It seems hard to believe now, but back at her Nashville high school, Marie Montmarquet not only broke up with a boyfriend because he smoked pot, but also won the D.A.R.E. program’s “spirit award.”
“I was the most excited person to say no to drugs,” she says with a laugh, adding that “not in a million years” did she think she would one day make her living growing and selling cannabis.
“I see cannabis as an unbelievable opportunity to be involved in,” she says. “I definitely just appreciate the opportunity to be able to exist in the legal cannabis market.”
These days, Montmarquet is managing partner of MD Numbers, Inc., a collection of cannabis businesses in Northern California. She is co-founder and CEO of Marie’s Deliverables, a minority owner of a second delivery company called Cannabis Express and president of MD Farms. She also works with Success Centers in San Francisco to mentor industry hopefuls and recently formed Legacy Coterie with two other women to help other women and minorities break into the cannabis business.
And all within the past five years.
“Stuff has been moving fast,” she says. “I’m definitely always busy.”
Montmarquet graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a degree in political science and psychology and the goal of going to law school. Instead, she went to work after graduation and moved to California in 2010, first running a commission sales company for DirecTV, then managing a wholesale plumbing company.
The experience gave her insight into supply chain management, which would come in handy after she made the transition to cannabis, starting a delivery service with her brother, Allen Hackett, in the “dry county” of San Mateo.
After launching another small delivery service in North Hollywood, that experience convinced the pair that they would need a farm to be successful and in 2016, they launched MD Farms in Salinas, which today produces 6,000 plants per month at the 47,000-square-foot facility. All told, the siblings now hold three cultivation permits, one distribution permit and one nursery permit and are working to get a retail permit as well. Montmarquet says the farm will have revenues near $5 million this year, with projections of nearly doubling that in 2021.
Montmarquet says the key to her success has been determination and hard work, something she learned from her mother, who was a “hardcore businesswoman” back in Nashville who helped show her the ropes and made sure she knew “it’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems.”
“The No. 1 secret is the work,” she says, adding that they have faced evictions and have had to fire three different “master growers,” among other difficulties. “Because we come from such a thought process where there’s only one option and this has to succeed, we’ve been able to go and find a solution for every problem.”
She also says a key to the company’s success has been “thinking big but staying small.”
Montmarquet’s latest venture builds on her work with Success Centers. Legacy Coterie is a place for those looking to build or improve a brand get help in getting permits or to help use her distribution license to get new product lines and equity brands on the market.
Her advice to other women getting started in the business?
“Stand up, even in a room full of men,” she says, noting that in initial meetings, her brother drew most of the attention and eye contact until she proved herself knowledgeable.
As for the future, Montmarquet is focused on continuing to build her companies and others, but always keeps an eye open for a surprising opportunity, much like the industry was for her as a whole.
“Cannabis will surprise you if you stay committed,” she says. “Who knows where we’ll wind up?”