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Looking Back on 2023

By Amanda Ferron

2023… Let’s be real… You’ve been a lot. 

Lot of ups and downs… Which means that, overall, this has definitely been a year of growth! (That’s always good…) Watching our sponsor company, PayRio, grow so much over the past 12 months has been nothing short of amazing. And being able to document it all with the For:20 Minutes blog has been equally as wonderful. 

Aubrey and I often consult on what to write about each week. So for the last post of 2023, she thought it would be nice to list our top 5 moments of the year. It was actually hard to whittle it down a list of 5… But collectively, we’ve decided these were our favorite moments of 2023. Enjoy!

#5 – Launching For:20 Minutes

Writing has always been something that I really enjoyed, and considered turning into a career eventually… So when Aubrey came to me with the idea of launching a Cannabis focused blog on the PayRio website, the stars aligned, and For:20 Minutes was born. (Shout out to my hubby for thinking of the name!)

Since its launch in February of 2023, I’ve been able to write about so many things; Our Endocannabinoid System, being Cali Sober, some amazing Cannabis brands like Flore and Happy Trails… Huge community events like Benzinga Miami and the Emerald Cup… And people working to make actual change within the Cannabis community, like Stephanie Shepard, Tim Blake, and Bosco Adams… Looking back I really cannot believe I have been so lucky. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be able to write about in 2024!



#4 – 4/20 in San Francisco

I’ve lived in the Bay Area, CA for over 20 years now, and until 2023, I had never spent a 4/20 in the city of San Francisco. Crazy, I know… but to be quite honest, I tend to avoid large crowds. And since San Francisco has become synonymous with the most famous of Cannabis Holidays, I usually avoid the city on 4/20. But, when my Boss/Bestie Aubrey said she really wanted to go to the infamous Hippie Hill for 4/20, how could I say no?? Off to the city we went…And we had an absolute blast. 

We hit Hippie Hill before it got too busy, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with lots of friends like Kimo, DJ Jah Yzer, and Luke Scarmazzo. Walking through the crowd, soaking in the music and the energy, and of course, the Cannabis… it was a truly wonderful time. We made our way from Hippie Hill over to Urbana on Geary St., getting there just in time for me to participate in their 4/20 Joint Rolling Competition… Which I WON! Earning me a few top shelf Eighths, and bragging rights for the year. Will I return on 4/20 of 2024 to defend my title?!? We shall see… But I have a good feeling you’ll be able to find Aubrey and I on Hippie Hill again next year!

#3 – The Emerald Cups

The 2023 Emerald Cup Awards will forever hold a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons. First, because it was invite-only. And I was so incredibly honored to have been invited by the man himself, Emerald Cup Co-Founder and wonderful human being, Tim Blake. Tim and I connected on LinkedIn earlier this year, and since our e-meeting, his friendship has grown to be something Aubrey and I both treasure. He is consistently supportive to us both; Me in my writing career, and of the work Aubrey/PayRio is doing to normalize payments in the Cannabis space… Tim is really just a down to Earth, yet out of this world, lovely person. 

Second, because they awarded me my very first MEDIA PASS! It may sound like “No big deal” to some… but I’ve found in the past year of writing that Media Passes to big events are actually quite difficult to get. They tend to be given to big media names, and the little guy/girl gets snubbed… But not at the Emerald Cup! The Emerald Cup is a truly special event in this space, designed to highlight the roots of the community, the Cannabis plant, and the amazing people who grow it. Getting a Media Pass from the show that was also the first Cannabis-focused event I ever attended (many years ago) was a full circle moment for me, and really meant more to me than I can say.

In early December, Aubrey and I were also invited up to Tims property in Mendo, Area 101, to a gathering celebrating the Emerald Cups 20th Anniversary. A truly magical evening with people who have been loving this plant and nurturing this community for most of their lives… Surrounded by towering Redwood trees, beautiful Cannabis flower, music, hash, and mushrooms… it was impossible to have a bad time. Aubrey and I helped dish out the biggest pot of homemade Chicken soup we’d ever seen, and just soaked in the energy from all of the remarkable attendees. We consider ourselves so lucky to be a part of such a spectacular community!

#2 – PayRio Turned One!

Aubrey Amatelli launched PayRio after working in the payments industry for over a decade, and seeing how Cannabis businesses were struggling to find a compliant, reliable payment solution. What started out as a team of 3, just Aubrey, Chase Nightingale, and myself, has now grown to a team of over 20 people, with 100’s of customers across the United States. Plus, let’s be real, the US Economy has been ROUGH the past 3 (or 30…) years… So to have a self-funded, female founded company grow so much over its first 12 months is very impressive!

To celebrate, the PayRio team took over the Buyers Club in San Francisco for an evening of friends, fun, and of course, Cannabis! The event was co-hosted by Raymond Navis and the CannaPac, so there were plenty of Cannabis Industry pros there to help us commemorate PayRios first year in business. Aubrey is a woman who sincerely cares about the Cannabis community, and the people trying to operate in the space. She is exactly the kind of person you want to see succeed, because she is a genuinely wonderful individual. It makes me very excited to see what she and PayRio accomplish in 2024!

#1 – Aubrey Amatelli Speaking On Stage at MJBizCon

Compared to our visit last year, MJBizCon was almost like a whole new event in 2023. This was actually the first big event the PayRio team attended as a company in 2022. Back then, PayRio was a somewhat timid team of 3; Aubrey, Chase, and myself. This year, Aubrey was able to bring 9 members of her team to Las Vegas for the event, which is less than half of the PayRio team now… And we were NOT timid this time around.

Our team helped sponsor the 1st Annual Golden Paddle Pickleball Competition, and to be real, PayRio should have won an award for their outfits alone… We also hosted a cocktail hour at the infamous Chandelier Bar in the Cosmopolitan. But the real highlight of the event this year was getting to see Aubrey speak ON STAGE at MJBiz Con! As I said before, Aubrey is a truly incredible woman… A super Mama and savvy business woman, she has built PayRio into a company with 100s of happy customers across the US. 

All the while, she has remained focused on her main goal: Helping Cannabis professionals find a compliant and reliable payment solution for their business. It’s a LOT of work, and Aubrey has never shied away or backed down. Determined to help the Cannabis industry grow, Aubrey is not slowing down anytime soon. She is taking the industry by storm, and it has been a beautiful thing to watch and write about.

Here is to you, 2023! May 2024 bring even more happiness and growth!