CANNABIS CULTURE- To become part of the American Green Rush success story you need to be smart, hungry, in it for the long haul and confident in your abilities. Cannabis Culture got the inside scoop from budding companies and OG organizations that survived the black market days of marijuana.
Covering a sprawling selection of the industry, take note of the vast opportunities that abound. In 2016, the cannabis industry already employed 150,000 people across a burgeoning market and rapidly diversifying subsectors. This stands to grow as more states consider legalization, including New Jersey. Today, hungry cannabis entrepreneurs operate in diverse fields from medical to recreational to technically not even being in the industry at all.
If you are planning on launching your cannabusiness, then these essential tips will help position you for success:
Experience, Education and Differentiation
Cannabis is no longer a rookie’s game. Today, it is grown increasingly less likely that you will find success without experience. It takes education and/or hands-on experience. However, that experience doesn’t have to apply to actually do with marijuana. For Constance Therapeutics CEO Constance Finley, it began with treating the symptoms of her own autoimmune disease. With a background in nonprofits, she moved into a space that was made up of just Rick Simpson at the time.
Going one step further, BiotrackTHC’s Dr. Moe Afaneh was with his company even before it was involved with marijuana. The company’s original goal was focused on another more damaging substance in Southern Florida -the ongoing opioid epidemic. “Around 2010, we were approached by licensed cannabis operators in Colorado who were seeking a system to track their entire cannabis supply chain from seed-to-sale,” explained Dr. Afaneh. That inquiry prompted the start of BiotrackTHC.
Other situations might be more applicable to everyday life. Customer engagement platform Baker‘s founders came from various startups, including tech and cannabis. After a decade of work in Los Angeles, now-Baker CTO Roger Obando was waiting for the time to enter the emerging cannabis business. He and co-founders Joel Milton and David Champion met at a coworking space while working for different startups. They decided to enter the space once they determined a specific problem in the industry. They realized that regular dispensary customers had their experience harmed by slower moving, more exploratory tourist shoppers. “Money was being lost on the table. So, we set out to provide the solution to that problem,” Obando told Cannabist Culture.
Other partnerships, like Baker’s, that harnesses a group’s technical and marijuana prowess serves as a rather trusty way to succeed. PurePressure Rosin Press co-founders Benjamin Britton & Josh Rutherford merged Mechanical Engineering educations with grow and extraction mastery to begin their venture. In fact, the entire team represents professional diversity. “Our entire staff have very diverse backgrounds ranging from tech startups to huge manufacturing companies,” said Director of Marketing, Eric Vlosky.
Regardless of your experience or education, today’s success stems from market differentiation. Without having a fresh idea or a solution for a pressing need, you face a long difficult road to success. However, it goes beyond just meeting a need. “Think about what you uniquely bring that no one else has and you are passionate enough to dedicate yourself to,” explains Finley. A similar sentiment was mentioned by Obando. He’s fond of Confident Cannabis co-founder and CEO Steve Albarran’s advice: “Whatever you do, you can likely do in the cannabis space.” Obando added, “Look at what you’re good at, what you’ve done in the past. Identify how you can do that but for the cannabis space.”
In addition to Albarran’s advice, Baker’s CTO recommends that entrepreneurs identify the next problem. By getting in early, you face a less saturated market and early-to-market opportunities that come with it.
Know Your Regulations (a/k/a To Touch the Plant or Not…)
Being in the murky federal situation that it is in, American entrepreneurs have to know the law. It is essential that you understand both the local and federal regulations your business will fall under. If you fail to do so, you could be in for severe consequences including fines and possible jail time. Regulations vary by state, making multi-state operations particularly hard to navigate. Regardless of your operation’s scale, Boulder Botanicals and Bio-Sciences’ Chief Marketing Officer Shawn Hermanson suggests lawyering up to keep up. “The industry is constantly changing and if it wasn’t for our attorney, there would be the possibility we would miss something.”
The industry’s growth may be best exemplified by touch vs. no touch business classification. What was once a black market industry synonymous with dealing drugs, now employs a range of individuals, including some that don’t even use cannabis.
It is key that you determine how your business operates early on. If you are unsure where you fall, pause on all decisions until you determine what side you fall on. You could find great benefits for your business if you choose to not touch the plant. In Baker’s case, its founders knew that Baker would rather be on the software as a service (SaaS) side of business. It would operate as a tech company. Doing so, afforded it opportunities that touch the plant entrepreneurs don’t have. Baker’s direction afforded the company increased flexibility and opportunities for expansion. While touch the plant businesses are worthwhile ventures, they are hampered by regulations no touch businesses don’t deal with. Once you determine where your business operates, factor this into nearly every aspect of your business plan.
In It for the Long Haul
“There seems to be a misperception that getting started in the cannabis industry is quick and easy,” explains PurePressure’s Eric Vlosky. “The veterans will tell you it’s neither.”
Whenever an industry booms, get-rich-quick types will eventually get into the mix. It’s bound to happen. With marijuana looking like a long-term earner, the probability of even more opportunistic entrepreneurs is likely. However, if you want to succeed in marijuana understand that this mentality won’t work. Vlosky went on to add what will propel a successful entrepreneur breaking into the space today. Interest will fade when faced with business hardships. The passionate push on. “If you’re passionate about cannabis and have a great idea,” added Vlosky, “now’s the time.”
For Constance Therapeutics, it remains a drain on its founder’s funds to this day. “It has taken every dime of my money and inch of my energy for ten years.” With investments in patents and hard research, businesses like Finley’s could face years of essential financial setbacks before a profit is ever reached. Companies launching in therapeutics and similar spaces need to account for these expenses whenever possible. If you want to appear credible, expenses like Finley’s are unavoidable. To avoid costs cuffing business, Finley explained that she requires a business format that could survive “incredible changes.” Accounting for this sort of financial hit may be vital to any entrepreneur entering this space.
Whether it be long- or short-term goals, a business plan is recommended. While not all organizations rely on a plan as much as others, many cite their importance. “It’s crucial, but it’s also one of the hardest things to adhere to when you have 25+ actively developing cannabis programs to stay atop of,” Dr. Afaneh said when describing BiotrackTHC‘s business plan. “Having it conform to shifting regulations and laws in 25+ states and multiple different countries is an enormous challenge.”
Stay Up on Your Market
To succeed in this ever-crowding market, you have to stay up on its developments. Strains, products, and tools are just the tip of the cannabis news feed today. Federal regulation threats, polling data, and tech advancements are just some of the broad topics that top headlines everyday. For Boulder Botanicals and Bio-Sciences, its recently launched sports division requires attention to specific data around trends as well as outside sources. “We closely follow trends within the industry such as micro-dosing, and the awareness of the National Football League to legalize cannabis.”
Though keeping up on the news is important, understand that it is almost impossible to stay up on all the news. With rapid developments and the expansive marketplace, it’s best to focus on your market while learning about the entire field. Try to maintain a ratio so you can explore the news outside your niche while remaining focused on the data most important to you. Keep the focus on your business and industry so you understand the most pertinent news related to you.
It is also important to remember that the current events today could easily be the past tomorrow. Rapid change can, has and will happen. At PurePressure, they accept the constant change. “It makes it easier,” explains Vlosky. “Try to find zen in the face of constant change.”
These four tips should serve as a foundation for which to build your cannabusiness upon. For those expecting quick gains with minimal effort, back news could be on your horizon. However, with a vision, determination and a passion for your product, your business might just become one of the American Green Rush’s success stories.