Fast-growing Santa Rosa cannabis manufacturing firm CannaCraft has tapped William Silver, the former dean of Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics, as its new CEO.
Silver led the business program during a decadelong period of growth, increasing student enrollment by about 40 percent, raising $20 million in donations and scholarships and carving a name for the school as one of the few programs focusing on the business and entrepreneurial aspects of the wine industry.
Silver’s move to the cannabis sector — particularly to a high-profile company like CannaCraft, which was thrust into the public eye in 2016 when police raided its manufacturing operation — comes as cannabis companies are proliferating in Sonoma County.
Silver said CannaCraft’s revenues have doubled every year for three years and he hopes to help the company continue growing, with an eye toward replicating the CannaCraft brand in other cannabis-friendly states. He also will seek to further its mission to be a responsible corporate player in Sonoma County’s economy.
“It’s time to rip apart false stigmas and look at the facts about how the industry contributes to our communities and what the plant can do,” Silver said.
Silver made his first appearance as CEO of CannaCraft at an all-staff meeting Tuesday. Headquartered on Corporate Center Parkway in west Santa Rosa, the company employs about 180 people and has about 140 products under five brands, including AbsoluteXtracts cannabis oils, Care By Design medicines and Satori chocolates. CannaCraft has three state licenses for its medical cannabis manufacturing operations, distribution company and its retail dispensary in Hopland, Emerald Pharms.
CannaCraft founders Dennis Hunter and Ned Fussell said they asked Silver to join the company after learning in mid-December he was leaving Sonoma State. Hunter said they got to know Silver after seeking his advice on CannaCraft’s corporate structure and executive team. Bringing Silver in to run the company will enable them to focus on innovation, Hunter with manufacturing and Fussell in cultivation.
“We’ve known this company has outgrown us, and we want Bill to take us to the next level,” Fussell said.
Silver had planned to take a year off and then return to the university as a professor of leadership and management. The CannaCraft offer was too interesting to refuse, he said. He still plans to teach.
Lisa Vollendorf, Sonoma State University provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, said Silver “brought a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation to the school and the university.”
She said his work is best illustrated by the newly minted $9.2 million Wine Spectator Learning Center, a new home for the Wine Business Institute he helped shape. The center is expected to open its doors in May.
Over the last year, Silver has advised SSU as it developed a series of seminars focused on the cannabis industry launched by the School of Extended and International Education.
“With regard to the cannabis industry, certainly Bill Silver has helped us stay abreast of the changing economy in the region and that’s something we are proud of and he should be proud of,” Vollendorf said.
Silver, 53, lives in Santa Rosa with his wife, Kaiser Permanente pediatrician Adrienne Silver, and their three teen boys.