brands of all sizes and the one thing we find with almost all of them is that they don’t have all of the assets they need to begin promoting their business. Whether you have a pr agency of record or are just managing your own publicity, it’s critical to have everything from your bios to your headshots to your social media accounts to your LinkedIn profile buttoned up and all in one place. Make sure your branding is tightened up and professionally done and appears across all of your digital channels.”


Bill DeZenzoBill DeZenzo, Co-Founder of Taxnexus

“Don’t put tax compliance to the side any longer. The grace period afforded by the regulators on tax compliance won’t be crossing over into 2019, and the penalties will be crippling to non-compliant businesses.”


Nikki Rose, Owner of Lit Cards

“Find balance between your personal life and your work. When you start your business, you are going to be all in, but if you don’t find a way to set it down occasionally you will burn out. Allow yourself time to step back once you have put your hard work in. They say a rocket uses 90% of its fuel to take off and it’s the same when starting your business. Take the time to celebrate your wins once you launch and to refuel for the long haul.”


Danny KeithDanny Keith, CEO of Cannabis Club TV

“Being an entrepreneur is not a hobby it takes dedication along with healthy doses of disappointment and failure. You have to live to eat and sleep your vision. Along the way, you must avoid shiny objects or pivoting because you failed. Just because you hit a wall, it does not mean it is time to change direction. When determining what to pursue, make sure it follows these simple steps. 1. Is it a problem in the industry? 2. Do I have a viable solution? 3. How big is a potential slice of the pie? 4. Can I monetize and make a living? And finally, make sure to acknowledge the potential pitfalls, not just the potential successes.”


Ana BarajasAna Barajas, President of Geovana

“Be humble; don’t be afraid to ask questions, to seek advice and ask for help. Don’t pretend to know it all; you will learn so much from everybody and your own mistakes. Form alliances with people, we are in this together and its easier to reach to the top together.”


Peter VogelPeter Vogel, CEO of Leafwire

“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. It’s really important for entrepreneurs to remember they need to learn about the investors they’re pitching to. We all get so focused on our business and so excited about what we’re doing, it’s easy to just jump right in. That’s a big mistake. Before you jump into your pitch, ask investors about their background, investment thesis, other investments they’ve made, successes they’ve had in cannabis or other industries, etc… Learn about who they are and what they’re looking for. It will help you refine your pitch to fit their experiences and address any concerns in advance of past experiences they’ve had. Plus you will learn about contacts they have, the knowledge they could share or generally just develop a relationship. Take good notes in whatever CRM system you use to reference in the future.”


Chris AbramsChris Abrams, Founder of MJ Life Insurance

“SCHEDULE your tasks that you need to do to be successful. As entrepreneurs, we are pulled in a million different directions: sales, strategy, accounting, planning, marketing, customer service, etc. If I start the day without a plan (schedule), I get sidetracked by my inbox, clients calling me, etc. By blocking out time on my calendar for certain tasks, I am much more efficient and get the important stuff done. Each week, I block out time for publishing 2 blog posts per website. Time is also blocked out for entering new clients in my CRM to kickoff the followup sequence. Quickbooks is updated on the 1st and 15th. Time to follow up leads is scheduled in the afternoons on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which are the best calling times. If I don’t do this, these tasks are not consistently completed. Don’t be afraid to put your own schedule on the calendar along with your meetings. Things will not fall between the cracks and you will be more productive.”


OzzieOzzie Ozkay-Villa, Founder of Oov Lifestyle 

“Don’t give up. I know it sounds cliche but in all seriousness – don’t give up! You may hear crickets for a while, people may ignore you…no one will understand your ultimate vision. Gradually, with persistence, they’ll start to see your name over and over again and people will start noticing. The waves of up and down will be difficult at first but your body and mind will eventually grow immune to them. You’ll begin to master the art of surfing and the waves will soon become second nature. This is a time of rapid growth and expansion, you develop skills and reflexes you never knew you had. Becoming a seasoned entrepreneur is a gradual process that takes patience and persistence. Just when one path doesn’t work out, another will open up, but if you end the journey too soon, you’ll never get there. Your time will come if you don’t give up.”


Dan SchminkDan Schmink, CEO of Deviant Apex

“Define and specialize – Define the problem you fix. Specialize in several skills around fulfilling a specific purpose. Too many companies and solopreneurs “do” so much they can’t efficiently tackle all of the opportunities they find. Instead, focus on a narrow piece of the industry and build successful projects, giving more than you ask, and doing right by your clientele and your team. The stress that comes with focusing and growing through each challenge makes each step of your journey easier, the challenges simpler since you’ll encounter similar scenarios with accompanying variances. Over time, you’ll develop deeper insights and understanding for your craft.”


Peter CalfreePeter Calfee, CEO of GoFire

“The one thing that you can plan on, is that things will almost never go according to plan. We joke that startup life is like jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down. This is no joke. Being adaptable to ever-changing surroundings of this industry allows us to take advantage of opportunities that may not be around for long. That being said, maintaining focus on your endpoint will keep you on track. I find writing down where I want to be in X months allows me to keep moving in that direction while picking up bonus opportunities that fall along the path. Jumping from shiny object to shiny object is a great way to build exciting new products but a sure way to see your company fail. “


Monique Jackson-FitzgeraldMonique Jackson-Fitzgerald, CEO of InnDica

“Entrepreneurs should be sure to do their research and perform due diligence when entering the cannabis space. Every idea and action has to be viewed through the lens of state cannabis regulations that have an impact on even ancillary businesses. There’s nothing worse than investing in your great idea only to find out later that you are prohibited by or in violation of the state regulations.”


Jessica VerSteegJessica VerSteeg, CEO of Paragon

“My advice is to ask yourself why you have chosen to become an entrepreneur and if you plan to build something you yourself need or want. If the answer is purely for financial reasons, you should look elsewhere. Many founders are not successful until their 4th, 5th, or even 6th startup. Starting a business is exponentially harder than any other job. Successful entrepreneurs need to operate extremely well across the board: sales, marketing, finance, operations, HR, etc. On top of that, creating an enterprise from scratch requires creativity, persistence and continuous learning. There are many great reasons to become an entrepreneur. The ones that resonate most with me are the desire to keep learning and the need to make an impact in the world. I will warn you, once you catch the entrepreneur bug it’s hard to get rid of. “


Ilan FreemanIlan Freeman, CEO of Hakuna Supply

“You never know what you have until you put it out there. Being an entrepreneur isn’t about making a product/service and thinking it would work. Being an entrepreneur is about the journey. You make the product, you get feedback, and you make a better product. Eventually, something will work, and you will learn so much while doing it.”


Jenny GermanoJenny Germano, CEO of ICS Consulting Service

“As our industry begins to grow even more in 2019 and continues to grow – be prepared for constant changes and uncertainty. Have a sustainability plan for your business – for example, if we see federal legalization of marijuana, will your company be able to keep up with swift regulations. Vet everyone you work with, contractors, consultants, vendors and look for red flags – red flags never turn green and only turn redder. Work on building relationships, do not burn bridges and ride your own coattails, not others. Have a plan, and then a backup plan. If you feel self-doubt and overwhelm, it is totally normal and it’s easy to pull yourself out – by implementing everything into manageable digestible steps. If you fail or make a mistake, own it – dust yourself off and get back on the horse. My mantra for my life and my business is every day is a new day to start over fresh. You will never find success without owning your failures.”


Jake LevinJake Levin, COO of Best In Grow

“As an entrepreneur, you largely set your own deadlines and expectations for yourself. That freedom and flexibility are one of the best parts about building something from the ground up, but I’ve found can be a real hindrance on my effectiveness. I use the term effectiveness here because I think that’s very different from productivity. Where productivity is the amount of output you generate on a daily basis, effectiveness is the quality of that output. I have days where I work 18 hours getting the formatting of a proposal just right, and while I may go to sleep feeling like I’ve had a productive day, that likely was not the most effective way to spend my time. As a founder, there’s an endless list of to-dos that need my attention. My advice would be to recognize when you’ve hit that magical “80%-there” threshold for a given project. While 100% is a wonderful thing to strive for, spending hours on getting something just right is rarely the most effective way to use your time. This is something I still work on every day.”


Patty RoePatty Roe, CEO of Pink Haze

“Focus focus focus. Don’t get caught up on the shiny objects and chase ten dreams within a year. Make sure you know the values behind your business and come back to those values when you feel lost. Focus on your path and remember that every success in this industry, whether it feels like competition or not, is a huge success for all of us. There is room for everyone.”


Ian CarlsonIan Carlson, CEO of Designed Technology 

“Focus on self-care to maximize performance. Every bit of value you create for your company requires your full focus. Seek to work less and accomplish more by taking the necessary time to recharge. Building a business is an endurance race. Save your energy for the road ahead.”


Nicole LambertNicole Lambert, Co-Owner of ˈärdər botanicals

“If I had to nail it down to just one, I’d have to say that the most valuable piece of advice I could give is also the most basic, be yourself. It sounds like a simple concept, right? But the greatest thing I’ve learned since beginning this journey is that I really didn’t know who the hell I was! People call cannabis a gateway drug, and in a therapeutic way, it has been for me. It’s been a gateway for me, to me. There are questions I never knew to ask myself, pieces of myself I had forgotten about, pieces of me I never knew existed, and even pieces of me I still battle with the urge to hide. I am desperately shy! Cannabis allows me to connect with the best parts of myself, and that, by extension, is ˈärdər. Every teeny tiny detail that goes into our company is something that I or Heather have chosen very specifically. All the things we love, and use and want to share with people. Our taste, our vibe, maybe even a little of our weirdness! lol Because of that, there really isn’t a separation of work and life. We put all of ourselves into every detail which makes it deeply personal and terrifying, to be honest, but in a good way. I don’t remotely have all this figured out, but I know I’m on the right path. This is the passion I never knew I had. Tapping into that, and staying true to myself, has not failed me one time. ˈärdər is not about products, it’s about people, and I can’t really expect anyone to connect with me, or my company, if they don’t know who I am.”


John SidlineJohn Sidline, Principal of Canna Newswire

“As momentum towards ending cannabis prohibition in the US builds, the prospect of a radically different market looms large. Once changes in US law enables banking, insurance, and other business-critical services are open to cannabis businesses, look for major corporate players to jump in with both feet. Once that happens, everything changes. Everything. For instance, in what stores will consumers buy cannabis after prohibition? The answer to that question is best answered by posing this next question: what distribution channels are best for Coors, Coca-Cola, and Marlborough? If the answer to this last question isn’t “dispensaries,” then neither is it the answer to the first question. Build your business for the market you can serve today, but don’t take your eye off the market that awaits this industry tomorrow.”


Lelehnia Du BoisLelehnia Du Bois, Founder of Humboldt Grace 

“Be strong in your purpose. When you lead by purpose two valuable things happen. First, getting back up is much easier. Second, hard choices are easier to make.”

Stay tuned for our next article as we get to learn from cannabis entrepreneurs, their biggest mistakes and what they learned.

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