Cannacurio Podcast Episode 29 with Lisa Jordan of Canna Advisors

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In the latest episode of the Cannacurio Podcast from Cannabiz Media, my co-host, Amanda Guerrero, and I discuss cannabis licenses from Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Colorado as well as 2020 trend data. We also speak with Lisa Jordan, VP of Marketing for Canna Advisors, a cannabis industry consulting company that helps cannabis entrepreneurs win licenses and grow their businesses.

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Cannacurio Podcast Episode 29 Transcript

Amanda Guerrero: Welcome to the Cannacurio Podcast powered by Cannabiz Media. We’re your hosts, Amanda Guerrero and Ed Keating. As you all can see, we are now coming to you live with a video. We’ve decided to make some changes to the show here in 2021, one of them being bringing our voices and our faces together as one.

Today’s show is going to be a lot of fun. We’ve got Lisa Jordan from Canna Advisors. She’s their VP of marketing and one of our loyal subscribers. As always, I’m joined by my lovely co-host Ed Keating who is our Chief Data Officer. And this is our first show of 2021. But as always, we’re going to check in with the data vault. Ed, what have we learned this week?

Ed Keating: So in terms of the data vaults, few interesting things happened through the month of January and even late December. So Rhode Island, to many people’s surprise, is issuing new dispensary licenses. And they may be issuing up to six.

The interesting thing there is sort of how they’re going to charge and pay for it, so we’re keeping an eye on that. They released to list Christmas Eve. And then, a few weeks later, they released the applications on a late Friday night. So we’ve been going through them and trying to get information about these applicants into the system.

We’ve also been creating a lot more Oklahoma companies as we go through all 9,000 or so licenses so that we can link all that information together. And then, we’re spending a lot of time refreshing Colorado data to make that more useful, easy to use, et cetera. So definitely a lot going on from the data team as we kicked off 2021.

Amanda Guerrero: Is that cannabis and hemp data from Colorado or just cannabis?

Ed Keating: The hemp data is sort of an ongoing set of updates. So it’s mostly the cannabis work that we’ve done to make sure that we have trade names aligned. And we’re also working to get more information on expiration dates, a little bit harder to find that. You have to dig deeper. But we’re working to make sure that we have that up-to-date so that we can share that with our customers, especially those who are trying to verify licenses when they expire with our verification APIs.

Amanda Guerrero: And I know last year, we talked extensively about the market growth within Oklahoma, California, and Michigan. Just want to see, any predictions? Do you think they’re still going to be our market leaders?

Ed Keating: Well, great point. I’m going to focus in on Oklahoma. So one of the blog posts I’m working on is to compare how many licenses were there on January 1, 2020, versus what have we found this year. And interestingly, it appears that there’s been a decline in the number of dispensaries in Oklahoma.

Amanda Guerrero: Really.

Ed Keating: And we’ve even netted this out that they renew their licenses with a lot of grace periods where they’ll let people go for a bit. But just even looking at the state information, it is a smaller number than it was despite them issuing a whole bunch of licenses last year.

So it’ll be interesting to keep an eye on those and see where they didn’t renew and whatnot. So it’ll be curious, I think maybe they’ve reached saturation point, and we may see licenses leveling instead of just increasing.

Amanda Guerrero: I’m pretty sure we predicted that Q1 2021 was going to be the point of saturation for Oklahoma.

Ed Keating: Of course, we did. Yes.

Amanda Guerrero: I’m pretty sure we did.

Ed Keating:

We’re prescient. I’m sure. No doubt about it.

Amanda Guerrero: Wonderful. Well, thanks so much for that update, Ed. As I mentioned, we’re going to be joined by Lisa Jordan, VP Marketing of Canna Advisors.

Lisa, hello, hello. Thank you for joining us as our first guest of 2021.

Lisa Jordan: Hi Amanda. Hi Ed. Happy to be here.

Amanda Guerrero: We’re so happy to have you. So tell us a little bit about yourself, Lisa. You’ve been with the Canna Advisors team for a few years now, and you’ve been within the industry for a few years. What would you say is the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned here in the space by either personal or professional?

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, and I think the personal and the professional overlap a good bit. And I’m in year four in cannabis after a long career in the corporate world. And the main thing I would say I’ve learned is there’s this friendly collaboration. In the corporate world, there’s only competition. There’s no friendly competition. It’s dog-eat-dog. It’s every person for themselves.

And what I’ve seen in cannabis is even if companies compete, there is this warm sense of collaboration and everybody working together with the same interests, which is bringing cannabis to more places across the country and bringing the plant to more people. So I really appreciate that element of working in this industry.

Amanda Guerrero: I love that. And especially to the comradery, I myself have also been in the industry for almost six years. It’ll be six years in March. But what I really appreciate is that I started my career kind of here within the cannabis space, and I didn’t really get… I’ve had some exposure to corporate environments. But nothing really as consistent as the professional experience I’ve had here.

And one of the things that I always, especially from recruiting, would always hear from candidates was that this industry is such a breath of fresh air and that there’s so much room for collaboration, for opportunity, for business, for new business ideas to grow simply because of the fact that we’re not afraid to put down our egos and to collaborate on and make something great.

Now, you just released your California guide. And I love the headline. It was, California Is Not Dead, right? Tell us a little bit more about that.

Lisa Jordan: The question we hear a lot is, “Is California still viable?” A lot of people look at the market. They have a lot of questions. They think there’s no room. And our answer is, ”Absolutely, it’s viable.” You have to be precise. You have to understand the data behind it. You have to understand all the intricacies of the state level and the local level and what we really advise people on what the guide says is really look at the local level.

At least 26 municipalities have some level of activity going on as we come into this new year. And so that’s really where the opportunity is, and it changes every day. So you’ve got to really stay on top of it.

Ed Keating: Yeah. The California market has been a fascinating one for Cannabiz Media. I know, when we first started getting the inkling that California was going to come online back in ’17, we had done a lot of research, and I think had gone through about all 535 jurisdictions at the time to figure out who had licenses, who didn’t.

And what we learned back then was a lot of places said, “We don’t want any licenses.” Actually, quite a large portion of California. So I think it’s interesting. And I think the report shows that more localities are starting to open up. Is that right?

Lisa Jordan: Right. That’s right.

Ed Keating: So in terms of how you can help people, it’s sort of a good segue from what I’ve learned over the years about Canna Advisors is that you offer a really broad array of services. Business strategies, strategic license application, SLPs, et cetera.

I’m kind of curious how has the mix changed because in the five and a half years that I’ve been in the industry, you get new states coming on board, just a lot of craziness, and let’s not forget COVID in 2020. So how has the mix of what you offer changed in these years?

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, the mix has really stayed constant in terms of where our sweet spot is and what we’re known for. And that’s really working with entrepreneurs as they’re starting to get into the industry. That’s as early as when states start to have some rumblings that there may be some legislative action.

And that’s really when we start working with clients, is those early exploration phases. Working on business plans and financial models, so that when the applications do become available, they’re ready, and they’re ahead of their competition. And then, we move into the license application phase. So that being our main focus and what we’re known for and where we have a lot of success has remained constant. The other pieces come in as our clients get up and running, then with more compliance…

Ed Keating: Sure.

Lisa Jordan: … and build-outs and those kinds of things. So definitely, work with clients across the spectrum of the phases of business. But our sweet spot is certainly in that early phase work.

Ed Keating: So Lisa, when you hear those rumblings in the state that somebody may be creating a new rec program or medical program. Do you pick the clients? Do the clients pick you? How does that happen?

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, that’s a good question. And we like to be on the ground early. We talked about Canna Advisors building the industry, and our founding partners involved as advocates and investors and entrepreneurs themselves. And so, the advocacy piece is really an early part of work. So when we hear those rumblings, we like to get on the ground, start being involved with the campaigns, with the leadership, with the communities.

For example, Jay Czarkowski, one of our founding partners, and I went to Mississippi about a year and a half ago while that campaign was unfolding. And we met with all of the campaign leads and really just with no agenda other than just being on the ground and helping share the advice and wisdom that Jay has seen throughout his years in the industry. So, that’s where we like to start. And then it just builds from there.

Ed Keating: Well, it’s interesting because what you’re talking about is something that we’ve talked a lot about on the pod in that, in some ways, you have all the attributes of a well-run MSO. You have operations or expertise in many states and markets. So when you come to Mississippi or wherever, you’ve been at it for a long time. I mean, Jay was on that first license in Boulder or whatever all those years ago. I mean, to have that longitudinal history of success in lots of markets and programs I imagine helps when you show up and start talking to the people running the programs on the ground.

Lisa Jordan: Right. We’ve just become their sounding board. And they say, “What if we try this or what have you seen work with this regulation or with this approach?” And so they’re all ears at that point. And that’s what we see is really helpful in shaping how things roll out.

Ed Keating: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, I was going to ask in terms of the other services that you offer, especially since we have Amanda with us is, what about recruitment and building the team as you start to figure out like, “Hey, the state is going to move ahead. Yes. They have license applications in the works. We know what they look like.” How early do you have to help people build these teams? And Amanda, you’ve come from this world. So I’d be curious as to your thoughts and expertise as well.

Lisa Jordan: One thing we see often is that our clients don’t understand just how early they have to start thinking about their team. And it’s a really vital element of that pre-license and pre-application phase. You can’t start once you get your license because if you don’t have your team in place, you’re probably not going to win your license. So that’s what we see as a surprising element for people who are just coming in for the first time, is that the structure of the team is vital and getting the right people into those positions is a very critical factor for success.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah, absolutely. That was one of the sweet spots that we, when I was working recruitment, that we had capitalized on, especially a few years back when new markets were coming online more frequently, and we were able to see businesses start prioritizing high-level recruits or really top-notch recruits to join their company and giving them incentives like, “Hey, sign an agreement with us. Start date isn’t for another six, 12 months, but we really want to lock you in. Here’s a bonus. Here’s something to entice you. Here’s a consulting agreement to keep you going with us,” because it is super competitive.

And that competition has not slowed down even with COVID in 2020. A lot of these… if you guys are listening, and you’re looking at applying for new markets, definitely start thinking about your recruitment strategy and how you want to build out your team, and what skill sets you need to identify or, and hire because it can make or break the success of your opening.

Lisa Jordan: Right. And I agree, Amanda. Competition for those really top talent is fierce. And when people are trying to find their director of cultivation or their CFO or the people who really make an impact [crosstalk 00:13:23]-

Amanda Guerrero: The people who really matter.

Lisa Jordan: Exactly, exactly. So where Canna Advisors really comes in as helping structure the team. Identifying gaps. Then here are the people you’ve got to have on day one. Here are the people who will help you win your license. And then we also have a sister recruiting company called H2 Talent that Jay Czarkowski is also involved in that really then helps find, even for that pre-application phase, the talent to plug into all of those critical roles.

Amanda Guerrero: Yeah. Now, I have a question about some of the markets that you had worked in previously. Over the last four years, would you say that there is a market or that you are specifically still involved with or continue to want to keep an eye on moving forward?

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, we’re coming up on 32 states that we’ve worked with. South Dakota and Mississippi are coming online. That clicks over to 32 states for us. So we worked all across plus some international areas as well. And when we look at everywhere we’ve worked, we like going back to markets where we were early on, like the East coast markets, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania. All of those markets where we had early success in the medical markets, and then they’re coming back with adult use, then we love to come back and continue those relationships.

Like last year in Missouri, for example. We worked with and won a record number of licenses in Missouri. So we definitely want to stay in that market. Stay in touch with those relationships that we’ve cultivated and developed. And then, as that state comes back and considers adult use, we definitely want to come back in and continue to be involved.

Ed Keating: Yeah. So, Lisa, you talked about some of the preparation of getting feet on the ground and really working with the stakeholders in the state. I’m curious if you could share what might make for an attractive market. Because from what we’ve seen, especially in the license schemes are very different. One of my favorite contrasts is that most of us know that to get a license in Oklahoma is about $2,500.

However, earlier in the pod, I mentioned that Rhode Island is putting licenses out there. And those go for approximately $500,000. And even more crazy, they had one plan where over 60% of the revenue would go to the state and then 20% to the operator and 10% to the town or something like that. So very different. So as you and your team look at it markets, what’s attractive and maybe what’s not attractive?

Lisa Jordan: Right. We have a phrase around the office, and of course, the number continues to change. But it’s 30 states, 30 sets of regulations, 30 sets of operating differences. And our answer is there’s a place for everybody. And it just depends on where your risk tolerance is, where your experience level is, where your level of capital is, and that’s really where we can help clients even before they become a full-fledged client.

We can do hourly consultations with people and really probe into those areas. What’s your capitalization? What’s your risk factor? And by looking at all of those elements, people can really find where they fit. So, for some people, that will be in markets that have no cap on licenses because of the way that operates, and for others, it’ll be in the super-competitive places like in Georgia, where there will be very few licenses offered at first. And it really just kind of depends on the objectives and the experience of the people that are involved.

Ed Keating: Yeah. Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense, and it’ll be interesting as more of these states and more of these programs mature, and we’ll be able to track how much does a license sell for it. We see what happens in Florida, which is a pretty amazing market where now, there’s approximately 300 dispensaries that have been issued by the few handfuls of licenses there, or New York State where there’s once again, 10 active licenses with four stores each, very small, versus Oklahoma.

And we’ve talked a little bit about Mississippi. I think you’ve got past connections to Mississippi. I’ve read that’s going to be a no license cap state, or at least one of the articles I saw. So I’ll be curious to see, and I imagine as you guys decide which markets to choose. Those limited ones, I would imagine, must be way more pressure.

Lisa Jordan: Right. There is more pressure. There’s more at stake. There’s more at risk. And when I just described where markets fit. And I was really thinking about from a client perspective. But when we look at some from Canna Advisors’ perspective, which markets do we work in? Yeah, it does vary whether it’s a competitive limited license state like Georgia or like so many others, in Missouri, or whether it’s like Mississippi and Oklahoma, where there will be no caps.

And you’re right, Ed, I do have a background in Mississippi. I grew up there. Went to undergrad and grad school there. And so I had a personal interest, and small as our team is, we’re about 20 plus people, we have two people from Mississippi on our team. So we’re rooting really hard to see that come through in a very conservative state.

But the work for us in those states without caps, like Mississippi, is not so much in the license application phase because our value isn’t really there for the level of service that would be required for competitive caps.

So what we do in those states without caps is work more on those super early phases of business plans and financial models – helping people understand, where is their opportunity? Where is their fit? And help them really shape their business for success. And then when they get to the application, they don’t need us for that. So we do provide value for the application is when it is highly limited, where there is a lot of competition, and that’s really where we help people figure out what’s your path to winning.

Ed Keating: Great. Great. Yeah, that’s definitely good guidance for people who are trying to figure out how to move the way forward. And as you’re looking forward to the handful of states that changed their programs or created programs in November, any ones that you think are going to be super interesting or challenging? Because the regs are now coming out. And the schedules are coming out. And we’re starting to see when the licenses match, they pop out of some of these places.

Lisa Jordan: Yeah. I think they’ll each have their own unique set of challenges and unique set of opportunities. I think the Mississippi timeline is really aggressive, and it’s the first time through it for them. And hopefully, they’ve learned from some other states and have a good set. But to meet their timelines for rolling out the program, they’ve got to move really quickly. So I think those are some challenges, and the other ones are really fighting through the gridlock…

Ed Keating: Yeah. Right.

Lisa Jordan: … to make it a reality.

Ed Keating: Yeah. Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, I just did a blog post on this and was just looking at the information available in terms of those timelines. And for example, looking at New Jersey, I really don’t know what’s going to happen because those lawsuits look like they could really get in the way, and I think it’s South Dakota where they may be throwing the whole referendum up in the air.

So those states are really hard to predict. Whereas the other ones, I think you’re right, they’ve been aggressive and sort of like Missouri. They’re putting a line in the sand saying, “This is our schedule, and this is how we’re going to roll this program out.” And I think by doing that, they’re being transparent and holding themselves accountable. So I think both our companies will be keeping an eye on how this plays out.

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. And things too come in, Ed, like capitalization, and you talked about lawsuits and delays and schedules and that sort of thing. That’s one thing that we see clients be surprised about is just how overcapitalized you have to be, because you’ve got to be able to sustain any sorts of delays and not be hamstrung by cash flow or cash availability. So that overcapitalization is one way for clients to weather through any sorts of delays or hiccups or lawsuits that may pop up as they go through the process.

Ed Keating: Right. And maybe that’s why Florida, back in the day, required you to have a $5 million bond to put the application down. And I think one guy flew in his jet or helicopter to get there minutes before the deadline to make sure that his check was received on time.

Lisa Jordan: Yeah, some of those submission stories are great. We’ll save all those stories for another time.

Amanda Guerrero: I love it. Well, I mean, we’ve talked extensively about your guys’ work within licensing and where you’re most effective within the market and at what point. And I’m curious, Lisa, how would an organization like yours best utilize our platform? It’s not really biz dev. Is it?

Lisa Jordan: It is partially biz dev. And I think a lot of our lines are blurred. And especially in an industry that is so new and developing and when our teams are so lean and mean. I think it is biz dev, and it is marketing. And we work very closely internally with our marketing team and our biz dev team.

And where we really see the value in Cannabiz Media is reaching people that we wouldn’t otherwise. And we know exactly who they are through your filters and the great tools that are available. We have pretty robust in-house lists that we’ve built over time from people who’ve engaged with us for whatever reason.

But most of those people want to get into the industry. They’re not in the industry yet. And so being able to come to the Cannabiz Media database and supplement that list – the house list of people that are aspirational with the people who are already operational – It really gives us the other side of the coin to really go out and find that other set of people that we wouldn’t engage with otherwise.

Amanda Guerrero: I love it. Yeah. I mean, it really is. It’s business development, marketing, and research within all in one. And for you guys too, I definitely can appreciate not only just being able to identify new opportunities but that you guys are both utilizing. We’re not your main source. You are both utilizing your in-house tools and utilizing us in congruency. And I can appreciate that.

Now looking at 2021, we were talking a little bit about New Jersey. But New York, the regulations there, they just released that within the last 72 hours they’re not allowing home grow. I know in some of the markets that you’ve worked in that was a champion requirement for some of these markets. What do you think? Do you think that’s going to continue to be a trend as we see these new regs pop up?

Lisa Jordan: Yeah. What we see is, every state likes to put their own stamp or their own signature on their own programs. So I think that will continue. I think what ultimately gets approved and put in place as the program. I think it’s kind of anybody’s guess.

A lot of times, you’ll see things that are out in public and visible, and then what comes out at the end has a completely different element that hasn’t been so visible. So I think maybe anybody’s guess. I think we can all predict based on experience, and then things… surprises pop out at the end.

Ed Keating: I think too for New York, from what I’ve read, is this is a bit of a trial balloon. They’re putting some of these things out there because that may be one that they can perhaps negotiate a way or make that happen. Because it said, “No home grow for med or adult use.” And I think that kind of surprised people.

But it was also shown, I think last year, that there was a lot of lobbying by, I think, some of the existing MSOs in the state against home grow or trying to make sure it stayed criminalized, and that’s not going to sit well with people.

And I think they’ll also have a lot of social equity issues because some people were concerned sort of doing the math, that there wasn’t enough going back to the communities or… and I don’t know if they got into how the licenses would be issued yet.

The other controversy I saw, or some thought it was a controversy, was one agency would be responsible for managing both hemp and cannabis, which is sort of unique, at least as I think across the country. I don’t know if either of you have heard that on the New York side.

Amanda Guerrero: No, I haven’t seen that, but I can only imagine that if that actually turns out to be a successful business model, that over the next few years, we’re going to start seeing the bridges being more structured between cannabis and hemp.

Ed Keating: Right. Same plant, different percentage. Done. Right.

Amanda Guerrero: Exactly. Literally, let’s just throw it into our services. Throw it into the gambit of all the things that we can do.

Now, Ed, you did bring up a really good point about social equity, and that’s not something that we’ve talked about too much here on the show. But Lisa put you on the spot. Are you guys actually having conversations in new markets with applicants about social equity or working with, well, lobbying for more open, fair practices within the cannabis industry?

Lisa Jordan: So from an advocacy standpoint, the social equity element absolutely lines up with our culture and our philosophy, and really wanting to see that impact on the industry. And in some states, like Illinois for example, we were able to do some matchmaking, if you will, with clients.

So we may have some social equity applicants come to us who may not have all the other components that they need to win. But we have other clients who have the other elements of capital or property. But they don’t have social equity people to plug in. So we’ve been able to marry those people and make different partnerships that hit all of the elements to be successful there.

Ed Keating: Yeah. One of the things that we’re seeing on the data side is Massachusetts does a very good job of sharing what kind of social equity component may have been in an applicant application, sort of for these final people. Aren’t veteran-owned, women-owned, LGBTQ, et cetera.

So we actually just put a lot of that information into our app in terms of new stories or insights about licenses. It’s not data that we’re putting into the database yet. But it probably will be because I also noticed that Colorado is likely to be issuing some information on licensed applicants that came through.

I think it’s like an incubator, and it almost sounds like it may have come out of MED. I’m not sure. But I’m hoping that they’ll be able to share their licenses that have been impacted by this. Because if we can get enough states to share that information, we can start tracking to Cannabiz Media. So that for people who are trying to get an understanding of where these licenses are, maybe how they’re doing, we’d like to be the source for all things licensed based. And that’s a really important one.

Amanda Guerrero: Yep, I [crosstalk 00:29:06]-

Ed Keating: Yeah. That would be helpful for us, for sure. And it’s definitely an element that’s important to us personally. And then we also see it’s important for our clients. So I would find that helpful as part of the database.

Amanda Guerrero: Wonderful. Well, Lisa, we’ve so appreciated having you on the show today. Thank you so much for being our first guest of 2021 and setting the bar for the rest of our guests this season. We really hope that we get to see you sometime in 2021. Trade shows maybe are coming back at Q4, Q3.

We’ve made some predictions before, and they’ve come true. So I’m saying it. Q4, we’re going to see some trade shows, and hopefully, we’ll get to see you there as well.

Lisa Jordan: Yeah. Hopefully. I’d love to see you in person. And in the COVID time, tools like Cannabiz Media are even more important to us because other places where we’ve seen success have kind of fallen away. Like the trade shows and speaking engagements. So digital media has become more important, and your tool has definitely helped us amp up those efforts this year.

Amanda Guerrero: Thanks, Lisa. We really appreciate that and appreciate you.

Well, Ed, thank you for another great show. Here we are. Let’s take a quick look ahead at what we’ve got in store from the data vault next week.

Ed Keating: All right. So as I sort of referenced already, we’ve got a few things coming up. So the year-end observations are coming out in terms of different license types. So where are we seeing growth and whatnot? So we’ll do one for dispensaries, retailers, one for cultivation and one for manufacturing, because those are the ones that people really seem to care about. But just sort of showing where do we see growth? Where do we see in some cases maybe declines? And then also we’ll [crosstalk 00:30:51]-

Amanda Guerrero: In Oklahoma.

Ed Keating: Right. Right. Exactly. And also looking at the rules and regulations from some of the new programs we talked to Lisa about. So, what do those timelines look like? And where do we have situations where the timelines are perhaps unclear?

Because there is a lot of tumbles at the Statehouse or with the legislatures where they’re sort of backtrack against some of the things that they appear to have promised earlier. Look at New Jersey. So a lot going on there, and we’re looking forward to a very interesting 2021.

Amanda Guerrero: Yes, we are. Thank you so much. All right, everyone. That’s our show. This is the Cannacurio Podcast powered by Cannabiz Media. This is our first video recording. I’m really excited about it. And you guys should just stay tuned for more updates from the data vault. Thanks.

Ed Keating

Ed Keating is a co-founder and Chief Data Officer of Cannabiz Media and oversees our data research and government relations efforts. He has spent his whole career working with and advising information companies in the compliance space. Ed has overseen complex multijurisdictional product lines in the securities, corporate, UCC, safety, environmental and human resource markets and focuses on workflow products over the last twenty five years. During that time he has worked for both startup and established information companies where he has led marketing, product management and sales organizations. These companies include Wolters Kluwer/Commerce Clearing House, CT Corporation, EDGAR Online and Business & Legal Reports. At Cannabiz Media Ed enjoys the challenge of working with regulators across the globe as he and his team gather corporate, financial, and license information to track the people, products and businesses in the cannabis economy. Ed graduated from Hamilton College and received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

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