When I first entered the space, it was very hard to shake the “cannabis” stigma that seemed to accompany Hemp and its derivative products. Having my bank close all my accounts and essentially boot me as a customer was humiliating and extremely inconvenient. Educating the public became a critical component to the evolution of the industry and I believe that the hard work has paid off. General business now understands the difference between Hemp derived CBD and psychoactive marijuana. Consumers from all demographics are entering the market and I believe that has helped drive awareness. Banking and other services are now widely available for businesses and individuals that participate in the Hemp space. It’s a victory for sure!
As a 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 Garrett Bain the Chief Commercial Officer at Kadenwood, a consumer seed-to-shelf CBD company dedicated to fostering trust and transparency in the mainstream wellness category. He focuses on building the Sales and Marketing roadmap for Kadenwood Biosciences, which ensures the quality, purity and consistency of Kadenwood’s proprietary CBD. Previously the Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of GenCanna, executing multi-channel sales and marketing strategies, Bain aims to grow Kadenwood Biosciences’ platform by creating a tiered product offering for clients and enhancing the overall customer experience.
Thank you for joining us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After spending ten years in consumer goods and electronics, I was really interested in shifting focus to an emerging category with significant growth potential. Hemp derived CBD was the perfect opportunity to apply my skillset while working with products that are having a healthful benefit for many consumers. Starting my career during the DotCom boom in the late 90s, I believe there are a lot of parallels and lessons to be learned.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The industry has come a long way in the past few years. When I first entered the space, it was very hard to shake the “cannabis” stigma that seemed to accompany Hemp and its derivative products. Having my bank close all my accounts and essentially boot me as a customer was humiliating and extremely inconvenient. Educating the public became a critical component to the evolution of the industry and I believe that the hard work has paid off. General business now understands the difference between Hemp derived CBD and psychoactive marijuana. Consumers from all demographics are entering the market and I believe that has helped drive awareness. Banking and other services are now widely available for businesses and individuals that participate in the Hemp space. It’s a victory for sure!
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?
I had very little cannabis or hemp knowledge when I started in the industry. Building out sales and marketing teams while still learning the basic science made for a few fun customer calls. I think the funniest was discussing THC levels in Spectrum Products with very established brand. Missing a decimal place on percentage points will get you laughed at and… possibly investigated. There is a big difference between .3% and 3% THC…. and the latter is called Marijuana! Don’t try to pitch a controlled substance to an established retail brand. Trust me!
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes the team at Kadenwood is extremely dynamic and has supported me in my vision of creating a truly global supply chain. Many of our senior leadership come from multinational CPG brands that have always had a global outlook. With fragmented regulatory frameworks from country to country, it is very difficult to treat these products like any other. However, the environment is evolving, and we are beginning to see alignment and common denominators that will make it easier to build a global platform. Consumers around the world will benefit from consistency, quality, and economies of scale. Global supply chain platforms will create access to quality hemp derived CBD products like never before.
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?
There have certainly been many people who have helped along the way. I would credit my college roommate for initially bringing me into the industry as a consultant. He’s a large personality and certainly non-traditional from a business prospective. He believed in my ability to bring best practices and structure to an industry that was largely “The Wild West” at the time. In the early days before the market really took off, he and I lived in the cement basement (with the spiders) of a house that the founders of that company were renting. It was very entrepreneurial, and it really felt like a tech startup. It was a really motivating and fun time to enter the space. I will be forever grateful to him for bringing me in.
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?
Marketing in this industry can be challenging. Many of the platforms and technologies are still not available to hemp or cannabis companies. It takes creativity and a look back at strategies that pre-date social media and Google AdWords. Grassroots education and marketing can go a long way to influence consumers who are looking for answers but not always finding them on current technology platforms.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis/CBD industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I am most excited about:
- Growing number of retailers participating in the category.
- Increase in consumer education and awareness.
- Rise of quality standards and accreditations.
I am most concerned by:
- The entry of synthetic cannabinoids. The industry is really about farmers and natural products.
- Global legislative and regulatory challenges. There is progress but it is slow!
- Poor quality products that jeopardize consumer adoption. Poor products with low efficacy will turn people away from the category.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started in the Cannabis Industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t call “hemp” “cannabis” unless you are speaking to someone in the industry. The relationship and distinction between Hemp, Cannabis, and Marijuana can be confusing and a bit technical. Hemp = No THC or “high”. Marijuana = THC and “high”.
- There are a lot of jokers trying to get rich quick. The “Green Wave” has attracted a lot of undesirables with questionable ethics and shady business practices. Beware of the side deals and brokers!
- This business starts with agriculture. Take care of the farmers! Many farmers are paying the price for poor execution further down the value chain.
- This is a new industry and you need to build your business to be malleable and adaptable. Changing regulation and market forces have put great strain on many of the growers, processors, and manufacturers. Optionality is critical to longevity in an industry that has seen boom and bust within such a short window.
- Direct deposit might get you kicked out of your bank!
What advice would you give to other CEOs, Founders, or Executives to help their employees to thrive?
With FDA uncertainty, it’s difficult to have that longer-term view of the market. I would say that leaders need to develop contingency plans that have a 3–5 year outlook while taking possible threats into consideration. Employees win when leaders plan. Having primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency plans in place will help to mitigate risk associated with variables that are out of your control. I have seen too many businesses go “all in” on one strategy only to get pinched when the market pivots. Be a good steward of your employees’ faith and efforts, plan ahead.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Many people already do this far better than I ever could, but I would like to inspire others to appreciate the time we have on this earth. Some might call it the “BIG PICTURE.” It is something that I consistently struggle with and I believe it affects the way we treat each other as human beings. Taking time to be grateful will have an impact on your personal relationships, business, and ultimately, your definition of success. I think a lot of good could come from the result of a broader view of our world, existence, and place in the universe. Be good to each other.