She Left Wall Street to Build Her Own Cannabis Empire
Elizabeth M. Stavola was once a high-powered deal-maker on Wall Street, working at Jefferies and Co. as a Senior Vice President in Institutional Equity Sales covering some of the largest institutional investors in the world. She is now the Chief Strategy Officer, and Board Member of iAnthus Capital Holdings.
Stavola previously served as COO, president of US Operations and board member of MPX Bioceutical Corporation, a U.S. and international diversified cannabis company focused on the medical and adult use cannabis markets. She was named to the iAnthus management team when MPX and iAnthus merged earlier this year.
What brought you into the cannabis industry?
Better lucky than smart sometimes, right! I had retired from Wall Street and was doing one-off investments for my family when a broker that I had never worked with offered me a deal: invest $1mm in medical marijuana in Arizona. My family thought I was crazy at the time and it literally took on a life of its own. I became super passionate about the industry, the patients we were helping and the great jobs we were creating.
What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?
That list is 10 miles long! An easier question would be “what has been easy for the industry?” There has always been a price for businesses in other industries and then there is an INFLATED price for a business in the cannabis industry, which includes begging for bank accounts, to significant differences between state regulations, to the price of a warehouse.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
Perseverance, surrounding myself with great people, checking egos at the door (they don’t help any situation!) and ensuring employees are happy and the company culture matches our long-term goals.
As a woman in cannabis, do you feel that you are at an advantage or a disadvantage (or both) and why?
Major advantage, period, in my opinion! I worked with men my entire career; I don’t really take gender into account when running my current business. The effectiveness and integrity of the individual is what I am interested in.
What is an accomplishment you have achieved in this industry that you are most proud of?
While I’m just getting started here at iAnthus, when I was at MPX, it was my dream to offer stock options to all our employees, which at our peak, was approximately 250 people. I have become successful in this industry by making sure I communicate and understand every trimmer, cultivator and janitor. This creates a sense of “ownership” that is hard to replicate any other way. The satisfaction in positively changing lives of individuals in need of healthy alternatives and families that work for our awesome company is elating.