Joseph “Joe” Caltabiano is a respected and important voice in today’s emergent cannabis industry and regularly provides guidance to startups and established companies alike. Uncovering opportunities even during a bear market, Caltabiano draws from his extensive financial expertise in retail, real estate, operations and the regulated cannabis industry. Caltabiano is the Chief Executive Officer of Choice Consolidation Corp., where he is responsible for developing and executing the company’s strategic vision to uncover and advance opportunities within the cannabis market.
Prior to launching Choice, Caltabiano co-founded Cresco Labs, one of North America’s largest vertically integrated cannabis operators. During his tenure, Caltabiano grew Cresco Labs from a startup to a Multi-state Operator with annualized revenue of over $250 million and operations spanning nine states. He was crucial in helping the company expand its footprint into strategic U.S. markets and sourced multiple M&A transactions. Caltabiano guided Cresco through numerous rounds of multimillion-dollar capital raises, including the company’s initial raise. In addition to running all the revenue-generating activities at the company, Caltabiano launched the Sunnyside retail brand and applied its wellness theme to Cresco’s existing dispensaries and their consolidated product offerings. He also led brand building at Cresco Labs, launching the operator’s house of industry-leading brands, including Cresco, Remedi, Reserve, High Supply, Good News and Mindy’s edibles.
As a result of his success, Caltabiano has been in high demand as an expert source of information among media outlets and industry audiences. He has become a guest speaker and a consistent contributor to media outlets such as Vice, Bloomberg, Green Entrepreneur, and Marijuana Business Magazine. In addition, he has been invited to share his insight with several investment industry panels.
Before entering the cannabis industry, Caltabiano served as senior vice president of mortgage banking at Guaranteed Rate, one of the largest mortgage providers in the U.S., where he helped grow a sales division from 20 local members to over 1,000 nationwide. During his time at Guaranteed Rate, Caltabiano personally closed over $2.5 billion in loan volume and was ranked in the top 100 loan officers for ten consecutive years, reaching No. 3 in closed loan volume.
Philanthropy has always been an essential aspect of Caltabiano’s life, especially when it touches a cause near and dear to his heart. After being stricken with and surviving leukemia as a child, he vowed to consistently support organizations and projects that assist people in their fight against cancer. His childhood battle with cancer is also one of the primary motivators for his work in the cannabis industry. As a result, Caltabiano has contributed to the Gateway for Cancer Research, the Imerman Angels cancer support network, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Ronald McDonald House. He was voted Man of the Year by the Chicago Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 2008, and he has raised more than a million dollars for their organization.
To connect further with Joe, receive updates on his career, and receive relevant content pertaining to his industry, visit his LinkedIn page!
Where did the idea for Choice Consolidation come from?
After working in the cannabis industry for several years and helping to create and build Cresco Labs, one of the world’s largest cannabis multi-state operator (MSO), I recognized a wide variety of opportunities where the business could be improved or operations could be managed more efficiently. Using the lessons learned I learned from co-founding Cresco, I wanted to create a new company that could leverage a second-mover advantage to create a best-in-class multi-state operator, and that’s what we are working on doing today at Choice.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
It depends on the day, of course, and what might be occurring at any given time in the industry. Most often, my days are spent examining how the longstanding regulated cannabis markets are performing, how new markets are developing, which companies are showing momentum in those markets, and what the politics of the moment are saying about cannabis legislation. I’m typically preparing for or finishing a presentation or speech at an investor or cannabis event, and I am constantly traveling for the next meeting, event or conference. Thankfully, I have a skilled team working with me that helps keep me organized and functioning as best as possible.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Get the right people on the team and empower them to get the job done.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I have been impressed with how single-state operators in the cannabis industry connect with their consumers and build trusting long-term relationships. These local dispensaries are vying for consumer attention amidst a sea of competition. They are using a tried-and-true approach with a relentless focus on their local market, local employees, local culture and most importantly, local patients and consumers. These single-state operators often possess a passion for and commitment to their “hometowns” in a way other operators cannot match. It is a well-established approach that has been utilized successfully for generations of retailers. Yet, larger companies often neglect or ignore this approach in a mistaken attempt to streamline operations. I love what so many cannabis retailers are doing at the hyper-local level and think it is the way of the future for cannabis businesses.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Reducing the amount of time spent on calls and in meetings has been a great boon to my productivity. The key is to set expectations for every call or meeting and stick to those for each call. For example, if a call can be only 15 minutes long, do not schedule it for an hour. This adds so much time to your day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Save more money.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The New York Yankees is the greatest sports team in the history of all sports – ever.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I try to find smart people who are experts in their field, and I seek out their opinions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
If you surround yourself with intelligent, capable people who amplify your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses, you will be able to grow a business. Of course, it will still require an immense amount of work and a bit of luck as well. But without a well-rounded group of partners, advisors and leaders, your business will not grow.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my early days, when I was about 20 years old, I launched a valet business called Imperial Valet in New York. I thought I had everything buttoned up, but it failed miserably. I learned a lot from that.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have an idea for an app for physical therapy that I think would do very well. How many people could use this in their everyday life? I think that number is nearly infinite.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I overtip service staff. In essence, I believe that taking care of service staff, from the valet to the bartenders, is always money well spent.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Outlook. It helps me organize my communication and keeps me from falling behind.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“Failing Forward” by John C. Maxwell made a tremendous impact on my outlook toward work and life. Using failure as a tool to learn and move forward opens up all kinds of possibilities.
What is your favorite quote?
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney
- Surround yourself with intelligent, capable people
- Do not waste time in meetings
- Take chances and risks; don’t be afraid to fail, but fail fast
- Treat people with respect and kindness
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.