A graduate of the Full-Time MBA, Stephan Kramer started his career in finance. After a career and industry change, he made the decision to start his own company in 2019. HEYDAY is a groundbreaking company in Germany that could shape the future of the medical cannabis industry and potentially lead the way for the rest of Europe. “We need to rethink our attitude to cannabis. We need to move it from non-regulated supply chains where the source of the cannabis is unknown but look at it as a realistic alternative to current medicines.”
A finance executive who traveled internationally for Lloyds of London, Stephan first encountered WHU while working in Chicago. Here he discovered Kellogg-Northwestern and its close connection to the German business school. An interest in postgraduate studies and a growing feeling that there was a lack of direction in his career eventually led him to Düsseldorf, WHU, and the Full-Time MBA Program.
Unearthing hidden talents.
“Before I joined the MBA, I felt like I had become stuck in my career – I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Going back to banking seemed to be the right step for me as it was my first profession and one I enjoyed. Studying for an MBA seemed the perfect way to take a career break, gain more management experience, and switch jobs.
During the program, I realized taking a step back wasn’t the right move for me, but I wanted to move forward and change my career completely. I discovered more about my values and what I needed in life. It became clear that it wasn’t in trading and watching people make moves in stocks. What I needed were more conversation and strategy discussions. I discovered I wasn’t so bad at marketing and many other topics, which I wouldn’t have found without the MBA program.
So when I graduated from the Full-Time MBA Program, I made a complete change in my career, from underwriting and risk management to eCommerce and business development.”
Paving the way for a new industry.
In 2017, Germany saw a regulatory change allowing cannabis to be used for medical purposes. With Germany often leading Europe for such groundbreaking changes, this will undoubtedly have a long-term impact on other countries considering a change in legislation. “I saw this change and considered what impact this would have on the country. It was mostly of a philosophical nature – how will society change? What will happen in the future to an industry that doesn’t exist yet? I decided to do what anyone should do before starting a company – research. I read about cannabis, spoke to people, and wrote a book (‘Herba non grata’ ISBN 978-3-944514-20-8, Kater Literaturverlag). I did a lot of in-depth desk research to become an expert on the topic.”
HEYDAY is a medical cannabis company and one of the first of its kind in Germany. Granted with a narcotics trade license, HEYDAY imports, stores, and distributes cannabis within Europe for medicinal use (they do not produce the cannabis itself). “We have one of the best vertically integrated supply chains. I learned from WHU that it is important to understand every step in detail, to either outsource or build it yourself. As a new industry, no one knew how to deal with cannabis, so we built everything ourselves.”
Creating a cannabis-friendly future.
However, the long-term goal for Stephan is clear – he doesn’t simply wish to generate revenue and sell the company for profit. “For me, we are creating value. I aim to see this industry grow in the long-term, to create value for society and not focus on the monetary outcome. I think it is essential to create something that will be there longer than you as a person.
I’m often asked what the most significant obstacles are with founding this company. Usually, people expect me to say it’s the regulations and the authorities. But really, it’s mostly about time and mindset. It’s about being patient, keeping the vision in sight, and how you deal with the current regulations that exist.
It’s also the mindset of society in Germany. My wish for the future of this industry is for it to become easier to prescribe medical cannabis for doctors. For the public to not simply accept synthetic medicines but also see the potential in this natural, plant-based alternative. Put it this way - you cannot poison yourself with cannabis. To do that, you must eat 75kg in just a few minutes.
In comparison, in the USA, 179 people die every day from Oxycodone overdose. We can see how society is changing in other countries - in Canada, more cannabis was sold in the regulated market than on the black market in the last year. Even consumption of cannabis among teenagers decreased. The social impact of such a regulated industry is long-term and widespread.”