Most Recent Interviews

  • Jonathan Summers
    Ep 278 – Global Cannabis Trend: Exporting Extract From Africa to Europe
  • Ronan Levy
    Ep 277 – Enhancing Cannabis at a Molecular Level with Biotechnology
  • Max Montrose
    Ep 276 – New Science Reveals Psilocybin Mushrooms Boast Incredible Benefits
  • Narbé Alexandrian
    Ep 275 – Canopy Rivers CEO Reveals the Hottest Segments in Cannabis
Browse All

What is CBD

(Cannabidiol)? What is cbd cannabidiol See more
 

The Hottest Jobs

in the Cannabis Industry Read more
 

 

PRØHBTD Is Taking Cannabis From Black Market To Mainstream – With CEO Drake Sutton-Shearer

drake sutton shearer CEO of Prøhbted

Most entrepreneurs create a product or service before determining ways to build a customer base, but Drake Sutton-Shearer has taken a different route when he created PRØHBTD.

Each month PRØHBTD attracts over 2 million unique visitors and over 30 million video views. Drake’s new cannabis content distribution network allows him to market his own products while simultaneously bridging the gap between cannabis and mainstream culture.

In this episode, Drake shares with us how PRØHBTD’s unique business model uses entertainment to broaden the cannabis niche and create a diverse group of informed, loyal customers.

Learn more at www.prohbtdglobal.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Drake’s background in cannabis and how he came to start PRØHBTD
  • An inside look at PRØHBTD and the company’s content strategy
  • Drake’s advice on how to create informative yet digestible content that keeps people engaged and coming back for more
  • Obstacles PRØHBTD overcame to land groundbreaking partnerships with Apple TV and Amazon
  • Ways in which PRØHBTD is breaking barriers and reducing the stigma that surrounds cannabis
  • PRØHBTD’s capital-raising process and Drake’s projections for the months ahead
  • Doing business in New Zealand versus the U.S.
  • Drake’s goals for PRØHBTD and insights on the future of cannabis

 

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program.

Many entrepreneurs create a product or service and then look for a way to get traffic to land new customers. Our next guest has taken a different route, creating a content distribution network that will allow him to market his own products. I am pleased to welcome Drake Sutton-Shearer, founder and CEO of PRØHBTD, to the show. Drake, welcome to "CannaInsider."

Drake: Matt, thanks for having me.

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

Drake: Luckily, today I'm not on a plane. I'm in LA, so I get to be around my team and have a little personal life at the same time.

Matthew: Great. And what is PRØHBTD at a high level for people that haven't heard of it?

Drake: You know, we are a global consumer goods and content company. And we're focused on the cannabis and hemp sectors.

Matthew: Okay. And can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and then how you came to start PRØHBTD?

Drake: Sure. You know, I had a relationship with the plant since I was very young, actually back in New Zealand. I've been in the States now for a number of years. As you can probably tell, my accent has waned. I was always very fascinated with cannabis, and I was very fascinated with North America, specifically the U.S. So, I came to the States when I was 21, I think it was. And so, with the exception of around 18 months in my life, I've spent my whole life as an entrepreneur. I've had multiple exits, a couple of misses, but essentially I build marketing and lifestyle enterprises from music to technology to products.

Matthew: And can you give us a sense of how much traffic you get on your sites for original content and kind of size of your distribution network?

Drake: Sure. Well, we have a...you know, on the consumer side of our business for media, we have a consumer facing lifestyle website at prohbtd.com, which is prohbtd.com. And we see north of 2 million unique visitors there each month. We also built the first cannabis video content network in the industry. So, across 17 different digital video platforms, we see about 30 million video views per month for that content.

Matthew: So, this is kind of a...little bit of an unorthodox strategy, but it's really interesting and effective. So, you create this hybrid business that allows you to create unique content distributed to your nodes in your network, and then sell your own products. Can you about that a little bit?

Drake: Yes. You know, it's a little bit in reverse of that because, you know, we created an ecosystem, right, if you will, of enterprise level capabilities to build brand and products. And some of those capabilities are a video production division and a video network that engages consumers because ultimately then, you can have a direct connection to your customer. So, by doing that, you end up building a more defensible operation because ultimately, the content is the moat around the business. Because a lot of people sell products to consumers, but when you actually have a content layer to your business, you're constantly feeding your customers information, entertainment, etc., and they're constantly engaging with it where you can learn more about what they're interested in, which continues to help you optimize your product plan.

Matthew: What would be kind of a similar business model that we could look at outside the cannabis space that you can talk about that gives an example of exactly what you're doing here? This hybrid strategy.

Drake: I would say, you know, Red Bull, Disney, Amazon are all hybrid companies that certainly have elements that are inspiring. I mean, they are very big companies. I think, you know, in today's hyperconnected and multimedia product world, the companies who will thrive are those that have, you know, a direct connection to audience and also the ability to actually build brands and experiences for those audience as well.

Matthew: Right. So, I'm thinking about Disney here, like, Disney creates their own content and then they have ABC, which is the network they get distributed on. So, like, they create "Modern Family," and then they put it on ABC and they just [inaudible 00:04:47]. It's like they're vertically integrated all the way through. And so, that's very defensible, and that's, you know, kind of high-level strategic thinking. But there's not a lot of people that...there's not a lot of brands that can go out and think that big or create something like that. So, that's pretty amazing in many ways.

Drake: You know, it's like Red Bull, right? People think Red Bull is a can of drink, a beverage that's ready to drink. Actually, Red Bull and multimedia company that just happens to sell sugar water. You know, they have an incredible media capability that reaches and engages with consumers and, you know, they have a phenomenal sponsorship division as well that does deals with action sports groups on other places. And that just continues to push the brand into communities, right? And then they bottle that and package it and sell it. So, you know, that's kind of one way of also looking at it.

Matthew: Yeah. And you've mentioned before that you don't need dispensaries. What do you mean by that?

Drake: Well, look, I think dispensaries are...and you know, some people would disagree with me, but I really do think dispensaries are short-term solution for access to cannabis. I think it's just, you know, a real estate and management fee play, you know, in the near term. I think ultimately cannabis and derivative products will all be eventually direct-to-consumer via delivery. And also in the places people are already comfortable shopping. I mean it's very, very difficult to change consumer behavior. You know, and when consumers are looking for value, they will go to places that offer them value, which are typically big box retail. When they're looking for specialty brands, they'll go to, you know, specialty retail channels. But those people typically represent a very small segment of the overall opportunity.

Matthew: I agree with you there. I mean, I don't know if dispensers will go away, but I feel, like, people, for convenience purposes, want just delivery. And at some point, we'll just have an autonomous car come, and we'll have a biometric confirmation of who we are either by our eyeball, or a fingerprint, or speech, or a combination of the three and there'll be no one in the car, and it'll be all electric. So, it's like, really cheap to operate too.

Drake: Yeah, I mean, look, you know, they're already delivering pizzas by drones. So, I think, you know...

Matthew: I think the first one was New Zealand, wasn't it?

Drake: I think... Well, I'm not sure if it was New Zealand. If so, kudos to them. But I think it's... I mean, that's just the tip of the iceberg. You know, drone delivery is pretty clunky, but I think people will figure out a very efficient and elegant way to deliver services, for sure.

Matthew: Okay. So, listeners can get a sense of kind of the kind of content you create. Can you describe maybe some of the video content you've created that's, you know, have been well received?

Drake: Sure. You know, we have, I believe, and I should know this, but we have more than 12 original series, original digital first shows, that we produce in-house and they're going in network. I mean, one of the series is...subject is on cannabis companies, kind of bleeding edge companies. It's called "Modern Grower," and it does incredibly well in North America and internationally, as does the show "Pot Pie," which is more of a millennial-focused cooking show. Right? It's a kind of fun point of view on cooking with friends. And then our culture series, which is entitled "PRØFILES," has really great engagement. And that's where we showcase artists and people in culture who are doing interesting things with their lives.

Matthew: Okay. And what do you think the largest opportunities are with brand specifically? Can you talk about that? Because, you know, you've mentioned that in the past the brands are really big and you think that's the way to go. Can you just talk about why you think brands are so important?

Drake: Yeah. I mean, look, brands resonate with consumers. People love, hate, trust, and mistrust them. A trusted and loved brand can build an empire, and a mistrusted brand can also destroy one. You know, we started in cannabis with cultivation, right? Agriculture. Not me personally, but just the industry. It starts with cultivation, right? As an agricultural business. Then it moved into packaging the product in jars and bags, and then it was some access to retail and distribution which is continuing to expand. Now, we're in this phase of packaging this incredible ingredient into branded products to introduce to people. So, if you take an example, say of another agricultural product, say like the tomato, right? You could draw a parallel and say, "Well, we're now in the Heinz Ketchup and Tostitos salsa phase," right? Where they actually package the tomato as an ingredient and brand it, and now people are buying it and putting in...using it in their lives in a different way. And so, I think branded products give the industry an opportunity to engage with consumers in their own homes and make it part of their life.

Matthew: Okay. Now, you said...in the beginning there of your answer, you talked about trust, we trust and not trust, and that's a key thing. So, how does a brand build trust? And I mean, how long can that take? How do you do that? I mean, consistency is obviously part of it, getting in front of the consumer, getting their attention and then having something to say that resonates and speaks to them and evoke something. I mean, how do you think about this? Because there's a lot of people listening and I just wanna hear how you walk through in your mind, like, what brand means to you.

Drake: Well, I mean, you know, trust means typically that you've done something, build something that people find useful in their lives or that solves a problem for them, personal or otherwise, right? And when you do that, it's typically the brand has some kind of utility, right? That tastes good, it feels good, it helps with pain, whatever it might be. You know, it could be an airbag, right? And when you have utility, and it's a consistent experience, then you build credibility. And brands that have credibility tend to last longer in the homes and workplaces and in people's lives in general. So, a lot of people that I meet in cannabis tend to build for themselves. You know, "I want to build a brand that I would like," for example, they will say, versus looking at a customer profile or a gap in the market or whatever it might be and building for that. But if you're gonna surprise and delight people, you better build something that they can use on a regular basis, ideally, and they can fit into their life.

Matthew: Yeah. I have a friend that's a professional chef, and he says, you know, "If people are gonna get a babysitter and come out to, you know, a restaurant and have a credible experience," like, "I need to do something out of the ordinary to make sure it was worth it for them." And he talks about combining fat with, you know, crunch, and you know, spiciness, and sweetness, and all these different ways and creating this just mouth carnival for [inaudible [00:12:07]. Yeah.

Drake: Yeah. mouthcarnival.com. It's great. I think what he...you know, he's got the right approach, or she has the right approach because the first thing they're thinking is of the customer. And when somebody takes the time to go somewhere and visit your establishment, there is intent to do something. And so, if you're able to deliver on a promise to them and they have a great experience, then you'll grow your business usually. So yeah, that's great that they have that, that point of view.

Matthew: So, what products are you focused on creating now and, you know, showing in your original video content that is resonating or are you working on that you can talk about?

Drake: You know, we're creating where we're building across beverage, personal care, you know, topicals, etc., and transdermals, you know. Those the kind of the areas that we're focused on. I think when you make products, it's important to make products for your customers. So, we're kind of focused on customer profiles and making sure we're building with purpose and with reason versus just for ourselves.

Matthew: Okay. And then beyond just the immediate now, what are you thinking two to three years out, what kind of products?

Drake: You know, a good question. And if I knew, then I wouldn't be able to tell you either. But I think it really depends, you know, on the customer requirements that we build for. We have an innovation group in-house, and they're creating some pretty cool things. And, you know, that takes time. You know, it takes 12, 18, 24 months to build a brand from scratch with a lot of thought and strategy and tactics. But cannabis, you know, if you take two years to build a brand and launch it, the market would have changed. So, people are building and launching brands much quicker than that, finding the way in the market, and then, you know, changing as they go. I'm not sure that's the right strategy or the wrong strategy, it's just the market we have today. So, that's kind of the hand we're dealt with.

Matthew: You know, when thinking about original content and viewers' attention spans, it seems like it's getting shorter and shorter in one way, and then longer and longer in other way. Some podcasts are 3 hours long and then, like, you know, people look at animated gifs on Twitter for 10 seconds. But, I mean, ultimately, we'll probably just end up like in the "Matrix" where you have some, like, cerebral cortex that just tells you what you need to know when you need to know it. But I mean, how do you think about creating content that is the right, you know, digestible format for people's attention spans?

Drake: You know, a great question. We have a really interesting time at the moment where we have an overabundance of content and less time to watch or indulge in it. And at the same time, we have less time. We are using that time in very unstructured ways, right? So, attention span is dropped dramatically across the board and across demographics. Anyone that has three hours to listen to a podcast sounds like a great lifestyle. Lead me to it. You know, so I think it's really all about...again, it comes back to your audience, right? Like Netflix knows their audience so well. They know exactly what to produce for them, and they continue to be successful doing that because they're hyper data-focused. So, they were intelligent in the way that they produce, I think.

You know, then you've got pure creatives who create with passion and style and dignity, and who really believe in something, and they believe in the story. And so, they find a format that works for that, whether it's a short form digital series, or an independent movie, or whatever it is. And then they go create that, and they hope that somebody somewhere decides to distribute it, and then they hope that an audience actually sees it. And so, I don't think there's any, you know, real role there because companies have different reasons for doing it, right? And as do people of PRØHBTD. I mean, we're very focused on the future, at least building premium lifestyle content and also content that integrates branded products seamlessly with a call to action because that dovetails into our overall strategy.

Matthew: Okay. And so, you've got your videos on Apple TV and Amazon. Was that a...were those partnerships difficult to cultivate given that, you know, some parties still see cannabis as forbidden? You know, it's like... Can you talk about that a little?

Drake: Yes, yes, yes, yes, it was hard. It was hard. But nothing's easy. I mean, look, we've done a lot of firsts in the industry. You know, our mission as a company is to lead cannabis from the black market to the supermarket. And in order to achieve that, you have to do a lot of things right, but to get them right, you gotta have a few wrongs. So, you know, we have partnerships with 17 different digital video platforms, including, as you mentioned, Apple, and Amazon, and Roku, and many others. And so, that's one thing for content. But we also made exclusive global deals with "Entrepreneur" magazine to introduce business leaders to the mainstream business community, right? I believe there are incredible entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry and really smart people and they're in a very challenging environment. And I think that it's important that people recognize that.

So, you know, we built the top 100 cannabis leaders with "Entrepreneur" magazines. That was that. You know, we have a global deal with Advertising Week who are the events leader in what's next in the marketing, media, technology, etc. So, we go around the world with them and speak about cannabis and help to educate CMOs and business leaders. You know, we recently partnered with Licensing Expo who are the market leader in licensing for trade shows. I believe that now we're in the phase of branded products, which will last for a long time, a natural next evolution of brand as to license and expand across different categories. That's the reason we have things like Baileys Irish Cream Coffee Pods, right, that don't have alcohol, or there's many examples of upgrade licensing programs.

And I think cannabis and people that build brands that resonate with consumers will have opportunities to build brand platforms that extend beyond the cannabis products that they're selling. So, you know, we have that relationship too. So, there's a lot of things that we do to reach the mainstream into mainstream cannabis. And it's with consumers, and it's with business. So, that's kind of the way we view the world.

Matthew: Yeah. Even Coca-Cola is there like a licensing business. If you think about it, they have their distributors, then the distributors take care of the low margin piece, getting it out there and they just take...and they just deliver syrup, essentially, the high margin piece out to their network. So, a similar...different kind of network. But yeah...

Drake: It is. You know, it's funny because Craig Binkley who runs my...who runs ProWorks, which is a consumer brands division, he used to run the Minute Maid and Diet Coke business worldwide, and he was the CMO at Coca-Cola across their branded product portfolio in Mexico. And you know, he's seen a lot of that business, and he understands it very well, you know. And I think when you have people like that as well, that are in your brain trust and that are helping you to determine what next steps are in the business, it's very fortuitous.

Matthew: You've been raising capital lately. Can you talk about where you are in that process and what it's been like?

Drake: Well, raising capital is always a fun process for both investor and entrepreneur. You know, we've raised approximately 20 million, and we're just finishing up this next round. You know, we've got some of the most prolific cannabis funds and investors on that cap table. I'm feeling really good about closing the next couple of millions. So, I think after that, we should be finished with this round most likely.

Matthew: Okay. And just a quick New Zealand question, since you're a Kiwi, how do you feel doing business in New Zealand is different than the U.S.? I mean, I know you've been in the U.S. for a long time, but I'm sure you see the cultural differences and nuances.

Drake: Oh yeah. You know, Well, I love the U.S. I mean, it's been so good to me. I feel so at home here. It's a lot of the people and just the diversity. You know, like, there's... So, I think there's 4.7, 4.5? I should know, but I don't. More than 4 million people are there in New Zealand and a lot more sheep. And you know, the U.S. has 300+, 330 million people, right? So, there's plenty of differences just purely from a scale point of view. You know, the differences of the size of opportunities, difference around regulatory hurdles, you know, you look at even politically, you know, New Zealand just banned all the semi-automatic weapons, right? They had a shooting in Christchurch, which is where it was my stomping ground as a teenager. And you know, they decided that they're just gonna ban these things across the country. That wouldn't happen in the U.S. It's just a very different environment, for better or for worse, you know, when it comes to that. And there's a lot of people that had different opinions on that, right? So, I think, you know, small is great to enact change and to move fast, but large just has incredible opportunity. And, you know, the U.S. just has things that New Zealand will never have them. I just love it here.

Matthew: Except for hobbit homes, we don't have those in the U.S.

Drake: No hobbit homes. You know, it's funny, when I first came to the U.S., you know, "Lord of the Rings" wasn't a thing. I mean, it was a great book that I'd read, but people feel that there was a bridge from Australia to New Zealand, many people that I talk to, which I always found amusing. You know, because it's certainly not one. It's a pretty big bridge, you know. So, yeah. No hobbit homes. But when "Lord of the Rings" happened, tourism in New Zealand just went through the roof. And so, a lot of people went looking for Gandalf, I guess.

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

Drake: So many books. I think there's a quote, right? "Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." And if anyone listening knows where that quote is from, then they'll know the book.

Matthew: Guess we got a little riddle in there. That's good. Okay. Now, is there a tool that you and your team use that you consider valuable to your productivity?

Drake: Yeah. Well, look, we use Slack for coms in our office and in our company communication, which is great. We use HubSpot for deal tracking and management for the brand partnerships team. And we use Asana overall as a company for project management. And then everything in between is like filled in by Google Docs, which is always great to have.

Matthew: Okay. Now, here's a Peter Thiel question for you. Another LA resident. What is the one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on?

Drake: That money does actually buy you happiness.

Matthew: Oh, wow. You're gonna have to elaborate on that a little bit. I just heard 1,000 socialists die. Hey...

Drake: You know, I didn't grow up with money at all, and certainly it led me to a lot of happiness. I think that, you know, money leads to freedom and freedom leads to choice and that often leads to happiness. And I think that, you know, I haven't met many people who are very successful in terms of the money because success comes in many shapes and forms. But folks that are very wealthy are certainly happy to me, you know. So, I do find that people who build their wealth definitely tend to be happier than those that are given their wealth. But again, you know, it's... Yeah, I just think the money does actually buy you happiness, and I think a lot of people would disagree, including many of my friends.

Matthew: And it's a... And sort of people that earn it, it's kind of like they've sharpened their knife against a rough stone, and in that process, comes appreciation and gratitude because they know what the struggle is.

Drake: Yeah. It sucks to go back, you know. I mean, I definitely had a few losses and more wins than losses, that's for sure, and it's painful, right? Some people are addicted to success and the pain. Yeah. I think that what you said is true. There's an appreciation for getting there. There's an appreciation for doing something good when you're there, you know, and not being an asshole. So, you know, helping people is definitely a part of the end result.

Matthew: Okay. Drake, as we close, how can listeners find out more about PRØHBTD, find your unique original content and if we have any accredited investors that are interested in reaching out to you, how can they do that?

Drake: Sure. You know, our company site is prohbtdglobal.com, prohbtdglobal.com. Our Instagram handle is the same as that. Or they can go to the consumer lifestyle media site, which is prohbtd.com. prohbtd.com and Instagram is the same as that. I'm also on LinkedIn. I think it's DrakeSS. I haven't checked for a while. You can hit me up there, but happy to talk to anybody who's interested in talking about PRØHBTD.

Matthew: Drake, thanks so much for coming on the show today and telling us about your business. This is really interesting, and I'm really gonna be watchful to see how big this empire grows in different ways so I can watch it on my TV and computer.

Drake: Thanks, man. I appreciate the time.

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 cannainsider.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 cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on "CannaInsider?" Simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsidercom. We'd love to hear from you.

Please do not take any information from "CannaInsider" or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis for using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers, or companies featured in "CannaInsider." Lastly, the host or guests on "CannaInsider" may or may not invest in the companies 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.

Dispensary Sales Are Booming Thanks To This New Tool – With Seed CEO Matt Cutone

matt cutone seed technolgy

Making dispensary customers feel welcome and informed the moment they walk into the store is vital, and the company that knows how to do this best is Seed Technology.

Providing dispensaries with educational kiosks that help inform customers, Seed helps to achieve a customer experience that results in bigger purchases and repeat buyers.

In this episode, Seed CEO Matt Cutone shares with us the incredible return on investment Seed is providing dispensaries across the US and gives us his insights on the future of interactive kiosks.

Learn more at http://www.getseed.io

Key Takeaways

  • Matt’s background in cannabis and how he came to start Seed Technology
  • An inside look at Seed, including how the company’s in-store displays work and the experience they provide for the customer
  • How Seed helps dispensaries integrate interactive kiosks and the customization required
  • Ways in which Seed ensures an engaging customer interaction with little drop-off
  • Mistakes Matt sees dispensaries make with their interactive kiosks and how to avoid them
  • How Seed’s kiosks lead to larger purchases and more loyal customers
  • Matt’s insights on the future of AI and how it will improve educational kiosks with greater customization

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com, that's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program. Today we're gonna speak with Matt Cutone. He creates interactive displays and kiosks in cannabis retail environments. The three big things you'll learn in this episode are one, there is a massive return on investment in creating engaging in-store kiosk. Two, kiosk and interactive displays don't necessarily replace employees. And stick around for number three, where you'll hear about the future of interactive kiosk and how it's going to be creepy, but also awesome. Enjoy this episode and let me know if you like it on Twitter @cannainsider.

Making dispensary customers feel welcome and informed the moment they walk into a retail environment is vital. Here to tell us the best way to do that is Matt Cutone from Seed. Matt, welcome to CannaInsider.

Matt: Thank you very much, Matt. Great speaking with you.

Matthew: Yeah. Give us a sense of geography, where are you today?

Matt: So Seed today is in about eight states in the United States, both in emerging markets and some of the more mature markets, we're in Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan soon to be, but the majority of the installation base today is in our backyard, which is Southern California, where we're headquartered. And we're just now starting to entertain and see some opportunities on an international level from some of the strategic partnerships that we've created. And so in time, the goal is to have Seed be providing cannabis education on a global footprint.

Matthew: Okay. And give people a little bit of an introduction, like what is Seed at a high level for people that haven't heard of it?

Matt: Sure. So Seed is an in-store kiosk or tablet that primarily is providing cannabis education. The idea is that understandably, with cannabis going legal on a state-by-state basis that you've got thousands of new customers being introduced and thousands of new products being introduced, and there's a lot of confusion there. And the goal and the real vision of Seed is to kind of close that gap, provide that education and help provide safe access and a safe consumption experience. Aside from providing education, we also have an interactive consultation. So through a series of questions, we walk an individual essentially down a path, and we present what would be the appropriate product in respect to their goals in consuming cannabis. So it integrates with the POS and inventory management systems and it walks them into that process of buying and so it helps to also facilitate the purchase. So aside from providing cannabis education, the next natural step is to give that individual the opportunity to make a purchase. So the kiosk is also a self-service ordering device within the store.

Matthew: Okay. Yeah, it seems like these interactive video displays or visual displays, not just in dispensaries, but you see them growing everywhere, and it seems like the experiences are just totally polarizing. Like, I feel like I have a great experience in general, or I get so frustrated, I wanna like rip the thing off the wall and rage monster it and, you know, smash it.

Matt: Yes, that's a super common experience. And one of the analogies that we utilize as we evolve the product and we think about the consumer is we're all familiar with, you know, the self-checkout at the grocery store. And personally, I'm a self-checkout person. I've traveled a learning curve on how to do that. It is not been a well designed, well laid out and it's not an intuitive process by any means. But in creating, you know, our interactive platform, we've taken that into consideration. You know, you're seeing a lot of installations of quick-serve restaurants, Taco Bell is on track to have 60,000 self-service order devices in their stores by year-end. So they definitely see this as the direction it's going. But you're exactly right. If you don't take the time to create an intuitive interface that is just very simple and natural for someone to navigate, it is a fail.

Matthew: Yeah. Well, give us a little bit of a sense of your background and journey, and how you got into the cannabis space and how you started Seed.

Matt: Sure. So I'm also the president and CEO of another company called Horizon Display. And Horizon Display has been providing interactive and digital experiences for retail environments for 10 plus years. So if you've ever been inside of a Tesla store, and use any of their interactive, rich digital technology, that's our technology. We helped accurate launch their NSX, which is their supercar, and created a car configurator that was 260 locations across the United States. And the real inspiration and the real kind of genesis behind Seed was working with a company by the name of Drybar, which is for folks like yourself and myself, maybe we wouldn't be customers. They have innovated in the hair salon industry, oddly enough. They created what's called the blowout. So a woman can go in and get a blowout, instead of a full wash and cut. It's about half the time, it's about half the money. And they've also created a really great experience and a great culture. They serve booze, and they play tunes, and they've got romantic comedies playing in there and etc.

They're at about 125 million in revenue and about 125 locations. And they've become quite high profile in recent years. And they brought us a business problem, which is a big part of what our passion is, is using digital and interactive to solve business problems. And their business problem was that they had a very linear business model. You know, they could open up a salon with X number of square feet, X number of stylists, and it was a very much a one-for-one return. And then their goal is to get to a billion in revenue and they weren't gonna do it with a business model like that. And so they came up with a hair care product line. The average cost of goods was $2, the average sale price is about $28. And what we created for them was an interactive consultation that through a series of seven questions, essentially prescribed the appropriate hair care product for a woman.

In early 2017, we did a 10-store pilot that went so successfully, that I knew we could repurpose that architecture and that methodology for other retail environments. So we looked at craft brewers, we looked at the winery industry, and we looked at cannabis. And within about 30 days of market research, we realized there was a real problem in the cannabis industry, and that's a lack of education. So we built that proof of concept, we brought it to the marijuana business conference in Las Vegas in November of 2017. Just to see if our hypothesis was even somewhat accurate, and fortunately, walked out of that show realizing there was a problem that we could help solve through digital and that is, again, you know, helping to create confident and comfortable consumers in the world of cannabis. And so we've got years and years and years of experience of putting interactive and digital into the retail environments. And we're introducing that to the cannabis industry with Seed Technology.

Matthew: Okay. So we can give listeners a sense visually what your displays look like. Can you give an example of an existing dispensary where your displays are working now and what that experience is like for a customer walking in the door?

Matt: Absolutely. So, one of our I guess if you wanted to say maybe more of our flagship installations, a lot of the installations and deployment we've seen has been in Southern California. For obvious reasons, we're here, this is the largest cannabis market in the world. So one of the more successful larger and busier dispensaries in Southern California and Orange County is called People's OC. Some people may be aware of it. It's a very large building. It's got two stories, there is kind of a process that you go through even just to go into the byproduct and part of the process is as, you know, check in and you wait for your opportunity to speak to a budtender, is that you're introduced to our platform. It's a kiosk, it's a countertop kiosk, and it gives an individual an opportunity to be productive while they wait. As you may be aware, you know, the amount of time customers are waiting, whether that be in a waiting room or actually inside the dispensary is quite significant in certain environments.

And one of the goals that we look to accomplish is giving people the opportunity to be productive while they're standing around. So our kiosks are specifically located within that queue so that people can interact with the platform, get some education, gain an understanding. But even more specifically, for me, BB or more and avid user who may be education is not as critical for, they can immediately begin to interact with the menu, you know, integrating with the POS and inventory management system allows us to provide an interactive menu. They can begin the shopping process right there. So that's in Southern California. And then there's another installation that's happening in Massachusetts soon to be open. I'm very excited about the emerging markets. There's a lot of great things happening east of the Mississippi, a dispensary by the name of Happy Valley. And they really embrace technology. So we're exploring some very exciting things with them and think they'll be opening next month.

Matthew: Great. And how do you initially orient dispensary owners on why they need the displays at all? What's that conversation like?

Matt: So it's been interesting because they think that most of the dispensaries understand that to some degree they need certainly technology, right? And a lot of dispensaries have adopted digital menus and are communicating product availability via the digital menus. And what we would consider that to be as a very one way, correspondence for them. You know, all of our technology is interactive, there are touch screens, there's asking you questions, they're walking you down a path, we really want it to be a journey. We consider that to be much more conversational. So the dispensary owners that have already kind of embraced displays, we really try to create some quick comparisons on the benefits of what interactivity provides, and the ability for people to discuss and share what it is that their goals are in using cannabis.

So it really, it's a little bit shorter of a learning curve for the dispensary owners who have already seen the benefit in technology, in displays, and have embraced that. Those folks usually have seen that this is working successfully in traditional retail environments and this is something they're trying to introduce. You know, today's consumer walks into most stores quite informed, you know, between the homework that they're gonna do at home, on their laptop, their tablet, on their phone, and as they walk in, they also expect a similar experience. And that's one of the things that we try to make them really understand is that, you know, the consumer today is more educated than ever. And cannabis is, you know, an area where there's a lot of room for improvement as it comes to education. And so we show them, you know, the importance of that. Fortunately, most dispensaries understand that how critical education is. Without successful education, we don't get successful adoption. And without successful adoption, we're not gonna see these kinds of numbers that are being communicated. You know, I think the latest number I saw was like 65 billion, you know, by 2021, or something along those lines, and that does not happen without successful adoption and displays interactivity, technology really does help provide that education that is gonna be critical for that adoption.

Matthew: And for the dispensary owner that already knows like, "Hey, this sounds like a great idea. I wanna get Seed displays in my retail environment." How do you get them started putting something that will be useful for the customers out of the gate without taking them down a path that just takes too long where they kind of fatigue out?

Matt: That's a great question and I'm glad you asked that. You know, one of the benefits that we have, and this is something that we have been able to present to the cannabis industry is, you know, the dispensary owners have a tremendously unique challenge. And that is the fact that this is not legal on a federal level. So all of the things that they need to monitor and put their time and attention to, that the traditional retailer would not, really creates a lot of problems and a lot of challenges. We have taken the time to engineer the Seed platform to really take ownership of what we call the last mile. We've recently had a dispensary owner, one of our new clients call us up after they had purchased the Seed kiosk. And they called up and said, "Hey, I have to ask you a question. Was it a strategic initiative of yours to make this truly plug and play?" And I said it was. We take the time to actually reach out to the dispensary client prior to the kiosks shipping out to them. We get the name their Wi-Fi, we get the password of their Wi-Fi, we can figure that appropriately.

So literally when you plug the kiosk in, it turns on, and it's up and running, and it's ready to go. So, to answer your question, the onboard process is literally nothing. We've taken all of those things into consideration as we've designed and engineered the solution. We vetted various hardware solutions and the enabling hardware that is required for this platform to work successfully. And we've taken a lot of time and spend a lot of money to make sure that as far as configuration and turning it on, making it successful for the dispensary owner is with literally within a matter of minutes. So that's something that we really are proud of. And fortunately, the feedback from the market is that it's working successfully. These dispensaries have a lot on their plate. And the more that I can do to, you know, make this a successful integration, the better off we all are.

Matthew: Yeah, compliance is a big one of those things they have in a play.

Matt: Big time.

Matthew: So how much customization is required. Do you have some like out-of-the-box templates that you say, "Hey, let's start here for we're not sure what to do." And then how do you marry that up to what inventories actually in stock? Is that connected to like the POS system? Or how does that work?

Matt: Absolutely. So minimal amount of customization, again, something that we've really made sure that we've engineered into the solution in the platform upstream. And so there's kind of two areas of customization that the dispensary client is looking for. One is branding. So often, you know, this is working with a multi-state operators that have, you know, large and robust marketing departments and branding is very critical and important to them. So we work with the marketing department, our designers work with them to make sure that our platform mimics and looks exactly as their website may or their mobile app or this congruency across all their digital platforms. And so it's very, very simple. We load up their logo, we load in all of their pantones and the various colors. We also load in some of the messaging that's important to them. And we've built the platform to make that a very simple and easy process. It's literally just doing some quick updates.

And then from an integration standpoint, more from a technology perspective, we now integrate with nine various POS systems, we also integrate with three of the primary loyalty communication platforms. So the idea is that by the time that this product shows up at the dispensary as our platform Seed shows up, it's fully integrated, it's ready to go. We've done all of that testing, we've kind of, if you will, operate it in the various sandboxes, to make sure that we're getting the appropriate data. We have the right visual assets, every bit of that is done. And we've really built the platform architect of the platform so that's a simple, super simple process.

Matthew: So everybody has a short attention span these days. How do you design the interactions, so they're stimulating still simple educational, have a low drop off and then get to a purchase point or place where A, the customer's comfortable and then they're comfortable purchasing or making that commitment right on the display?

Matt: That's a great question. And that's something that...that's probably one of the most challenging parts of creating an in-store interactive experience, you have a limited amount of time. So consuming information with inside the store is very different than if you were to consume information at our home on a mobile device, on a tablet. You know, you can kind of like curl up on the couch, you know, as if you were reading a book and as we say, drink from a fire hose. That's not the case inside the store. Fortunately, we spend years really studying the science and psychology of the buying process and how to do that successfully inside the store. So we've had to curate the education, curate the content, and deliver it in a way that is very bite-size, very digestible and almost to a degree predictable. And if you can do that successfully, one, you can create this foundation of education in a way that people find to be of value. And they can, it's almost like, what we tell our dispensary clients is that we want somebody to be at the kiosk, and you almost wanna watch them observe them and they're nodding their head. Like, "Oh, okay, now I understand. Okay, I've heard of what indica is, now I understand what indica is. I've heard of a cannabinoid, now I really understand what that is."

So we've really had to design the entire platform in a way that is super intuitive and it walks you down a path, it's more of a journey than if we're just a click on various pop-ups or various pages. And we fed that information to those individuals again in a very digestible, bite-sized kind of way. If done successfully, we find that it's around 9 to 11 minutes and an individual will interact with our kiosk, including a purchase, and then the way we have designed it very naturally walks you into that purchase process. From going through the consultation, being presented with the appropriate products, you can throw that into a shopping cart. You can't transact at our device, but it does prompt to the POS system and it would be fulfilled as if it were a traditional online order.

Matthew: Okay. So I'm sure there's a spectrum of like super successful installations that, you know, exact fit out of the gate. And the ones that are not done the optimal way, maybe because the retail owner has some resistance about something and they're not listening to suggestions, or there's some other problem. Can you just kind of mention one or two of the biggest things so listeners can sidestep this?

Matt: Yeah, 100%, and you bring up a good point. I mean, what's very interesting about the cannabis market, in general, is that, you know, as we look at the market, we've kind of, you know, split it in half and that's the emerging markets versus the mature markets. Mature markets are certainly west of the Mississippi, Colorado, upper Northwest, parts of California and etc. So there's already some, I guess, behavior and attitude within those markets that can create some challenges. A lot of the dispensary owners, a lot of the dispensary staff feel as though their customers are already well educated and that they don't need these kinds of tools. And so they don't embrace it in the way that we would hope. Sometimes it's something very simple as just placement, where the kiosk is located prompting people to use it. And that is something that our customer success team has to work very, very closely with. In the emerging markets, one of the benefits is to be quite honest, is that they're mostly medicinal markets, medical markets, and they have a waiting room. And so, you know, being in a waiting room, we're all familiar with it, whether it's going to the doctor or the dentist, or whatever it is, and traditionally is very unproductive time.

We're trying to create a platform that allows that to be very productive. So the kiosk often is located in the waiting room. And we position that in a way that allows individuals, sometimes we have some clients that have several kiosks in the waiting room, because they do have people waiting for an extended period of time and it gives, you know, various people the opportunity to make that time productive, to begin that shopping process before they even step inside the dispensary. So some of the challenges are, you know, placement of the kiosk, getting the staff to really prompt people to use the kiosk and kind of getting them on board. The customer success team that we have here has been working closely with them. And also, just other kind of unique challenges.

Eastern Mississippi, most of the dispensaries are building out new facilities, renovating facilities starting from scratch. That's a great opportunity for us to literally get the blueprints, look at the store footprint, look at how the customer flow's going to be and how do we introduce this technology successfully? You know, west of the Mississippi, they have a building, they've had a building, they had a waiting room, they're tearing down the wall of the waiting room, etc. So it's a little bit more convoluted, but we've really had to work closely with those folks to make sure that they can overcome those challenges and is a successful installation for them.

Matthew: So when I put on my business owner hat or my investor hat, I'm thinking, "Okay, this sounds great. It's probably gonna drive sales to some degree. But is there a way I can measure ROI? Or is there a benchmark on return on investment that could be helpful in thinking about here?"

Matt: Absolutely. That's a great question as well. And so, and even to give you some background on how we've had to evolve the product, the platform in itself, is that we were very, very focused on education early, introducing this to the market. And we realized that we needed to be a bit more sensitive to the dispensary owner and their bottom line and the overall profitability of that business. And we've evolved to now really helping to take education in translating that into the profitability of the business. So for starters, self-service devices do create operational efficiencies in the store. You're not gonna eliminate staff and you really shouldn't purchase the Seed platform to look to eliminate staff, but can you free your staff up to be working on higher value initiatives or higher value responsibilities 100%.

So aside from driving some level of operational efficiencies, we have seen that it improves transactional velocity. We've also seen that it has increased the ticket size. And so those are areas of where we measure because we grab all this data, all the interactivity creates some phenomenal data. There's a dashboard that the dispensary owner can review and gain some customer insights and etc. So we grab all that information, we feed that to them on a regular basis, and show them how embracing this platform is creating sales. If we have a retail client of ours today, that has several dispensaries where they've introduced our technology, they are seeing a sales lift of 54%. I just got that statistic last week from a CFO that works there. And so obviously with that kind of data, it's proving and it's proving out to really provide return on investment. And now we're looking at how to package that up and share that with the rest of the marketplace. And make them understand from a business perspective, how would they can really feel comfortable about making this kind of an investment.

Matthew: I'm glad you mentioned that you don't necessarily want to lose headcount. That's not it. You know, most people say that's immediately, that's what they guess but it's really about getting that customer journey of the customer the attention, connection, commitment, where that's how they make the purchase, is what you want to get them to commitment as fast as possible. And to do that, you need their attention, whether that's display or, you know, one of the sales people or the dispensary owner or, you know, a budtender. And then the connection is where you feel like, "Hey, you know, this kiosk is making me feel like it understands where my mind is at, like the questions I have, or the budtender does, and then we can go to commitment together and so it's accelerating that process. And then depending on your age, some people see a person when they walk in the store and go, "Oh, I just wanna deal with this huge app. I mean, this kiosk." Right?

Matt: Yes, exactly.

Matthew: First, it's too much hassle.

Matt: Yeah, yeah, no, 100%. And that's the thing because you're not gonna eliminate the staff and I don't ever think that should be the goal. But I do believe that you're gonna always have your high touch customers and you wanna be able to properly service them, and what you're talking about there, Matt, is really the customer experience and how to utilize technology, embrace technology, to enhance the customer experience, address the needs of the various customers, and really, that drives brand loyalty. You know, that's how you get people to come back to your store on a consistent basis. That's how they'll share with their friends and family that this dispensary has really helped me feel comfortable in providing me with great products and they have technology, but they also have the people and the staff there to make this a positive experience.

Matthew: So what are some of the challenges for you personally running this business? You know, as the business owner, you're dealing with a physical product and a service and the expectations of customers. I mean, what's it like?

Matt: You know, so, this is the third business that I've been partnered and the second I've found, and this is by far the hardest business I've ever built. I mean, all the, you know, I don't need to get into all the facts as it relates to it not being legal on a federal level, I think most people understand how that creates its own unique challenges. For us, you know, as you go to market, right, every single state is different. And so we've had to really look at every single state, understand the compliance for every single state, make sure that our product fits appropriately. We've actually had to turn off states as we would say, Louisiana, Connecticut, Minnesota, those are states that the compliance in those states are so challenging that introducing our kind of a platform would be so difficult that it would probably not make sense, but having to really look at every single state as a different market and address that market differently and create different messaging and approach it, has been a big problem. You know, that's something that definitely gets in the way of being able to scale, to move fast and certainly been a big challenge.

You know, the other part is getting some of the more mature markets that have already have infrastructure in place to understand the importance of technology and how that can benefit them. And in really getting them to listen and learn, and that's been a bit of a challenge. But I would definitely say, you know, having to treat every single state as if it were its own individualized market is a huge challenge.

Matthew: You know, when I think about the business here, and specifically I think about the movie, Steven Spielberg movie "Minority Report," and how Tom Cruise switches eyeballs with another guy and then he walks around a mall and the mall thinks he's the other guy because it's scanning his retina and giving him customized ads as he walks around the mall. Do you remember that?

Matt: Totally. It's always been the go-to, for instance, I've been in digital for probably 12 years now interactivity, and everybody goes back to that "Minority Report." So, I know exactly what you mean.

Matthew: And so, you know, I used to think, well, you know, you don't wanna give your retinal scan for anything because then that digital signature is in a database somewhere can get hacked. But now I think these cameras probably can scan your retina remotely. I mean, it's creepy in a big way. But that in some ways, it's like, man, the ability to dial in information about you as you're approaching, you know, about your age with people that kind of looked like you in the past liked and so it gets much closer to getting an optimal display experience. I guess, I mean, you can't get one without the other. You can't get the creepiness without like the wow.

Matt: I agree. You know, working with the various dispensary owners and being a little bit concerned about people's privacy and where do you wanna be careful about not crossing that line, oddly enough, most dispensary owners, their feedback has been that you've given up your right to privacy the second you step into the dispensary. There's cameras everywhere. So let's start with that. If you're in a medical market, there's an intake process by where they clearly know who you are, that you're there, how often you'll be, you know, you're going to that dispensary, exactly what you're buying, and etc. So I think most folks need to probably, you know, whether it's a good thing or a bad thing, get comfortable with the fact that they are kind of to a degree giving up their right of privacy. But at the same time, I think there is a benefit to it, right? And so really getting an understanding of who these customers are, what's important to them, our platform, you know, specifically, you can begin the engagement and interactive process in two various ways.

So as we do integrate with the loyalty communication platforms, the Spring Biggs of the world or the Baker's of the world, you can immediately log into the platform. And so just with putting in your phone number, it may welcome you back. And it already knows who you are, so it knows you're there, it knows that you're back and knows what you purchased last time. But if you haven't signed up for one of the loyalty platforms, we do ask some quick frontside demographics. And that starts to make us, help us understand a little bit more about who you are, what bucket, if you will, you might fall into. And that becomes very important for the dispensary to understand who's coming into their store, what are the things that they're looking for, what's important to them from an educational standpoint, what products are they reviewing and etc. So yeah, it's a creepiness thing, I totally agree with you. Personally, where I'm at as an individual is that I'm pretty certain that everything and every move I'm making is being watched, you know, a digital platform, a digital footprint is being made with my every move. I've just come to embrace it. So it's unique.

Matthew: What other choice do you have? Right, I've come to agree with you.

Matt: Yeah, exactly it.

Matthew: So is there an opportunity here for Seed customers to then, you know, get kind of anonymized data on what's working for your other Seed customers so they can kind of share information, and, you know, adopt best practices from other dispensaries or you to kind of act as the curator there and just kind of tell them like, "We've seen this work. We've seen this work," or what happens?

Matt: Absolutely. Well, yes. You know, part of our vision and strategically our goals are, is the data play as they say? And yes, we're capturing, we're harvesting a tremendous amount of great data. We have kind of put that, I would say, on the back burner. The only reason I say I put on the back burner is because we need to be so laser-focused on solving for the operator, the dispensary owner and solving for the customer that the data piece to a degree has been a little bit secondary. But yes, on the product roadmap. Well, for starters, the dispensaries, they receive a dashboard, right? So they do get analytics and insights. Down the roadways, we'd actually like to help summarize the actual analysis around that and create summaries for them and give them insights as we see from the activity that's happening within their source. But yes, if you're a, say, you know, you're a California entity and you're looking to get into the Ohio market, you could, you know, aside from some of the other various data platforms, you could come to us and say, "Hey, can you give me some insights? So what's going on in the Ohio market, we're looking to make some investments there." So 100%, you know, the data that's there will be leveraged appropriately for our clients.

Matthew: Man, I'd like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are.

Matt: Sure.

Matthew: Is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or your way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Matt: Yeah, you know, it's funny, a lot of people, most of the companies that I've been involved in and owned have been technology companies, everybody said, "You must be a tech guy." And I'm like, "I'm really not a tech guy. I'm actually very deficient when it comes to technology. I'm a business nerd." And there is a book that's called "Big Bang Disruption." And it really talks about how businesses can evolve, grow in the age of innovation and how businesses can look very, very different. I mean, we're seeing this on the forefront now in a way that we've never have before. And, you know, whether or not I'm a fan of it is a different conversation. But, you know, just these influencers, that all they have is a phone, and the opportunity to be able to take the pictures of themselves at various restaurants or hotels or destinations. And utilize that and monetize that in a way, it's very interesting comparatively how you used to build businesses back in the day and "Big Bang Disruption" really gets into how businesses can operate differently. And that's something that I look to, for example, Seed is a SaaS solution. And so, there's a reoccurring revenue model there. We build around an annualized basis.

One of the things we eliminate when we do that is receivables, accounts receivables. That's something that all my prior businesses had, it was something that we had to put stuff on it, we had to have insurance around it, we had to have, you know, something we needed to focus on. And in the age of innovation as you evolve and introduce new businesses, you can eliminate some of the traditional components of a normal business, and that's a book that I've now read several times, I go back to and it inspires me as we architect this organization, as we build this business, I told my engineering team, "I do not wanna have to add a tech support person for every 25 customers. To me, that's an engineering failure. How do we architect it with really thinking through that we don't need to add tech support people for every 25 customers? Let's design it in a way that's intuitive. Let's design it in a way that it works and tech support is not needed." And the "Big Bang Disruption" really kind of gets into that. How can your business look and smell different than traditional businesses, the '70s, the '80s, and even the '90s?

Matthew: That's great. I haven't heard of that book. I'll check that out.

Matt: Yeah, definitely.

Matthew: Is there a tool that you and your team use and consider valuable to your productivity that you'd like to share?

Matt: So there is a very unique tool that we do utilize, and I had the fortune of being a part of a personal and professional development group called 10X CEO for about four or five years. It's really about accelerating development, accelerated effectiveness on a quarterly basis, I got together with a coach, an executive coach, as well as three to four peers. And there was a tool that came out of that process called an X-ray. And it does exactly that. It's a document that you utilize to X-ray your business, it forces you to really break down all functional areas of the business and measure your key initiatives. Where are you at? You know, you rate them using colors? And are they, you know, in a good spot? Are they in a bad spot? It forces you to measure all of your processes. It forces you to measure your team and grade your team on a quarterly basis. And then really identify what are the things that are creating challenges? What are the obstacles that you're facing? And so aside from just having to, from a department heads perspective, or a functional area head perspective, sitting down and really writing those things down and having that provide some honest feedback for yourself, then you share it with the peers, and each of us share it on a quarterly basis with the various functional areas of the business and those department heads.

And you have to have thick skin, you have to show up with thick skin, you need to be prepared to, you know, I don't want to say defend, but discuss where you're at, where things are at, where things are going and that's been a phenomenal tool for us that's been very unique. And I've seen it to really have some great effect on the business.

Matthew: What's one thought you have that most people would disagree with you on? This is a Peter Thiel question.

Matt: I would say that people used to disagree with me on this for several years and it's not so much the case and if it's okay, I'll share it, expose a little bit more about the personal side of myself, but I am born and raised in Boston. I am a huge sports fan. And for years I was, you know, the constant debate on whether or not, you know, the Patriots are the greatest team of all time, not just the, you know, not just in football. I'm talking about every single sport that's out there. So, you know, for years people used to disagree and argue with me and, you know, would be this team, that team and etc. But in the last couple years, that arguments have been subsided because they just continue to succeed. And so it's not something that somebody...it's more so people like to just disagree with me for the sake of disagreeing with me because everybody's sick of the Patriots and their success.

Matthew: Yeah, I think it would be a good idea if you just like went to like Bryant Park or something in New York City, just sat down on a chair and put up a sign that said, "The Patriots are the best football team ever, disagree with me?"

Matt: Yeah, you gotta change my mind, right?

Matthew: Yeah, change my mind.

Matt: Exactly.

Matthew: Good, good. Well, man, as we close, how can listeners find out more about Seed and connect with you?

Matt: Sure. For starters, our website is, you know, www.getseed.io. And I love connecting with people. That's a very important part of being active in this industry, I'm very serious about creating a network. So, anybody who wanted to email me directly and ask me questions, if I could be helpful, it's cutone@getseed.io. I'm, of course, on LinkedIn, so just search me up and connect and anything I can do to help with anybody. This is an industry that I find to be very, very unique and very refreshing in a lot of ways. And I've had a lot of people helping me over these last couple of years. So if I can help out anybody else, whether that learning more about our product, or just in general about, you know, technology in the cannabis space, I'm happy to do so.

Matthew: Well, thanks for that, Matt, that's very generous. And good luck to you in the rest of 2019. This is a really interesting business model, and I'm curious to see how it evolves.

Matt: Hey, thanks so much, Matt. I appreciate your time today and thanks for inviting me on.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us 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 guest to you. Learn more at cannainsider.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 cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedback at cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments.

Promotional consideration may be provided by selected guests, advertises your company is featured in CannaInsider. Lastly, the host or guests on CannaInsider may or may not invest in the companies 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.

Cannabis Guru Ed Rosenthal Shares His Tips For The Perfect Grow

ed rosenthal guru of ganja

Widely known as the “Guru of Ganja,” Ed Rosenthal is a leading cannabis horticulture authority, author, educator, and legalization pioneer.

He’s the most renowned cannabis cultivator in the world and has authored numerous books on the topic, including Marijuana Grower’s Handbook (which Oaksterdam University uses as their cultivation textbook to this day) as well as his newest book, Marijuana Garden Saver.

In this episode, Ed shares his advice to growers looking to achieve the perfect grow and discusses new and exciting discoveries in cultivation like creating cannabis compounds with yeast – a topic we recently discussed on the show with Kevin Chen of Hyasynth Bio.

Learn more at https://www.edrosenthal.com

Key Takeaways

  • Ed’s celebrated background in cannabis and how he’s seen the industry evolve throughout the years
  • The most common mistakes Ed sees among new growers
  • Ed’s thoughts on traditional lighting vs LEDs and what he believes to be the optimal lighting arrangement
  • How to design the best grow space from scratch
  • The best methods for trimming and manicuring commercial grows
  • Simple solutions to common problems Ed sees among new and seasoned cultivators alike, including how to avoid mold growth
  • The up and coming practice of growing cannabinoids in yeast
  • Ed’s insights surrounding the future of terpenes and different cannabinoids like CBN
  • Where Ed predicts cannabis trending in the years ahead
  • An inside look at Ed’s new book, Marijuana Garden Saver: A Field Guide to Identifying and Correcting Cannabis Problems

Read Full Transcript

Mathew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly-evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now, here's your program.

Hi, CannaInsiders. You are really going to enjoy today's interview with cannabis legend, Ed Rosenthal. My three biggest takeaways in this interview are, one, why it's always necessary to have small, experimental garden lest you become a grouch and stagnant grower stuck in your ways, which Ed warns about. Number two, Ed's unconventional approach to dealing with mold in cannabis cultivation. Number three, Ed's take on how we have lost the ritual of joint passing, but he also shares what we have gained in its place. And stick around to the end where Ed shares some stories of famous people he has smoked with. Enjoy the show. Ed Rosenthal's a well-known grower, educator, author, and consultant that has been a leader in the cannabis space for a long time and I'm pleased to welcome to the show today. Ed, welcome to CannaInsider.

Ed: I'm happy to be with you today.

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

Ed: In Oakland, California.

Mathew: Okay. And I know you have a background, as I mentioned, as an author, a consultant, and so forth. Can you talk about what your day-to-day of life consists of these days?

Ed: A lot of it seems to be tied up into making both mechanical and business decision. So, because I consult for several growing companies that are putting up grow operations. And I spent a lot of my time reading and I have a few experiments going that are really small. They're usually under 32 square feet of space.

Mathew: Okay. And can you tell us a little bit about your experimental gardens and experiments that you have going on? That sounds interesting.

Ed: Well, one experiment is dealing with how closely plants can be placed to each other. So, the idea is when you're growing vegetatively, a lot of that growth isn't actually used. So, if you can eliminate that growth, then you'd have a faster turnaround and more of the plant's time would be devoted to actually flowering. A lot of the experiments are based on different parts of that theory.

Mathew: Okay. I mean, I know it sounds like a hypothesis, but how much time do you think it might save?

Ed: Most of the vegetative time, which could be a month or two months. See, when people say...people might say, "Oh, I get three pounds per light," or something like that. You've heard people say things like that. There's another question there. That's like a snapshot answer and it's showing what happens just at harvest. But as I see it, the real question is watts per gram. How many watts of total electricity do you use indoors? How many watts of electricity do you use to produce a gram of material? And so, you would start with a clone and the clone gets a certain amount of light in a certain amount of space for a certain amount of time. So, you figure that out and then the vegetative growth and so on. And so, that's a real figure of what your productivity is. It's not just the amount that you get at the end product, it's how much energy it took to get that.

Mathew: Yeah, that makes sense.

Ed: And outdoors, there are different ways of looking at it. If acreage isn't a problem, then labor might be the most expensive cost, as an example.

Mathew: Okay. And any other experiments you got going on?

Ed: Yeah. I have some experiments on UV lighting. And I've been doing those experiments for a number of years. And UV lighting produces stress response in plants, and the way that plants deal with that stress is by producing more THC and terpenes. So, I'm working on that.

Mathew: Okay. Interesting. For people that know your background, you have so many books that just go into just elaborate detail and answer a lot of questions that people have both in terms for beginners, intermediate, and even expert that can kind of correct some misunderstandings. So, I kind of wanna jump in here and just talk...can you just talk a little bit about when you talk to new growers or even intermediate growers, what kind of misunderstandings do they have that are kind of stubborn that you see they've held onto that just aren't valid?

Ed: Well, it's not so much with new growers, it's more with people have been growing for a while and they get into a certain method of growing and then they don't look at the advances that have occurred over a period of years. And so, they get stuck in whatever method they grew up with, so to speak. So, it's not so much that they're doing something wrong, but I see that it's like any other field, it's always advancing so that there's always new technology that you can use, even in a simple garden.

Mathew: Okay. So, they kinda hit like an evolutionary ceiling and don't go past it?

Ed: Well, you know, most farmers are pretty conservative. And the reason for that...I'm not talking about politically, I'm talking about in terms of their gardens. The reason for that is if you have something that's successful, you don't wanna trade it in for the unknown.

Mathew: Yeah, that's true.

Ed: So, unless the farmer has the time and room to do an experiment to see whether the new method works, they don't wanna move to a new method because even though they might not be as productive as they could be, at least they know that they going to have a crop, it's not going to fail.

Mathew: Okay. So, if let's say I'm a commercial grower and I have like a 5,000 square foot grow, in your mind, would it be ideal to dedicate how much square footage to just simply experiments so that you're not just stagnating but trying new things and seeing if you could have some breakthroughs?

Ed: Well, here's the thing. Whatever happens to plants on a small scale, if they get the same treatment, it will happen on a large scale. So, you don't have to devote that much space to it. So, most of my experiments are done on 4 by 8 tables, and that's 32 square feet, not too much. So, for instance, if you separate it from the rest of the garden a little bit, you could try out a new light and see how the new light work compared with the older lights, or you might try a different planting mix, or you might try a different variety. Ay of those experiments could be gone in 32 square feet, that's a 4 by 8 table as I said.

Mathew: That sounds fun. What are your thoughts about traditional lighting versus LEDs?

Ed: Well, LEDs are going to be the light or the light of the future until something better comes along because...and they produce more light in the range that the plants can use than ordinary bulbs do. So, they're more efficient. And eventually, people are going to be playing with the spectrums and get different effects on the plants using, in terms of light, [inaudible [00:08:06] of spectrums.

Mathew: All right. So, when you grow, what's kind of your optimal lighting arrangement then? What are you using right now?

Ed: Double-ended HPS and experimenting with both LEDs and CMH.

Mathew: Okay. So, for a commercial grows, what do you think the best way is if you were starting from scratch to set up a space for indoor growing? Is there any best practices you can share there?

Ed: Well, it depends what...People have different comfort levels with cultivation. So, it depends what the comfort level of a person is. But generally, you want a system that is repetitious, where people don't have to remember special things about this plant, or that plant, or the about this system has a quirk and that system has a quirk. So, if have a system that is totally functioning without any oddities or quirks, it's a lot easier to maintain it. And labor is a big consideration. So, the way that you grow your plants can cost you a lot of money or be inexpensive depending upon the method that you use.

So, for instance, I was involved in a garden where the grower wanted to have all the plants woven into this plastic netting. And so that every part of the plant...so the plants would basically be two dimensional rather than three dimensional and all the parts of the plant would [inaudible 00:09:50]. And they did a lot of clipping so that there'd be more buds. And actually, what happened was that plant, all of the buds got cut light, but because they had been clipped a lot, all of the buds were small and then they had to be unwoven from this plastic that the grower wanted to use. And so, in cutting the plastic, then they had to have labor going in to pick up the plastic from the field. So, I thought it was like sort of an inappropriate chess game, sort of, that the grower hadn't thought ahead about the problems this would have. And, in fact, the crop wasn't very good because of that.

Mathew: And what about handling trim in an efficient and optimal manner, the trimming process, what do you recommend there?

Ed: Well, the first thing is the only buds that have value is flowers. You know, sold as flowers are the top eight buds. So, if you have anything but eights buds, don't handle them as if they were going to. Unless they're being used for pre-rolls, they're probably going to be used for concentrate. So, the first step is to figure out what's gonna happen to whatever material you're using. Is it going to be eight-bud? If it's not bud, there's not much of a market for it as flower because there's such a big market for concentrates. And the amount of flour being used as a percentage of purchases is down into the 30s now. So, people are buying all kinds of concentrates, edibles, and drinks, and other ways of using cannabis. So, what I would do is take the eight-buds off and then any other buds might be used either directly as flower such as pre-rolls, remove that, and then handle everything else, just dry it crisp [SP] to be used for concentrates.

Mathew: Okay. Is there any problems...we talked about some problems that growers experiences and misunderstanding and stop, you know, they stop evolving, but is there any problems that you think that have like a very simple solution that we could just go over right now? Like in terms of just a quick hit like, "Oh yeah, this problem comes up all the time and people don't realize that it's just a matter of doing this."

Ed: Well, I could give people some preventative things. Let's try with that. So, let's say you're buying soil and let's say you're buying it in bulk and often that you're buying it directly from the producer. Well, you have to be careful about that soil. You have to test it. You have to see whether the soil's getting hot. If the soil's getting hot, it means it's not ripe. And it's still going through, you know, some kind of chemical decomposition, which it should go through. But you don't want it to be going through that when you're growing. So, when you're buying your soil, you have to check to make sure that it's ready to be used and you have to check the pH. So, if your pH of the soil is outside the level of between about 5.5 and 6.5, about that pH, if it's outside that pH, don't accept the soil.

Mathew: That's great. That's a great tip.

Ed: I mean, I was asked to help. I'm called in to solve problems after the other experts have been flummoxed. So, I'll give you an example of a disaster. These people got this soil, it wasn't ripe, and it had a pH of about 8.1 and it already had nutrients in. But the guy, the grower had these two experts and one expert was into teas. And he said, "Well, look, I'm testing it and it's deficient in this and it's deficient in that, so I'm giving it these teas to do that." And again, another guy was giving it some chemical fertilizers. So, I mean, it was still showing that it was deficient. And the reason why it was deficient is because it's not that the nutrients were there, but they were just locked up because of the pH of the soil.

So, I came in, "You have to bring the pH of the soil down and don't give them any more nutrients." But the experts kept on saying that it was low on certain things and kept on giving it nutrients. So then I'm bringing the pH down, and the way I was doing that is by using 5.1 water with nothing else in it, but just to get the pH down. So, the soil starts coming down and nutrients start becoming available. And there are too many nutrients because the nutrients...they were sneaking these nutrients in. So, I literally had to have the soil flushed. It was 2,800 containers of soil that had to be flushed.

Mathew: Wow. That's big. Yeah, it's a lot.

Ed: Twice. You know, you don't get it all out. So, that's an example. And it's experts working at cross purposes and only looking at, you know, if they don't take like a chess attitude towards it, they're gonna get boxed in by different things that they do, not realizing the consequences that those things are going to have down the road. So, for instance, people sometimes say, "Oh, I'm gonna make a really rich soil." So, they make a soil that's really rich and has a lot of nitrogen in it and then by the time that the plants are flowering, the nitrogen hasn't been used up and the nitrogen delays flowering because the plants still have that growth in them. So, that's why you wanna minimize nitrogen to an extent at the end. And you can't do that if you're using a lot of meals so that there's a nutrient leftover by the time the plants are going into flowering.

Mathew: Okay. So, do you flush it then? Is that what the appropriate response is? Is that what I'm hearing?

Ed: Well, I think that the appropriate method is you could have a soil that's rich in most nutrients but have moderate levels of nitrogen and then add the nitrogen to the soil through the water so that it's readily soluble. So, it will either be used up or you can flush it really easily.

Mathew: Okay. How about mold? We see mold and grows a lot. Do you usually attribute that to one or two causes or how do you think the best way to mitigate that is?

Ed: Well, first of all, it's in the air. So, especially if you're growing outdoors, but even in a greenhouse or indoors, you know, most of the molds are spread through the air and then the mold lands on a plant or is transferred to it by water or something, or touch. And if it has the right conditions, it's gonna grow. So, the right conditions for molds are acidic and moist. And usually, most molds thrive in the 60s or low 70s. So, for one thing, you wanna keep the stems and the stem area dry. Where the stem meets the roots, you wanna keep that area dry because often a lot of infections there.

The second thing is that if it's really moist out, you could spray the plants with something like potassium bicarbonate, and you can buy it in the store for a lot of money or you can get it on the internet in bulk for a lot cheaper. And the potassium bicarbonate changes the pH surface to an alkaline pH and that prevents mold germination. Milk does too, a 10% milk solution. I use powdered milk and I make it into a 10% solution or so let's say you put skim milk, you'd use 3.2 ounces of skim milk in a quart of water. That also helps and you can make a combination of the two, 1% potassium bicarbonate and 10% milk and that's an excellent solution for preventing mold.

Mathew: That's great. So, your book that's coming out, I think in the next couple of months, is about, you know, solving problems in the cannabis garden. We've just gone over a few. Is there any others that you think are kind of top of mind or should be top of mind for growers?

Ed: Don't over-water. You know, you could buy a wand that goes into the ground and you can see what the water levels are. You can use that for containers also. So, that's a good way of determining what's going on underneath the ground.

Mathew: Okay. There's a lot of interest in terpenes from consumers lately. You've been writing about terpenes for some time. Where do you think the evolution of terpenes is going in terms of what kind of consumer goods we'll see and what cannabis entrepreneurs will be doing?

Ed: Well, right now, people want [inaudible 00:20:02] that has a lot of terpenes in it, right? I mean, because of the odor, you know, the impression you get, inhaling, or something like that. But, you know, it's not...Each of these terpenes has different effects and to a great extent, those effects are known because terpenes or the oils that contain terpenes have been used in aromatherapy for thousands of years. So, there's pretty good knowledge of what the different terpenes are and what effects they have. So, I think that the terpenes and the cannabinoids, you can disassociate the two of them. And then reform with new formulations of terpenes depending on the effects that you want. So, ultimately, I see it as it's a combination of THC and maybe some CBD or other cannabinoids. And then the terpenes, rather than just growing it with the terpenes, you could combine the terpenes that you want for a specific effect with the THC and CBD. So, you might even use terpenes that aren't found in cannabis.

Let's say you wanted to make a sleep medicine that you might use cannabis as a base and some of the terpenes that are found in cannabis. And then you might have other natural terpenes from another plant which would also help in that. So, it might be a combination like that. So, think of this. You could go to a paint store and you have a chip of paint and they optically scan that chip of paint and then they have a series of pigments. And depending on the color, you know, there's a recipe, a pigment recipe, right, to give you the color that you want. So, let's say instead of color, we'd say we're choosing for effect and we have that same...not the pigments, but we have an array of terpenes to choose from. And depending on either the medical qualities that you want or the high that you want, the effect that you want, you would use different terpenes and it could be formulated for each individual even. Does that make sense?

Mathew: Yeah, that totally makes sense. Do you see CBN being used more for sleep solutions as we were talking about with terpenes, but as a cannabinoid, you see that start to be integrated more?

Ed: Yes. I think that...when I say minor cannabinoids, I mean that are found in minute quantities in cannabis. Even though in cannabis normally, you wouldn't get much of an effect from them because they're found in such small quantities, they're defining what qualities those cannabinoids have and those could always be made artificially. Ultimately, you know, almost all growing except for flower may be the equivalent of dead men walking.

Mathew: Oh, you mean growing from like yeast or something like that?

Ed: That's right. Right. Well, look, let's say you're a home grower, right? You could set up lights, set up your system, wait 90 days, and then take a drag on your joint, right? If you're a grower, right?

Mathew: Right.

Ed: But if you making cannabinoids using yeast, it's three to five days.

Mathew: Wow. Yeah. I can see why there's so much interest around it.

Ed: And there's no lights. And the food is a little sugar, you know? You're feeding it sugar and you get it. You could see how much cheaper and less time. Every part of it is more to me. It's cheaper, less time-consuming, takes less equipment. I think that eventually, instead of seeds, you'll be buying packets of yeast with different combinations of yeast in it to give you a broad, you know, whatever broad array like, "Oh, I'll take the equivalent of Blue Dream, you know, or Headband," or whatever.

Mathew: Yeah. That is a real breakthrough. And for people that don't know what we're talking about, I'll include a link in the show notes with a show we did with a scientist in Montreal that's actually doing this in the lab growing from yeast, if you've not heard about what Ed and I are talking about here.

Ed: I'll just do it in one paragraph. So, you know, with genetic engineering, you could take the genes that are associated with production of cannabinoids and remove them from the [inaudible [00:25:14] and put them to yeast. And yeast are an [inaudible [00:25:17] organism to put it in because they have a nucleus and they have a broad system of genetic proliferation. So, what happens is that the yeast, through that program to do this, start producing cannabinoids as they produce the alcohol. And that is already being used to a great extent in the production of medicines.

So, you know, people rail against genetic engineering. And I'm opposed to genetic engineering and putting it into field, you know, like taking some genetically-engineered genes and letting it go rampant in a field or something where weeds could pick it up or if it's a pesticide, insects would develop resistance to it quickly. So, I'm opposed to that. But I'm not opposed to genetic engineering in all cases. You know, like fixing human genes that plague people with terrible chronic diseases like muscular dystrophy or making medicines in a controlled space using genetically engineered material. And it's much cheaper to do that than to try to engineer and do it through chemistry rather than through biology. And so, the same thing with yeast and making cannabinoids. Once these are programmed to make cannabinoids, they do it for the cost of a cup of sugar.

Mathew: Yeah, that is crazy. I'm really interested to see how that develops and how quick that becomes a big part of the market.

Ed: So, all my writing then we'll become antiquated.

Mathew: No, there'll still be an artisanal level of growers out there, so.

Ed: Oh, how quaint.

Mathew: Have you been watching the rise and fall in different cannabis trends and fads? What trends do you see peaking and what trends do you see rising in the months and years ahead?

Ed: One thing that I've noticed is that the ritual of getting high in a communal way that is rolling the joint, passing a joint around, and people taking part in this as a ritual, that's passing. And the reason for that is there are new methods of getting high that people use more, such as ingestion, drinking it, and also vape pens. So that whole ritual of preparing the grass and everything comes down to taking a vape pen out of your pocket and taking a hit. So, that communalism part of it is going. And that's part of normalization because when it was a ritual, you were doing something that was outside of the ordinary, but now it's an ordinary thing to do. So, that's one big trend that's different.

Mathew: Yeah, yeah, that's true. We're social mammals and we like to sit around in a circle and do things together in groups, or at least, typically. So, you know, we're gaining something in the normalization, but losing something in that ritual.

Ed: Well, you know, in California, the first laws regarding easing of prohibition took place in 1975 when it became decriminalized and possession of under an ounce or cultivation for personal use became ticketable offenses. So, that's 45 years ago that that happened. So, if people don't become aware of marijuana until 15 years old. So, that would be 60 years ago now from...so, a person would have to be older than 60 to know the full effect of prohibition that didn't have the exemption for personal use. And then 25 years later, in California, we got medical marijuana. So, people could legally possess marijuana in California if they had a recommendation, and, you know, it was very easy to get a recommendation. So, in California then, we're talking about people younger than 45 never had a situation that they knew about where they couldn't legally get marijuana for medical reasons. So, the whole idea of this oppressed people has had a half a century, basically, to change. It's been a very gradual change. Now, in other states, it's really rapid. For instance, Oklahoma went from one of the most depressive states in terms of laws to open registration for commercial use.

Mathew: Yeah, really. Big 180 there.

Ed: So, that's a shock. But in California, it wasn't such a big thing. "Oh, it's legal now." "Oh, it wasn't legal?" But in Oklahoma, that must be a major change. Sudden change. California, it's been very gradual.

Mathew: Yeah. It does seem like a phase transition, like water turning to steam, like it's bubbling and bubbling and then just all of a sudden, everything's just happening at once.

Ed: Right. But it's not really that way. I mean, as I said, the first laws easing prohibition in California came about in 1975, so that's why it seems so normal to Californians, you know?

Mathew: Yeah, that's a good point. It does seem woven into the culture more in California for sure.

Ed: Yeah. Well, it's had that opportunity to happen for years and years.

Mathew: Ed, I'd like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally and your interests. Is there a book that has had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Ed: Well, there were three books that I read in high school or early college that had a tremendous effect upon me and they were "All Quiet on the Western Front," "The Naked and the Dead" and "Catch 22."

Mathew: Okay, yeah.

Ed: And that made me hate war. And so, I thought, and many other people, especially people in the [inaudible 00:32:09], thought that America needed cannabis as a pacifying agent. See, I think that the United States is an alcoholic country. Now, we're not the only alcoholic country in the world, but what I've also noticed among business people in the United States where you see one or two drinks for lunch, and some for dinner, and some after-dinner drinks, by the time people are done with the day, they'd drank between half a pint and a pint of alcohol. And I think that alcoholism and war are very much associated because alcohol relieves people of nuances, everything becomes very black and white and people don't see...they lose perspective of alternatives rather than taking some physical action or something like that.

So, I thought that when the United States became cannabis-centric that there'd be less violence and less war, and that that was my goal. That's been my goal in trying to kind of cannabinize the nation is to get us into a much less war alliance stance. And I wanna give you one instance of how I think this could do that. You know, all these wars are going on in the Mid-East, like in Yemen, and Gaza, and Israel, and everything. Well, I think that the United States should use its air force and carpet bomb those countries with pre-rolls, lighters, and munchies with high protein so that you'd have these warriors going, "Oh, a joint just dropped here. You know, you know our enemies, we should go get them. Let's do it tomorrow." It would require constant carpet bombing.

Mathew: Yeah. That's a different dynamic for sure. That would be a great use of all the airplanes. Yeah. I think any president that ran on that as their platform might win. Like, "This is my only goal."

Ed: And, you know, alcohol causes so much damage to individuals. And I'm not talking about outlawing alcohol or anything, but I just wanna change the emphasis. So, I'll give you an example of how emphasis has changed in California. You go to a lot of people's houses, you can smoke pot, but you can't light a cigarette. Even in bars. "No, you can't smoke. Oh, a joint, that's okay." You know? So, I wanna help change people's attitudes in that way so that there should be more places we can use cannabis. And I'm not necessarily saying smoking cannabis because, you know, when you smoke cannabis, you're interfering with someone else. So, as an example, I said to my friend Dale Garinger, President of California and Hollow. You know, I go to the movies and get high all the time and he looks at me, he says, you know, "You shouldn't smoke in movies." I say, "Smoke? No, no, I just eat this cookie."

Mathew: Right. Right. Yeah.

Ed: Right?

Mathew: Yeah.

Ed: So, I'd like to see that kind of normalization where people can have the ability to get high rather than forced into going to a pub and drinking alcohol. I mean, if you wanna socialize in a lot of areas, the only place you socialize is a bar, or a pub, or something like that, and then alcohol gets involved. But what if you could go to a place where you just get high?

Mathew: Yeah, great points. It seems like we're slowly moving in that direction. We're seeing more social type licensing options and so forth.

Ed: Yes.

Mathew: So, you've consumed cannabis with a lot of different people. Is there one or two people that you thought were particularly interesting and worth mentioning?

Ed: One or two?

Mathew: If you can only name one or two.

Ed: I mean, if you're looking for famous people, I was recently sent a picture of Jack Herer, myself, and Willie Nelson.

Mathew: Oh, Wow. Yeah.

Ed: And then I got another one that was Jack Herer, myself, and Tommy.

Mathew: Tommy Chong, you mean?

Ed: Tommy Chong is one of the most interesting people. He's extremely intelligent. He's really a philosopher. When you read his books, they're really philosophy books. And he has a philosophy in life where he was able to take adversity and make it into humor and then to enrich himself with it. So, he's very interesting.

Mathew: Oh, that's great. Now, as you're doing consulting in Canada, Oakland, and Jamaica, is there anything you wanna share about your consulting practice before we close?

Ed: Well, it's very difficult to have me as a consultant because anybody who works with me has to take a leap of faith because I'm not gonna necessarily...I'm not selling the same box that everybody else is, so you have to take a leap of faith in it. You know, if you just want the same big box store, go to somebody who's really good at that, but if you want something where we're gonna really examine it and then make decisions based on that individual case and not just try to impose something on the space, then that's where my work comes in handy.

Mathew: Oh, that's good. Ed, you have a book coming out later in April called "The Marijuana Garden Saver: A Field Guide to Identifying and Correcting Cannabis Problems." I want everyone to look for that probably at Amazon and also at your website, edrosenthal.com. Ed's also on Facebook at facebook.com/edrosenthal. Instagram.com@/edrosenthal420420.

Ed: They can just put my name on Google and get everything.

Mathew: And it'll come up everywhere.

Ed: Everything will come up.

Mathew: You instantly appear.

Ed: Can I say one thing about that book?

Mathew: Yeah, please. Yes, go ahead.

Ed: I think just a couple of things. First of all, my philosophy is don't use any products whose contents you can't pronounce. So, the book is not a book about using the latest chemistry that kills nature. And the book gives many alternative solutions to whatever your problems are with the garden. So, I think people will find it very comfortable to work with and easy to work with and will help them with their garden.

Mathew: Yeah. And gosh, that seems like all your growers talking about is all the different problems they have so that your background and context here, I'm sure is gonna be very helpful. So, thanks for that, Ed.

Ed: Well, thank you. Thank you for having me on. It's been a pleasure.

Mathew: 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 guest to you, learn more at cannainsider.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 cannainsider.com/trends. Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on CannaInsider, simply send us an email at feedback@canainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from CannaInsider or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers, or companies featured in CannaInsider.

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 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 Fleur Marché Is Converting The CBD-Curious Luxury Customer with Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder

fleur marche ashley meredith schroeder

As cannabis continues to skyrocket and make its way into other industries, more and more entrepreneurs are looking to jump in.

But with CBD only just entering the mainstream, how do startups determine their ideal customers and then – even more difficult – win them over?

Enter Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, former directors at Goop and co-founders of online startup and “cannabis apothecary” Fleur Marché.

Inspired by cannabis’ many health benefits, Ashley and Meredith set out on a mission to bring this powerful ingredient to the beauty and wellness arena, providing a carefully-selected curation of the best cannabis products for canna-curious luxury customers.

In this episode, Ashley and Meredith share an inside look at Fleur Marché and give us some tips on how entrepreneurs should go about finding (and then converting) their correct target market.

Learn more at https://fleurmarche.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Ashley and Meredith’s work at Goop and what sparked their desire to enter the cannabis space
  • An inside look at Fleur Marché, including its educational resources and online curation of the most elegant, top-quality cannabis products on the market
  • Ashley and Meredith’s mission to convert the canna-curious luxury consumer and bring cannabis into the beauty and wellness space
  • How the co-founders drew on their experience at Goop during Fleur Marché’s creation process
  • Ashley and Meredith’s day-to-day work at Fleur Marché and how they complement each other as co-founders
  • How Fleur Marché targets its ideal audience and Ashley’s advice on how to niche down your demographic
  • How Meredith successfully raised capital for Fleur Marché and her advice to entrepreneurs looking to fund their startups
  • Where Ashley and Meredith see the cannabis-wellness space going over the next few years and the opportunities that excite them the most

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now here's your program.

Matthew: Hello, CannaInsiders. Today we have a great show for you. We're going to hear from the co-founders, a young startup called Fleur Marché. My biggest three takeaways from this interview were that these founders thought the opportunity around CBD was so big and compelling that they left their day job at Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand, Goop, to start Fleur Marché. Two, why defining clarity around your ideal customer and your message is so important. And three, how to raise capital and refine your pitch to investors. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Many cannabis and hemp companies are starting. But do they know who their target market or ideal customer is? Today's guests are co-founders that are doing an excellent job of defining who they want to serve. I am pleased to welcome Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, co-founders of Fleur Marché. Meredith and Ashley, welcome to "CannaInsider."

Ashley: Thanks for having us.

Meredith: Thank you.

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

Ashley: This is Ashley. I am sitting in our headquarters in Hancock Park, Los Angeles.

Matthew: Okay.

Meredith: And this is Meredith and I'm actually in my third bedroom in my house in Highland Park, which is on the east side of Los Angeles.

Matthew: Okay. And I'm in Winter Park, Florida today. So I'm glad we're all someplace warm for spring here.

Ashley: Nice. Yay for spring break.

Matthew: Yeah. Ashley, what is Fleur Marché at a high level?

Ashley: So, Fleur Marché is an online CBD boutique, whose mission is to rebrand cannabis as wellness. And we're specifically targeting women who are skeptical or outright closed off to using cannabis as anything other than a recreational drug. That's sort of what they have always thought of it as and aren't quite yet ready to accept that it's something different. So we're trying to change their minds.

Matthew: Okay. And Meredith, can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and came to start this company with Ashley?

Meredith: Sure. My background is actually pretty well entrenched in retail and women's fashion. So I started my career at a big box retailer called Macy's. When they were headquartered up in San Francisco. They had a West Coast headquarters up in San Francisco. So I kind of started my career there. Learned all the ways of a big box retailer and then went more and more niche from there in terms of retail experiences. So most recently, I was at Goop, where I managed the fashion vertical, the e-commerce business.

So I've been, again, entrenched in sort of like female-facing consumer businesses, primarily in fashion, my whole career, whether it be buying, planning, merchandising strategy. So, very familiar with a female audience and how to contextualize a product assortment for her. And then in terms of how I became interested in cannabis, it was much more of a personal journey for me. As Ashley mentioned, you know, we're going after a reluctant sort of like audience and consumer and that really was who I was.

Embarrassingly enough, a couple of years ago, I wouldn't go near cannabis because I still was recovering or had PTSD from a bad pot brownie experience. And once I realized sort of what the new product landscape looked like and how amazing these product offerings were sort of like out in the modern day cannabis world, my lens was changed once I tried some products and integrated them in my life for my own sort of like wellness needs. And so I became pretty obsessed with all things CBD and THC and sort of finding the right products for myself to integrate into my wellness routine and just for sort of like daily things like period symptoms, pain management, workout recovery, sleep aid, all of the things that we sort of like deal with based on daily stresses.

And once I became passionate about the category, I realized, especially given my background, that there really wasn't a great retail experience out there. And that there was such an opportunity to create something beautiful and sophisticated and really elevated so that women could more viscerally respond to this category in the way that I knew that they could because, as it existed before, the retail experience just was subpar.

Matthew: Yeah. So deep retail experience, that's great. When people don't know what Macy's is, sometimes I'll come across people and it's like they don't know what Macy's is. "And I really don't know what that is." I go, "Oh, it's the store from 'Elf.' Isn't that right?" They go, "Oh, yeah. Okay, I know what that is."

Meredith: Oh, my gosh. Yes, I'm probably dating myself by saying I started at Macy's.

Matthew: Yeah. No, no. I mean, but everybody knows it once you say that. So...

Meredith: True.

Matthew: So, Ashley, before you answer that question as well, I just want to say for, like, every woman that's listening pretty much knows what Goop is. That's Gwyneth Paltrow's kind of lifestyle site. And there's also e-commerce and fashion and a lot of things going on there. But for men that are listening, they're like, "What's Goop?" So that's what it is.

Ashley: Yeah, thank you for clarifying.

Matthew: Yes. Yes. So, Ashley, go ahead. You tell us about your background and journey as well.

Ashley: Yeah. So I think my career is mostly shaped by strategy and storytelling. I started off in the film industry as a development executive. So reading a lot of scripts and trying to figure out how to package them with writers and directors, which is where sort of the storytelling aspect comes in. I did that for a while, realized it really was not the thing that I was meant to do. So I went to business school to learn some skills, and came out of business school really wanting to focus on marketing, and figuring out how to sort of stretch that storytelling aspect of my career into something that was a bit more strategic and focused on data and thinking about sort of frameworks and things like that.

So, went to Mattel, where I was a brand manager on the Barbie brand, which was really pretty wonderful. And that's where I really learned the fundamentals of marketing, and how strategy and storytelling play into that. From Mattel, I went to a company called ClassPass that at the time was a small startup and launched their LA operation. It has since grown and is now an international fitness platform. And then left ClassPass to go to Goop where I was brought on to the team to launch the wellness business vertical.

And for the men and women out there who may not be as familiar with Goop, it's really known, first and foremost, for its wellness practices and sort of for pushing progressive, alternative, interesting conversations about wellness and health and sort of providing options for primarily women, but also men, anyone who's interested, alternative to traditional medicine. So I came...traditionally they've mostly done that in content. And I was brought on to help to put a commerce aspect next to it. And it was...I think we're going to talk about this...it was as part of my role at Goop that I really first encountered cannabis.

Matthew: Yeah, you know, that background in the film industry and script reading and stuff, is there anything that you kind of still take away from that experience in your day to day life where you say, "I'm going to kind of take this idea that I learned from the movie industry and apply it here"?

Ashley: A hundred percent. I think in terms of as we think about messaging and brand building and what you're actually communicating to your audience, whether that's an audience of moviegoers, or an audience of CBD users, I think figuring out, first and foremost, what is it that we're trying to say has always been something that was really deeply ingrained in me and what is the point of this.

And with a script, it's actually much harder oftentimes than a marketing message because you have, you know, two hours' worth of content to sift through. But the other thing I think they've really taken and it translates, regardless of the story you're trying to tell, is the emotional connection. And that's really what makes either a film or a business successful. Are you connecting with your customers or consumers on an emotional level that really touches them and makes them feel like they need to keep coming back for more? They need to really engage and to really take part in whatever it is you're building.

Matthew: Okay. So, Ashley, you were at Goop, you have this background in the film industry and in marketing. What made you think about CBD that it was going to be a big opportunity? What was kind of the moment where you're like, "Hey, this is gonna be big, and I want to be part of it"?

Ashley: A hundred percent. So, early on, in my tenure at Goop, we started thinking about CBD, because to her credit, Gwyneth Paltrow was an early sort of adopter of the notion that cannabis could be wellness. So way before I was actually working in it, I was researching it and figuring out, what is this? What's the regulatory landscape around it? What's the science behind it? How do you vet products to make sure that they're high quality and you're not selling snake oil?

And in the course of doing that, I started to use it myself and realized that it was very effective. At Meredith's suggestion, oftentimes, I would sort of try products mainly, for me, for pain relief, substituting out Tylenol and Aleve. I realized that this was a really potent wellness tool. And of all the wellness tools and wellness healing modalities that I was being exposed to, for me personally, this was the most palpably effective. But I was also realizing that, you know, I was selling products to all of these women who were very invested in wellness and self-care, really willing to be adventurous in terms of what they were trying and the products that they were, you know, testing out or sampling.

But when you said the word "cannabis" to those same women, they almost like physically recoiled, immediately shut down and would say, "No, no, I'm not a stoner. I'm not interested in getting high. That has no place in my self-care routine." And it felt like there was really sort of an opportunity to help them understand that this could be something really valuable in terms of making them feel better. And so just, again, from my storytelling background, it felt like we really just needed to tell a new story.

We really had to rebrand cannabis as wellness and start talking to these women about how cannabis and specifically CBD could help them sleep better or manage their anxiety or deal with menstrual cramps, as opposed to just something that's used, you know, recreationally to get high. I felt like if you could effectively do that, you could take this averse consumer group, make them curious, engaged, and then ultimately very loyal in the same way that they were loyal to things like ashwagandha and crystals and tarot cards and, you know, things of that nature.

Matthew: Okay. So Meredith, you went from having a bad experience with a pot brownie to pushing CBD on Ashley.

Meredith: I had quite the evolution. Yes, it's true.

Matthew: Well, let's talk about fleurmarche.com. Meredith, if we were to pull up your site right now and just be looking over your shoulder as you browse through it, what would we see?

Meredith: Yeah. I think, first and foremost, you'd probably notice some really beautiful product imagery and photography. That was a really important aspect for us. We wanted this site to feel more akin to a beauty or wellness, health and wellness site or even close to fashion. We wanted it to feel like a big departure from traditional sort of cannabis experiences that you see online. So there's big, sort of visceral images that are very stimulating.

And then we also have a lot of educational content on the site as well. So you'll kind of see equal parts product photography and product focus as well as educational elements because to us, to sort of our continuous points, our whole goal is re-contextualizing this category that otherwise, women feel icky about or still have a stigma about. So we want to make sure that we string educational components for the category throughout the entire sort of shopping experience.

Matthew: Yeah. And you've really done a great job at that. That was one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you because I was like, "Wow, this is just really well executed." And back to Ashley's point of like, "What are we trying to say?" And you get to that quickly and you have to get that point across quickly because when people come to their site, it's like, you have about three seconds to show them something before they're like, "I'm out of here," you know.

Meredith: Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly. We wanted to make an impact quick because, you know, and we thought about our audience a lot and we thought about the fact that we wanted it to be sort of non-generational when our mothers shop on this website, when our cousins shop on this website, when our peers shop on this website. So we really wanted it to feel welcoming to, really, all women.

Matthew: And Ashley, how do you define your customer and speak to them?

Ashley: Yeah. So it's really the customer I mentioned before, we call her "the reluctant consumer." That's really who we're going after. And it's more of a, I would say, a psychographic segmentation than a demographic segmentation at this point. It's that woman I just started to describe before who is very highly invested in wellness and self-care, whether that's through fitness or eating organic food or using crystals and breath work or all of the above. This is something that's important to her life, but she does not yet identify cannabis as an ingredient or a solution that's relevant to her. So we are laser focused on helping to change her mind.

Matthew: And the psychographic, how deep do you go in mapping that out in terms of what this customer avatar, you know, does for fun, what their concerns are, how they see the future, what kind of car they drive? You know, how far down that rabbit hole do you go to define your customer?

Ashley: To be fully transparent, to date, we have not gone that far down because we were...one, we were working to get the site up quickly. But, two, I think we both have a pretty...from our past experience, it's a pretty solid understanding of who that woman is just from real-time speaking to her whether it was at Macy's and BCBG or ClassPass or Barbie at Mattel.

So we had a pretty good sense, foundationally. And then we did a bit of research before we launched the company. We did a survey with 200 of our peers, family, friends, and friends of friends to understand their thoughts on cannabis and sort of how they were using it, so that informed a ton of our sort of mapping. And then anecdotally, just every single day, I think our hypothesis proves true as we talked to women in their 80s and women in their 20s who sort of have the same questions about CBD or are interested, curious, maybe, but mostly are afraid of it.

But at the same time are not finding solutions to the needs that they currently have, and so are open to at least having the conversation. As we are now sort of putting functionality on the site, and in our email communications, that will help us get more of that actual information now that we sort of have real customers in real time, and so we'll continue to build that out.

Matthew: Okay. And we talked a little bit about the look and the feel of the site already, Meredith, but how did you come up with the exact motif and draw on your experience at Goop to do that, to convey what you were trying to do? I mean, you had an idea in your head of what you want to try to convey, but then how do you actually materialize that?

Meredith: Yeah, it was something that we talked a lot about, and we went through a lot of iterations for. We knew that we wanted it to feel very feminine. So that really was the foundation of, like, determining sort of like our logo, our typography, sort of like the color palette. We wanted it to be very non-generational as I mentioned earlier, so that it could really run the gamut of women that it would appeal to. But first and foremost, we wanted it to feel feminine because that was what we felt was missing from the traditional retail experience in cannabis.

Nothing felt overtly feminine. There was certainly, like, luxury plays in the form of dispensaries, but nothing that really spoke to women in the way that we knew we could. And then, you know, we were very thoughtful about sort of architecting the site accordingly. So, you know, all of our efforts were really focused on intuitive frameworking of the website so that the shopping experience was all sort of femininity-based and psychologically reached the woman in a way that wasn't being offered in the online retail landscape prior.

But yeah, I mean, there was a lot of detail that went into it. Having a French sort of typography for our logo is really important. The meaning of...we should probably clarify that the meaning of Fleur Marché, it sort of loosely translates to a flower market. So we really wanted to, again, re-contextualize what the word "flower" meant in the traditional cannabis space, then we wanted it to feel overtly feminine. So florals are certainly an important part of what we do. You'll see that repetitive sort of in the design of everything we've built out. And, yeah, I mentioned this earlier, but we certainly wanted it to feel beginner friendly.

Everything needs to feel really, like not...you know, you're not intimidated by the experience at all, because that was a frustration for us early on. And then in terms of how Goop influenced it, I mean, of course, it did. I think Goop was, and Gwyneth certainly and we were so lucky to work alongside her throughout our tenure at Goop. But, you know, she's sort of a master and the team at Goop is a master at executing beautiful brand experiences and retail experiences. So I think that was an inherent part of being able to execute this beautifully.

Matthew: Ashley, what you're doing here is interesting because Fleur Marché is really a product curation and education site. You don't create your own products, but you do organize products into interesting bundles and categories. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Ashley: Yes, I'm happy to. So when we decided to start the company, we knew almost immediately that we wanted to be a curator at the outset at least, as opposed to creating our own product. And the reason for that was that all of a sudden, we were seeing a ton of really high quality, interesting, sort of strategic products come out specifically targeted towards this reluctant consumer or what we specifically targeted at least towards women.

And it felt like there was this...the problem wasn't necessarily availability of product, the problem was actually figuring out what product to use and which of those products were high quality and which of those products had the amount of CBD in them that they said they did. So education was more of the issue than supply. So that's sort of how we got to become a curator. And then once we realized we wanted to be a curator, we also then encountered the burden of having to explain to the customer exactly what it is that you're trying to do, and why they should be choosing one tincture versus another, or using a topical versus an edible.

And that's really...those issues were really what got us thinking about how to bundle products, how to create categories. And where we landed was that need-based communication is really the key here. And it's something that we saw when we were selling fashion, beauty, and wellness products at Goop. It's something that I certainly saw on Barbie and as I was working at ClassPass. Women want to understand what this product will do for them, especially if they're taking a leap in terms of ingredients or something that feels a little bit outside of their comfort zone. "Help me get what it's going to do and then I'm much more likely to start talking to you about it."

So, you'll see on the site, we created and really came out with what we call CBD starter kits. And they're purposed. So we have a CBD starter kit for pain, for sleep, for anxiety, and for skincare. Again, the goal there being if you don't know what you're doing, if you're really confused about all of this, here's something that we can just give you to help you get started. That said, if you want more, and you're not ready for a starter kit, you just want to buy one product, the way that we've organized the site is very specifically to help you on a personal level.

So you can come to the site and say, "I'm having trouble sleeping." There's a category of products for you to go look at specifically to address that issue. Or you can say, you know, "I don't necessarily have an issue, but I'm really interested in topical CBD." We've also organized it in that way so that you can go find it there. And the goal really with our categorization is to make it easy for...and Meredith talked about this, that beginner consumer, who is a little intimidated, doesn't really know what she's doing, but also wants to be able to navigate and understand without having to do too much work. So we really focused on making this very user friendly specifically for that reluctant consumer. And that's really the sort of impetus for all the categories and all the products that we create or sort of the bundles that we create.

Matthew: Yeah. And the reluctant consumer is reluctant because of just an incredible propaganda campaign, and I always marvel at that and think that has got to be the most effective propaganda campaign I've ever seen. Because it wasn't even 100 years ago, it was, what, pre-1930s that nearly every household had cannabis tinctures in their, you know, cupboard.

And then it was just an unbelievably successful propaganda campaign that you're trying to help educate consumers to unwind their mind to get to a point where they can think about this more clearly. And it does beg the question like, gosh, if this was such a successful campaign to kind of smear a plant like, is there anything else like that in our culture? I think about that. I wonder sometimes, no, don't answer. But I do, I think about that.

Ashley: I have the same thought. I mean, it's just crazy. It really is. I mean, I don't have a lot of, like, the actual data, so I won't quote things. But just to understand what started to happen in the '40s and how the government sort of scheduled marijuana and maybe didn't mean it to be long-term on the drug schedule and how it just stayed there. There's just a lot of really interesting things that you hear about how this all happened that are quite curious.

Matthew: Yeah. So Meredith, there's no real playbook for being a startup. You wake up in the morning, you know you have to do stuff, but how do you decide what needs to happen today that's going to be the most impactful just trying to get into the practical nuts and bolts of, you know, running this business?

Meredith: Yeah, it's so hard. I think for me and for Ashley and I collectively throughout this process, it's been very useful to have a teammate. I can't really imagine navigating this on my own. So I think by us sort of designing our very clear division of responsibilities early on, that's helped us prioritize our individual task lists. So I certainly think that's important, like on a daily, monthly, the sort of like annualized basis. And I think for me, I just have to have very clear goals and benchmarks but with clear time constraints to keep me on track.

And then I try to prioritize what's really going to move the needle in the business. I mean, you're always going to have an insurmountable task list. It's kind of just the nature of what we're doing. And I learned that early on, because this is my fourth startup in a row, my first own startup, but my fourth experience in a startup in a row. So I've kind of been bred for this.

But I think, you know, accepting that your task list is going to feel insurmountable is step one. And then just really sort of prioritizing looking at your task list and understanding what's going to move things forward in the biggest way possible is where you kind of start. And then communication obviously is key. So Ashley and I are in constant communication to make sure that like, collectively, we're marking things off of our list that won't inhibit the other one from making progress.

Matthew: Okay. That's good that you got that experience from other startups. So you can say, "Oh, I don't want to do this. I do want to do that." So that's good.

Meredith: Absolutely. Yeah.

Matthew: You don't have to make the same mistakes on your own. Okay. So, Ashley, the focus of Fleur Marché is that you want to be the CBD whisperer to canna-curious women. Sometimes entrepreneurs think, "If I focus on this demographic, then I can't serve this other demographic over here, and I'm excluding them." But is that really true and do we need to think about it that way? I mean, you talked a little bit about serving women. But do you ever think like, "Well, that means I'm actively not serving this demographic"? And is that okay? I mean, what's your thought there?

Ashley: Yeah. So I think one of the fundamentals, one of the first things I learned about marketing was to clearly define your audience and that if you try to serve everyone, you end up really reaching no one or actually connecting with no one. And so I actually think that a laser focus on a very specific audience is really the most important part of defining your brand, how you operate, and what you're really trying to do. And then, of course, there's a series of, like, concentric circles, sort of concentric circles of various audiences around that core audience that you're targeting.

But again, if you don't have that laser focus, it is hard for any consumer to define you and sort of say like, you know, when someone says, "Fleur Marché, who are they, what do they do?" If you have gone too broad, it's very hard to define and I frankly think it sets you up for failure. And I also kind of disagree with the idea that you can alienate an audience unless you're being extremely careless or trying to. Because, I think if you have strong brand values and you have a very clear point of view, other consumers than the ones we're specifically targeting start to become interested because inevitably, those values will be relevant to other people's lives.

And what we're seeing specific, you know, for example, with Fleur Marché, is that we are a brand that is squarely focused on women. But we see a fair share of orders come through from men, we see a fair share of orders come through from women who are not canna-curious but are, in fact, you know, cannabis veterans who have been smoking pot for years, but are just sort of now becoming interested in CBD and value the concept of quality education and transparency. Which, again, are things that we value for everyone, but are so honed in on because we believe that beginner consumer, the reluctant consumer needs to feel comfortable that those things are firmly in place, but it certainly applies to a much broader audience.

So I think that that clear focus has actually only helped us and does help us, like, put a stake in the ground of, "Here's who we are, everyone's welcome." We're not trying to exclude anyone but we're also building what we're building with a very clear consumer in mind. So I guess that's really is like the differentiation. It's you're building focused on this one, you know, consumer who's right in front of you, but that doesn't necessarily exclude anyone else. Everyone else is welcome to partake in what it is that you're building. And frankly, probably can connect to it better because you have such defined values, principles, and messaging.

Matthew: Yeah, so it's not exclusion, but it's clarity, firstly.

Ashley: Exactly. Exactly.

Matthew: Okay. It reminds me of how Lowe's, the home improvement store, said, you know, "Home Depot's got this great successful business but it's kind of rough around the edges and it's not very friendly." So they said, "Let's make Lowe's, like, clean and more well organized and better lighting and we'll attract more women to it." And then it turned out like, "Hey, men like this, too. Like, we just don't know how to articulate it sometimes." But it started attracting men as well. But that clarity just kind of drew into the tractor beam people that wanted that.

Ashley: Exactly. I think we talk about clarity and simplification versus dumbing anything down. So we're certainly not dumbing it down. We're certainly not trying to, like, operate only for the lowest common denominator. But we're trying to create like a very...yeah, exactly how Lowe's did, a very clear, clean experience that, frankly, is attractive to anyone. It's a sort of bottoms up like, you know, everyone can get on board with that.

Matthew: Yeah. So Meredith, we already talked about the survey that you sent out to friends and family and, you know, all the different feedback you got when you were starting Fleur Marché. But what questions do you get asked the most right now from the canna-curious visitors?

Meredith: Yeah, great question. I think there's still a lot of education to be done around demystifying CBD in general. A lot of people still ask us that, even as recent as yesterday, "Does it get me high?" So I think that's one of the top questions we are asked is, "Will CBD get me high?" "Will it pass a drug test?" And then understanding the different delivery formats is a big one as well. So understanding the difference between topicals, versus vaping, versus tinctures, and how they really affect you in different ways and the benefits of each format. It requires a lot of education with our customers.

Further Reading: Will CBD Make Me Fail A Drug Test?

And then beyond that, we've had a lot of in real life activations of our brand and our retail experience which has been great in gathering learnings from our audience. And these women are super engaged but they often really just want a personal consultation, to be honest. They want to know what we're using, what our favorite products are, and how to use them without...they really just don't want to do a lot of research. They want someone to sort of help them solve their issues or their needs and really understand on a one to one basis how to incorporate these products in their daily wellness routines.

Matthew: Yeah. They want a friend to tell them like, "How will this really make me feel?"

Meredith: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Just like my friends wanted. And so that really was our goal is to sort of scale that concept of having your best friend make the recommendations for all things cannabis.

Matthew: Yeah, that's a good goal to be the friend.

Meredith: Yes.

Matthew: Ashley, as the wellness umbrella around hemp and cannabis grows and expands, what are your next areas of focus?

Ashley: Yeah. So I think when people get this question generally, and historically we've actually answered it as well with like, "Oh, new product delivery formats or new ways of using or ingesting cannabis or CBD," I actually have changed my mind on it. I think the next great frontier in cannabis is not as much a new product category as it is product efficacy. So we're starting to talk to a lot more brands who are working on water soluble CBD and nano-emulsions, emulsification, which is breaking down CBD extract into very small particles that more easily sort of assimilate in your body.

And I do think that as, you know, we're in the midst of the cannabis and specifically CBD craze right now, so much product is coming to market. And very quickly, there will start to be tiers in terms of bioavailability, which is how quickly a product makes it into your bloodstream, the CBD of a product makes it into your bloodstream, and how effectively, how much of the CBD is actually getting in. And I think that we're already seeing it happen but brands will start to just perfect more and more that efficacy so that, you know, you can take a product and, within 15 minutes, feel the desired effects. So I'm really excited for that. We've been hearing more about that.

And then I think also, there is just more and more research being done on all the other cannabinoids that we haven't yet really focused on enough. So, CBG and CBN are the next ones, but we're starting to hear about something else called CBC.
 
Learn more about the cannabinoid CBC (Cannabichromene)
 
And, you know, what does that do? Because there's 200 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. And I think they all probably have strong therapeutic benefits in one way or another that we're just scratching the surface of. So, really excited to see how we can make the current things that we have, the CBD and THC, even more effective and just work quickly and efficiently. And then also just exploring that next frontier of what else is out there? What else can be helping us feel better?

Matthew: Yeah, that's a great point. You know, the efficacy is the next frontier. I hope that's true. That would be great.

Ashley: Yeah. Me too.

Matthew: So Meredith, let's talk a little bit about capital raising. How did you go about capital raising for Fleur Marché, and what was that process like and where are you in that process?

Meredith: Yeah, it's a long and arduous process, I would say. Anyone who's gone through it probably can relate. We really started our fundraising process back in September, after we had decided to leave our jobs. We built out a pretty robust business plan and a pitch deck to go out to investors and we were lucky enough to have... Oh, I'm hearing a little bit of noise. Can you guys hear me okay?

Matthew: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:34:23] It sounded like you were on a windy clifftop for a moment. But, no, you're back.

Meredith: But we were lucky enough to have an early believer in that first round of conversations within our sort of like clique circle or like our own little internal network. So we had an early believer early on that really allowed us to get started. So we got a yes pretty quickly, which did not necessarily pave the way for the rest of the conversations. I think we were just insanely lucky on that very first conversation. And then we kind of kept fundraising for about six months. We're just now nearing the finish line of our first pre-seed raise.

We really took meetings with pretty much anyone that was willing to listen to us and hear more about our concept. And I think that was really important to our process, because it ultimately led to a lot more conversations. And I think something important to keep in mind when you're going through the fundraising process is while you're exhausted and you don't necessarily think that the conversation you're about to have or the pitch you're about to give will be effective with that particular audience or those particular investors, it does lead to so many other meaningful connections and I think you always have to be hopeful that those doors will open for you. And for us, they really did.

And so we were able to conjure up quite a few believers between friends and family and a couple sort of more institutional players in the space. And I think when it's this early on, they're really just looking to believe in the founders and sort of like your vision and your master plan. And I think Ashley and I were extremely convicted in what it was we were building. And so, yeah, I think we just powered through for six straight months, and we're now finally at the finish line.

Matthew: Meredith, did you notice that your pitch was getting better or different as you went along?

Meredith: That's a really good question. And Ashley, you can feel free to add. But I think it really, for us, depended on...it's a hard process, because you're doing it in tandem with also trying to get your business off the ground, and then ultimately operate it at the same time. And I think that's extremely challenging to have sort of like mindshare all over the place.

And so we would joke that, like, we were better in the morning than we were in the afternoon because all the stresses of all the meetings that we had throughout the day, like, ultimately set us up for failure in our pitches in the afternoon. But it totally varied. I mean, at some points, we felt like we were really in stride, and then in other points, even six months later, we were like, "Wow, we bombed that."

Matthew: Well, it sounds like you did a pretty good job to me. So maybe you can write a blog post on CBD for raising capital. Yeah.

Ashley: Because I will say, the only thing I would disagree with, I do think we can kind of give you our pitch in our sleep at this point. So now, at the very tail end of it, we've now perfected. But I agree with everything else Meredith said. There were some rough days.

Meredith: Well, I think we're just all so hard on ourselves, you know. I mean, we're our worst critics. So I think, you know, even our worst pitch, you know, externally was probably better than anything most people had heard. But like, at that point, we had heard it so many times. But we sort of felt like we were failing at some times even though I'm sure we weren't.

Matthew: Yeah. And most people don't remember, you know, a lot of the details in retrospect, like they say, like, you know, you feel like you screwed up something, but most people just have a big picture, you know, memory of whatever happened.

Meredith: Right. Yeah, exactly. And I think what you learn along the way is just don't sweat it. Just don't sweat it. Like, you just have to keep moving forward.

Matthew: Well, at this point in the interview, I like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, Ashley, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Ashley: Definitely. So after I graduated from college, I took a year off and traveled. And while I was traveling...I think I was maybe in India, I read a book called "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder. And it was about the sort of development of an organization called Partners In Health, which was started by Dr. Paul Farmer, who essentially, the first project Partners In Health ever did was to go into areas of Haiti that had been particularly struck by the AIDS epidemic, and try to cure AIDS not by treating sort of like the symptoms but by actually digging into the culture and trying to understand, like, many levels below what was leading to this epidemic and why it was so bad in these parts of Haiti.

And it was just...I mean, I love the book. It's a great read for something that sounds so serious, it reads like a novel. It's a very, sort of like quick read, I will say. But I really became so enamored with the fact that he was trying to solve problems based on, like, the underlying issues rather than just what was apparent at the surface.

And I do think, I mean, as corny as it sounds, I know this sounds like I prepared this. I swear, I forgot, I actually didn't see this question. I forgot to think about it. So it really has shaped a lot of how I think about problem solving. Like, yes, what is the fire at hand that you have to put out? But like, is there a way, you know, what do you do next time or what can you do to prevent this from happening again? Like, how are you dealing with the underlying issues and not just solving the problem because that likely leads to it continuing? So it's been a meaningful book in my life. I've gone back and read it once since. And it, again, holds up.

Matthew: Yeah. That's kind of like the, attack the root of the problem, not the branch.

Ashley: Exactly. And he was...I mean, Partners In Health has since expanded across the world and is doing, you know, amazing work because of that strategy.

Matthew: That's cool. I don't think we've heard that recommendation before. So thank you for that.

Ashley: Yes.

Matthew: Meredith, is there a tool that you use that you find very helpful for your productivity with you and Ashley or your extended team that you'd like to share?

Meredith: Yeah. I mean, we're in super startup mode still, so we don't have a whole lot of tools in place. However, I think something...it's not necessarily a literal tool, but it's something that we found really important early on in our process, especially as we were fundraising. And just to document our own progress was, we sent out progress reports really diligently to sort of like anyone that wanted to be on our subscriber list, really, between like friends and family and investors, just so that we could document all of our progress or setbacks and be really transparent along the way with our process.

I think that was a really effective communication tool for us with external people who ultimately then converted into an investment after they saw some progress or led to some really meaningful brand partnerships or conversation that allowed us to be more productive in the business for sure. So that was really important in our process early on. And then also, I mean, we have Google, you know, Google Spreadsheets for pretty much every single thing that we do.

Largely thanks to Ashley because she's much more OCD than I am. But I think that has been really valuable. It's a great tool to keep yourself organized. So, from very early on, whether it was like developing all the product copy for the website, the wireframing of the website, the pricing, the inventory we buy, like, everything is pretty well organized, considering what stage of the company we are. So I think keeping yourself diligent and using the tools that are accessible to you is certainly important.

Matthew: Yeah, definitely, too, that progress report, like you mentioned, that does help a lot of people that weren't sure the first time you spoke with them kind of come around if they are on the fence like, "Hey, you know, Ashley and Meredith are legit. They're making a lot of effort here and they're getting results and they're doing things and it wasn't, you know, kind of just an initial push with nothing behind it."

Meredith: Absolutely. And even if we didn't think, even if we felt that it was falling on deaf ears, which honestly, it wasn't, because we felt engagement from the email correspondence right away after we would send one. But beyond that, we would hear sort of like buzz about us before we even launched. So we knew that conversations are being had and we knew it was kind of spreading. So it was really effective for us.

Matthew: Ashley, if you were starting all over again with Fleur Marché, what would you have done differently? I know you're still a young startup, but that probably makes the pain of decisions that you wish you didn't make even more real still.

Ashley: Yeah, I mean, I guess my answer is kind of, I think we're still in the phase of making those decisions that will either make or break us right now. And so, you know, in six months, I'd love to answer this question again. I think right now, honestly, because everything...you know, everything feels so weighty, every decision feels so big. But I do think one of our strengths as founders is that we do have a little bit of levity. We are aware that like, it does, you know, "Not today, Tuesday," like whatever decision's in front of us does feel huge.

But in a week even, it probably will come second to the next decision we have to make. I think one of the reasons [inaudible 00:43:30] we're great about that. So for me right now, the only thing I probably would have done differently is started this sooner. I think it was really important for us, once we decided to start the company, to move quickly because we felt like the craze was coming and now it's here. If I had thought to do this a year earlier, you know, imagine where we'd be now. So for me right now honestly, that's the only thing I would have done differently to date. But I'm sure that will change.

Matthew: Good. Okay. How about you, Meredith?

Meredith: Hey, that's a really good answer, Ash.

Matthew: It was.

Ashley: Oh, thanks.

Meredith: I don't mean to sound cavalier, but I kind of agree. Like, I don't think...I'm not like a regretful person. I think we really did the very best we could and we are as strategic as humanly possible and thoughtful about really every single aspect of what we've done. And I think there's kind of no shoulda, coulda, wouldas for us at this point. I think we're about to learn what those are for sure in the next six months. But I kind of want to steal her answer. That's really good. I wish we would have started this sooner. But honestly, I don't think I had the balls to do it, though. I think, for me, it remains to be seen.

Matthew: Yeah, there's that fear threshold. I always talk about that. I've started a couple businesses. And it's like, I just say I was 51% courage. Like, you don't need to be like this fearless, courageous leader. It's like just a little bit more, then, just enough to get through the fear and then, you know, stick with it. So...

Meredith: Exactly. Exactly.

Matthew: Well, Meredith and Ashley, thanks so much for coming on the show today. As we close, can you tell listeners where to find your site?

Meredith: Yes. You can find us at www.fleurmarche.com. And that's French spelling, so I'm happy to spell it if that helps.

Matthew: Sure.

Meredith: It's fleurmarche.com. And then you can also find us @fleurmarche on Instagram or Facebook. And then also @FleurMarche, one word, on Twitter.

Matthew: Great. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today and good luck in the rest of 2019, or I'll say bonne chance in the rest of 2019.

Meredith: I love it.

Matthew: Take care.

Ashley: Thank you so much for having us.

Matthew: Thank you.

Meredith: Thank you so much.

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 cannainsider.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 cannainsider.com/trends.

Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on "CannaInsider"? Simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from "CannaInsider" or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companies featured on "CannaInsider."

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.