Derek Ross’s career trajectory is witness to his resilience, determination, and unwavering belief in one’s vision. At 18, he faced the daunting task of transitioning out of foster care and leaving high school, only to find himself homeless in a tent six months later. However, rather than succumbing to the challenges life threw at him, Derek harnessed his enterprising spirit to pave his path. Today, he is the CEO of the largest privately held vertically integrated cannabis company in the Northeast of the US. In this interview, we explore his remarkable journey, lessons from failure, and commitment to making a difference through the ‘Aged Out Foundation.’
At 18, you faced some tough choices, leaving foster care and high school. Six months later, you were homeless, living in a tent. Can you take us back to that time and describe the challenges you faced?
It is a period in my life I will never forget. It was incredibly challenging, but I was driven to succeed. At that time, the odds of success for former foster kids were just 4%. I realised early on that a conventional 9-to-5 job was not for me.
Your journey is inspiring. What kept you going?
It was not easy, but it was a combination of grit, vision, and belief in myself that kept me going. I knew I had to prove to myself and to the world that I could overcome these challenges.
Your early career was marked by several business ventures, some of which failed. Can you share some of the valuable lessons you learned from those experiences?
Absolutely. I have worked in various service industries, from hosting to bartending, and even in construction and landscaping. I ventured into nightclubs, and retail, and eventually founded Cannatech, a consulting company specialising in helping businesses develop advanced indoor cannabis cultivation facilities. Each failure taught me invaluable lessons, and they all contributed to my eventual success in the cannabis industry.
When did you realise that the cannabis industry was your calling, and how did you seize the opportunity?
I saw that federal legalisation was on the horizon, and the industry was about to explode. I gathered a team of experts and decided to set up a vertically integrated cannabis company. It was all about timing and recognising the potential of the industry.
What was the driving force behind growth and turning down acquisition offers?
Our commitment to our vision and our belief in the potential of the industry were driving forces. We wanted to capitalise on our momentum and dominate the competition. Winning prestigious awards like the High Times Cannabis Cups gave us the confidence to keep going.
You expanded your company into several states- can you tell us about your strategy for this expansion?
We focused on solidifying our presence in each market rather than spreading ourselves too thin. It was a carefully planned expansion strategy, and we made sure to outperform our competitors.
Can you tell us about the Aged-Out Foundation and your mission to support foster kids ageing out of the system?
I made a promise to myself that I would make a difference when I could. I founded the Aged-Out Foundation to support young individuals transitioning out of the foster care system. That 96% failure rate statistic haunted me, and I knew I had to do something about it.
What is next for you and Nova Farms?
I am excited to take Nova Farms to the next level. When we break $100 million in revenue next year, I plan to take the company public and further expand our reach.
Can you tell us more about your approach to nurturing the company’s culture and values?
It is all about the people who make the difference. We prioritise hiring individuals with a keen sense of opportunity and nurturing their growth, and that has been instrumental in Nova Farms’ success.
What message do you have for others who may be facing their own challenges?
Regardless of the obstacles you face, always remember that you have the power to shape your destiny.
Derek Ross’s story is an inspiration and proves that regardless of the obstacles we face, with grit, vision, and a belief in ourselves, we have the power to overcome adversity and shape our destiny. Derek’s commitment to his vision and dedication to giving back through the Aged-Out Foundation highlights the profound impact one person can have on the world when they refuse to give up. As he plans to take Nova Farms public and expand its reach, we can expect to see even more success and positive change on the horizon for Derek Ross.