Yes, We Cannabis: Meet Tiffany G’11 and Ted Madru G’11
“We say that cannabis is safer than lettuce,” explains Tiffany Cutting Madru G’11. Cutting Madru and her husband, Ted Madru, own and operate Analytics Labs, a Holyoke-based cannabis testing facility, where they analyze marijuana samples from over 50 operators across the commonwealth to ensure products meet the state’s rigorous safety standards.
At the facility, samples are tested to evaluate properties such as microbial levels, pesticides, potency, terpenes (compounds that provide aroma and flavor) and the presence of heavy metals. The couple opened the business eight months ago, applying their collective years of experience in complex, highly regulated industries and a pair of Bay Path MBA degrees to be a part of the green rush—the economic boom brought on by the legalization of cannabis.
A woman- and minority-owned enterprise, Analytics Labs is currently the first and only testing facility west of Worcester and is a critical cog in the vast and complicated machinery of the regional cannabis industry.
“I don’t think people understand how challenging it is to grow commercial cannabis successfully,” Cutting Madru says. “We have seen folks put their entire life savings into a small cultivation or manufacturing facility, and it is such a heavy lift. The seed-to-sale tracking system is extensive, and the financial realities create a high barrier to entry.”
The couple met working on their capstone projects in Bay Path’s Entrepreneurial Thinking and Innovative Practices MBA program. At the time, Cutting Madru had been planning to step into the family business, C&D Electronics, a distribution company serving the aerospace and defense industries founded by her father more than 30 years ago. Madru was working in the biotech industry, where he routinely navigated relationships with doctors and executives, as well as government and private insurance payers to successfully launch new medicines.
“We each had our own experiences and insights, but the MBA program gave both of us the exposure, confidence and support to take our ideas and bring them to life,” Cutting Madru says. “It taught us how to look at opportunities, weigh our options and test feasibility by giving us a structure and framework to vet our ideas and plans.”
As the legalization movement expanded toward Massachusetts, the pair recognized the opportunities the cannabis industry brought, as well as the practical experience and work ethic they brought to the cannabis industry. “We said, ‘This looks like prohibition. How can we become a part of it?’”
In becoming a part of it, the team has joined a diverse, interconnected network of pioneers, all seeking to carve a niche in the burgeoning cannabis ecosystem. “There are so many different types of people in this industry, but everyone is new to it,” Cutting Madru explains. “You might be able to profile people in other industries, but I’ve met farmers, one who grew watermelon for a large grocery store chain and now grows cannabis, along with very wealthy investment banking experts who are part of the capital-raising process, to business owners who bring ideas about new products. It’s a lot of fun.”
At the same time, building an industry that has the potential to remake the landscape in places where the loss of manufacturing has left a persistent stock of empty factory buildings and barren neighborhoods brings added rewards.
“In Holyoke, they’ve just opened quite a few restaurants. There are so many people working in cultivation and far behind the scenes, and they need a place to eat and meet,” Cutting Madru says. “In Fall River, these old mill buildings are being revitalized. There’s a lot of job creation. It’s all coming with the cultivation.”
In addition to a surplus of former mills and factories, the electricity required to operate artificial lights necessary for maintaining optimal growing conditions has attracted a glut of investors to the Paper City, which, thanks to a massive dam complex that supplies ample hydroelectric power, has some of the lowest electricity rates in Massachusetts. The state Cannabis Control Commission has already issued around 40 provisional licenses for businesses in Holyoke, the most per capita of any Massachusetts community.
“People see the dispensaries, but from when that seed is planted, and all the stops it makes along the way to the sale is a big, big process,” says Cutting Madru. “I don’t think people realize how large this industry is.”
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