"Listen as well as teach, and learn as well as lead. Be open to the unique and innovative ideas your employees have to offer, regardless of their position. Most importantly, always stay compliant. Don’t skirt any “gray” lines."
As a part of my series about “the 5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business ”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Demetri Kouretas. Demetri Kouretas brings his extensive experience working in a regulated business for over 15 years and has been an entrepreneur for over 25 years. Mr. Kouretas has business executive experience in real estate, gaming and hospitality. Since inception of TGIG, Mr. Kouretas has served as the Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Director overseeing the Company’s success in securing six cannabis licenses. He has been the primary driver in shaping the Company’s vision and culture and plays an integral part in the TGIG’s expansion strategy. Mr. Kouretas is actively involved in the various philanthropy, including Make-A-Wish-Foundation, American Cancer Society, St, Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Discovery Children’s Museum.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with the ‘backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis space?
I’m an entrepreneur by nature. Throughout my career I’ve been able to successfully build a variety of businesses from the ground up ranging from gaming, hospitality and real estate investments. As it became apparent that cannabis would become a legal industry, I wanted to take on the challenge of building a business in an unpaved industry where I could set a standard and possibly change the perception of cannabis. When the opportunity to be a part of The Grove came about I could not turn it down.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Where to begin! I decided to jump into the cannabis industry since its inception in Nevada in 2015. I have been a part of the evolution of this highly regulated industry since the beginning, so I definitely have my share of interesting stories.
One day, toward the beginning of my venture with The Grove, I received letters from three different banking institutions regarding my bank accounts. I was completely shocked when I was informed all of my personal and business accounts were being closed due to my position as CEO of a cannabis company. I was aware of the risks, but it was still surprising to have it happen.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Mistakes are bound to happen in any industry, but the challenge in the cannabis industry was that rules and regulations were continuously changing at the beginning. During that time I assumed that the banking situation would iron itself out or that there would be an alternative option for the industry. Looking back, I do laugh, but I learned to be prepared for anything.
Luckily, I already had a great accounting team and they quickly became experts in running a cash-only business.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Absolutely. Like most cannabis owners, our goal is to grow. This may include expansion, merges, and even acquisitions.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful to be able to work with John Ritter, one of my main partners. He is a real estate mogul and land developer here in Nevada, and also has deep, respected political ties. We’ve worked together closely throughout the entire process of building The Grove and I consider him a close friend.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
We live in a world driven by social media, which requires a large presence. Because it’s a dynamic and creative industry, it’s important to think outside the box and focus on fun energy and innovative design. At The Grove, we also aim to keep the atmosphere and culture positive and enjoyable.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
The cannabis industry is exciting because it’s new and unpaved. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a new challenge, but also an opportunity to help set a standard in an industry that will only keep growing. It’s also a chance to learn as you grow, and I look forward to discovering new things that will help me improve business. Lastly, there is unlimited potential in this industry. Cannabis is becoming more and more accepted throughout the country and it’s motivating to think of what the future holds.
It also can be concerning to be a part of this industry. Federally, cannabis is still illegal, which creates a lot of uncertainty for business owners. There’s potential for cannabis to be federally legalized in the future, but that creates a worry as to what would happen to the industry. Would there be a complete change in the industry when it comes to things like regulations and licensing? Ultimately, the most pressing concern at the moment is banking. Businesses in the industry have learned to work around banking issues, but being a cash-based business comes with its own worries. It would be great to have some resolution when it comes to banking.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
There are a lot of lessons I learned the hard way:
- Starting a cannabis business will consume your time and life. As an entrepreneur, I was aware businesses are time consuming, but The Grove took things to another level.
- Self-educating and constant awareness of the ever-changing policies, regulations and compliance is required. Not keeping yourself informed can lead to losses for your business.
- Hire an in-house team member to focus on compliance. Staying on top of the ever-changing rules and regulations is crucial and demands time and attention. You can avoid any oversights and keep the rest of your team focused on their specific tasks by having a compliance manager.
- Your personal life will be turned upside down financially. For example, having your personal and business bank accounts closed due to being involved in the cannabis industry.
- There’s a negative stigma placed upon you for having a profession in the cannabis industry. For example, not being positively received at my children’s school due to my cannabis profession.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
My advice to fellow CEO’s and entrepreneurs would be: Listen as well as teach, and learn as well as lead. Be open to the unique and innovative ideas your employees have to offer, regardless of their position. Most importantly, always stay compliant. Don’t skirt any “gray” lines.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
We have the opportunity to help change the medical field to offer a healthy medicinal alternative and potentially lower opioid addiction and overdoses. I’ve seen the medical benefits personally and truly stand behind them. The medical side may be small in proportion to cannabis sales as a whole, but to even help one individual is worth it all.
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