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Packaging Options for Cannabis Infused Products

cannabis packaging assurpack

Interview with Nancy Warner the founder of Assurpack.com.

Nancy leveraged her background in pharmaceutical packaging to bring child-safe packaging and automation to the cannabis industry.

Learn More at, Assurpack.com

Key Takeaways:
[2:08] – What is Assurpack
[2:31] – Nancy talks about her background
[4:52] – High-level overview of where product packaging is in the cannabis space
[5:44] – Nancy talks about what can happen with poor packaging
[6:20] – Different packaging options for infused product companies
[8:18] – Nancy talks about where she fits in in a company’s lifecycle
[11:33] – Nancy talks about designing packaging
[13:38] – Price ranges for packaging
[15:32] – Timeframe for custom packaging
[17:39] – Process of packaging
[20:18] – Nancy talks about the evolution of the packaging industry
[21:53] – Transitioning from the pharmaceutical to cannabis industry
[25:10] – Most common questions Nancy gets from prospective clients
[27:39] – Nancy answers some personal development questions
[30:24] – Nancy’s contact information

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Packaging is a huge consideration for cannabis infused product companies both in terms of having a child-proof and safe product but also in terms of maintaining a visible brand identity that resonates with customers. Here to talk with us about packaging in the cannabis industry is Nancy Warner of Assurpack. Nancy, welcome to CannaInsider.

Nancy: Thanks Matt. Great to be here.

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

Nancy: I am in northern New Jersey. A few miles from New York City.

Matthew: Okay great, and I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland today.

Nancy: Cool.

Matthew: So Nancy what is Assurpack at a very high level? Tell us what it is.

Nancy: Assurpack is a packaging company that provides custom engineered child resistant packaging solution, both components and some equipment, for mostly infused and edible products.

Matthew: Okay. And what’s your background? How did you get started with Assurpack and then get into the cannabis industry?

Nancy: Okay well I’ve been in the packaging industry my whole career. I have a degree in package engineering so I’ve been doing this a long time.

Matthew: I didn’t even know that was a field of study. Where do you go for that?

Nancy: I went to Michigan State but there are probably about 10 different universities around the country that have this program.

Matthew: Oh that’s cool.

Nancy: And I started out on the corporate side and I was actually at a pharmaceutical company as the manager of package engineering and then switched on to the supplier side and worked in the pharmaceutical contract packaging industry and business development and sales for most of my career. So I pivoted out of that corporate sales environment to try and do some more entrepreneurial ventures and ended up starting Assurpack when I saw an opportunity in the cannabis space with my background in child resistant and pharmaceutical packaging.

Matthew: Good timing. Good timing there. Now I mean in the case of pharmaceutical companies they have such a huge margin on their product that it really does make sense to look at how to impact the perceived value of consumer’s choice. Did you take a lot of that away from your experience in the pharmaceutical industry and bring it over into the cannabis space?

Nancy: Well what I find is interesting Matt is in the pharmaceutical industry all the packaging is geared towards high speed automation. Okay, and the packaging is not that innovative when you look at it because of the required automation and speed at which these packages have to run on machines. So what I did was kind of look at how to reverse engineer some of these packages used in the pharmaceutical industry into simple components that don’t require high speed machinery to bring it to the cannabis industry. Also now it’s opened up a lot more opportunity for creativity because we don’t have the demands of running on high speed machines right now.

Matthew: Yes it’s too small for that. Give us a high level overview for people that just don’t understand or they’re just getting into the cannabis space or they’re in it but they don’t really understand where we are at a high level in terms of where is cannabis product packaging right now if you had to give someone a quick summary?

Nancy: Well I would say the quick summary from my perspective is that we’re moving beyond what I would call simple bottles and bags and I think the industry started out with simple Ziploc bags and pharmacy type bottles and now you see a lot more creative child resistant packaging that is really doing some beautiful branding with the packaging out in the industry. So I’m very excited about it.

Matthew: Now a lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about hey I want to get this much THC or terpenes or such and such into my product or I want to have the most tricomes per square inch or something like that and they’re not thinking about the packaging. What’s at stake if packaging is not executed or is poorly executed? What can happen? What do you see? What are the outcomes?

Nancy: Well I think one of the outcomes is that you’re limited in your choice of what type of packaging you can use. If you don’t start looking at the packaging options and how you plan to package and what you need for your package when you start thinking about your product development, then you’re going to leave the packaging options until the end and then you’re going to be scrambling and just take whatever is easily available and readily available to help you launch. So my suggestion to people is always start early.

Matthew: Okay. And walk us through the different kinds of packaging there is for infused product companies right now.

Nancy: Okay well one of the packages that we’ve been bringing to the cannabis industry is a unit dose or a single serving blister package, and in order to make that blister package child resistant we use a patented blister card that was developed for the pharmaceutical industry and I brought this to the cannabis space. That card provides what we call an F1 Certified Child Resistant feature meaning it’s the highest rated child resistant package. If you get into one blister cavity, one dose it’s considered a failure in the child resistant protocol test that we have to go through.

So this blister package has allowed a process in a manufacturing operation where people can have a machine. They’re using blisters, not little single blisters, but we try to give them a good manufacturing process to get some better output and a reliable speed at which they can package their products. Also the dosing becomes more reliable. We’re engraving the Colorado required symbol into the bottom of the blisters so people are actually using our blister as the mold for their candies. So they’re pouring the hot candy into the blister and the symbol is at the bottom so when the product sets up in the blister that symbol is on the candy itself, and then we use that for the blister inside the package as well. So you’re not having to pour candy into a mold, take it out of the mold, put it into a package.

Matthew: Okay. So it’s flush. The candy is flush in the blister pack if they make that mold or they thing ahead of time. That makes sense. Makes it kind of a perfect fit as possible.

Nancy: Right.

Matthew: Now do you work mostly with startups or mature companies? Where do you fit in with different sized companies in their life cycle?

Nancy: Well we’ve been working with a lot of startup companies, some of who have grown very large and some of whom have not. The type of packaging that we provide, especially in the blister packaging where you need some equipment and it’s manufactured on high speed machinery, you need some good volume in order to justify the investment to do that type of packaging because there’s custom molds and some small machines involved, but we’re also supporting some of the larger brands as well. What we do is very scalable. So we can start out with small, very semiautomatic type of systems and as we get bigger we can help support people into very high speed applications for these type of packages.

Matthew: So when you say you need some minimum size or quantity, in your mind, what is the kind of threshold where your services start to become more important?

Nancy: Well we have a threshold of about 25,000 units for our custom packaging, but this past year I’ve spent the year developing some new packages which are more stock items. They are injection molded, and these packages have been developed specifically for the concentrate products. So we have a little recloseable box with a silicone lining for wax and shatter and some of those type of product, and another size and shape of a similar package for prefilled oil cartridges. So those packages don’t require any machinery and also you can buy ver small quantities of those packages. So I’m trying to expand the product line to offer different types of packages to people.

Matthew: And it’s not required that a smaller or newer infused product company be able to do 25,000 units at once. They could do three months worth that could make up 25,000 or something like that, correct?

Nancy: Correct, correct. Yeah, and we also are working with companies to try to encourage them to look for customization in a simpler form such as a custom folding box to put a stock bottle into a very uniquely designed folding carton that can be printed and have a shape that’s very unique on their own. We give you the branding opportunity and it doesn’t necessarily require you to have a custom inner child resistant package.

Matthew: Okay. Now obviously everybody with an infused product really wants the product to stand out. Some people really have a knack for this where the design, there’s something really visceral about it where you have a connection that resonates with you and others just look like they were designed in a basement with low light with little thoughts or care at all and there’s such a huge spectrum there. Can you tell us anything about you or your customers where you look at the end product wow, this was properly done and maybe an example of when it’s not properly done. How to contrast those two things so listeners can stay on the right side and do things the correct way and have a product that looks great.

Nancy: Sure. Well what we do is mostly structural and what I would look at in terms of what you’re discussing as far as the branding is the graphic image and this comes from good graphic design. We don’t do graphic design, but we work with graphic designers who are using our packages and doing their graphics for these packages and I think the best branding comes from the best designers and that’s true in any industry. So I encourage people to seek out some good design help, either graphic or industrial design to give them input to create a brand because you can’t create a brand without some people who know how to do that. I think looking at getting the best help you can and the best services from people who you can look at their portfolios and see what they’ve done and select the right design agency or group that fits your needs.

Matthew: And do you refer out contacts in this way when people reach out to you for graphic designers?

Nancy: I do. I do if people ask me.

Matthew: Okay. I’ve also used 99Designs in the past and have been very happy. You create a design contest for packaging and you only have to pay if you like one of the designs. It’s a pretty clever system. So I encourage people to give that a try.

Nancy: Yes I’ve done that for a logo when I did that for one of my businesses.

Matthew: Yeah what did you think?

Nancy: It was a lot of fun. It worked.

Matthew: Yeah, can you walk us through one or two examples of what your service is and packaging might cost at a high level so we can digest how to budget for it because people have investors or they’re setting out budgets for the rest of the year and so forth and they just want to know how to properly think about this so they can say I’m going to sell this product at this price. I have to allot this much for packaging and so on and so forth. Do you have some real high level math there?

Nancy: Well it’s really hard to say Matt because packaging is really volume related especially when we’re doing custom packaging so something could cost 25 cents or it could cost up to a dollar. It really depends on what you’re doing and the size of the package and how many colors, but on the stock packaging we’ve created price lists for some of the items that are more standard and they range anywhere from 25 cents to 65 cents depending on what it is. So people want unique packages. I’m working really hard to find that solution.

One of the issues for me in development is that it’s so expensive to develop a child resistant package. You have mold cost, you have child resistant testing cost. I would say on average it costs me between $30,000 and $50,000 to develop a new child resistant package from scratch.

Matthew: Wow.

Nancy: It’s not inexpensive and it’s a long process.

Matthew: And you want to be sure you create a design that you can use for a while then if it cost that much.

Nancy: Yes, yes. I mean there are other less expensive versions of it. So maybe $20,000 to $50,000 but it’s a large investment. So companies like myself are taking that on so that smaller branded companies can have the advantage of having some of these unique packages.

Matthew: Okay. So let’s walk through typically, I know every case is a little different, but a client reaches out to you. They have some infused product and they want to work with you and they want to get some custom packaging done and want to automate it to some extent. How long does that back and forth take and what kind of information do you need from them and then finally when you have everything you need, if you do a run of 25,000, how long does that take?

Nancy: Oka we tell people that we can usually do a custom package in about eight weeks which is really not a long time for the blister packaging. For other packages that we do it could be less time than that. If we’re just talking about printing plates and dyes for a unique folding carton or if we’re talking about a pouch that we do that’s a single serving child resistant pouch with an opening feature. And as far as the stock items that we have we can do labeling application and decorating to customize those packages as well. So our timeframe doesn’t really go beyond eight weeks when we start working with people and they’re ready to commit and get going.

Matthew: Okay.

Nancy: We need information like the size of the product, what kind of tolerance is on your product. If we could recommend a size change slightly in the shape or the size, you might get a better layout and a more cost effective package. We need to know how many colors you’re going to print and what kind of graphics you want to utilize. So a lot of these questions come up in the beginning based on my experience and I have a colleague based in Colorado and she’s also from the pharmaceutical packaging industry. We know how to do this very quickly because we’ve been doing it a long time.

Matthew: Okay. Good. Now to what extent are humans involved. This is still somewhat pretty manual since the size is small. I look on one end of the spectrum you have Elon Musk in the Tesla factory that operates in the dark because it’s all robots and robots don’t even need light for eyes. This is a different thing. This is more elementary and you have a human involved.

Nancy: Correct.

Matthew: So if we were looking at a blister pack assembly for let’s say an infused gum, something like that, what does that look like?

Nancy: From the beginning, what does it look like?

Matthew: So you have the gum on one end and then how does it make its way through the gum getting into this packaging and sealed?

Nancy: Okay. We provide pre-form blisters and you would load your gum into each cavity and we help people how to do that in a process that’s not placing each particular piece of gum into a blister but there’s different ways to have a hand feed operation that’s a little better than one at a time. Then we would provide also the foil backing that matches the pre-form blister, and then there’s a heat seal machine that’s either a table top or larger versions that you would then seal that blister with the plastic and the foil with the gum inside into a sealed package.

Then the second step would be to put it into a child resistant package, either a blister card or a recloseable child resistant carton and that would maybe either require additional machinery or not. There’s recloseable cartons that you would then just attach the blister in that printed carton or our blister cards are a second heat sealing step where you would take the card, bottom card, place the seal blister with the gum inside of it with the foil and then the top card and that gets sealed together and when you take that out it’s a finished carded blister package ready to go.

Matthew: Okay. So we mentioned gum there, but can you just kind of rattle off the top packaging you do? Is it gum, gummies? What are they?

Nancy: We do gummies, packaging for gummies, for caramels, for chocolates, from mints, for chews. So many different types of products. For oil cartridges people want a blister card and also the blister card allows you to put it on a rack in a dispensary. So it gives you good display options in a dispensary.

Matthew: Do some people like to have a transparency window so you can see through?

Nancy: They do but then in Colorado the child resistant packaging is required to be opaque. So it depends on the state regulations of where you’re selling your product.

Matthew: Okay. And where are you helping provide packaging? Is it just in Colorado or are you in multiple states now?

Nancy: We’re in multiple states now so it’s pretty exciting.

Matthew: Okay so pretty much anybody can reach out to you if they’re interested if they’re in the United States.

Nancy: Absolutely.

Matthew: Okay. And how do you see the cannabis packaging market evolving? I mean you mentioned a little bit about the bags and how we’re moving away from bags somewhat. What do you think it will look like in three to five years from now?

Nancy: I think we’re going to have the most creative child resistant packaging in the cannabis industry that’s available in the market today. One funny thing that’s happening to me, a few of the packages that I’ve developed for the cannabis space I now have some pharmaceutical colleagues wanting these packages for pharma which is an opposite direction of where I was headed, but they don’t have these creative packages so I just find it really interesting what’s going on.

Matthew: There’s something about the cannabis industry that spawns creativity I think is what you’re saying Nancy. I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

Nancy: No it’s true and it’s very exciting to be a part of it.

Matthew: Yeah. You and I met in 2014 at the Marijuana Business Conference. I believe we were standing in line at the Starbucks there and at that time you were kind of doing your due diligence on the industry and wanted to bring your expertise to the industry. Can you tell us about your journey and transitioning from the pharmaceutical world. Because as I talk to you now, you’ve got both feet in this industry and you’re doing well with this and you have a strong foundation and it’s worked, but there’s a lot of people that are listening that are like wow, Nancy has this magical confidence but that’s not the case. I mean I try to paint a picture that it’s just people are building this brick by brick and there’s no magic wand. So could you just talk a little bit about your transition maybe from the pharmaceutical world, how you made that transition, how you went to shows and how you kind of made this happen step by step?

Nancy: Okay. So basically I had a small business in New Jersey, a pharmaceutical contract packaging in business that due to FDA regulations was not going to be able to grow because there was a huge fee that the FDA imposed on us. So I found myself in a position where I had a new business, relative young business that the business model was not going to succeed. So we were trying to look at different options of what we could do and my family from Colorado was at my house for a holiday in New Jersey. My sister-in-law and her twin sister own the oldest head shop in Boulder, Colorado. I’m going to shout out to the Fitter here.

And talked about what’s going on with legalization and some of the issues with some of the overdoses with edibles and it got me thinking about well they need child resistant packaging and after they left I started looking into it and there were regulations requiring child resistant packaging. This was in about April 2014. So I started thinking about what can I differently because bottles and bags were kind of boring, and I said there’s a different way to do this.

So in my mind I thought about the institutional pharmacy market and for those of you who are not aware of it, institutional pharmacy market is a big industry that is an industry that’s regionalized like the cannabis industry is and what people do there is they buy pharmaceutical products in bulk and then they have small machines that they’re buying preformed blisters and cards and they’re packaging patients’ doses for a 30 day one month dose with multiple products in servicing the prison industry, the nursing home industry, nursing homes, things like that. So that got me thinking because it was an interesting business model for this industry, and what I needed was a child resistant blister card because those cards are not child resistant.

So I knew the owner of a packaging company here in New Jersey who has the patented F1 Child Resistant Blister Card and I approached him and I said would you give me exclusivity to take your IP and your packaging that you would manufacture for me into the cannabis world. And because he’s known me a long time, and he trusts that I would take care of his IP and know what I’m doing, he said sure Nancy go ahead. So that gave me the basis to have something unique to go out and start selling, and I had to put the whole supply chain together of how to do this, create it, and then I had to go find customers.

Matthew: Sure. Yeah and that’s a good point. How do you go find customers? How do you do that?

Nancy: How do you do that? Well you just go to trade shows. You go out, you start talking to people. I’m constantly reading and listening to your podcast and other avenues so that I can learn about people and I just reach out and cold call, just put yourself out there.

Matthew: Yeah. What are the most common questions you get from prospects when they approach you at a trade show or they want to know what you do and how you can help them?

Nancy: Well I guess the questions that we get most are how do these packages work, like you were asking. And it’s not a simple story to tell and I wish I had it down in one sentence that would describe what we do and how we do it, but because it’s custom and a lot of it is custom engineered and there’s a lot of parts to it, we’re having to teach people what we do and what the packaging process is and how to do this.

Matthew: Okay. If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing over the last few years since you’ve been in the cannabis industry about your approach or your technique or how you got into it, would you have done anything differently with that one wave of the magic wand? I like to stump here on CannaInsider Nancy.

Nancy: You know I’ve had few mistakes. I think one of the big issues has been getting the right professional support to help me from a business perspective. Not necessarily the packaging. I know the packaging part very well, but getting the right lawyers, getting the right accountants, financial support, getting people to help me with my supply chain. All those types of professional support has been challenging.

Matthew: Okay. You know I have people reach out all the time saying they want to get into the cannabis industry. It sounds like there’s a very specific need in your type of operation. If you were to hire somebody, what type of background do they need to have? What’s ideal?

Nancy: Well I think a packaging background is very helpful but not necessarily required because I can support people on the ground who aren’t technical with the technical support they need. So I think you have to be good with people. You have to be good with details. Follow through. I consider myself very professional and like to present myself and my company that way and want people on the ground who also do that.

Matthew: That’s good. So you’re saying as long as they’re professional and have some competency, you might be able to mold them into the right fit into your business.

Nancy: I think so.

Matthew: Okay. A few personal development questions to help listeners get a sense of who you are personally. So with that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share?

Nancy: Well there’s a series of books that were written by a childhood friend of mine Iris Krasnow and her books are kind of a coming of age series and she started in the 90s until the 2000s and her first book was Surrendering to Motherhood and then she had a book about Surrendering to Marriage and then Surrendering to the Self, and she was a journalist and has interviewed people, women and have their stories and her stories. It’s just really a wonderful support system. When you’re by yourself it’s something to read and feel not alone and to listen to other women’s journeys and experiences who are similar to yourself and maybe give you insight and maybe how to think about something differently.

Matthew: Well that’s pretty cool to have such a meaningful book be written by a friend. Did you boomerang back around to your friend Iris and say hey, ask questions and talk about it a little bit?

Nancy: When we get a chance. She’s very busy as I am, we like to connect.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise you consider indispensible to your productivity you would like to share?

Nancy: I think Google and all my Apple products. I think about this a lot because I’ve been in packaging and sales and business development for many years. Started out way before we had these tools and I’m so appreciative. I could not have this business today without these tools. There would be no way that I could pull everything together that I need to do on a daily basis without this. Finding resources, finding information, finding people. It’s just amazing to me.

Matthew: Yeah you’re not kidding. There’s one tool that I use called Jing and it’s this little thing that sits on my desktop. I press a button, a square pops up and then I can start recording something on my desktop and then I press finish and it gives me a url and I can share it with people. That tool has saved me probably hundreds of hours because I can show people what I mean instead of typing it out and hoping they comprehend what I mean and then can translate that into something. So it’s such a big deal. I don’t know how I got by without it. Now it’s just part of my day-to-day life. Every day I use it. It’s crazy.

Nancy: Sounds great.

Matthew: Yeah. It is. I asked you to share one and then I shared one too.

Nancy: Okay thank you.

Matthew: Nancy in closing how can listeners find out more about Assurpack and connect with you and find out about your services and so forth?

Nancy: Well they can go to www.assurpack.com. You can send an email through info@assurpack.com and we can get back to you with information and we would love to hear from people.

Matthew: Now are you going to be at the next Marijuana Business Conference and Expo?

Nancy: I am. I’ll also be at the next NCIA Trade Show in Oakland.

Matthew: Okay great. So look for you there then.

Nancy: I’ll be in D.C. in May with Marijuana Business Expo and then Oakland in June.

Matthew: Perfect. Well Nancy thanks for coming on and educating us about packaging. I wish you all the best.

Nancy: Thank you so much Matt. I do appreciate your connecting me with your audience.


Protect your Cannabis from Prying Eyes Interview with SneakGuard Founder Graeme Gordon

sneak guard

Graeme Gordon invented SneakGuard, a humidity controlled hand-held mini vault in response to his daughter that almost found his stash. This device is really very clever.

Get 10% off The SneakGuard
Use Coupon Code: insider
Visit: https://www.cannainsider.com/sneak

Key Takeaways:
[2:00] – What is the SneakGuard
[2:31] – Graeme talks about his background
[3:17] – Functions of the SneakGuard
[4:53] – Graeme talks about a former name for SneakGuard
[7:58] – Specs of the SneakGuard
[8:46] – How does SneakGuard defend its contents
[10:27] – Graeme talks about the optimal moisture levels for cannabis
[12:47] – Why is vacuum a key benefit in storing cannabis
[13:31] – Feedback from customers
[13:54] – New product development
[15:54] – Graeme talks about working with manufacturers
[18:20] – Graeme talks about his experience at Arcview
[20:32] – Graeme answers some personal development questions

 

Read Full Transcript

Other industries with high value, sensitive materials have a lot of security options available to them to secure their goods. Cannabis is starting to have more options as well. I’ve invited Graeme Gordon to tell us about his product called the SneakGuard that can help you secure cannabis. Graeme welcome to CannaInsider.

Graeme: Hi Matt. Thanks for having me.

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

Graeme: I am in lovely Tampa, Florida.

Matthew: Oh good. I’m in Austin, Texas today. So what is the SneakGuard?

Graeme: So SneakGuard is the only smell proof cannabis storage container on the market that combines a lock with a vacuum fresh sealing lid.

Matthew: Okay.

Graeme: So it’s mainly designed to prevent ingestion of cannabis but it can also be used for traditional medication. So it’s got a good mainstream appeal.

Matthew: Okay. What’s your background? How did you get into this industry and developing the SneakGuard?

Graeme: Well my background is actually rooted in corporate America. I was a creative entrepreneurial marketing executive for about 20 years. I worked a lot in global manufacturing and I know retail marketing so that was my past background, but I have always been a serial inventor. Kind of followed in my grandfather’s footsteps. So I’ve always enjoyed inventing products that make our everyday life easier.

Matthew: Good. Yeah so dive into the SneakGuard a little bit for me because when I looked at it initially I thought I was looking at a safe, and it does have a safe function, but there’s other things going on there. Can you just describe those a little bit more?

Graeme: Sure. So I actually invented SneakGuard out of necessity. I caught my four year old daughter snooping around in our bathroom and she was able to open one of those push and twist medicine bottles. Yeah it was a scary experience. Luckily she wasn’t hurt but it certainly could have turned out a lot worse. So I’ve always been inventive and decided to see if I could look around and find something to solve the problem and there really wasn’t anything on the market that suited my needs. So I did a lot of research and decided this was something that I wanted to do.

I felt like the push and twist had been invented and patented in the late sixties. So I thought this is something that could be improved. It would actually keep my kids safe and would be easy for adults to use while maintaining a good sense of security which I thought I had from the push and twist, but apparently my kid could open it.

Matthew: At four did you say?

Graeme: Four years old, yeah.

Matthew: That’s pretty amazing.

Graeme: Yeah. You know it’s remarkable, when I did my research I found out that there were plenty of cases out there of children even much younger than that that were able to do this. So it’s fairly common problem.

Matthew: Okay. You formally had a different name for SneakGuard. Can you tell us about that?

Graeme: Sure. So as I had mentioned I had caught my daughter snooping. So as a marketer and a brander I was trying to come up with a name for the invention. I did a study of several different names and came up with Snoop Guard because I thought it had addressed what the product solved which was snooping. So I proceeded down the normal entrepreneurial path. Block and tackle. You get your patents and your trademarks in line and I trademarked the name Snoop Guard and the US Patent Office actually granted me the mark. So at that point I owned the mark and moved forward into production and actually took orders.

This was back in October of 2015. We attended a trade show and about two weeks after that we received a cease and desist from a well know rapper or this rapper’s attorney and we sort of hit a brick wall.

Matthew: That’s kind of a funny thing though because you got the trademark legally and then it just becomes a battle of lawyers and who is willing to spend the most on lawyers essentially is what would happen. I imagine this rapper who everybody probably knows who it is would just have a lot of resources to throw at this compared to your average startup entrepreneur.

Graeme: Yeah it certainly hit me hard as a person because at that point I was really trying to affect children’s lives. I had a safety product and that’s what I thought you know, that was my focus. Safe, responsible storage, and I had to quickly put on my CEO cap, if you will, and think more about a business decision. Did I want to slug it out in the courts which would take up a lot of time and certainly a lot of financial resources or do I want to pivot and stay true to what I was trying to do which was follow the mission of safe and responsible storage. So I ended up with a quick pivot and we branded the company, changed the name to SneakGuard.

Matthew: And a karma would have it this rapper is in a trademark dispute with the Toronto Maple Leaves right now over his first cannabis product. I don’t know if you’ve read about that.

Graeme: Yeah. It’s amazing.

Matthew: It’s interesting how that goes around.

Graeme: It is.

Matthew: I do enjoy his music so I’m not going to be too hard on him.

Graeme: That’s okay. These things happen for a reason and we made a quick, fast recovery so things are actually going very well now.

Matthew: Let’s dive into the specifics. What’s the approximate size of the SneakGuard. If I was holding it, what would it look like and feel like?

Graeme: Okay so it’s a round container. It’s about 6.5 inches in diameter and 6 inches tall. So it’s got a stainless steel wrap. It’s really solid. It’s double walled so it’s got a lot of insulation. It can be stored in the refrigerator. It’s got a plastic lid that’s BPA free and it’s got a really cool design but it’s a very ergonomic design, very easy to grip and grasp and very simple to use.

Matthew: Okay. So it protects visually as people can’t see into obviously. That’s kind of the first line of defense, but how else does it defend your cannabis or other medicines you might hold in there?

Graeme: So the two major categories, most people have problems with cannabis storage is really either the safety or the freshness aspect of it. And the cannabis safety it’s a key point of pain among the public, the media, the industry and even the government. It’s actually one of the eight priorities listed by the Department of Justice. This is the safety side. So we got a resettable lock that’s actually built into the lid, and then of course like you mentioned the opaque stainless steel exterior which they both sold for the safety side of this.

With any sort of medication it’s always good to keep it out of the reach of children and adding a lock is just basically buying you insurance. So with the safety side taken care of we kind of started to look into the storage. When you’re storing cannabis you’ve got heat and moisture, light air and then handling that can all cause problems with cannabis. So we took the aspect of storage and took it a step further than just your normal air tight container and we added the vacuum pump and then the humidity control capability. So we’ve basically combined the two to control the environment from a freshness standpoint and the security side.

Matthew: Okay so let’s go into a little bit about the moisture. Why is moisture so important and what is the optimal moisture level for your typical consumer or cannabis enthusiast out there that wants to keep their flower at kind of the right moisture level?

Graeme: Okay well moisture in general when you’re talking about interacting with anything that’s organic including cannabis, moisture can cause mold and bacteria growth. So what you want to do is you want to control the humidity in a similar fashion that you would look at Sagora [ph] if you will or a Humadore [ph]. And each substance has a different requirement for humidity and cannabis, the general range you want to be in is between 55-65 percent. That’s a relative humidity percent. This is very easy to control with a closed system and what we use are Humidican packs [ph], and they are basically plug and play. They’re like little, if you will, sugar packs that you would find in a restaurant. You just drop them in and they automatically add or take out moisture as its needed. So it keeps it at the relative humidity based on that pack and you can buy it in that 55 percent or you can buy them at 65 percent. Either way they really work really well to stabilize your cannabis. You don’t have to worry about it going too dry or going too moist. It’s just automatic, put it in and you’re set.

Matthew: That’s pretty clever. I mean I can visualize this taking out or putting in, but how does it achieve doing both? Do you know about the specifics of that?

Graeme: Absolutely. There are different manufacturers that have similar processes. The ones that we use is a gel pack. It’s food safe. You can actually touch the material. You don’t have to worry about it. In fact there are some of the reps for the brand that we use which is Integra Boost who actually put it on their tongue. It’s harmless, but it’s a gel. Some other products use a salt type of substance and it’s literally a gel pack that’s in a paper wrapper and it automatically takes it in or out based on the chemistry of the gel.

Matthew: Okay. And what about vacuum. You mentioned the vacuum nature of sealing. Why is vacuum key or important benefit?

Graeme: Okay. Again, it goes back to anything that’s organic and this applies obviously in the food industry. We know oxygen is the enemy of freshness so by removing the oxygen your cannabis is protected from the deteriorating effects of the oxygen. That’s the purpose of the vacuum really is to remove that accelerator of decay and by doing that you can maintain freshness and you can maintain how long your product is going to last and the potency because over time everything decays.

Matthew: What’s the feedback been like from the early adopters?

Graeme: It’s been terrific. Once customers have this thing in their hands and they actually feel it and touch it and see that it’s substantial and something that they can use every single day and they don’t have to worry about anything, it’s really been tremendous.

Matthew: Are you working on any other cannabis security products at all?

Graeme: We are. Actually we have two products that are in the pipeline. One is about 80 percent through development and it’s an exciting skew. What we’ve done is the current model of SneakGuard uses a combination lock that you can reset. It’s a full wheel combination lock, and we have developed a biometric version which replaces the combination lock with a biometric fingerprint sensor and it holds up to 300 passwords or fingerprints that is. So what this does is it creates a chain of custody if you will because we’ve added a smartphone app via iPhone and the Android operating system which allows the administrator to open and close the container with their iPhone but also administer all the fingerprints. So you can tell who has accessed the container and when they’ve accessed it. This is something that we’re really excited about. I’ve seen the prototype. It works. It’s fantastic and we’re really excited about releasing that hopefully in 2017.

Matthew: What are the price points for both the SneakGuard and your new product here?

Graeme: So the SneakGuard, we call this the CombiFresh for the combination lock. It retails for $119.99 and the BioFresh which is our biometric version we haven’t actually priced it yet but we know it’s probably going to be in the $200 range.

Matthew: What’s it like working with manufacturers to bring your vision to reality because I know it’s sometimes difficult to iterate and to get them to see your vision and to trust them and to source the right materials. Just to do everything just the way you would want it done? Can you tell us anything about that journey?

Graeme: Well yeah it’s an exciting journey. I’ve worked in manufacturing in China for many years, but despite that fact it remains a journey and a challenge for anyone regardless of your experience. You always have to build a relationship with anyone that you’re working with, but when you’re working on a product that’s never been done before you really have to take a lot of time and energy to translate your vision. In our case with SneakGuard it’s such a complex solution even though it seems like it would be very simple. Just simply combining a lock with a vacuum, but working in a vacuum presents a whole set of challenges and also the usability.

You want something that’s going to be very easy to use. So again it was a lot of relationship building. Looking at a lot of factories that have different strengths. I always go back to the product never existed before so I couldn’t exactly go out there and say okay I want to find a factory that makes a container with a lock and a vacuum. There was no such thing. So I really had to work hard to find the right one that would work with me and also take the risk. You’re talking about a product that is not a toy. It serves a purpose that has to deliver on safe responsible storage. So I had to be very picky.

Matthew: Has there been any dispensaries that have shown interest in carrying this?

Graeme: There have absolutely. We’ve got dispensaries in Washington and Oregon, that area. Those seem to be doing very well. It’s sort of early in the game with the dispensaries. I think a lot of dispensaries are very preoccupied with moving the product that they’re there to sell. But in my opinion as prices settle down, they’re going to need to find margin dollars and ways to differentiate themselves and I believe that non-plant accessories will become a big part of their assortment.

Matthew: Sure. You recently presented at the Arcview Group. What was that like?

Graeme: The Arcview Group, that was amazing. It was such a terrific experience for me. First of all it was really exciting to see the energy and the sheer scale of the industry. It was so concentrated. The level of expertise and the knowledge all in that one area. I don’t know for your listeners who aren’t familiar with Arcview they do a really good job of qualifying perspective products and services for investors. So they know the industry ins and outs. They know the data. It’s sort of an industry that’s so new and there’s so much room for opportunity. Unfortunately there are a lot of opportunists out there when it comes to investing in the business, but they are one of the few that are really professional. They’ve got a lot of integrity. So for me it was a great honor to be selected and it was just a lot of fun to be there.

Matthew: Graeme where are you in the investing cycle post Arcview?

Graeme: We pitched Arcview the week before Thanksgiving. So we’re in our Series A right now. We’re definitely seeking investors. Our current round close is at the end of January and we are generating revenue. We started our sales in April 2016 with our launch and we are distributors, sorry, we have a distribution in 26 states, Canada and the UK. So we’re off to a great start.

Matthew: Great, great. And investors that are interested in connecting with you, what’s the best way to do that?

Graeme: The best way to do that is to reach me directly at my email address. It’s ggordon@sneakguard.com.

Matthew: Graeme I like to ask a couple personal development questions to give listeners a sense of who you are. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Graeme: Sure, absolutely. One of the books that I’ve really enjoyed, I’ve read it a couple of times is Insanely Simple by Ken Segal. I was in the advertising business in corporate America all of my life, both on the agency side and the retail or client side. So I’ve always been a fan of branding and companies like Apple. So this book was written about Apple and really how Steve Jobs worked on the basic premise of keeping everything simple. Ken worked for an advertising agency that did a lot of work for Apple. So he was alongside of Steve Jobs the whole way, and he brings a really interesting perspective into the word simplicity and how you can use these principles that he lays out to guide you not only for your product but your advertising and really throughout your entire organization.

Matthew: I haven’t heard of that one. It sounds really interesting. Apple’s certainly done a masterful job of that.

Graeme: Yeah absolutely. For me it really hit a chord, especially with the simplicity side because simplicity is really important but it’s not easy to sit down and be simple. I think things that are intrinsically really simple or products have a lot more complex work behind them to get them to be simple versus some products or organizations that truly are very complex. Now Steve Jobs was a very complex person but everything that came out of there and to the point today still has that same feel of being very simple and for me that was really important for what I did and still do with everything. Not just product design but everything that I have as a touch point with a customer and my wholesalers, my distributors, my media partners and things like that. I think keeping it simple is key.

Matthew: I hope they can continue that radical simplicity with the car. It just sounds like they’re acknowledge developing the iCar. That’s a big jump from a phone or a computer to make a car, but I think it should be interesting to see them jump in and compete with Tesla in that domain.

Graeme: Absolutely. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. It’s exciting stuff right.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity that you would like to share?

Graeme: Yeah for me it’s a general tool. If I look at what I do I’ve developed a new product and kept a very flat organization through development and production because I want to scale the company but I like to be very nimble and I use a lot of outside vendors where possible. So for me my go to is actually the Adobe Suite which now resides in the cloud because content, I’ve got a new product and a lot of what I do is about education. Educating people why safe, responsible storage is important which means I need a lot of content and for me Adobe fits me very well. I use their entire suite all the way from web to audio, getting ready for pitches and things like that.

Matthew: Very cool. Is it the Adobe Cloud Suite then?

Graeme: The Adobe Cloud Suite right.

Matthew: Okay got it. Well Graeme thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. I really appreciate it and good luck to you with SneakGuard.

Graeme: Absolutely, thank you so much.

How to Cure your Cannabis to Perfection with Cole Ducey

cole ducey of autocure

What is the difference between drying and curing your cannabis and why should you care?

Great question. Turns out that it’s a really big deal to dry and cure cannabis right. If you do it wrong you can get nasty mold, if you do it right you have a beautiful flower with all its terpenes intact.

Learn how to master drying and curing your cannabis in this episode with Cole Ducey the founder of AutoCure.us

Key Takeaways:
[3:02] – What is Auto Cure
[4:40] – The making of Auto Cure
[9:37] – What’s the difference between drying and curing
[12:20] – Risks of not curing cannabis properly
[13:47] – Most common ways to dry and cure cannabis
[16:27] – How does Auto Cure work
[20:21] – Cole defines burping
[23:04] – What is RH Threshold
[25:14] – What does Auto Cure look like
[30:04] – Auto Cure’s data logging feature
[34:24] – Is the dashboard user-friendly
[37:46] – Cole talks about most common customer feedback
[41:08] – Cole answers some personal development questions
[48:40] – Cole’s contact details

Important Update:
What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years? Find out with your free guide at: https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

Note: Just a quick note that the audio quality of my microphone is not the best in this interview because I accidently used the microphone on my computer instead of the one I was holding in my hand. So my apologies about that and I’ll be back to better audio quality from my microphone in the next episode.

In an effort to continue to highlight the entrepreneurs that are making the picks and shovels for the cannabis industry I am pleased to welcome Cole Ducey founder of Auto Cure on to CannaInsider today to discuss an often misunderstood but extremely important topic, Curing Your Cannabis. Cole, welcome to CannaInsider.

Cole: Hey thanks Matthew. I really appreciate you having me on today, and I look forward to our conversation.

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

Cole: So I am currently in San Diego, California at the Auto Cure facility. It is a beautiful day here, nice, sunny and clear and a great day to be speaking with you and discussing a little bit about Auto Cure.

Matthew: And I’m in Edinburgh, Scotland where it’s already getting dark and it’s very cloudy. So kind of the antithesis of what you’re doing down there in San Diego right now. Thanks for joining me early in the day.

Cole: Yes, yeah, you’re welcome. Yeah thanks for having me again.

Matthew: So tell me what is Auto Cure at a high level?

Cole: Auto Cure is a professional drying and curing technology. It is really one of its kind, and it is comprised basically of two components. The first being a robotics system that is run by software. The second component being a series of chambers or housing for the robot where flower contents are put into the chamber as well. The way that it functions basically is that the robot will activate or deactivate itself. During the activation phase air will be blown through the chamber system. New air will be blown into the chamber. When the robotic system is deactivated the system will close itself off to create an airtight environment so there is no air movement.

Matthew: Okay so we’ll get into the weeds on why that’s and idyllic scenario for curing your cannabis, but before we do how did you come about creating Auto Cure? Did you wake up one morning and just visualize this and say I must build it? What’s the origin story there and what was your background?

Cole: So it’s been a number of years actually. About seven years ago right out of college I was growing, cultivating and in order to compete with the dispensaries in the area in the San Fernando Valley where I was at, I knew that I needed to cure my flower. I knew that that gave the flower the best quality and it’s just the most desirable and highest value when it is cured. So as I was growing, I soon realized how monotonous and inexact of a process the curing process actually is so at that time I had the initial idea that I knew there needed to be a solution in the curing process.

So after my days of growing were done I actually went into studying to be a mechanical engineer which is what I currently do. So I run CNC machining equipment and I have a full shop. So basically after I learned the skills to manufacture such a device my initial idea came back to me and I basically put it together and I said wow I can actually make this now. I then started on the path of designing the product about two years ago, and that was a process in and of itself in fabrication and software development. Now we are at the place where everything is dialed in and we are making them in production. So that is very exciting.

Matthew: That is great. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve met in the cannabis community that have created really cool products that have an engineering background. I mean it makes sense because you have this idea in your head and you’re like oh I know how make this but it’s really remarkable how many mechanical, electrical, structural engineers are just making some really cool stuff. I’m so glad people of that background are getting into it. Go ahead.

Cole: I was going to say you’re exactly right. It’s very interesting that point how mechanical engineers and machinists are transferring their knowledge into this budding industry that we got that’s the next huge growth industry. That’s really how I saw it, and so it was really an easy decision for me and I know that it is for a lot of other mechanical engineers also. So that’s a very good point.

Matthew: Yeah I mean a lot of problems that have no solutions still so it’s kind of this green field opportunity where it’s like hey there’s nobody doing this. I could just do it and there’s a lot of people making a lot of money with cannabis cultivation so they’re happy to throw money at you if you can solve their problem.

Cole: Correct yeah. Just kind of an aside, the funny thing is that the machines that I have and I run are the same exact machines that Boeing uses for the aerospace industry. So they’re made for building jet aircraft components, satellite components, highly highly precise pieces of equipment. However, I took that and other engineers alike have took that technology and implemented that precision into this new industry that really needs and desires this type of innovation. So it’s a very nice mesh that’s happening.

Matthew: Cool, some space age technology there.

Cole: Yeah exactly, exactly.

Matthew: Okay well let’s just get kind of into the bread and butter of curing, but before we do I want to just ask a very simple question. What’s the difference between drying and curing?

Cole: That’s a very good question, and basically curing is a longer more slowly controlled evaporation process than the drying process. It occurs secondarily after the drying process so just timeframe, approximate timeframes. Usually drying takes about five to seven days and that occurs right after the live plant is cut and harvested. Family foliage is typically wet trimmed off at that time and then the plant is either hung whole or in sections on strings upside down. That will take place for about five to seven days like I mentioned.

Then secondarily the curing process will occur when the flower has reached a certain level of dryness. So when the curing process starts what you are trying to do is get the innermost moisture released out of the flower in a slow enough process so that the medicinal oils and terpenes do not evaporate off with the moisture, the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Okay so it’s giving a pathway for the water to leave or the moisture to leave the plant by keeping all the terpenes and compounds that you want to keep. So it’s kind of the art and science of doing that in the most efficient way possible.

Cole: Correct, and if in the curing process if the evaporation process is too quick, then as we mentioned the valuable terpenes and oils resultantly get evaporated off with the moisture and they are lost. So the value in curing is retaining those oils while releasing the remaining moisture.

Matthew: Now I see a lot of growers, especially new growers, obsess about the soil and lights or these different growing inputs, but not spend a lot of time thinking about drying and curing. What’s at stake if a cultivator doesn’t cure his/her cannabis properly? What are the risks?

Cole: There is tremendous risks actually and very highly detrimental risks. On one side, like we discussed, if airflow is too much, if the rate of evaporation is too high in the curing process, then what you’re going to do is you’re going to over dry your flower. You’re going to lose too much of the oils. It’s just going to be dried out. You’re going to lose the smell, the taste, and it’s really just going to have that dried out grass feeling which loses end value. On the other end if airflow is too restricted, then what happens is you risk mold forming which can destroy your entire harvest if it spreads to grossly.

Matthew: Okay. How do most growers dry and cure now? I’ve been in grows and I see the plant hanging from a clothesline or in buckets and things like that. What’s the way most growers do it? Is that the way they do it or how does it typically work?

Cole: So the way I learned to do it and the most typical way that hear through our customers, we’ll start with drying. As I mentioned, touched on previously. In the drying process that occurs right after the plant is cut, the live plant is cut. So after the plant is cut from the stock there is an initial wet trim that’s done to get fan leaves and other excess foliage from the flower and the bud. Then either the whole plant or parts of the plant are hung upside down from strings, as you alluded to, and what that upside down hanging does is it pulls all the flower. Basically gravity pulls the remaining leave and the flower down so you get your typical nice bud structure. That lasts for about five to seven days, and in that time the plant drying in exposed ambient conditions which is the atmosphere within the room that its drying in.

So that’s important to understand because after that five to seven day drying period when you move to curing what you’re doing is you’re taking the flowers and you’re putting them in either buckets or jars and sealing off the jars. What you’re doing there is you’re creating a new environment for the flower that is actually protected from the dry, ambient conditions that you were previously hand drying in.

Matthew: Okay. How does Auto Cure work differently for the drying process than the curing process?

Cole: So that’s just touch screen settings that on the Auto Cure unit there is a touch screen display and there are sliders that control the venting parameters of the unit. So how often or less often the unit will actually vent itself. In drying, the unit will be set to vent itself much more frequently or in a continuous manner so there’s air constantly flowing on to the flower to dry. Whereas when you reach the curing stage you’re going to dial back the settings. It’s very easy, as I explained, on the display. So in curing when the settings are dialed back the unit will vent itself much less frequently so much less fresh ambient air is being blown onto the flower because you are slowing down the rate of evaporation during the curing process.

Matthew: Right. You don’t want that rate of evaporation to be too quick. That’s why you’re closing the vents intermittently. Is that correct?

Cole: Correct. So when the vents close the fans turn off. So at that point the unit is a airtight system. During that time the flower inside that is curing is releasing its moisture into the surrounding air inside the chamber. As that’s happening, the digital sensors that are placed inside the chamber of the Auto Cure read the increase in moisture in the air which is caused by the transference from the flower to the air via evaporation.

Matthew: Okay. So Auto Cure does measure moisture then?

Cole: Correct. So we have to be clear on exactly what type of moisture it is registering. What it is registering is actually the lost moisture from the flower that has been transferred into the surrounding air inside the chamber. So that’s different than the actual leaf moisture content inside the flower.

Matthew: So it’s measuring the ambient environment in the chamber as opposed to the plant.

Cole: Correct, and more specifically it’s measuring the change in the ambient level of humidity and that change that you’re seeing is actually coming from the release of moisture from the flower which indicates that the flower is drying or curing because it is losing moisture into the air.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about burping and what that means because these are kind of terms that are thrown around and sometimes we don’t have an opportunity to stop and define that. Can you define what burping means because I’m about to burp right now myself as a human.

Cole: Yeah. So burping is an industry term for what I referred to earlier as venting. How the Auto Cure vents itself another word for that is burping. Where burping comes from is in the traditional methods of curing you’re either using buckets or some type of a jar that becomes sealed, just like the Auto Cure seals itself off. Burp a bucket or a jar what you’re doing is you’re taking off the lid of the bucket or jar to clear out the saturated air that was inside each of the chambers and replacing that saturated air with new drier air and then sealing it back off so that the process of moisture transference from the flower to the surrounding air can occur once more. So it’s process that happens over and over. When you’re using buckets or jars that process gets extremely monotonous and when you get to a certain level of cultivating it becomes almost impossible, practically impossible to burp so many buckets or jars in a day.

Matthew: Yeah I can see where that would be time consuming and a pain to do that.

Cole: Yeah and that’s, as I mentioned, that was my initial idea in creating the Auto Cure is because the Auto Cure vents itself automatically whenever the computer knows that it’s time to. The compute knows it’s time to vent relative to the settings that user sets on the touch screen display.

Matthew: Okay. Let’s talk about a different term here. What is RH threshold and why is that important to understand?

Cole: So the RH threshold is one of the settings on the Auto Cure that I just alluded to which causes the unit to vent and when to went. The RH threshold is one of the three toggle sliders that we have on the display, and what it does is it sets the maximum RH level, the maximum humidity level that is allowed within the Auto Cure chamber during the curing process. So as we discussed, when flower is put into the chamber and the chamber is sealed off so it’s not in a venting process what’s going to happen is the relative humidity inside the chamber is going to rise, and it’s going to rise until it hits the RH threshold value that you set on the display.

Typically that is around 60-65%, it could go as low as 55%, but the way that we use the Auto Cure and the way that most of our customers use the Auto Cure they set the RH threshold at 62 percent. So again once the internal RH hits 62%, the unit will vent itself completely, bring in new air which is then much lower than 62% right after the vent cycle is complete, then the humidity will rise again until it hits the RH threshold.

Matthew: If we were standing in front of an Auto Cure machine right now, how large is it? What could you compare it to so we can get visualization?

Cole: So the technology that we have is completely scalable so we have multiple sizes which I’ll go through right now. The smallest size that we have in production right now is our medium and that holds ten to twelve pounds. It could also hold as little as one pound because it is an air tight system so you’re not restricted to a minimum amount in that unit. Size wise that unit is two feet wide by three feet deep by three feet tall. So it’s basically the size of a large box. It could be easily carried with two people or placed on a roller table for easy accessibility, but it is designed as a tabletop unit. So it has feet on it. It rests on a table or platform of some kind.

Our next largest unit is the large. That unit is configured a bit differently from the medium in that it is on wheels. So it’s a floor unit that you’re able to easily roll around your facility. That unit holds 25 pounds. It’s two feet wide, by four feet long, by four feet tall. Our extra large holds 50 pounds. It’s configured the same way as the large and it’s double the size of the large. So it’s four feet wide, by four feet deep, by four feet tall.

Matthew: Okay. So it really depends on the size of your harvest on what size machine you’re going to get.

Cole: Correct and those are our individual units, our individual production units. From there we also make large scale production units which are actually walk-in chambers. One style of the walk-in chamber we make is actually retrofit into an existing dry room. The smallest chamber we make that’s walk-in is eight foot by eight foot by eight foot. It’s framed and lined in acrylic so it’s completely air tight. It utilizes our same technology. So basically it’s a walk-in room that burps itself. That is great for large quantities. We can fit over 200 pounds in one of those chambers and we can custom configure that for whatever type of racking the facility uses. So they’re great for the large producers.

The last style of walk-in chamber that we make is actually retrofit. It comes all in one in a prefab, insulated shipping container. So if you picture a shipping container that is completely insulated, it has full climate control inside to control the ambient. Then within that shipping container we build our Auto Cure chambers which then burp or vent the ambient that is controlled by the HVAC system of the shipping container.

Matthew: Okay so is that preconfigured then, the shipping container option or how does that work?

Cole: Correct. So that’s preconfigured and those are shipped to the customer preconfigured. They’re completely structurally sound. You don’t need to put them inside. They can be placed outside. They are very secure. They can be completely locked up. They just need a power supply hooked up to the shipping container as it doesn’t have its own generator. So it needs power hooked up to it.

Matthew: Okay. Tell us a little bit about data logging and how the Auto Cure logs the data so you can follow the progression of the curing process.

Cole: Yeah so that’s really exciting. That is something that we see has such far reaching implications for (1) the facility that’s using the product and (2) for the development of cannabis itself because what our data logging does is that we have a portal on our website where each owner of an Auto Cure has a username and password that they sign in to. In that portal you’re first going to see a graphical representation, a line graph of the current humidities registered by the Auto Cure over a period of time. So you’re going to see trends happening in your drying or curing flower which (1) allows the user to see in real time what they’re drying and curing flower is actually doing, (2) gives the user peace of mind. They know that the unit is working perfectly and they’re not even there.

They know that their flower is curing actively and they’re not even in front of the unit. (3) The data, when it’s interpreted or analyzed by the user, they’re going to be able to compile that data over multiple cures to know exactly when the flower is done curing strain specific.

Matthew: So it’s kind of like a journal where you’re saying hey this is exactly what happened and we love the outcome when this is what the log produced so let’s make sure we do that again and repeat this over and over once we dial in what works the best.

Cole: Correct. So the quantitative data, the raw data that is registered from the Auto Cure is sent to our portal and then the user will add their own qualitative data to the quantitative. So basically they see strain specific. They say Blue Dream is curing in X number of days at X RH percentage and we got the highest sales price when using those Auto Cure settings. So obviously they’re going to want to save the data so that they’re able to repeat the quality that they got when they received their highest sales price for that specific batch.

Matthew: Yeah so batch logging. That makes sense. You can then go back and see what you liked about it and what you didn’t. That makes a lot of sense. I guess people are doing it because they have to track the seed to sale stuff so this isn’t really that much of a stretch to go this far in logging the curing process. So that’s interesting.

Cole: It is.

Matthew: There’s a lot of people listening that might be saying hey this is very interesting stuff. I want to cure really well and make sure it’s all optimized but I don’t want to get a PhD in curing. Is the dashboard pretty easy to understand and is it pretty easy to learn? How long does it take to get up to speed would you say?

Cole: The learning curve is minimal to be completely honest. We made the (audio cuts) very straightforward. As I mentioned there’s three sliders that determine the venting parameters. So you’re either going to base it off a time threshold which means that if you set the slider to 24, the unit will vent itself once every 24 hours. The second slider that we already mentioned is the RH threshold. So that’s set typically to around 62 percent. The unit will also vent itself when the threshold hits 62% even if that’s before 24 hours which you set on the time threshold slider. So it’s an either or that’s going on with those parameters. So the Auto Cure is either going to vent when the RH threshold or when the time threshold is hit, whichever happens sooner.

Matthew: Okay. What about infused products companies? We’re talking about cultivators and everybody is getting their flower or trim from cultivators, but is there any unique type of needs or desires that infused products companies have or their careabouts when curing?

Cole: So instead of curing flower the Auto Cure can also be used for pre-processed drying of trim or other type of cannabis material. So pre-processed drying before it becomes extracted into oils or concentrates. So in the pre-process drying you’re actually not going for curing necessarily because the product will then be extracted into oil. You’re actually just trying to get the material as dry as possible before the extraction process. So when the Auto Cure’s settings are set to continuous venting then it’s very good to be used in the pre-process drying.

Matthew: Okay. So after a customer is onboarded with Auto Cure, they’ve had it for a couple of days, they’ve started to use it, what’s their immediate feedback to you in terms of benefits and in terms of what they like? What do you hear the most?

Cole: So the number one thing that we hear is the automation. We hear back it’s just so much less labor intensive than burping buckets. Along with that comes the precision and consistency of Auto Cure because during Auto Cure’s venting process inside the chamber a completely uniform laminar airflow which is from bottom to top, side to side completely uniform airflow flows through the chamber so that the contents inside dry and cure at a completely uniform rate. So along with the automation what our customers see is standardization and consistency which is something in the curing process and in the drying process is something that is a bit difficult to achieve is standardization and consistency because mainly in curing the manual burping process is so labor intensive and monotonous it just can’t be done on a precise or consistent level as compared to when a computer does it, i.e. the Auto Cure robot.

Matthew: Sure. What about for the people that are like hey I just want to set this and forget it? Can you really get that level of hands off? Let’s say if my mom was doing curing for my plants. Is this something where she could just throw it in there pretty much and set it and forget it?

Cole: Yeah so that’s how it’s designed.

Matthew: No offense mom if you’re listening.

Cole: Yeah so if your mom were to be curing your flower, then it would be as easy for her. She wouldn’t even have to touch the settings if you already preset them. So in the context of a grow facility the master grower or the head of drying or curing can set the settings and then the employees can come and load the device without touching any settings. They just close it right up and then the Auto Cure will vent from there. So it really is a set it and forget it piece of technology. On top of that we have the portal that you can login to on your smartphone or computer so you can check it remotely from there as well.

Matthew: Okay. That’s great. Cole, I’d like to switch to some personal development questions to let people get a better sense of who you are personally. With that is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you would like to share with listeners?

Cole: Yeah you know the book that had the biggest impact on my life in the moment that I read it was, I actually listened to it on tape, I didn’t read it, but it is called A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

Matthew: Sure, it’s a great book.

Cole: Yeah just an amazing, amazing book. It just really turned on a light in my mind and in my heart more specifically, and ever since then I’ve just really had a much more open outlook on life and humanity.

Matthew: Yeah he has this concept of watching the thinker. You kind of stand behind your thoughts and watch your thoughts kind of race and think about things like hey I’m hungry. What am I doing later? Did I make my bed? You can just watch all these things and you realize the entity that’s watching the thoughts is not the same entity that’s having the thoughts. When you separate those two things kind of go wow, then what am I. What’s going on here? It’s pretty deep but it really does open you up in a way that nothing else I’ve read has. It’s kind of very Zen or Buddhist like in that way.

Cole: Exactly and just to be sure that is really the biggest enlightenment that I got from that book. It was a book on tape that my mom just gave to me kind of out of nowhere. I’d never heard of it before and when I was listening to it in my car on a road trip when he got to that part it was just like I said a light went off and I was just like wow there’s a lot more to each and every one of us than just the monotonous voice in our head.

Matthew: Yeah and if you watch Eckhart Tolle, the author and video and stuff like that, it’s as close as you can see to someone that really has minimized their ego into a tiny, tiny, tiny thing because he has no affectation. I don’t know how to describe it, but you could do a YouTube video and listen to him talk. I think he’s German so he has a bit of an accent, but it’s just interesting to watch him talk, how long silences are between when he says things and he seems to feel no pressure to come up with the next word to spit out of his mouth. He’s a fascinating character. He looks like he could be a Star Wars character, kind of like a Jedi coming out with little one liners to make you think about things.

Cole: Yeah it’s really an art form. I’ve watched multiple of his YouTube videos so I know exactly what you mean. That state of consciousness is really an art form and he seems to have mastered that pretty well so he is seemingly our earthly Yoda. I like to refer to him as that.

Matthew: Yeah. Is there a tool web based or otherwise that you would consider indisposible to your day to day productivity other than Auto Cure?

Cole: I would just say just basic meditation. I work in a machine shop that is very loud and there is a lot of stuff going on and I find that stepping away for even a minute or two and just clearing my thoughts and getting back to my breathing is something that always, always benefits me. So that’s what I keep a lot of my focus on throughout the day.

Matthew: Cool. I have a lot of entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs in the cannabis space and when they email me I read between the lines how much doubt they have in their selves and I don’t know where it comes from. Sometimes we’re kind of programmed by the people in our life or the school system or we’re just not raised with much confidence about ourselves. I try to pass along that it’s okay to have doubts or you don’t need to be this perfect, fearless person and have 100% confidence. Is there a time you can tell us about where maybe you didn’t feel sure, but you went forward anyway to push Auto Cure forward?

Cole: It’s basically the entire process of Auto Cure.

Matthew: That’s what it’s been the whole time. It’s been doubts and I pushed through.

Cole: I mean obviously this is an invention and it’s something that we developed from ideas in our minds. So with that there’s more of a sense of lack of confidence when you’re just starting out, but as you’re focus remains more and more on what you actually feel in your heart is true, then that level of lack of confidence actually starts to fall away more and more as what you’re working on becomes more and more materialized which is an awesome learning experience in and of itself because now I look back on times when I was first starting with the product and I think a lot of that of worry and insecurity was completely useless and it was actually detrimental to what I was doing at the time. In short it’s really I feel about knowing in your heart what you truly want to do and what you truly feel like you have talent at doing and then maintaining focus on that over an extended period of time. So that is the implementation that I have done in my process and I feel like it is a great open mindset to have.

Matthew: Agree. Well Cole I know that listeners can find you on a beach in San Diego pondering Eckhart Tolle passages, but if they want to find you online, where would that be?

Cole: That would be on our website. It is www.autocure.us. That is www.autocure.us. We’re very easy to get a hold of. We have our email and contact number on our website.

Matthew: Cole, thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today and help educating us on the curing and drying process. I learned a lot today and I know the listeners will too so thank you.

Cole: I appreciate it Matthew. Yeah really appreciate you having me today and I hope you have a wonderful day.

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 www(dot)cannainsider(dot)com, simply send us an email at feedback(at)cannainsider.com. We would 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.


How to Get Your Cannabis Employees Paid – Keegan Peterson

keegan peterson

Keegan Peterson is the founder and CEO of Enjoywurk.com

Wurk helps cannabis business get employees onboard, paid and helps business owners optimize their employees to meet the needs of their cannabis business. It may seem like a simple thing to get your employees paid, but in the cannabis world, at least in the United States it isn’t. Keegan also has some great insight into what it takes to start a sustainable and profitable business in the cannabis industry.

Key Takeaways:
[2:26] – What is Wurk
[2:51] – Keegan’s background
[5:07] – Keegan talks about realizing the need for Wurk
[7:02] – Problems arising from not having payroll software
[7:54] – The birth of Wurk
[9:14] – How to get your cannabis employees paid
[10:07] – What is labor waste
[11:42] – Feedback from current Wurk clients
[13:48] – Wurk dashboard
[17:08] – Metrics in the retail world
[18:28] – How does banking interact with Wurk
[20:07] – States where Wurk is available
[20:49] – Handling state-by-state compliance issues
[21:47] – Wurk in the future
[26:46] – Keegan talks about his experience at CanopyBoulder
[28:17] – Keegan answers some personal development questions

Learn more at http://www.enjoywurk.com

Important Update: What are the five trends that will disrupt the cannabis market in the next five years?
Find out with your free guide at https://www.cannainsider.com/trends

Read Full Transcript

It’s one of the recurring themes of the CannaInsider show to highlight entrepreneurs who are engaged in making the picks and shovels to support the cannabis industry. One of those entrepreneurs is Keegan Peterson founder of Wurk. Keegan, welcome to CannaInsider.

Keegan: Thank you Matt for having me.

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

Keegan: Today I’m in Denver, Colorado which is where our business is headquartered. However, I spend a lot of time on airplanes in all the legalized cannabis states right now.

Matthew: Okay, and I am Edinburg, Scotland today. Yes you don’t hear that every day so it throws people off.

Keegan: I’m don’t, I’m jealous.

Matthew: I’m doing the interview in a kilt so I just wanted to make everybody aware of that so you can get a mental picture.

Keegan: It’s weird, I’m wearing a kilt as well.

Matthew: Really, wow what are the odds of that. Keegan, at a high level what is Wurk? What are you doing?

Keegan: Wurk is an HR payroll platform built specifically for the highly regulated cannabis industry. So we help business owners in this industry not only understand the typical complexities of running a business and dealing with employees but also to understand the compliance around running a cannabis business.

Matthew: Yes and there is a lot of compliance. Now what’s your background? How did you get started in this mad, mad industry?

Keegan: Yeah so I’ve spent the last eight years in the enterprise workforce management space working with folks like PetSmart, Target and a lot of the Fortune 500 retailers to help them understand their labor strategy and bring on tools and software to support that strategy. And a friend of mine happened to own a very large dispensary here in Colorado and kept on asking me for help and advice on how he could pay his people and run a more efficient business. After a while I realized there was a real problem in the space because there wasn’t software solutions to help these business owners.

Matthew: There is so much to running a dispensary. It really is crazy. I mean, people think of it as like oh I just get bud tenders interacting with customers, but if you have the cultivation side too, if you’re vertically integrated, that’s like a whole separate business. Then there’s just manage the employees and all the compliance and marketing. There’s just a lot of hats you have to really wear well that I don’t think is adequately covered about the industry. All people think about is hey you make a million dollars. You sell pot and that’s all there is to it.

Keegan: You’re spot on. Yeah you’re spot on, and the complexities of growing and selling the product are a whole other breed that no one has had to deal with before. So not only are you dealing with the complexities of running a business, just like any other traditional business owner has, now you have this whole new set of compliance that you have to report on daily. So it’s very challenging, and I would compare them to a Fortune 500 retailer who has distribution centers and has all these different types of business under one business. However, these smaller cannabis businesses don’t have the luxury of having thousands of employees to manage these processes. They have to figure it out on their own with a very small management team. So it’s a big challenge and these folks are doing an amazing job of making progress.

Matthew: So your friend says hey can you help us with X, Y and Z. You’ve got the background for it. What specifically were they looking for in terms of help and when did you realize this was going to be beyond just a little helping a friend that there’s a business here?

Keegan: So it was a back and forth. I was asking him for labor data to try to understand how the labor in this industry works and some of the drivers that run these businesses. When I asked him that question he came back and said hey I don’t even have a payroll system to pay my employees. I have no data to even give you to play around with. So after a back and forth I realized that he was paying his employees in cash and he was using Excel to track how much he had paid the employees and how much he’d paid in taxes, and then he was delivering cash to the IRS building downtown in a box to pay for his taxes, and I realized that there was a real problem here. When you’re paying that much tax at the end of the year, we’re not talking thousands of dollars, we’re talking millions in a box.

Matthew: Yeah so it’s like a Mission Impossible expedition just to get your taxes paid. You’re running around looking over your shoulder, make sure no one’s going to jack you.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: That’s got to be nerve racking. So just the basic blocking and tackling of getting payroll done was just a huge obstacle.

Keegan: Yes, and it’s a security concern for not only that person who has to pay the taxes. It’s a security problem for all the employees that get paid checks in cash. It’s a security problem for the community that has folks carrying large amounts of money around. So it’s a really big problem. It’s plaguing this industry. It’s not just here in Colorado. It’s in every single legalized state, and until we started this company it didn’t seem like anybody was really going after the opportunity to help make this a better situation.

Matthew: So when you’re not able to have data around your payroll and do it digitally and so forth do problems kind of originate from that and then cascade into other parts of your business?

Keegan: Yes. So one it’s difficult to calculate how much you’re supposed to pay employees. Then it’s also hard to calculate how much you pay in taxes. If you do either one of those things wrong the penalties are very high. So the average employee lawsuit for being misclassified or paid incorrectly is $50,000 or 20% of their yearly salary, and then the penalties for not paying your taxes correctly can go all the way to the point where you get your business shut down.

Matthew: So you were talking with your buddy, you helped him out a little bit here and then when did that kind of idea germinate like I got a business here and I’ve got to start it. Did you talk to some other dispensary owners or where there a couple of other signs you saw where you say hey this has got to be a business. It’s an itch that a lot of other companies need scratched.

Keegan: Yeah when I sat down with him and I helped him create a solution he pushed me and said look I’ve been doing this for seven years. I know hundreds of businesses I can bring to you that are having the same problem. If you can fix this issue and sustain this and create a scalable business to solve not only this problem here but in multiple states, you have a really big business on your hands. So I started doing some research and I realized at that point that there were already 160,000 employees in the cannabis industry and the majority of them were underserved.

Matthew: Yes. So there’s a lot of aspects to Wurk I want to talk about, and just so people know Wurk is not spelled W-O-R-K but W-U-R-K. So we’re saying Wurk but it’s a little bit different spelling. Let’s talk about some of the features and benefits here with onboarding and so forth and tax paperwork so people can kind of get a sense of the full range of benefits they get when they come onboard with Wurk. I really want to highlight this because you’re not creating a spot product. It’s more of a solution that kind of engrosses all the pain points of your customers in an interesting way. So I want to give you an opportunity to talk about that a little bit.

Keegan: We’re a workforce management application so we look at the lifecycle of an employee within a business from the day you’re trying to attract him/her to the business to the day that they end up leaving the business. We look at that complete lifecycle and we’re building solutions to manage it as well as automate it. So that includes payroll. It includes HR and tracking of all the documentation that you need to when you onboard an employee, all the assets that you need to track while they’re with the business, t-shirt sizes, etc. We do all the time tracking. So how are you going to collect time from this hourly workforce? How are you going to schedule these employees? So all those different aspects we’re looking at that holistically and providing a one-stop solution to manage all of it in one place.

Matthew: Okay. What’s labor waste? How would you describe that?

Keegan: Labor waste comes in several different forms. So one is over scheduling. So if you schedule more labor than you have demand for. So let’s say you have four bud tenders working the counter and you only have three customers at the store, you’ve over scheduled and now you’ve spent more money than you need to. The opposite is true when you under schedule a workforce. So you have two bud tenders when you have ten customers in the lobby. Now you are going to miss out on sales because customers are going to get upset and they’re going to walk out the door. Overtime is another labor waste. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes it’s not. Managers tend to lean on it a little bit too much and think that it’s necessary when they can just bring in another employee that’s not being paid time and a half.

Then having the wrong employee mix. So sometimes you have too many junior bud tenders working the counter at peak hours and now you’re going to have less customer service than you would like to have, less experience than you would like to have at the counter which is going to result in less sales. So what we try to do is look at all of these holistically and build strategies for our clients to optimize in each one of these areas.

Matthew: Do you have any recent examples of how you’ve helped some clients improve efficiency by using work where they adopted the software and the solution, embraced it and then got some quick hits right away that they gave you some feedback on?

Keegan: Yes we have a client here in Colorado that has 300 employees and where we started building schedules into our solution, when we build a schedule it creates a budget. Sorry got some background noise in there.

Matthew: Pull them in there Keegan. I want to chastise them for interrupting your interview.

Keegan: It’s actually my speaker phone. It just randomly talks to me when it’s upset.

Matthew: Okay, darn, that would be fun. Okay go ahead.

Keegan: I’ll yell at it later. So but when you create a schedule in our system, because it’s tied to payroll, it tells you how much that schedule costs. So I’m going to have 10,000 hours, each hour is going to be worth $10, now I’ve got $100,000 schedule for this week essentially. Now when that schedule gets worked over the next seven days I’m going to have my actual and that creates a variance report. Now your actual is obviously different than what you scheduled because you have people working into overtime, you have people who don’t show up for work.

So when you look at these two, variance report and schedules, it clearly shows you where you’re being inefficient. You’re creating a budget. Your business is based on that budget and now you have an actual report that’s much different. If your actual are a lot higher than that schedule, then you know that you have some unexpected costs. Now sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s bad. That’s where you start to see the overtime waste, and with our client that had 300 employees they started seeing overtime waste where managers were allowing folks to work into overtime when they didn’t necessarily need to and they had other employees that were available who weren’t in their overtime threshold. So for them we were able to quickly with one report be able to tell them here’s an opportunity for you to save a lot of money over the next twelve months.

Matthew: Okay kind of tailoring the work needs to the demands of the business. That makes sense.

Keegan: Exactly.

Matthew: Let’s say I’m a Wurk client and I login. Is there a dashboard that greets me and tells me something and if so, what do I see at first?

Keegan: There is and the great thing about our solution is the dashboard is customized to the user. So if your role in the company is to run payroll, then your dashboard is going to be our payroll dashboard and you’re going to see all the payrolls that you’ve run. You’re going to see missing time punches and how you can quickly fix them. You can also see employee birthdays so you can notify them happy birthday, thanks for working for our business. If you’re job is a manager, it might be more time tracking and scheduling features. So depending on who the user is in the business, when they sign on they’re going to have a dashboard that’s customized to what their job role is.

Matthew: Okay. So did you name all the roles there or are there more roles than that?

Keegan: There are more roles than that. So you got the business owner who wants a high level perspective of the business. So he’s going to want reports. He might want to see that variance report of schedule versus actually, not only short term but long term. Your general manager is going to care about seeing different stores in comparison to each other so that they can keep their managers accountable. Your managers are going to care about the employees that report to them and the manager’s goal is to hit their budget for the week. So if they get $10,000 dollars of labor, they’re goal is to work towards that 10,000 hours and they got to figure out where they need to flex. And then you’ve got your employees who care about their schedule, when are they scheduled for this week, can they request time off, is their timecard accurate, did they forget to clock out and they need to go in and change that. So those are different perspectives and we try to create a customized look and feel that gets the end user exactly what they’re looking for.

Matthew: So employees can request time off within the system?

Keegan: Right within the system, yeah, and the nice thing is being connected to payroll. All of that flows over into your payroll system and gets cut at the time of payroll.

Matthew: Okay very helpful. Is Wurk hosted on your servers or third party servers.

Keegan: Yep.

Matthew: Okay that’s how it works.

Keegan: It’s all in the cloud. We have redundant servers in place. We’re going through an SSAE audit right now. We’re an enterprise level application. We take security to a whole new level and we’re making sure that we’re doing everything on our end to protect our data and make sure that our clients are safe.

Matthew: Okay. So I’m looking at the dashboard for the first time. It sounds like this is a great way to pinpoint waste and allocate resources which is kind of what your background is in, but you mentioned a little bit about how the employee scheduling and so forth kind of addresses throttling the right amount of employees to the demand, but what are some other ways that a business owner can look at the dashboard or otherwise and say hey I see a distortion here in the business and it needs to be addressed according to this dashboard or what are some other things that business owners look at the dashboard and kind of pinpoint right away that they weren’t able to get access to before because they didn’t have the data?

Keegan: The most important measurement or metric in the retail world is labor as a percent of sales. So when you marry the data coming out of our system with your POS data and we can bring labor drivers into our system and create reports off of that. You now get a perspective of for every hour of labor out of spending here’s how much I’m getting in return in sales. That’s a very important aspect. I don’t know if a lot of cannabis business owners are running their business with that in mind and our goal is to help them get to that point. That shows you very specifically if your operation is efficient or not. Then when you have multiple locations, especially multiple locations in different states, having that statistic, that metric to compare location to location really gives you an idea of okay is my managers doing a good job, is my operation there set up. Here’s my secret sauce, have I applied that to every one of my locations or is one of my locations missing the bar. So I think that’s a really important statistic that folks in this industry need to start focusing on in running their business too.

Matthew: How does it work with the banks? Do you have the relationship with the bank that you manage on your client’s behalf or is the client’s account, I mean how does that work.

Keegan: Yeah so we’ve partnered with several banks that are in the industry and our goal is to be a channel to the banking system. So for clients that are unbanked we introduce them to our banking partners and if the banking partners see that their business is compliant and fit, then they usually sign them up for an account and at that point we feel comfortable working with them. We also have clients that are unbanked. Some states just don’t have banks yet and they’re using our system as an audit trail. So their employees go into our system and sign off that they’ve been paid, even though it’s been in cash, but it still gives them the audit trail that they need in case an employee comes back and says I’ve never been paid. Now they’ve got an IP addressed signed to that person saying yes they have.

Matthew: So this is helpful for the cannabis related business that wants to get banks and isn’t when they say look I’m coming above board and documenting everything possible. Does that give the bank a little bit extra layer of comfort like okay they’re working with Wurk to document everything?

Keegan: Absolutely. That’s what these banks want to see now. There’s obviously a limited number of banks that are in this industry and there’s a surplus of businesses. So these banks want to see that someone has put the measures in place to be a compliant business and not overboard. So having a payroll and time tracking system that shows very granular who’s worked where, how much these employees are paid, how much taxes were paid is one aspect of that compliance check.

Matthew: What states are you operating in now, are you servicing clients?

Keegan: We’re in ten different states right now. So we’re in Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida, New York, Vermont and I believe Massachusetts, eleven states.

Matthew: Okay, good memory. And now in terms of a compliance checklist and such because each state’s compliance regulations are different. Some a lot different than others. Is there built in modules or add-ons or features for people that want to get into more compliance related tasks with Wurk?

Keegan: Absolutely. We actually rolled out a module called Comply and that module is focused on the state specific compliance that the state marijuana enforcement division is putting on to that state. So for instance in Colorado the marijuana enforcement division is the regulatory body. Here there is new hire reporting that they require. Their employees have to badged before they can work in a facility. So we work with the MED to really understand those compliance and then build it into application and we’re going to do that state-by-state. For some of these states we’re in a wait and hold pattern as they’re trying to figure out their regulatory body and what they’re going to require. As soon as those get finalized we’ll build those into our application.

Matthew: Okay. And where do you see Wurk going in the next couple years? I mean it’s kind of getting everybody into the fold and making sure their employees are paid and documenting all that, but how do you see it evolving?

Keegan: Yeah that’s a great question. There’s so much opportunity right now because the market is so underserved that we’re focusing on getting this application in the hands of business owners and helping them run a compliant business. Our goal is to service every legal cannabis state in the United States. We’re going to focus on the United States for the time being. Then we’re going to look at the lifecycle of the employees and the different things that they have to do and we’re going to continue to build solutions to support those. So we will be bringing new products to market over the next year to two years, but they’re always going to be focused around employee management and employee engagement.

Matthew: Where are you in the investing process right now? Are you looking for more investors? How many investors have you had? What can you tell us about that?

Keegan: We’re not looking for more investors, but we will have some news coming soon.

Matthew: Yeah. Okay. And you’ve had some high profile investors. I imagine if anybody does a Google search they could figure out more about that. I don’t know how much you’re willing to talk about that, but I thought I would throw that out there.

Keegan: Yeah we’ve been very fortunate. We have an amazing investor base. Poseidon is one of those investors. Rick (23.01 unclear) is one of those investors, and we have some more folks that are coming onboard that really are thought leaders in this space. They’re really connected in making a difference in this space. So we’ve been very fortunate to have them a part of what we’re doing, and they fit the standard for who we want to be working with.

Matthew: If there’s any aspiring entrepreneurs listening, Keegan, that want to know what it’s like to spot an opportunity, build a team and raise capital, what would you tell them about that process and maybe encourage them and tell them what to look out for both to and avoid.

Keegan: I’ll say it’s very challenging. The last two years of my life have been very challenging to say the least, but they’ve been the most exciting years of my career and my life. It’s a real honor to have an opportunity like this to work with amazing people. This industry is full of different people than in the traditional world and that’s what I love about it. Some of the challenges, fundraising is not easy in this industry. A lot of folks are conservative investors looking for conservative investments and I think the challenge is really understanding your business model and understanding to a point where it can become investful to another individual who may be conservative. So you really have to look at how you’re going to scale your business, how this business is going to be able to support multiple markets and how you can easily bring a business to profitability. I think the one thing that we were lucky with is there is a lot of comparables as far as payroll companies that have been created over the last five years. Business owners look for that.

Matthew: You’re lucky you’re in a niche that really business owners need. It’s not something like do I need this or do I not. It’s a staple of any business so that’s a good thing to be pitching investors always.

Keegan: It is. If you want to keep your doors open, you want to make sure you’re paying your employees correctly. It is a nice spot to be in and the more folks that we can get introduced to and help, the more we can help this industry stay alive and continue to grow.

Matthew: Yeah and there’s an additional benefit of this being kind of a sticky application. The more you use it, the more it gets woven into the fabric of your business and it’s probably hard to leave or transition which you know I’m not going to say that that would be a problem for you but that’s a benefit because as the clients commit to you they get deeper and deeper into work and it’s just woven so tightly. So that’s another benefit for investors potentially.

Keegan: It is, and the more that we can really understand these businesses and help them implement labor strategies and control their labor, the more they’re going to want to use our service. And that’s our goal is we do payroll. That’s one aspect of it and that’s a big challenge in this industry, but when you start marrying in the labor efficiencies and understanding how I deploy my labor, that’s where you really see long term value for your business and I think that’s where the industry is moving as we continue to evolve and get bigger.

Matthew: You were part of the CanopyBoulder cannabis technology accelerator program that focuses on ancillary cannabis businesses. Can you tell us a little bit about that. That’s where we originally met. I was over there and I met you and I learned about your business. Can you tell us about your experience there and what it was like?

Keegan: It was an amazing experience for me. I learned a lot. I matured as a person, as a business owner. The business matured very quickly. Our goal through that program was to mature the business model and make it investable and then prepare ourselves to scale into multiple markets and that’s exactly what we did over the three month term. So the program is led by Patrick Rey and Mika Tapman and both of them have experience in building, in investing in businesses. So they give you a whole plethora of their experience but then they bring mentors and advisors who have done similar feats that these young entrepreneurs are trying to accomplish, and help them accelerate their business in a very short period of time, and you can see from the companies that have come out of Canopy that they have figured it out and they’re really doing a lot to help these businesses grow. We were fortunate to go through that program and our business has definitely grown and seen the results of going through such a program.

Matthew: Keegan I like to ask some personal development and enrichment questions so listeners can get a sense of who you are personally. I normally ask two questions but I’m going to ask you seventeen. I’m just kidding. I’m only going to ask you two. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your way of thinking or given you a new lens or perspective on life that you would like to share with listeners?

Keegan: Yes. Never Eat Alone was one of the books that I read a couple years back, and I think the author is Keith Ferrazzi. That’s a book that really pushed me outside of my boundaries to invest in the people that are around me, the friendships, the business partnerships and it helped me learn to enjoy those conversations. That was one book that really stood out in my development.

Matthew: Is there a tool web based or otherwise other than Wurk that you consider indispensible to your day to day productivity?

Keegan: Trello I use quite a bit. It’s a gant chart and I want to… or (29.08 unclear) I’m sorry, and it helps me organize what I’m doing, when I’m doing it and prioritize my tasks so that’s one thing I lean on quite a bit.

Matthew: So Trello is a web based tool where you have these cards. They look kind of like index cards or something that show what your working and then your team shows cards of what they’re working on. Is that what it is?

Keegan: Yes and how I set it up is I have a card for each department in the business and then on each card I have different tasks that are associated with what I want to get done in that department and then I can bring team members onto those cards who are associated with that side of the business. Then we can prioritize when we’re going to get these tasks done, and then we have a separate card for things that we get accomplished so that we can see how much we’ve accomplished in the last week, month, quarter, etc.

Matthew: Would you say that lends itself more to software development in general or do you think any team could benefit from that?

Keegan: I think any team could benefit from it. We use it more on the operational and sales aspect. Obviously we’re trying to grow this business very quickly. So we’re trying to look down the road 12 months at where we need to be, what policies we need to have in place, what structure do we need to have built in order to support more customers and more sales reps etc. So we use it mostly in our sales and implementation process to organize what we’re doing.

Matthew: Okay. Keegan as we close can you tell listeners how they can find Wurk online?

Keegan: So you can go to www.enjoywurk.com and you can see all the different products that we have available. You can request to see a demo, you can connect with someone on our sales team. If you would like to email us directly, you can email us at sales@enjoywurk.com and we would love to hear from you.

Matthew: Great. Keegan thanks so much for coming on CannaInsider today. We really appreciate it.

Keegan: Thank you for having me.

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