“To succeed in this industry, you must have crystal clear vision of where you want to go. In other words, you must be able to see the end at the beginning. You must also have and focus on your passion and let it drive or move you forward no matter what. It will require that you have a phenomenal team to help you grow. Everything rises and falls on leadership, so this part right here is MANDATORY! “
I had the pleasure to interview Khadijah Adams. Khadijah is the vice president and chief operating officer of C.E. Hutton, a business development and management firm located in Denver, Colorado. They specialize in financial, technical and business consulting services for minorities seeking entrance or expansion in the cannabis industry. She is also the founder of Green Street Academy, an online learning platform for the novice investor seeking to gain and enhance their investing skills, knowledge, and market experience in the over-the-counter cannabis market. Khadijah is on the board of the National Cannabis Chamber of Commerce (Denver Chapter); Advisory Board of ezGreen, and a member of the MCBA, M4MM, NCIA and a supporter of Wounded Warriors Project.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
I’m originally from Sugar Land, Texas, and have been a full-time entrepreneur since 1997. I founded a company called Parker Paralegal Services which later became Certified Signing Services in 2004. We specialized in notarizing a variety of commercial and residential real estate documents. When the real estate bubble burst in 2007–2008, I dissolved Certified Signing Services after 10 years of successfully operating in the real estate space; then started into the computer technology industry.
In 2014, when Colorado legalized cannabis for recreational consumption, I sold off almost everything I owned and moved to Colorado. At the time, I wasn’t sure how or where I fit into the cannabis industry. I didn’t have the capital to invest in a dispensary or in the growing or production, so I started networking in the community, attending conferences and industry events; and began speaking publicly.
In a short time, I was introduced to the investment sector of the marijuana industry and started investing in both privately and publicly held companies. In November 2014, along with my business partner, I formed MIPR, LLC, a cannabis consulting and investor relations company located in Aurora, Colorado. I was responsible for consulting and connecting accredited investors to viable investment opportunities within the cannabis industry. It was here that I discovered that I had a knack for researching and vetting cannabis entrepreneurs and startups and connecting them with the right investment teams based on their criteria. I did this for three and half years, and then MIPR, LLC was acquired in June 2017 by C. E. Hutton of Denver. I was invited to come on board as the vice president and chief operating officer.
Since October 2017, I’ve traveled to several states where cannabis is legalized for either medicinal or recreational consumption to search for entrepreneurs and small to mid-size business owners looking for access and capital to help grow their business. I’ve traveled from Texas to Colorado, Colorado to California, and then back to Colorado; then Florida and now more recently I’m focusing on Arizona. We’re especially interested in helping all people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community get a seat at the table in the industry.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I’m a fan of the “Law of Attraction” so, one day I decided to put some of that philosophy to work for me. For almost two years, I tried to connect with Troy Dayton, the CEO of ArcView, a San Francisco-based network that helps link investors with marijuana-related companies seeking funding, but he wouldn’t return my calls; or he never received my messages. Either way, I pondered over several ways I could reach him, and then I stumbled over one of the ArcView videos on YouTube. I decided to take a small clip of the video and post it directly on my website because I figured one of my haters would tell him that I had clipped his video and put it on my site! Let me be transparent, I didn’t clip his corporate vitals, just some footage of Denver, but you could tell it was from an ArcView video. Anyway, within 24 hours, I received a call directly from Troy Dayton himself. He was pissed to the third degree and asked me to pull it down, but after hearing me out, it was the beginning of a valuable connection, at least it was for him. A couple of days later, I sent a warm introduction email to him introducing him to investor, Eric Gomez who is now the CEO & Founding Partner of Canopy San Diego.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
C. E. Hutton is the only minority-focused business development and management firm in the industry. We are not exclusive to minorities, but inclusive to all communities that appreciate true diversity. According to the Marijuana Business Daily, the cannabis industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry and only 19% are represented by minority-owned businesses. In Colorado, minorities represent 1% of small business ownership in the cannabis industry. This is a huge problem that must be addressed; therefore, it is our Mission at C. E. Hutton to help level the playing field for minorities by providing access, business development services, capital and other opportunities in this industry that may not otherwise be available.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have several mentors in the cannabis space, and still have a few. I simply picked up the phone and asked them to mentor me, some said yes; while others said no. So, I worked with the ones that said yes and blessed the ones that said no. Sometimes you have to call folks out of the blue and just ask. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to help you, if you can quickly explain what you’re trying to do. Pete and Andy Williams and their sister Sally of Medicine Man Technologies were hugely instrumental is supporting and helping me grow my company when I first started. They opened their doors up to our investors and allowed tours of their facilities and cultivations. It was amazing! Also, Tripp Keber, founder and former president of Dixie Elixirs in Denver, Colorado has always welcomed me and my investors. Whenever I’ve reached out, he has always made himself available to me. He has always answered my questions and provided me with advice when asked. We still send text messages every now and again, especially to congratulate one another on reaching different milestones. My motto is: “You won’t know until you ask –a closed mouth never gets fed”.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Right now, I’m looking at different investment opportunities in Arizona. There’s a new business model that is very interesting to me; cannabis lounges. They are similar to a hookah, or a cigar bar; that kind of model where consumers can purchase a monthly membership and have access to cannabis but also other amenities, such as a spa, hair and nail salon, a coffee and juice bar, Wi-Fi access at workstations. Really, it’s more about a lifestyle and meeting other folks who have similar interests. I think the next big challenge in the cannabis industry is to get rid of “dispensary anxiety.” The experience at your typical cannabis dispensary isn’t always the best; and many adults actually experience this anxiety, so I think cannabis lounges will help with that.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I’m excited about the increasing global interest in the cannabis industry. Zimbabwe just legalized medical cannabis, across their country. They’re just the second country in Africa to do so. I’m also excited about the increased interest in cryptocurrency and I do think there is going to be an application of crypto in the cannabis industry, as a way to work around the federal banking challenges.
I think my concerns are shared by a lot of folks in the industry, pertaining to what is happening at the federal level with the Justice Department and how it might affect the rights of states’. But my biggest concern is that people of color and other minorities are missing out on the opportunities that are available in business and regarding investments. This industry has the potential to pull people out of poverty, but in general, our communities are either not getting the correct information, or we must re-educate on a boarder scale and that will require us to come together; and I believe we can.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
To succeed in this industry, you must have crystal clear vision of where you want to go. In other words, you must be able to see the end at the beginning. You must also have and focus on your passion and let it drive or move you forward no matter what. It will require that you have a phenomenal team to help you grow. Everything rises and falls on leadership, so this part right here is MANDATORY! Finally, you need access and resources. That’s where C. E. Hutton comes in — we offer access to tools you can use.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does your cannabis passion come from?
When I first came into the industry, truth be told, I wanted to earn a lot of money, period. However, when I moved to Colorado and became more involved with the community; I had the privilege of meeting the patients whose lives had been saved by consuming cannabis, I met cancer patients, veterans who suffered with PTSD, many of the entrepreneurs and politicians who helped with the legalization of recreational and medicinal cannabis and it literally changed my life. My motivation changed, and my passion grew even stronger.
When I dug a little deeper and learned more about Hearst, DuPont, Mellon and Harry Anslinger and their hand in prohibition; I was pissed. First at them, then our federal government or should I say “Congress”. That study evidentially took me into the “War on Drugs” or should I say the “War on People of Color” namely black people and how it started and eventually developed into “Just Say No” campaign during the Reagan administration; which took me into learning more about the birth of the private prison system. I was exhausted, and my blood was boiling. My passion is about the PATIENTS, FREEDOM and CHOICE — opting to choose cannabis for healing and treatment as opposed to opiates. It’s about healing patients and re-educating communities that have suffered in one capacity or another by our government. Finally, my passion is to re-educate minority communities and equip them with the truth about cannabis, how and why it became illegal, and the benefits of positioning in the cannabis industry as either business owners, employees, entrepreneurs or as investors. That’s what drives me today.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
As only one of the partners in C. E. Hutton, I see our company as the “go-to” company for minorities seeking entrance, or expansion into the cannabis and hemp industry. Regarding where the industry is going, I believe closer to federal legalization possibly in the next two to five years. Finally, I hope to see more women and minorities in CEO & COO positions in the industry.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
As I mentioned before, the cannabis lounge concept is something I think is on the rise, so I’m keeping an eye on that. I do see these lounges as “sleeping giants” of the cannabis industry. They’re going to be something like Starbucks one day, in my humble opinion. So, keep an eye-out on Tangie’s Coffee and Teas (CBD Infused) — coming soon to Arizona. Currently, my eye is on Domm Life in Phoenix, it’s the ultimate cannabis lounge and caters to a very sophisticated cannabis lifestyle. My 2% brother Todd, and his wife Amanda are world-class!
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
If you like commodities, I would say that edibles and beverages are on the rise. Right now, edibles are driving about 55% of the cannabis industry, but I expect that number to increase as more professionals try them and like them as an alternative to smoking. However, if you like private placements, I would say seriously take a look at the biotechnology, real estate and technology sectors of the industry.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I’d love to meet Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow. It’s a book that dives into the racial injustices of our incarceration system and how African Americans have been targeted by the criminal justice system, particularly in the so-called War on Drugs. Now that marijuana has been legalized or decriminalized in some states, I think it’s time to tell the truth about cannabis and the legal system; time to take another look at incarcerated people who are there on marijuana charges and have them released. That book has been a call to action for me, and I’d love to meet her and talk about how it has influenced me and others in this industry.