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 Anthony Ware of AWare Catalysts.
Meet Anthony Ware
Anthony’s mission is to help people live their lives with more freedom and meaning. One of his core principles is that we have a life and everything we do falls into harmony under the umbrella of life. Anthony’s professional background is a spicy gumbo of experiences including biochemistry degree, yoga teaching certification, commercial real estate advisor, multiple startup founder (management, logistics, and information security), speaker, and startup mentor.
His personal passion is to help 1,000,000 people experience one travel bucket list item. Anthony has traveled to Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Belgium, and France. He loves learning about global cultures and is increasing his fluency in the Spanish language.
In our interview with Anthony, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about AWare Catalysts, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Anthony, 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 Aware Catalysts?
Anthony Ware: Every business has a culture from the day it is created until it no longer exists. Culture…the sum of the purpose, values, behaviors, recognition, rituals, and cues…is the #1 competitive advantage that a business will ever have. The companies that are most successful and have longevity are the ones that prioritize culture due to a 2x or more impact on their bottom line and lives of their people. If you want to be Blockbuster or Toys R Us, don’t focus on culture. If you want to be Netflix or WD-40, work with me to refine your culture for maximum positive impact on your people and profits.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Anthony Ware: Back in 2010, I had to close the information security company I founded due to funding issues. Those issues also left me living in my car for about a week in New Orleans. The major reason for this failure was my focus on money. It was a focus born from social programming…greed is good. Fortunately, during that week, I connected with a mentor of mine. He is the co-author of a book called, Tribal Leadership. He taught me that there’s a better way to do business.
A business focused on culture and the happiness of the people on the team. The example he gave me was Zappos. Over the past 7 years, I moved through many iterations of my business to get to its present form. One of the biggest pivots I did was to start doing speaking gigs a few years ago. This gave me even more real-world feedback about how, even though there a big names like Zappos, the concept and day-to-day focus on culture-first isn’t mainstream or taught in most business accelerators or incubators.
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?
Anthony Ware: At the end of last year, I started exploring expanding into the cannabis industry. So far, the people (friends, family, and mentors) that I’ve shared this with, have been supportive and believe that it’s a good move. I suspect that’s because I limit my circle of influence to people looking to make a positive impact on humanity.
DCN: How is your organization/business helping the cannabis industry in a positive way?
Anthony Ware: Right now, I share my business knowledge on social media, and in conversations with my circle of peers, family, and friends. My next step is to help from direct business-to-business client work, connecting businesses with resonated cultures, and angel investments as my business grows.
Last but not least, I’m interested in continuing to learn about the industry including trying edibles. After all, my degree was in biochemistry. On a personal note, I’ll increase my advocacy for changes in the legal and economic policies that currently have an negative impact on people of color.
DCN: As we go into 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Anthony Ware: It may not seem like it on the surface, but scaling back my services to one single service helped me to better explain what I do, why, and how.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Anthony Ware: My core challenge is shifting the thinking of potential clients. Many are focused on what we’re taught about how a business “should” be run. Now, I educate through social media, conversations, and speaking gigs. I use these channels as filters.
If I get some level of curiosity, I work to uncover the specific need of the potential client. If not, I stop…which is a personal shift to not try to sell the unsellable on my service. One last thought is that I’m starting to give without expectation. I realized that all the information I share is free on the internet, and my value is how to make it specific to my client.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Anthony Ware: I’m 100% self-funded. In the beginning, I taught yoga classes on the side. This year, I’m evaluating 3rd party value-add solutions aligned with my service, and converting part of my services into a app to maximize impact, time and profitability.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Anthony Ware: I let go of all the material things that I thought I needed. Currently, I don’t own a car or a home. I use Lyft, airplanes, trains, bus, and Airbnb or hotels. I let go of some friendships I thought were important, to create more time (when not working on the business) for less and deeper relationships in my life. Last, I cut the amount of clothes done to the minimum needed. It really does help decrease decision fatigue. I know it’s all for a greater purpose than my current comforts.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Anthony Ware: It’s two-fold. First, do the work to become as self-aware as you can about the wants and needs you have for your life…the inside work…including self-care. This is your mental health. Second, focus on your business model…the problem you’re solving and how you get paid… and the culture of your business…why, how, and what you do. The industry could be cannabis, non-profit, artificial intelligence, or whatever. The things I’ve highlighted are constants, especially the inner work you must do as an individual…work that never ends no matter your business.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Anthony Ware: It’s the feeling that you’re on an island. The truth is you’re not. That’s why I focus on what I do with my business…company culture and mental health of founders.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Anthony Ware: So far, it has been how welcoming and positive most business owners have been. It’s a welcome change compared to some other industries.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Anthony Ware: Empathy, compassion, self-awareness…and love. Yes, I know I gave you four, but love (of self and others) is the foundation for all the other three.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Anthony Ware: First, I believe the work/life balance is a myth. I focus on my vision for my life according to my personal north star. On a daily and weekly basis, I practice meditation, run and train for a marathon, travel to new places, and am taking up sketching with colored pencils.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Anthony Ware: I have several. Right now, it’s Leapfrog by Nathalie Molina Niño.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Anthony Ware: It’s a 3-way tie: VaynerMedia, Backstage Capital, and insydo Dubai.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Anthony Ware: I believe it’s in continuing to refine how businesses are run, push for proper legislation, and education of the general public. And, remember that we are working to turn around decades of social programming and dismantle profit-making machines of those people against the cannabis industry like the prison system and war on drugs.
DCN: Thank you, Anthony, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers! Any final updates or thoughts to share with the DCN community?
Anthony Ware: On a serious note, I urge every entrepreneur to prioritize their mental health (1 in 3 founders live with some level of depression compared to 1 in 12 people in the U.S.). Our mental health is not the lack of mental illness, it is a continuum that complements our physical life and world.
We must make sure to celebrate the journey including taking vacations (real time away from your business…workcations don’t count). I live what I say…I’m headed to Santorini in October and running a marathon in Dubai in 2019. Go live a full life. Much gratitude for making time to read this, and for the DCN team for all of their work to help raise the level of professionalism in the cannabis industry.
For those looking to learn more about AWare Catalysts, please check out awarecatalysts.com (http://awarecatalysts.com). Social Media Handlers: Twitter: @theanthonyware (https://twitter.com/theanthonyware) / Instagram: @theanthonyware (https://www.instagram.com/theanthonyware/) / LinkedIn (https://www.instagram.com/theanthonyware/)