Beth Stavola Is Not Your Typical Jersey Shore Cannabis Mogul
How a former Wall Street investor and mom of six has built a massive marijuana business.
Beth Stavola's voice trembles as she recounts the time she became the only woman in New Jersey to win a cannabis license.
"Having my daughter's see me come in number one in our home state of New Jersey is my proudest moment because the whole story really came full circle," she says.
Stavola is a Jersey Shore mom of six kids, five daughters, and one son. She's not the typical person that comes to mind when you think about multimillion-dollar cannabis entrepreneurs. Before cannabis, Stevola worked on Wall Street as senior vice president of institutional equity sales at Jefferies and Company, now the world's fifth-largest investment bank.
After that, she retired for a few years, making one-off investments for her family. Her deal broker asked her if she wanted to invest $1 million in cannabis in Arizona. At the time, it was a scary decision, but she went for it. Now she runs one of the most successful cannabis MSOs.
Stavola sat down to talk with me about her proudest moments, lessons she's learned after operating in cannabis for a decade, and the legacy she wants to leave behind.
On her retirement to Green Street
"My biggest concern back then was how others would view me. Would I be viewed as the "pot mom," and would my daughters be ostracized because of my new profession? But, I jumped two feet first," Stavola says.
Stavola operated three locations in Arizona. When Nevada passed medical marijuana in 2014, she applied for licenses and won three.
By 2017, she had built a multi-million-dollar portfolio, which she sold to a Canadian company later known as MPX Bioceutical through a reverse takeover and joined the company to run its US operations. After going public, Stavola continued to build MPX into a strong company through several Massachusetts, Maryland, and Arizona purchases.
Her story then came back to New Jersey, where Stavola holds her license to grow, manufacture, and sell cannabis.
Creating ownership and incentive
Stavola says that one of the smartest things Jefferies did, was to make employees owners in the company. "It taught me when you make your employees owners of the company, it's a different feeling and drive," she says. "At MPX, it was important to me that I was able to give all the employees some ownership in the company, from custodial staff to trimmers, all got some stock options."
That policy created an environment where the company felt like family, a "living and breathing entity," where everyone worked together to make the company better and more valuable. Stavola felt a palpable excitement from employees about the brand, which created better productivity and lowered her turnover rate, which is expensive for a business.
According to a Work Institute study, a shocking 42 million US employees left their jobs voluntarily in 2019—27 percent of the workforce. That turnover has costs in hiring, training, onboarding, lost productivity, and potentially a negative cultural impact.
Says Stavola, "When we created the contrate brand, MPX, now a top-ten brand, we included the employees through a simple competition. I asked the employees to come up with a name for the new brand, and the person who came up with the best name won a cash prize. Someone came up with Melting Point Extracts that we shortened to MPX and eventually called the entire company MPX."
The art of negotiation and management
You can't build a multi-million dollar company from the ground up without negotiating and managing people well. Stavola pulls lessons both from her decade in the business and as a mother of six.
"I'm always negotiating, whether it's with teenagers and millennials on what they can and cannot do during Covid-19 to negotiating large multimillion-dollar contracts," she says.
Additionally, she manages people with what she sees as one of her best qualities: "extreme calmness." As a business owner and mother, she's often approached with what feels like a crisis or high-stress situation and has to assess how big it is. She says that she can dive into what the problem is, and if it is an emergency, stay calm while keeping one foot in front of the other.
Building a legacy
Stavola's journey made a full circle in 2018 when she won one of the current 12 licenses in New Jersey as the only woman-owned business in the entire state. For her, it was one of her proudest moments and a highlight of her career.
At the beginning of her cannabis journey, she felt afraid of what would happen to her career, and most importantly, her family. Then, coming in number one in New Jersey with her daughters looking up at her with pride is a moment she will cherish forever.
The reality is that women-owned businesses only make up a small share of the entire cannabis industry, according to a 2019 report by MJBiz Daily.
"My daughters looked at me and how I came into New Jersey as you know, just a bad ass women-owned, women-operated, minority-owned business, and I think that was probably my proudest moment," she says.
While Stavola is currently on the lookout for new opportunities, she hopes that her work in cannabis, and victory in New Jersey, inspires her daughters to push themselves to achieve great things. And that other women who have been contemplating jumping into the still-growing cannabis industry follow her lead.