Cannabis Wealth spoke to Shaan Mahrotri of cannabis brand management firm Cannamplify to find out what goes on behind the scenes.
How did you get started in the industry?
I’ve worked in finance and investments for my whole career, after starting to do the books for my parents’ business while I was at school. I’ve been a CEO or COO for all manner of businesses – you name it, I’ve helped build it or destroy it.
In recent years, many of the businesses I’ve been involved in were early-stage investors in the cannabis industry in the US, landing all along the chain, from cultivation to extraction to consumer.
In 2017, I and one of my partners started to bring over interesting and mature CBD brands from the US, just when the industry was kicking off in the UK, and we ended up forming Cannamplify in 2019.
The business is a suite of different things. In the beginning, we functioned as the administrative and operative partner for companies coming to Europe, supporting them with everything from warehousing and logistics to setting up websites.
We then set up our B2C offering, Nabino, which is essentially a shop front for the brands we were bringing over.
We also act as a B2B wholesaler, supplying CBD brands to a number of outlets in mainland Europe, with some registrations in Japan, although the events of 2020 slowed that element down a lot.
We also have a The Bosky Agency, which is our marketing side, focusing on what and how we’re we’re allowed to advertise to consumers.
We always say we deal with everything from the end of the production line to when the product reaches the consumer’s hands.
Where do you think the industry is at in 2021?
To be honest, at the moment the industry isn’t as big as anyone thought it would be.
We’re still at the very beginning, everyone is relying on the traditional, existing vertical supply chains – there’s nothing specially for cannabis, so it will take a while for the world and the industry to catch up with each other.
At Cannamplify, we focus on the end of the value chain as that’s where we see the value being, in the branding, movement, operations.
Outside of that, I sit on an advisory board of a high-risk payment company that focuses on cannabis and vape; banking in the sector is non-existent and it’s not long ago that everyone had to deal in cash.
I remember a farmer in Oregon once showing me his two barns; one was full of his crops and the other was full of his cash, as no bank would touch it.
The industry is starting to get legitimised now, but it’s still at the point where there’s a black market – CBD is very much grey.
The professionalism you see in other industries is still trickling down, but there are still too many bad actors, people jumping on the bandwagon – not just in the product, but also behind the scenes.
There are a lot of opportunistic things going on, so we need to inspire that trust – which will take time.
That’s why I believe that starting with a focus on the medicinal benefits of CBD is the right thing to do.
Much as I’d like to be able to walk down the street and buy some weed, it’s only right that we focus on the very real medical benefits of CBD for the time being. Look at Canada; they tried to do everything at once, and it’s just too much.
The cultural shift will take generations, which is why education is so important – for retailers, not just consumers.
What do you see as being the key developments over the past few years?
As there has been more acceptance of hemp, there has been more focus on using every element, with an awful lot of awful lot of R&D into ideas like using hemp for building materials and bioplastics.
However, like everything, it all comes down to scale – you need that outlay before you can develop a product, and it’s only then that you can begin to market it, which means it can be slow progress.
In terms of collaboration within the industry, everyone is still finding their tribes at the moment, although there should definitely be more of a sense of working together than there currently is.
While admittedly it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone to some extent, there’s still a way to go.
Having said that, cannabis years are like dog years – you learn an awful lot in a short space of time.
Who is your business inspiration?
It might sound cliched, but definitely my parents, who are first generation immigrants, working as traders and businesspeople. I definitely get my drive for business from them; I started my working life doing their businesses books in the holidays, so it’s always been in me.
I never had any doubt that I’d go into business – I’ve always run my own things and never been a 9-5 person.
What are the key qualities you need to succeed?
I’d say that surviving on very little sleep is the main thing. The world has changed a lot; in the early days, you could switch off – there were no emails from LA or calls from India – so the stamina you need is very different today.
I also think it’s important to be reasonably good at everything and not excellent at one thing; for me, a business always needs someone looking at the big picture.
The best advice you’ve been given
Someone once said, you’re not a doctor, you’re not a fireman – nobody’s going to die because you made a mistake.
Whether an email went out with a typo, or the servers are down, it doesn’t matter – deal with it and move on.
Christina DiArcangelo: dedicated to revolutionising patient care
DiArcangelo entered into medical cannabis following a personal experience with a loved one.
Entrepreneur and CEO Christina DiArcangelo is putting patients first in her work – championing patient care and providing best-in-class patient advocacy services.
Christina DiArcangelo’s journey into cannabis began after she was already working in the pharmaceutical industry. Having more than two decades of experience in the biotechnology, nutraceutical, and medical device industries, DiArcangelo entered into medical cannabis following a personal experience with a loved one.
As an expert in biotechnology, DiArcangelo has now worked with a number of CBD companies and is CEO at Affinity Biopartners which conducts groundbreaking medical cannabis and cannabinoid clinical research, as well as at Affinity Patient Advocacy which assists cannabis patients with their medical cannabis journey and with legal cannabis patient advisory. Other roles include CEO at Spectral Analytics Precision Tele-Monitoring, and CEO and co-founder of AI Health Outcomes, where she has been involved with revolutionary projects and global clinical studies that positively impact patients.
“I have worked on 25 FDA-approved drugs in my career, and I have been in the cannabis and CBD clinical research space globally for the past five years,” says DiArcangelo. “I’ve worked for some very large pharmaceuticals in the space, as well as small companies that want to pursue clinical studies, whether it is a CBD company or biotech. I have helped some CBD companies who received warning letters from the FDA, because I have been in biotech for so long I understand regulations. I am proud to say an excellent relationship with the FDA, both on the traditional side as well as the medical cannabis and CBD space.”
DiArcangelo, a practising Baha’i, created Affinity Biopartners – her second clinical research organisation – which is now coming up to its six-year anniversary. Alongside its medical cannabis research, the company facilitates the development of drugs, biologics, nutraceuticals and medical devices.
“Affinity Patient Advocacy was started as a result of my father’s passing from stage four liver, lung and stomach cancers. In 2015, we did not have a medical programme in the state of Pennsylvania so I could not use medical cannabis legally to help treat my father while he was dying. So, that was interesting being his advocate, I swung in to help him because I have worked on a lot of different oncology indications throughout my career and I watched him battle cancer for relatively 22 years of his life, which was half of my life.
“So, as a result of helping him and then truly seeing with my own two eyes that there was a need for advocacy – that patients deserve a voice – and, what I love to do is design clinical studies that help patients, Affinity Patient Advocacy was started.
“This was me being able to give back to him, and carry forward his legacy because he always gave back from a labour perspective and a healthcare standpoint as he was very active as a union member. He was constantly working for people, whether it was grievance filings, trying to make sure people kept their jobs when they were unjustly accused of things. Making sure he protected his member’s rights was his number one priority, but then also ensuring that they had proper healthcare. So, you can see my foundation of where I have come from as a child growing up, and my career – serving people was very much at the forefront of my childhood into my adulthood. So for me, it was just turning the hat, not so much from a labour perspective, because I don’t work in that space, but I work with patients advocating for them, trying to help patients feel better.”
In 2018 DiArcangelo started an AI firm, developing a toolbox of two bots that sit on Alexa and Google that can be voice-activated and utilised for clinical research purposes.
“That means we can remind people to take the drug, we can ask them questions about how they are feeling and then we can collect electronic patient-reported outcomes. So, my clinical research background and all the years that I’ve been doing this have really pushed me into the tech space so that I could help my team develop an electronic data capture system.
“I also worked on building out a telemonitoring platform – I had already had the tech side. Spectral Analytics is a holding company, and underneath we have a commercial company called Avum RX. Avum RX is the CBD line and Avum is the non-CBD.
“The spectral analytics precision telemonitoring is what we open to do perpetual clinical research for CBD and medical cannabis patients. So, I took my tech and put it over there – why reinvent the wheel when it is working. I know how to work with central labs because of my biotech experience so that I can test patients looking at kidney and liver toxicity from a safety perspective, so I can drop down listings, and share them with the FDA, so that we are answering their requests, which is what they’ve requested in the entire industry. The FDA considers this a biologic, even though it is a plant that’s what they consider it – the only drug they have approved is Epidiolex which is synthetic.
“So, Spectral is gathering data to do perpetual clinical research and put patients’ care back into their hands. Doctors have access to the portal and we were doing gut microbiome analysis and we do cannabinoid testing to see what patients are deficient in – nobody is doing that yet. We do not know what we are deficient in, so, as somebody who is also formulating transdermal patches for Avon, how can I formulate for people if I don’t know what’s wrong with them?
“We are trying to work in the UK with our products because we have safe products, they are backed by science. I’m at the helm, formulating now with my scientific team and we have now formulated an immune boost patch. That is for autoimmune patients because I’m a patient, I have two autoimmune disorders and I wasn’t diagnosed until 18.
“The immune boost was not only developed for autoimmune people, but also palliative support for cancer, and then COVID. The patch has a lot of terpenes in it because, in my opinion, the terpenes are the healing components.”
Toby Noiles: one woman breaking barriers in cannabis
Toby Noiles is leveraging her experience to take on the challenges of building brands in the cannabis industry.
Toby Noiles is one woman breaking barriers in CBD and cannabis, leveraging her extensive experience to take on the unforeseen challenges of building brands in the sector.
Senior executive Tony Noiles has more than 30 years of experience in leadership positions across the retail food channel within North America. Noiles is now implementing her expertise to build out two brands in the CBD sector.
Noiles has been part of the premium CBD brand, Sky Wellness’ executive team leading operations, sales, eCommerce and supply chain as the Chief Operating Officer since 2020. In 2021, Noiles also joined N2 Packaging Systems – a high-end cannabis packaging company – where she serves also as the company’s COO.
Leveraging her dual citizenship in the USA and Canada, Noiles will be responsible for building best-in-class sales, customer service, business development, fulfilment, and logistics operations for all of North America.
As an experienced senior executive with a proven track record delivering accelerated P&L performance in a wide range of businesses from startups to revenue responsibilities of $19bn, Noiles has proven to be a level frontline leader with the intensity and determination to drive transformation and innovation within a culture of teamwork and continuous learning.
“I am a customer-centric, data-driven progressive leader that believes in fully informed decision making leveraging the experience of cross-functional, diverse teams and data sources,” says Noiles.
“Innovation and building strong strategic relationships internally and externally are a priority in my leadership style as well as empowering team members and partners to lead and grow vs. just execute.”
Noiles has led transformational strategies and delivering profitable share growth in companies such as Safeway, Sam’s Club, Fresh Direct and Northwest Co., and, throughout her career, has proven to be an innovative and transformational leader accustomed to full P&L responsibilities driving bottom-line growth, customer loyalty, and employee engagement in both perishable and non-perishable operations.
In her current dual COO roles, Noiles will be taking on the challenges of building two brands in the current CBD and Cannabis space for consumer and trade respectively.
James Bagley joins Tenacious Labs as board director
Bagley was formerly CEO of luxury drink wholesaler and retailer, DMD Ventures and was VP of Sales and Marketing at Naked Wines UK.
Luxury CBD brand CEO, James Bagley, is joining Tenacious Labs as a board director where he will alongside current members including board chair, former Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces, Sir Nick Parker.
Co-founder and CEO of luxury CBD brand OTO, James Bagley, is joining international CBD group Tenacious Labs where he will bring significant experience of scaling up businesses within the consumer and discretionary spend arenas to the role of board director.
Nicholas Morland, co-founder and CEO of Tenacious Labs, commented: “I’m delighted to welcome James to Tenacious Labs. OTO is a brand we hugely admire and, under James’ leadership, has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years to become a genuinely leading UK consumer brand.
“His expertise in driving growth and supporting the development of our global brands will be crucial in reaching Tenacious Labs’ goal of become the leading consumer-centric cannabinoid group in the world.”
Bagley said: “I feel proud and honoured to be joining the team at Tenacious Labs. Through its work with the Jersey Government, helping develop regulations that will strengthen the CBD industry worldwide, it has shown it is a business that believes in doing things properly – something for which I have great respect.
“It makes perfect sense to formalise our relationship through this natural step, and I look forward to us achieving great things for Tenacious Labs together.”
Under Bagley’s leadership, OTO has experienced significant growth over the last year, including expansion through partnerships with leading retailers, fitness and leisure operators, including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boom Cycle, Selfridges, Harrods, Sweaty Betty and Liberty.
“Having James join us with his years of consumer brand building and retail experience and his intricate understanding of the international CBD market is an exciting moment for Tenacious Labs. The Tenacious Labs commercial team especially look forward to working with him closely, and applying his skills and knowledge in order to grow our brands around the world,” added Adrian Clarke, co-founder and CCO of Tenacious Labs.
James will sit on the board alongside Nicholas Morland, co-founder and CEO; Adrian Clarke, co-founder and chief commercial officer; Sally Hayes, chief financial officer; and Susie Macarthur, chief operating officer.
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- Christina DiArcangelo: dedicated to revolutionising patient care