As you know, here at The Hemp Revolution Podcast, we are committed to sharing and telling people’s stories behind the products.
In today’s episode, we are going to share the story of the co-founder of BotaniQ, a cannabis provisioning center in Detroit, Michigan.
Anqunette “Q” Sarfoh, has more than 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and a news anchor in Indiana, Las Vegas, Boston, and Detroit.
After eight years of being the anchor of Fox 2 Detroit, she decided to retire due to multiple sclerosis. She was put on different medications, but with proper diet and the help of cannabis and other natural ways, she has gone from 9 medications to 0.
Having first-hand experience of the amazing benefits of the plant, Anqunette became an advocate, guiding others to a more natural and holistic approach and less dependency on pharmaceutical medications.
In this episode, Anqunette also shares how she built and sold her company in just five months, the top three considerations to get into this industry, and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in this challenging yet very exciting industry.
We really tried to cultivate an environment where our goal was to alleviate, elevate, and educate. So, alleviate pain and suffering in our communities, elevate the image of cannabis and the people who use it and educate on safe and effective use. – Anqunette Sarfoh
Some Topics We Discussed Include
3:34 – A little background about Anqunette and how she got involved in the cannabis and hemp movement
11:11 – What made her business attractive that it got sold in just five months
23:30 – Doing business in Michigan
27:00 – What makes a plant unsellable in Michigan
30:12 – Top three challenges they’ve encountered in the last five months
36:23 – Anqunette’s thought about the education for our youth and our families in this fast-changing industry
43:43 – Top three considerations to get into this industry
57:10 – What’s she is most excited to focus on
People Mentioned / Resources
Connect with Anqunette Sarfoh
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: What’s up, guys? Sonia Gomez coming to you from Denver, Colorado. This is another bad as Lady Boston fused episode of The Hemp Revolution Podcast. I’m your hostess with the mostess and super excited to be here with you guys yet once again. In today’s episode, as you know, we are committed to sharing and telling the stories of the people behind the products. And in today’s episode, we are going to be visiting and taking a walk through memory lane with an amazing lady boss in the industry. Somebody with over 20 years experience as a TV journalist and news anchor in Indiana, Las Vegas, Boston, and Detroit. After eight years, as the morning anchor for Fox 2 Detroit, Anquenette retired due to the effects of multiple sclerosis. Through changes in diet using cannabis and other natural ways of approaching and managing her symptoms, Anqunette went from taking nine medications a day to taking absolutely none and became an advocate for teaching others to lessen their dependency on pharmaceuticals and move more towards the natural and holistic benefits that you can find if you take it upon yourself to do so. Here to share her story about how she co-founded BotaniQ, a cannabis, provisioning–
Anqunette Sarfoh: provisioning.
Sonia Gomez: Yes, thank you. I got tongue-tied in my own shit. She is here to tell us the story about how she co-founded BotaniQ. Ladies and gentlemen, help me to welcome and Anqunette or “Q” Safroh. Sarfoh, sorry, girl.
Anqunette Sarfoh: That’s okay. And yes, real quick and it’s BotaniQ, but everybody says Botanic Q. But yes.
Sonia Gomez: Well, the Q is big. Okay, BotaniQ.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Right, right. That’s yeah. It goes back and forth. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter, because actually BotaniQ today will be sold.
Sonia Gomez: Are you selling it really?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Yes. Yes.
Sonia Gomez: Let’s start the show with celebration, are you happy about that?
Anqunette Sarfoh: I am, I am. You get into this business, and the goal is so you know, we thought that okay, so we’ll build it up and somebody will come along and a couple of years, maybe five or so and like what we’ve done, and they’ll buy it. So instead of five years, it took five months.
Sonia Gomez: No way.
Anqunette Sarfoh: [00:03:19 unintelligible]
Sonia Gomez: That’s awesome. Okay, let’s start at the beginning because I want to hear all about the exit. There are some pretty significant exits happening right now too. So this is like, so exciting to be able to hear and to celebrate with you. Why don’t we start at the beginning though, how did you get involved with the cannabis and hemp movement in the first place?
A Little Background About Anqunette and How She Got Involved in the Cannabis and Hemp Movement
Anqunette Sarfoh: Well, about five years ago, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and I was put on a host of medications—nine, as you mentioned earlier. And unfortunately, I was so sick all the time. I was going to the hospital because I could not stop throwing up, which was horrible. And so after the third trip to the hospital, where I was pumped with morphine, which is nice if you’re in pain and an intravenous muscle relaxer.
My husband said, why don’t you just smoke a joint? And I was like, Okay, well, maybe I smoke a joint because, at that point, I was really tired of throwing up. And I smoked a joint, and nausea went away almost instantaneously. But what I did not expect was the energy. This particular strain, Gorilla Glue, gave me the energy to the point where I was able to wean myself from 80 milligrams of Adderall.
Sonia Gomez: Which was wow.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Yes, Adderall, also nice pharmaceutical if you need it. If not, though, it spikes your blood pressure 40 points like it did for me when I didn’t need it, though. But it has some side effects because of it. So yes, so I started off just using it for nausea. And I found that I was able to not use as many of my other drugs eventually, not using any of my other drugs.
And then, I realized that’s why I could come home from my job at Fox every day. And it’s 10:30 in the morning because I got off work at 10. So it’s 10 o’clock in the morning, but I could come home and have to pass off of my vaporizer and go on about my day. So I thought that it was hypocritical and just flat out wrong that people were in jail for this as the plant and you should be able to grow it, you smoke it, eat it, do whatever. And so I got involved in them.
I love my job. Because of memory loss. People think oh my gosh, you just quit box and you went to cannabis. I didn’t. I’m actually medically retired. I’m on disability. And I have significant short term memory loss. And it’s exacerbated as the hours go on. So I did decide to leave my job at the [00:05:54 uninstelligible] at the suggestion of four doctors and in my time off I was like well, you know, this is a cause that needs a few more voices. So I decided to lend my voice to the legalization cause. Got involved in legalization here. We were successful in 2018. So 2016 was 2016. All the years of learning together, but–
Sonia Gomez: Where are you right now? Where are you?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Oh I’m in Detroit. [00:06:32 unintelligible]
Sonia Gomez: I have a family in Livonia.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Oh, I’m right down the street from Livonia. I was there yesterday. So yeah, so I got involved in the legalization movement. And while that was going on, my husband and I were approached by a group that was trying to open a provisioning center. They’re called provisioning centers in Michigan. Nobody knows how to say by the way. We all still say dispensary, but legal provisioning center.
Sonia Gomez: I got tongue-tied because I’m dyslexic.
Anqunette Sarfoh: But so yeah. So we were asked to help them in their efforts to open a provisioning center in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit. And so we joined that group and we were successful. And we opened on Election Day, almost a year ago. We open on election day and then that was the same day that it passed. Oh, yeah. So let’s let the 2018 election. Hello. Losing my ears here. So yeah, so yeah, it was, pass– actually, no, doesn’t matter.
Recreational pass a year ago, in November on election day. And so we opened our doors on that day. And yeah, a couple of months ago, we were approached by an out of state company to buy our company, and we all said, “Yes, please.” Yeah, and yeah, so now my husband and I are working on some other projects. We get to spread our wings. I still want to start a bakery line. I’m still working on that. Some products that’ll just the needs of people who don’t smoke but yeah, it’s been a wild and crazy ride that keeps going.
Sonia Gomez: I’m sure well we have similar backgrounds in the sense that my journey with cannabis started with also a pretty significant injury. I was surfing and got thrown off my board and it was just a whole mess. It triggered a whole syndrome inside of me that was unofficially diagnosed that reflex sympathetic dystrophy and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In my teenage years was put on over seven medications stuff to wake me up and put me down and just keep me even.
And what was happening, I was losing the battle. I mean, I was so depressed. I had gained 100 pounds. My life as I knew it was just completely dissolving in front of me. And where I was, this healthy, vibrant teenage girl turned into this super depressed, just sad and I was not functioning as certainly not functioning and I finally got into contact with somebody who taught me about my endocannabinoid system. Taught me about micro-dosing, strain selection phytonutrients, hemp nutrients. It was really, really cool to go through the transformation.
And within three months, I got off my prescriptions; six months, I was off all over the counter; And within nine months, I had lost 100 pounds.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Go ahead, girl.
Sonia Gomez: Yes, I know. It was all right at the same time that cannabis was legalized in here in Colorado, and when my rights as a California patient were violated, I went to toe to toe with the legal system and ended up here in Colorado after winning that battle and helped write the legislation here in Colorado and it’s been an incredible ride ever since. Now, I primarily do media because I don’t think anyone’s properly covering and exposing and sharing the true tales.
Anqunette Sarfoh: And thank you for doing it. Thank you. [00:10:11 unintelligible]
Sonia Gomez: I mean, I think it’s such an interesting process to go through– actually one of my original clients when I first started the media exposure and no one could figure out advertising and everyone was afraid of doing anything online, we got this client, Pure Kana who actually just sold for over 90 million last week.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Wow.
Sonia Gomez: And we did like that first advertising campaign and like some consulting for them or whatever. Nothing major, but it was just enough for me to feel like right, we’re making headway. So when you’re building up a company in this space, and I’m just going to dive right in, because I think a lot of entrepreneurs are sort of on that track, they’re like, listening to this podcast right now and wondering, she built that up in five months, like, I’ve been at this five years and I want out, how do I get my exit? So I’d love to hear from you like, what do you think it was about your business that made it attractive for a buyer?
What Made Her Business Attractive That It Got Sold in Just Five Months
Anqunette Sarfoh: Oh, well, I have to say that our establishment came with quite a bit of notoriety. Our newscast was the number one newscast. It was a very popular newscast, and I was part of it for eight years. And so when I left, I just kind of disappeared for six months and people don’t know what’s going on. And then when I announced my retirement, I mean, with my retirement announcement, I said I was going into legalization.
And so I think that because of that we got a lot of attention. On top of it, it was always our goal to make a provisioning center that was different from the ones that people were used to here in Michigan.
Michigan has had a medical marijuana program for 10 years. And so in Detroit in particular, had a problem because they had over 200 unlicensed provisioning centers. And they had a negative perception from the public and that people just pretty much saw them as drug dens. And even though they weren’t, I’m not saying that they were. But that was the perception, it was just like, people will go and just buy illegal products.
And so we tell people that I’m a person who utilizes this as medicine, but I also support people’s right to use it in a recreational way. And then we also wanted our provisioning center to be a more of a welcoming space for women, and also space where people can really take the time in an unintimidating environment and really learn about how to use plants as medicine.
So some of our budtenders take up to an hour with some patients at some point. So we were about four months into after opening, we were voted most knowledgeable staff. So we really tried to cultivate an environment where our goal was to alleviate, elevate, and educate. So, alleviate pain and suffering in our communities elevate the image of cannabis and the people who use it and educate on safe and effective use. So that was our motto day in and day out. And I think that it resonated with not just patients but also buyers. It also didn’t hurt that the neighborhood is an up and coming neighborhood. It is very popular and it’s growing and it’s honestly gentrified, but I guess a better term, is a neighborhood that is gentrifying. And so the location is great. And the reputation is also great. So I think that that’s definitely a part of it.
Sonia Gomez: A couple of things I hear you saying, and I’m just like extracting out from how you’re explaining your success, some things that another company or entrepreneur might consider bringing into their business. Number one thing I heard you say was leveraging your celebrity or notoriety to gain recognition for your cause. And that’s huge.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs, for those of you guys who are listening, pay close attention to this. But I think we missed the boat in marketing and how we position our companies through the endorsement of familiar faces. Companies who are aligning themselves with people who already have a built-in following a recognizable face, a recognizable name. These things build the buzz in your community that you’re opening up in.
And if your online presence allows you to access a broader audience, because who you and your brand target may not be accessing this other crowd. So gaining a spokesperson or leveraging celebrity if you don’t build it up yourself. And I highly suggest that you build an internal celebrity for your brand—someone who is behind or you know, the face of your brand. But that’s one of the main things I hear you saying is that you were a recognizable face. You had a recognizable cause. When did you move into cannabis that sort of that following sort of was like what’s going on over there? Let’s see what’s happening over there too.
And then the second thing I hear you saying is location, location, location, location. The first business is located [00:16:03 unintelligle] You know, you’re going to be in someplace that is growing, that is relevant and becoming more relevant and desirable, that it has the foot traffic and road traffic that you wanted to have and has the clientele that you want to be serving.
I mean, I’ve seen so many dispensaries put up a ton of money to move into conservative neighborhoods and they die because it’s just not the right demographic. Whereas, another dispensary can go into a neighborhood that probably has five to seven years of development to come. Maybe the first two years are a little bit of a struggle, but I’ll tell ya, they establish themselves in there and become wildly successful [00:16:48 unintelligible] because they’re growing with the community.
So location, leveraging celebrity. And then the final thing I heard you say was really having a moral code that you’re committed can buy into and then depend on. Your three E’s system sounds really super cool. And I love the alleviate, educate, and what was the final?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Elevate.
Sonia Gomez: Elevate. Alleviate, Elevate, and Educate, those are great ones. And that’s an easy one for people in your community to sign in to and follow along with. What are some of your like peak months in revenue that like when you’re getting acquired, for me, just what I’ve seen in helping to facilitate these types of relationships? You have to be doing a steady number of revenue. You have to have some things working well in your business. Sure, there can be other things that are not so well that they can immediately fix when they acquire. But really what they’re looking at is like what are the revenue? How consistent is that revenue? What’s the brand recognition or notoriety that is being built here and how can we connect those results. So give me a ballpark of your guys’ revenue
Anqunette Sarfoh: I can’t. Sorry, I can’t. It’s because now it’s all part of those negotiations or–
Sonia Gomez: Oh, I see I see okay. So, let me ask you a different question.
Anqunette Sarfoh: I guess I can give you some some some ballparks and some–
Sonia Gomez: Okay, perfect.
Anqunette Sarfoh: You know, or in this area make anywhere between $5,000 a day to $25,000.
Sonia Gomez: Wow
Anqunette Sarfoh: That’s the range. So some of the more popular, some of the busier dispensary or maybe before legalization, they were recorded to the making up to $50,000 a day. [00:18:48 unintelligle] those numbers just don’t come to my head and I have numbers like that are– so we didn’t have that type of inventory to bring in numbers like that. So, our mode of operating was I guess a bit different now that we didn’t necessarily want to have a sort of mom and pop shop but then our internal dialogue there were discussions and disagreements on how much supply and how much we should stock our shelves.
Right now there’s a shortage going on. But there was one time when we had like one strain of flower on the shelf. And right now, I think we have eight, but some of our major competitors have 20, 40, 50. So, so yes, our suppliers, the way that we did things was a bit different and that was a part of disagreements about that.
My husband and I wanted to be more in line with our competition. We want us to be able to offer many more products.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, diversity?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Right. Right. And our investors did not want that. So at the end of the day, it’s people who are paying the bills or writing the checks, they write the rules. So that was another thing that sort of drove our decision to sell was because we had a difference of opinion on how the business should be run and what it should look like. So, so yeah, so that was part of it.
But I think that we were bought not just based on our sales figures now, because I am– there are places I’m sure that have better sales figures. But it’s because of the projection, [00:20:37 unintelligible] we live in an underserved community right now, two blocks over there building condos for $450,000. So, right. It sounds like the neighborhood is in transition, and I think that they’re looking at what will happen once that transition is complete. So that’s part of it.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I love that. You and I experienced something really similar in owning the dispensary. We were one of the first hundred licensed dispensaries in Colorado. We were in a fantastic location up an incoming neighborhood. I mean where I was lived right down the street from there and when I own the dispensary I was spending maybe $1400 a month on rent for a three-bedroom, three baths on like three-quarters of an acre okay. So it was like this really cute up and coming neighborhood down the street from a hospital. Perfect location but our investors didn’t want to market. They didn’t want to invest in inventory. They were like all we need is enough to keep the doors open and I had every major TV station. I mean, MSNBC, Bravo, History Channel, MTV, E Network were all coming out to check out what we were doing in our dispensary.
We were mentioned on like Jimmy Kimmel Live for a can for combs, like food that we did. And they were like no more. They cut us off from advertising. They cut us off from wholesaling. They didn’t want us to do– They were just like, why do you need more than four strains? Why do you need more than five strains? Because I sell out in ones. I’m like, you need to break the ceiling on this thing. Like, I’m gonna need some more resources. And it was always such a battle. So we ended up selling our shares in the company and moving into an online education space, but it can be really, really challenging.
And so many people were forced into partnerships here in Colorado, I’m not sure what it looks like there in Michigan, but here you had to be vertically integrated and you had to be producing 70% of what you were selling and you had to be growing and like all of this– It was such a cluster that people were forced into exchanging ownerships of their grows or other stores. And now, I mean, the last five years has just been like this ridiculous battle of the [00:23:14 unintelligle]
Anqunette Sarfoh: the basic way
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, exactly. And people are having to sever partnerships because the landscape of the industry has completely changed and now you can be an independent wholesaler or manufacturer, whatever. Whereas before you couldn’t. What’s it like over there in Michigan? Do you guys have separate licenses? Do you have to be for fully vertical Can you operate independently?
Doing Business in Michigan
Anqunette Sarfoh: You can operate independently. It’s more advantageous. We found to be vertically integrated because right now there is a shortage. And also, what we have had happened here in Michigan as you have a lot of people who you’re allowed to stack licenses. So the largest class of licensure is a Class C grow and that’s 1500 plants, you are allowed to stack the 1500 plant license. So you have some people who are getting 20 class C licenses, but then they’re not growing plants, they are just getting the licenses and maybe just kind of ramping up.
There’s speculation they’re just doing that just so they can just buy and be bought out quickly and not even put a plant in the ground. But in the interim, you have a severe shortage and what Michigan is dealing with is for 10 years, you had caregivers, [00:24:34 unintelligible] is a caregiver, too. Basically, you get a marijuana card, and then if you want to be a caregiver, you get five other people and you can grow 12 plants per person up to 72 plants total.
So the people who were growing 72 plants, they were the ones supplying flower to all of the medical marijuana provisioning centers all over the state. Well, now the state is getting rid of the caregiver system because they want it to transition into a more commercial system.
Sonia Gomez: There want to tax us, girl.
Anqunette Sarfoh: And so they’re trying to get everybody into this commercial system, but you have the commercial growers who aren’t growing. And then you have the caregivers who have all of this product that they can’t sell to provisioning centers. And so of course, it ends up on the black market. Right now we have hundreds of delivery services that are all illegal. And they are allowed to say, hey, buy this candy bar for $50 and we will gift you an eighth of weed. And that’s legal. Yeah.
Sonia Gomez: No, stop it. They’re selling $50 Snickers over there. They’re like, let me get that hundred dollar Clark bar. A drumstick.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Right. So yeah, so we’re dealing with stuff like that in Michigan and then, you know, Friday on November 1, that’s when the recreational, the adult-use licenses are available. You can start submitting those. But there isn’t enough flower for the medical market right now. So there’s a projection that recreational adult-use sales won’t happen until maybe anywhere from March to June of next year.
So, yeah, and in the meantime, you have all these caregivers with flowers. And we’re also saying that a lot of the flower can’t pass testing. So you have caregivers that are growing things that we can’t sell anyway. Then once the state sees that you have taken in products that did not pass testing, they’re at your door the next day, so make sure you burn it.
Sonia Gomez: What are the provisions for testing, I mean to the state to state and I wish they would have just standardized, like, you know, here, right here. Yeah. It doesn’t matter what state you’re in. Here’s the criteria and I’m sure that’ll happen once we legalized federally, but in Michigan, what specifically are what makes a plant or product unsellable?
What Makes a Plant Unsellable in Michigan
Anqunette Sarfoh: Testing positive for certain banned pesticides, going over quantities for heavy metals and lead, and things like that. I don’t know the quantity of parts per billion breakdowns.
Sonia Gomez: That’s okay.
Anqunette Sarfoh: For certain ones but mostly the banned pesticides and heavy metals and mold actually because they are we had a batch of organically grown cannabis. Almost $30,000 worth that failed for E. coli.
Sonia Gomez: No, stop.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Yeah. And so the state was there the next day to see if we destroyed it. We at that time, we gave it back to the grower, which we now know that’s not allowed. But yeah, they wanted us to destroy $30,000 worth of really beautiful flower. And yeah, but and we all know that granted you don’t want to necessarily take an E.colai but if you’re smoking it, you’re burning that off. So yeah, but funny way.
Sonia Gomez: I’m consulting a few people right now who are like trying to make their way into the cannabis industry and I’m just like, how can I say this in the nicest possible way, Don’t do it. I’m like the cannabis industry is crazy. You have got to have a rhinoceros kind of high to get you, you just need to be made out of straight sheet metal to get into that.
I’m telling you because every single day at something else you bought a product you’re like all excited to put it into jars and get it out onto the shelf. And all of a sudden you read the test results and you’re like, did I literally just lose $30,000? How do you recover that without having more money? If somebody changes a license, then you have to resubmit for your revisions. I mean, there’s no time in all of my years of being in cannabis and I love the industry like believe me when I say I love the industry.
But it’s a love-hate relationship in the sense like, there’s never been a time where I felt like Okay, great. We hit the milestone, we’re good. We’re on cruise control. Let’s just start to refine and stabilize these channels that are doing really– it’s never been like that. It’s always like balls to the wall fricking nails on the chalkboard. Every single day you’re like giving a pep talk in the mirror being like, what about Am I going to be faced with today? Lord Jesus help me.
Yes. it is so crazy and yet more and more people are getting in what? What would you say were the top three challenges that you encountered in the last five months of building a company?
Top Three Challenges They’ve Encountered in the Last Five Months
Anqunette Sarfoh: Oh, okay um disagreements with our investors that’s the top one. Hmm. Not having what I know people need. Right now because we have [00:30:45 unintelligible]. Let me get back up. So, one is disagreements with investors. Second, is not having what patients need for a variety of reasons. Be it the ones who make really great items aren’t licensed. Be it, there’s just not enough licensed supply in the chain right now. But the supply issues, the varying supply issues, then that’s a big one.
And I would say right now lacks enforcement of rule breakers. For example, I mentioned the delivery drivers. But the big thing right now is, and this happening in California too. I think they’ve sort of done something about it. But Weed Maps, you know, we have very limited options, and which advertise in this industry. I tried to put up a post on Facebook and they asked me to take it down. Even if I just mentioned the word cannabis, it doesn’t matter that I have 30,000 followers, it’s only going to be sent to about 1500 people.
So so we’re already constrained by all of these marketing rules. Meanwhile, alcohol doesn’t have those rules, but nevermind. And so, yeah, so So that that that you can’t advertise is a big problem. And so now you have a company like Weed Maps is one of our few avenues of advertisement and so that they put us on the same platform with illegal operators is really unfair. So, I’m out there competing, and my ad is right next to an ad for someone who is illegal.
I feel that that’s not right. You can’t advertise for prostitution and places. So why are they allowed to advertise for something that is obviously illegal? Shouldn’t be able to, I mean– I’m not advocating for these people to go back to prison and back to jail and all that, but there needs to be some sort of enforcement. If that’s the case, then why are you charging us $66,000 per year for our license on top of the application fees, on top of the lawyer fees, all of this stuff and then to stop the store to have 15 to 20 employees to constantly be compliant. When Joe Blow can do whatever the heck he wants.
Sonia Gomez: He’s selling $50 Clark bar. Joe Blow.
Anqunette Sarfoh: That’s frustrating it’s maddening. it’s maddening.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah.
Anqunette Sarfoh: And back to the supply thing. So, I was gonna say that like there was a guy who makes a really great arthritis cream so much so that I have people with MS who say, can you give me 10 jars of that cream. people with arthritis. And he’s still not licensed but he has a great product that I have to call him up and say well, can I get a fixed dollar candy bar and can you throw in 20 jars of your cream. It shouldn’t be that way. We’re a year into legalization and we’re 11 years into medical marijuana here in Michigan. Things should be a little more concrete.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I agree. I mean, let’s see. Over here 2009. I mean, theoretically, we’ve been open for medical in Colorado since the year 2000. But really, in 2009 is when a couple of people like, got a bug and we’re like, fuck it, I’m gonna just leave someplace out right here on Broadway [00:34:21 unintelligible] Like, well, they’re gonna do it on Broadway. I’m going to do it over here on Main Street, and then they were like, Well, fuck y’all, I’m gonna go down. And then like, all of a sudden, we had 1000 dispensaries and they were like, Whoa, we’re in the Department of Revenue. Were like hold the phone, people. Like, let’s go ahead and develop out this legislation to make sure that we get our cut too.
And that was when I came in and I cannot believe it’s been that long. Cannabis time is super-condensed.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Like dog years.
Sonia Gomez: It is like dog years. I swear to you, I was coming out of California in like Mendocino Humboldt area, the absolute hub and mecca of cannabis. And coming into Colorado, I was like these guys, there’s no way and I was so astonished to see how quickly they progress past what California has ever done. And then how quickly after medical was passed that they brought recreational adult use in and even still the hockey stick growth that we experienced as an industry here. I mean, it’s been incredible to witness but at the same time, it’s a little bit frustrating, too because I’m a mother of four kids, so when I think about or listen to my kids or my kids’ friends talk about cannabis or talk about any of its derivatives. I got a 17-year-old. So you know, he’s trying to get his [unintelligible]
So, for me, it’s frustrating, because I’m wondering, is the education and the communities growing as quickly as the industry and as the access? And I’m curious to see what the landscape looks like over there in Michigan? Do you feel like the education for our youth or for our families is growing as quickly as the industry and the availability of the product?
Anqunette’s Thought About the Education for Our Youth and Our Families in This Fast-Changing Industry
Anqunette Sarfoh: I think the interest is growing. I don’t know if it’s actually been realized. But I know that I have more and more people reaching out to me and I think the more we, those of us in the position, can initiate these conversations, the more education can be distributed. So like for example, I did a tea party a couple of months ago, in June. It’s a tea party and I wanted it to be for women only because women tend to be the ones who tend to be very hesitant about cannabis.
No guys are like to bring it. we’re like no, it’s horrible, you’re gonna ruin your life. And so yeah, so I wanted to just have about 20 people. It ended up being 58 and I had a nurse come in and we spent three hours. We did dabs, we pass joints, they did a bomb. And we talked about the endocannabinoid system. We talked about THC and CBD. We talked about hemp versus cannabis, full-spectrum, a broad spectrum, all kinds of stuff.
And now I’m doing that on a monthly basis. not as big but I partner with a couple in Detroit and they have a cannabis-friendly space in their home. And so yeah, so we do a sort of it is like Tupperware parties meet bon appetit.
Sonia Gomez: Sign me up, I’m in.
Anqunette Sarfoh: So we call it curiosity and TCGA at the end, and I make a big batch of tea. I infuse it with water-soluble CBD. We have some infuse light bites and we talk about how you can use this plant to enhance your life. So, we just did our first monthly event. It was a couple of weeks ago. We had 20 people and that was great. And next month we already have I think 15 people booked, we cap it at 20. And yeah and we’ve starting education that way.
I’m also a member of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association. And so we have outreach on programs through them as well. But that’s an organization that’s also still just getting started and we have a lot of legalization issues and legislative issues to deal with. Right now Michigan has quite a few communities that have decided to opt-out, even though the people in their communities voted in favor of legalization, and so they have decided that they are NIMBYs and they just don’t want it no matter what their constituents said.
And so now we have to find a way to make sure that the people in those communities have their voices heard and their votes counted. So, now so that’s another outreach educational program because you have a lot of people, especially I’m sure, you know, people over 50 are the fastest-growing demographic. They don’t want to be on all these pain pills and they want information.
And also even on our BotaniQ website, we had a section called Channel Q. And channel Q was all [00:39:46 unintelligible] and Channel Q was all about education and it had a link to vetted sources of trusted and accurate information and videos to help people kind of figure out how to use it, how best to use it. And so I think that you have a lot of provisioning centers that do feel that they have an obligation to educate people and also in that part of that obligation to educate is to help dispel all the myths that have been propagated about cannabis over the last 75 years.
So that’s part of it. So I think that we know there’s a need for more education and then some of us are answering the call, but yeah, we need more. Definitely more. We have the people who are no, we’re just all about fire and getting the best stuff and getting blitzed. But there are some of us who want to get chew and not hurt.
We know there's a need for more education and then some of us are answering the call, but yeah, we need more. Definitely more. - Anqunette Sarfoh Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: I’m like, Um, excuse me. I don’t care to be Blitzed. Is there anything that does– I laugh all the time at this skit from Katt Williams where he’s like, I like to smoke weed and so I called my dude up to get some weed and he like strolled up in and like he had this little lien going on, strolled up in the dressing room and he was like, Yo, I got this deaf right here and he was like the deaf. He’s like, this is just gonna kill you. This is gonna kill you right here. You’re gonna be laid out he’s like the death. What? I’m not trying to die, I got a shoot to do tomorrow. Katt Williams if you guys need a good laugh.
Anqunette Sarfoh: I love him. Yeah.
Sonia Gomez: I love Katt Williams. I was dying because I come from like the Bay Area cannabis culture. People are like, let me get on that. You know that gorilla blunt or whatever. Like, okay, cool, but like I’m all and–
Anqunette Sarfoh: [00:41:46 unintelligible]
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be that serious. So there’s definitely, I call myself a stiletto stoner because–
Anqunette Sarfoh: Yes, yes. Mary Claire‘s article. There was a Mary Claire article about and stiletto stoner. So I, yep, I do speeches and I say look so you have stoners in there, those of us who are stiletto stoners, so yeah/
Sonia Gomez: Keep it classy San Diego. I’m like, it can be glamorous, it can be nice. It doesn’t have to be crazy. Like, imagine that the joint is a glass of champagne and you’ll be just, it’s classy. Fine. You know? So I think there’s so much just a huge misconception, but I think that there’s also a really like a sigh of relief, if you will, because now for the first time ever, we’re able to look at an alternative that doesn’t feel so woo-woo right?
If somebody says Oh, go to your acupuncturist for your pinched nerve, they’re like, okay, whatever, but will it work right now? You know, cannabis is something that delivers like instant results. So it’s really earning the reputation and trust of the consumer, whether you’re a new consumer or an old consumer. So I am an old consumer that was not–
Anqunette Sarfoh: Experienced
Sonia Gomez: Experienced. Let me ask you this. What are three pieces of advice that you could offer to a budding entrepreneur, somebody who’s excited about the industry? I can see that the changing of the times, if you will, and is excited to get in. They’re perhaps looking at hemp or cannabis, but they know that they want to get into this space and there’s some key considerations that they should be aware of. What would you say your three top considerations would be for getting into the industry?
Top Three Considerations to Get Into This Industry
Anqunette Sarfoh: My advice would be, first and foremost, go to one of the big conferences. Be at the cannabis Science Conference that happens twice a year, be at the big one that happens in Vegas. Be at some that happened in Denver. I’m surprised at how many people come to me and ask, Well, how do I get involved in this industry, but they have never gone to a single convention. They don’t know what’s out there. So I’m like, you have to invest in yourself first. And you have to learn about this industry because it’s new. And so first things first, don’t do anything until you just go and immerse yourself in the culture. Be it be at a convention for a while I went to Colorado I am. I drove. I drove to Colorado, which was 23 hours, by the way.
Yeah. I would say first, find someone who’s doing it and make that person, your mentor. So, first, go to a conference; second, find a mentor. And third, identify property because I have to say as people all the time. You have to figure out where you’re gonna do it first before we do anything else. In Michigan in particular, you have so many communities that don’t allow it and other communities that only allow certain licensees and other communities that allow licensees but only in certain places.
So what’s going to be the hardest thing for a lot of people is actually finding where to operate. So that’s gonna be really, really tough. But before you even get to that point, have your ducks in a row. Know exactly what you want to do. Find someone who’s doing what you think you may want to do, and pick brain. Even though I haven’t started my bakery line yet. I do train with a cannabis baker in Colorado and I still talked to her. I haven’t sold one cookie, but it’s been three years since I’ve been out there to train with her, but I still call her, and I still talk to her and I still bounce things by her. So I would say find your mentor and hold on tight.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I love it excellent words of wisdom. I will add in this segment of words of wisdom which we always do on the Hemp Revolution Podcast. I will throw in, I think just to piggyback on what you’re saying, and I’ve said this on a couple of other episodes, but I just literally cannot emphasize this enough. You don’t know what you don’t know especially about cannabis. And mostly what you don’t know most people don’t know either. But there are the keys somebody’s who are willing to push the envelope and have built and developed their relationships with governing municipalities and can give you sort of that underlying foundational information that you need to be able to make your next story move. Really knowing who the best of the best is and don’t skimp on the advice especially for cannabis.
Find out who the top law firms are. Find out who the top accounting firms are. Find out who the best of the best. There’s two people that you really need to be on your side in this industry. Number one is your legal team, and number two is your accounting team because audits are coming every year. I mean, every single year and there are no tax write-offs. You [00:47:32 inaudible] expenses in this industry. So believe me when I say the two people you need on your side and the two people you don’t want to lie to are your accountants and your lawyer. Find out what the best are. For legal I would definitely check out the Vicente Sederberg firm, they have their hand in everything. They’re the biggest nationally. they’re fantastic when it comes to cannabis and hemp. And for accounting ask them they have virtual CF–
There's two people that you really need to be on your side in this industry. Number one is your legal team, and number two is your accounting team. - Sonia Gomez Click To Tweet
Anqunette Sarfoh: Can I ask you something? I’m so glad you mentioned Lawyers because I tell people all the time [00:48:06], I’m sorry, I didn’t mention that. Our lawyer saved us. And I remember when we were approached by this investment group to help them and to join them. Our lawyer is not a cannabis lawyer, he’s a business lawyer.
You need someone who knows the business and knows his or her way around a contract. And so when we presented him with our first initial contract, he said, is there anybody in the world with money besides these people, so we know what we’re getting into when we got into it. So we said, write us a contract, please, that protects us. And he did that. And so now that things, as they said, the band always breaks up partnerships and so when this partnership ended, our interests were protected. So we’re walking away whole, and we’re better than whole actually.
So we’re happy with what’s happening after the fact. I went into this thinking that we would be doing this for a couple of years and we still will be just not at BotaniQ. But um, but yeah, thank God that we had a lawyer who and then obviously we’re still utilizing his services now because we haven’t signed yet. It’s happening today but it’s like, not so fast. So yeah, so a lawyer, they cost a lot, but they’ll save you so much more.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, you know, I cannot emphasize this and some people say like, Oh, well, I did this all by myself like cool. I’m glad you’ve been in it alone, you know, you’re that unicorn and I hope nobody right off your fucking little magic thing up here, but like, I’m telling you legal is so so important.
The second piece of advice that I would get would be to build your brand from the start. Don’t wait to start building and establishing your brand to like, don’t wait for your doors to open. Don’t wait for products on the shelf. Don’t wait for this new thing that you’re going to be doing. Just start building your brand.
And in today’s marketplace, people don’t give two shits about your name, your [00:50:31 inaudible] none of that stuff. You are the reason why people are going to buy long term. The marketplaces mature right now. Okay, no, they’ve seen the fancy gimmicks. They’ve seen the iPhone or Apple type displays. They’ve seen all of the fancies. Go to Las Vegas. You know, like that’s where everything is the biggest and the best and the most glossy and glossy and all the things but the thing that’s going to keep you relevant long term is your brand And how you as a person or a business owner or a representative of your company, can position yourself in the marketplace.
It’s not just about the local community that you’re serving, but the world that will be interested in that is watching. Right, The world is watching the community is buying and you want to be ready to open yourself to a global marketplace. By the way, swag is not illegal. Education is not illegal. You know, any of these ancillary products that have your name and slogan and image and whatever on it, those things are not illegal. So you can actually build an international brand being a locally restricted company. So I definitely recommend that you start building your personal brand sooner or later. I mean, look what it did for you, right?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Right. Yeah, totally. Totally. And I still have other brands that I’m like now that this has been acquired. I’m on to the next and then it’s fun and and and and it’s important because people, it’s your brand, it’s your identity in this industry so it’s what you stand for, it’s what you promote, who you are. So yeah, get on it early and stay on it especially because it takes a while because our avenues are restricted.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. And that’s my final, you know, in my three and a half years of being online with the cannabis and hemp movement, I have been able to navigate and troubleshoot myself through the biggest challenge in the industry, which is marketing and advertising. There’s really three challenges that will prevent you from being as successful as you’d like banking and merchant processing, marketing, advertising, and a stable supply chain.
But when it comes to marketing and advertising that has its direct alignment with building an international brand or just building yourself as a local recognizable trusted figure, marketing, and advertising, there’s kind of two ways to go about it. There’s the traditional way, where you’re just like trying to put yourself in flow with the rest of the brands and where people are going to be exposed.
And you’re trying to be the billboard on the freeway, per se. There are approaches that’s been building a community and through the building of communities, we’ve been able to access hundreds of millions of people getting direct building direct relationships with millions of people. And I think that it’s been such a powerful loophole in the advertising game because when most people are getting shut down for mentioning cannabis, we are thriving in the marketing and advertising space.
So a lot of the brands a lot of businesses are coming to us right now trying to figure out how can we duplicate your results and high level I’m just explaining that there’s a pretty significant difference between building a community and then just spending money to be placed where other people are placed. It’s cool to be in vogue. But like, if you’re Gucci and you’re in Vogue next to 50 other designer bags like why am– I just flip the page. I’ve subscribed to Vogue. Vogue is getting my money, Gucci is not. So, in my opinion, like for status, it’s cool to be in the Vogue magazine for cannabis, but it’s even cooler to have your own Vogue, right? And so you have, you know, a list of subscribers who want to be a part of your community, your culture, your thing.
So along with building your own brand, build your community of followers, and then you will have an internal traffic source that you can buy once but pitch to over and over and over again. Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, these are like huge examples of how they built a community and are able to do six seven-figure launches for brands with one post. So, it’s different than being an influencer. Right? That’s almost a derogatory term for me but knowing that you have a community of supporters, a cause, something that’s bigger than yourself that pulls people together and orient them towards one cause that’s the community and if you can build that you can build anything. [00:55:22 inaudible]
Anqunette Sarfoh: I feel wiser. My wheels are turning out like Yeah, right. So yeah, I got some things I got to work on.
Sonia Gomez: Yes, I’m happy to help however I can too because this is just, it’s something that we’ve been able to do super, super well and it doesn’t cost a ton of money. It’s definitely the scenic route to the destination, but it is a longer-term solution, rather than the spend the time and the money now and let’s say three years ago, I spent the time and the money to build my community online. 12 months later is when I made my first six figures from my audience. And now we’re in the 18 to 24 months even after that, the day of inception for our community, and we’re pulling multiple six figures out of the audience. And it’s a really good value exchange. They’re consistently asking me like, what else can we get from you rather than me being like, hey, what am I? So it’s a really, really good exchange and you have a value-driven community is just like such a powerful way to be able to loophole your way through the restriction around marketing and advertising online. The final question for you is what is next? What are you most excited about doing now that you are launching off the lily pad? No. They always say if I knew what I knew then. But now that you know what you know, and you have done what you’ve done, and again, making a quantum leap in such a short amount of time, what’s next for you? What’s are you most excited to focus on?
What’s She Is Most Excited to Focus On
Anqunette Sarfoh: I got a couple of projects in the works. I’m really excited about it. Obviously, I’m continuing with curiosity. So that’s my educational outreach. And so once a month, you know, I’m doing those tea parties and bringing in a community of women, and showing them how this planet can help enhance their lives. So that’ll continue and that’ll grow. I’ve also because the bigger Tea Party was such a success. I’m going to do those at least twice a year. But they’re going to be bigger, and they’re going to be more of a high team or fancy hats and all that kind of stuff. So, yes.
Sonia Gomez: I’ll be there. Thank you so much, girl.
Anqunette Sarfoh: And my husband and I found that– Oh, I’m also a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association so, I have a lot of things going on out there. Obviously working on the legislative side. We’re still working on expungement or set-asides of cannabis related crimes and misdemeanors. And so I’m becoming more involved with them and doing more things on the legislative side to make sure as I said earlier, that people’s votes are counted, and their wishes are adhered to. Let’s say there’s that.
Oh, and the big thing is, I’m from Indiana originally. And Indiana is implementing a hemp program. As a mom, I’m trying to get my sister to become involved in that. And so we’re gonna move on to a conference next month within Indiana and next year my goal is to start the process of legalizing Indiana.
Sonia Gomez: Yes girl.
Anqunette Sarfoh: You know, you have Illinois, you have Michigan, you have Indiana right in the middle. It’s my hometown. I still go home. I still go there very often. My family, my mom, so my parents, got my nephews, my sister. And every time I go home people are like, can you bring me something like No, I can’t. I’m sorry. So yeah, Indiana needs to be the next domino to fall in the Midwest. And so yeah, also, even though BotaniQ is in Detroit, so obviously, I’m not going to be so involved with BotaniQ anymore. I still have a huge place in my heart for Detroit and I want to do something in Detroit. I haven’t figured out what it will be yet, but I’m working on it. And it’s gonna be exciting if I can pull it off. So, I have a couple of things in the works, but for now, hopefully, we’ll sign these papers, and then I’m on to the next as I say. [00:59:56 unintelligible]
January, we’re not gonna in this country, but a huge family trip. We’re going to celebrate.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. celebratory.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Thank you.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, you could say that. But I couldn’t say provisional or whatever. Well, amazing. I am so honored and so excited to meet you. I can’t wait to watch your journey. I definitely want to come to one of the high teas. I’m all about community building. And I just absolutely love especially getting in touch with like the women. You know, 80% of the buying that happens in the household is done by women, first of all.
Second of all, we are the voices of reason and our children so [01:00:48 inaudible] passionate about just being able to humanize a subject that has been taboo for so long. And if there’s any way that I can support your community, it’s actually my community too. My family’s up in Lavonia. So, happy to be a part of that. And just really excited to continue to follow your journey and all the cool things that I know you’re going to be doing once you get back from vacation.
Anqunette Sarfoh: Yes.
Sonia Gomez: Congratulations on the sale of your company. That’s also very exciting. Any last words before we finish today’s episode?
Anqunette Sarfoh: Ah, no, I don’t I appreciate you for asking. I used to ask that question too. No, I think you covered it all. And then so thank you, and thank you for what you are doing in the community. Thank you for being a voice of as you said, reason and education and awareness, and just what you’ve done to support the movement. I can’t say thank you enough, but your efforts are sincerely and deeply appreciated. So thank you for all that you’re doing and continue to do. So, I can’t wait to tell more people about it.
Sonia Gomez: Yes, yes. super exciting. Hey, for those of you guys who are tuning in on today’s episode, thank you so much for being a part of our community. It is our mission here at The Hemp Revolution to make sure that you are getting the truth about cannabis and hemp so that you can make educated empowered decisions about how you want to treat yourself, the people that you love, and the conditions that you may be suffering from. If you are a budding entrepreneur or existing business, hitting a glass ceiling or just not quite sure what the best or next move for you to make is, check us out at theemeraldcircle.com and if you are a person who is looking to get in touch with products that you can rely on to deliver the results that you are looking for, check us out at medical secrets calm. I’m your hostess with the mostess Sonia Gomez, and this is The Hemp Revolution. We’ll see you on our next show guys.
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