Podcast

Establishing the New Standard in Retail Consumer Cannabis with Andrew Ramirez

Andrew Ramirez is a Purdue graduate from the Chicagoland area. He is the current executive and managing partner at Ohana Cannabis Company which is a vertically integrated cannabis operation out of California.

Andrew just never really vibed with a 9-5 job so shortly after he graduated, he partnered with a friend and used that as an opportunity to learn about cannabis and the industry.

In this episode, Andrew tells us the biggest challenges that the cannabis businesses are up against in today’s marketplace and what the most rewarding part of being part of this industry is. He also shares California’s philanthropic efforts in giving back to the community. Stay tuned and be informed.


Becoming a well known and well represented and well-respected figure in your local community is paramount. Because while we can’t do everything that other businesses that have more of an e-commerce based model do, there’s a lot that we can do, and it’s right outside of our door right within the community that we exist within. – Andrew Ramirez


Download The Episode Companion For This Episode

Some Topics We Discussed Include

2:57 – How a newly graduate landed a cannabis business
4:58 – The current focus of his business
8:03 – Three biggest challenges cannabis companies are up against today’s marketplace
11:58 – Ohana’s philanthropic efforts that they are consistently contributing to that the community is aware of
13:29 – The most rewarding part of being in the cannabis industry
15:32 – Words of Wisdom
26:01 – Where to find them
26:55 – Final words

People Mentioned / Resources

Connect with Andrew Ramirez

Connect with Sonia Gomez

Transcript

Sonia Gomez: Hey guys, Sonia Gomez coming to you from Denver, Colorado super excited to be here on another rock your socks episode of The Hemp Revolution podcast where we are in the funnest way possible sharing and telling the stories of the entrepreneurs who are pushing this incredible industry forward.

Today’s guest is a Purdue graduate from Chicagoland area, an entrepreneur and a current executive and managing partner at Ohana Cannabis Company, which is a vertically integrated cannabis operation out of California. He’s my Bay Area. Home folk. I can’t wait to hear the story and put your hands together and help me welcome our good friend, Mr. Andrew Ramirez. What’s going on Andrew?

Andrew Ramirez: What’s up How you doing?

Sonia Gomez: I’m stoked to have you here. How’s my Bay Area doing over there?

Andrew Ramirez: Oh, it’s great. You know how it is.

Sonia Gomez: I do.

Andrew Ramirez: You know, a balmy sunny and seven degrees outside so can’t complain about that. Coming from the Midwest, you’re from Chicago too, right?

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, well my family’s from Chicago and I spent enough summers there to know that that’s not where I’m trying to get beat up or eaten by mosquitoes.

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, it took one winner away from Chicago so we don’t realize how much I love California. Yeah.

Sonia Gomez: I can only imagine I was in Chicago for like two winters. One winter what I was like still a little kid so I was like, Okay, this is cool. Ice skating on my grandpa’s little lake thing or whatever. I went back a few years later, like when you’re 13 and you think you’re cool and you want to do stuff and wear cute clothes and like anything that you put on in Chicago, in December makes you look like a whale. So I was just like, this is not gigging it. Like I gotta go back to my California vibe. Yeah. So you’re in California you’re working as a managing partner for Ohana. First of all, why don’t you just get quick and dirty give me a little background on who you are, how you ended up in cannabis, and what your current role in the company is?

How a Newly Graduate Landed a Cannabis Business

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, sure thing. So I’m from the suburbs outside of Chicago and then studied entrepreneurship and sports medicine at Purdue. And after I graduated, I just really wasn’t a nine to five just never really liked vibed with me, so I partnered with a friend of mine who had a farm in Grass Valley, which was like an hour outside of it’s like, between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. Yeah. and use that as an opportunity to learn just about the industry about the plant, and kind of get rooted in the industry. And it was about two years before legalization.

So, I was able to get exposed to just developing landscape of bringing something that was previously like in the grey area as far as its legality to fully regulated, the way that the industry operates today, and I was fortunate enough to partner with my current partners at Ohana, who, at the time, we played a really pivotal role in shaping some of the local and state level wise. So it was really exciting getting exposure to the political side of things, and seeing how that’s just as important as the product that you provide for customers, whether it’s a product in a jar or the customer service that you provide to them. So it’s just a really interesting learning experience.

It was really exciting getting exposure to the political side of things, and seeing how that's just as important as the product that you provide for customers. - Andrew Ramirez Click To Tweet

And then we expanded from Sacramento to the Bay Area a little over a year ago, we opened up our second location here and yeah, I mean, the bear has been really good to me so far really loved the industry. As you know, you know, every day’s a new challenge and there’s so many things that are in flux and that are you know, it’s a very fluid industry. Everything’s constantly changing. So it keeps you on your toes and it’s a constant learning experience.

Sonia Gomez: Hell Yeah, it is. And Ohana Cannabis Company. You guys are fully vertical. Do you have a retail Centre in the bay or do you have a brand? Like what’s the focus of your guys’ business?

The Current Focus of His Business

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, sure thing. So we started with retail we saw that it is a huge need. There’s a lot of companies that can provide really good products right. But one thing that we were talking about before the interview started, there’s a huge gap between what the brands provide and what the consumer as far as consumer education goes, and then knowing exactly what products match and will fit and meet their needs. So we saw a huge opportunity there and kind of took it and ran with it. We opened up our first retail location in Sacramento, then we have a retail store in the Bay Area as well.

We’re working on getting our product line into our stores, which will be developing over the next coming months as well. So just trying to create that kind of more relational type of kind of like building a rapport in a relationship with our customers rather than just strictly transactional. All of our locations are open for the format so they can browse our products as long as they like in there’s a handful of consultants that are there for support to help answer their questions, you know, try and match products that meet their needs.

And it creates a way more immersive and interactive situation and scenario for our customers, which is something that kind of lacks with a traditional dispensary model where you know, you stand in line for 15 minutes, then you get up to a counter and you rush to pick these products that you know nothing about. So kind of education and relationship building is something that we found a big opportunity in and what’s kind of set us apart from a lot of the other retail establishments here in the Bay and in Sacramento.

Sonia Gomez: Man, that’s a competitive marketplace out there and more and more it’s becoming noisier and noisier whether you’re cannabis or certainly in the CBD space, I’d love to hear and talk about, from a fellow entrepreneur, I’m an entrepreneur, I didn’t go to college to study any of that shit, but I have I got street cred.

Andrew Ramirez: Hey, that’s what really counts, honestly. Education is great. And I really valued that [inadible] 99% of the most valuable things that I’ve learned came through experience and just doing rather than learning or trying to read about it.

99% of the most valuable things that I've learned came through experience and just doing rather than learning or trying to read about it. - Andrew Ramirez Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: And there’s some days where I’m just like, Man, I wish I had some like foundational education to navigate my way through this because as an entrepreneur, you just don’t know what you don’t know until you get there and you’re like, Fuck, I don’t know this. And you’re like, yeah, like I probably am pretty good to know how to swim before I went like boating in the middle of the ocean, but it’s cool. I will figure this out.

But I’d love to hear from you like what are some of the key challenges about the cannabis industry right now? You know, the trials, the tribulations, the challenges that you are up against as, as a company in an exciting and new marketplace? A lot of competition, maybe no competition, but you know, there’s a lot of people out there trying to do and trying to play this game right now, some are good, some suck and are just making it by the skin of their teeth. But I still want to give sort of that perspective of like, what are the key challenges that we’re up against as a cannabis company in today’s marketplace?

Three Biggest Challenges Cannabis Companies Are up against Today’s Marketplace

Andrew Ramirez: I mean, the first thing is compliance. This is a really heavy regulated industry. I know a little bit about Colorado, which is kind of your bread and butter. But California is highly regulated from every step from the people growing to the testing facilities to the retail companies and distributors like you got to, we work really hard to play by the rules. And if because we know if we don’t we can lose our license and lose our opportunity becoming a legacy brand in the industry.

So first compliance, second, which is kind of my role within My company is marketing. You know marketing and advertising in this industry are really difficult. But what it requires you to do is taste a lot of different things and see what works and see what doesn’t. And we live in this world where like digital marketing is everything, right? If you don’t have a presence on social or if you don’t know if your SEO is constantly being improved upon, then you get through easy to fall off the wayside.

However, cannabis companies can’t really operate like most other businesses do, right? We can’t advertise on social media, which is arguably the most underpaid or underpriced form of advertising. We can’t do Google Ads just to you know, to some degree we can but we really that we’re really limited with our options. So it kind of teaches you to get back to basics and build your brand through the community.

Word of mouth is huge. Becoming a well known and well represented and well-respected figure in your local community is paramount. Because while we can’t do everything that other businesses that have more of an e-commerce based model do, there’s a lot that we can do, and it’s right outside of our door right within the community that we exist within. So, you know, those two would probably be the biggest challenges. And just getting the license out getting the licenses and permits that we need to operate.

It was a huge challenge too and I don’t think that a lot of people understand the time and energy and leg work that it takes to do that. But as long as they lay out the groundwork of what you have to do so as long as you play by the rules, and, you know, follow your checks and balances. And once you get the license, it’s just all about building your brand, no remaining compliant with the laws that we have to follow.

Sonia Gomez: I gotta tell you, I just recently heard from a financier somebody who’s acquiring companies and helping people go IPO and all this fun stuff. He gave me this ribbon formula. I literally am going to say it on every single podcast. Oh god and it lands. exactly to what you just said 100 locations within 100 miles who are all doing $1,000 a month is the fastest way to get to a million-dollar business.

Now for cannabis companies to make it relevant for the things you were just saying, you know, serving your local community I would say that communities are underserved by their cannabis companies and hemp companies. I think that’s people are so deeply involved with the grind. They forget that they have to honor the community that they’re serving or there has to be like a bigger purpose so that folks in their community feel like they’re a part of something greater. I call it social responsibility, like how are we supporting our community and flourishing instead of just surviving which a lot of communities are in survival mode and really looking for that cannabis cash flow to improve certain aspects of their business.

Does Ohana has any sort of program or philanthropic efforts that you guys are consistently contributing to, that your community is aware of, or they can consistently see you involved with?

Ohana’s Philanthropic Efforts That They Are Consistently Contributing to That the Community Is Aware Of

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it’s honestly, part of this is a cool thing about, you know, being in such a regulated industry, it was actually part of the deal that we made with the state of California, every cannabis company has to donate at least 1% of their annual revenue towards any type of charity or nonprofit type of organization or program within the community that they operate with it, which is really cool because you’re seeing, you know, the direct effect of, of the value that you bring to the community. And that can come and the cool thing is they kind of let us dictate where that goes as long as they give the green light.

And on top of that, too, I mean, we’re, you know, whether it’s doing like holiday food drives or things like that, there’s always there’s no shortage of things that we can do to help the local communities. It’s honestly one of the most rewarding parts of being in the industry is seeing because, throughout the entire process of getting these licences and, and working with the local government, to show them that you’re an upstanding business, you build relationships with the policymakers and the people who are directly involved with the community. So being able to actually give back and see the fruits of that is really cool.

Being able to actually give back and see the fruits of that is really cool. - Andrew Ramirez Click To Tweet

Sonia Gomez: What are you most proud of that you or your business has accomplished? proud of yourself that your business or you have accomplished within your business?

The most rewarding part of being in the cannabis industry

Andrew Ramirez: I really like that question. I’d say it is being on the front lines of changing people’s perspective on what cannabis is because over the last how many years there’s been so much propaganda and so many convoluted things that have been attributed to cannabis as a plant and the people that consume it. So you know, being a company that says, hey, that’s not you know, cannabis provides so much value in all of these different ways. You could live a healthy lifestyle or improve your overall quality of life and cannabis can be a huge part of that.

And having people, especially in the older generation come into our store, not knowing what to expect, kind of timid or almost afraid of what they may encounter and then completely seeing that light, not necessarily light bulb, switch go off, but like, you can tell that you kind of like to shift their perspective and their perception on what they thought cannabis was for so long and being a driving force and that the change of perspective on the stigma that’s associated with cannabis is my favorite part, hands down.

You know, being an operator I work in Marketing, but I’m an operator to and seeing customers every single day have that same exact reaction is one of the most rewarding things of being in the industry. And one of the things we’re most proud of for sure.

Sonia Gomez: I like to do a segment called the words of wisdom and this is our opportunity. opportunity as entrepreneurs in this space to sort of share and towel, what we would say to ourselves if we were you know, just getting started knowing what we know now I think a lot of people are misled by the idea that because this is such a cash-rich you know, fast-growing industry with a tonne of buzz in the ethers right now around what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And it’s the biggest conversation in the world right now. Right?

I would love to hear from you. What are some words of wisdom that you can offer the budding entrepreneur or established business brand who is, you know, trying to break through the glass ceilings or brick walls that this industry might present?

Words of Wisdom

Andrew Ramirez: patience and persistence? I think that people see this industry as just a quick cash grab. And a lot of times those are the people that don’t last very long, but being patient and building a brand the right way and building a business the right way, without the expectation of just getting jumping in making all this money then, you know, exiting, it doesn’t operate like that. And there’s a lot of people that are getting into this industry that have that mindset.

But the ones that are focused on actually bringing value and building a brand the right way are the ones that are going to become the legacy brands the Coca Cola is or you know, the Nikes of the cannabis industry because while it is a unique industry, it still operates as a business like anything else and a lot of people don’t really see it that way because they see cannabis as this like chill thing that just like, you know what I mean? Like, it’s just, you know, we see it in the people that apply with our company and we see with some of the people that we do business with that they just think it’s a cash grab where they think that working in the cannabis industry, it’s super chill and you just smoke weed and sell it all day and it’s not like that.

Sonia Gomez: All I do is like that.

Andrew Ramirez: I do too, but you know what, for the people that it is like that. They’re the ones on gonna be around as long so, you know, there’s an element of having fun and it’s great being in the industry with such a great, you know, being exposed to so many great products but in the end, there’s a lot of work that has to be done. You know, we all have a lot of work. It’s just not what everyone thinks it is. But short story long, patience.

Sonia Gomez: Patience is right I was watching this is like almost unrelated and then I’ll give my words of wisdom. I was watching this like super funny thing on YouTube where this guy made this video about like the different stages of women and you had like your you know your Barkley girl down here who was ugly like a dog but she treats you like a king. And then we had like your unicorn chick up here who was just like, she farts rose petals and like you know all this she’s this glamour girl like she’s, you know, she’s perfect, but bitch can’t do shit, right?

And there’s like there’s you got to find the sweet spot somewhere right in the middle to be able to function and I’m using this as an analogy because there are quote-unquote, underdog companies who maybe don’t have all of the capital and all of the things that make them, you know, sexy, like overexposure and all this stuff like the Mad Men of the world, right? All of these things, but they, but they have an excellent product and incredible community around them and they’re working really hard to stay ahead of compliance. They’re really involved. They’re doing all of the other things, right.

Maybe they don’t got the best location or maybe they don’t got all this other stuff, but they’re doing the right things, right. And then on the other side, you got these unicorn people, the people who are just like, you know, doing all this shit that you could ever want and think there’s like, oh, what makes them so great and all the things. You know what makes them meet in the middle? It does not matter? Every single company that I talked to, no matter how big or how small, every single one of them are, like, yeah, you know, we really got to do something about our cash, our cash flow. Still don’t feel like they got the cash on hand to do the things that they want to do.

And so my words of wisdom are as follows. Do not let the illusions become the truth that you’re fighting against. The illusion is that this industry is all sex and rock and roll and you know, all the everything. Everyone’s a winner and it’s all great.

The reality of this industry is that when you rip off the eyelashes and come out the weave, and you wipe off the lotion that’s covering up the ashy elbows and like all of the things that make this look and feel so glamorous, and you really look at it for what it is, it’s a bunch of hard-pressed people who have put everything that they have into it starting with their passion and is like self-identifying purpose into building a profitable business with absolutely no landscape, no boundaries, no direction. And everyone’s literally making it up as we go along, including our regulatory agencies.

Andrew Ramirez: That’s right.

Sonia Gomez: The difference in the two companies though, in the two types of companies is vision and network. The people who have the vision can build a network of folks who will enroll in that vision and help you carry to the moon. They say once you decide what and when the who and the how we’re going to show up. If you decide the what you want to be and the who you want to be the who is going to help you and the how of what’s going to make it possible is going to come together around you. If you are lacking vision and execution, you are going to be left in the dust. Okay?

Andrew Ramirez: I love it.

Sonia Gomez: Like I gotta tell you this, your vision, your brand, how you express all of that stuff will enroll influencers who will want to be brand ambassadors for you, it’ll get you past the gatekeepers when you’re trying to get access to those other spots. It’ll help you identify what your key differentiators are as you’re building your brand inside of inside a saturated market.

Now, the final thing that I’ll say to you guys is, always ask the question, what value can I bring not what value can I get if you’re coming to get a job? If you’re coming to put your expertise to play, if you’re coming to get involved with this game, please know that you are one of 500 million people who are trying to do the exact same thing and you better come correct.

Have some respect. You know, have some respect for the fact for yourself and ask the question, what value can I bring? What problem can I solve rather than? Yeah, I’m going to come in here and get my highest paycheck ever. Like Man, everybody’s looking to get paid. What skills do you have to bring to the table? What problems can you solve for me? How can you make my life easier as an entrepreneur in this space that I can get back to doing the high-level things that make it possible for me even to pay a schlep like you?

So I’m just keeping it 100 you know, everybody loves it, that like, they email me and they’re like, yo, can I get a job over here? And I’m like, cool. Yeah, what’s your skill sets? I work at McDonald’s like, man, unless you fix me lunch every day, that doesn’t smell like a dead horse. We ain’t yummy. We were you gonna fit in here? Like you got it. You got to understand what your skill sets are and bring them in and pair it in and always ask the question, what value can I bring and be willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life in order to reap the rewards that you’ve never earned in your life? That’s how it’s got to go down.

Otherwise, you’re going to drown out like the rest of them. And guess what, at the end of the day, who’s going to be left holding the buck is going to be Chuck the unicorn is only going to take you so far. Being that pretty girl like agent beauty goes hand in hand eventually your age supersedes your beauty and there’s going to have to be more meat on the table. The Mad Men of the world. Not to be a hater or whatever, they’re selling grass. It’s a bunch of blown out hydro bullshit that they’re not even producing and they’re just an outlet center with the sexy brands so as soon as your job fails we’ll be here with our hardcore oilfield chronic

Andrew Ramirez: That’s right, preach.

Sonia Gomez: Just throwing it out there I mean I love the brand and everything I like still have their packaging and stuff but I guess not their weight and I was just like, man, I might as well just drink some fertilizer.

Andrew Ramirez: You tried it the state made

Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I tried it out in Vegas. I was disappointed spent all this money and got no goddamn way and I got some fluff but I didn’t get– I mean it was sexy in the jar, and they knew who I was I’m like okay will you give me since you know who I am, give me this stuff that will put me you know in my dream.

Andrew Ramirez: mm hmm, didn’t happen? All bite no bite?

Sonia Gomez: This is some fucking false pretending rapper ass weed like I don’t want this shit. I love the heavy stash who’s going in the basement for the real shit?

Andrew Ramirez: Hey you gotta go back to Humboldt to your bed sometimes.

Sonia Gomez: I know. Grass Valley to man y’all I’m playing out there.

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah shout out Grass Valley

Sonia Gomez: Shout out Grass Valley. I got my friends out there running some sick fertilizing companies and they got– my dad runs actually like TP ceremonies and sweat lodges out there.

Andrew Ramirez: Right. I died. We probably know a lot of the same people.

Sonia Gomez: Yeah. Do you know a guy named Eric Carto?

Andrew Ramirez: No, I don’t know Eric Carto but the whole Native American churches. I got involved in that scene when I moved out there because my business partner who his dad who had a farm, like right up the hill from us. He was a shaman who held a lot of TP ceremonies for the church. So it’s soon as a trip.

Sonia Gomez: like to Noah and Alex Turtle, and yeah, all those folks out there. So Alex is like totally off-topic, but for those of you guys who are interested in like the Native American church and the things that I’m really up to, so I grew up in the Native American church and Alex’s family the Turtle family, Billy Ralph and Wayne and Nelson Turtle Janell and Craig like they’re my, that’s who I was raised with folks so I definitely sing and pray and all those lost languages and it’s a huge part of my life my dad still conducts those ceremonies up there and you know, advocating for plant medicines in general is you know, my definitely my vibe and my passion and purpose. So love all of that.

What are some final words that you can share? First of all, where can folks find you if they want to come to your shop or if Find out more about what you guys are up to. How can people get in touch with you?

Where to Find Them

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, for sure. So Ohana cannabis we’re in Emeryville, which is right in between Oakland and Berkeley in the Bay Area. Powell street exit. And then we’re in Sacramento to just a simple Google search Find us on weed maps. Order online. We got you.

Sonia Gomez: Love it, are you guys delivering to?

Andrew Ramirez: We do.

Sonia Gomez: Oh shit. [inaudible] My dad’s in Novato so I’m definitely and my husband will be out at the Cannabis Cup. Are you going out to the Emerald cup?

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, we’ll be there. Got to. I mean, I got my roots in the outdoor scene. So gotta celebrate the harvest at the Emerald.

Sonia Gomez: Isle. Yeah, I’m my husband will be there so I’ll make sure to have him connect with you directed maybe you can go do an interview live and direct over there at least taste some of the flavors of Ohana and any final words before we end today’s broadcast?

Final Words

Andrew Ramirez: man. Honestly, I keep thinking about something thing that you touched on when you were dropping knowledge a couple of minutes ago about the vision. And it brings you back to do you know who Gary Vee is?

Sonia Gomez: Hell yeah.

Andrew Ramirez: Okay, I figured, but his whole thing is head in the clouds, hands in the dirt. And the merge of those two things is where great things happen. You got to have the vision. But then you also got to have the grit and the intestinal fortitude to actually execute and get it done. So last words, head in the clouds, hands in the dirt.

Sonia Gomez: Man, that’s some good stuff right there. That’s, that’s really good words of wisdom. Love that. And some final words. Hey, for those of you guys who are tuning in with us, thanks so much for being a part of this incredible community. As you know, it is our mission and our passion and purpose to empower you with the truth about cannabis and hemp CBD so that you can make educated decisions about how you want to care for yourself people that you love, conditions you may be suffering from or otherwise join this incredibly fast-moving, purpose-driven Passion driven community and industry if you are an entrepreneur who is looking for support on how to get started or how to grow and thrive in this space, check us out at Emerald circle at thehemeraldcircle.com and if you are a person who is looking for products you can depend on to deliver the results you’re looking for. Check us out at medicalsecrets.com for some of our favorite products and brands and businesses that we love to work with. I’m your hostess with the mostess, Sonia Gomez and this is the hemp revolution podcast. Thanks so much, Andrew, loved having you on.

Andrew Ramirez: Yeah, thanks. No, I appreciate it. Talk to you soon.

Sonia Gomez: Till our next show, guys.

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