For Peregrade Ventures’ managing director and chief financial officer Jackie Cahan, the decision to enter the cannabis industry in 2021 was part of a life-driven aspiration to “embrace the medical benefits of the plant” after giving up alcohol as a coping mechanism during the thick of COVID.

“I find it serendipitous that I found the cannabis startup,” says the 30-year finance and hospitality industry veteran.

Peregrade Ventures is a Chicago-based family office investor with multiple cannabis startups in its portfolio. Cahan these days is paying particular attention to logistics technology startup 240L, which has a team of industry veterans looking to create a foundation for supply chain distribution in cannabis. 

In this week’s Careers in Cannabis Columnwe learn how Cahan leverages networks cultivated in previous industries to build new systems in cannabis, as well as what surprised her the most upon entering the sector.

Also in this newsletter, we share an incremental update on veterans rights as they pertain to unencumbered information and access to medical marijuana in Veterans Administration settings.

Cahan onstage at Benzinga’s 2023 Cannabis Capital Conference.

Grown In: What inspired you to join a cannabis startup? 

Jackie Cahan: COVID was a challenging time for me, as it was for many women. Balancing the responsibilities of parenting, a demanding full-time job, and the uncertainty of life weighed heavily on me. Like many, I resorted to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

However, after a year of a downward spiral, I made a life-altering decision to quit drinking and explore the potential benefits of cannabis. I found myself deeply intrigued by the medicinal properties of this plant, which not only possess the power to heal but also help me break free from the grip of alcohol. 

I find it serendipitous that I found a cannabis startup, and I believe it played a pivotal role in saving my life. I feel lucky to have found a company that is rooted in the wellness of cannabis. The flexibility of a startup permits me to pivot, research a path not taken, and move an entire nascent industry forward. With forward-thinking women entering cannabis, we will remove the stigma that plagues cannabis to this day. 

Grown In: How do you leverage skills and networks you developed at previous stops in your career within your work today? 

Jackie Cahan: Business is built on networks. These networks encompass not only vendors and customers, but also individuals who share a common vision and purpose. Throughout my fulfilling 30-year career, I’m lucky to have spent it predominantly working within the hospitality industry.

Please note the sub-word, Hospital in hospitality — we take care of people. You are only as good as the people that support you. From engaging with forward-thinking insurance agents who provide insurance to a nascent industry to accountants who understand the importance of detailed information such as SKUS, it takes a village, and I leverage them all. 

Grown In: Can you share the biggest surprises you encountered earlier in your cannabis journey that you’d like others to be aware of ahead of time? 

Jackie Cahan: Cannabis is still a nascent industry, and many people have entered this industry because of their entrepreneurial spirit. Among our customer base, you’ll find a significant number of “mom and pop” establishments that view this industry as a promising avenue towards achieving the quintessential American dream – owning and operating their own businesses.

What surprises me daily is that more solid business practices are not deployed. Things like proper payables packages, (purchase orders, receiving reports, and an invoice), STOCK KEEPING UNITS, and good old ACCOUNTING ticking and tying are best practices that all industries must comply with. The Cannabis industry is no exception. 

Grown In: Where do you see the most interesting professional opportunities within the commercial cannabis industry? 

Jackie Cahan: The cannabis industry presents a wealth of opportunities just waiting to be seized. I see many people fulfilling their dreams in this industry, from plant growers (hemp house plants, anyone?) to ancillary professions such as pre-inspection audits for license holders. It’s an industry where you can be anything you want when you grow up. It just takes some ingenuity and grit! 

Grown In: As a CFO, how do you quantify culture as you and your teammates build enterprise value in your startup? 

Jackie Cahan: We evaluate our business through the lens of people, processes, and technology. The latter two support the people, but they do not replace them. I say every day, ACES IN PLACES. 

When you are in the right place and job, your daily output exceeds normal function. When your company enters a flow state, you can measure the progress through KPIs and metrics, but there is also a palatable buzz that accompanies flow. The engine is humming, if you will. 

I believe in the community of a team, I believe in the community of being together in a shared space (yes, we office together), and I believe in putting people in a position where they will excel and lift everyone around them up. I quantify culture by low turnover for certain and a high happiness quotient, but also by walking around the office and listening deeply for the buzz of FLOW – the noise that enlightens me about people doing good work.

Confirmed Attendees for 1871 Cannabis Innovation Lab Kickoff on Nov. 16th a Who’s Who of the Cannabis Community

Several dozen stakeholders committed to advancing the cause of commercial cannabis will convene in-person in Chicago and virtually for the Cannabis Innovation Lab Community Kick Off on November 16 from 2pm to 6pm CST.

The event will begin with a panel conversation focused on funding and public-private partnerships in the cannabis sector featuring Michael Sachaj of Hyde Park Angels, Lisa Evia of SeedFund Capital and Ameya Pawar of the Economic Security Project and OKAY Cannabis.

Confirmed attendees include representatives from Curaleaf, Cresco Labs, Hyde Park Angels, Aon, Canopy, Marimed, NOBO, SeedCap Fund, 4Front, Fiserv, Treez, Denton’s, OKAY Cannabis, Nu Era Cannabis, Discovery Partners Institute, Chicago Booth, State of Illinois Division of Cannabis Regulation, Illinois State Policy, and dozens of others.

Register below to join our movement. 

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Brad Spirrison is a journalist, serial entrepreneur and media ecologist. He lives in Chicago with his son. Interests include music, meditation and Miles Davis.