Building a solid foundation for any business requires strong financial acumen. The 2023 class of Green Market Report Finance Award honorees, recognized on August 3 at the GMR Finance Summit in New York City, represents some of the best and brightest in this arena for the cannabis industry.
Here are the award winners:
Top Woman in Finance: Lynn Ricci, head of investor relations & communications, TILT Holdings
While Lynn now serves as the head of investor relations and communications at TILT Holdings, her work to drive bottom lines in a narrow-margin industry predates her current role. Before joining TILT, she helped build the investor relations infrastructure at Trulieve Cannabis Corp. There Lynn led investor relations and corporate communications to support the industry’s largest M&A transaction.
In addition, Lynn continues to push industry leaders to be more responsible citizens, including directing the efforts to produce the cannabis industry’s first ESG report.
Top Financial Technology: Kevin Hart, CEO & Founder, Green Check Verified
Kevin’s visionary leadership and extensive experience in enterprise software have propelled Green Check Verified to become the premier fintech provider of compliant cannabis banking solutions and services. Since its establishment in 2017, the company has flourished, serving more than 6,500 cannabis-related businesses and partnering with more than 130 financial institutions.
With Kevin at the helm, GCV continues to push boundaries, expanding data connectivity and providing actionable insights for cannabis businesses via its recent acquisition of Komplyd and offering cannabis operators a full suite of financial solutions that address their everyday business needs after its acquisition of PayQwick.
Top Accountant: Nathan Summers, Principal, Miller Cooper
Nathan’s experience with the cannabis industry started when Illinois legalized cannabis medically. Since then, he has helped promote and grow the industry nationwide. This includes helping social equity license recipients find their footing in an ever-changing economic market, consulting a multistate operator through the process of going public on Canadian exchange, and working with all types of companies in between.
With a background in financial reporting, Nathan partners with companies setting up the infrastructure to properly account for their transactions. He also has a strong core understanding of tax concepts and is a liaison bridging the gap between economic activity and tax reporting to bring value to clients and industry in general. For example, Nathan played a part in advising the Illinois Department of revenue on the negative impacts 280E has on the industry. This led to a law being passed in 2023 decoupling from 280E for Illinois income taxes.
Top Investment Firm: Entourage Effect Capital
Entourage Effect Capital is a venture capital firm focused specifically on investing in the legalized cannabis industry. In less than 10 years, founder and managing partner Matt Hawkins formed an all-star team of strategic thinkers, including co-founders, Dov Szapiro and Andy Sturner.
Since 2014, the firm has made nearly 70 investments out of three funds and special purpose entities, ranging from plant touching to science and technology, including TerrAscend, Green Thumb Industries, Curio Wellness, and StateHouse Holdings – just to name a few.
The team also possesses the ability to stay forward-thinking and agile, adjusting to the needs of an ever-changing industry. For example, the impact of continued federal illegality and the recent economic climate have led even the sector’s strongest businesses to consider major operational and financial restructurings as they seek profitability. EEC has stepped in to service these businesses, working alongside elite industry law firms to help companies navigate restructurings during a period that will define the industry’s future competitive landscape.
Top CEO: Sundie Seefried, Safe Harbor Financial
After more than 20 years with Partner Colorado Credit Union, Sundie entered a cannabis industry that was searching for a financial identity. She quickly realized that many companies struggled to access capital and set out to create a safe banking solution for cannabis brands. Sundie guided Safe Harbor to success by navigating through several obstacles, including 16 federal and state exams and an industry devoid of women in leadership.
Despite these challenges, Safe Harbor has increased annual revenue to more than $10 million and provided more than 1,000 businesses with access to depository and lending services. In 2022, the company became one of the few companies in its field to go public and debut on Nasdaq.
Sundie has used her success within the cannabis industry to empower others as well. She regularly provides cannabis banking education to public officials, regulators, and financial leaders. She also wrote a book on Safe Harbor’s compliance methods that created transparency and built confidence across the board with regulators. Her efforts have reduced the fear that many had of banking the market and created additional access to banking for cannabis companies across the country.
Top CFO: Dennis Olis, Cresco Labs
Since Dennis Olis joined Cresco Labs in 2019, the company’s annual revenue grew from $129 million to $842 million, and its operating income improved from a $34 million loss to a $57 million profit. He converted the company’s financial reporting from IFRS to U.S. GAAP to prepare for uplisting to U.S. exchanges and led the evaluation, due diligence, and integration processes for eight acquisitions at a total value of just under $3 billion.
Cresco is navigating industry-wide pressures and taking steps to prioritize P&L strength and cash flow. Dennis has played an integral role in Cresco exiting low-margin businesses in certain markets and investing in its branded portfolio and wholesale distribution to extend its winning brands in new states, premiumize its portfolio, and expand in segments where the portfolio is under-indexed.
Innovative Financing: Marco Eadie, Managing Director, O’Keefe
Since 2018, Marco has been a sell-side advisor, a buy-side representative, and a debt advisor to multiple vertically integrated cannabis companies, MSOs, and private equity firms. He has published articles on cannabis, presented webinars, and last year, hosted O’Keefe’s inaugural cannabis seminar with keynote speaker Bob Hoban of Clark Hill and other industry thought leaders.
In a recent assignment, a creditor defaulted on a loan for the real estate of a large cannabis grower. The grower missed most payments even after the two parties had restructured the loan several times. O’Keefe was hired on behalf of the creditor for turnaround and advisory services to assess the viability of the business. Through the process the receiver was able to continue to operate the grower as a going concern while increasing cash from operations during a period when pricing for cannabis cratered.
Top Investment Analyst: Vahan Ajamian, Capital Markets Advisor, High Tide Inc.
As the capital markets advisor for High Tide, Vahan brings an impressive financial background spanning nearly 20 years, including five years of cannabis experience as one of the first analysts to cover the sector for Beacon Securities. He led High Tide to becoming known as the fastest growing retailer and cannabis company in the Americas, according to the Financial Times.
Vahan’s strategic guidance has been instrumental in High Tide’s achievements, including the establishment of the largest brick-and-mortar cannabis loyalty program in Canada and their landmark position as the first Canadian retailer en route to free cash flow positivity. While competitors may struggle, Vahan’s financial acumen has propelled High Tide to impressive milestones, evident in their remarkable Q2 2023 revenue of $118.1 million.
Top Lender: Sweet Leaf Madison Capital
Sweet Leaf Madison Capital was created in 2016 with a mission to help the burgeoning cannabis industry take flight by providing tailored debt financing solutions to the underserved middle market of the industry from “seed-to-sale.” Possessing deep understanding and expertise in the complexities, risks, and opportunities of the industry, SLMC bridges the gap between cannabis businesses and funding needs.
SLMC creates tailored, asset-backed lending solutions in the form of real estate, equipment financing, and senior secured term loans. The advantage of this financing is that it enables businesses to reach their next milestone of growth, while not diluting equity. At the time of its founding, SLMC was one of few lenders to embrace the cannabis space, and it has since provided financial services to businesses across all sectors of the industry.
In March, the firm secured a $100 million financing facility to continue to service cash-strapped cannabis businesses. The infusion of capital comes at a time when ongoing industry funding challenges are driving a need for alternative sources of capital, ensuring that SLMC will continue to have a consequential impact on the industry.
Congratulations to all of the 2023 Green Market Report Finance Award winners!