BEST OF THE INDUSTRY 2019: CST Solutions
Over 1,000 Greenway readers made nominations online for the Best of the Industry 2019. This inaugural reader’s choice presentation is unique – 2020’s is sure to look a little different.
Find features about the winners of categories in the Businesses & Professionals section in Greenway Magazine and online. For the CBD, Patient Care, and Advocacy sections, check out the categorical winners in the Spring 2020 issue of Greenway Patients Magazine and online.
Winners of these reader’s choice awards were recognized at the MoCannBizCon after party on March 2, 2020, at the incredible St. Louis Union Station.
These winners are definitive leaders in the culmination of this industry. Greenway Media congratulates each awardee on being recognized by their peers.
CST Solutions was voted by Greenway readers as the best security company in the industry in 2019. Greenway talked to co-founder and CEO Kevin Ellison about what security means to his team and how they entered the industry.
“I was drawn to medical marijuana because of my grandmother,” Ellison said. “My grandmother had Parkinson’s and was unable to find any medication that treated her symptoms except for a horribly harmful drug that caused dementia. Seeing the pain that my grandmother went through and the agony that my mother suffered as she watched her mother slowly die from the side effects of a drug meant to help her disease was something no one forgets. Years later I saw how medical marijuana can help the symptoms of Parkinson’s far better than any ‘medicine’ made by drug companies and it is all-natural. My grandmother could have lived many more years and in much less agony if she could have had access to medical marijuana. I don’t want my kids or my grandkids to have to go through what my grandmother or mother experienced so I became a strong proponent of medical marijuana.”
As Ellison learned more about the industry, he worked with some cannabis companies in Washington state and saw that a lot of the challenges they were struggling with were problems that his team had fixed in the many years ago in banking, retail, pharmaceutical, and government facilities. When New Approach began their effort to get Medical Cannabis on the November 2018 ballot, he knew that was his chance to help people in Missouri that truly need the benefits that medical marijuana has to offer. With the team’s background, helping to secure the new industry in Missouri seemed like a natural fit.
“CST is a group of people who each have over twenty years of experience in security, technology and loss prevention in other industries. I personally was the CIO of a security system manufacturer, the VP of IT for the nation’s largest banking hardware services provider, the Senior Application manager for eCommerce for the nation’s largest sporting goods retailer, and a development manager for the nations largest healthcare software provider. Over the course of an almost 30-year career, I have learned how to do things the right way from the best and brightest people across industries and I bring that experience with me.
“For example, when I was CIO of the security manufacturer, I worked with the security teams from organizations including the three largest banks in North America, the Secret Service, multiple military branches, two of the largest retail pharmacy chains in the US and many others,” Ellison said. “I have worked with people that deal with crimes most people never hear about unless you work for the FBI or other specific law enforcement agencies. I have listened to their challenges and helped them find new ways to stop those crimes, I have heard the stories of the things they see that the average person doesn’t even want to think about, and I have seen security systems and facilities that very few people ever see.”
“Our top priority is people,” Ellison said. “We focus on making certain that our customers have facilities where employees and customers feel safe. Everyone deserves to work someplace where they don’t have to be afraid of their safety and we can provide that.
Ellison was drawn to security because of his natural tendencies to protect the people around him “combined with innate paranoia.”
“When I help anyone make themselves more secure, whether it is a home, a business or even online, it gives me a certain inner peace,” Ellison said. “I was one of those kids that were afraid of the dark and jumped every time a board would creak in the middle of the night. Once I found the security industry I stopped being afraid of the dark because I have sensors that will tell me what might be in the dark that I can’t see. I no longer worry about odd noises in the house because if an intruder got even close to breaking in, the whole house would light up like a runway and every neighbor would think there were sirens next to them. I love the feeling of giving others that same peace of mind. We have the ability to make certain that no one can get in a facility unnoticed, we have the technology to track every single product in a facility in real-time, and we have the tools to allow every employee to wear a panic button at all times. And that peace of mind is what makes me feel like I am doing my best to help the people around me.”
Ellison said experience is the most important thing for a security company.
“Whatever security company they are working with has to have experience in Missouri and experience in retail and manufacturing facilities,” Ellison said. “Missouri is unique because of where we are located and the residents. The location of Missouri makes crime a challenge because it is so easy to enter from one state, rob a business and then be in another state in less than two hours. That makes Missouri Cannabis facilities a target for criminals from outside of Missouri. The people of Missouri are unique because people are genuinely nice, they are honest and because they are honest they are trusting. Criminals love to take advantage of people that are trusting by nature. A security company from outside Missouri won’t understand these challenges and how to mitigate them correctly.
“Experience in manufacturing and retail security is critical because the criminals targeting those types of facilities are unique from each other and unique from other criminals. The differences are in how they approach the facility, what method they prefer to use for theft and how they plan to escape detection and apprehension. Someone that has never designed security for a retail facility will never be able to implement the best security for a dispensary. All of us at CST are from Missouri and we have been involved in designing security systems for many different types of businesses so we know what criminals targeting dispensaries, cultivations and manufacturing facilities will be looking for. We know how to deter these criminals because we have seen what these criminals do and we have secured similar facilities across industries.”
The people that work at CST have seen what the worst criminals in the world can do and have worked with major organizations to outsmart and deter these criminals.
“To stop the truly scariest criminals in society you have to understand how they see things and what they are looking for when they are planning their next crime,” Ellison said. “Because of our backgrounds, we see challenges and opportunities that many other people miss. We can tell a customer where an intruder will enter if they are robbed, and we can do this because we have had to learn to look at a facility the same way a criminal does by looking at how they have attacked other facilities. All of this we have learned through hands-on experience and by being in the middle of it. You can’t teach that kind of experience and knowledge, you have to live it.”