Matthew: Hi I’m Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I’ll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com. That’s cannainsider(dot)com. Are you an accredited investor looking to be part of some of the most sought after private cannabis investment opportunities? Get on our free private investment alert service at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Once you have subscribed to the investor alert service you will get access to curated opportunities that the public will simply never see. Again that URL is www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/invest. That’s cannainsider(dot)com/invest. Now here’s your program.
As the public interest and appetite grow for edibles and infused products certain companies are assuming leadership positions and grabbing market share from competitors. One of those companies commanding a leadership position is Wana Brands. I’ve invited Nancy Whiteman, Founder of Wana Brands onto CannaInsider today. Nancy welcome to CannaInsider.
Nancy: Thank you so much Matt. Thank you for having me.
Matthew: To give us a sense of geography can you tell us where you are in the world today?
Nancy: Yes. I’m in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.
Matthew: Great and how did you get involved in the cannabis industry and come to start Wana Brands?
Nancy: Well initially I became involved in it. I had a neighbor who was making infused soda pop and we ended up teaming up with him. It turned out to be a short term partnership but I really was intrigued by the whole industry. So initially it was more of a business opportunity that attracted me but once I got into it and I started to get feedback on how our products were helping people I completely fell in love with the business and got very committed to it and very dedicated to it. I like to say it’s the only thing that I’ve done in my career professionally where people out of the blue contact me and tell me how much their products; how much my products have helped them. So that’s a pretty cool thing.
Matthew: Yes that’s very rewarding; keep you going.
Matthew: What are your most popular products?
Nancy: Our most popular product is our sour gummies which come in several different flavors but they are artisan made. We make them from scratch. They’re infused within the gummy not sprayed on and they’re absolutely delicious and we sell a boat load of them.
Matthew: That’s a good point there infused versus sprayed on. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference there in some of the other gummies out there?
Nancy: Yes. So other gummies when we actually make the gummy itself and our gummy actually is a vegan gummy. It’s made with pectin rather than gelatin. We are actually putting the medicine right into the gummy mixture itself and that way first of all it tastes really good because we’re very careful with our recipes and it’s very homogenized. Everything is exactly the same. When you spray hash oil or something on top of a gummy first of all you can usually smell it. You can open up the container or the bag and you can smell a big whoosh of kind of hash oil and it’s usually a pretty harsh taste and it’s also very difficult to get it consistent from gummy to gummy. So we think that infusing it is really a better way to go for gummies; really for all products.
Matthew: Yeah I actually read some research reports about how well the gummies are doing at dispensaries so well done.
Nancy: Thank you so much.
Matthew: Can you tell us a little bit about the extended release capsule and how that works?
Nancy: Yes that’s actually our Wana Caps and they come in three different THC/CBD formulations. We have a high THC which is a 10 to 1 THC to CBD, a balanced which is equal, and then we have a high CBD which is 10 CBD mg to 1 THC and the thing that makes this product really unique is that we have partnered with a pharmaceutical company in Israel who developed this extended release patent and we use their technology in the product and what it does is well several things. It basically extends the life of the product if you will. Most people report getting benefits for 8 hours and some people even up to 12 hours but the other really important thing it does is it smoothes out the experience. So unlike edibles where they can take up to 2 hours for onset this you feel the first wave of this in about 20 minutes because it’s very bio available and then it kind of builds up in the system and then as it starts to decline the second part kicks in; the extended release portion kicks in and so it’s very, very comfortable for people. They don’t have big ups and downs like they can have with edibles sometimes.
Matthew: That’s pretty interesting. How does that work? It’s like the second stage of a rocket that comes off after a period of time.
Nancy: Yes. It’s actually called fractions and they’re two different mixtures that we make for the capsules with different parts of the formulation going into each of the fractions and the first fraction releases quickly in about 20 minutes and then the second one kicks in about 4 hours later.
Matthew: And how did you arrive at what products to launch when? Is it through customer feedback, gut intuition I mean how do you come up with that?
Nancy: Oh that’s such a good question. In the early days and we’ve been around since 2010. There was a little bit of hit or miss about it. We would try stuff that we thought would be delicious and we would see what sold well but as we got into the business a little bit more what we realized is that our sweet spot if I can make a little pun here was things that had a long shelf life. We ended sort of moving out of more of the baked goods arena and more into the confectionary products. So we have the gummies, we have a lozenger called a jewel, we have the most delicious caramels in the world. I love them. Unmedicated they’re just so yummy. We’ve got drink mixes. We’ve got a chocolate roll type product. They’re all things that have a very stable shelf life and in a state like Colorado that has a pretty big geography we can only deliver to the Western slope which is the farthest most part of the state once a week.
So what we found is that the baked goods just didn’t hold on the shelf long enough. So then we’re thinking about what products to release we start there. We also have to be thinking about whether they can be clearly delineated into 10 mg serving sizes. So packing is a part of it and then of course we look competitively for what’s on the market and we try to develop products that are not just me too products but have something unique about them.
Matthew: Now in terms of the ratios; let’s circle back to the caps. You talked about a THC heavy cap, equally weighted cap, and then a CBD heavy cap. Which are most popular?
Nancy: The two most popular ones are the balanced ones and the high CBD. I think people; it’s a really interesting thing. So of course we have medical and recreational in Colorado but what we are finding is that a more medicinal product like our high CBD caps or our balanced CBD caps are actually very popular within the recreational market because a lot of people do want the medicinal benefits without all the THC but they don’t want to go through the trouble of getting their red card. So we do see it tilting towards more of a medical usage the high CBD products.
Matthew: That’s interesting and how about getting in front of dispensary owners or buyers for dispensaries? I mean at this point it’s probably not difficult at all for you because you have relationships in Colorado but if you’re going outside the state or looking to expand I mean how you present a unique value proposition to get dispensary owners interested?
Nancy: That’s a great question because the biggest challenge is that most dispensary have relatively limited shelf space. So it really is a battle for shelf space. We do I think what probably most companies do which is that we provide samples so that their patients can try them or their customers can try them, their bud tenders can try them but I think it’s gotten so, so much easier obviously now that we are better known but it really is being very persistent, being very professional, following up with people, really listening to them about the products that are working or not working, and also really wanting to work with and to understand what works for their dispensaries. So encouraging them to try some products understanding that we’ll take them back if they don’t sell and replace them with things that are selling better; that sort of thing.
Matthew: You kind of reverse the risk proposal. You put all the rick on yourself instead of them and that really makes it easy to say yes.
Nancy: Exactly because we’re very confident that our products will do well once people have an opportunity to try them and of course a lot of this business is about winning the hearts and minds of the bud tenders. So we also try to do a lot of customer events and bud tender trainings just so that people are really familiar with us as a company and are familiar with our products.
Matthew: Looking back from 2010 or even the soda pop; the cannabis soda pop days how have you seen the infused product market segment evolve since you got started?
Nancy: Oh my gosh it’s changed so, so much. When we first got it started there really was not a lot in the way of really professionally made edibles out there. A lot of them looked like something that people had made in their home kitchen and had wrapped in Saran Wrap and thrown a label on. So all of those people really either upped their game or they’re just out of the business at this point and time so there’s a lot more professionalism now then there was then. I think the second thing that I’ve really seen change is that there’s a lot more consistency in the products. I know for us we actually used a third party lab to test right from the beginning because we didn’t know how much tincture to put into a product if we didn’t know the potency of it and we adjusted that tincture with every batch but not everybody did that.
Now that we have laws in place that say basically you must third party labs and you’re held to very strict standards in terms of what the potency on the label says and what the lab says it is the products have gotten a lot more consistent and that makes me a lot more comfortable with edibles in the market place because they can be very strong for people.
Matthew: Right. Good points. Now how do you educate customers about the ways that Wana Brands differentiates itself? I mean you have a very limited label space to do that.
Matthew: So how do you do it? Is that more back to the bud tender as your ambassador to do that?
Nancy: Yes. That is a big part of it. We also try to provide materials that are educational both as a company and as an industry so we often are putting information pieces into our packages for example, doing bud tender trainings, making PowerPoints available to people so that they can review them after the training. I’m also the chair of the Edibles Council for the Cannabis Business Alliance here in Colorado and we’ve really worked as an industry group to put educational materials for people about edibles and safe use of edibles in general. So you have to come at it from a bunch of different angles.
Matthew: Circling back to the extended release capsules you can tell I’m interested in this is how do you or what kind of feedback do you get from customers that have used this; especially the maybe 1 to 1 CBD/THC or the CBD heavy capsules? What kind of conditions are they using this for medicinal linked use?
Nancy: Oh my gosh yeah so we’ve gotten amazing feedback on it and I should say before I even get into that one thing that I would like to mention is this is very exciting to me. It’s actually in full clinical trials in Israel right now with cancer patients and specifically looking at contribution to improving appetite, increasing weight gain, pain reduction, and just general quality of life and feeling good about life and that’s really exciting. We’re just starting to get the first round of feedback on those clinical tests but in terms of what we’re hearing here we have people who are using it for Multiple Sclerosis, we have people using it for cancer, people who are using it for Crohn’s Disease, all kinds of different conditions. People have found it to be extremely helpful and some of the testimonials we get are really, really touching in terms of what a difference it’s making in their life and often making much more of a difference than prescribed medications that they were using sort of Western medications if you will.
Matthew: Gosh that’s so true. I can’t wait for this to be widely adopted. It’s really going to have a huge impact on society; especially just even the cost. The cost of pharmaceuticals are just so high.
Nancy: Oh my gosh yes.
Matthew: (14:51 unclear) cannabis. So what are some of the challenges in being in the infused products business? I’ve heard others in the infused products business say you’re really in the regulatory business. I mean that’s what you have to cover first. What do you see as kind of your day to day challenges and long term challenges that you have to surmount?
Nancy: Well certainly I would agree with that. I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Marijuana Business Conference and my topic was about building a sustainable and strong infused products brand and my comment was it’s sort of like trying to build a brand with one hand tied behind your back because of all the regulatory constraints that are put on us as an industry and there’s challenges really constantly. Literally every year if not more frequently than that there are new regulations we have to comply with in terms of packaging, labeling, dosages. The one that’s coming up soon in October is that every product is going to have to be sprayed or stamped with a universal THC symbol so that anybody picking it up knows that there’s THC in it.
There’s just a host of regulatory issues that we’re always dealing with but I would say even beyond the regulatory issues I think the challenges for infused products have a lot to do with as an industry us doing a lot of education with people in terms of using products judicially and slowly and safely so that people have good experiences with them and don’t have any kind of a situation where they’re uncomfortable or feeling like they’re too high or they’ve taken too much. So I think that’s a really important part of our challenges as an industry as well and then just the ongoing demonizing if that’s a word cannabis both as a medicine and a form of recreation. I think that that’s clearly still a challenge for the industry when we have a substance as helpful and benign as marijuana still classified as a Schedule 1 substance you know we have a long way to go.
Matthew: You covered the challenges there how about the opportunities? What opportunities excite you the most in the next few years?
Nancy: Well certainly just for us we do have a lot of opportunities in terms of expanding our brand outside of Colorado through licensing agreements. So that’s a very exciting opportunity for us. I would say that’s probably our biggest opportunity although I think even within Colorado we have opportunities for innovation and more product introduction which we are actively working on.
Matthew: Looking at the price of wholesale cannabis and the wholesale market is the price surprising to you? High, low I mean is it where you thought it would be roughly?
Nancy: Well you know it’s funny when the recreational market was legalized there was a seed change in terms of growers. So for the first time people were allowed to be independent growers which they really were not able to do under the medical market. They had to either have their grow tied to a manufacturing or a MIPS license or it had to be tied to a dispensary. So I think we were all predicting with all of these independent grows on the rec side that the price of trim which is what we use for our products would sharply decline. In fact for the last year or so it actually didn’t decline at all and in fact went up which speaks to the growing popularity of infused products because so many people were trying to buy that trim. Just in the last month or two I’ve started to see it look more like we were expecting which is that the prices are falling but it’s always sort of a supply and demand issue. My guess is over time as these recreational grows kick in and are more consistent that we will see it stabilizing somewhat at a lower level than we’ve seen.
Matthew: If you could wave a magic wand and change just one thing about the cannabis market for infused products what would it be?
Nancy: Hmm... magic wand. Gosh I would love one of those. I would like to see some stability around the regulations. I think Colorado has actually done a pretty good and reasonable job about putting good regulations in place. I think public safety has been addressed. I think child safety has been addressed. I’m a mother myself and I care about that stuff but I’d like to see some stability. The constant change makes for a very challenging business environment and it doesn’t allow us to focus on the things we’d like to focus on like innovation and brand building.
Matthew: Yeah I think that’s one thing I noticed. The regulators in Colorado do seem open to feedback which is great and not the case in other states but there’s not always a sense of like hey we’re going to change something here with the flick of a pen and they don’t understand the huge cascading effect.
Matthew: On the lives of so many people and how that one turn in the cog at the top just affects everybody so I wish there was a way to do that. To have them understand at a gut level what this does to business and people’s lives when they make a change; especially one that has to be enacted quickly.
Nancy: Yes and that is very key. I think just the way you put it is perfect and I will say about the MED or the Medical Enforcement Division is they are open to sitting down with the industry groups and discussing that stuff and they have I think come a long way in terms of understanding that there are things that we simply can’t implement that quickly and so building that into their timeframe’s a little bit more but certainly a year without major upheaval and major change would be fantastic.
Matthew: Alright. Just one that’s fine.
Nancy: Yes just one would be awesome.
Matthew: Are you beginning to license the Wana Brand outside of Colorado?
Nancy: Yes we are. As a matter of fact we are eminently about to launch our brand in Oregon and we’ll be launching in Nevada sometime in the summer. So that’s really exciting and we’re in discussions with several other states as well.
Matthew: Okay. Any reasons you jumped at Oregon and Nevada first?
Nancy: Oregon for the obvious reason which is it has both medical and recreational and in fact it’s just beginning it’s recreational program sort of in baby steps on June 1st which is exciting. Nevada is an interesting one. Right now Nevada is just medical but it is widely expected that the 2016 initiative to legalize for recreational is going to pass and then Nevada will be an enormous market. There’s forty million tourists that go to Nevada every year. So it has the potential to be a truly huge market.
Matthew: When you talk with partners in other states is there an expectation gap at all in terms of what they think they should get as a licensee and how you have to educate them on intellectual property or anything like that or are people pretty much in line; perspective partners?
Nancy: Well you know that’s an interesting question. I think even before we get to sort of the licensing piece of it that sometimes people will have unrealistic expectations of just what getting into this business is going to look like in general and that’s something that I’m now I’m always when I talk to a potential partner I’m always trying to probe and understand what got them interested in this? What are their expectations for the business and gauging whether they feel realistic based on what I know about the market. So for example if people think in Illinois that they’re instantly going to make a huge amount of money and they’re just getting in they don’t understand how much the restrictions on the medical conditions allowable is going to limit the patient count.
A lot of times I’m just having some discussions with them about sizing the market and understanding what it takes to build marketshare within a market. So that’s a part of it. In terms of the licensing stuff we’ve been pretty satisfied with our conversations and discussions with people on the licensing end of it. I think what’s happening is that a lot of these states now are requiring people to have pretty significant investments before they’re going to grant a license and so people do understand the importance of speed to market and while we had five years of luxury of experimenting and building their brand etc., etc. with investors expecting paybacks and all of that they understand the value of going with a brand that is already proven. So we haven’t had too much of a misalignment yet on the licensing side of it.
Matthew: Yeah I really see it as a great deal for a perspective licensee because they get the full download of all your trial and errors.
Nancy: Oh yes.
Matthew: So they can see everything that worked and didn’t work without having to try it themselves. So there is a lot of benefit to that.
Nancy: Agreed, agreed and believe me we’ve made lots of errors along the way. So if we can shortcut that for people and get them to market quicker I think it’s a huge benefit to them.
Matthew: When you look at California and that market and obviously we have a big vote coming up here in November but how do you gauge the California marketplace? What are your thoughts about it?
Nancy: Well I would say that just strictly from a population point of view and the size of their economy point of view there’s no doubt that California is going to be a hugely important market. What will be helpful is when they have a clear regulatory structure in place so that companies can go in and really be confident that their brands won’t get caught up in anything that you wouldn’t want your brand associated with. So I think it’s in the process of becoming an amazing market and it just needs a little bit more structure and regulation around it. Who would have ever thought I would be saying it needs more regulation but I think it does.
Matthew: Okay and what about women entering the cannabis space? Do you have any suggestions or tips for women listening that maybe would help them get success earlier, a more direct path, and avoid some pitfalls?
Nancy: That’s an interesting one. I’ve been involved with Women Grow which I think is an awesome organization and I support women entrepreneurs and I think risk taking is just an amazing thing but I tend not to divide up the world that way from a business point of view. I don’t think about these are good opportunities for women and these are good opportunities for men. I would say the same thing to a woman that I would say to a man is figure out what it is about this industry that fascinates you and what’s in best alignment with your skill set and your experience and try to be creative and figure out how to enter it in a meaningful kind of a way. I don’t think there’s anything that is closed off to a woman in this industry because she is a woman and as a matter of fact some of the statistics that I have read indicate that the cannabis industry has more women in key positions than many other more traditional industries that are out there. So I think women are already seeing the opportunity and taking advantage of it.
Matthew: I would agree with that. It seems like its compared to other industries I’ve been in in like technology that’s top heavy male I just don’t see that in the cannabis space. People tend to be more open minded in the cannabis space because they got into it early and they see the light about this plant. So it just doesn’t seem to be any kind of things preventing women from getting to where they want to go.
Nancy: I agree, I agree. I think it’s wide open and women and men should jump in with both feet. It’s fascinating.
Matthew: Nancy let’s turn to some personal development questions. As you look over your life is there one book that stands out that has had an impact on your life that you would recommend to listeners?
Nancy: My favorite book when I was in high school and it’s still one of my great favorites was; I don’t know that this is what you’re looking for because it’s not really a business book but it was “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Matthew: Sure, sure. That’s great.
Nancy: A classic book but I think it said so much in terms of social justice and kindness and people caring about each other and Atticus of course was one of my all time favorite father role models. So yeah I think there was a lot in that book that I would recommend to anybody if they haven’t read it in a long time to have another read.
Matthew: Yeah that’s a great suggestion. I know Harper Lee has a second book I think out. I haven’t read it yet or heard any feedback about it but she just had that one “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Matthew: And I’ve been curious to hear what the second one is like so we’ll see.
Matthew: Now if you could go back and talk to the 18 year old version of Nancy what advice would you give her?
Nancy: Well I think what I would tell her is to take more risks, to travel more, to experience other cultures more, to live life fully before settling down into a more conventional lifestyle, and just to not be afraid of trying things and having them not work out that that’s part of the process.
Matthew: Great point. I’m heeding that point myself. I’m trying a new experiment every month in my business just to see what works and I fully expect at least a chunk of them to fail and I’m alright with that. So it’s not a big deal.
Nancy: Yes. That’s great. That’s fantastic and I try to keep that philosophy in this business too. I really do think if you’re not blowing it every now and again and failing every now and again you’re probably not taking enough risks.
Matthew: Well Nancy as we close how can listeners learn more about Wana and find you online?
Nancy: Probably the easiest way is to go to our website which is www.wanabrands.com. w-a-n-a-b-r-a-n-d-s and there you can find out all about our products and a little bit more about our company. So that’s probably the easiest way or if you’re in Colorado go into almost any dispensary and you’ll see all our products there.
Matthew: And when can listeners in Oregon and Nevada look for Wana Brands?
Nancy: Well in Oregon we should be hopefully on the shelves in the next couple of weeks. Nevada I’m thinking probably August.
Matthew: Okay. Nancy thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider. We really appreciate it.
Nancy: Oh thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today please consider leaving us a review on ITunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider? Simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider(dot)com. We’d love to hear from you.
Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Lastly the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions.
Final disclosure to see if you’re still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you’re listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another CannaInsider episode soon. Take care. Bye bye.
Nancy Whiteman is the founder of Wana Brands. Wana has emerged as a clear leader in the world of cannabis-infused products. Most notable among Wana’s products are their sour gummies that are frequently the most sought after infused product in cannabis dispensaries. Nancy shares her secrets and outlooks on licensing her cannabis brand, what she thinks about wholesale trim prices and more.
[1:32] – How Nancy got in the cannabis industry and started Wana Brands
[2:27] – Wana Brands most popular products
[4:05] – Nancy talks about Wana Caps
[6:05] – How do you decide which products to launch
[8:57] – Nancy talks about getting dispensary owners interested in her products
[10:31] – Evolution of infused products
[13:22] – Medical reasons for using Wana Caps
[15:11] – Nancy talks about challenges of being in the infused products business
[19:25] – One thing Nancy could change about the infused market
[25:16] – Nancy talks about the California marketplace
[26:17] – Nancy’s advice to women entering the cannabis space
[28:13] – Nancy’s book recommendation
[30:21] – Contact details for Wana Brands
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?
Find out with your free guide at: http://www.cannainsider.com/trends