MUV Florida named Big Business of the Year
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MONDAY JUNE 28, 2021 |
It has been so long since the founders of MÜV Florida had to convince heads of state that this was a legitimate business. Bring in a product sold as a pharmaceutical but ridiculed as a repackaged bag of dope, it once seemed an open question when a medical cannabis dispensary could legally make sales in the Sunshine State.
What a long and strange journey it has been. On Friday, the Sarasota-based company won the Large Business of the Year award from the Grand Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. At the Group of Companies’ Small Business Awards 2021, leaders from across the region celebrated and even openly thanked MÜV The founders of Florida for selling their products here, delivering what is ultimately widely regarded as a drug,
“One of the biggest things about [the award ceremony] was just a validation of our mission, ”said Todd Beckwith, Director of Corporate Affairs at MÜV Florida. “We have brought cannabis out of the shadows and put cannabis in the spotlight.”
It doesn’t always look so easy or glamorous. The story of MÜV Florida dates back to 2014, when investors saw a future in a natural product once better known as a street drug. A business plan was quashed when voters in Florida rejected a statewide referendum that year to legalize medical marijuana. Undeterred, Beckwith and others focused on businesses in other states and waited patiently until a refined amendment was passed two years later.
Since then, the company has partnered with Plants of Ruskin to be eligible for Florida’s new licensing requirements, which required any operating dispensary to market only the products it had grown. The company, which had been preparing for legalization for years, was granted a first license to operate in Florida.
Beckwith said the company’s commitment to transparency at a level above that demanded by industry or regulators has made the difference in developing a professional reputation.
“When we started out as a business, some people were less accepting of this as a legitimate industry, but we’ve just seen a transformation,” he said.
Indeed, the past year has been a landmark in many ways. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, the company has opened 19 new dispensaries in the state of Florida. “The tipping point was when Governor Ron DeSantis declared medical cannabis a core business,” Beckwith said. This allowed the business to remain open like pharmacies, even during closings.
The company added 400 new employees and now has about 800 in Florida; enough to qualify in the Chamber’s “Large companies” category for companies with 500 or more employees.
The company also merged last year with Verano Holdings; he always does business like MÜV Florida, a division of Verano. The company even went public on the Canadian Securities Exchange.
The company has continued to remain engaged with lawmakers in Tallahassee, where an effort to cap THC in plants briefly threatened the industry this year but ultimately died. Beckwith remains convinced that if the industry keeps lawmakers educated, the state will remain a good place for medical cannabis companies to do business.
With many founding executives still operating in Sarasota County, the local business award meant a huge sum internally at MÜV Florida, Beckwith said. “We were founded in Sraaosta and a lot of them still live here, and have lived here for some time,” Beckwith said. “Even at lunch, several people stopped us and thanked us, saying they had loved ones who have benefited greatly from using our products. This is the ultimate validation for us.