In our latest interview, Ganjapreneur heard from Chloe Villano, a serial entrepreneur from Colorado and founder of the nation’s first state-licensed cannabis university, Clover Leaf University. Chloe’s cannabis business expertise goes well beyond that, however: she’s also a widely-recognized and acclaimed marijuana business consultant with Clover Leaf Consulting and the founder of the Cannabis Business Awards. Through her consulting, Chloe has been working around the nation to establish leading compliance measures that have been recognized throughout the U.S.
“I believe it’s not just the education itself but how you teach it that is important.”
In this interview, Chloe discusses the tragic circumstances that opened her eyes to the world of medical cannabis, the implications of legalization efforts around the country, and describes many of the classes and services offered through her unique Clover Leaf brand.
Read the full interview below:
Ganjapreneur: Hi Chloe, thanks for being with us today! So, what initially brought you to the cannabis industry?
Chloe Villano: I was living and working on the east coast when I received a call from my mother that my little brother, one of the people I loved the most in this entire world was dying of cancer. I moved back to my home state of Colorado and a friend of mine who was an ER Doctor, told me to give him cannabis. I said, “He’s only 15?” He said, “Chloe, trust me and give it to him.” This is when I began to look at the plant differently. I learned so much about the cannabis plant and how effective it could be in treating cancer. My brother unfortunately lost his fight, and I was set on finding the cure. The oldest of six children, I didn’t want to leave my mother alone so I moved back to Colorado. While I was back in Colorado, I started working with an amazing business attorney as his right hand paralegal. We started receiving a tidal wave of business during the medical marijuana boom in 2009. I was knee deep in the first legislation working with the Department of Revenue and various other agencies. We became so inundated with clients that he could no longer handle the insane volume, as the law office was also a huge title firm and he didn’t want to jeopardize his business. There were so many people in need of education and assistance, literally hundreds. Every government agency, attorneys, and soon to be business owners wanted to speak to me. Growers were coming from all over the nation to meet me to see if I could help them start a legitimate business. It was then, on the anniversary of my late brother’s birth June 28, 2010, that I started my consulting firm, Clover Leaf, LLC.
What events led to the founding of Clover Leaf University?
I founded Clover Leaf University in 2012 after holding educational classes since 2009. I had so many clients that I was navigating through this complex and highly regulated system and there were so many legalities as we transitioned. I was putting my clients in groups and holding classes to assist with paperwork, procedures, and much more. The demand was so high, and there was a lack of education, training, and information. The classes became so popular I decided to write the first real industry business compliance and training system and received full approval from the Department of Higher Education’s private occupational school board.
Give us a taste of the classes the University offers. Which courses have proven to be most popular with legalization spreading as quickly as it is?
We offer 25 Stand Alone Course Certifications and 5 Full Program Certifications including responsible vendor training, and continued legal education credits for legal professionals. We will have online classes fully launched by the end of 2015 and have applied for multiple levels of academic accreditation. The best selling classes are Compliance Regulation, Cultivation, Budtending, and Dispensary Management. We will be launching over 30 new classes soon that are detailed product development classes for growing, extraction, E-pens etc.
Has there been very much interest expressed abroad in the University’s current classes?
We are working on an international platform that is next level. I believe it’s not just the education itself but how you teach it that is important.
It’s given me little time off and now I am working on a national level through State by State Educational Platforms. My consulting firm Clover Leaf Consulting (cannabisbusinessinfo.com) is setting up businesses all over the united states and we are writing educational programs for various regulatory agencies.
Could you briefly elaborate on the work your consulting firm does?
My consulting firm holds educational events, symposiums, and conferences for business owners, business professionals, and legislators.
What is your proudest moment as part of this industry?
That moment for me was the day we legalized marijuana in Colorado with the passing of Amendment 64 in November of 2012.
What has been Clover Leaf University’s biggest obstacle so far?
Switching from medicinal to social use cannabis has been a challenge for Colorado as we implement training for both medical, recreational, and dual licensed facilities. I think the Colorado legislature has done a remarkable job making the transition as smooth as possible for these businesses. A lot more work remains to be done and it’s critical that we keep the medical marijuana market intact.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to aspiring ganjapreneurs hoping to make it in the cannabis industry?
Know what you’re in for and really think about it. It is not for everyone and is extremely different than you might imagine. Mass scale regulated cultivation facilities are much different than a small grow in a closet. A regulated dispensary takes a lot of paperwork and attention to detail. Not knowing the rules can and will hurt you. If your getting into the business you need to be properly funded, ready to work hard, and may face adversity from your competition. Stay strong and believe in yourself. No one remembers anyone who gave up. Be prepared! That is something many of us did not have the time for! Don’t operate out of fear and contribute to creating a healthy industry. Greed will ruin it. There is a lot of talent, products, investments, and much more being brought to the table at this point. Make sure you keep a pure heart as there is a spiritual aspect to cannabis. Many who disrespect this component are not successful in the business. It is something that is almost hard to explain but very real.
Thanks so much for taking time to do this interview with us, Chloe, and for sharing your insights about the growth of the cannabis industry! Best of luck in all your current and future endeavors.