Interview with Denise Faltischek, Chief Strategy Officer
January 28, 2021
We caught up with Denise Faltischek who is our Chief Strategy Officer overseeing Aphria Inc.’s medical division and international operations as well as collaborating with our CEO on strategy and corporate development. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the team and has played an integral role in identifying opportunities to strengthen Aphria Inc.’s global position.
Denise discusses how her previous experiences led her to Aphria Inc. and what future growth looks like for the Company. She is passionate about helping people and brings an open mind to our team and industry!
Denise Faltischek, Chief Strategy Officer at Aphria Inc.
What was your first job and biggest lesson you took from it?
For as long as I can remember, I was intent on pursuing a career that would allow me to care for people and their well-being. In University, I majored in behavioural neuroscience with the goal of attending medical school. My father, a retired physician, suggested that I should first try working in the medical field before committing to a life-long career. I think he knew something about me that I didn’t know about myself which is, I’m a germaphobe and extremely stubborn. Working in the medical field, I quickly realized that although healing sick people may not be in my future, there are other ways to support those in need and their well-being.
This led me to my previous role at The Hain Celestial Group, a leading organic and natural consumer products company, where our mission was to help and inspire people to live a healthier way of life. Now, at Aphria Inc., overseeing the medical international businesses, I am still working to help people live a healthier way of life.
You have such a diverse background. What has your career path has taught you so far?
My career path has been a combination of being in the right place at the right time, but also a lot of hard work – I mean, A LOT of hard work. Once I determined that I was not cut out for the medical field, I attended law school and became an attorney, which really helped me hone my analytical and problem-solving skills. I always had an interest in business negotiations and a knack for making things better.
What I have really come to understand through my schooling and career is that there is no arrogance in business. There is always someone smarter or more accomplished than you. It’s important to learn from them and to work hard.
What motivates you?
One of the things I love and can talk about forever is businesses that operate with a purpose. I’m a big believer in understanding the “why” we do something. What really drives me is knowing that, at Aphria, we are working to improve the lives of our key stakeholders, like our employees, patients, consumers and shareholders.
I enjoy looking at things from multiples lenses and making decisions that are beneficial to all groups.
The work that we do at Aphria Inc. affects so many people. We have to consider our shareholders and the community at large to ensure we are operating in ways that gives back to them. Then, there are our patients and consumers who look to us to enrich their lives with great products that help them to feel better as well as engage in social occasions and life experiences.
I have two daughters whom I hope to inspire to live life to their fullest potential. One of my daughters once told me that she doesn’t think there are enough women in business. It is motivating to see that young people have their eyes wide open and understand the importance of diversity and inclusion.
Why did you join Aphria Inc.?
When I saw the opportunity to join Aphria Inc., it reminded me of working in the organic products industry in its infancy. Cannabis is a young industry, so it presents an opportunity to be part of the team of people who are helping to really frame it and build it out. It is interesting to be at the forefront of an industry with so much to offer in terms of opportunity and growth. Of course, that comes with its challenges as you navigate through the development and regulations. But I find the challenges just as much fun as the opportunities!
Do you find there are more challenges in the cannabis industry than when you started off in the organic consumer products industry?
Most definitely. The cannabis industry is tough because everything is constantly evolving. There are so many restrictions in terms of marketing, limited channels of distribution and differing regulations based on the country you are operating in.
I think there are, however, a lot of parallels between the organic consumer products industry and the cannabis industry in terms of the why, how and where there will be growth. I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of history repeating itself. In the future, I do see the cannabis industry becoming more like a consumer packaged goods business in a lot of ways.
What is one principle you’d want your team to exemplify?
Passion, because if you’re passionate and care about what you do, then there isn’t much that cannot be achieved. You spend so much time at work that it’s important to love what you do and feel connected to your role and your colleagues.
Think about what you have done at work and when you have been most successful – it’s usually when everyone is rowing in the same direction and, of course, having fun.
When employees care about each other and what they do, they work hard and strive to not let their team down. To me, that is where you find the greatest achievements.
What international markets can we expect Aphria to focus on?
Outside of Canada, Germany is clearly one of the largest markets for medical cannabis in terms of population, acceptance and established regulations. We continuously keep an eye on developing countries such as India, Brazil and Mexico, which look promising for the future.
Of course, we are excited to leverage our strong sales and distribution network in the U.S. with the addition of SweetWater Brewing Company and the combination with Tilray. We can leverage SweetWater’s existing infrastructure along with the addition of Tilray’s CBD and wellness brand, Manitoba Harvest to further advance our vision and strategic growth objectives.
What excites you most about working on Aphria Medical?
Well, it goes back to the principle of helping people to live their very best life. It’s inspiring to be a partner to patients in their health journey and be able to provide a community where others who are similarly situated can share experiences. We have amazing high-quality products under the Aphria brand but it’s also about what lies beyond the products.
There is also an underlying interest for me personally. I’m very competitive so I want us to be the best medical business. My team and I are aiming to provide an incredible ecosystem for patients so that they feel supported on their health journey. We will continue to identify opportunities which put Aphria in the best possible position to fully provide for our patients both in Canada and around the world.