Zen and the Art of Cultivation

By sweating the details, focusing on flower and listening to the data, Artizen has become one of the top producers in Washington

When a business shows consistent, organic growth and does so without debt, you know it’s doing something right.

Artizen Cannabis CEO Timothy Foia takes pride in the fact that his company regularly exceeds $1 million a month in sales and continues to see steady, consistent growth. Today, Artizen ranks No. 3 in sales among Washington’s licensed producer/processors.

Since its inception, the company has maintained a strict emphasis on premium flower and has resisted the urge to jump from one bandwagon to another.

“We’ve always had this focus on being the best in flower and our model has stayed consistent,” Foia says. “That’s what we do.”

Instead of chasing the latest industry trends, Artizen Cannabis rose through the ranks of Washington state producers by keeping its focus on the flower.

With focus comes expertise, and Artizen’s indoor facility has a purposeful feel that speaks volumes about its dedication to growing cannabis in a manner that consistently churns out high-quality product.

The Artizen facility is a large, nondescript warehouse/office building located 50 miles south of Seattle. From the outside it could be just another book, lighting or sporting goods distributor. Inside, it’s a different story.

Signature Strains

  • Blue Dream

  • Grape Ape

  • Dutch Berry

  • Allen Wrench

From the custom-built software that interfaces with the state’s compliance system to the constant drive for better training, documented standard operating procedures and accurate reporting, Artizen could be held up as an example of a constantly evolving, continually improving, Six Sigma facility.

Foia knew from his past business experience that success is made up of equal parts great product and great operations. Artizen is a data-driven business, in which Foia likes to point out, “We sweat the details.”

Carefully operated grow rooms inside the facility maintain plants at various stages of their growth cycle. Each room is micro-managed for the plants and their needs. Much of the equipment in the individual rooms is custom made, such as the large, movable racks that Artizen created at great expense.  

“The racking system was our design and made locally,” Foia says. “We wanted sturdy yet lightweight grow racks that we could move around with ease. They also had to be easy to clean and sterilize. We’re proud of the fact that our facility had maintained a sparkling record when it comes to bio-problems like twospotted spider mites, broad mites and mold. We’re always vigilant and very careful about cleanliness and ensuring that no outside contaminants get into our facility.”

Foia also likes to keep his employees in close contact: the growers regularly talk to the sales staff, who likewise talk to logistics and operations. He understands that developing great communication creates a strong team ethic and sense of ownership.

While there is no doubt the Artizen brand is widely known for its consistency and quality, Foia believes there is also plenty of room for growth.

“The state needs to open more stores and allow for greater expansion into lesser populated areas,” he says.

With roughly 450 licensed cannabis retailers in Washington, many believe the state, with its 7.8 million residents, could easily double the current number of retailers. Foia says more stores need to open, with less concentration in urban areas.

“That way, people who live in less populated communities won’t have to drive long distances to get to our products,” he explains. “With more stores, Artizen would be able to continue its upward growth curve into less populated parts of the state.”

Artizen’s founders believe that the consistency of its products and the clean, eye-catching package design helped create a loyal customer base that have pushed its revenue toward the top of the sales rankings.

Artizen’s monthly sales have approached $1.5 million a month and several of the company’s strains have been perennial best-sellers, including Grape Ape, Blue Dream and Dutch Berry. Foia believes consumers will gravitate toward consistent, top-quality products in much the same manner that regular buyers of other consumable products like spirits and cigars will buy their favorite brands and remain loyal customers for years.

“Cannabis is like any other business in that success is largely dependent on a relatively small number of factors that combine to create a whole,” Foia says. “We focus on flower and endeavor to create the best; we have a great production team that works hard at efficiency and increasing output per man-hour; we have a wonderful creative department that produces great packaging and messaging for our sales department; and finally, our sales team is constantly out in the field making sure the Artizen brand is well represented and in front of buyers and budtenders.”

Foia’s early career path had a decidedly tech bent to it. In the late 1990s, while he was still in college, Foia became the youngest sales engineer at NEC America. Then, when he moved to Seattle, his thoughts turned to a career in film and television.

However, in the summer of 2010, he read an article on the imminent legalization of cannabis and made a life-changing decision to learn all he could about medical marijuana. Soon after, he opened a cannabis dispensary in downtown Seattle. With that successful endeavor behind him and a fair amount of knowledge under his belt, Foia took what he knew and applied for a cultivation and processing license following the 2012 passage of Washington’s Initiative 502, which legalized recreational cannabis.

The company he would launch was Artizen Cannabis, which, with its 140-plus employees, growing sales and dedicated management team, is well positioned to enjoy success for many years to come.

While running the cannabis operation takes a lot of time, Foia also enjoys many activities outside the industry. He has co-written several screenplays with his movie-making brother, loves to hike in the Cascades and even climbed Mount Rainier with his father a few years ago.

But his focus is on keeping Artizen on the rise.

“I’m in this for the long run and decided several years ago that my goal was to build value for my employees, my investors and the neighboring community,” Foia says. “I love what I’m doing, and right now Artizen is my No. 1 business priority.”

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