Wayne Zallen, CEO of Grow Condos, has spent over 40 years of his life as a self-employed entrepreneur and businessman before starting Grow Condos. His first publically traded company; Grow Condos specializes in the development of warehouse condominiums for cannabis related business ventures. No matter if you are a grower, extractor, baker or anything else along those lines, Grow Condos can find you a property and tailor it to your needs. But they don’t stop there! Grow Condos also boasts one of the industries only ‘lease to buy’ options, affording entrepreneurs the chance to own their entire business operation over time. Wayne has loved the cannabis industry for years and is fueled by his interactions with other professionals in the space as well as his drive to reward investors and shareholders with profits. He recently took time out of his hectic schedule to share his passion for the industry and what makes his entrepreneurial mind tick.
What is the story behind your involvement with the cannabis industry?
I first got involved with the cannabis industry during the latest recession back in 2007-2009. My business partner and I owned a commercial warehouse building that was being rented out by smaller companies in the building industry, companies that did roofing, gutters and cabinets for example. As the economy worsened, these businesses began fleeing out because they were unable to keep up on their rent. Eventually we were completely empty, which was, of course, a problem for us because we had a pretty hefty mortgage on the building.
Everything changed when we were approached by a handful of medical cannabis cultivators that were looking for an indoor space. My partner and I quickly realized that, since the supply of workable cultivation facilities was scarce, these growers would gladly pay a higher rent than previous businesses. Not only that, but they were quality people and reliable tenants. We quickly had our entire 12,000Sq/Ft warehouse rented out and, when the chance came to buy another location to develop, we realized we had a great business opportunity in front of us and haven’t looked back.
My goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel, but rather to figure out what works and apply it to Grow Condos in order to make it the most successful public venture possible.
What were you doing before?
I have been involved in many different industries over my professional career. I’ve dabbled in advertising, restaurant ownership, rafting companies and online business, just to name a few. In fact, Grow Condos is the first publically traded company I’ve been involved with. I find that the diversity of my experience throughout my career has really benefitted me in the operations of Grow Condos.
What other industry might you compare the ‘green rush’ to and why?
I think the cannabis industry is directly mirrored by the plight of the alcohol industry circa the 1920’s. They had people in the industry, making and selling alcohol (bootleggers), despite it not being federally legal. Obviously cannabis isn’t entirely legal yet, but it looks like we are heading in that direction as a country.
Right now, in what direction are you guiding your passion and energy?
For me, the bottom line is building shareholder value for our company. We are able to do that by getting projects off the ground so tenants can have a functional facility to operate both their medicinal and recreational cannabis ventures. Fortunately for me, I also take pride in helping small businesses get started, so this process ends up being both personally and professionally satisfying.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Being involved in many different industries over the years, I would say I have had many role models and mentors along the way in my career as a businessman. Some were even old sailing buddies, who were also very experienced businessmen. Throughout our friendship they have helped to shed light on the different problems I have encountered in my professional ventures. I’m fortunate to have been influenced by such great people, especially since my career hasn’t been a lateral one like many people who stay in the same industry their entire career. I have had to negotiate many different obstacles each time I entered into a new industry and these mentors have propelled me along the way.
More specifically with Grow Condos, my mentors and influences come from partnering and learning from experts in the industry. I work hard to discover what is making them successful. My goal isn’t to reinvent the wheel, but rather to figure out what works and apply it to Grow Condos in order to make it the most successful public venture possible.
I am especially proud when I return money and profit to the investors and shareholders.
What inspires you the most about this space?
I take great inspiration from the endless opportunities available in the cannabis space. Every single day something new and exciting is coming across my desk and I am just so happy to be apart of it. From new businesses to established companies, people in this industry are always looking to add value to their team, form partnerships or pursue investments. The cannabis space is wide open and the buzz around it is so exciting. I’m excited to come to work everyday and witness the variety of ancillary businesses sprouting up. I believe they will prove to be very important to the industry as time goes on.
Tell me about an esteemed achievement of yours.
Personally my two daughters would have to be my greatest achievement (although I can only take half the credit).
Professionally I am proud of everything I have accomplished over the years. However, in terms of Grow Condos, I am especially proud when I return money and profit to the investors and shareholders. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I say I’m going to do something and I execute on it.
I’ve been very fortunate to be influenced by many great people.
Where do your great ideas come from?
I think it is interesting that sometimes, great ideas can just evolve by themselves over the course of time. We didn’t sit down and think up Grow Condos with the idea to form a publically traded company down the line. It actually started rather serendipitously due to the fact that, even during the recession, we owned an industrial warehouse that was completely full thanks to the cannabis industry. We realized the industry was as recession proof as anything else out there. Because of this, we said ‘let’s try and grow this idea, make it bigger and bigger’. We bought a second location, filled it up and the real meat behind Grow Condos was born.
I’ve been very fortunate to be influenced by many great people. Over the years, they have provided me with a sounding board to bounce my ideas off of; keeping me on track, focused, and guiding me away from things that won’t work out the way I might perceive them to.
Many of the industry professionals I have spoken with, as well as myself, believe that once California goes the way of legalization, the rest of the country will follow.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader in this space?
I try to attend as many industry conferences as possible and I read up new developments in the cannabis space, especially in the states we intend to expand and develop in. Furthermore, I pay attention to how the movers and shakers in the cannabis world are shaping the industry. The combination of all this self-education keeps me as well versed in the space as I can be and, hopefully, will serve to keep Grow Condos as a leader in the cannabis industry.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
I think we will be talking about all the changes in the industry throughout America. In Oregon, commercial and processor licenses will be released, allowing them to take the next step in the growing of the dispensary industry. Perhaps more importantly, California will be closing in on their 2016 recreational legalization ba lot initiatives. Many of the industry professionals I have spoken with, as well as myself, believe that once California goes the way of legalization, the rest of the country will follow.