310 MINISODE Sheri Orlowitz: A Canna-Biz Investing High
Women Innovating Networking Growing Scaling – that’s WINGS … I’m Melinda Wittstock, my mission is to help women take flight to soar to the success of our dreams in business and in life– and create and grow businesses in alignment with our passion and purpose.
On this special advice Minisode of Wings of Inspired Business … we talk about a huge new opportunity for health and wealth … canna-biz. That’s right the massive CBD, hemp and legal marijuana markets. And with it the challenges – legal and otherwise – including a need for a massive mindset shift for those who have been used to operating illegally. We talk about what is required to entrepioneer in a new industry – grit, perseverance, dreaming big.
Here with us today to provide her insights and inspiration is …
Sheri is a modern day renaissance woman and as founder of Artemis Holdings she’s raised many millions in capital for leveraged buyouts in the M&A space. Now she’s moved into the cannabis space, and is raising money for a Venture Capital fund for the CBD and marijuana markets.
Sheri has so many honors it’s hard to know where to start: Leading Entrepreneur of the World award; the INC 5,000; 50 Most Influential Minorities in Business; WPO Business Star; Pioneering Women in Sustainability; and Enterprising Woman of the Year.
She truly IS a modern day renaissance woman, and as founder of Artemis Holdings Group, Washington, D.C.-based private investment firm Sheri has more than 3 decades experience with mergers & acquisitions, investing and executive leadership worldwide.
Today, her portfolio focuses on small, medium, and emerging businesses with a focus on the cannabis industry and developing in Opportunity Zones.
It’s somewhat ironic that this leading influencer in the fast-growing cannabis space is a former Justice Department prosecutor! It’s a unique calling card because Sheri has at her fingertips all the knowledge and connections to make sure her cannabis clients and investors are properly organized to meet federal and state compliance regulations.
To date Sheri has raised an excess of $100 million to build, acquire, and sell a dozen companies in the manufacturing, professional services, and real estate industries – with revenues ranging from $6 million to $150 million. Most recently, she secured equity commitments of $8.5 million for a cultivation and dispensary license, $2.5 million for a well-known SaaS company, and $7.5 million for a $45 million multi-family housing project.
She sits on countless boards including the Harvard University Women's Leadership Board, National Women’s History Museum, Enterprising Women Magazine, Capital One, MassMutual, Connected Living, Brilliant Factory, the Marijuana Policy Project and Women Grow.
She also founded the Orlowitz-Lee Children’s Advocacy Center for sexually abused children and safe haven for trafficking victims.
Melinda Wittstock: Sheri, welcome to Wings.
Sheri Orlowitz: Thank you, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: It's so great to have you on and I always want to start our advice Minisodes with what is inspiring you right now.
Sheri Orlowitz: Well I have the good fortune to be involved in the birth of a new industry, specifically cannabis. And it is absolutely amazing, both the people I met, the jobs that I get involved with, and the prospects for health and wealth.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, isn't that great when health and wealth combine? And it is exciting, “cannabiz”, what got you into that business to begin with?
Sheri Orlowitz: Well I was a federal prosecutor, so I understand the regulatory scheme pretty well. And I had the mindset of a federal prosecutor when I was first approached. And I spent time working with women owned businesses, and a woman came up to me, and this was the second approach, and said, “My daughter is in the landscaping business, and she wants to raise six to eight million dollars. Can you help her?” And I said, “Well, here's my card.” And the daughter called maybe two weeks later. And by the end of the conversation, the landscaping business did indeed exist, and it was extremely profitable, but the expansion was to get a medical license in Maryland to both grow, cultivate, and process, and dispense cannabis. This was back in 2013 or 2014, I can't remember which, or maybe even 2015. It's a blur.
And I said, “Why not?” And so I spent the next three weeks writing a business plan, and I actually was able to get commitments for eight and a half million dollars. And she was one 15 recipients out of close to 150 applications for a cannabis license in growing and dispensing. So-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, how exciting.
Sheri Orlowitz: That was that. Well, that is what happened and from there I didn't jump in, but I did do some very select and very interesting projects. And most recently, within the last two months, I decided that I was going to go full-time into the cannabis business.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness. So there have got to be challenges. I mean, there always are for all entrepreneurs in all businesses, and at all stages, and in all ways. What are some of yours right now?
Sheri Orlowitz: The challenges in the cannabis business are probably more than most businesses; the business is illegal. People who inhabit the business, some of them, have illegal mindsets, not because they're bad people, but they did function in the industry before we had state legality. And the mindset of those people doesn't follow the normal course or practices. So-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness, I can only imagine.
Sheri Orlowitz: Yeah, well, imagine, because some of it has happened to me, and I have to tell you I've learned a lot in making sure that I'm covered seven ways to Sunday, for example.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, so give us one example of a bit of a mindset shift that's required, say with some of the participants in this industry.
Sheri Orlowitz: They don't like to pay. If they can get out of paying …
Melinda Wittstock: That's a challenge.
Sheri Orlowitz: I mean, the biggest … the biggest of them, the most successful of them, it's really the mindset is very interesting. So you do the work, you have success, and they don't answer the phone after that.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, gosh, right, okay, so all that federal prosecutor stuff comes in handy. It's really interesting when you look back at your life and you see how maybe at the time you don't see how all the dots connect, but then suddenly your arrive at a certain point in your life, and it's like, ah, yes, that's why I was a federal prosecutor. Now I can bring all that skill, and now and also all your experience raising money, and doing buyouts, and selling companies, Sheri, I mean you're in the perfect place at the perfect time.
Sheri Orlowitz: I think it is, and you may know I'm a certified turn around professional, and I would say we're probably maybe a year to two away from the crash of a number of businesses in this industry, where a lot of people will have been investing, and they're going to want to get something out of it. So who knows?
But for me personally, among other things, I am trying to raise a venture capital fund in the industry. I'm in the process of crafting it now. And as you know, I'm sure, standing up the VC fund is not for the faint of heart, so to speak.
Melinda Wittstock: No, it's not, and yet there's so much opportunity. So along the way, in your distinguished career, I mean, you've done and achieved so many things, what are the top three go to pieces of advice you have for women in business, female founders, entrepreneurs?
Sheri Orlowitz: One that is I think obvious, grit and persistence. It's a question of perspective, success is similar to seeing the glass half full, and what do I mean by that? I mean have a tendency to call something a failure that men call a success. So sometimes, it is just a question of turning something on its head to realize that you really had a success, even if it wasn't exactly how you started out.
And a quick example, I told you the story of raising money for a family and winning a license, and all of that good stuff. Well, then I had to hire a lawyer to collect the money. So I wasn't feeling too successful until I finally got the money.
The other thing I would say is when you're out raising: do not shut men out, because if you are out raising money, it is always, always good to understand that men have been dealing with men for 50 years. And as you know now, with the Me Too movement, there is both a backlash and a forward trajectory. And sometimes when I go out to raise, I would take my CFO, who's a man, which just is very helpful because four out of five groups that I see when I go out to raise are men. And that's the reality. And some people get angry with me when I say it, but the truth of the matter is, people just are more comfortable with people that look like them.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, why not use everything you can to your advantage?
Sheri Orlowitz: That's exactly right. Don't be too proud. Because you're out there trying to make something work, and sometimes it takes a lot of different things.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what's your third piece of advice?
Sheri Orlowitz: I always say what you can conceive, you can achieve. So dream big, and hold onto your dreams.
Melinda Wittstock: This is … oh my goodness, so, so true. We joke on this podcast that if you want business growth you've got to grow as a person as well. That personal growth and business growth are one and the same.
Sheri Orlowitz: Absolutely. I can't … I've gotten more grit and integrity than I care to think about, but I've paid for it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Exactly. So Sheri, how can people find you and work with you, anybody out there with a great cannabis business, raising money, or in any other way?
Sheri Orlowitz: Well, I love to help women grow their business, and usually growth involves getting growth capital, which is something I excel at. You can find me at ArtemisHoldings.com, Artemis like the goddess Artemis, A-R-T-E-M-I-S. Holdings with an S dot com. Or just by name into LinkedIn.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Sheri Orlowitz: It's been a delight.