The Point Seven Group (Point7), led by Ashley Picillo, was voted by Greenway readers as the best general application consultant in the industry in 2019. Green-way spoke with industry veteran Picillo about their work – which was tied to 40 successful licenses in Missouri. Prior to becoming involved with the cannabis industry, Picillo earned her B.S. degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University in Boston, MA—her hometown. She knew from a very young age she wanted to own and operate a business someday.
“Shortly after college, I took a hiatus from the business world and joined Teach For America, an organization committed to providing students with an excellent education, regardless of socioeconomic status. I taught on the North Shore of Hawaii for two years and it was truly one of the most challenging (and best) experiences of my life. While teaching, I earned my Master’s degree in Education—a skill-set I rely heavily on every single day in my role as CEO and as a consultant in this space.“After teaching for two years, I returned to New York City, where I had lived prior to working for Teach For America. I was offered a role as the VP of Business Operations for a leading charter school organization, but the role was not set to start for six months.”
“For the first time since I was 12 or 13, the age when I started working, I had ‘downtime’ and wasn’t entirely sure what to do with that. I de-cided to head out to Colorado, where I had some family and through a strange series of events wound up connected with a few professionals in the cannabis space. One of these professionals, Meg Sanders, was rebranding her company at the time and, as part of that effort, wanted to host a career fair. I was hired to execute this event and after a few crazy months of planning and coordi-nating, I hosted one of the first cannabis career fairs, complete with 40+ compa-nies and a few thousand people. When the event came to an end, Meg offered me a role in her growing business, I turned down the position I had not yet started in New York and so began my cannabis career. The role evolved rap-idly over the next 18 months and soon I had my hands in a little bit of everything — from marketing, branding, social me-dia, product launches, distribution, retail strategy, extraction optimization, culti-vation strategy, and compliance. It was the ultimate cannabis crash course and while it was incredibly difficult at times, it gave me the skill set, and confidence, to start Point7.”
”Application consulting is a heavy role and Point7 was one of the few national consulting groups to have major success in the state. Nightmares of dropped cli-ents and copy and pasted applications riddled applicant groups. Greenway asked Picillo what drew her to such a heavy role.“Honestly, I think it was my business background fused with the teaching experience drew me to application con-sulting,” Picillo said. “Point7 truly grew out of my passion for startups and my love of people and collaboration. And yes — it is a heavy role. Days can be very long and the work is demanding. That said, consulting keeps the work diverse and interesting. No two projects or engage-ments are the same and each client team’s approach to this exciting work keeps us charged up and motivated to continue growing and working hard. As we enter into our fifth year, I’ve person-ally begun pivoting into a few interesting joint ventures, allowing me to form new companies with awesome people in a handful of interesting markets.”
Point7 has grown organically in the last 4 (or more) years.
“I am a big believer in honing in on specific strengths and doing what you do really well, before expanding into other things,” Picillo said. “There are so many companies in the cannabis space—license holding and ancillary alike—that try to do too much, too fast. In an industry evolving as quickly as this one, it is really easy to fall victim to ‘shiny object syndrome,’ where you start pursuing initiatives that are intriguing, but outside of your true core competencies. I think this is an issue for most startups, but especially common in our space right now. I’ve certainly found myself barking up too many trees at the same time; it happens when you love what you do and want to keep learning! But the key to success (in my opinion) is really mastering your craft and building from a rock-solid foundation.“To that end, we have added a myriad of additional services over the past few years that make sense based on our core competencies and successes.”
Notably, Point7 now offers:
- Licensing Strategy + Application Development
- Post-Licensure Transition (“from paper to practice”)
- Brand Development + Marketing Strategy
- Staffing, Recruitment, and Training Services
- Post-Licensure, Joint Venture Part-nerships
- Financial Modeling + Investment Strategy
- Retail Design, Visual Merchandising, and Dispensary Operations Support
- Web Design
- Cultivation Strategy, Build-out, and Management Support
- Expansion Strategy
- Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Development + Implementation
With 3-4 times more applications filed than anyone expected in Missouri, a strong win rate is one that has everyone intrigued.
“We weren’t perfect in Missouri and I am the first to admit that,” Picillo said. “After carefully examining our client submissions, a few themes stood out to me (and our team). First, timing is everything. These submissions do not come together overnight. While we excel at application writing, it takes time to craft an authentic story that truly ties together the proposed business strategy, community efforts, and team behind these submissions. This involves collaboration with the client team throughout the entire process, and taking the time to piece everything together with care.“
“Second, application reviewers are human beings! Knowing your audience and finding ways to blend together technical sections with those that tell a compelling (and true!) story is imperative to winning these permits. Our clients who experienced the most success did not wait until the application came out to establish their vision, team, and brand—they entered into the process with a strong idea of who they wanted to be and what they were aiming to accomplish.”
Marijuana is a new industry nationally in the grand scheme of things – a perspective that makes Picillo and her team seasoned veterans. What advice does Picillow have for new licensees?
“I think my biggest pieces of advice are these:
- Do your homework; I’m sure most licensees are getting inundated with sales pitches, proposals, and a whole lot of emails. There is undoubtedly a lot to get done, but do your due diligence. There are some incredible companies and people out there ready to help you get off the ground successfully, but there are also some bad operators still lingering in the space. Do your research!
- Keep your eyes on the prize. It might be tempting to throw your hat in the ring in other markets coming online now that you’ve experienced success in Missouri, but focus on learning the ropes and crushing it, here in Missouri. The opportu-nities to scale and expand will be there in 6 or 12 months. Focus on excellence be-fore you aim to move into new markets and when you do, be cognizant of how new markets and pursuits will stretch your existing team.
- Be patient as you explore investors and financing options. Have a strong lawyer on your side of the table every step of the way, and be mindful of pred-atory practices or language in operating agreements that aren’t favorable to you in the long run. And if you’re not sure — ask for help. Some of the decisions made in the first 90 days post-licensure will have permanent, long term implications for you and your business. It is worth it to invest in legal counsel, consultants, and a strong accountant so that you’re setup for long-term success.
Even though the application work is technically over – the work Point7 was recognized by Greenway readers as be-ing the best in the industry – Picillo’s work in Missouri is not over.”
“We’re actively looking to work with innovative teams here in Missouri that are getting off of the ground,” Picillo said. “If you’re looking for support, come talk to us. Of everything that Point7 has accom-plished over the last four years, I am most proud of the strong culture our team developed, and maintained, together as the business has grown. We truly view our clients as an extension of our team and aim to forge long-term relationships with our clients. You can expect an honest and transparent process; we’ll be direct with you about what you need, don’t need, and should be considering. Give us a call, shoot me an email and we’ll gladly hop on the phone with you or grab a coffee to learn more about you and your vision and goals.”
What’s next for you and Point7?
“So many things! 2020 is off to an exciting start. We are still teaching a series of courses in conjunction with the Massa-chusetts Cannabis Control Commission and the state’s rising social equity pro-gram. We’re actively seeking strong part-ners in Massachusetts and are organizing our efforts in New York. Beyond that, we’ve hired a few new faces who have exceptional backgrounds and even better personalities who are excited to continue supporting some wonderful people and teams right here in Missouri. The future is bright and 2020 is off to the races!”
“A huge congratulations to all of the new licensees! Let the adventure continue!”
How Can Point Seven Group Help?
The team of cannabis consultants and professionals at Point Seven Group have worked extensively in the U.S. and international cannabis markets and are familiar with the unique challenges of the cannabis industry. Follow us on social media to stay up to date with more cannabis industry updates!
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