January 2018: Pacific Cannabis Insurance Services
President, GT Brown Insurance Services Inc./Pacific Cannabis Insurance Services
Tell us about your company(s) and your role?
"GT Brown Insurance has been a Health and Life insurance agency for the past 16 years. The last two years we added Property, Casualty and Liability insurance serving the Cannabis Industry. We have Producers/Insurance Agents in Humboldt County and Arizona. Most recently my wife Teresa has joined as my partner and our business manager."
What was your very first introduction to the cannabis industry?
"I grew up in the Mission District of San Francisco in the early 70s. I was going to head shops and buying underground comic books, being a young, free-spirited 'hippie' as people would call us. I remember when I told my wife about this cannabis business endeavor I wanted to go into. She said, 'That is perfect for you'. I love the healing effects of cannabis and seeing how many people it can help, so working in the industry always made sense."
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned since you’ve been in the industry?
"To be patient and be kind. The reason I say that, is because of the challenges we have with insurance, with banking, with taxation - it is a necessary evil. Sometimes, I can't even believe I went into the insurance business, but the truth is people need it. It is so difficult for people to understand and grasp its language and the minutiae, let alone its importance, so I am happy to be able to be there for people and walk them through it all."
What has been your biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?
"When I first started my business, one of my best friends, who is a banker, set me up with a business account and within 48 hours they shut it down. It devastated us. They shut down not just our business account, but our personal account of over 16 years, even after we got the Vice President of the bank's approval. Those kinds of risks really worry both my wife and I. This is our livelihood and we understand business. These things make us a little nervous."
What is your proudest moment since you’ve started down the path as a cannabis entrepreneur?
"Landing my first account. It was a local businessman - the second dispensary in our area. He came to me saying that people recommended me as an insurance broker and agency. I was so proud that all my years of doing business and giving back to my community had meant something - that my reputation was held up to such high esteem in such a volatile time for the industry. People trusted me to handle their extremely risky businesses, and it's just flourished since then."
10 years ago, what did you think you’d be doing now?
"Doing exactly what I'm doing today. Walking my dog, living on the Monterey Peninsula, and married to my beautiful wife of 42 years."
How would you describe the cannabis industry in Monterey County?
"Flourishing. People are understanding its importance. Even though there are challenges, there is so much good press and exciting things happening with adult use and more permits being given out. It’s flourishing like a marijuana bud. I wake up every morning excited to go to work."
What is your advice for hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs?
"I get that question a lot. My advice, is do something you love. If you love people, go into the dispensary side. If you love gardening, go into the cultivation side. If you love science, look into the labs. I love people and I love getting belly to belly and talking and working with the world, that's why I am where I am. Find your niche. Once you find that, you’ll find your way."