Creating a Recognizable Cannabis Flower Brand – Dustin Johnson

dustin johnson adakai holdings cannabis

Dustin Johnson is the founder of Adakai Holdings. Adakai owns Monarch dispensary, Huxton Brands (Flower and Vape Pens) and Omaha Farms. Listen in as Dustin discusses how he created a recognizable brand of cannabis flower.

Key Takeaways:
[0:58] – What is Adakai Holdings
[1:23] – How Dustin got started in the cannabis space
[4:40] – Dustin talks about doctors these days
[6:23] – Arizona’s cannabis market
[7:40] – Dustin talks about Adakai’s brands
[10:13] – Omaha Farms size
[12:21] – Dustin talks about raising capital for Adakai’s brands
[14:11] – Products available at Dustin’s dispensary
[15:36] – Partnering with other brands
[17:23] – Dustin’s biggest problem in running a dispensary
[20:29] – Dustin’s automation that has helped him with his business
[22:29] – Dustin talks about his Huxton Brand
[25:47] – How do you build brand experience
[31:58] – Dustin talks about terpenes
[33:47] – Which of the Huxton flowers is the most popular
[35:33] – Dustin talks about Adakai expanding over the next five years
[38:29] – Advice Dustin would give to younger Dustin
[40:04] – Dustin answers some personal development questions
[45:59] – Dustin’s contact details

Learn more at:
http://adakaiholdings.com/

Matthew Kind evolved the idea of the MacGyver Quotient from this investor’s thesis around The MacGyver Factor
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/macgyver-factor-the-best-entrepreneurs-work-miracles/

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Matthew: As cannabis prohibition ends across the world, consumers will pivot from buying any cannabis they can get their hands on to carefully selecting a brand that fills their needs and reflects their lifestyle. Here to help us understand how to nurture and build a cannabis brand is Dustin Johnson from Adakai Holdings. Dustin, welcome to "CannaInsider."

Dustin: Thanks, Matt. Thanks for having me.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Dustin: I'm currently in Phoenix, Arizona.

Matthew: Okay, great. And I am in Valencia, Spain today. And what is Adakai Holdings at a high-level?

Dustin: Well, Adakai is basically just a forward facing representation of the folks behind the unique brands that we're building in the cannabis space.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us a little bit about your background, and how you got started in the cannabis space? Did you just wake up one day and say, "That's it. Boom. I wanna be in cannabis. Changing my life now."

Dustin: Certainly did not, no. I had actually moved back from college. I'd gone out to school...I went to school at Pepperdine University in California.

Matthew: Nice.

Dustin: Go, Waves. And was at home in Arizona working in the real estate business, and my mother had been in a boating accident about 15 years ago, 15-20 years ago, shattered her kneecap, had had multiple surgeries to repair it, and had ended up with a residual nerve pain called RSD. And so through the course of her treatment, her doctors had prescribed her all kinds of different narcotics, Vicodin, Oxycontin, Fentanyl, and then she was, you know, taking a host of other drugs to combat the side effects of all those narcotics, and that had been going on for over 15 years.

So she was at a point where, you know, she was really dealing with some serious pain. She has been heavily drugged by her doctors, and we were looking for some alternative treatments for her, and that was right about the time that Prop 203 passed here in Arizona. So I sat her down, I said, "Mom, I've been, you know, looking into cannabis. And I think that there might be some real options here for you. Let's give it a shot."

And, at that point, she was happy to try anything to see if she could find some relief and got her her card, started making some butter that she was putting in her tea in the mornings, and within about nine months of using cannabis, she was able to get off all her narcotics entirely, and has been for...going on for five years now. So it was really just a revealing moment for myself and for my family as to the power of the plant.

What it could do to change peoples lives. She became a whole new person. I mean, in my opinion, it literally saved her life, and just, kind of, brought back all that vibrancy and love of life that she had lost in the haze of all the narcotics she was taking. So, at the time, there were no good options for her to go and find the product, and get an education on what products shall be useful for her. And so I decided to set down the path, and see if I could provide that service myself.

Matthew: You really mention a good point there. I feel like the doctors have become...they're like the... You ever watched watch Star Trek and you ever heard of the Borg? Like, the Borg infects, like, whatever culture it touches, and they become part of the Borg?

Dustin: Sure.

Mattew: I feel like that's what doctors have become to the pharmaceutical industry to the point...now, I don't go to doctors anymore. I just get blood tests done because every time I go in they're just like, " How about this? How about...?" It's like all these drugs. I'm like, "Wait a second. I haven't even told you I have a problem and you're suggesting drugs to me." And I was like...it's like, "What is going on here?" I feel like I'm being peppered by commission-only salespeople.

It's like going to Best Buy or something like, "Get this. Get this. Get this." And, at least, in the United States, it's just a really unfortunate state of affairs that they're always just pushing drugs down you instead of looking for root causes. That's why I'm, kind of, looking more at integrative medicine now, and holistic doctors just because it's become a racket. It's no other way to describe it.

Dustin: You're right and, you know, I think, that during this process, I mean, we sat down with some of her pain management physicians, and had some conversations with them and said, "Look, I think, that this is an unhealthy path to take and, you know, you've been recommending these narcotics to her for quite some time, and she's just following her doctor's orders." And, you know, we're always taught to put faith in our physicians and, you know, kind of follow their direction. But when we told them that this was leading to a bad place, they weren't really willing to give us any alternative options.

And it felt like they just didn't have the knowledge base to do so, and it felt like they also didn't have any financial incentive to do so. So we were, you know, went out looking for something on our own. And they had threatened, you know, some of the doctors she had spoken to, they had threatened to stop giving her narcotics if she was using cannabis, and that was something that was very scary for her because she needed...you know, she felt that she needed those to manage her pain. But she's a brave woman, and, I think, that taking that leap was a difficult move for her, but it has certainly paid off in spades and we're happy to have our mother back.

Matthew: Oh, that's great. That's a good...there's a happy ending to that story. I'm glad you made the effort to, you know, help her try cannabis. So that's good. Now, give us a high-level overview of what's going on in Arizona. I mean, it is a big state geographically, but we just don't hear much about Arizona, especially with Colorado and California overshadowing Arizona to some extent. Can you just give us just an introduction of where it's at, and maybe how it's a little different than some of the other big states?

Dustin: Sure. So Arizona passed our medical law back in 2010. It was implemented in 2012 after some legal challenges put forth by our governor at the time. We currently have, I'd say, approximately 100 or so dispensaries that are operational. We're about 120,000 patient-based population. One of the most, I would consider, well-regulated and well-governed programs as far as medical goes.

We have the department of health services here that's done a great job of implementing the rules and providing oversight, and really allowing the operators in this space to have some confidence that they have some stable footing with which to build their businesses from. So it's a great place to do business. We did have a [inaudible 00:07:14] use measure proposed in 2016 that was not successful. We were the only one in the country that year that didn't get it done, but we're looking forward to some future efforts, and hopefully getting Arizona in line with the movement we're seeing in the rest of the country.

Matthew: Okay. And tell us just at high-level what your brands are Monarch, Huxton, and Omaha Farm, so we can get a general sense of what those are.

Dustin: Sure. So Monarch is our retail dispensary. We're located here in Scottsdale. Opened in in 2013. Just celebrated our four-year anniversary...

Matthew: Congratulations.

Dustin: Thank you. So we've really designed that to be a patient-focused friendly environment where the patients here in Arizona can come in and get a curated selection of products, accompanied by friendly staff that are incredibly knowledgeable. We have a head of patient services that will sit down with folks and, you know, do 45-minute to an hour long consultations about what might be the best path for them when starting on their journeys with cannabis.

Also, all of our sales associates are very well-educated as to the different nuances of the products. Can help guide folks through dosing. We really, you know, wanted to build that on a foundation, again, based around giving folks like my mother, and other folks that might be new to the cannabis world, a good understanding of what products they're getting, and how those products can affect them.

And then we have...all of the licensing here in Arizona is fully vertically integrated. So along with the retail licensing, that license grants you ability to do cultivation, a kitchen facility, as well as manufacturing and distribution. So we have a cultivation facility that we've kind of dubbed the Omaha Farms, and that is where we are producing all of the products that we make and distribute to Monarch as well as to other dispensaries here in the state. We currently produce our own Huxton brand out of that facility.

We are the licensed producer-distributor for Kiva Confections, a great chocolate company that I know that you're familiar with and have had on the show based out of California. And then just recently, also signed a licensing production distribution agreement from Mirth Provisions.

Matthew: Sure. Yeah, exactly. Have that one, too.

Dustin: Yeah, yeah. You sure have. So we're looking to kind of really expand through that facility noble brands in the space that we think that would have a great impact, and provide a great service for the patients here in Arizona.

Matthew: Okay. Wow, you're busy. You got a lot going on.

Dustin: Yeah, sure are, sure are.

Matthew: So how big is your grow for...you Omaha farms grown then? How many square feet it that, roughly?

Dustin: Yeah, so that facility is 20,000 square feet.

Matthew: Twenty thousand.

Dustin: We're, you know, with all of the Huxton products and the flower brand that we're producing out of there, we've, kind of, dedicated a small batch production, so it's not one of the larger facilities here in the state. We've kinda divided that. So we're at about 14,000 feet of canopy. So between our propagation, vegetation, and flower rooms, we're just a little over 14,000 square feet, and then the rest of the facility is dedicated to extraction, kitchen, manufacturing, and distribution.

Matthew: So when you get that license, it's obviously a big cause for celebration, but also where you're like, "Holy cow, there's a lot of stuff I have to learn here with growing, you know, retail, all of these different things." I mean, that's a lot, but it's also you got all the freedom to be successful. Did it seem overwhelming at first?

Dustin: It did, yes. You know, I don't have a retail background. I do not have a green thumb. I'm very capable of killing any live plant that you put in my hands, but, you know, having a good business background, I was a business major at Pepperdine, and having run some small businesses prior to coming into this industry, I think, what has really made us successful is the ability to attract some really smart folks.

You know, we have a really talented team out at Monarch, really talented team out of Omaha. You know, a great mix of chemists and biologists, and folks that are far smarter than me and understand all the logistical operations and requirements that a facility like that entails. A great team here at Adakai, you know, continuing to build iconic cannabis brands, and come up with unique concepts. So, you know, I really just try to stay out of the way, and let our folks do what they do.

Matthew: Did it require going out and raising capital? Was that part of the process of creating Adakai and Monarch and all your brands?

Dustin: Yeah, so, obviously, in order to be successful in this space, you need to be well-capitalized, and I think that that was one of our number one priorities. We wanted to make sure that, you know, we were giving all of our staff, and all of the people that...all the stakeholders in the process, a really good foundation to build from, and a good company to be a part of. So we wanted to make sure that from the get-go, we were well capitalized and, you know, going forward that's something is very important to us.

Matthew: Was it hard on your first few pitches to investors to, you know, answer the questions in a way that, you know, made them happy to invest, or was that a learning curve, or what can you say about it?

Dustin: Yeah, I mean, I think that there is a lot of excitement about this space. You know, right now, I think ,it's a little bit different. I think that folks are a little bit more willing to participate. Back then it was a little bit trickier. You know, there was a bit of a different feel as to where the industry was at. We were still at, you know, in a time period where there were folks in California getting rated.

You know, there was a lot of consternation about where the industry was going, but, I think, that most of those concerns have been alleviated, and, I think, that folks are realizing that while there still is quite a few challenges regarding the space, and regarding a lot of, you know, the luxuries they afforded folks that are engaging in federally legal businesses, there's a ton of excitement too, and I think that people see where this is going and, you know, are really excited about participating in it.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us what you have available at your dispensary, and compared to other states, do you have everything, flowers, edibles, vape pens, concentrates?

Dustin: We do. Yeah, we have a pretty wide array of offerings. So, again, what we've really, kind of, dedicated ourselves to is understanding the brands and the products that we're putting on the shelf, making sure that we're really spending a lot of time with the producers of those brands, understanding their techniques and, you know, basically their theory behind how they're producing those products. But we, you know, we're dedicated to offering the patients of Arizona a wide array of products, so that they can come in and find something that services their specific needs. So flower, vape pen products, concentrates, edibles, drink products, topicals, tinctures, all of the above.

Matthew: Now, you have a kind of an interesting model because you have your own brand, Huxton, your own branded flower, but then you've also partnered with Kiva Confections and Mirth Provisions that makes drinks. And Kiva makes small candies and chocolate, and they both are very strong brands that have very strong product market fit on the West Coast, and what is kind of the thought process there?

It's like, "Hey, they have such a good reputation with people, and they've already done all the hard work. I have my own brands, but I just wanna bring in some other brands, and let them do the heavy lifting of familiarizing themselves with customers they already have the name recognition." What's kind of the thought process there?

Dustin: Yeah, so kinda like you mentioned before with that fully vertically integrated license there, you know, there's an overwhelming number of things that you are able to do. I think that our perspective has been, just because we are able to do them doesn't necessarily mean that we should. And we really wanted to focus our energy and efforts on our Huxton brand, understanding, you know, really the nuance and detail of creating a branded flower and vape pen line.

And really wanted to leave, you know, some of the other opportunities around the table for us up to the folks that had spent a lot of energy and effort, and had already built great foundations for bringing those brands into the space. So it just seemed like kinda natural progression for us to go out instead of trying to build it all from scratch. Find some really great partners and folks that kinda shared our same vision and ethos and, you know, facilitate those brands into the areas on a marketplace. And, I think, that the relationship we've had with Kiva has been fantastic.

Scott Kristi out there, phenomenal folks, and their whole team has been great. So been really excited about what we've done those guys, and what we can continue to do with Kiva here in Arizona, and really looking forward to getting the Mirth products out there. Adam and that team are obviously spectacular, as you know as well. So just really looking forward to continuing to kind of elevate the industry here in Arizona by bringing those noble brands to the state, and getting patients access to them.

Matthew: Now, obviously there's a lot of different tactical things you need to do to run a dispensary, so I just wanna ask, kind of, an off-the-wall question. If you could wave a magic wand to get rid of your biggest problem in running a dispensary, what would you choose?

Dustin: Oh, man, I think, that that's a pretty easy one. I guess I would choose full federal legalization so that we are able to operate a business on the same playing field with, you know, any other retail business in the space. You know, there's a host of challenges, right. So we're super fortunate in the fact that we have a great banking relationship here in Arizona through some other businesses we've run.

We've got some relationships with the local bank here that has taken us through the front door after a long, kind of, inspection and audit period, and that's been fantastic. But, obviously, you know, not being able to take credit cards, and having to operate in an all-cash environment is a little bit tricky. And, I think, that, you know, the biggest challenge that has really caused me consternation in this space is being able to give confidence to your employees.

You know, about stable footing, and really helping them to understand the nuances of the industry, and make sure that they're aware of the risk that they're taking, and that's something we take very seriously. You know, we look around and we got a great team, and a lot of families that we're feeding, and so we just wanna make sure that we're able to stay true to our commitments to those folks.

Matthew: How do you see running a dispensary changing in the next three to five years? Is it gonna be pretty much the same, or with just maybe some different items to offer, customers, or do you see it changing in any fundamental ways?

Dustin: Yeah, I mean, I think, this industry is poised for hyper-growth, hyper change. We are, obviously, you know, right in the middle of shifting sands. There are all kinds of external factors that, I think, could affect how those dispensaries operate and function. You know, the biggest change, I think, you're gonna see is a lot more of the traditional...I shouldn't say traditional, the more common style of retail purchasing, which exists largely online now.

So as the industry advances, I think, you'll see a lot more folks looking for delivery options, availability of products that they can have brought directly to them at their homes. I just see that as, kind of, you know, the next evolution if you're tracking what's going on in just the retail world in general. Obviously, that's where things seem to be heading. So, I think, that will be something that will be a unique challenge if this industry is gonna be dealing with considering, again, the restrictive nature and a lot of the compliance requirements that states are putting in place around the operations of these facilities.

Matthew: Zooming in on Omaha farms and your grow, is there any automation or optimization that you've done over time since you started that has really helped you get a better handle on, you know, just growing well, or maybe more data, or just doing it better than when you started?

Dustin: Sure. Yeah, I think, that as far as the actual cultivation process itself, we've kind off taken a hybrid model of using just some old school techniques, and really then try to combine that with a lot of great data around plant health, genetic performance, understanding cannabinoid, and terpene profile, and been able to identify, you know, genetic drift. But our cultivation team out there is a really talented group.

You know, we started off from the very beginning wanted to be focused on all organic techniques and methodologies. All of our flowers grow naturally. You know, again, we do everything in small batch format. And so we're really, kind of, using I wouldn't say necessarily a lot of modern technology in that cultivation [inaudible 00:21:24] kinda trying to go back to the roots of cannabis cultivation. And, you know, really trying to have our folks looking at those plants, monitoring plant health personally, checking life cycles, checking soil, you know, checking water and nutrient feeds just to make sure that we have educated smart people that are not getting too read upon technology and automation to operate that facility.

But we've also then coupled that with, you know, with some great reporting, some really great data input so that we can go in and look and see which of our genetics are performing well in the marketplace. Trying to schedule out our production cycles. As you probably know, it's not easy to bring new products to market, and especially on the branded flower side. You know, to get a new genetic in, and get it into your system, and see how it performs is a lengthy process. So really trying to do a lot of forecasting and predicting, and really understanding the marketplace and what it looks like.

Matthew: Well, it's a good time to talk about your flower brand and your vape pen brand Huxton. Let's turn to that. Why did you decide to create your own brand there, and why did you choose flower and vape pens to be the thing you wanted to brand?

Dustin: Sure. So we really had a unique opportunity, I think, in running that retail facility at Monarch, and being able to spend some time understanding what the needs of the patients really were here in Arizona, and what folks are really asking for. And the one thing that we identified, and that we started to pick up on was the number one question that folks were asking when they're purchasing flower was, "How is this gonna make me feel?"

They wanted to know if it was gonna give them an uplifting effect, or a relaxing effect and we had just, you know, kind of followed the industry norms of saying whether if it's a sativa, it's gonna give you an uplifting effect, if it's an indica it's gonna give you a mellow and relaxing effect. We wanted to just kinda question that theory and really try to understand if that was true, A, and, B, if the genetics we were producing were really categorized correctly because there's a lot of different names out there.

There's a lot of different websites and resources that can kinda give you an indication of how a genetic is gonna perform or make you feel, but different cultivation practices, different cuts to that particular genetic, all can have a wide range of effect. So what we wanted to do is really understand our products and how they worked. So we spent about a year and a half, did thousands of focus group tests with friends and family that were patients, staff that were patients, some loyal customers at Monarch, and really we're able to get a real good foundation of understanding of how our genetics actually worked.

And so with that information, we then wanted to say, "How do we make the selection of smokable flower vape pens really simple, really unique, and really accessible for folks that may or may not have a good understanding of cannabinoid content and terpene profile?" And a lot of the industry nuances that are a little bit difficult to navigate through if you're not familiar with.

So what we did is we then took all of that information, and we categorized all of our products in three very simple series. So all of our series are designed around whatever your desire vibe is. So we have Arise series that's gonna be a little bit more focused, a little bit more of an energetic feel. We have our High 5 series, which is gonna provide a little bit more of that creative, uplifting euphoric effect, and then we have our Zen series which is, obviously, gonna be more of a mellow, relaxing vibe. And so really wanted to give folks the ability to select a product based on a simple version of how they wanted to feel.

Matthew: Okay. That makes sense. And how do you create a brand experience, or build that brand equity and packaging, and marketing and labeling, and all those things to reinforce the simplicity you're trying to bring forward of experience? How do you do that?

Dustin: Yeah, so that's a great question. I think that that was one of the things that we started with in addition to wanting to provide some consistency and some simplicity in the selection process for folks. We also really wanted to create what we like to call "Experiential Authenticity." So we really wanted to identify with our consumer. We are consumers ourselves. We understand, you know, some of the unique issues that exist and really wanted to build a brand that was devoted to the nuance of the craft.

And so every little detail, you know, we've really tried to think through it as far as putting a book of matches in our preroll tins so that people always have fire. I'm always fumbling for a lighter. Always asking for somebody if they got one, so we thought that, you know, giving folks the ability to always have fire with them was a great call. We sell a circular tin that's...it's an eight to flower, again, it's all based on experience, and we design that around kind of our middle canopy or smaller sized buds.

The industry kind of gravitates to these real large, big flower products, which you then have to go and break up and have a grinder, and have a lot of tools in order to get to a format that's smokable. We wanted to be able to design something for the consumer on the go that was discreet. Folks that were going over to their friend's house, going to a concert, going to be out doing something where they didn't have all that available to them, that they could easily just pinch it out of their pack of vaporizer, pack of one hitter, whatever they were using to consume that product with.

So just really trying to be thoughtful in all of the things that we're doing. We also wanted to design the brand to be discreet, so that folks can, you know, potentially take it with them into situations where they don't necessarily want people to know that they are carrying a cannabis product. So we wanted to provide that little bit of the anonymity, too. And that's why you'll see most of the stuff we do is really, kind of, devoid of anything that would indicate that Huxton is a cannabis brand. And that was intentional to a degree.

Matthew: That makes sense. Now, how important is packaging, and how do you arrive at your polished looking packaging? Is that kind of a journey where you're just trying out different things and looking at different fonts, and how did you do that and how long did it take?

Dustin: Yeah, that took some time. I mean, I think, that, again, we wanted to be incredibly thoughtful in all of the touch points, and all of the details of everything we were doing. And packaging is huge, and a it's a big piece of this industry that, I think, is often overlooked. That is, you know, very often the customer's first interaction with the product is to see it sitting on a shelf, to put it in their hand and get a little bit of a tactile feel for it. And most of the packaging that we had seen out there was pretty basic, and, kind of, pitched to that traditional stereotype.

And what we wanted to do was create a concept that allowed folks to pick up our products, be able to take them home, put them on their coffee table, leave them on their bar, wherever they might store it at, and feel good about, you know, having those products in their home. One of the tag lines we use is "enjoy proudly." We want folks to, you know, to be able to be excited about their cannabis use, and be able to show their products to their friends, and be excited about the way they look and feel.

So that was really important to us, and I think that we were able to find a great, creative agency here, Kitchen Sink Studios, that helped us out with a lot of the design. Like you mentioned, a lot of the font selection, color palettes, brand theming, all that stuff was about a six to eight-month process that we spent working through all the nuance and details. And I would say that just continues to be a process that we're working on. So it's not something that ever ends once we finished it. It's like the Golden Gate Bridge, once you get it painted, you got to start back over and go the other direction.

Matthew: Right. Well, I mean, people probably think about Huxton, and then they say, "Well, I have something in my head when hear that word. And then when I see what it looks like in pictures, is it congruent with what I thought of the name. And then as I experienced the product, are all three things aligned? You know, what I originally pictured what, you know, the packaging kinda says, and then how I experienced the product." So it's tougher than one might think to get those things all dialed in correctly. So I understand what's there.

Dustin: It is. Yeah, it's tricky and it just takes a lot of devotion. It takes a lot of time and energy, and really it just takes a lot of feedback from your consumers. And when we spend a ton of effort and energy on engaging our consumers, understanding what it is that they want, getting feedback from them as to, you know, how Huxton fits into their lifestyle. We're really trying to be a little bit bigger than just a cannabis brand.

We're starting on a really unique set of apparel that will be coming out later this year. Launching some cool accessory items all the way from, you know, just some smoking items that are gonna give folks kind of some assistance in that area, all the way down to home goods like candles that pair well with certain genetics that we're putting out. So just really trying to be thoughtful, and engaging that consumer where they live, understanding all the other different pieces of their lifestyle that we can help support.

Matthew: Now, I've been getting much more of just terpenes this last year and trying to understand them. And, you know, everybody thinks, "Oh, I want the highest THC. The highest THC." And then maybe, " I want some..." then they say, "Well, maybe I want some CABD, too." But they're not really thinking about how the terpenes, you know, really dramatically, dramatically impact their experience. How do you think about terpenes and terpene profile, and the moods that you follow and vape pens evoke?

Dustin: Yeah, so I think that, obviously, incredibly important, right? So we're doing some unique work on the vape pen side. All the products that we release so far are full flower extractions. So we're taking our best flower, putting it through a CO2 extraction process. We like to call it an advanced live resin, so it's a little bit different than from what most folks are doing. It's a slow 24-hour extraction process, 24-hour distillation process, really designed to do nothing other than just reflect that plant in it's purest format in an oil version.

So, again, not adding any terpenes to it. Not adding any PG, any PEG, any MCT. We're really just trying, to kind of, gently pull out that plant as it exists in Mother Nature, and then offer that to our consumer in a vape pen product. And what I think what's that allowed us to do is really capture those terpenes as they exist in the cannabis flower. And, I think, that that's a hugely important piece that we'll start to find out as this industry matures.

Like you mentioned, it's not just about THC, it's about all of those different cannabinoids and components working together. I think that those terpenes play a huge part in that. And I think as the testing side of the business matures and we start to get a little bit more understanding of exactly how that works, we'll really start to find out that, you know, just finding the most potent product out there is not gonna deliver the best experience. It's really trying to find the most rounded, you know, most representative of what this plant looks like in its purest format is the best direction to go.

Matthew: Which of the flowers, Huxton flowers, is the most popular?

Dustin: That's a great question. So we have a couple of genetics, so we do a, kind of, a unique different variety of flower products. So we do the preroll tins, we do our circular tins, and then we also do single origin genetics, still sold by series, but classified by that particular strain. And we have a couple award winners in that particular class, but generally, any thing in our High 5 series has seemed to be really popular. Our Green Crack has been a first time...our first place Earl Cup winner here a couple of years in a row.

Our Durban Poison does really well. But, again, that High 5 series is, kind of, on the top of the list, followed very closely by both our Zen and our Arise series. We're finding that you know folks are starting now to understand that they can use cannabis at different points in the day, or in different settings and use it differently. And so if they're going to a concert, they're doing something that's active, or they're looking to be creative, anything in our High 5 series flower or vape pens is a great fit.

But then those same folks might also be, you know, looking to unwind after a long day, looking to sit on their back patio and take in a sunset, and so anything in our Zen series is a good fit as well. So we're starting to see, kind of, this balance of the three sets as people start to understand how they fit cannabis into their lives.

Matthew: Okay. You're building an interesting, kind of, Swiss Army knife, cannabis Swiss Army knife of businesses, and skill sets under one roof with Adakai. How do you see that, kind of, rounding out, or expanding over the next five years or so?

Dustin: Yeah, that's a great question, too. I mean, again, so much of this industry is still uncertain. I feel like we're just kind of in the infancy of something that's gonna be incredibly impactful going forward. We're really just trying, like you said, to build as many skills, and have as much knowledge as possible. Really have a foundation of understanding for all parts of the industry. Really, you know, the main thing that we're really focused on, and what we've realized is gonna be key for any successful business in this space moving forward, is the power of brand.

You look at any other consumable product, and brand wins hands down time after time. So, I think, that, you know, we're really in a space where a lot of these cultivators and activists, and folks that are fostered this industry and brought it to where it was, you know, folks that I have a ton of respect for, have been disincentivized from letting people know who they were because they were in an environment where, you know, that could get them into some legal trouble.

And as that changes, now, a lot of this folks are starting to be able to come out of the closet and start to put their names on the products they are producing. And, I think, that really, you know, spending a lot of time and focus and energy on crafting that brand, whatever that might be, is gonna be one of the, you know, the biggest keys to our success moving forward.

Matthew: Right, because if there's no brand or there's no other way to have a unique value proposition, then people just compare on price, and then it's a race to the bottom and everybody loses.

Dustin: Certainly. Certainly, and, I think, that, you know, brands exist for a reason, and they allow consumers to make selections based on previous experiences. They provide a level of consistency, and that was the one thing that we saw that was really lacking in the flower space was the ability for consumers to get a consistent experience. You know, Huxton was the first flower brand here in Arizona that could be bought in multiple locations.

You've seen a lot of folks now doing that across the country, and, I think, as we move, kind of, from this model of bulk wholesale to retails, then repackage that flower under their retail name and move more towards brands, I think, that the consumer just becomes more aware of who is behind these products. They're able to make qualified selective decisions on the products that they're purchasing. And, ultimately, I think, that that just really, you know, raises the tide here across the industry.

Matthew: So you said you just celebrated your fourth anniversary, I think you said. So if you could go back four years and give some candid advise four-year younger Dustin, what would you say to him, so he could thrive and get through this with minimal stress?

Dustin: Yeah, great question. You know, I think, that if I could have gone back and done it all over again, I think, the only thing I would have told myself was, "Get started sooner and hustle harder." You know, it's been an incredible journey. I can't really describe what it's like to be on the forefront of an industry that has so much opportunity, is emerging, you know, kind of, out of this haze, and really starting to change minds, and really people are starting to understand what cannabis can do, and how much social impact it can create. And, I think, that if I can go back four years ago, I would tell myself to start six years before.

Matthew: Gosh, you know, everybody I've met from Pepperdine is always, like...I don't know if I would have left Pepperdine. You have a beautiful campus there in Southern California, the ocean, and it's just, you know, it makes me think about that movie "Old School." Like, if I went to Pepperdine, I might just like find a way to stay there and be, like, a 40-year-old college student somehow.

Dustin: Yeah, yeah, I made the big mistake of leaving right after I was finished, and that would be the other thing I probably would do is go back and challenge that decision.

Matthew: Well, let's put there just some personal development questions. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share with listeners?

Dustin: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I'm a big reader, you know, I have been most of my life. The one that I picked up recently that I would recommend to anybody is a book called "Extreme Ownership." And it's a book written by two ex-navy seals, and taking a lot of lessons that they've learned in their deployments, and applying them to business. Really, just a great, kind of, central theme about understanding that there's a lot of things that can happen to you in life, and a lot of things that can be put, you know, on your plate.

You can't control external circumstances, but you can control yourself. You can control how you react to them. And at the end of the day, you know, your destiny is really in your own hands. So I thought that there was just some really great lessons and some super interesting stories from those guys. So I would highly recommend picking that one up.

Matthew: Is there anything that you picked from that book that you turned around and implemented into your business and you'd like to share, like, one bullet point?

Dustin: Yeah, you know, I think that really what we've done is just try to impart that same belief on all of our staff. I think that if you can build a culture where everybody, you know, is you know, slow to point fingers at external circumstances that are causing difficulty and willing to take a look in a mirror and say, "What can I do to affect this?"

I think that you know that just creates a really strong bond and, you know, a unique foundation for creating a successful company. So just really try to encourage everybody, you know, in our organization to constantly be challenging themselves, constantly be challenging me, constantly be challenging each other, and really, you know, take on that idea of extreme ownership and saying, you know, "This is our future to build. Let's get after it."

Matthew: I've coined a term that I call "The MacGyver Quotient," and that is how do you solve that you don't know how to solve. And that's what I call "The MacGyver Quotient." Like, how are you gonna do something you don't know how to do? Like, you just have to figure it out. You know, I didn't know how to start a podcast. I didn't know anybody in the cannabis business when I started this. Just like how are you gonna do this? You know, you gotta develop, you gotta nurture and get some kindling out, and just kind of start your MacGyver Quotient until it turns into a raging fire. And I don't know if you remember that show "MacGyver"? But...

Dustin: Oh, loved it.

Matthew: Yeah, he's always thrown into this situations, and he's got like a fishing hook, some dental floss, and a contact lens and he has to, like, disable a nuclear bomb with just that. He's like, "What do I..." but he just figures it out, like, at the last second and makes it happen. But he's not saying, like, "Well, I have to wait for someone that tells me how to do this." You know, he's always just figuring it out as he goes. And sometimes it's messy, but that's okay. You know, you can clean up the finer details later.

Dustin: No doubt. I think that, you know, in addition to all those tools, he had a pretty incredible mullet that really helped him.

Matthew: He did. And I, you know, I've come to realize...I've been educated that there's more than just one kind of mullet haircut. There's the Kentucky waterfall. There's the ape drape, and there's a few others. It's not just one. It's a broad category of mullets, so you can Google different mullet types if you got to learn about that. My favorite is the ape drape, but we'll move on.

Dustin: Yeah, sounds like the rest of my morning is all set. I'm gonna be taking a look.

Matthew: Is there a tool, web-based or otherwise, that you consider vital to your productivity that you'd like to share?

Dustin: Sure. Yeah, I mean, you mentioned books and, you know, being as busy as I am and doing as much as we're doing, I really don't have time to read anymore, so I really appreciated the Audible app. I've been using that a lot to be able to listen to books while I'm, you know, finding some time to get to the gym, or driving in my car, you know, have a couple of minutes to kinda wind down. That's been great.

The other tool that I've really appreciated is the Headspace app. And, again, I think, that we're all busy, and we got a lot going on at work. And everybody is, you know, trying to build something unique, and we're all kinda running pretty hard but, you know, I like to try to make sure I'm framing my perspective in a way that is creating an abundance of wealth. And that, you know, includes being able to come home, and, kind of, turn my head off and focus on my family.

And I got a three-year-old and a one-year-old daughter that command a lot of attention. So just trying to make sure that I'm focused, and present when I'm around them. And that Headspace app, you know, doing little 10-minute meditations before I walk into the door are really useful to allowing you to, kind of, shut off all that clutter, and all that noise that is in the back of your mind. So I really appreciated that one as well.

Matthew: And just released this week, the founder of Digg, Kevin Rose, who's also a big Silicon Valley investor, released an app called "Oak Meditation" that's only available on iPhone, but I think android is coming soon. And it's very similar to Headspace but free. So for people that don't wanna spend, what, over $3 month that is for Headspace, he just did that as kind of a public service because he's gotten so much out of meditation.

As you mentioned, a lot of the benefits that you just went through. So that's another one I'd like to through out there. I'm glad you put that out there. The guy from Headspace is a very soothing English accent as he gets you to visualize all these different things makes meditation very accessible, so I totally agree with that one.

Dustin: Yeah, absolutely.

Matthew: Well, as we close, Dustin, tell listeners how they can engage with you, follow your brand on Instagram, find your website, and come to your dispensary?

Dustin: Absolutely. Yeah, we're Huxtons on Instagram. We're @HuxtonUSA. You find us on the web at huxtonusa.com. Monarch, again, on the web at monarchaz.org, and we're here opened seven days a week in Scottsdale, Arizona. For all of our local folks listening, we'd love to have you come through. I think that, you know, we're excited about continuing to build those brands, and carry them into the future, and looking forward to continuing the hustle.

Matthew: Well, Dustin, thank you so much for coming on, and sharing your journey with us. We really appreciate it and good luck to you.

Dustin: Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.