Living the Dream: Shawn DeNae

At an anniversary party for Washington Bud Company, Shawn DeNae and Bill Wagenseller take a moment to reflect on the past three years.

Shawn DeNae

Washington Bud Company

Snohomish, Washington

Growing pains are common in any business. They just seem particularly painful in the cannabis business. We are formulating the processes as we perform them, balancing burdensome regulations with common business acumen to (hopefully) create a solid enterprise that can thrive. And then the policies, rules or laws change and we adjust again. It is exhausting and takes all I can give.

But it is better than the pain of not growing.

In year one we processed 35,431 units of packaged cannabis. In year two we increased our grow canopy and averaged 3,914 packages per month for a total of 46,970 units. This past year, we steadily bumped up the plant count to a maximum of 312 per harvest, producing about 80 pounds every 28 days, which translated to 75,830 packages. In year one, eighths represented 4% of our revenue, but it has now grown to 48% of current revenue, nearly doubling the one-gram packages (15%) and pre-rolls (11%) combined! 

I have been coached in business to create systems that allow us, as owners, to work ON our business not IN our business. Three years since getting licensed, we are working toward that goal, but our business still needs us to be hands-on for the foreseeable future. Bill, my husband, keeps up the mechanics, deals with our beneficial bug brokers, drives the schedule and makes our deliveries. I do the sales, marketing, procurement and bookkeeping. Our son, Seth, runs the garden and has mastered how to coax the best from our genetics. And we all step up to help fill orders in the processing room. Our 10-person crew is tight and devoted; we rely upon them and they don’t let us down.

We celebrated our three-year anniversary by hosting a party on our farm. Before the sunset, with the bonfire illuminating the guests dancing in the grass, Bill and I had a reflective moment: We’ve done well so far. Despite the monumental challenges of helping establish a new industry, it almost shocks me to admit that we are finding a happy, solid place. Bill is 65 and I’ll be 60 next year and there is reason to feel we might actually be able to retire in five years.

Sure, there are things we would change if given a mulligan, but overall, we have made good decisions as we navigated legalization. We are self-funded, live on our grow property, designed and built our grow buildings, forged great relationships and held onto amazing genetics. And we think our branding is spot-on to reflect the quality of our craft cannabis.

The growing pains are going to continue while we await some help via federal banking. Solid cannabis research to support or dispute regulations will also improve the landscape. Growing legal cannabis is certainly a lesson in perseverance, but I look forward to the pains of growing to the next level.


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