But this dynamic businesswoman — a former executive with a Wall Street investment banking firm — illustrates the opportunities and challenges small business owners face when getting into the booming business of marijuana and cannabis-related products.
Stavola is about as unlikely a pot entrepreneur as you could imagine. Dressed to kill in designer clothes and stiletto heels, hair and makeup straight out of the latest fashion magazine, Stavola looks like the upscale New Jersey mother of six that she is. But she’s also whip smart, ambitious, with a true entrepreneurial spirit. She’s learning how to both navigate the various state medical marijuana dispensary laws and building a budding business — CBD For Life — based on a non-psychoactive cannabis by-product.
Stavola had been looking for a business to buy when an investment adviser presented her with the opportunity to purchase a legal medical marijuana dispensary in Arizona. She had no experience with marijuana and had never thought about getting involved in the industry.
“I got on a plane,” said Stavola. “I didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous. Do I need body guards? Machine guns? But once I saw the opportunity, I got more excited.”
Over the next few years Stavola built profitable legal medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona. She’s now president of CGX Life Sciences/Health for Life and CEO of CBD for Life.
Recognizing the opportunity not only of marijuana but other cannabis-related products, Stavola launched “CBD For Life,” a line of skin care, body rubs, foot creams and other pain relief products made with cannabidiol (CBD.) Unlike THC — the psychoactive drug in marijuana — CBD is considered a non-psychoactive by-product of the hemp plant. Used by itself or with other ingredients, proponents of CBD tout its many curative benefits.
“We were getting all this CBD stuff in the dispensaries,” said Stavola. “And customers said it was helping them. But it all looked like it was formulated in someone’s basement.”
Stavola hired a team of chemists who had done work for big cosmetic companies to come up with CBD formulas she felt were effective. “I really wanted to make these for my own stores. I wanted them to be pure, clean and beautiful.” She has since made the CBD For Life products available to other retailers and online.