SPX3,585.62-54.85 -1.51%
DIA287.30-4.91 -1.68%
IXIC10,575.62-161.89 -1.51%

'Write Checks To Women': GTII's Wendy Berger At Benzinga Cannabis Conference On How To 'Elevate Women' In The Industry

Wendy Berger has been a board member of Green Thumb Industries Inc. (OTC: GTII) since 2015 and is one of the pioneers among women leaders in the cannabis industry.

Benzinga · 09/13/2022 12:25

Wendy Berger has been a board member of Green Thumb Industries Inc. (OTC:GTII) since 2015 and is one of the pioneers among women leaders in the cannabis industry. Berger was a keynote speaker at Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference in Chicago, the largest cannabis finance conference in the world. She was interviewed by Scott Greiper founder and president of Viridian Capital Advisors, one of the earliest financial and strategic advisory firms in the cannabis sector.

Berger explained how she got into the cannabis industry, the challenges for women and their potential.

Here is how Berger answered Greiper's first question, which was how can cannabis companies include more women in the industry.

From Chaos Comes Opportunity

Before becoming a cannabis executive, Wendy worked in sales leasebacks, construction and real estate. This experience contributed to the physical expansion of a new industry in terms of infrastructure, retail, and manufacturing, literally creating the industry from the ground up.

“I have always been a casual consumer of cannabis, I love my cannabis the way I like my Martinis although these days I drink almost nothing (...) I had the opportunity to go to my first dispensary about 17 years ago in California. At that moment I thought of various opportunities, I am a serial entrepreneur and from chaos comes an opportunity for those who have the vision to see through the chaos,” Berger said.

“Standing in the dispensary I saw the chaos and the opportunity. As a real estate operator I have built food manufacturing facilities like meat processing and it struck me that there would be a lot in common between food manufacturing facilities and cannabis cultivation, things like mechanical systems, wastewater disposal, temperature stabilization, and I thought I could be a strategic investor,” Berger added.

“If we look at the percentage of expenses in real estate which is in many cases 10% to 20% in occupancy costs, having a real estate lease, I make my money on the buy, and if I look at the cannabis industry, particularly at this moment in time, if you think about making your money on the buy, I think we are in a great time for that,” she continued.

Greiper concurred with Berger: “Over the last 4-5 months we have been receiving calls from large buy-side players that haven't been in this industry. There is a common thread on the buy side, that the industry has been so beaten up, and undervalued, that the price points, and the entry points are starting to become attractive for these institutional players. It is always on the buy side that we make money.”

Women In The Cannabis Industry

Berger argued that one of the main problems for onboarding women into the industry is the lack of business networks.

“One of the most important things we can do is introduce women in our networks whether you are private or public [company]. I keep a spreadsheet of women who can and want to serve on the boards of publicly traded companies. The pool of incredibly talented women is enormous and we need to open our networks. The other thing I think we all need to do is write checks to women. That is how we elevate women in this industry and this is not out of the goodness of our hearts. The stock outcomes for publicly traded companies led by women are significantly better,” Berger said.

“Over the past three years, I have invested in seven female-founded and led companies and there are more worthy of investment. Pure Beauty is a California brand that is scaling nationally, part of my lens for investing has been brands that have the potential to scale across the US,” Berger continued.

“Traditionally women have not had access to capital networks. Think about the fundamentals of investing in women (...) and meet these women. This is a great opportunity,” Berger concluded.