Diversity is Hot in Cleveland

The Business Growth Collaborative or BGC is made of 10 Cleveland organizations that aim to promote business growth opportunities for minority business owners in Northeast Ohio. BGC will do this by making entrepreneurial resources more readily available to low-income and disadvantaged communities.

Cathy Belk, president of JumpStart Inc., the venture development organization that helped found BDGC said, “At its core, the BGC is about putting the needs of diverse entrepreneurs and small business owners first. Each organization in the BGC has their own unique strengths and way of doing things-but the best way to help the people we serve get the knowledge and support they need is to work together whenever and wherever possible.” Just as the BGC can recognize and appreciate “unique strengths” and techniques in each other, they can also appreciate they unique strengths and skills brought on by minority businesses and entrepreneurs.

BGC was created by JumpStart and Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Commission on Economic Inclusion. According to Greater Cleveland Partnership’s, “The collaborative will connect individual service delivery of multiple organizations while they maintain their independent functions, structure, and identities. This will be done by:

  • Assessing each organization’s mix of services; and the geographies, industries, and size of clients served.
  • Agreeing to a joint method of assessment and growth continuum classification.
  • Developing protocols for client intake and sharing of information as well as joint assessments.
  • Subscribing to a client management/contact system which is shared among the collaborative.
  • Ascribing and assigning organizations to segments of the client services based on the fit.
  • Monitoring and holding providers accountable for service delivery and results.
  • Evaluating performance of the collaborative annually “

The coalition is also made up of eight other organizations: the Economic Community Development Institute, the Presidents Council, Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, Magnet, the Hispanic Business Center, the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, the Council of Smaller Enterprises, and the Ohio Aerospace Institute.

The organization is further aided by supporting organizations like the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, the city of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, the Gund Foundation, and PNC Bank. The support for such initiative is strong in the area.

Ted Carter, chief economic development and business officer of the office of the Cuyahoga County Executive, said, “The County is pleased to support the Business Growth Collaborative, which provides tech assistance and (business to business) procurement opportunities to minority business. This investment, with one of our key strategic partners, leverages and compliments the county’s other capital programs directed to minority small businesses.”

Cleveland is one of many cities that are beginning to value and encourage diversity in businesses within the city and state. With these initiatives in place, minority-owned businesses will now have the resources and skills to compete with more mainstream businesses. These minority businesses will add creativity and innovation to the community creating a stronger economy and city.

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5 Up and Coming California Cannabis Stocks

California has been a leader in medical marijuana for nearly two decades. The state recently opened the adult-use market on January 1st, gaining investor interest. California, unlike other states with legalization, permits publicly-traded cannabis companies, and investors who want to capitalize on this market several companies to consider.

Before we discuss those companies, we would like to mention that stocks include in this article should not be considered a recommendation to buy the stock. This information is simply a starting point for your own research in cannabis investing. Now on to the five companies with potential in California cannabis investors should investigate.

  1. CannaRoyalty (CSE: CRZ) (OTC: CNNRF) is based in Canada and invests in royalty agreements, equity stakes, licensing deals, debt, and strategic partnerships. CannaRoyalty has built a large platform in California, which includes an equity interest in River (RVR), a quality craft distributor. The company also has 100% ownership of GreenRock Botanical, Soul Sugar Kitchen edibles, and Alta Supply and an exclusive distribution deal with Bhang, California’s best-known brands for edibles and concentrates. This company is fairly newCannaRoyalty look at their website and recent corporate deck.
  2. LifeStyle Delivery Systems (CSE: LDS) (OTC: LDSYF) is also based in Canada and was originally intended to license its own CannaStrips product, but became a vertically integrated producer out of its 20,000 sq. ft. Southern California growing and processing facility. The company had over C$6.8 million invested in the facility at the end of September 2017. For more information on the company visit
  3. MedMen is not publicly traded as of yet, but it announced its intention to go public through a Canadian listing in the next few months. The company has several operations in Southern California and runs a retail store in Las Vegas. It also plans to build three more stores in Vegas and operates two medical dispensaries in New York. To learn more about the company, look at this annual report.
  4. Sunniva is a relatively new company that started trading this year. It’s based in Canada and is pursuing a license for a large facility in British Columbia. Sunniva is developing a 325,000 sq. ft. cultivation facility in Cathedral City, California. It believes this facility will produce 60 million grams per year. Check out Sunniva’s investor deck to get more information.
  5. Terra Tech is one of the original cannabis stocks and began publicly trading in 2012. It started recognizing sales from California cannabis products in 2016 with its IVXX brand. The company reported its full results for 2017 on March 15 and is expected to see major growth in 2018. For more information visit

There are several other companies you could invest in, but with any company, you need to be cautious and research them thoroughly before investing. Cannabis is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States and is definitely worth looking into.



Do you Dare to Invest in Cannabis? The Risks You Should Be Aware of for Future Investing

It’s clear that investing in cannabis could lead to some big returns, but it also comes with a risk. Zachary Venegas, CEO of Helix TCS Inc., a cannabis security and transport company and an intelligence firm for venture capitalists recently spoke on cannabis investing.

In 2017, cannabis-related cultivation and retail investments reached a stunning $718 million. This revenue helped cannabis agricultural technology infuse products and software to attract more investors. The industry is getting so large that it’s projected to exceed $50 billion by 2022.

Venegas claims California has the leading market on cannabis. He said, “California’s medical cannabis market is already as big as the total markets in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon combined by most market participant’s estimates.” Venegas also believes that “the legal cannabis market could reach sales of over $20 billion in the next few years.”

However, even Venegas recognizes caution is needed when looking at investing in cannabis. He warns investors, “No profit-minded professional would prudently ignore such a market, but one must be mindful that this unique sector is rife with complex legal and regulatory risks.” Venegas has covered many cannabis related topics in previous talks and speeches. This includes the legal distinctions between recreational and medical marijuana, the risks in each industry for producers, retailers, and other ancillary support businesses, the regulatory environments in the U.S. States, the cannabis “frontier market,” and the differences between a marketer or an operator.

Of course, the biggest risk to consider when investing is the legality of cannabis, particularly regarding Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, a federal statute that places cannabis on the same level as heroin and other narcotics.

Despite the overwhelming support from 30 states for medical marijuana and the support from 9 states for recreational cannabis, there are still federal restrictions in place on production, distribution, and possession. Cannabis laws also vary from state to state and within states.

However, Venegas isn’t opposed to investing. He states, “For 2018, private and public funds are investing tens of millions of dollars in anticipation of several industry catalysts that will be seen. New Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF) are coming online that are heavily investing in companies in the cannabis industry.” Canada is also a spot of interest for cannabis investors.

There are other risks besides the legality of cannabis to consider before investing. Venegas states, “Many people assume that having a license to operate a cannabis dispensary is a golden ticket to automatic riches. That assertion is flawed, as profitability and ultimate business success will still be subject to adequate capitalization, sound business practices, and as we are seeing in Colorado, the law of supply and demand…before it can grow and move away from a model that heavily relies on cash, the cannabis industry needs to secure access to financial markets. But due to federal regulations, banks, and even insurance companies stay away…growers, dispensaries and research labs have to secure financing from credit unions or ‘angel’ investors.”

Cannabis comes with a few more risks than the average stock. Understanding these risks is the key to making a good investment.


Can Diversity Help the Economy?

Diversity builds the ecosystem, health, productivity, longevity, and resilience. This has been seen in nature and communities. However, society has often denied itself of these benefits in the past. For a community to have sustainable economic and social systems, it must be diverse and inclusive to all.

Gender and ethnic diversity concerns have grown politically and corporately in the past several decades. Economic inclusion or equal opportunity to participate in the economic life of a community as employers, employees, consumers, and citizen, has become a Sustainable Development Goal by the United Nations.

The first of these goals was created in 2015. It was to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” and was quickly followed by gender equality.

Achieving diversity is much harder than it seems. Verna Myers, Harvard trained lawyer, entrepreneur, author, and cultural innovator from Baltimore wrote, “Diversity is like inviting people to a party, inclusion is asking them to dance.” However, businesses and companies are striving to promote diversity in their everyday practice.

Sustainability membership group BSR saw that social resilience is a rising corporate concern that puts income and gender inequality on the same level of risk as cybersecurity and natural disasters. BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer said Businesses have an increasing stake in helping create “a social contract for the future.”

A few businesses that are participating in creating a more diverse work place include Google, which partners with Howard University to hire black computer science majors in 2017, HP, which diversified its corporate boards and workforce by bringing more women to the executive level in 2017, and Salesforce, whose CEO Marc Benioff spent $3 million to create equal pay for men and women. These companies and many others are becoming more open about their diversity and inclusion initiatives.

These programs help society and the businesses themselves. Public companies in the top 25% for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns, and those in the top 25%  for gender diversity are 15% more likely to perform better financially.

Diversity is the way of the future, and many have found that going green is one of the best ways to produce diversity. Around the world, people of color, rural communities and women feel the worst effects of climate change pollution, and some have become climate refugees. Businesses are taking initiative on this. IKEA and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees partnered to provide solar panels and biodigesters to refugee camps in the Middle East. “Pay as you save” (PAYS) financing, pioneered by Holmes Hummel uses a tariff structure to provide energy efficiency and renewable power to low-income rural residents at no upfront cost. These low-income communities are the people who suffer most from sustainability crises in a climate-unstable world.  For example, four out of five white residents believe that New Orleans had mostly recovered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but three out of five blacks believe it hasn’t. To address this gap in thinking New Orleans appointed a chief resilience officer.

Many believe that diversity will lead to new techniques, attract new talent, and ensure sustainable economic growth. JPMorgan Chase invested $900,000 in sustainable infrastructure projects in Detroit. These funds will be used to make vacant spaces between commercial properties available for green infrastructure, which can mitigate storm water drainage fees, and turn vacant land into commercial spaces that support minority-owned businesses.

True diversity adds many benefits to our global society and is why we at C.E. Hutton believe so strongly in helping minority businesses through our business development resources and through real estate, technology, and bio-tech investing.


Big Biotech Stock Jumps

Last Month, three stocks soared 24% or more. This isn’t unusual for biotech investments, but are these jumps justified, and should you be investing in these stocks too? Some of the three biggest moves in the week of February 24 were Voyager Therapeutics, Fate Therapeutics, and Odonate Therapeutics.

Voyager Therapeutics’ shares soared almost 50% higher. This can be attributed to the company receiving help from drug producer AbbVie. This collaboration was announced on February 20 and is supposed to help the companies develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Voyager will be given $69 million in upfront payments and has the opportunity to gain up to $155 million in preclinical and phase 1 milestone payments. Also, Voyager could receive $895 million per vectorized tau antibody if the key development and regulatory milestones are reached, and they would gain any tiered royalties on commercial sales.

Voyager has one clinical program that received approval from the FDA to advance to a phase 2/3 clinical study. This study is to find a treatment of advanced Parkinson’s disease. Voyager also has several preclinical candidates, some of which Sanofi has secured licensing option rights.

This deal with AbbVie will help both companies as Voyager benefits from an influx of cash and AbbVie gets to enhance its neuroscience pipeline, which includes an experimental Alzheimer’s disease drug in phase 2 testing.

Fate Therapeutics’ shares went up 45%. This was a continuation of a six-month streak in which the biotech’s market cap has tripled. This progress is due to the announcement of an early-stage clinical study, FATE-NK100, a natural killer (NK) cell cancer therapy. On February 20 the first patient was treated in a phase 1 study combining FATE-NK100 with either Herceptin or Erbitux in treating advanced solid tumors. Both of these drugs are monoclonal antibody chemotherapies, which are commonly used in chemotherapy.

The immunotherapy is also in a couple of other clinical studies target treatment of acute myelogenous leukemia and ovarian cancer. This treatment shows potential for patients whose monoclonal antibody therapy has failed. Many believe that the combination of the NK cell cancer therapy with monoclonal antibody drugs could be more effective than the single-drug treatments.

Odonate Therapeutics stock rose 24% last month. Insider biotech investing by Odonate’s CEO Kevin Tang is the cause for the jump. Tang bought $2.9 million worth of shares on February 16 and $1.1 million on February 22.

It appears that Tang is hopeful about Odonate’s pipeline candidate, tesetaxel. Chemotherapy is being considered in a late-stage clinical study for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer. Tesetaxel is in a class of drugs known as taxanes, many of which are approved to treat cancer. However, tesetaxel comes in a pill and doesn’t require intravenous administration. This could make tesatexel a huge hit on the commercial market.

Phase 3 of the study on tesetaxel began in December; However, results on how well the drug performed most likely won’t be available until 2020.

Should you buy?

Now the question everyone wants has been answered. Whether you’re entering cannabis investing, real estate investing, or biotech investing you want to feel confident in your decision. While all of the companies above have some potential, all of these biotech stocks are still in a clinical stage, without products on the market. For many, this is too risky because the odds of failure are still very high. While you can be cautiously optimistic about these stocks, now may not be the best time to buy these stocks.


Is it Worth it? Three Biotech Stocks with High Premiums

Biotech investing may be riskier than other types of investing such as real estate investing, but it also comes with big payoffs. Recently three biotech stocks have been rising and have investors paying high premiums. These three stocks are Ionis Pharmaceuticals Inc., Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, and Tesaro Inc. So why is everyone paying so much in premiums?

Ionis Pharmaceuticals is the founder of RNA-antisense technology. It’s first commercial stage product, Spinraza had a record-breaking season, and the FDA has already begun reviewing applications from the company for two new drug candidates with 9 figure sales potential.

Spinraza is the first FDA approved treatment for patients with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the most common genetic cause of infant mortality. Because it is the only treatment of its kind Ionis’ marketing partner made $884 million in global Spinraza sales last year. Ionis’ share of the sales was at $113 million. Ionis is directing this revenue toward drug candidates it owns.

Investors don’t mind paying 13X the trailing sales for biotech stocks because Ionis has a huge internal cycle and the potential for high-margin royalty revenue to fund further development.

Earlier this year the FDA accepted an application for inotersen, a candidate intended to treat transthyretin amyloidosis. While Alnylam Pharmaceuticals already has a TTR drug, patisiran, under review as well. Inotersen could eventually earn Ionis an addition $300 million in revenue.

Vertex Pharmaceuticals is the only company marketing therapies that attack the cause of Cystic Fibrosis (CF). CF limits lung function and shortens the lifespans of 75,000 people.  This complete control of the market is just one reason why investors are willing to pay 17 times trailing sales for this stock.

On top of this Vertex is also expanding its customer list. Vertex started the year with 2 CF therapies and had 34,000 qualifying patients; however, a third CF therapy, Symdeko, which could expand Vertex’s customer base to 44,000; Vertex also has a couple of experimental treatments in the late- stage of testing, which could further boost the number to 68,000.

Combine this with the fact that a wholesale acquisition cost of a year of treatment is 292,000 dollars, and patients will need this treatment throughout their lives. It’s easy to see why someone would pay such a high premium.

Tesaro Inc. is the maker of Zejula a drug that makes it hard for tumor cells to repair their DNA. This drug was first used to keep ovarian cancer from reoccurring after standard chemo treatments. Chemo is painful and draining often causes pain, which requires medications like medical marijuana to ease. It’s no wonder why stocks soared after Zejula came into the market. Ovarian cancer tends to respond well to initial chemo treatments but is known to grow back and be unresponsive to subsequent chemo treatments. It’s the first medication to lengthen the span between rounds of chemotherapy extending the time from 5.5 months to 21 months or longer.

The FDA expanded the drug label of another PARD inhibitor to the same patients. This drug was AstraZeneca’s Lynparza. The price of Tesaro stock is still 13 times that of the trailing sales but has stopped growing.

In a world continually searching for cures to new diseases, it’s easy to see why companies posed to corner a market would be able to charge more for a share. While Vertex is clearly in the best shape of all three companies, all of them have a firm stake in biotechnology and prove it by demanding high premiums.


Minority Business Opportunities in Oklahoma

When you think of business opportunities, do you think of Oklahoma? I’m going to go ahead and guess that’s a no. Oklahoma is far from what we think of as a booming metropolis, but surprisingly, Oklahoma has several programs designed to help minority-owned businesses. While Oklahoma doesn’t have an overall certification for minority businesses or disadvantaged business there are several certifications available. In fact, the states’ Small and Minority Business Coordinator, Ken Talley recently conducted a workshop at the Moore Norman Technology Center’s Franklin Road Campus; during this workshop, Talley mentioned several certifications available to minority businesses.

A business owner may be certified in several areas if they desire to and if they meet their desired customer markets. Talley shared a few and divided them up into the areas below.

Private Certifications

The private sector offers the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) program.

The NMSDC and its partners ask major corporations and large companies to purchase products from a minority-owned business. These large corporations are given a list. To get on this listing, a minority-business owner must own 51% or more of the business and be a member of a minority.

One of the affiliates with this program in Oklahoma is the Southwest Minority Supplier Development Council, which operates out of Austin, TX.

If you would like to join in the Oklahoma Minority Business Enterprise Certification, you can go to or call 512-659-2160.

Transportation Certifications

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Certification for minority businesses. This certification will put the businesses information in the DBE certified Directory Database, which will allow bidders on projects to use certified DBE(s) and ensure their projects meet federal guidelines.

To qualify a minority business owner must hold 51% or more ownership of the business, have full operating control of the business and provide a service, product, or material needed for a transportation project.

Federal Contract Certifications

The Small Business Administration administers certification to qualifying businesses that want to do business with federal departments and agencies.

One available certification in this area includes the Small Disadvantage Business Certification, which is a self-certification for businesses that meet social and economically disadvantaged standards. This certification requires the businesses to be entered in the System for Award Management (SAM) database.

To learn more, go to

Another certification in this area is the Business Development Certifications, which are for minority businesses that qualify for sole source, negotiated contracts with federal businesses.

For more information on this certification, check out or call 405-600-8000.

Certifications for Women

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODOC) offers a women0owned business certification.

For more information, go to or call 405-815-5143.

Tribal Certifications

Indian-owned business can gain certification under the Cherokee Nation TERO,, 918-453-5335; Muskogee (Creek) National TER),, 918-549-2964 or 918-549-2966; Chickasaw Nation Preferred Vendor Program,, 580-559-0728; Choctaw Nation Preferred Supplier Program,, 580-924-8280, ext. 2889 or 2899.

For more information on Minority Business opportunities in Oklahoma, call Tally at 405-815-5218 or email him at


Fortune Favors the Bold and Punishes the Unprepared

You have no real control as to when your time has come only on the how you live it. I’ll take mine standing please, preferably with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never been knocked down. I’m also old enough to realize that when I’ve stumbled to get back on my feet, it was because I didn’t have the professional help I needed.

C. E. Hutton has assembled a group of already established professionals in the cannabis industry starting in Colorado, then California and now Florida and Arizona. A business development and management team capable of designing, building, and managing one of the most valuable things you’ll ever build in your life, your business.

If a family member was sick, you’d call a doctor, if your home needed some repairs, you’d call a tradesman. So why should starting a business be any different? Growing your business will take partnering with the right team, plenty of energy and your time.

“Fortune favors the bold and punishes the unprepared; hit the ground running with C. E. Hutton” – Michael Souza

Click here for more information:

Author: Michael Souza – Partner at C. E. Hutton, LLC a Business Development and Management Company that helps entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies gain or even retain customers. They offer business and marketing planning, strategic planning, high-level retainer consulting, market research reports, project-based consulting, and company registration.

Is the Marijuana Industry Excluding African Americans?

In recent years seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Another 22 states have legalized medical marijuana. Thanks to this legalization, there are now many marijuana products on the market including cannabis-infused candy, cookies, soda, and cuisine prepared by specialized marijuana chefs.

According to ArcView Group Research, revenue from the U.S. marijuana industry is expected to grow to over $21 billion by 2021. However, even with this amazing growth, the industries forerunners are largely white. According to Amanda Lewis, a drug policy writer for Buzzfeed, African Americans own 1% of the nation’s 3,500 cannabis dispensaries.

Few people realize how difficult it is to break into the cannabis industry. The business plan is the first step to creating your dispensary, cultivation center, or store. Without a clear idea of your goals, assets, plans, and projections. It will be extremely difficult to obtain cannabis investors.

Once you have investors and funding secured, you can buy or rent a space, get a permit or license and open your business. The prices of these permits and licenses vary by location and the type of marijuana business you intend to open.

These permits and licenses are extremely expensive. Obtaining the funds to obtain these permits and licenses is one of the largest obstacles black entrepreneurs face. In Texas, the application fee $7,356 and the licensing fee is $488,520 for a two-year license.

There is currently a debate about whether the lack of funding for black entrepreneurs is caused by prejudice or a lack of knowledge about the industry and what it requires.

William Koffie, a Chicago lawyer, expressed his struggle with breaking into the industry. He admitted that he thought the process was simpler than it turned out to be, but he believed that finances and general prejudice were the main reasons he couldn’t break into the industry.

Koffie said, “I think African Americans have organizational issues coupled with the fact that the USA has an agenda against having us succeed. Most investment groups I went to felt that they were not willing to risk the application fees when they thought the chances of them being approved were slim to none. That was frustrating, and I felt that was a ‘nigger complex.’ Regardless whether the system is set up to weed us out, we still need to find ways to overcome those barriers.”

George Allen, co-founder of Comfy Tree, a marijuana consulting company, said “I don’t think minorities are properly informed on what it requires to have a dispensary. Many people don’t have the proper funding, and it’s not like you can walk into a bank and say, ‘Hey, I need a loan for this amount to open a dispensary.’…That’s one of the many reasons why we help minorities get the proper funding as well as knowledge on the marijuana industry through virtual classes online stocked with in-depth, interactive training on all subjects of cannabis.”

While some companies may have some prejudice, it is agreed lack of information and funding is the main obstacle for black entrepreneurs, not race. Companies have been developed specifically to help minority businesses, and problems within the industry have been addressed quickly. While there is a lack of diversity in the marijuana industry, many companies and policies are being put in place to create equal opportunity.



Complete the Circle Started By Martin Luther King

The beginning of the circle in the past, Minority communities was targeted and filled with drugs by the system either by chance or by choice; which actually translated into a new industry called “private prisons”. By targeting minority ownership within the cannabis industry; who better to benefit and why not include these communities?

Beginning February 1st, and in observation of Black History Month, C. E. Hutton celebrates the value of tradition and wisdom. Now, is the perfect time to “complete the circle started by Martin Luther King” and many others by leveling the financial playing field for Minorities with this spark.

America is the “Land of the Free” so as citizens, we should all expect that, but we’re still waiting on promises broken the minute they were spoken. It’s true that nothing can maintain a straight course, but eventually all things must move forward. It will take forward thinking and sound management in the cannabis industry to ignite the fire strongly burning towards federal legalization. There are signs all around us screaming for change. How many natural disasters do you need? We rip and steal from the Earth, and now she’s fighting back with a vengeance proving now more so than ever that it’s time to close the circle. Economic Justice, Social Change and Technology have converged to make “Green” industries not only wanted, but desperately needed.

-Michael Souza

Click here for more information:

Author: Michael Souza – Partner at C. E. Hutton, LLC a Business Development and Management Company that helps entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies gain or even retain customers. They offer business and marketing planning, strategic planning, high-level retainer consulting, market research reports, project-based consulting, and company registration.

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