Marijuana Business Daily, a division of Anne Holland Ventures Inc., debuted at #302 on Inc.'s fastest-growing private companies in America list last year. It also ranks #4 in the category of "Top Media Companies" on the list and #11 in "Top Colorado Companies." Founded in 2011, MBD has posted a 3-year growth of 1,288.2%—that's no mistake—reaching $7 million in revenue in 2015. Their fall and spring conferences appeared on Trade Show Executive's Fastest [Growing] 50 list in more than one category.
"I never thought we'd be in the Inc. 500 list; it's been a shock," said Anne Holland (pictured top), co-founder of MBD. "What are two women from classic SIPA backgrounds doing in the marijuana industry? [Holland and co-founder and CEO Cassandra Farrington first met while working for a SIPA member.] Seems a little crazy doesn't it?"
A little perhaps, but when you read more about their topic-agnostic, primed-for-success strategies, it's really not. Attendees to the SIPA Annual 2017 Conference, June 5-7 in Washington, D.C. will be the latest beneficiaries of the spirit, experience and knowledge of Holland and Farrington—they will deliver a keynote address at the conference on the first morning. That talk alone should be worth the price of admission, which, until tomorrow, remains at an early-bird rate. Come Monday the price goes up $200. Register here.
Holland explained their path to marijuana. "...We were looking at veterinary practices, medical, mergers and acquisitions—all different industries to decide who are we going to serve next. And who's hungry? The primary thing is, 'Who is unserved?' Who's hungry for what we're really good at doing? There was no financial information [in the marijuana industry], no legal or financial news service that was doing a good job. 'We can do that.' We can help these hungry people. If it was the blimp industry, that would be okay. We just like to help people and happened to luck out."
Of course, the success of MBD is more than luck. Farrington is a former, accomplished Citigroup projects VP, and Holland founded and sold MarketingSherpa, among other companies. "I invent and create, and she actually makes sure that it all runs," Holland said. "Our personal goals are to help other businesses that really desperately need information and connections to grow your company. We both enjoy that. Cassandra in particular enjoys helping people grow their careers and their company—through our information services."
In my conversation with Holland, she praised Farrington, pointing to their extensive hiring process, non-virtual office, commitment to diversity, and events formula. Though travelling, Farrington graciously took the time to email me back answers to questions on those subjects.
SIPA: Anne talked about your extensive hiring process. Could you elaborate on this?
FARRINGTON: As part of the initial application process, we include screening questions which help us understand better the specific strengths and skill sets of an individual. This helps us quickly winnow down a huge pile of resumes to a manageable candidate pool, with reasonably high confidence that we've got the best of the bunch for our specific needs. It also helps communicate to the candidates what kind of company we are. The questions are efficient and business-like but have some personality to them as well. That's a good description of our office culture, as well. It starts setting the stage for what working with us would be like.
She was also quite adamant about the diversity that you strive for—in gender and everything else. I know this is the right thing but I'm assuming it's also the profitable thing.
Absolutely!!! Women, as an example, are a huge segment of the workforce, and control far more than half of the consumer buying power in households. Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment opens up a huge pool of candidates, clients and partners who would otherwise be on their guard about doing business with us. The diversity of thought and approach which comes with having different backgrounds and life experiences is critical to creating an effective and broad-based approach to our customers and our business challenges. There is no rule that says the traditional business approach is the best one—it's simply the one that has worked best for the way Caucasian males tend to operate, and the rest of the world has arranged itself around that mindset.
You have a successful print magazine and are running an almost total non-virtual office. Is this the year 2000? What's the reasoning behind requiring physical proximity?
We spent the first several years in exactly the kind of virtual workforce environment favored today. And it was a great fit for our early needs for attracting the best talent and managing expenses. About 18 months ago, however, it became painfully clear that we would be able to move faster and more effectively with more face-to-face and less electronic communication. The camaraderie, the idea generation, and the sense of "team" which has accompanied the move into an office have been well worth it. And, we still maintain a highly flexible work schedule to meet the work-life balance needs of our team. We have about 20-25 hours a week when everyone is expected to be working from the office. The rest of the time, as I tell my team, I couldn't care if you are working from the surface of the moon, so long as the work is getting done to high effectiveness.
Your events are very successful. Can you give a few of the reasons why? What does the future of events look like? What are we on the verge of?
Our events are successful because we bring together the right people, at the right time of year, in the right environment, to gain the knowledge they need to power their own businesses forward. Despite our core subject matter in the cannabis industry, our brand is all about the business and everything about our events conveys the importance of professionalism—so people take it seriously, and have come to depend on that period to get high-quality face time with their clients and partners. For as much of modern life is spent in virtual environments, there is and will remain a place in the business world with face-to-face interactions. And if those need to happen, having them in a reliable and condensed place and time makes a lot of sense to a lot of business people.
Thank you! See you both on June 6!