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 Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald and Rick Fitzgerald, Co-Founders of InnDica.
Meet Monique and Rick
Monique Jackson-Fitzgerald received her Juris Doctor from the University of Richmond, T.C. Williams School of Law in Richmond, Virginia and is admitted to practice in both California and Virginia.
Rick Fitzgerald is a seasoned professional in the packaging and design industry. With over 20 years of experience in design, development, and production, Rick has worked with a diverse customer base including Disney, Apple, Nike, Nestle and L’Oreal. He has created new, innovative and sustainable products for a variety of market segments including cannabis, confectionery, liquor, health and beauty aids, electronics and home entertainment.
Monique and Rick established the Lazy Turtle Group to provide business consulting, idea generation and design in the regulated, legal recreational cannabis industry. Their first project, InnDica is an online travel platform dedicated to introducing cannabis consumers to cannabis-friendly events, lodging, and tailored experiences.
In our interview with Monique and Rick, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about InnDica, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Monique and Rick, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that both of you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for InnDica?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: InnDica is a platform and resource featuring a curated collection of destinations, experiences, and adventures for the cannabis enthusiast. From the canna-curious to the experienced user will find cultivated cannabis content that speaks to them. InnDica provides an enjoyable and safe platform to discover, book and indulges in the growing cannabis hospitality industry.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business? Or how did your idea evolve?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: After moving to California and discovering medical cannabis, we both personally experienced tremendous positive results, in both our physical and mental wellness. In the months leading up to cannabis legalization in California, we took a trip to the desert and the time amongst nature brainstorming ways to develop and share our experiences with cannabis. We batted around a few ideas and chose several to develop.
We then leaped in 2015 with an idea for InnDica first being a singular lodging destination. However, over the course of almost 2 years, InnDica has evolved to create a platform that would allow other cannabis curious travelers to explore and book cannabis friendly destinations, highlight a curated list of interesting and state-compliant cannabis events.
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?
Monique Fitzgerald: I was at first hesitant to tell my family. They know me as the responsible one, the lawyer of the family. When I told my mother I was actually shocked at how supportive and excited she was that we were making the leap. My brother and sister were easier to handle, and they were both interested in what we were planning. My brother even offered his race car for advertising! Now all of our close friends and family are aware.
Rick Fitzgerald: It was easier for me, I’m an artist, we’re expected to explore. I have to say, I’ve had a great response to our idea, and I love talking about it, a lot! It has changed our lives in ways we could have never imagined. Working in the cannabis industry has given us the knowledge to help our family and friends understand what this plant has done for us and what it can do for many of them. It’s great! We get constant support from most of them through social media. Who would’ve thought?
DCN: How is your organization/business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Monique Fitzgerald: On the way to creating InnDica, I started practicing cannabis law as a way to educate new entrants to the cannabis industry about the regulated market, the path to compliance and what it takes to operate a legal commercial cannabis business. Through that work, I developed an interest and passion for promoting social equity and diversity in this industry.
We are working very closely with the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance (NDICA), and other organizations, to support developing and implementing social equity programs in our area and nationwide. I was recently named to the Board of Directors and elected as Secretary of the National Diversity and Inclusion Cannabis Alliance.
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?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: We were nominated for a best in industry award in an industry publication before we even launched and it really meant the world to us. We were honored that people thought enough of our little idea that it stood out to them. For us, that faith and interest shown in what we are doing inspire us to make sure we offer our very best, and we launch something that is unique and will serve to both educate and entertain the cannabis traveler. We are now receiving what feels like daily inquiries from fellow cannabis businesses to join our InnDica event and lodging listings.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: The challenge has been in remaining flexible and being able to pivot when one aspect or another doesn’t work out. The continually shifting state and local laws related to cannabis have to be monitored and at times have required us to adjust our business plan and projections. At which time we have weekend long whiteboarding sessions to adapt and to move forward. Challenges are not defeating!
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: We are self-funded through utilizing a network of traditional legal clients, supplemental freelance work, and our savings. I’m holding onto the CarMax estimate in case of emergency. It’s been more than worth it!
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today? What did you have to sacrifice?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: We are among the fortunate in that we did not have to sacrifice our freedom to work in this industry. We have the utmost admiration and respect for those that gave up their freedom, their property, and their livelihoods to get the cannabis industry where it is today. What we have given up is our future security and ditched the traditional life trajectory of school, work, retire and die that blinds us to opportunities and growth. Though pursuit of such an expansive dream is a risk, I would think this is one of the few times within our lives that we have a chance to be at the forefront of an amazing industry and part of such a diverse family that is the world of cannabis.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: The best tool any business launching is to get educated and stay up to date with the cannabis industry’s state-specific laws and mandates. What is compliant in California may not fly in Texas.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: Maintaining a balance between going full speed with InnDica while sustaining an income in LA (chuckle).
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: The overall positive support from both the cannabis and mainstream hospitality industry has truly been encouraging! It’s empowering to be a part clearly is a renaissance period for Cannabis.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: Organization, people skills and a willingness to set and surpass goals for each stage of one’s business are three skills an entrepreneur should never leave home without.
DCN: Being a power couple, both hard-working entrepreneurs, finding a balance can be even tougher, how do you both stay balanced?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: We enjoy off-line activities, such as hiking, camping and of course date night whenever possible as a couple. There’s also dog Bear, which we love taking for long walks.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most? (OR What is your favorite book?)
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: Ego Is The Enemy – Ryan Holiday; Never Eat Alone – Keith Ferrazzi come highly recommended.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: Recs: Leafly, Brocolli Mag; Mainstream: Air BnB, Kimpton Hotels
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: With new discoveries in science and technology on a daily basis, it’s essential that the cannabis industry continues to place such high standards of quality control and safety in order to ensure only positive receptiveness of new cannabis offerings.
DCN: Thank you, Monique and Rick Fitzgerald, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice! It was so great being able to feature you both as this week’s entrepreneur of the week!
Monique and Rick Fitzgerald: For those looking to learn more about InnDica, for the latest in cannabis events and gatherings! @inndica420 and www.inndica.com.