Enter the Oakland, California-based offices of Green Rush Consulting and a wave of start-up success, the type hinged together with hope, momentum and sharp ideas, hits you square in the face. The feel inside the company is distinctly and startlingly different than that of the nondescript hallway housing more traditional businesses alongside a stretch of Fruitvale Avenue. After a warm welcome by new team member Candace Wiggins in a reception area decorated with botanical drawings of cannabis, Director of Operations Sarah Cross Ceti leads a short tour that dips into several offices and then across the hallway into a new section of expansion. In a whir of brief introductions, I spy whiteboards filled with notes and drawings and hear the sound of keyboards clicking at a rapid track – clear indicator signs of an office abuzz with creative concepts – and for Green Rush this is just an average Monday afternoon.
Green Rush began in 2013, just at the pivotal moment when cannabis started its exponential expansion across the nation through pushes for medical marijuana as well as cannabis for adult-use, CEO and Founder Zeta Ceti explains. As a cultivator in the industry for nearly 20 years, he saw the opportunity to assemble and organize the state’s collective expertise in medical marijuana to assist other states as they moved forward in their licensing applications. He calls it bringing the education of the California cannabis culture to other states, and doing so, his business took on the moniker of an industry that is predicted to reach $6.7 billion in U.S. sales this year.
“We saw the need for not being another cultivator and providing educational consulting and developing state licensing applications for these new pioneers in these other states,” he says of the consulting firm’s beginnings.
While Green Rush began as a sole proprietorship, two years ago Zeta’s wife Sarah joined the team and the couple formed their business as an LLC. In that year, 2014, Green Rush saw rapid growth after it put out a press release announcing it would offer consulting services free of charge to potential Illinois dispensary applicants. Through the announcement, they booked 42 free in-person consultations in one week, all during a massive snowstorm.
“These people are coming from all over Illinois to meet with us and they’re from all across the board,” Sarah said of the turnout. “You had your kid on the streets, you had your soccer mom, you had your Daddy Warbucks, you had everybody and with every single person we asked them, why are you here and what’s your vision?”
And when some answered that they wanted to be millionaires, Green Rush’s expert advice was to get in line. To succeed, the couple explains, you also need clear goals and a good amount of capitol.
“We noticed really early on that there was a lack of representation of both women and people of color and we saw that in that crowd,” Sarah says, while noting the $25,000 application fee in Illinois as a large barrier to entry. “[The cost] was way too much and so it was shutting out a huge group of individuals.”
After successfully assisting the The Harbory to open the first dispensary in Illinois, Green Rush honed in on its focus by crafting five core goals of guidance for itself and its clients: integrity, innovation, stewardship, diversity and unity.
“We saw that this industry needs protection and that it’s very vulnerable,” Sarah said. “Then we started incorporating that into our structure so that ideally the clients we are working with are the ones that we want to work with and the ones that we want to represent.”
Prior to creating the goals, Zeta says it was easier to get lost in all the noise surrounding the expanding marijuana industry and thus caught in its many potential pitfalls.
“If you don’t have some type of anchor or some type of guide to help guide you to the right opportunities in the industry or the right path in the industry, you end up getting caught by these pitfalls, some of these dangers that are in the industry that a lot of people are unaware of when they get into it,” he says. “Whether you’re a well-capitalized entrepreneur or not.”
Green Rush includes a team of in-house business development staff as well as a wide network of expert consultants in varying fields and has now offered services in several states. The dispensary application process runs in seasonal waves, Sarah explains while adding that the company’s goals help Green Rush understand its position in the industry.
“We are helping to connect the gap of the current movement, the people who have been in this place before us,” she says. “We’re only here now because of the work that they’ve done, the real pioneers. We’re not pioneers compared to these individuals who have worked so hard for the last couple decades, gone to prison and really fought at the front lines for this – we’re championing them. So we’re trying to make sure that the best values and practices that they have worked so hard for are translated to the rest of the country that’s a blank slate because they just don’t know.”
And for Zeta, Sarah and the Green Rush staff this means standing as stewards of the industry.
“For the longest time this industry has been fragmented, not only from people of color or from women, but also even education has been fragmented,” Zeta says. “It’s really about trying to pull these pieces together but adding diversity and inclusiveness into it. That’s what we’re seeing now with Women Grow and all these different things that are happening, a resurgence of this type of inclusivity and we feel that we project those values as well.”
While Green Rush has offered expert help towards licensing in states such as Maryland, Illinois and Connecticut with sights on Pennsylvania in the coming year, the company’s main focus now is helping California clients navigate through medical marijuana regulations – the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act – signed into law in October 2015.
“This new highly-regulated market is coming into this space, investors are coming into this space,” Zeta says of a marijuana industry that includes growers still deeply ingrained in the fear of exposure. “It’s hard for them to communicate with each other because one doesn’t understand the culture, the other doesn’t really understand the business acumen. So we’re trying to figure out ways of bridging that gap.”
And to do so, as well as continue to offer assistance in building development and licensing for other states, Green Rush is working on a software program, which it hopes will help lower the barriers of entry.
“This is how I explain it to some of these growers, ‘Look, this water is flowing, either you’re going to flow with the water or you’re going to be a rock in the middle of all this flowing water and it’s going to flow around you, it’s going to flow under you, it’s going to move you out of the way,’” Zeta says. “Don’t be a rock.”
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