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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started, with Derek Thomas and Fotis Georgiadis

Being boxed out of the traditional advertising channels like Facebook, search engine marketing,major ad network channels, and even most print/radio/tv, we’ve become very creative! We started really finding success in social media influencer relationships, and we’ve kept those consumers engaged with creative, informative content. We’ve also had great success building brand awareness and building leads […]


Being boxed out of the traditional advertising channels like Facebook, search engine marketing,major ad network channels, and even most print/radio/tv, we’ve become very creative! We started really finding success in social media influencer relationships, and we’ve kept those consumers engaged with creative, informative content. We’ve also had great success building brand awareness and building leads through local experiential events. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage intimately, educate, and have customers become advocates. There’s nothing more powerful than that.

As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Derek Thomas, vice president of Business Development at Veritas Farms, Inc. Veritas Farms is a public company headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and focuses on producing superior quality full-spectrum hemp oils and extracts made on its farm in Pueblo, Colorado. Derek’s duties include developing and executing the company’s sales and marketing plans, new product development and strategy as well as acting as the corporate spokesperson.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My first career after college was in hospitality. After a decade, I realized despite my success and promotions, I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t happy or proud of what I was doing. I had always been passionate about cannabis — about its versatile uses and humanities intimate history with the crop. I quit to start my own startup in cannabis. After a successful exit I began consulting in the cannabis industry with some colleagues. One of our clients was Veritas Farms. After a few months, it became apparent that Veritas was where I belonged, so I made the transition and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The most interesting stories come from customers we interact with at shows, events and online. They come to us with heartbreaking stories of chronic issues that they deal with. We interact with them and inform them of how full spectrum hemp oil products work and what they can do. Very often these interactions come back to us with stories of gratitude, relief, excitement, and thanks.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we were first starting a big part of our business model was manufacturing private label. We spent so much time trying to cater to clients’ custom needs, often to have them go out of business or move to a cheaper, lower quality provider. The revenue wasn’t worth the resources it required, so we re-evaluated the private label program. We put in new minimum order quantities, lead times, order processes, and stipulations on the types of formulations we would do. Now it is a thriving and profitable part of our business that supports our own brand, Veritas Farms. The lesson is not to be afraid to say no to, and even sometimes fire, your clients.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

We’re working on some new products we’re really excited about. One of the most exciting is our full spectrum infused coffee in a K Cup format. We’re going to be launching more sizes, flavors, and strengths of gummies. For women, we are working on a premium skin care/beauty line infused with our hemp oil. Staying in skin care, we’re also launching sunscreen. We’re really excited to bring consumers our quality full spectrum hemp oil in these diverse and fun formats.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Our CEO, Alexander Salgado, would be first on my list. Not because he hired me or entrusted me to build our sales and marketing teams, but because it was his vision and leadership 5 years ago that recognized a huge opportunity in the CBD market. Not just to enter the space and become a sales and marketing company — a route that would have been easier and paid off bigger in the short run. But because in the beginning of the CBD craze, Alexander had the vision to see that quality and transparency would be lacking in the market, and moved in to establish a fully vertically integrated company that would capitalize on that opportunity.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

Being boxed out of the traditional advertising channels like Facebook, search engine marketing,major ad network channels, and even most print/radio/tv, we’ve become very creative! We started really finding success in social media influencer relationships, and we’ve kept those consumers engaged with creative, informative content. We’ve also had great success building brand awareness and building leads through local experiential events. It’s a great opportunity for us to engage intimately, educate, and have customers become advocates. There’s nothing more powerful than that.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?

Excited about:

1. The potential for incredible breakthroughs in health and wellness around this plant are the most exciting. If we can move people away from NSAIDS and opioids and into healthier more holistic options, it would be lifechanging for countless people.

2. The potential for safe, quality and sustainable products in building materials, textiles, and recreation are incredibly promising.

3. The economic implications of the evolving industry for individuals, businesses, investors, municipalities, states and the federal government are almost endless in potential. As old industries succumb to things like automatization, this new vertical is rife with opportunities for workers.

Concerns:

1. Lack of appropriate legislation. The industry and the consumer need the FDA to set definitions, testing standards, quality standards and marketing standards to weed out the bad actors.

2. The second concern is over regulation due to the influence of out-of-date stigmas and misunderstanding regulators have.

3. Finally, a lesser but still present concern is big industry, like big pharma or big agriculture buying up brands and squeezing out competition.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. While the industry is in transition, you’ll have to be prepared to confront antiquated stigmas at every turn. I once found myself explaining the difference between marijuana and hemp to a Broward County Sheriff officer at a smoothie bar.
  2. All normal business operations — like banking, transacting, compliance, and shipping — will have challenges that can be overcome with some out-of-the-box thinking. We have some hilariously and unnecessarily complicated banking SOP’s because of the limited access to proper commercial banking.
  3. The job candidates and employees are more passionate and educated about the vertical than in most other industries. All of our employees are experts. It creates such an immersive, deep dialogue around the office — I’ve never seen anything like it. Everyone is a passionate advocate
  4. There is a lot of education and continued learning in this space. Because it’s a new industry, a lot of people have questions and there are a lot of preconceived notions. But because I’m surrounded by so many passionate people who also love learning, it’s been a very fulfilling experience for me to educate people on this rapidly evolving industry.
  5. There are still many unknowns. This goes back to the industry being so new, but with that also comes infinite possibilities and an open frontier. There is a lot of potential, but I feel very strongly about my role and the passion I have for what I do, so I look at this as an exciting challenge.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Have a strong understanding of your companies values and make sure they reflect in the company culture. This is key to attracting employees that share in and thrive in those same values. Allow them the autonomy to run with those values in their lane at the company.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It would be a movement of inward self-reflection, processing, and healing. The first step to making the world a better place starts with our own personal healing and growth. How can we fix the massive challenges humanity faces if we don’t do it from a position of empathy and understanding to those who oppose our views?

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Visit www.theveritasfarms.com or follow @veritasfarmsofficial on Instagram! We’ve got great educational and product content, along with some fun interactive content too.

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