Cannabis Podcast The Hemp Revolution

Effective Marketing Strategies to Market Your Cannabis Brand with Brian and Erica Freeman

Episode 105 - Brian and Erica Freeman

A husband and wife team, Brian and Erica Freeman are the co-owners and co-founders of Choice Organics, a medical and recreational cannabis dispensary out of Fort Collins, Colorado.

They have been active in the cannabis community since they started Choice Organics in 2010 and have sat on the board of Marijuana Industry Group (MIG) since 2011.

In today’s episode, Erica and Brian share how they navigated through the challenges of building a company while taking care of their little ones. They’ll also talk about some of the misconceptions and truths about the industry.


Most businesses that fail, fail in the first six months to a year because people don’t realize how much hard work it is, or what it really takes to run a business.Brian Freeman


Download The Episode Companion For This Episode

 

Some Topics We Discussed Include

4:08 – Erica and Brian share their backgrounds and their entry to the cannabis space
8:12 – The industry’s reputation versus the truth behind
17:19 – The Husband and wife team
24:25 – What sets them apart from the competition
30:47 – Their biggest challenges and how they navigated through
42:20 – Words of wisdom
52:33 – Where to find them

People Mentioned / Resources

Connect with Erica and Brian Freeman

Connect with Sonia Gomez

Transcript

Sonia Gomez: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of The Hemp Revolution podcast. I’m your hostess with the mostess, Miss Sonia Gomez and I am so excited to be here with you guys on this fine, almost winter’s day. 

As you know, it is our mission to empower you with the truth about cannabis, and hemp so that you can make educated decisions about how you want to care for yourself, the people that you love, and the conditions you may be suffering from, but also understanding that just like you there are unique and diverse opportunities for you to join the mission and the movement to help create opportunities for folks just like yourself to get safe and legal access to the highest quality transformational products that are available on the marketplace. 

If you are one of those people looking for products and brands that you can trust to deliver the results you’re looking for, check us out on medicalsecrets.com for our favorite list of products that we recommend and trust. 

If you are an existing business or a budding entrepreneur in this industry, check us out at theemeraldcircle.com for some resources, relationships, tips, tips, tricks, or perhaps just some direction on how you can join the movement and the mission to see this legalized making accessible and also be a part of the fastest-growing cash-rich industry in the world right now. Now, it’s not always glamorous. It’s not always pretty, but every transformation that you are able to facilitate is worth every moment. 

In today’s episode, we are going to be telling another incredible story. A husband and wife team, Erica and Brian Freeman, who are the co-owners and co-founders of Choice Organics, a medical and recreational cannabis dispensary out of Fort Collins, Colorado. They have been active in the cannabis community since 2010 when they started Choice Organics and have sat on the board of MIG or Marijuana Industry Group since 2011. 

And if you don’t know what those groups or communities are, or the heatwave that they came into in 2010, it was right around the same time that I entered into the industry in the Marijuana Industry Group was founded by industry professionals to support the progress and mitigate the risks associated with being involved with this incredible, yet very tumultuous and challenging industry. Here to share their story and how they’ve been able to create transformation in the community and in the state for the on behalf of the industry, Miss Erica and Mr. Brian Freeman. Hey guys, how’s it going? 

Brian Freeman: Great.

Erica Freeman: Thank you for having us on.

Sonia Gomez: I’m so excited. First of all, this is not the first but probably one of the top three most exciting interviews for me, because I started this whole like craziness back in 2009. End of nine, beginning of 10 in the cannabis space, working with the Department of Revenue, coming over from California. So, my heart to yours, thank you for all of the extremely hard work that I know put into this progress and an incredible company that you’re running up there, and I’m so excited to tell you guys a story. So why don’t you just take a minute, introduce your guyses selves and tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re from what you’re up to how you ended up in this crazy Cyclone in the first place.

Erica and Brian’s Background and How They Ended up in the Cannabis Space

Erica Freeman: Thanks. We really appreciate being here. This is also a great, exciting interview for us. I know that it has been a lot of hard work and you’ve been a big part of that as well. So thank you also. It’s been quite the road that we’ve been on. Like you. We started in 2009, established our business in 2010, and began opened our doors in 2011. We got working with MIG or the Marijuana Industry Group early on in that game, working very, very closely with the state and trying to implement rules and working through the regulation period and making sure that everything was logistically feasible and was going to work and that the state could actually implement something that they really wanted to.

Sonia Gomez: We’re still working on that one.

Erica Freeman: Yes. We’re still working on that one. It’s an ongoing process. Thankfully for us, though they’re pretty amenable. May like to work with the industry all along. 

Sonia Gomez: Yes. 

Erica Freeman: So that’s a very, very helpful thing for our industry. But we started, we by my husband and I were in the construction industry in 2008. When we had the recession hit and the housing bubble burst, and at that point, we decided that we were going to try to jump into the cannabis industry, something that we had been thinking about. It was a bit daunting and didn’t know if it was going to be something that we could actually do, but we decided to go for it. 

At the time, I also was not at the time for my entire life, I’ve suffered from psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disorder and discovered about that time that cannabis oil, actually the hemp oil could help and was helping my psoriasis. So that was one of the other reasons that we wanted to get into it. Not just so that we could open a new business, we’ve always been entrepreneurs, especially my husband has been an entrepreneur since his parents became entrepreneurs. So that’s always been kind of in his blood. But those are the two big reasons why we decided to jump into cannabis was to help spread the word and to be you know, at the forefront of this budding industry.

Sonia Gomez: You have to be a certain chemical makeup to be a pioneer. They say that the pioneers are the ones with the most arrows in their backs. I know in my case, I’m still trying to reach a couple to get them. It has not been an easy road and at the same time every single day, there’s a couple of things that wake me up and get me out of bed on behalf of this industry. 

One is, I’m just certifiably fucking crazy. I mean, you gotta have a certain edge of crazy, high-risk tolerance, and really the capability of recognizing the reward that comes with high-risk industries. As I certainly have, I’m cut from that cloth for sure. I love the fact that you guys have personal experience that drew you into the industry, but that you also had the foresight to recognize a pretty massive opportunity. 

I think, as a whole– And I want to talk about your guys’ business here in just a minute and you know what sort of sets you guys apart. But as a whole, I think there’s a really common misconception that even though we’re a cash-rich industry, they think every business owner in the cannabis space is just rolling in the dough. 

And what I keep trying to explain is that although we’re a cash-rich industry, there’s a lot of cash-poor business owners in this space who are waiting for the payoff and slowly building themselves up to be a brand, but mainly are working on behalf of this industry. Would you guys agree or do you have an opposing opinion of that landscape right now and what the truth is behind the industry versus our reputation?

The Truth Is Behind the Industry Versus Our Reputation

Erica Freeman: I believe that’s definitely a reputation that exists. When we go places and tell people what industry we’re in, we definitely get that reaction right off the bat. Oh, that must be hugely lucrative. It must be fabulous and wonderful, and it might be for some people, but I do know that in general, most of the entrepreneurs that we know in this industry, it’s very heavily taxed industry. Yeah. 

In one sense is good because we want to be able to build up the resources that this industry is going to need in terms of education and in terms of programs and in terms of getting the word out there that this is an okay industry to be in, and also to help with a law enforcement figure out ways to deal with, you know, driving while under the influence and those types of things. 

Tests are actually good tests that actually give them the information that they need not say that this person smokes, too. So that’s not really good information. For those purposes, I like the taxes. We agree, I mean, that’s part of what you want to do is for this to make it exactly what it is, which is a legitimate business, and often, in most cases, a legitimate medical resource for many, many people. 

Brian Freeman: The other thing that I think is difficult [00:09:47 to 00:09: 54 inaudible] regulations have been changing so much, especially for edible companies and things to that nature. May give up big productive clients. Get [00:10:04 inaudible] $20,000m, $30,000 $100,000 on equipment. You’re gonna find out six months later that October 1, now your sticker machines and now the conveyor belts and stuff aren’t gonna work properly because now they change the packaging or change the labeling. And now you’ve got to go buy a whole nother machine to do that specific stuff. And there’s a lot of costs involved in that. So just going after most business, everyone knows how to make money in the first few years there must be [00:10:28 – 00:10:30 inaudible]. 

So the time you start to make some money approximately two or three years into your business, they start changing the regulations and rules and so the little bit of profits, you might see, all of a sudden now, we have to buy new equipment and everything because regulations change not just [00:10:46 inaudible] so there’s things in that and being pioneers that are good or bad in those instances where there’s no stability yet for the long term thanks to that nature. Because the rules are changing regulations are changing. 

And then also in Colorado, where they’ve done it to where each municipality can even tack on more taxes or tack on more regulation than what your state has done, which in some cases, that’s happened in certain places, and some haven’t done anymore. That doesn’t help either across the board. 

So there’s another thing that people don’t think about, on everyday life, as a business owner in a brand new industry, whether it’s this or something else when all these types of things are happening to so it’s very challenging. Because we can’t set a budget real easy for what’s going to happen on a two-year plan. 

We get a little easier because things are starting to get a little more situated, especially 5,6,7 years ago, when all these regulations were coming out like, you know, every six months, every few months, and we were talking to legislators, trying to get them to slow down and change things so much. Let’s just see [00:11:54 inaudible] Hold on. We’re gonna change it. We all have our agenda, so we got to get it passed [00:12:01 unintelligible] 

So that’s where we’re kind of at today to which I think we’re finally starting to see it know out a little bit, but it’s still hard to deal with hard to know what’s coming a year out, or six months out regulation wise, because come this next term session, we know there’s gonna be a bunch of new rules that dropped July 1, October 1 in January, we don’t know what they’re going to be. That’s not easy to do.

Sonia Gomez: I like the scare tactics that the industry uses where they’re like something’s coming, but we in telling you what it is. I feel like that cat that’s frozen in time. It’s like [cat sound]. With the hair all standing up on the bag. It’s like the quintessential view of like, a Halloween Black Cat, right? They’re all like, scared of what’s coming. Like that’s how I felt every single day when I was working actively in the industry, but never failed. 

On the days that were the hardest. I would have some little lady or some desperate doctor who was like nothing’s working, we need to help this person, you know, sneaking in the back door and try not to be seen by the public, you know, somebody lawyer who was just like, can’t handle this guy anymore, you know, just like all different walks of life walking through the door, but the ones that would really get me were the parents coming in holding each other talking about their epileptic child or leukemia, battling leukemia at Children’s Hospital and just wanting to find anything that would bring that sense of euphoria and relief. 

I had, one of the probably my most memorable moments was this veteran who was an amputee came into my dispensary, and at the time, we were the only ones in the state to have this strange Harlequin, Harlequin which is really, for those of you guys who are listening and don’t know what it is, it’s a really high CBD strain and low levels of THC. And we were smoking it because we always get high on our own supply trying to test it all out. But when we smoked it, we were like, man, this is some bullshit, it doesn’t work, we’re not stoned. You know, like it, we’re gonna kill this plant tomorrow. 

And then we had a bunch of pounds of it, right? So we’re like selling it through the store. And it was the one that was on special and this guy comes in and he had lost a hand and a leg due to diabetes and all sorts of complications with the VA. And he just looked at me with such excitement, which I had never seen in his face before. And he was like, You got any more of this Harlequin stuff? And I was like, Yeah, we got some more how well how much of it can I get? And I was like, wow, you know current regulation, blah, blah, blah.

He was like, Can I come back and buy that much every day? And I’m like, why this stuff works for you like it doesn’t I mean, I don’t get high at all from it. Are you a new user? And he’s like, no, but this is the first and only strain I’ve ever used, that I don’t experience Phantom pains. And it was that moment that I didn’t know what I didn’t know, right. As a business owner. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And that story continuously gets me out of bed in the morning, even though when I first started in the CBD conversation, I thought it was diet weed. I was like, Oh, this is diet weed. Didn’t really human-like why are you guys kidding me with this CBD nonsense we need weed up in here, but that’s really what kicked off the conversation and every day I’m amazed to see what science is discovering about this incredible plants and even more amazing

Brian Freeman: See it works it. You know, it’s tremendous when you actually see it work and you see someone that never expected it to work, and it actually works for them and gives them relief to obviously there’s different levels of what that really does reach individual [00:16:14 inaudible] you see the smiles on their face. 

The same thing, we had people come in when it was first me and Erica, who was the only one working down in our medical side, back nine years ago. And we had no employees there. And right. Things are a little different today but we knew the patient’s name [00:16:34 inaudible] you know, like their family when we first started and to see someone develop and to see them finally smile and you see them come in without that wheelchair that they’ve been coming in for the six months and then out now they’re on a walker, and they’re instead of 12 pills a day. They’re down to four or five. 

I mean, it didn’t happen overnight. But to see this happen over the course of six months, eight months or a year we’re certain people and to see them smile it’s pretty amazing like you’re saying. it’s worth it when you’re first starting out, and there’s no money there. There’s nothing there. You got two kids that you’re trying to run around and [00:17:11-00:17:12 inaudible] your wife or your spouse, trying to make this with nothing else. So it’s been a pretty amazing run for us.

Sonia Gomez: Well, let’s talk about the husband and wife team here for a second because I work in the husband and wife team. 

The Husband and Wife Team

Brian Freeman: It’s not that easy.

Sonia Gomez: There’s several graves dug in the back.

Brian Freeman: People don’t think about a lot of people think oh, well, that’s neat. You get to be with your spouse. Well, yeah, but let’s be honest here, sometimes an eight-hour break. Three days a week from your spouse is not the worst thing in the world. And if you don’t know what I mean, try hanging out with them. 24/7. So for nine years, basically, I mean, we go to, we only live five minutes from the shop so we’re not even in the Carberry.

Sonia Gomez: Oh man, it’s so true. It’s so true. My mom and my grandmother joke, not even they’re on their second marriages and so they’re like you know there’s this whole theory of married with separate houses and I was like come on what’s the point? Now I’m like my husband’s like honey What are you doing I was like nothing just checking on you know Craigslist for an extra rental like I need she shed. Someplace I can put the Do Not Disturb sign on and I don’t want to see nobody’s children. I don’t want to see nobody’s husband. Don’t call me for dinner. I am hungry. Like, leave me alone. It’s so true. It’s a real struggle. How do you guys juggle it all?

Erica Freeman: And it has been difficult especially early on in the game when we didn’t have any employees and we did have two young children, our kids. We’ve got 17 and a 14-year-old now. So when we first started, they were a little three, three. Yeah, I mean, four and eight, I guess nine. So we would have to juggle it. I mean, one of us would be at the shop because we were open seven days a week. 

So one of us was at the shop, the other one was at home with the kids were shuffling them around and doing whatever needed to happen, where it was a constant flip flop. Since then, it’s gotten easier with the addition of employees, it’s become a little bit easier, but we work well together. We really do we balance it out very well between the two of us. One of us needs, probably a little bit more detail-oriented. And he’s definitely the bigger picture guy. So when you put that together, it works out pretty well. we find the balance we’ve been able to find the balance and these days we have fabulous employees that really help

[00:19:55 crosstalk]

Brian Freeman: [00:19:57-00:19:59 unintelligible] I learned because my dad owned restaurants when I was growing up, so I worked under my dad. So I kind of had what would been a family thing already with my siblings and my mom and dad. But the key thing is to leave work at work, leave home at home, and hard as it is do not cross those two. Because as soon as you start crossing them, there’s no lines and no distinctions on where things really are. So that’s been a big thing. We try to push that. 

I mean, we obviously weren’t humans, we make mistakes, and we’re not perfect. So we do slide around a little bit on those things. But when it seems like it’s getting a little out of judgment, we have to remind each other Hey, Work is work. Let’s leave it there. We go to the office at home now. That’s finished dinner and we’re worried about that other stuff tomorrow when we get to the office at 8, 6, 7 whatever it may be. So that’s been a big part of it for us. 

Sonia Gomez: [00:20:52 unintelligible] still trying to figure out this– We’re still trying to figure out like the cutoff at dinner we’re like, cuz you know right now it’s just everything feels like it’s going so fast and we’re in lightspeed. I mean, I take responsibility for being totally inaccurate like, Good thing I didn’t bet anybody’s anything on what my projections of the industry were going to be because I came out of California. 

I was like, there is no way we’re going to– okay fine, medical great, for-profit, you fix the problem California has had for years, fine. There’s no way we’re going recreational before 10 years. No way. Three years. The quantum leaps that we are making in this industry in such short periods of time, never cease to amaze me and sometimes I feel like even though I would be recognized or considered to be at the top of my game, I see I’m out of breath. I’m running so hard and so fast. I have four kids. I’m griping now. I got 17 for 13 almost 14, 11, and get this two and a half.

Erica Freeman: Oh wow

Sonia Gomez: Happy Birthday. I’ll tell you. 

Brian Freeman: [unintelligible] easier when you get a 17-year-old making to drive the others around. That did help about a year ago for us when he started driving

Sonia Gomez: Yes, too bad he just blew his transmission. The thing exploded on his way to see a girl that he likes to [00:22:39 crosstalk] bad day at the office. So, I think you know we’re up in the morning, we’re dressing the kids and slapping them on the ass on the way out the door. Lunches here we go, have fun to like out the door. And then I’m like running upstairs. I’m still in my bunny slippers right now as we talk. I’m in my home office bunny slippers. A doll business up here, but like half of me is still in bed. 

Here just wondering like, Oh my gosh, I can’t believe how fast things are moving and at the dinner table, my husband and I are like– we’re eating, we’re throwing dinner on the table, throwing it down the kids next. And then we’re like retracing our steps from the day and making sure that everything gets done. And by the time we’re laying down, we’re like running through our checklist. And there is no way like, we still haven’t figured out the balance yet. So I commend you guys for working

Brian Freeman: [00:23:37 crosstalk] we’re not perfect guys. We’re still figuring it out, too. So I mean, just want to think you figured it out, that’s when you don’t sometimes.

Sonia Gomez: Yes, totally. But I love the humor. I love the humor in it and the ones that have survived like, like you guys, the ones who have stuck with it and stayed in the canna revolution right now is so incredibly admirable it shows the steadfast that it takes, the real commitment that it takes to be a part of this revolutionary process and the real sacrifice too from the family’s perspective, it is an incredible sacrifice to be a part of the changing times. 

It is an incredible sacrifice to be a part of the changing times. - Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet

Brian Freeman: Yes. 

Sonia Gomez: Tell me a little bit about your guys’ business. What do you think it is that setting you guys apart right now and keeping you relevant and alive when so many other businesses in the last three years, let alone decade and failed?

What Sets Them Apart From Other Business and What Keeps Them Relevant

Brian Freeman: We try to do it a little bit different perspective. Maybe we try to run a business like a mom and pop shop, even though maybe we are bigger than what the typical mom and pop shop would be. But that’s been our model since day one. give back to the community. If the community wasn’t walking through my doors, I wouldn’t be here and have a business. So I’ve been Deal with us is to give back to the community.

Sonia Gomez: What are some ways that you do that?

Brian Freeman: We’ll give back by doing some public speaking with our commissioners in different things. We get back by quite a bit of donation to the Larimer County Animal ShelterLarimer County Food Bank, a couple of organizations and my wife can speak more to those that are to help women or men with kids that have been through abuse the name of that and specifically

Erica Freeman: We get money to SAVA which is the sexual advocate for sexual victims. We also do Project Self Sufficiency which is by he said a resource that helps with single parents that just be resources out and go out and get jobs and find how [00:25:49 crosstalk]

Brian Freeman: overnight enough dollars start community since being business. different donations and we help sponsor concerts like the Better Business Bureau in Fort Collins. At the pavilion in Old Town, they do a summer series of concerts so we are twice organics our name across the stage. We get money for them to put [00:26:15 crosstalk]

Erica Freeman: in the last two years in a row, we’ve also helped Colorado in the local newspaper up here in Fort Collins by underwriting a program called giving Sacrificing Our Schools, which is a project that they are working on to try to get more money into the Poudre School District and try to create awareness about education and the need for funding. So that’s been very good for us. It’s been a very great project to help work with.

Sonia Gomez: Yes, amazing. 

Brian Freeman: We’ll do some volunteering over the years [00:26:49-00:26:59 inaudible]

like I was taught To get back to the community, Poudre like employees like their families, you know, like you do your own family. Listen, talk to them. Don’t ask them to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. I mean, we’ve done it been there. We’re not maybe on the front of the line as much as we used to be within the first three or four years of our life doing it. So they know that they respect that thing. 

We have a business that is not in debt has never been in debt twice. Again, it’s never borrowed a dime to do this with. So we’ve never been in those kinds of arenas, but we’ve been doing this ourselves. It’s been me and my wife from day one with her mom helping us a lot, especially with the kids and things when we first started. 

We have great gratitude to her mom for the help she did. Especially the first few years with everything. So that’s why we continue success. I think and that’s the way I think, you know, that’s what helps when you’re when the community knows you’re spending their money back on them and Regards and helping out and not just put it all in your pocket and running off to Mexico for six months vacation every year.

I think they see that. and they see the to work hard too and you’re doing they’re trying to do what would be considered the right thing because I think it’s been mentioned once or twice so far as especially back in the day when it was we all know is the Wild Wild West. But the industry, there was not much respect for us really, from business owners and others what would be a quote a normal business. 

So my strive since day one has always been to get the cannabis industry recognized as just another business out there. Does not the sore finger that it had like a strip bar or the back alley drug dealers coming in to try to make a front of that at first and everything that was talked about so that was always been my push to do it the right way. 

Make sure you get your permits, make sure you go steps a B, C, and D which in some regards I had a little bit of insight on because I was a builder so I knew how to go through the local communities to pull permits and to do some of that stuff. I have some knowledge for the people who needed to talk to you to get things started, which helped me in our situation. So I stopped, the biggest thing is just giving back to the community that’s given to you and putting you in business. So that’s one of my biggest things.

Sonia Gomez: I absolutely love it. It’s so important. There’s a lot of conversation around the social and economical contributions that businesses are making. And I say this a lot that, you know, gone are the days where people are purchasing products. Sure, it’s the lifeblood, but more than ever, we have conscious and educated consumers who want to know that the business they’re buying from is doing more and has more to offer than just the product or the brand that you’re there to purchase. 

So it’s the why behind the buy and knowing that every purchase you make is a piece of what the company is able to do for the community, the ripple effect, right. So I think it’s just so important to build that in and have that be a huge front-facing piece. Like it’s highlighted about your company. I think that that’s fantastic. Inevitably so, there are still many challenges that prevent the growth at the speed that we’d like or the things that feel most natural to us as business owners are relatively off-limits and industries that we’ve selected. So, we have to exercise our creativity quite a bit, in order to navigate our way through. Talk to me about some of those challenges that have been bottlenecks for you and then we’ll talk about how you’ve navigated your way through.

Their Biggest Challenges and How They Navigated Through

Brian Freeman: One of one of the biggest and obvious ones in our industry is obviously the way that we can market because we cannot market on radios we can’t market on TVs we can’t market in certain magazines, we can’t market unless we can get proof that audiences 70% 21 or older and you got to get a proof of that with a letter. And I mean, there’s numerous things and not everyone wants to do that. 

And there’s another company person has statistics out there that they can prove things with. So that’s been a big challenge. How do you get your name out there your brand out there if you can’t do what you’d call normal, everyday marketing, like GMC or Honda does or Wrigley’s chewing gum or whatever products you think of makeup, for that matter, anything out there. 

So we’ve done some things that were different, especially at first we stepped out and did some things we started doing sponsorships years ago at Harley Davidson for one thing, and by getting our name on the stage at the Amphitheaters in the area and stuff. And that seemed to have worked for us and we took the risk and we’ve got letters everywhere but we’ve sponsored things like wine festivals, and we do a lot of sponsorships which also give back to your community. 

[00:32:06 crosstalk] because you’re doing things that they enjoy to go to like apathy or at the I heart, radio stations, and Harley Davidson shop down the street. They have a music festival there Rocky Mountain Thunder and Rockies every year, we sponsor that that’s 60,000 people on Labor Day weekend. And then we do concerts out there at the theater. We do shows at the abbey and Fort Collins which we sponsor and we just try to step out of the box a little bit compared to most people. 

We also are the only ones I believe as today I know, as they’ll be a year ago, so we weren’t sure but I don’t haven’t said for the last six months, 12 months or so. But we’re the only dispensary that publishes our own magazine. We do our quarterly magazine, which we’ll get to put in Colorado, which is our local newspaper, and that goes up 35,000 strong to every Colorado subscriber. 

I don’t think there’s anyone else that does anything like that either. So just trying to do things that are out of the box enough to get people’s attention has been a big part of our– but in giving back to the community, as I said, is another big part of that because people see that over time. 

And the other key tip, too, is having good employees, which we have great employees that know how to do customer service. Truly what Customer service is supposed to be like. I’m not just saying we do it and not really doing it. But I believe we really have a good customer service, which probably comes from my background of my parents– owning my dad, only little restaurants in small towns as I was growing up. And that’s why we were taught and brought up a lot of customer service packages. So she probably has a few ideas too.

Erica Freeman: No, I agree with you. I mean, that’s exactly I think that that has been the biggest challenge is that marketing and overcoming the stigma that that goes with cannabis. But our local newspaper has been very very amenable to that and has wanted to work with us and get that word out there. So.

Sonia Gomez: Amazing. I absolutely never fails. I’m so surprised at the marketing and advertising restriction, the banking restrictions. The other thing that was so significant and I hear it still to this day is the stable supply chain. And really, you know, even if you’re fully vertical, which we were when we were operating. 

How do you fit the demand when you’re so limited in supply, you know, and then the cost of cultivation and manufacturing and processing and blah blah blah, I mean all of the different steps and all of the different levels of investment, I was really really relieved to see when they finally allowed the industry to mature past the forcing folks to be fully vertical and then more wholesale licenses and things like that starting to pop up. Are you guys fully vertical or are you sourcing from other companies?

Medical vs Recreational

Brian Freeman: [unintelligible] We also a lot we don’t have huge growth. I’m part of it is due to some of the local restrictions and stuff as far as regulations go. Which makes it difficult for something for us a little bit on the way that things are a little more counter. Yeah.

I won’t go into that because it gets pretty technical. Yeah. Section 1.22. You know, everyone would understand it. Anyway, but that’s a challenge. I think another big challenge that people don’t might realize I wish their instincts slowly getting there. But I wish it took a few more steps to get our roles lined up it. 

A lot of people don’t realize that how much different it is between medical and recreational really, getting managers and employees, what they have to know different for each side can be hard to train and with us having both and I saw being a one building I start to move employees inside assignments. 

Regular rules and stuff are different on one side of the other even and I don’t want them slipping up and doing something on the medical side that would be legal on a rack but not on medical or vice versa. Yeah. We have a lot of rules that you got to come to stay in their specific areas. Understand every rule regulation in those two different A and B pieces are what we call the business model here. 

So those things become a little tricky at times too. It can be negative in my opinion, because of that now they’re obviously as good because the taxes are not as high for the medical as they are recreational, which is good. things could be better on the medical side. Don’t be paying higher taxes just to get the medicine. But some numerous things. And that was the reason we’ve always been lucky enough. 

We’ve pretty much always had a bank since you mentioned that offers, we’re not one of the ones that there’s one time that we didn’t have a bank for like three weeks since we’ve been open. And we’ve only got two different ones. Then the one we’re with now, we’ve had for five years. So we have for the next five years or so. So we’ve never had a big issue with the banks like some people have. 

And some of the nightmares that we’ve heard stories that we’ve heard them refer to from people, they’ll get a bank and it gets shut down that afternoon. They sign everything in that morning then the next day [unintelligible]. It just happens like that. I mean through for those stories, we’re just lucky enough not to deal with that.

Sonia Gomez: you know a couple of the things that were crazy that I remembered and they were almost the straws that broke the camel’s back for me. Beyond my real passion being with the education and like helping the consumers understand what the heck they were even using any of this stuff for. My bank was down in Pueblo. 

So twice a week, I had to drive all the way down to Pueblo and then make it back to the store in time for closing. And that was just it was so, so crazy. And Pueblo shut us down and kept a bunch of our money for months. And it was just really, really challenging. 

And then the other thing that I think was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back for me was we had run this campaign called cans for cones. And we got people to bring in five cans of food for one pre-roll join. and the value of that food was the purchase for the cones I mean, we were listed on every major nighttime, late-night television show Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno. I mean, everybody was making fun of us. 

They were like, usually, the stoners want food, but now they’re given food away so they get the weed, and they’re gonna come back to the store being like, Hey, can I get some of that food back? There was all these jokes flying around. The publicity was amazing. This was our creative way to get into the public eye. I think we raised a little over 10,000 pounds of food. 

I mean, scads of cans, we broke to six-foot tables, literally they crashed because the cans were just piling up. They got so heavy. We took in coats and you know, all kinds of stuff and there was just piles of it everywhere. Well, we called three different Christian organizations. And we were like, Hey, we got tons of food and then they’d show up to pick it up, see that we’re a cannabis store, and they wouldn’t accept it.

Nearly 10,000 pounds of food and they wouldn’t accept it. And I’m like, you’re what? It was such a significant heartbreak. Obviously, we took it ourselves and went and delivered it but like it was such a heartbreak. I couldn’t even stomach it. It was so so tough for me just to see the contrast and it was again, that’s what pushed my commitment to the education was there was the industry grew faster than our communities could even stomach.

Erica Freeman: Right. Absolutely.

Sonia Gomez: And the I felt just like there was such a responsibility that I felt to bridge the gap and bring some you know, human element and help people understand that we too our parents, and PTA members and you know all of these things that make us incredible people. We care as well. We just happen to be caring with this compassionate plant. What do you do someone’s taxes now?

Brian Freeman: The same thing is back with like Derek was saying, when we started, our kids were four, five, six, and seven years old. And I was leaving at four o’clock in the afternoon, and she’d come in, I’d go teach my little girls soccer team, and hair on it, and I’m running a cannabis business. This was back in the wild, 10 years ago, years ago, the first of it. And we talked about that, that same kind of thing. Well, what is the general public? What are the other parents gonna think if they find out that I’m the coach of this and I’m running this business too? And all the politics that were kind of wrapped around it back in the day that aren’t quite there they are today the students are a little different than they were 10 years ago, eight years ago.

Sonia Gomez: Yeah. Now the parents are like, yo, can you bring that vape to the game?

Brian Freeman: I need to tell you, you’re gonna see my kids this week. They’re really bad this week, man, I need something.

Sonia Gomez: It’s so true. Okay, well, you know, inevitable challenges still, obviously nothing to defer. Boss, babes, and boys like yourselves. So what are some words of wisdom that we can share with our budding entrepreneurs or other folks who are in this industry? Let’s and let’s just talk about this for a second. A lot of the folks who are in the CBD industry, it’s sort of like their way of getting their feet wet, right? So that they can make that lateral move over into THC when it legalizes. 

I use the air quotes because I’m like, you either got the balls or you’re don’t. No, I’m just [laughter]. I know. I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s great, build up your brand, do the whole thing. It’s a great way to get your feet right. So, there’s the budding entrepreneurs and the existing business owners who are listening to this show right now. Love you guys. Thanks for tuning in. 

And I would love to hear from the horse’s mouth, people who have been extensive pioneers are obviously running a successful, socially responsible business. What are some, you know, key takeaways or tips or tricks or pieces of advice that you might offer somebody who is getting their feet wet in this industry right now and trying to navigate their way through what would be some words of wisdom that you would share with them that might help them along the way?

Words of Wisdom

Brian Freeman: I’d say be patient. Success doesn’t come overnight, that’s for sure. It’s a lot of hard work. If you don’t want to put in the hard work the first few years, then don’t waste your time because that’s how you’re going to be doing. If you put in that hard work in the first two or three years, though, I truly believe that two or three years in putting that hard work If that’s going to be, you’re going to start seeing the successes coming after third or fourth, fifth, six years if you can get to those levels. 

That’s not the easiest thing to do. Most businesses that fail, fail in the first six months to a year because people don’t realize how much hard work it is, or what it really takes to run a business. 

You got to realize that it’s not just collecting the check at the end of the day, it’s not just counting money in your drawer, you got to pay your taxes regularly. You got to run a business license, there’s renewals, there’s permitting, there’s things that go with it. It’s not just hands-on $10,000 cash, put around on a lease, pushed up on a shelf, and go to work. 

You got employees, you’re responsible for those employees. You’re responsible for their families, [unintelligible] away. I mean, that’s how we feel. So that’s it’s a much bigger picture than what people think. And if you really want to provide it all off and you want to do it, and you put your ass and do it, do the hard work. You’re going to be successful, I believe.

Erica Freeman: I would add to that also find yourself an industry group find just get yourself in this industry specifically, find an industry group, find an end. find a group that you can speak with, that you can find out what are the upcoming rules and regulations is what is coming, you know, what are the things that I need to be putting on my radar?  

What are the next things that are coming about that I need to be thinking about and wondering if maybe that’s an arena we want to move into or whatever, that’s also, I think something that I would definitely suggest to somebody who’s trying to get into this?

Brian Freeman: [00:45:40 inaudible], I believe, the next year and CBT role is going to be turned over anyway on their heads because looking to regulations. So going forward, that’s one of the big things that when they do jump to our industry from CBD, there’s no regulations related to the industry. Pandora’s industry no matter what’s legally put, there’s a ton of regulations, which just adds a whole nother picture level to owning a business. When it’s regulated like we’re regulated. 

And it makes things a lot different. And just trying to keep up with, as I said earlier, all the regulations as they come out, I mean, we have one person that we hired, that doesn’t have them, but that kind of compliance and regulations because it comes out so fast. And it got to be on top of it. [unintelligible] stuff all the time. Those are the things you got to do, and be patient, be patient. It’s not gonna happen overnight. 

We went into this hoping that we could just make a living and that we could have employees and do something that should we refined it out, as Erica said about her [unintelligible] and about how it was helping her and helping us and over time, we’ve turned it to be pretty successful business owner through choice organics, with our employees and with the support that we get from around us with our patients, our customers in our area.

And we’re very lucky for that. You have my gratitude.

Sonia Gomez: Wow, incredible, wonderful wisdom to share for sure. I’ll piggyback on that and just share a couple of things I think are really key for success. Whether you’re on the CBD side, or cannabis side, at the end of the day, it’s all just ingredients. So really being committed to a movement and the mission that is beyond yourself or the ingredient that you’re selling, building a brand that has a culture, a mission and a movement that you want to be a part of, that is the real trick. 

What is the brand culture that you want to cultivate first with your team? And then on behalf of the customer base that you’re going to be serving. Everyone’s a part of a community. Everyone has their different tricks, but there’s some key differentiators that create a demographic that you’re serving. So build your brand and your company culture in a way that attracts that demographic to you so that you can serve them at the absolute highest level. 

The second thing I would say is that in an industry full of me-too products, everybody’s got weed, everybody’s got CBD, everyone’s throwing the label onto somebody’s something. But what are the things that set you apart building in the social responsibility from the very beginning and understanding the ripple effect that your company has in your community is so important? 

There’s a whole movement around serve local, be local, be local, and serve local. I can’t emphasize this enough. And even if you are a web-based business, there is a way to cultivate that local loyalty by serving and still give yourself the capability of serving a global marketplace, diversify, diversify your product offerings, and then build in you know a certain percentage that gives back to the communities that you love, and that are a part that you are a part of, again, both on and offline, there’s so much opportunity to show that the good is truly possible in an industry where there is so much financial movement. 

Even if you are a web-based business, there is a way to cultivate that local loyalty by serving and still give yourself the capability of serving a global marketplace. - Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet

That’s one thing I can say for this industry is that there’s a lot of money, which is just another form of energy. There’s a lot of that in motion, and it needs to be properly distributed so that as an industry, we are raising the level of consciousness, awareness, and contribution that we are able to make. 

And then finally, when faced with the inevitable challenges that come with being a pioneer and really shaping the way that we want this industry to serve us while we are serving it, think about the break the lines of creativity, you have to figure out how to break the mold so that you can rebuild it and make it better. 

We love the ideas of sponsorships but diversify the way that you are exposing your brand. If you’re a brand new startup, there’s so many different examples of how you can do that but really what I love is unregulated publications, platforms like mine, that acquire sponsors that have the capture the attention of the consumer, that does no– 

I’m not the Kim Kardashian of brands. I don’t promote everything that comes across my desk. As a matter of fact, in three years, I’ve only promoted nine brands. But when you get onto a platform like mine, for instance, you know that you’re a cut above company and that you’re going to get access to a quality clientele that you wouldn’t be able to serve otherwise. 

So really, at the end of the day, this industry is all about relationships, who you know, and what kind of value you can bring, come with the mentality of what can I give instead of what can I take Everything will be given to you in return. Those are my words of wisdom. I hope you enjoy today’s episode. Any last words, guys.

Erica Freeman: Other than thank you very much, we appreciate the time that you gave us and we appreciate them on the show. It’s been fun.

Sonia Gomez: Great interview guys and Brian. I see back there stern anywhere [00:51:09 crosstalk] Sounds good. Well, thank you guys again.

Brian Freeman: Thank you.

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, thank you guys so much for the incredible work that you do. I’ve come into your store before but was shy to ask to be able to do a tour since you’re local. I’d love to be able to pop in and do a live broadcast. 

Brian Freeman: Sure, anytime. Let’s talk.

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I would love to do that. I think it would be a blast. And for those of you guys who are tuning in and listening, thanks so much for being a part of our network and community. We are so excited to bring you the truth about cannabis and hemp straight from the people who are pioneering this incredible industry. 

If you are a budding entrepreneur or an existing business owner and you’re hitting the inevitable bottlenecks or glass ceilings that come along with being in this incredible industry, check us out at theemeraldcircle.com for tools, resources, tips, tricks, or even mentorship that you can lean on to accelerate your success and make those quantum leaps in condensed periods of time with the support of people who are just a little bit further down the line. 

If you are someone who is looking for products and brands that you can trust to deliver the results that you’re looking for, check us out on medicalsecrets.com and by the way, guys, if folks are interested in finding your store or want to check you out on the web, where can they find you?

Erica Freeman: We’re at 813 Smithfield drive. We’re right at I 25 and mulberry in Fort Collins, Colorado. 

Sonia Gomez: Amazing and your website?

Erica Freeman: Website is choiceorganicsinc

Sonia Gomez: Amazing. All of the social handlings as well as the websites where you can find out more about Choice Organics will be listed right here in the blog post. Make sure that you read it for show notes and highlights from today’s show. I’m your host, Sonia Gomez. And this is The Hemp Revolution. We’ll see you on our next show, guys.

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