NBA Vet Turned Cannabis Exec Al Harrington Talks $16M Funding Round, Social Equity
Al Harrington, a 16-year NBA veteran, was inspired to enter the cannabis space in 2011 due in part to the plant's ability to help ease his grandmother Viola's glaucoma symptoms.
After seeing her cry tears of joy as she read her Bible for the first time in over three years, Harrington said he too shed tears and soon went to work researching the plant.
By 2014, Harrington launched the cannabis brand bearing her name, Viola Extracts. The pro basketball star would did not announce his participation until retiring from the game.
Today, Harrington is out of the shadows, operating Viola and a CBD brand, Harrington Wellness.
A Developing Brand
Viola operates in four states: Colorado, California, Oregon and Michigan. The company's website lists Arizona and Nevada as part of its 2020 expansion plans.
To fund its expansion, Viola announced the closing of a $16-million investment round in Octobober. The funding round was led by prominent cannabis investor Gotham Green Partners.
Viola put the money to use with the acquisition of a 35,000-square-foot cultivation, processing and distribution facility in Adelanto, California.
The company is also in the final stages of completing a 50,000-square-foot cultivation space and a retail location in Michigan, Harrington said.
The NBA veteran and founder said the company will also use the funding to add staff.
"At this point, we've gotten to operating in four states with four people," Harrington said, laughing.
"We all kind of live on the road. We're never home."
Viola plans to have its team fully staffed by January 2020.
Al Harrington. Courtesy photo.
Commitment To Community
The company aims to eventually reach the levels of major industry players. As it sets out on that expansion effort, Viola plans to include social equity measures as part of its platform.
So far, efforts have included supporting brands like Butter Baby!, an edibles venture owned by black women. Harrington serves as the funding arm and adviser for the brand.
In Los Angeles, Viola has helped 35 business applicants along in the licensing process. Calling the experience "inspiring," Harrington said he hopes he can help people of color enter the cannabis industry in a substantial way.
"I see this big, vibrant industry our people will be able to participate in, and not just from a job perspective.”
Entrepreneurship is the goal, he said.
“The way you really get wealth is through ownership. So, that's something we're going to be able to provide."
Photo courtesy of Viola Extracts.
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