Cimone Casson Gets in Front of the Green Rush
Cimone Casson is a leading player in one of the most quickly growing industries in the state of Michigan: marijuana.
Casson is the founder and owner of Cannas Capital, an insurance agency specializing in the cannabis industry and the craft beer industry. This isn’t her first rodeo as a business owner; in fact, Casson says she always pictured herself running her own company. After high school, she moved to Chicago, studied fashion and opened a make-up studio. She describes make-up as a vehicle for her true passion: business.
“I realized how much I loved business,” she said.
All the while, Casson was growing increasingly interested in the stock market. She went back to school for business finance, and worked at Nordstrom’s as a head make-up artist. She describes quitting after requesting Martin Luther King Day Jr. off and getting denied.
“I probably had $36 in the bank,” she said. “And I quit my job.”
Casson landed a job at Fifth Third Bank and finished an 18-month financial advisor program in nine months. She ascended to junior partner and managed $100 million in assets. But, she said, she was far from happy.
Casson left her job and was planning on working in Illinois for her mentor. On a visit to Michigan, she describes feeling compelled to stay.
“I am a very spiritual person,” she said. “If I hear God’s voice, I listen. Something told me to stay.”
She began hearing a buzz about the green rush — the impending flood of new business that would emerge with the legalization of recreational marijuana. Proposal 1 was on the ballet with strong support, and Casson saw an opportunity.
“Marijuana companies couldn’t get banking or lending, but it was mandated by the state that they get insurance,” she said.
When Casson created Cannas Capital, she was ahead of her time; when she opened, there wasn’t quite a demand but she knew that there would be. During the interim, she created a curriculum to teach people how to invest in cannabis stock and took it all over the country.
“I needed to build my brand and create an economic moat around my business,” she explained. “I knew other insurance agencies would come, and I needed mine to be different.”
Casson built her connections and established a foothold in the industry on a state and federal level. She is the Michigan Chapter President of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, and an advisor in financial services and insurance for the National Cannabis Inclusion Association and the chairwoman for the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency. She also created a blueprint for Michigan’s marijuana stock exchange.
“There was no roadmap for what I was doing, but there were some things I knew I had to do as an African-American woman in cannabis and a business owner,” she said. “I created that platform and it catapulted.”
When COVID-19 hit, it more than doubled the timeline for Casson’s insurance commissions to pay out, and she needed a bridge to get her through. Sher received a Muskegon County Recovery Loan, a GROW loan product created in partnership with the Community Foundation for Muskegon County designed to do just that.
In a previous interview, Casson said of the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, “You don’t have to close your doors. You need to bridge and sustain, because this too shall pass. Don’t ever give up.”
She adds that while the pandemic has been difficult, she relished the time to slow and polish her business.
“It allowed us to catch up,” she said. “Marijuana licensing in Michigan is lightning speed. Life slowed down for a bit and it allowed us to clean up the back office — to go from a good agency to a great agency.”
For people who are considering pursuing their passion and starting a business, Casson has an important message: “Start. Just start. When I started out and I was talking about money, stocks and weed, everyone thought I was crazy. And now, everywhere you go you hear people talking about money, stocks and weed. Just start and don’t be fearful. It doesn’t have to be perfect to start.”
She also emphasizes that consistency is an underrated business skill.
“Most people aren’t consistent. Life is going to happen, and you need to stay consistent. The more consistent you are as a business owner, you can take it from a hustle to a business to a company.”