One Hire That Will iNcrease Production by 5% Per Year

The green rush is still booming and there is no shortage of companies claiming that their product is the key to your success in the cannabis industry.

“These lights will increase production and lower your power bill.”

“These nutrients are the key to big yields and big flavor.”

“This speaker plays music your plants can hear and increases terpine production!”

By my estimation, about 1 in 4 of the companies claiming to have a product that will “change the industry” actually have something of value.

Yes there are technology changes that will need to be made periodically in order to keep up with the industry. The switch from magnetic to digital ballasts is one that comes to mind. I predict the next one will be the switch to some kind of LED lighting system in your garden.

No matter how new and shiny your system, something new will hit the market within a few months claiming to be better. I watch so many gardens reinvesting in equipment so frequently that they never actually get ahead. Your goal should be to maximize the existing system you have for as long as possible before investing in the next one.

Here’s the big hire that will help you do that… A JANITOR. I know, not sexy news at all. Before you curse me for tricking you into reading a whole 230 words to get to this revelation, how many of you currently employ a janitor? Can you tell me with 100% honesty that your room is as clean as it could be? If you really believe there is not a corner of any place in your grow that could look a little better, then by all means don’t listen and continue counting your mountains of cannabis cash.

Your grow staff will simply not keep the room as clean as it needs to be. Yes, they will try, but after a 12 hour day of replanting or harvesting, it's only human nature to put some things off. The hire of a janitor is not an excuse for your garden staff to stop cleaning; it’s simply a separate support system for your garden. Think of it like the night janitor at an office building. You still don’t leave dishes in the break room sink, but when you come in every morning to a clean office, things just run better.

A janitor is going to cost you less per hour than your grow staff does. The person who signs up to be the janitor more than likely just wants to show up, do their job and leave. There is no ego in a janitor, no claims of being the “best janitor” in the pot industry, no weird artist quirks that come with being a grower, no long winded excuses about how the lunar cycle affecting the potency of the bleach they needed to clean the floors. Just a person who shows up and keeps things looking and running smoothly. If the extra cleanliness stops even one mold or spider mite outbreak, than your janitor has more than paid their salary for the year. On top of that, when compliance inspections come around, I have never heard an inspector claim that a room looked too clean. The first inspection is a visual one. If a room looks orderly upon first glance, you’d be shocked how smoothly the rest of your inspections will go.

From Budtender to Business Owner

It’s Saturday morning and I’m milling my way around the kitchen of one of my best friends, Daron Coon, the owner and creator of C4 Canna Burst. His house is a solid reflection of his personality. Functional, unassuming, meticulously cared for, and exactly what is needed for his purpose; no more, no less. Frankly, the messiest thing in his house is probably me, the shirtless Guido wandering around his kitchen hoping to steal one of his few remaining Gatorades.

Daron and I have a plan to record a podcast in a few hours. He’s already up and at work prepping Mondays orders. His plan is to come home at lunch, chat with me, then head back to the commercial kitchen he works in to finish out the day’s tasks. Sounds like a lot, and it is. These are reasonable growing pains when you create a product that’s surging in popularity. The work doesn’t bother Daron. Frankly, it doesn’t seem to even phase him. But, after being friends with him and working with him for this long, it shouldn’t surprise me.

We met about six years ago when the two of us were both sales reps for an edibles company. Daron has always been a worker, the type of guys who’s genuinely bothered by leaves on his street or a half finished paint job on a neighbor’s house. He’ll be the first to knock on your door and offer to help you finish the project, whether it be out of kindness or OCD, the fact that it’s a nice gesture is the real point of the story.

A little over two years ago it became clear to Daron and myself that our time working for the company that introduced us to one another was coming to an end. This is also when I started receiving nightly midnight phone calls from him excitedly telling me about some breakthrough he had made while teaching himself to make candy in his tiny kitchen. It was during these mad scientists days that Daron began laying the groundwork for what would later become the C4 Canna Burst line. It was also the only time in my life I’ve felt genuine kinship with the character Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes. Seeing genuine passion and obsession pour out of someone close to you is a very interesting thing to be in the orbit of. You’ll realize real quick that most of us don’t work as hard as we think we do.

Countless kitchen test batches, branding mock ups, and a few pretty gnarly sugar burns later Daron had built his very own cannabis edible company. At its inception C4 was a well priced and unknown fruit chew line. The cannabis industry is pretty jaded; no one really gets excited about anything anymore. Another dude with another edible, who cares? I’ve been both a rep and a buyer for a cannabis dispensary. If anyone should have empathy for cannabis sales reps, it’s me. Still, I’ve dismissed quite a few of them for stuff that had nothing to do with their product or them as people. It’s just hard to keep giving a shit at this age in the industry.

Again, the work didn’t bother Daron. Having a few existing relationships within the industry, Daron was able to start getting himself some shelf space in shops around the state. Weather it was his good natured demeanor, his persistence, or the solid quality of his product, the number of stores carrying C4 began to build. More stores carrying the product meant more customers were seeing the product. After over a year of work, the table was set for his research and planning to be put to the test.

Daron had done his homework and it was about to begin paying off in a real way. He’d really thought of everything. The name C4 stands for Carefully Crafted Cannabis Creations. Five different flavors meant more options for customers. Offering Sativa, Indica, Hybrid and CBD options boosted his skew count to 20. The compact and sleek boxes, which on their own seem like a fun combination of form and function,in actuality worked together to create a billboard effect in stores. This peaked interest, but didn’t overwhelm. All of this came from his close attention to the lessons he learned while working for other people and using online services to outsource the tasks that he himself was not qualified for.

As of the composition of this article, C4 is ranked as the 8th highest selling edible line in the Washington market. Daron, never one to rest on his laurels (or on anything, for that matter) has even more products coming on the market. His two pack of edibles which he calls “dub” packs came out most recently and frankly they sum up one of the things I love most about him as a person. This guy remembers a time in his life when he has $5 to spend and he made a product that people feel like they chose to get with that budget and not a product they feel like they are settling for. There are options for that price point on the shelves in most stores, but they really feel like an afterthought. Daron made a product that looks and feels intentional, because it is.

Cannabis is a crazy business. It’s a new frontier populated by people attracted to a new and exciting market as well as people who are doing the same thing they have always done, just legally now. Watching these two groups coexist is never boring, and it will be interesting to watch the pure outlaw types slowly fade out of the spotlight of the industry. But before the cannabis millennials begin snap clapping for one another and nerfing  every rough edge of the market, we’re about to see a resurgence of the everyman/woman who wants to work hard and make a good life for themselves and their families. The type of people who remember what it's like to be a person on a budget, know the value of standing by their word, and don’t forget that, without the customers’ support, they would not be in business. Daron is one of those people, his products are stellar and so is his character. Next time you have a chance to vote with your dollar in the Washington cannabis market, give C4 a try. You won't be disappointed by the product or the people who make it.

Get Into the Cannabis Industry on Any Budget

So, you want to get into the cannabis industry. Congrats! We need more capable people in these parts. What we don’t need are a bunch of burn out stoners who think being in the industry means seeing how many dabs you can do all day. Get it together; the industry is really only about 50% dabs. Sadly, like most things in life, your access is limited by your budget. However, you crazy kids are smart enough to listen to the My West Coast Buds podcast, so your favorite stoner uncle Joe is going to give you the skinny on how you can get into the weirdo day care we call legal cannabis on any budget!

Zero dollars $0

Hey buddy, no stress, we’ve all been there: big dreams and a small budget. I get it. I’m dividing this one up into two types of people.

I just want to be in the industry.

Show up at a dispensary with a resume wearing clean pressed clothing and politely ask if a manager is around. If they are busy (they probably will be) leave your resume with whoever is working. Make sure to introduce yourself to all of them. Be nice, if they have downtime, make a little small talk and seem like someone that they would want to work with. 

When I owned my shop I had at least 10 people a week walk in and ask for a job. Few of them brought a printed resume, and the ones that did got lost in an ever growing pile on my desk. Sadly, most people are average and they leave. Dispensaries don't have time to invest in an average person who is just going to leave in 6 months. The people who got jobs at my store had their resumes handed to me by a budtender who had something nice to say about them. That was the biggest thing.  If the people up front liked an applicant and they had an even halfway decent interview with me, I’d give them a few shifts to see if they were worth keeping. 

If you just want to be part of the industry, don’t close yourself off to positions with companies who service dispensaries but don’t actually sell cannabis. Working for one of these companies can often have all the same perks of being in the industry and way less stress. Leafly, Weedmaps, Dope magazine, specific cannabis brands you like, they are all on the lookout for clever, hard working, passionate people. Show up once with a resume, show up again a week later, show up again two weeks later, the follow through alone will help them realize you're not a dabbed out idiot, like so many of the people asking for a job.

I want to make money in cannabis:

DO NOT WORK AT A DISPENSARY. Unless your specific goal is to one day own your own dispensary, and you want to make weed money, I would avoid this route. I'll do another post later about the trials and tribulations of running a shop, but for now just take me at my word. You need to follow the steps above but apply to work as a rep for an up-and-coming brand with good marketing or as an apprentice to a grower. Even if you don’t have a ton of experience, get in with them however you can, do everything they will let you do. Don’t miss a day of work for a full year and always say yes to what they offer you. Can you sell? “I'll try.” Can you grow? “Show me how.” If you are a real hustler and you want to be in the industry, turn over is your friend. People above you WILL MESS UP. If you are there and you can do the job passably for a time, you’ll be shocked by how quickly that job becomes yours. 

I have some cash and I don’t want to work for anyone. The $5000 - $10,000

Where did you get this seed money? I have no idea and this is by no means an accusation, but I suspect that there is a chance you may currently be “in” the cannabis industry. Has life changed for you and you need to be able to state your income because you want a home loan? Do you have higher aspirations than your younger entrepreneurial self? Maybe you have nothing to do with anything nefarious and you want to take a crack at the industry with a small budget just to see what happens?

You, my friend, need to find an ancillary business that relates to cannabis and work your way into the market this way. Maybe you deliver dispensary supplies to cannabis stores in your area. We used a service like this at my store all the time. No matter how prepared you are, some things are always going to fall through the cracks. Many online retailers of dispensary supplies have awful customer service and always take a few days for delivery; the slight premium you pay to have child proof bags delivered on 3 hours notice is a price happily paid by a shop owner who is worried about staying compliant with the state.

A brief scan of the dispensary rules and regulations in your area can seed countless business ideas. The tech industry refers to these as pain points. What causes the biggest issue in the day to day operations of a store and how does this product eliminate said problem? With the tech industry these pain points are based on the market and are normally harder to identify. You need an intimate knowledge of customer interactions to parse out where the issues in transactions arise. In cannabis these pain points are often the result of inept rule makers who don’t understand the industry. Because of this key difference, these pain points are easier to spot and are pretty consistent throughout the industry--as in, not specific to a single customer.  This makes a hyper focused business model more viable in the space, and being more focused allows your investment dollar to go further. 

I have $20,000 - $50,000

You’re very similar to the previous tier in that you need to be in an ancillary business. The key difference is that you have the budget to target a section of the market that has more growth potential.  With this budget you’ll have the funds to add some support staff as well as a small marketing team. This tier also opens you up to the ability to work with established industries that are currently working in the cannabis space.

In the first year that Oregon legalized dispensaries the people who made the most money did so by installing the state required security systems. Many of these people were independent security contractors who had contracts with larger security companies. If you had an insurance bond, a contract with an established security company and a truck, you were in business. Contact a dispensary, do a bid for a security system, hand it off to another company and keep the difference in price. In a lot of cases the person doing the bid never actually installed or ordered anything and made just as much as the third party company he gave the lead to. You now have the budget to create a business around the fact that companies don’t want to say that they are working with dispensaries. Once you hammer out the details of the niche you want to service, you can repeat the process in other states as they become legal. 

I have my life savings and some money from my grandma $50k to $150k:

This is not enough money to start your own company in a recreational state. I'll talk about medical later, but if you really want to talk about it now, email and we’ll chop it up. And though there are stories of people who have made this amount of money into a successful company, I just can't in good faith tell you to do this when I'm about to provide a perfectly plausible alternative that will probably lead to your success. 

What you want to do is launch a cannabis brand or product. Come up with a concept, a cartridge line, a neat pre-roll idea, a fun edible, whatever it is, and link up with a company that’s already making products. Show them the marketing and tell them you will give them 25% of your revenue to work under their license. Yes, in the long run this will be a big chunk you give them, but it gets you in the industry for far less than acquiring your own license. The other benefit is that you can start pretty much right away. No 6 month (or longer) wait for you to get to market. If the product is good, they may even offer to have their existing sales force help you sell it.   

Working with a bigger, more established company gives you the opportunity to buy source material at close to their cost. If you're sharing space with a kitchen that’s buying 10,000 grams of oil a month they are getting a way better price per gram for their oil than you and your tiny startup. Let them make a little money selling the oil to you. You'll still end up paying less than you would if you went to a company directly, and the people you are working with appreciate a little extra cash flow. WIN. WIN. 

I have $500k

Go to a state that recently became rec and make oil. Do 50/50 splits with as many companies as you can. Offer to package their oil for them for a fee. You are welcome. Seriously, if you do anything other than this you're asking for issues. You have less tax liability, you have basically free product to sell yourself, and your clients will love you if you provide even basic customer service.

I have $1,000,000+

Call me and tell me where you want to go. If you have a million to throw at this project you probably have more than that elsewhere in assets. Don’t end up in a position where making 3 million a year on your side cannabis project causes a 10 million dollar tax issue. Also, if you have that kind of money, you probably don’t want to deal with an audit.