Todd Kaplan: Creating Alliances in the Cannabis Industry

Todd Kaplan: Green Rush Alliance

There is one underlying thread in particular that we are seeing weaving through the mesh of this industry at every length and that is the unfaltering sense of community and collaborative nature of everyone involved. This is not an industry of isolated cubicles and backs turned against each other; people are having conversations, working together, and sharing skill sets to succeed. So how do you take part of this riveting industry? How do you know where to step and where to stay away from? What are the rules and the courtesies? But before you have a moment to be overwhelmed by confusion, take a minute to meet, Todd Kaplan, founder of Green Rush Alliance. He is here to help and guide you in the right direction.

What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?

I grew up in the seventies in New York and was, as many were at the time, familiar with the recreational side of marijuana. It wasn’t until my daughter was diagnosed with cancer that I came to see the plant in a different light. For five years, she went through chemotherapy and radiation treatments and it was then that I became aware of its tremendous medical benefits. It not only helps sick patients by relieving their symptoms, but it also is great for fighting diseases in general.

I took my first step into the industry working for compliance services in Denver, CO. I was helping business owners learn to be complaint with the ever changing myriad of rules and regulations Colorado was implementing. As I became more involved with these businesses, I realized that were many entrepreneurs out there that wanted to get their piece of the pie and be a part of the industry. They were just lacking the support of what to do and how to do it.

Green Rush Alliance was formed to promote the industry in a way that would continue its growth and to evolve it to be even more strong and profitable. We are an alliance of companies that believe this social revolution, the marijuana industry, needs to keep moving forward and being promoted. Politically, there are numerous organizations successfully pushing the political agenda of marijuana forward. But socially, there are no organizations pushing to help the businesses in the industry prosper.

We are an alliance of companies that believe this social revolution, the marijuana industry, needs to keep moving forward and being promoted.

Whether it be a dispensary, a cultivation center, an infused product manufacturer, or an ancillary business, all of the members of our alliance are joined by a core belief. And that belief is: to prosper, the companies involved need to operate safely for both the sake of its employees and the community, that they need to operate in compliance with all state and local laws (no matter how bizarre some may be), and operate ethically to be profitable.

What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?

My gamut of personal experience stretches anywhere from running my own businesses (restaurants, mortgage companies, real estate companies), to working in the financial and real estate industries, to working in sales and managing a sales office. However, the strength of Green Rush Alliance does not derive from any one experience or strength of any one member, but lies in the combined business experiences and talents of all of our member companies as well as our board members.

Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?

Our efforts are currently focused on helping our member companies become more and more successful while operating their businesses responsibly. Many of our member companies are located in only one state and wish to expand, while others wish to increase their market share in the location they are currently in. Green Rush Alliance uses cross promotion and inclusion in group projects reaching across many disciplines to help these companies reach their goals.

In addition to that, we are very passionate about helping those trying to enter the market. Our members have gone through it all in the last 8 years; they’ve had their fair share of starts and stops, changes in regulations, and jurisdictions that made you jump through hoops, only to vote you down. Our message to those wanting to enter the industry is this: know why you are entering the industry, know where your passion and drive lies, and finally, know that you do not have to go about it alone. Whether you choose to join Green Rush Alliance or just need guidance, we are here to help.

Describe your work ethic to us in one word.

I describe it as working until the job is done; and the job is never done. What separates those who are successful from those who aren’t usually comes down to your commitment to the cause and willingness to do what it takes to see it through. At Green Rush Alliance, we are blessed to have board members and member companies that share the same belief.

Join the ranks: Are you a CEO, entrepreneur or someone in the cannabis industry who's making an impact? We'd like to hear your story!

What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? Your strength?

My weakness probably goes along with my answer to the previous question. There are times when we get buried in a project or even multiple projects and do not take the time off we need to recharge. My strength would be that when I don’t have the knowledge or tools I need for a particular project, I am able to recognize that and connect myself with those that do.

How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?

I have been asked this question countless times and it is always a difficult one to answer; not because we are not unique, but because we are. Those outside the industry have this common misconception that those inside the industry have so much cash flying through their door that all they have to worry about is getting a larger shovel. This is far from true. Most of these businesses are working tiresomely to align themselves with political alliances, chamber of commerce type groups, or even better business bureau type groups. I am not a big fan of these in terms of promoting your business. I believe in cross promotion and referrals. We have yet to find a group out there that competes with us. The passion, philosophy, and dedication that our members have makes us pretty special.

How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?

My inspiration first came from my daughter Katie who started cancer treatments when she was 14. Watching what she had to go through made me wonder if I, as a grown adult, could have gone through it with as much determination and poise as my daughter had. After five years of treatments and the cancer coming back halfway through, she has now been cancer free for 5 years and is the strongest woman I know.

In addition to that, I find new inspiration every week in meeting and hearing about all the others who are involved in the industry and are affected by the industry. That definitely inspires me to work harder and do better. The stories of passion, trials, and errors don’t ever end. If you are not inspired by the majority of the people working to push this industry forward, you are simply not paying attention.

What’s the best advice you have ever gotten?

My father once told me that in business “It is not what you know, it is what you can think of in time.” And that the smartest, most successful people are not those that know everything; those are usually the people who don’t know as much as they think. It is the ability to recognize what you do not know and have the ability to find the answers that you need.

What’s your newest knowledge about the marijuana industry?

This a very tough question to answer in a brief statement. There are a multitude of new things going on in the industry every single day. In Colorado, it is the implementation of production caps and the new Responsible Vendor Program. In Florida, it is the impending ba lot initiative. In Nevada, it is the impending license approvals. That’s the beauty of this business; we work in every state that has legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana as well as those moving towards it. Every day there is something new to know.

If you could rewind time to 5 years ago, how would your business be different?

Another great question. In that 5 year period, one of the most tremendous political changes happened in the industry and honestly, really gave birth to what we know of the industry now. Also, during that time was the recession of 2008 and 2009. There are many things I would have done differently personally, but this industry was just picking up the momentum it needed. I do not know which obstacles we could have moved out of the way in time. I think that the number one thing that I would have attempted to do differently would have been to start Green Rush Alliance in 2010 instead of 2013.

In that 5 year period, one of the most tremendous political changes happened in the industry and honestly, really gave birth to what we know of the industry now.

What will we be seeing from you and Green Rush Alliance in the coming future?

Our members have been collaborating to find the best solutions to the (non-political) issues facing the industry today whether it be energy consumption, water conservation, or streamlined cultivation methods. For example, there are a multitude of new products coming to the market lacking any real scientific testing. Most of the scientific claims these products are making are actually provided by the marketing departments of the companies that are selling them. We are striving to find more objective testing facilities and are only promoting the products and services that can demonstrate what they say they can do, and actually perform on their promise. We will be having those products and services available on our website shortly with special pricing for our members. We have a lot coming your way, join us!

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