Making your way in a new and growing industry is never easy. Someone has to build the path that others can follow as the business grows and develops.
Danielle Rosellison is not afraid to be out in front and help blaze that trail. She and her husband, Juddy, make up the ownership team behind the appropriately named Trail Blazin’ Productions of Bellingham, Washington. Since being licensed in 2014, the company has lived up to its name, blazing a trail through the labyrinth known as the legal marijuana industry.
Today, Trail Blazin’ has 10,000 square feet of canopy inside its 20,000-square-foot warehouse. Trail Blazin’ employs 10 full-time employees, four multi-skilled part-time workers and 15 part-time trimmers, as well as the two owner/managers.
Rosellison was an early activist who made it a point to learn as much as she could when industry rules were being written. She attended numerous industry events and state-sponsored meetings in order to better understand how the legal marijuana business would likely unfold. She’s a smart entrepreneur who did her homework and planned carefully, and the result of her due diligence is a cannabis cultivation operation that returns consistent profits to its owners. Rosellison is also so well-respected among her peers that she was elected to serve as the first president of The Cannabis Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of a sustainable and ethical cannabis industry.
Marijuana Venture caught up with Rosellison to discuss some of the many challenges that growers in other states that legalized marijuana in 2016 are likely to face in the coming months and years.
Marijuana Venture: What have you learned as a legal cannabis cultivator?
Danielle Rosellison: Where do we start? Choose business partners carefully. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Don’t expect other companies to do their job as well as you do. Listen, take notes, and do research, but also, trust your gut. We are the experts.
MV: What was the biggest surprise/lesson that you learned?
DR: Government bureaucracy. If you’re thinking about getting into this business, you should have all your local government officials on speed dial. You need to know who they are, and they need to know who you are. You also need to know and understand regulatory agencies and how they work. You should also be involved with the local chamber of commerce, join with other cannabis businesses to form trade groups and get involved with local and national cannabis associations. Knowledge and connections are your best line of defense when problems — and you will have problems — arise.
MV: What are your thoughts about indoor compared to outdoor production? Why did you choose indoor?
DR: There are hundreds of ways to grow cannabis. At Trail Blazin’, We went with the method that best suited our circumstances. We have small children and needed to be near “granny nanny.” That meant staying in Bellingham, which is on the cooler, wetter west side of the state.
Growing outdoors or in a greenhouse would not be optimal for our corner of the state. In the end, we went with what we knew and created an indoor facility that could consistently produce high-quality flower.
MV: How did you select your grow lights?
DR: It’s been an evolving process. LED technology was relatively new when we got licensed in 2014, so we did some initial small-scale testing of four different brands that we researched on the Internet. From there, we purchased lights for our first grow room. Unfortunately for us, they were not UL listed and therefore did not qualify for rebates from the power company. For rooms 2 and 3, we went with a manufacturer that was UL certified and within our budget. We also took advantage of the rebate programs that make LEDs an affordable option. Finally, with rooms 4, 5 and 6, we purchased LED fixtures that represented the latest in technology. So now we have three different brands of LEDs in our warehouse. Overall, we’re very happy with LED fixtures and at this time we’re a 100% LED grow facility.
MV: How many retailers carry Trail Blazin’ product?
DR: We’re at 17 and counting. Do you know any stores that want to carry award-winning, pesticide-free, sustainably grown Trail Blazin’ product?
MV: Do you personally do any sales?
DR: Heck no! Being successful in business means knowing your particular skill set. I’d probably give our product away for free, while my husband would try to get $10 per gram wholesale. We settle somewhere in between. I let my husband and his team handle sales. That’s their area of expertise. Hiring professional sales people was one of the smartest things we did in this business, and I’d encourage anyone thinking about this industry to hire according to proven skills and not big talk.
MV: How effective have the various forms of promotion been for Trail Blazin’?
DR: For us, budtender samples are the most effective means of promotion because they love our product. If you’re not a big company with huge amounts of cash, you have to be very careful with your marketing budget. Budtender samples, vendor days and social media have worked well for us.
MV: Do you see a noticeable ‘bump’ in sales after a budtender education session?
DR: Budtender education is incredibly important. The more we educate the budtenders, the more ammunition they have to sell our product. But the bigger concern for me is consumer education. As we know, there are some producers who have used illicit pesticides that can be carcinogenic when heated. We’d like to form an alliance with other good players out there to co-fund a large-scale education program.
Let’s be honest, there is a lot of good marijuana on the market. What makes us different is our commitment to cannabis culture. We’ve been immersed in the culture for a long time, from the music scene to the ski/snowboard crowd to my father growing and using cannabis to self-medicate from his PTSD. It’s always been part of our life and to me it’s important to communicate to budtenders and consumers that this isn’t our first rodeo.
MV: What words of advice would you offer someone contemplating entering the cannabis industry?
DR: If this is your first venture as an entrepreneur, I would not recommend the marijuana business. Starting a business requires a variety of skills, knowledge, capital and unwavering tenacity. The legal cannabis industry is a whole other level. This is hands-down the most difficult thing our family has ever done. On the bright side, it also has the ability to be the most beneficial. It will take every ounce of strength and determination to make it to the finish line and the winner’s podium.
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