Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Nancy Whiteman is a figure who managed to win the bet in the midst of uncertain conditions. How could it not be, in 2010, Whiteman was desperate to leave his profession as a high-paying consultant to open a cannabis-based snack business, Wana. Even though at that time the consumption of marijuana for recreation was still illegal in Colorado, United States (US).
However, four years later, Whiteman’s recklessness paid off when the US state finally legalized the retail sale of cannabis. She eventually became one of the richest female businesswomen figures in the US according to Forbes with a net worth of US$225 million or around IDR3.44 trillion (assuming an exchange rate of IDR15,323/US$).
“I want to have a business that I can build value on and not depend on me. I also love to cook,” Whiteman told CNBC Make It, quoted Monday (21/8/2023).
Photo: AFP via Getty Images/FABRICE COFFRINI
Cannabis cultivation (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
Reported from CNBC Make It, it all started when Whiteman had a conversation with the father of his daughter’s friend. From the conversation, Whiteman learned that he worked in a somewhat illegal industry.
At first, Whiteman and her husband at the time, John Whiteman, decided to team up with her daughter’s friend’s father and experiment together in a local commercial kitchen.
Within a year, the Whitemans finally decided to continue on their own and invested US$50,000 to US$60,000 or around Rp.766.2 million to Rp.919.4 million of their own money to start Wana.
With no outside funding, Wana conducted market research to see what was popular. In fact, the Whitemans had to use their personal money to pay employees’ salaries.
In late 2011, Nancy and John divorced. Despite this, they decide to remain business partners. In 2014, Nancy and John’s efforts bore fruit after Colorado legalized the sale of ready-to-eat cannabis. As national interest in cannabis-based snacks grew, so did Wana’s annual income.
Until 2017, Whiteman revealed that his income had reached US $ 14.5 million or around IDR 222.2 billion. A year later, Whiteman bought John’s remaining stake in the company.
According to the same report, most of Whiteman’s wealth came from selling Wana for US$350 million or around Rp.5.36 trillion to Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth in 2021.
At the time of the purchase, Whiteman owned 100 percent of the company and received an initial payment of US$297.5 million or around Rp4.55 trillion in cash. Until now, Whiteman still serves as CEO of Wana.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in the 13 years since Wana’s launch, as many as 23 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational marijuana use.
According to Grand View Research, last year the cannabis industry in the US was valued at US$13.2 billion or around Rp.202.29 trillion. Last year, Seattle-based data firm Headset found that cannabis-based snacks accounted for 12 percent of the market.
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