Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Amber Bacca of Trax Team Solutions.
Meet Amber Bacca
Amber received a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural Anthropology from CU Boulder in 2002 and a Master’s in International Development from the University of Denver in 2010. Soon after, Amber launched an international non-profit and secured 501(c)3 status for the organization whilst simultaneously beginning a career in the nascent cannabis industry the same year.
After a series of industry positions including trimming and work as a cannabis courier, Amber was offered several positions with an up and coming company that would later become two of the largest cannabis brands currently in the industry. Amber carefully chose a store management position, a role she thrived in for over 4 years.
Hard work and dedication allowed Amber to excel in the position and help grow the company over the years, where she went from managing a retail staff of 2 individuals to almost 40 during her time there. The company grew by leaps and bounds during her tenure, resulting in an impressive ranking of the 10th largest cannabis company in the world in Cannabis Business Executive’s Producers, Processors, and Retailer’s list, with oversight of $16.4 million in revenue from 3 retail centers in 2015.
For the past 3 years, Amber has been a consultant and a trainer, assisting cannabis businesses with compliance and workflow management solutions for every phase of the business lifecycle, from coast to coast.
After almost a decade in the cannabis industry in numerous positions, Amber has accumulated the industry experience to understand the challenges that you and your business face and the skills to help you navigate in the most efficient, affordable means possible.
Amber is currently the CVO of Trax Team Solutions, the Lead Facilitator for Cannabis Trainers, and the Lead Dispensary & Compliance Consultant Director of Cannabis Compliance and Operations for NoBo Partners. She was on the front lines managing and budtending on January 1, 2014, when Adult-use was finally legalized in Colorado, and she looks forward to continuing to serve the industry that she loves, helping it continue to blossom and grow worldwide.
In our interview with Amber Bacca, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about the Trax Team Solutions, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Amber, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Trax Team Solutions?
Amber Bacca: Trax Team Solutions provides innovative solutions to assist with launching and operating resilient cannabis businesses worldwide. Primarily, we offer a range of digital solutions that enable businesses to exceed local, state, and federal compliance requirements by implementing operational structures that assist teams in maintaining compliance each and every day.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Amber Bacca: I wanted to offer products and services that would be highly effective, yet affordable. I believe that one of the best ways to move the industry forward and keep consumers as well as workers safe is to help businesses and other agencies operate successfully within a regulatory structure, with safety at the forefront of those efforts. It became clear early on that the best way for me to arm the industry with the knowledge and skills necessary to march forward confidently would be to digitize many of our solutions, which allows us to provide them at a reduced cost. In addition, I’m a wanderer at heart and I was committed to building a company that would allow me to travel and live abroad so providing digital solutions was without a doubt the best path.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Amber Bacca: I had already been in the cannabis industry for over 7 years at that point and the majority of my family and friends were beyond supportive. In fact, I think most were relieved to see me finally launch something of my own so I could have more control of my time and financial future.
DCN: What is unique about your business?
Amber Bacca: I’ve worn many hats over the years within the cannabis industry and even more before I got involved. I started in the industry as a trimmer in 2010 and then I was a courier for a spell. I was also the GM of a chain of very successful dispensaries in Denver for over 4 years, which included opening several stores and all of the fun and insanely stressful time spent gearing up to be one of the very first dispensaries in the world to offer recreational cannabis on January 1, 2014.
I’ve also been a consultant and trainer for the past 3 years. I have a unique set of skills that have been honed over the years and an ability to help businesses operate compliantly over time. Rather than just providing information about which areas are out of compliance, we provide solutions to help teams stay compliant each and every day, which is not always the case when it comes to compliance services.
In addition, the Trax Team Solutions Coalition consists of cannabis industry experts throughout North America who offer a wide range of products and services that are very valuable for businesses and regulatory agencies alike. The expertise that is offered is incredibly diverse and includes everything from branding, product development, and even employee wellness strategies, allowing us to assist businesses and regulatory agencies from the very beginning on their cannabis industry adventure, past the application phase, all the way through implementation, and finally, as they reach success. We provide as much support as businesses need, but our intention is to build resiliency so entities are able to operate with confidence and will require less support from us over time.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Amber Bacca: Our greatest challenges have been securing banking and credit card processing accounts, which is obviously not abnormal within our industry. We just launched the first version of our Hybrid Digital Audit software last week and we literally lost our credit card processor the week before. Having been in the industry this long, I’ve experienced more than my fair share of challenging situations.
All you can do at that point is take a deep breath and hop on the computer to research and figure out your next move. I believe we finally found a credit card processing company that we can stick with until the banking situation changes for the industry as a whole. It’s still pretty early on though so time will tell. We’ll definitely be sharing information about this company with the rest of the industry if things go well so stay tuned!
DCN: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Amber Bacca: That’s actually one of my favorite company stories. After so many years of grinding, I almost left the industry a couple of years ago. I was so physically and mentally tired and even more tired of not being treated fairly in the workplace. I decided to take a sabbatical to decide what my next move would be. I drove from Colorado, down to New Mexico, through Arizona, all the way up California, and eventually landed in Portland. I did a lot of hiking and camping along the way and I spent as much time as possible at various national parks, exploring and thinking about how to build what is now Trax Team Solutions.
I spent a very special night camping on the beach in Redwood National Park, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever spent time in. I set up camp, ate a bunch of edibles, and took a really long walk down the beach at sunset. My goal for the evening was to decide on a company name. At one point, I came across tire tracks in the sand and it hit me like a lightning bolt – one of the digital solutions I wanted to build would help businesses keep track of their team’s compliance and operations within licensed facilities. I literally wrote the word “Trax” in the sand right there and then. There’s even a picture of it on our website. I somehow found a decent signal once I got back to camp and immediately bought the domain. The rest is history!
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Amber Bacca: My biggest sacrifice has definitely been time with friends and family. I’ve always worked hard, but the last couple of years have been non-stop. Unfortunately, certain friends and family members who have never been entrepreneurs thought my priorities were out of place and actually gave up on me. It makes me sad, but I’m also excited to say that my diligence has paid off. Now I live part-time in Mexico where I spend my time working and enjoying the outdoors with new friends from all over the world!
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Amber Bacca: Please know that this is one of the most exciting industries that you could ever be in, but you should also know that it’s not for the faint of heart. Everything is currently 10x more challenging in this industry than in others. You must be resourceful and resilient in order to succeed. On the other hand, believe it or not, things have gotten easier to navigate over the years. I think we can all agree that the future looks bright for those who stick around!
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Amber Bacca: As they say, “fear is the mind-killer,” and there is no shortage of fear when building something yourself and putting your whole heart into it, but if you put forth the effort, you can transform those fears into solutions. Eventually, once you have a moment to sit down and breathe, hopefully, you’ll look around and realize that although the challenges never cease, they change, which means you’re making progress. I think one of the hardest parts of founding and running a startup is recognizing that progress and giving yourself props for it. I think this is even more challenging for founders because there’s ALWAYS so much more to get done so it’s easy to always feel like you’re “behind.” I’m trying really hard to be more kind to myself these days, but much like everything else, that is also a work in progress.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Amber Bacca: The adrenaline rush when the “light bulb goes on.” I’ve spent a lot of time building successful businesses for others, but this was only the second time I had built a successful business of my own. I’ve now established a third and I’m chomping at the bit to launch my fourth. The rush I get when I find the perfect solution or come up with a great idea for any of my businesses is so much stronger now because they’re my businesses and the stakes are higher, which also means the rewards are bigger as well.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Amber Bacca: I spend as much time as I can in nature. I try my hardest to trail-run, paddleboard, or swim in the ocean every morning before I commence work. It makes a world of difference and the inspiration comes out in the quality of the work I produce. I also come up with a lot of my business ideas while trail-running. It’s kind of funny, sometimes I get going and I have to stop to make notes in my phone every few steps. I just started practicing mindfulness meditation, which is also helping me cope when things get really stressful. I am admittedly a workaholic and it’s always a challenge for me to stay balanced so I’m sure this is an area I’ll be working on for years to come.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Amber Bacca: That’s a tough one. I used to be an avid reader, but I haven’t spent much time with books lately. One of my favorites with regard to living a good life is the Four Agreements. If you can manage to keep those in mind, which is not easy, life is easier to handle: 1. Be impeccable with your word. 2. Don’t take anything personally. 3. Don’t make assumptions. 4. Always do your best. I strive to live my life with integrity so these tenets really speak to me.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Amber Bacca: That’s another tough question because there are so many great ones out there! All of our Coalition Members are founders of their own fantastic businesses and I’m so excited to work with each one of them. In terms of a company that we don’t have an official strategic partnership with; I really like what Nuvolution is up to in Denver these days. Primarily, I appreciate the care that goes into crafting unique events and programs that will help the cannabis industry and the community at large. We have so much momentum in our industry right now. I think it’s important to remember that there is a lot more we can do to benefit communities and the planet as we move along. This particular organization is doing a great job of bringing the cannabis community together for the greater good.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Amber Bacca: I’m happy to say that two of our Coalition Members specifically focus on corporate responsibility. I think it’s extremely important for cannabis businesses to give back to the communities where they operate so it made sense to implement strategic partnerships with organizations that could assist with that, both in terms of building those plans into license applications and implementing such programs once businesses are operational. Corporate Cause Agency and Cannabis Doing Good provide outstanding solutions in this area and we couldn’t be more pleased to be able to offer their products and services to our clients.
In addition to finding creative ways of benefiting the communities we do business in, which could be in the form of employee volunteerism, corporate donations, sponsoring local events, and so forth, I’m eager to see how we can benefit the world at large. I have a Bachelor’s in Cultural Anthropology and a Master’s in International Development with concentrations in Human Rights and Environmental Sustainability. I also launched a 501(c)3 just before I got involved with the cannabis industry. The next iteration of my career will be looking at how the cannabis industry can benefit communities in developing countries. I’m currently involved with a couple of international projects that will help me bring it all together and I couldn’t be more excited!
DCN: Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers! Any final words you would like to share with our readers?
Amber Bacca: We love to collaborate with others so please reach out if you’re interested in playing or if you’d like to hear more about how to become one of our Coalition Members!
For those looking to learn more about the Trax Team Solutions, please check out, www.TraxTeamSolutions.com