Ethan Felcher is a lifelong cannabis aficionado and advocate. He was raised in a weed-smoking family and moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1991. Over the next couple of years, dropped out of school, moved down to Southern Oregon, deep into the heart of the marijuana counterculture. In 1997, he started a hemp textile manufacturing business focused on providing American made high-quality hemp products.
In 1998, After the passage of medical marijuana laws in Oregon, he was one of the few people initially willing to get on their list and grow legal cannabis. After full legalization in 2014, he left the hemp textile business to focus entirely on the cannabis industry. His longtime partner in activism Brent Kenyon immediately opened dispensaries and acquired a recreational farm license – Oregon Cannabis Farms.
Listen to this episode and learn from the expert, Ethan about his consulting services for cannabis businesses emerging into this industry. Don’t miss!
Even if you have the best product in the world if no one knows, no one’s going to buy it, so it is challenging to get it out there. – Ethan Felcher
Some Topics We Discussed Include
3:50 – A little backstory about Ethan
9:37 – Around his hemp textile company
16:18 – The primary focus of the business and Ethan’s role in the company
21:41 – Standing out in an ocean of cannabis brands
35:20 – Keeping the Motivation
41:32 – The company’s focus in 2020
45:20 – Words of wisdom
53:20 – Where to find them
People Mentioned / Resources
Connect with Ethan Felcher
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: What’s up, guys? Sonia Gomez coming to you from Denver, Colorado, the mecca of marijuana aka Yeah, the mecca of marijuana. There’s all kinds of cannabis hub who blog coming on over here and being somebody who’s a native from California, it’s pretty surprising to see how fast Colorado is innovating ahead of the curve of most of the other industries no matter how young or old they are in their respective states.
As you know it is our mission here at The Hemp Revolution at medicalsecrets.com to share the truth about cannabis and hemp so that you can make empowered decisions about how you want to care for yourself, the people that you lov, conditions you may be suffering from, or otherwise taking care of that beautiful gift of life that you have.
I’ve had the great pleasure of interviewing entrepreneurs from all over the world, of all different walks of life, all different levels of success, and today is no different. Ethan, who is our guest for this afternoon, is a lifelong cannabis aficionado and advocate. He was raised in a weed-smoking family and moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1991. And over the next couple of years, dropped out of school, moved down to Southern Oregon, deep into the heart of the marijuana counterculture. And in 1997 at just 24 years old, started a hemp textile manufacturing business focused on providing American made high-quality hemp products.
In 1998, After the passage of medical marijuana laws in Oregon, he was one of the few people initially willing to get on their list and grow legal cannabis. After full legalization in 2014, he left the hemp textile business to focus entirely on the cannabis industry. His longtime partner in activism Brent Kenyon and he immediately opened dispensaries and acquired a recreational farm license.
They were both asked to be a part of the state rule committees, set up and help draft the initial laws for dispensaries processing facilities, farms, and they offer consulting services for cannabis businesses for emerging into this industry. Here to tell a little bit of the deep and dirty of his journey and secrets of the industry. Help me welcome my good guests. Ethan Fletcher. What’s going on, Ethan?
Ethan Felcher: Right. How are you?
Sonia Gomez: I’m doing good. Thanks. Super excited to have you on.
Ethan Felcher: Thank you.
Sonia Gomez: I have done some pretty extensive research into who you are, and what you do, and how you ended up into all of this stuff. There’s a few things that I’m super excited to talk about just because it hasn’t really been highlighted in conversations on the podcast yet, but for folks who are tuning in and listening in and wanting to get to know what badass you are, why don’t you just take a quick second and tell us a little bit about who you are? Some of your background and then what you’re doing in the industry today.
A Little Backstory about Ethan
Ethan Felcher: All right, um, well, background wise, I was born in Canada. I spent most of my life growing up in Rocky Mountains on cattle ranchers. And I got real tired of cold weather and isolated places. And so I moved out to the west coast when I was 18, and I’ve been here ever since. I’ve always loved weed. And so that’s kind of what I ended up making my life’s work and passion. And, yeah, that’s pretty much in a nutshell.
Sonia Gomez: That’s a good nutshell. I love that you are, similar to me. I was born in Santa Cruz. I was raised all in and around the Emerald triangle Southern Oregon. Like Williams, Oregon, for instance, it’s all in through the southern part of Oregon. These were places that I visited frequently and was a part of the culture there all the time. And for me that feels like it’s the rich history of cannabis is really well represented there similar to that, you might say, British Columbia, or Amsterdam. These are sort of like microcosms of where the industry is kind of famous to be, however–
Ethan Felcher: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. Williams Williams, Oregon, I lived there for 15 years.
Sonia Gomez: Nice. Very nice. We probably have some mutual friends, which we’ll talk about after the show. But one of the things that really broke my heart and went out to the Emerald Cup here just a few months ago, late December, and I was super surprised. Kind of brokenhearted, to see that many of the folks that I had been working with for a long time, or really respected or used to be like the quote unquote big dogs in their areas were barely able, if at all able to make the transition into quote unquote, white market cannabis.
Ethan Felcher: That has been super challenging for a lot of folks that I know as well, particularly the old timers.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah.
Ethan Felcher: When medical marijuana first happened, that was one of the biggest things, all the old timers they’re like, I’m never gonna sign up. I’m not putting myself on the list so they know where I am and what I do. And so they were really reticent to get into the legal side of and as a result people like myself younger people who had less fear around it. We were the ones who started jumping into that.
So we got a leg up even though so many of these folks were doing well in the industry we’re a big part of my learning process and folks who helped me out, and yeah, it is sad to see a lot of them not feeling well at all, not even part of the industry. It’s unfortunate and a lot of– especially now with legalization, so many people who were never even part of it never, would have dreamed that they were going to be involved with marijuana in any fashion. So many of those people jumped on the bandwagon. They forced lots of people out, especially people who weren’t established. And so yeah, it’s definitely unfortunate in that regard.
Sonia Gomez: For sure, I just, for a lot of the folks who sort of pioneered this space, I just have so much respect and they really carry a jewel that will be lost. Similar to like, if you look at Native American culture, every time one of these elders passed away, to a certain point, anybody who’s about 60 years plus right now and passes away in the next 10, 15 to 20 years is going to be taking something or taking a part of the culture or a part of the wisdom of with them.
And I think a similar thing is going to happen with cannabis where a lot of mainstream sort of normal corporate business practices are being implemented. A lot of the art and artisan and beauty and nostalgia of the old school industry that made it so famous, it’s kind of leaving with it. I’m really interested in what you were doing with hemp textiles, especially in the cannabis heyday, the dates that you’re giving there, I’m like, Oh my god, I can’t believe anything else was happening, especially out of Northern California or Southern Oregon. But why don’t you tell me a little bit about your hemp textiles company, because that is a huge thing that’s coming up right now. And then the next major disrupted I see coming in. [crosstalk]
Around his Hemp Textile Company
Ethan Felcher: Oh, absolutely.That’s the real future of the broader cannabis industry is getting back to the industrial uses. When I started the hemp textile business, that was the whole point. At that point in time, at least in my circles, industrial hemp activism was a big thing. A lot of foks were trying to push to bring products like that and to create products like that and get them on the market. There were lots of others [crosstalk]
The real future of the broader cannabis industry is getting back to the industrial uses. - Ethan Felcher Click To Tweet
Sonia Gomez: [crosstalk] for like the rainbow gathering and reggae on the river. Those were two places that were just huge for industrial hemp advocacy. [crosstalk]
Ethan Felcher: Absolutely. I had a booth at Red River one year back in the day and yes, it was like it was starting to feel like there was a lot of momentum-building to revitalize industrial hemp industry in this country, which frankly, is huge in terms of environmental protection and revitalization. In terms of weaning ourselves off of petroleum products, weaning ourselves off of cutting down forests, there’s so many things that industrial hemp can help us do and problems that it can help us solve that.
Which kind of fell by the wayside to some degree, not just with myself, but with a lot of other folks, once medical marijuana happen, and then after that once legalization happened, the focus changed the law. And the focus went from industrial hemp to to growing pot and which I’m all in favor of. I’m a big lover of smoking cannabis. And so that’s was certainly not a bad thing.
Although it was unfortunate in the, just that focus shift because the reality is that even though Marijuana is an amazing thing has amazing medical qualities and does so many good things for so many people, at the end of the day, we’re not gonna save the world by smoking weed.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah.
Ethan Felcher: We will save the world if we plant hemp. Industrial hemp, you know, it’s cannabis, it’s the same thing, but if we start focusing on using it for oils, or plastic, or fibers, all of a sudden, some of the biggest destroyers of the environment–the timber industry, the petrochemical industry, will lose their market shares and that’s where we can really save the world.
And so, I feel excited. Currently to see him coming back. Obviously we’re not seeing a lot of industry uses as of right now although definitely it’s starting to happen, there’s more and more startups coming along that are starting to try to use those aspects of the plant which is huge. I would love to see all of our particleboard and plywood and fiberglass plastic and as much of the oil as we can be made on, because that would be huge.
Sonia Gomez: Totally, I couldn’t agree more. There’s a place in Garberville that I used to go that used to have all of the latest in hemp, textiles and all of these like crazy, restorative fabrics. That’s where I used to get like my sheets and my towels and all this stuff, because I was way into restorative Agriculture I was really into, I still am really into like the whole sustainability movement. So I can absolutely relate.
And did you see that really cool company who popped up recently and they’re starting to make pressed plywood and like pressed pillar boards like the four by fours and stuff that you use the beams they’re making out of hemp pressed hemp flooring they’re making out of hemp similar to like they did with bamboo? And it’s so so cool to see that part of the industry emerging.
For me, I sometimes laugh because I get to talk to the quote-unquote new-age business owners who are owning their new-age companies in the hemp and cannabis boom, but just like you and me where we’re like, I used to go to reggae on the river and we’d have that booth and like be scorching in the hot sun and trying to talk to all the festival goers about biodiesel and building sustainable and it was kind of the quote-unquote hippies conversation. No one really took it seriously. Everyone was just so into whatever they were into. And now it’s like the cool thing, it’s the trendy thing to have a straw bale house or a hemp fabrics or where be wearing heavy clothing or whatever it is. In my inner circles, people, wear it like a real badge of honor. So it’s cool to see the whole thing progress.
Ethan Felcher: It is.
Sonia Gomez: For you, it must be pretty nostalgic to know that you were sort of one of the pioneers who had one of the businesses that would serve an alternative industry or a mainstream industry as a disrupter and then moving into more of the legislative work around bringing cannabis legalization to fruition. And then what you’re doing now in the industry. Talk to me specifically about what today’s business looks like for you and your partner. Do you guys still own and operate your cannabis companies? And add consulting on top of that? Or are you guys exclusively consultants?
The Primary Focus of the Business and Ethan’s Primary role in the Company
Ethan Felcher: No, we primarily operate our businesses. We do consulting on occasion, because there are folks who are trying to get into the industry or have been in for a little while, who are kind of at a loss as to which direction they should go or how they should go about doing things. But primarily, we focus on our businesses, which we still have centuries of. We have a recreational farm, and we also have a processing facility where we make extracts, topicals, edibles. But that’s the primary focus is is the kind of business.
Sonia Gomez: Nice. What do you love most about the business that you’re running right now?
Ethan Felcher: Well I mean I love doing the farming that’s really my favorite part of it. It’s a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle and I do really enjoy that I like being out in the country and that’s where I’m really get pleasure. The business side of it not so much fun it’s just necessity. Doing paperwork and d sales calls.
Sonia Gomez: All the things?
Ethan Felcher: Interfacing with planning, not the world’s finest tasks.
Sonia Gomez: Totally, I can completely relate. So your primary role you would say was the more in cultivation and what does Brent primarily do? Are you guys still partners?
Ethan Felcher: We are. And yeah, my primary role is running the farm, although I do a lot of general management. Brent’s, his primary focus is networking and the politicking involved with everything and the interfacing with planning and, and officials, being the one the point man for talking with olcc and that’s his primary responsibility.
We both spend a lot of time holding people’s hands as it were because there are always questions, and it isn’t nearly industry like are the rules are always changing. So that can be challenging, especially for the folks who aren’t focused on staying updated. We’re just focused on doing their small parts of the job.
So a lot of it is just staying updated on the constant changes that happened in the rule.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah.
Ethan Felcher: [crosstalk] kind of frustrating for sure. Things change quick.
Sonia Gomez: That’s my, that was my least favorite part of running a cannabis company was like, the compliance and the regulation. And at the same time I was like, Fuck, how can anyone get ahead in this industry? Because every time you settle in and you’re like, Okay, great. We paid licensing we paid permitting, we paid everything like, let’s start to recover some of those costs and just go full steam ahead and start to focus on marketing and all this stuff. And then the next thing you know, they’d be like just kidding, amendments coming in. And nothing ever seemed stable.
So that was really super frustrating because at the end of the day, like, we just wanted to serve the patient. We wanted to help people understand cannabis better. We are really passionate about education. And it gets frustrating to have to deal with like all the compliance stuff, which really distracts from being able to bring a really high-quality education and build a really quality community that you serve consistently and sort of up levels the way that we are caring for ourselves and one another.
So that was always a frustration of mine. And a lot of why I enjoyed online publishing. I’ve come to find out in the online publishing space, which by the way, like, I’m the girl who likes to run around barefoot in the garden like in my bed. Bikini top. Do you know what I mean? I never really imagined myself being on like, public broadcast, like doing your show about cannabis. But what I’m finding out is that marketing is a huge challenge for cannabis and hemp because of all of the regulations that the internet and all the social media platforms puts on you guys. So I’m always curious to find out especially with cannabis because you guys can even sell across state lines. How are you guys setting yourselves apart? Where are you marketing? How are you marketing? And how do you stand out in an ocean of brands and businesses that are cannabis-related?
Standing out in an Ocean of Cannabis Brands
Ethan Felcher: Well, that’s a that is definitely one of the most challenging aspects because, obviously, even if you have the best product in the world, if no one knows, no one’s gonna buy it, and so It is challenging to get it out there, we’ve been focusing on brand building because I think a huge part of setting yourself apart is creating that visually attractive brand. Creating the, the cool packages, all of that stuff so that when people come into a store your product looks more enticing than the one right next to it. So, that’s what a lot of what we’ve been focused on.
We have very few products coming on to our processing facility for that reason because so much time has been spent on r&d, which can be really challenging, especially when you’re making, for example, gummies—getting your test results consistent and getting the sha to be able to get those test results consistent so that you can actually make lots and lots of products took forever.
So there is nine months of r&d just on the gummies before we could bring them to market and that a lot about was creating the product creating the flavors of the product and the textures of the product and the packaging of the product that we felt we’re going to really make it stand up. And then now, once you’ve gone through that whole process, now you actually have to actually market it. And there’s a lot of the same challenges involved with marketing, any product, but there are also additional issues that just have to do with the regulatory environment where we can’t take more than a tiny bit of products to go to a sales rep with.
We can’t give people samples of the actual product. We have people, you know, unmedicated samples, just things that make it more challenging, which shouldn’t be the case. But based on the stigma and the fear associated with marijuana, they’ve made rules that say, and you can’t that, you can’t do this. You have to do it like this. The marketing is more convoluted, certainly than other products. A lot of what we do that has been our bread and butter at the processing facility is it’s just full processing, processing for other folks. So many people ended up with a lot of material that it has a shelf life. Cannabis has a shelf life. And once it starts sitting around for six months or a year, it becomes harder and harder to sell like, as, buy it or whatever. And then it has to be processed. Because at least when it’s processed, you can have it on your shelf for a while and no fucking degrade. So a lot of whole processing for other people. While we were building our products and building our brands has it kept them from going.
Sonia Gomez: That’s so important. I think finding ways to– because all the things that you’re talking about it boils down to like cash intensive, right? It’s so cash intensive to develop a brand it’s super cash intensive to do r&d on product, then you got to do packaging and then you got to spend money on marketing which on Honestly is just like, pretty much and then there’s no guarantee right? Nobody can tell you if you put $1,000 here you’re gonna make $1500 back.
Ethan Felcher: Oh yeah, absolutely there’s no guarantee in the marketing end of it and and then that’s also one of the most expensive [unintelligible] ends of it.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, totally.
Ethan Felcher: Wanted, just get a freakin full-color ad in a magazine that people are picking up and boom all of a sudden you’re dropping thousands of dollars, you know?
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, totally. Is that your primary method of advertising, it’s been print ad.
Ethan Felcher: Yes, I would do occasionally some billboards, but those are also expensive. [crosstalk] We’ve done marketing with distributing companies who claim that they’re gonna market our products. That’s another challenge to find people who actually do go out and effectively market your products because we’ve gone through multiple distribution companies with similar results from all of them, which is to say not stellar. Right now what kind of obeying, trying to maybe pull back from the distributors company’s marketing our products and go more into direct marketing, it just seems more effective for contact to market directly to retailers. plus, it’s less expensive and distributor companies aren’t wanting percent and which is a crazy connection and especially when they’re not doing the work that I feel like should be being done.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, totally. Totally. I’m like a distributor as a distributor and a marketer as a marketer, how can you do both? It’s not I’m not sure. But very interesting. Another challenge that I’ve heard quite a bit and is around the banking and I’m super familiar with this, especially in the CBD space and personally and being in the cannabis industry here in Colorado, but you would think in 10 years that they would figure it out, and they have not figued it out.
Ethan Felcher: You would think, right?
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. I’m like, I can’t believe one of these fucking big dog dealers, who was just crushing life in the early 90s didn’t buy a financial institution, and decided to fix the banking problem for the entire industry. But nobody’s done that.
Ethan Felcher: [unintelligible] talked about and it’s been tried. It’s not quite that easy and talk about capital intensive, you know, opening banks definitely requires some capital, but then, of course, that really comes down to the federal government. It’s not the banks themselves care so much. I mean, [crosstalk] launder money for Russian oligarchs as long as they can do it comfortably themselves.
And that’s what it comes down to the feds keep going. I mean, the feds been pretty consistent and that try and stay out of states rights issues, you know, but as far as interstate commerce goes like the government has been super consistent. They’re not into it, and they expect things to treat it as suspicious activity and, and obviously, like, if I was a banker, why would I do that?
Sonia Gomez: Why would you do what? why would you [crosstalk]?
Ethan Felcher: Why would I potentially jeopardize my institution by working with a company that the bed say, you can do this, but we might decide that it’s a bad thing. And you might get in trouble later, if you do, which is basically what they’ve said to banks. And so obviously it like, if I was a bank, would say, yeah, that seems iffy.
Sonia Gomez: So what do you guys do? What do you get the business? Are you still running an all-cash business? Or have you found an alternative?
Ethan Felcher: Oh, no, it’s all cash. I mean, we have tried opening bank accounts, or consulting businesses or consulting licenses and trying to run payroll and cash into those accounts but they’ve always been flagged and close so it’s all cash. We have to keep money in a safe and dole it out like that we have to go get money orders to pay our taxes. it’s definitely less than convenient.
Sonia Gomez: Oh, my buddy, I have to just tell you the story because the convenient thing just cracked me up right now. My good friend who right out of Oklahoma City, hardcore Christian never really believed in cannabis and hemp until till he saw his sister in law use it and extend her life by several months. Suffering from cancer and That is sort of what turned his mind towards CBD. It just so happens to be one of the largest CBD manufacturers. And it CGMP has all the certifications so on and so forth and creates several incredible products. But he was producing products for all of these people who would be like, yeah, okay, great, you know, they have 10,000 units or whatever ready to sell and then the merchant processor would shut them down, and they could no longer take payments, they can no longer sell products. It was just like a waiting game.
So he decided to buy a bank and a merchant processor that would serve cannabis and hemp. And so far, I’ve gotten several cannabis companies in both Oregon and California, approved really quickly, like I said, like, he’s my very close friend. And so I can just call him and be like, we got another one Tommy like right and merchant processor. So now these dispensaries can pick up credit cards, and they’re not spending astronomical like 10% fee every time somebody processes the credit card.
So I’ll make a connection for you because I know that it just completely transforms the way that you can do business. If you can just have normal business allowances like owning and operating a bank account, for instance. I’ll make an introduction for you for sure. But it’s so crazy how the most important interbase innovations of this industry are coming straight out of necessity like a manufacturer. He doesn’t know anything about banking, but he just so happens to have the means to be able to solve that problem. [unintelligible] first for his clients, and then he’s like, Hey, you know, a lot of people can benefit from this, let’s make it happen.
So it’s really cool to see those types of innovations happening and exactly what you’re talking about, like how you’re serving your fellow neighbor and working collaboratively instead of competitively, whether it’s processing some of their product or you know, whatever it is, you’re creating mutually beneficial relationships. And that’s one of my favorite things about the industry.
What’s a story for you that stands out that, like, when confronted with any of the challenges, I mean, on a daily basis, when I was running my brick and mortar business, I was like, I fucking quit. I want out like I can’t deal with this another day. But then I would remember my amputee veteran or my mama who had come in with her kid who had epilepsy and limes disease. And I would think to myself, like, I can’t quit, what are they gonna do? You know? And so for you, what is a story or who is a person that stands out for you that keeps you super committed to the work that you do and the quality that you provide and the innovation that you implement in your company as you grow your business?
Keeping the Motivation
Ethan Felcher: Um, well, I mean, honestly, I don’t know if there’s any one particular story that stands out in my mind in that sense. I mean, what you were just saying about, like, people, all the other people involved, there’s certainly been a couple of times in the past where Yeah, I wanted to throw my hands up and say now pocket like, I could just get get involved with something else. It’s less complicated. You know, and then you just Start thinking okay, so now I got to tell these five people that they need to go do something else do.
And that has on a couple of occasions stopped me, you know that wow, I don’t really want to have to go tell these other people that I’m firing their jobs gone on. So other people for sure have kept me working at it. Normally I don’t have any issues. I love what I’m doing. I think it’s super important. I think we have a really amazing opportunity to try our damnedest to like create this industry, along with more equitable and sustainable models which can’t seem to be a really big challenge just in and of itself beyond even just the day to day aspects of running your own business, the whole bigger picture of like the industry as a whole and what its gonna look like, and how environmentally and socially responsible is it going to be, which doesn’t always appear to be the case. But, you know, we’re working on it, and it’s still in its infancy. So we do have an opportunity that with other industries we might not have, and that’s another one that really, you know, keeps me at it is. It would be amazing to really create an entire industry that was based on a more socially environmentally responsible model.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah.
Ethan Felcher: And like, hopefully, it spread that. So, those things are super important. Other other people are super important, you know? Because at the end of the day, honestly, that’s so much of what it’s about. I mean, especially when you’re talking about medical and recreational cannabis, you’re talking about other people and what works for them because that’s who your consumers are. And it’s a big deal in my life. So I know it’s a big deal and other people’s life and there’s a certain amount of responsibility or feeling responsible that comes with that, you know?
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, yeah, I can totally relate to that. And, you know, I’m always, my mind is always on the patient thing, but you’re so right. You think about the employees who are coming to work every day excited to serve and excited to bring value and you’re like, Fuck, I can’t quit. What am I gonna do with these guys?
Ethan Felcher: Yeah, exactly.
Sonia Gomez: You bring up such a good point. Do you ever miss your brick and mortar? Or do you ever miss the hemp textiles company and have you ever thought to resurrect it?
Ethan Felcher: I have thought to try to resurrect it, you know, it’s just, um, you know, I can only do so much personally. And as that business had never really taken off in a fashion that made all the effort but isn’t really woth it at the end of the day.
I think more about in terms of industrial hemp. I really think about the fiber industry. Like you were talking about that when companies are starting to make pilots and whatnot, that right there and something that, like, if I had the means I would definitely be moving into that as well. Just because that’s so big in terms of the benefit that the planet as a whole would receive, you know, and not to mention on a personal level, the market or industrial products building materials.
Sonia Gomez: Oh Yeah.
Ethan Felcher: Huge and never in, oh, you know, on a selfish level. That’s a great business to be if you could walk that business up you making you feel great.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah. You’d be having a good time. That’s it. That’s a good one. Well, tell me what’s next for you guys? What’s your focus for 2020? Are you guys opening up new shops? Are you scaling the ones you already have? are you opening up new social equity campaigns in your area? What are you guys primarily focused on?
The Company’s Focus in 2020
Ethan Felcher: Moving forward? Honestly, we’re trying to divest from this from the retail stores. They are at least for us, super challenging. Part of that is taxation. It’s really hard to make money when the state is taking 25% of your gross write on thetop. And, you know, the retail industry is has so many moving parts. It’s quite a challenge. We’re definitely looking to move out of the retail and focus entirely on just the processing and production of cnnabis. Much more straightforwad, less of a tax burden. So that’s kind of what we’re focusing on, right. We finally, you know, over the last few months in our, some of our products, you know, ready for market Finally, after a lot of research and development. And so we really want to focus on marketing those products, our edibles and topicals. And try to build our own company up.
It’s just Too much to focus on too many different things. We thought that vertical integration was the way to go, it what’s a no brainer, produce it, make it into value-added products, then we’ll sell it, and we’re going to make money every step of the way. And now that’s not how it works. And the biggest flaw in that whole vertical integration thing was the stores and how hard it was to be profitable at the stores and how we ended up basically like dumping money on products. We’re constantly, essentially, to help pay the taxes. It just hasn’t been the retail industry has not been that great for us.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Retail is tough, man. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it’s cannabis or coconuts. The retail is tough.
Ethan Felcher: Yeah. Retailer is tough for sure.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, totally. So, I’m not surprised. And I think that it’s really important to sort of giving that realistic perspective to say cannabis is not necessarily a cash cow. It really truly is, like any other business and it’s not like great build it and you will, and they will come, it really takes a concerted effort and staying super focused and relevant in a really super crowded marketplace. So for those of you guys who are listening in and trying to decide what to do, how to do it, when to do it, it’s important for you to listen, and so I’ll actually segue in here.
In our closing conversation, Ethan, I love to ask you guys, one particular question, and I call this segment the words of wisdom. And this is sort of your opportunity to share. Knowing everything that you know because of where you’ve been, where you come from what you’ve done in your career. I’d love to hear what is one or two key pieces of advice that you could offer the budding entrepreneur as they’re considering or trying to figure out what to do and how to do it in the space to bring value.
Words of Wisdom
Ethan Felcher: Well, my first bit of advice would be take the long view. I know that a lot of people thought this was going to be an immediate path to making millions of dollars without even trying. And there is a lot of money changing hands in the industry. There’s certainly a lot of money to be made. But you got to take the [unintelligible]. We’re in a transitionary period of time. We have been since the very beginning, and that transitionary period of time has not ended and it won’t end until federal legalization and even after, does even after federal legalization, there’s going to be a period of adjustment where rules are made, and then change as, like conditions on the ground, demonstrate different needs and different issues.
So patience, you know, when people open up a start– normally when you start a company, you expect it to take years to make money for you. I mean, that’s statistics. But when people start a weed business, they think I’m gonna be I’m gonna be rich next year. And that’s not the case. You know? It takes work, and it takes time, and you have to know that you have to expect to flog it out for years before it’s going to take off for you. Patience is super important taking the long view, you know, and then persistence to along with that, like it takes work.
And just like any other business, you actually have to do the work. You have to make the connections and build the brands and make the products and get them out there and do all the things involved with that. That means it doesn’t just sell itself. And I had some of the same misconceptions when we first opened the dispensary. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a walk in the park. Oh, let’s put some weight on the shelves, and people are going to buy it. And yes, that’s true, but it wasn’t exactly how I envisioned and certainly a lot more work involved and a lot less money coming in than was initially envisioned.
Sonia Gomez: Certainly isn’t the traditional market. I’ll tell you that much.
Ethan Felcher: No, it’s not. All about being sad, like, I mean, I, like doing the hemp business, or setting up. My ex was a yoga instructor and a massage therapist, and we set up a little clinic studio for her, for example, and there’s a lot involved with that. A lot of red tape, [unintelligible] of bureaucratic, Rican bullshit, a lot of money invested in that. And then, of course, a lot of marketing involved with getting the word out like it that’s how it is. And in it In that sense, it’s not different than anything else. Yes, there’s more restrictive rules. Yes, there’s financial issues. We can’t use banks. We can’t get loans from normal lenders. It’s like there’s a lot of things that are more challenging in this industry. But at the end of the day, it’s still the same old, same old, you got to get up and go to work and log it out every single day.
Sonia Gomez: So true. So true. I absolutely love what you’re saying. And I agree. 100%. And I think the only thing that I would add to that is when you’re looking at business it can be very sexy. It’s like a pretty girl, right? When you look at it, you’re like, yes, everything looks perfect. We’re going to do great, we’re gonna have the best relationship ever. It’s going to be successful. We’re gonna grow old and die together and nothing’s gonna go wrong. But when you get into it, you’re like, this girl was wearing fucking fake eyelashes the whole time. And she looks crazy with no makeup. And when she takes off her bra her tits sag, and like you start to find all of the imperfections when you’re already neck deep into it, and you don’t want to walk away, because you’re like, fuck, well we invested all this time, all this money, all this effort has been put towards the success. We just got to make this thing work.
And I think a lot of entrepreneurs think about business the same way. It’s like a bad relationship. Sometimes you don’t want to walk away when it’s time to walk away. And sometimes you’re scared to make the next move because you’re like, what if it doesn’t work? Right? Similar to a relationship. You’re like, what I love this girl, everything’s great. But if I asked her to marry me, what if she says no? Or what if she says yes, and then everything falls apart. Right?
Ethan Felcher: Right.
Sonia Gomez: So it’s you get into analysis paralysis. And so for those of you guys who are listening in, I just want to encourage you that while you’re considering, you know, coming into the cannabis and hemp industry, or if you’re already in it, and you’re finding yourself hitting brick walls and glass ceilings, two things that I want to share, number one, don’t force it. You can’t ever force it. You can be perseverant you can be determined you can be flexible, you can be all of these other things but don’t force something that isn’t naturally happening. When you’re in flow, you don’t have to fight for the results. They just, it’s just about strategic planning and having the right team around you. The right team who helps you determine what to do at the right time. If you’re forcing something, you’re going to really end up in a lot of trouble—too much money, too much time, bad partners, so on and so forth.
The second thing that I will tell you is, you don’t have to own the business to bring value to the industry. There are so many businesses right now who are really looking for that right person and that right set of skills to transform the way that they are doing business. And there’s so many brands and so many entrepreneurs and so many businesses out there that are really looking for that one person who can bring that kind of value to their company, so that we can start to make a bigger impact and therefore a higher income.
So find out what your unique skill sets are, what’s your genius and how can you bring that to an existing brand or business and I guarantee you, you’ll not only find yourself more appreciated and less stressed out, but you’ll find that your participation is increasing the impact that this industry is able to make by supporting a brand that is in alignment with your moral code. So that’s just the one thing that I wanted to add to there is that you don’t have to own the business to bring value to the industry and don’t force success is something that is cultivated long term and is especially not with mother cannabis.
Mary Jane is a selfish one, and she will eat you up and spit you out if you don’t know what you’re doing. Know what you’re doing. So be kind to one another and yourself and find ask the question, How can I bring value instead of what can I take from this industry? Ethan, I’m stoked to visit with you and to get to know you. Where can folks find you if they want to find out more about you, your brand your business, and what you guys are up to?
Where to Find Them
Sonia Gomez: Nice. Okay. Ethan, I just wanted to thank you again for your time and for being on the show today. I’ll be sure to connect you with my friend Steven, from Quivver Pay. I know that that’ll make a huge difference and in what you guys are doing. And I’m just super grateful for you guys who are on the front lines, helping to serve your communities with quality cannabis. I really appreciate you.
Ethan Felcher: Right on. Thank you.
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, absolutely. Hey, for those of you guys who are tuning in all of the social media handles and websites will be posted around this episode. I encourage you now to like and share this video. content every time that you like and share an episode just like this one, we are able to impact people’s lives from around the world. Just to give you an idea, we’ve been able to impact over 200 million people’s lives around the world with the subject of cannabis quite literally transforming the way that we think about and talk about cannabis in our communities and in our families. We are moving the needle on legalization every single day and making it more acceptable for us to have the freedom of choice on how we want to care for ourselves, the people that we love, and the conditions we may be suffering from, or otherwise just enjoying this beautiful gift of life.
If you’re someone looking for products, you can depend on Check us out at medicalsecrets.com, and if you’re an entrepreneur looking to break through brick walls and glass ceilings, maybe you need merchant processing or banking. Perhaps you need a stabilized supply chain some help with extraction or distribution, hit me up with via email. I’d love to hear your story. firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be super excited to connect with you. I’m your hostess with the mostess social Gomez, and this is The Hemp Revolution Podcast. We’ll see you at the next show, guys.
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