Founder and CEO
Therapy Crafted Brands
San Diego, CA
Although I did not know it at the time, a fateful decision made in September 2008 would change the vector of my life forever. On that perfect, cloudless morning, an existing client from my design firm reached out to me with an opportunity. As his successful foray into real estate development came to an unprecedented and spectacularly explosive end under the weight of the economic downturn, he set off on a new path: cannabis.
Five years later, that early opportunity, which began with a silent investment and a few hundred hours of design work, ended with a disconnected phone number and a man that vanished like a specter in the night. Gone was my money, the production knowledge, the trade secrets, the network and the contacts. And gone was any and all first-hand knowledge of the emerging California cannabis market.
This story, however, is not about that. This story is about the continuing challenges and adversity that are the most reliable hallmark of this emerging multibillion-dollar industry. That was simply the first challenge of many.
One of the biggest challenges Therapy faced in the last several years is related to multi-use child-proof packaging. When California released its emergency regulations in mid-2017, the implications of child-proof packaging represented a potential game-ender for small, bootstrapped companies like us.
We were already working with a modified version of our hot-fill beverages, using plastisol sealing caps. Unlike most other drinks in the cannabis market, ours are dairy or coconut-based with low acidity, so they demand a solution that can accommodate ultra-pasteurization, high heat and a hermetic seal. We had already spent several years inventing solutions for our novel production process, starting in our home kitchen, graduating to a production room built in a residential loft, then eventually moving to our own laboratory, which, as it turns out, was just another stop along the way. But the child-proof packaging requirement presented a new type of challenge, one that seemed to have no viable solution.
I started looking for solutions locally, then expanded that search across the U.S. and eventually all over the world – to China, Vietnam, London and Eastern Europe. It seemed no manufacturer had ever needed a child-safety cap for a hot fill beverage. The caps I needed did not exist.
The only viable option was to manufacture custom caps off shore, and the only way to make that affordable was to order somewhere in the neighborhood of 500,000 units. At this point, our sales were inching toward $20,000 monthly, so coming up with $100,000 just for caps was not really an option. Not to mention, even in the most expedited scenario, these caps would have been two months out. Basically, we were screwed.
So I retreated to that special place where Netflix, chocolate and Mexican food provided a momentary respite from this seemingly disastrous situation for our company. At some point I was binge-watching that ridiculous reality show called CNN, and a commercial for Chobani yogurt crossed the screen. The metal foil that covered the yogurt caught my attention, and I realized that much like the villainous archeologist in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I was digging in the wrong place.
I renewed my search. It became abundantly clear that a metal induction seal was going to be part of the equation. Still, nothing specific to our needs was available. I found a few potential off-the-shelf solutions but they would require us to change our bottles entirely, a direction I wanted to avoid. At the end of the day, the search for solutions brought me back to the U.S. and, although it still required a custom solution, it was one we could live with. Two weeks before the new regulations hit, we had our new caps in hand and our compliant product on the shelves.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the cannabis industry is the breakneck speed at which everything evolves. The speed of this evolution and the shifting regulatory environment have created the best opportunity for both personal and business growth. There is little time to lament over challenges or disappointments; unlike many traditional businesses, cannabis operators do not have that luxury.
Real-time, creative problem solving; the support of a good team; the extended network of like-minded operators: These are the things that made the difference for us. That and a commercial for over-processed Greek yogurt. The answer is always out there; you may just find it in the most unexpected place.