Adam Saperia of Emblem Corp on the world of Cannabis and doing well while doing good

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Adam Saperia is the Chief Strategy Officer of Emblem Corp., a leading licensed producer of medical cannabis in Canada, led by a team of experienced healthcare executives, accomplished marketing professionals, and cannabis experts. Adam is a high performing millennial leader with a non-traditional background whose experience spans project management and customer service. He is a graduate from the Schulich School of Business MBA program and currently lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Tell me a bit about your origin story. What is your background?

I joined Emblem after completing my MBA four years ago. Prior to that, I was working in the manufacturing industry but wasn’t very passionate about what I was doing. I wanted to go back to school to try something else. Lucky for me, I was introduced to the founders of Emblem upon graduation through a family connection and we really hit it off. I didn’t want to take the conventional path of working for a big company – I’ve always preferred working with a small business to help it grow. As I learned more about Canada’s new medical cannabis laws and the incredible potential, joining Emblem made sense. Since then, I’ve been a proud member of the company as we have grown tremendously.

What is your opinion on doing an MBA?

I found the MBA program to be an incredible and worthwhile experience. It opened my eyes to a number of new topics and new ideas, and I met a lot of interesting people. While I had a business background, there were many people in my program who knew little about business before entering and they really benefited from the foundational courses.  I opted to do the full-time program, but many people in the class were working and completing the degree part time to advance to the next level in their career. 

The networking opportunities both during the program and after graduation are also quite valuable, and I still keep in touch with a number of classmates.

What is the one thing you wish you knew about joining an early stage start-up before joining one yourself?

I’d say that you need to be willing to take risks to be successful, and big risks at that. I am generally risk adverse, but this industry has taught me about how fulfilling it is to throw caution to the wind once in a while. You can’t go out and bet the farm on any opportunity, but when the right one comes along, you need to be willing to make the jump. Whether it’s business or otherwise, those who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and take risks can reap the biggest rewards.

What are the most important business lessons that you have had to learn the hard way? How have they made you more successful?

One of the most challenging times in my career was during the winter of 2015-2016 when Emblem was raising money on Bay Street. The details of the government’s plan to legalize cannabis hadn’t been announced yet, and we were having a difficult time securing investors. As we progressed further towards legalization though, we started to get more traction and ultimately began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange by the end of 2016.

As an entrepreneur, you are undoubtedly going to go through tough times, and tough times can sometimes last much longer than you’d like. But if you persevere and remain determined, there is often something better waiting on the other side that will make it all worth it. At Emblem, we’ve gone through a period of incredible growth and experienced tremendous progress. You just can’t give up.

What is the one piece of advice that you would give to someone in the workforce today to get ahead and find work that is fulfilling?

Find a business where you can do good and be financially successful at the same time. Yes, there is money to be made in the cannabis industry, but the joy that comes from hearing about patients who were able to exercise or play with their kids for the first time in years because of their treatment is priceless.

Over time, I’ve been lucky to hear about the positive impact Emblem and medical cannabis has had on our patients and that’s been very valuable for me. We ask our front-line staff to share patient stories with our employees because they provide a lot of motivation for the team (and are especially nice to hear when you’re having a tough day!). The difference we are making in patients’ lives is what keeps me going and helps me feel fulfilled by what we do.

This interview was brought to you in partnership with The Lucky Few Podcast. Be sure to check out the full feature done by my partner in crime, Aaron Parker here:

Aubrey Chapnick