Puffin Store NJ receives Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award at NJ Cannabis Insider Live Awards Show 2023. The event, held in Carteret, NJ, was host to hundreds of attendees, finalists, and winners who influence the cannabis industry space right here in New Jersey. Our women-led co-owners Gabriel Eustache and Sylvia Yanovitch, joined alongside co-founders Nathan Yanovitch and Alejandro Benjamin, joined on stage with Enrique Lavin to accept the prestigious award thanks to all the Puffin supporters.
Puffin co-founders Nathan Yanovitch, Sylvia Yanovitch, Gabriel Eustache, Alejandro Benjamin
As reported by NJ.com by Gabby Warren!
The softly lighted ballroom at the Carteret Performing Arts Center exploded into whoops, whistles and applause as cannabis entrepreneur Suzan Nickelson made her way to the stage to accept her award at the NJ Cannabis Insider 2023 Awards Thursday night.
Nickelson’s recently opened legal weed dispensary Holistic Solutions in Camden County was recognized with the Publisher’s Choice Award for Breakout Business of the Year.
Both her introduction and acceptance speech — which mentioned that her business, Holistic Solutions, was a generational dream-come-true — garnered one of the few standing ovations of the night.
“It feels fantastic. What an honor. We are so humbled by this recognition. Holistic represents those overlooked and not often noticed that are creating a new path in this industry. We have been working hard for years, and are thrilled to provide plant-based products as a wellness option,” said Nickelson, who dawned a shimmering buttercup yellow gown, clutched her rectangular statuettes while beamed a bright smile.
Nickelson made history in February after becoming the first Black woman to open a dispensary in New Jersey. Her store was also nominated in the Excellence in Social Equity and the Medical Dispensary of the Year categories.
“Women and minorities are taking their seat at the table leading and creating a vibrant new synergy,” she said. “Holistic is so happy to be a part of this legacy.”
“Her leadership, vision, and commitment to excellence have left an unforgettable mark on the lives of countless individuals, including myself, who have been inspired by her journey,” said Matha Figaro, owner of edibles company ButACake, said in her speech introducing the New Jersey trailblazer.
Earlier in the evening, Figaro had won a people’s choice award for Excellence in Innovation.
A Who’s Who of New Jersey cannabis professionals converged for the formal-attire awards show, which presented statuettes to businesses and individuals in 17 categories.
In addition to Nickelson, four others were recognized with the Publisher’s Choice Awards, selected by Enrique Lavín, NJ Cannabis Insider publisher and editor:
- Ara Karakashian, dean of the culinary school at Hudson County Community College, for Excellence in Education
- Hugh Giordano, a UFCW representative, for Ambassador of the Year
- Chirali Patel, an attorney and entrepreneur, for the Community Game Changer of the Year. Patel’s company Blaze Responsibly also won an award.
- Ken Wolski, a retired nurse and a and co-founder of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, for the Lifetime Achievement award
“Marijuana is entering into mainstream medicine,” Wolski said during his acceptance speech, “I am happy to see that the endocannabinoid system is now being taught in colleges and universities here in New Jersey.
“It is a thrill for me to see the industry expanding the way it is, with cannabis chambers of commerce, organized labor involved, and terrific media coverage,” Wolski said.
A night to remember
NJ Cannabis Insider, a trade journal and events group that is part of the NJ Advance Media newsroom celebrating five years of reporting on the Garden State’s cannabis scene, hosted the upscale event — for a second year — for some of the state’s most prominent business and policy leaders.
Some 300 insiders showed off their style and fashion as they networked over live piano music, appetizers and cocktails before the show began. The many sequined and embroidered dresses glimmered in the relaxed blue lighting, transforming the lobby hall.
Well-tailored suits, black or green dresses and jumpsuits of all silhouettes also stood out as event-goers posed in front of the NJ Cannabis Insider-branded backdrop and sipped their “Sweet Ganja Margaritas”, a signature non-infused cocktail designed especially for the award show.
The dress-to-impress event included an open bar cocktail hour, awards show, networking, late night bites, drinks and entertainment from comedian Dan Nainan, who was the MC.
The celebration was extended to everyone to join a swanky rooftop afterparty, where the lingering haze of Canada’s wildfire mixed with reveler’s exhaling cannabis smoke.
Lavín hosted the awards banquet again this year. In his opening remarks, he acknowledged the “growing pains” the industry is facing after the market opened a little more than a year ago with investment money drying up, municipal bureaucracy stalling applications and a tight real estate market.
“On the flip side,” he said, “We now have 30 adult-use dispensaries open in New Jersey, with another dozen or more to open by the end of the year.”
Lavín acknowledged many of the dispensary owners in the audience,.pointing out that in 2022 the New Jersey market had brought in a combined $555 million in sales.
“Before too long, we’ll have new licenses in wholesale, distribution and delivery to add to the cultivators, manufactures and retailers. And let’s not forget the testing labs,” he said.
Edmund DeVeaux, former president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association and the 2022 recipient of the Ambassador of the Year Award, took a minute to thank industry leaders in the audience for the support he enjoyed during his tenure.
I’ve worked with everyone here either directly or indirectly,” DeVeaux said, “but always for our mutual success.”
There were a few repeat winners from the 2022 awards, including:
- Valley Wellness, who’s founder Sarah Trent won last year’s Women-owned Business of the Year award for her cannabis education company NJ Cannabis Certified, won Medical Dispensary of the Year.
- Sapphire Risk Advisory Group and CEO Tony Gallo, last year’s winner for Excellence in Consultancy and Professional Services, won for Compliance, Security Planning and Insurance
- Cova Software, a point of sale software company, won last year’s Excellence in Innovation award, won for Excellence in Dispensary Operations
Winners in 17 categories, and five Publisher’s Choice awards, were handed a statuette. Finalists were recognized with a plaque. Cannacoverage was the only company that was a finalist in three categories. Here’s the remaining list of this year’s winners.
Excellence in Cannabis Law:
- Alana Hans-Cohen of Pashman Stein for Applications Lawyer.
- Mollie Hartman Lustig of McLaughlin & Stern, LLP for Municipal Lawyer.
- Jorge Luis Vasquez, Jr. of Vasquez Segarra LLP for Employment Lawyer.
- McLaughlin & Stern LLP takes another award for Law Firm of the Year
Excellence in Operations:
- Grow America Builders for Commercial Building Operations
Excellence in Consultancy:
- Longview Strategic won for Application Development
- Citrin Cooperman Advisors won for Accounting & Finance
- ButACake, who provided the event with non-infused strips and baked goods, for Excellence in Product Innovation
- The Hoffman Centers won Excellence in Social Equity
- Blaze Responsibly won Minority-owned Business of the Year
- Puffin won Woman-owned Business of the Year
- Bennabis Health won Excellence in Healthcare and Life Sciences
- Apothecarium Dispensary Maplewood won Recreational Dispensary of the Year
- Elevated by The CannaBoss Lady won CBD Shop of the Year
Sponsors supporting this event include, Hance Construction, Inc., McLaughlin & Stern, LLP, Tenax Strategies and Genova Burns LLC.
In April, the cannabis industry voted who should be recognized as the best in their categories. Finalists were narrowed down to five in each of the 17 categories, with the ultimate winner announced at the awards show.
NJ Cannabis Insider Awards Show, 2023
Gabby Warren is NJ.com’s Cannabis Life reporter. She’ll be covering all things weed retail, commerce and culture. Send your weed consumer questions to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @divix3nation.