"Wonder Women Of Weed" is a bi-monthly show and column featuring accomplished female leaders in the cannabis industry, brought to you by a collaborative effort that includes Benzinga, Industry Power Women and Direct Cannabis Network.
This week, we present CannaRegs co-founder and CEO Amanda Ostrowitz. Prior to starting cannabis-focused legal research platform CannaRegs, Amanda worked as a regulator at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Amanda Ostrowitz likes to joke about how she arrived at the cannabis industry almost by accident.
“I didn’t exactly trip and fall into the industry because I had always been a proponent of legalization and I loved the plant. But I wasn’t nearly as educated on it as I now am,” she said on the latest edition of "Wonder Women of Weed."
Prior to starting CannaRegs, Amanda was working on bank regulatory law, with her last job before transitioning to the marijuana space being at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
At the time, she recalls, Amanda often heard people laugh about the idea of banking cannabis businesses. She saw things differently.
“This is serious money and, thus, a serious problem,” she would say. But words were not enough. Amanda felt the need to find a solution to the banking problems of the cannabis industry.
“I started doing some research into the banking issues and I was searching for a solution to our banking problems," Amanda said. "It was that rabbit hole of research that I went down in, going further and further into local law, and I was baffled that every single city had different laws, multiple agencies within each city that were regulating [cannabis businesses]… but there was no one place where all that information was listed."
While solving the cannabis industry’s banking problems would prove too big of a challenge, coming up with a way to make those vast amounts of non-aggregated information easily accessible was within her reach. And so CannaRegs was born, with the intention of making finding laws that apply to a cannabis business “as easy as buying shoes online.”
Funding A Cannabis Business
Entrepreneurs often ask what’s the best way to go at funding a cannabis business.
Go out for a raise? Bootstrap? Crowdfunding?
Taking into account that CannaRegs was pretty bootstrapped from the beginning and still managed to grow large and wide, "WWoW" co-host Adelia Carrillo, of Direct Cannabis Network, asked Amanda for some advice.
Amanda said a cousin of hers who works in venture capital always recommended she bootstrapped until she “could not bootstrap any more.” Since this approach has worked wonders for CannaRegs (although the uphill road isn't for everyone), she tends to advise people to do the same.
“But there’s pros and cons to it. It’s extremely challenging because you have to get yourself to revenue as fast as possible,” she said, warning that there is a point where businesses just need to raise money, in order to avoid inhibiting their own growth. It’s always good to be cash flow positive, profitable and debt-free before going for a raise, though.
Finally, we decided to ask Amanda about her experience as a woman entrepreneur in the cannabis industry.
“I love being a woman in this space because I think it makes me more unique,” she said, suggesting women shouldn't shy away from confidence, even if they're qualified as “abrasive.”
“You have to be a little abrasive to get things done,” she added. “It's worked out for me pretty well, but it doesn't mean I've made friends with everyone along the way.”
To hear from traders, financial experts and others like Amanda, be sure to grab a ticket to the Benzinga Women's Wealth Forum March 21.
Having said this, Amanda discussed the delicate balance between not being too self-conscious, but still being cognizant of one’s condition as a woman.
"I always try to dress like a professional," she said, "not be intimidating and things like that, so that I don't really run into sexualization issues as much. Granted, people will always be inappropriate no matter where. But I try to respond with intelligence and a little sass, and smart my way through situations.
"We are not going to ever thrive taking a back seat. So be charming, be smart, but don’t let it occupy too much of your time."
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