Erin O’Donnell: Ushering the Growth of the Lucrative Cannabis Industry

While the world has been dominated by disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic, one business sector has come of age. The Cannabis industry, which was once frowned upon, is now one of the fastest-growing industries in America. The global legal marijuana market size was valued at USD 16.7 billion in 2022 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.4% from 2023 to 2030.

Although the growing demand for legal marijuana continues across the globe, many are skeptical about being associated with this industry. “The cannabis industry is the fastest growing industry on the planet, yet it’s federally illegal and that causes many issues due to the lack of banking services like lending and deposits, which greatly impacts scalability,” states Erin O’Donnell, Founding Partner of Infused Banking.

Started over a year ago, Infused Banking is an education, advisory, and research firm working in the cannabis banking industry. Redefining the way the cannabis industry is perceived, Infused Banking exists to set the standard for education, research, advisory, and expert witness services. “We are here to help bring the cannabis and banking industries together to find solutions, talk openly, and build relationships to power the future of this exciting industry,” explains Erin.

A Booming Industry

Infused Banking provides the most comprehensive on-demand Learning Platform, built specifically for cannabis and banking professionals to navigate the ever-changing landscape of regulatory challenges, growth opportunities, and expansion capabilities. Trusted by regulators, business leaders, and higher education institutions Infused Banking has successfully launched several education and advisory companies in the heavily regulated financial services industry.

We love our clients, we have fun, and we welcome you to join us in our endeavor to bring the cannabis banking industry the most critical and timely education available. It’s really a dream come true for us to be involved in this growing industry full of excitement and innovation. We are thrilled to take this journey with you.

The Infused team has successfully launched several education and advisory companies to keep learners engaged in the education process and navigate industry challenges. The company has also launched the banking industry’s first cannabis banking certification helping to ensure that banks and cannabis businesses remain compliant with requirements and the latest state laws.

The cannabis industry is so exciting, I think anyone looking to be a part of it will be making history,” states Erin. Today, the company operates out of its multiple offices in New Mexico, New York, and Washington, DC.

Erin O'Donnell
Erin O’Donnell

From Event Manager to Change Agent

A week after she graduated with a B.S. in Marketing/Business Administration from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, Erin got on a plane and moved to San Diego. “I didn’t have a job; I didn’t know a soul and actually I’d never been there before. I ended up staying for four great years and found the career I love working as an event manager at the University of California, San Diego,” shares she.

A few years after that, Erin realized that the cannabis industry was truly unique and poised for rampant growth. The opportunity to be involved on the ground in the fastest-growing industry on the planet was irresistible to her. With banking playing such a critical role in the scalability of this budding industry, she knew the opportunity would be incredibly exciting. With that, a few like-minded individuals from different backgrounds came together and Infused Banking was launched. Their objective – to help financial institutions bank cannabis businesses.

I’ve planned hundreds of professional events all over the world but my biggest highlight was starting my own company over 15 years ago. I am a single mother and when my youngest went to elementary school, I started my own business and never looked back,” shares Erin.

With over 30 years of experience in event management and education and content management, today Erin is responsible for driving the strategic vision of her organization. She has also co-founded BankersHub, an online portal of banking education and information, where she launched the banking industry’s first virtual conference and expo.

Erin frequently speaks at industry conferences on cannabis in banking, planning virtual events, including live streaming events and webinars, she has also been a featured keynote speaker on the topic of the importance of social media in financial services. She is a certified Digital Event Strategist (DES) and a Certified Meeting Manager (CMM) and a Certified Cannabis Banking Professional (CBP).

"Tapping into the unique strengths of your team and not trying to create clones of yourself might be hard in the short term, but rewarding in the long term,"

The Next Generation Leader

I think the most vulnerable moment in my career was when I started having kids,” shares Erin. At age 30, she had her first child and was out of the workforce for the next 5 years. During this time, she had to step away from a lucrative role and position at a renowned venture capital firm. “The world hasn’t come to an end though,” she told herself and stayed positive and confident about getting back into the workforce.

Even when starting her own business, Erin continued to hone her management skills, learning and evolving to become the business leader she is today. “I remember thinking that being the boss seemed so easy because it was your company and you got to call the shots. Boy, was I wrong about that! I was surprised to learn all the complexities of trying to move a dream forward and trying to communicate a vision while bootstrapping without a safety net. I love excitement though, so as stressful as it was starting up a company from nothing I loved every minute of it. Still do.

As a leader and a transformation agent, Erin believes that giving employees space to make mistakes, learn and build their skills is the best way to understand their strengths and weaknesses. “Tapping into the unique strengths of your team and not trying to create clones of yourself might be hard in the short term, but rewarding in the long term,” states she. Infused Banking also works closely with women and minorities providing them with scholarships and platforms to give them a voice.

Looking back, Erin feels proud of everything she has achieved and the lives she has touched. She even mentors her children’s friends in business and in life. Her oldest son runs his own establishment, while her youngest son works for her. Erin’s daughter is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting and has an internship with BDO. “The thing that matters the most to me is my family, and we are thriving,” she smiles.

Evolving, Innovating, and Expanding

Recently, the Covid pandemic illustrated how technology is a necessity for organizations to thrive and expand. For widespread impact Infused Banking, a virtual education company, hosts all its classes and certifications online. The organization continues to explore the use of new technologies and digital platforms that would allow them to live stream physical events online or hybrid events as well.

Both the banking industry and the cannabis industry are heavily regulated and this means staying up to date on policy changes for more than 40 different states can be challenging. Virtual education allows real-time policy changes to be communicated on a global scale,” explains Erin. Infused Banking is diligently working on scaling up its education experience by employing some exciting technology in the coming years.

As a leader, Erin’s current goals are to listen, learn and engage the cannabis banking industry with unique learning tools to help scale cannabis businesses through much-needed banking services. “If my professional legacy could be that I helped other women follow their dreams and supported them in ways that I was lucky enough to be supported, that would do it for me,” she concludes.