10 Questions with Margot Micallef, Founder and CEO of Oliver Capital Partners and Gabriella’s Kitchen
In her own words, Margot Micallef has ‘always been about changing the world.’ Entrepreneurial and driven, Micallef invests in a number of businesses across diverse industries that include broadcasting, publishing, food service, and food manufacturing. The one thing that all of these companies have in common is that they’re impactful and purposeful — two qualities that Micallef looks for in the businesses she works with.
We caught up with Micallef to learn more about her busy career, her involvement in the cannabis industry, and more.
ForceBrands: You have a very entrepreneurial background. Tell us a bit about your background and how you became involved in private equity.
Margot Micallef: I was an entrepreneur before I even realized it. It started when I was in my 20s. The summer after my undergrad degree, my sister and I needed to raise money to go to school (she to film school, me to law school). The year was 1981. Crochet bathing suits were popular. We noticed my grandmother crocheting doilies and it gave us the idea that we could hire senior citizens to make crochet bathing suits for us and we could sell them to retail boutiques to make money for school. After law school, I practiced with a large firm in Vancouver, Canada, became a partner, and then got recruited to join a large publicly traded telecommunications company. In my role as SVP and General Counsel, I ran M&A for the company along with our CFO and CEO. During the 10 years I was there, I calculated we must have done $15 billion worth of transactions. I took that experience and founded my merchant banking business, called Oliver Capital Partners. Through that business, I invested my own capital and raised additional capital and then invested in a number of diverse businesses across industries that include broadcasting, publishing, food service, and food manufacturing.
FB: Let’s chat about Gabriella’s Kitchen, which you launched in 2003. What inspired you to move into cannabis?
MM: GABY (Gabriella’s Kitchen) has always been about bringing to market healthy brands that could help consumers take control of their health and well-being. The cannabis plant is such a diverse plant and has such broad applications for managing health that the more I learned about it, the more it became apparent that we needed to move into the space. I have always been about changing the world. And frankly, I see cannabis as a catalyst to doing that. Cannabis can help people live healthier, be healthier, have a better quality of life and best of all, it is totally within their control. They can avoid pharmaceuticals, doctor’s visits, hospital admission, and other people telling them how to take care of themselves. With time and education, we can empower consumers to take control of their life and the quality of their life.
FB: You have a diverse portfolio of businesses in which you’ve invested. What types of companies or industries most appeal to you?
MM: I am agnostic when it comes to industries per se. I want to be involved in businesses that are impactful and I always look for the higher purpose.
FB: You’ve made impressive growth strides in your career. What are some secrets to your success?
MM: Success requires hard work. Period! And I am probably one of the hardest working people you will ever meet. It also requires courage, tenacity, and grit. A positive demeanor also helps tremendously. Often to succeed in business, we have to go the opposite direction in which others are going, and to do so requires all of the characteristics I mentioned. Often we will doubt ourselves and others will tell us we are wrong. We have to rely on our innate sensibilities to stand alone and persevere.
FB: How has the emergence of cannabis influenced the work that you’re doing?
MM: The emergence of cannabis has changed my focus. I want to influence the way cannabis is perceived, used, and regulated. I want to help normalize consumption and help people get the benefits on a regular basis in the best way for them.
FB: How have regulations around cannabis impacted your investing strategies?
MM: The regulations impact the business model and the likelihood of profitability in the space in the geography impacted by the regulations. Canada is federally legal, but the regulations are not conducive to business development. At the federal level, we are restricted in what products we bring to market that may be infused with cannabinoids. Our branding is also restricted and the ability to infuse products with hemp derived cannabinoids (eg. CBD) are still unclear. At the provincial level, the regulations in many provinces put the province in competition with private enterprise for product, which the province distributes! It’s an untenable situation. In California, on the other hand, the regulations aren’t perfect, but they are entrepreneurial (hence why we are heavily focusing our efforts in that state).
FB: At ForceBrands, we know it takes a lot to build a great team. What does yours look like? What are some key qualities necessary to succeed in the cannabis space?
MM: Our team comes from diverse backgrounds spanning consumer packaged goods, research and process, marketing, and cannabis. Cannabis is at its core a consumer packaged goods business so expertise in that channel is a must. But it is also a business that has grown out of camaraderie, with a grassroots bent, a renegade culture, and reliance on relationships and reputation.
The cannabis industry does not take well to executives from other industries parachuting in and telling those who have shaped the cannabis world today what to do, or how to do it better. The marriage of mainstream CPG and cannabis requires a humble collaboration and sharing of ideas. It has to support the notion of ‘better together’ not ‘better my way.’ We are definitely practitioners of the former!
FB: What’s some of the best business advice you wish you could have given to your younger self?
MM: I would say two things I wish I knew when I was younger:
- Relax. Your imperfections are perfect.
- Relax. It will all work out as it should.
I have very high standards and have always been driven. I’ve come to learn over the years that we are often too hard on ourselves and that fretting over how we think things should be is often wasted energy. We do our best and pivot as necessary based on the circumstances we are confronted with and at the end… it all works out as it should!
FB: What excites you most about the journey ahead?
MM: We are pioneers in an industry that is changing the world. It is empowering consumers to take control of their health and to enhance their quality of life. It is shifting decision-making from doctors and large pharma to individuals and allowing for the customization of healthcare in an accessible and affordable way. Our team is one of the most capable and dynamic teams in the industry. I am honored and thrilled to be working with them. I give thanks every day at 3:59 pm for all my blessings and I consider the privilege of working with my kick-ass management team one of those blessings!
Speaking of kick-ass management teams, we are working with ForceBrands to recruit members to our team, including a VP Sales Cannabis, VP Operations, Cannabis and Account Executives, California.