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Cameron Forni of Select Oil: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis or CBD Business

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

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 Cameron Forni.

Cameron Forni has been a life-long entrepreneur with the mission of creating businesses that enable people to live better lives. Forni is the founder and CEO of Select Oil and Co-founder of Cura Partners where he focused on innovation and technology for the company’s success of mass-market consumer engagement.

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?

Black Wednesday, a day I’ll never forget! Oregon had just legalized recreational cannabis and it was the first day of sales. This coincidentally, was also a big day in the life of Select Oil. We were working around the clock to fill our first-generation oil cartridges. Time was not on our side, and these orders needed to be filled immediately. To thin the viscosity of our oils, I made a spur of the moment decision to heat the oil. In my mind, this would allow us to fill the cartridges faster and ultimately save us some time. We created an assembly line process, filling, capping, wiping down, and final packaging. This was a great idea in theory, but also where things started to go wrong… we were pumping warm oil into a cartridge and then capping it before the steam could escape. We all probably remember from our science classes what happens when a solution is heated and then held under pressure… something must give. Spoiler alert, it was the walls of our cartridges that gave. Several hours later, when boxes were out for delivery, we noticed that too much pressure had built up and our cartridges were bursting from the base and boxes were exploding. My sales team was our on the road delivering ooey-gooey boxes of cannabis goodness that was unusable. Black Wednesday is a day that I will never forget.

Here’s the lesson: Yes, we delivered the cartridges on time, but we also got calls from our buyers stating that we sold them a defective product. Imagine, it’s your company’s first day of recreational sales and the first product to hit the market is a complete disaster. Over $300,000 worth of product had to be returned and I personally wrote and sent 350 handwritten letters and gift baskets to our buyers with my apologies. My lesson was clear — sometimes you need to slow down, take a moment, and think through

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently opened a scholarship at my alma mater, University of Oregon, for the Lundquist School of Business. The Forni Family Foundation scholarship will be awarded to your entrepreneurs with learning disabilities. In my own journey, of navigating my dyslexia and learning the ins and outs of the business world, I have learned the importance of having a support system. There is also power in being able to see other entrepreneurs who have gone on to do great things despite their neurodivergence. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

I see this scholarship program as my way of giving back to a school that gave me the tools that I needed to be successful. I also want young entrepreneurs to know that they are seen and supported, and have beneficial opportunities. We will also be utilizing Hypescale Ventures as a platform to assist in mentoring those students and aiding them in becoming tomorrows business leaders.

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?

Experience has taught me that mentorship is the key to both early and sustained success. I was fortunate to meet Wayne Goldberg, former CEO of La Quinta Hotels, and learned so much through his sustained mentorship. When he started at La Quinta, he was mowing the hotel lawn and worked his way up to running a multi-million-dollar company. One of the most valuable lessons I learned through his continued mentorship was how to charismatically inspire employees using inspiration and connection. This lesson was essential in my understand of establishing the pillars for a healthy work culture.

When Wayne was operating La Quinta’s 800+ hotels, he saw that they were using 16-ounce coffee cups and eight-ounce juice cups to meet the needs of customer on the go. He decided to consolidate costs and only offer the 16-ounce cup. When the company received its quarterly financials, they saw a dramatic increase in the continental breakfast costs. To get a better understanding, Wayne went to one the hotel locations and watched the coffee and juice machines. He found out that customers were taking the coffee cups and filling them with juice, which is more expensive to make then coffee. He quickly decided to change direction and only offer an eight-ounce cup for both coffee and juice. This small change reduced the cost of operating the continental breakfast and delivered huge savings for the company bottom line. Hearing this story from Wayne taught me about the impact of small changes to scale a business.

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?

I’m a big believer in social media, in both my personal life and business, which admittedly intersect from time to time. Many established brands do not “live by the brand” meaning they simply showcase a product, not a brand. In my case, I am the brand. What I share on social media is relevant to who I am and the work that I am doing. I’m not just selling a product, I’m building my personal and business brand by sharing my experiences, personal moments and point-of-view with friends, business associates and the rest of social media. I’ve had experiences where I’ll meet people for the first time, and they’ll feel like they know because they follow me on social media. Social media can and should be the voice for you and your brand.

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

What I am excited about:

  • I’m super interested in creating products that highlight taste and terpene profile. As today’s consumers become more educated, better taste pallet will be essential in standing out from other brands.
  • I believe that there is great value in creating more efficient vaporizing technologies. My goal is to produce these stateside, eliminate harmful materials and ultimately working toward delivering the cleanest and most efficient product that I can.
  • Unique and Differentiated Genetics: helping consumers understand the power of the plant and the genetic library the value that these geneticists have in their arsenal.

What I am concerned about:

  • SAFE Acting/banking: Banks must have legal certainty when dealing with legitimate cannabis businesses.
  • Taxation: The concept of over taxation in today’s regulated marketplace, creates a larger illicit market; making it incredibly difficult for legal, regulated operations to thrive.
  • Unnecessary Power Consumption: Due to the STATES act, cannabis is being grown in states, because of their natural environment, shouldn’t be growing cannabis, Cannabis should be grown for the best outcome and harvest under natural sunlight, and specific variated lighting systems with special sensors. Light spectrum variances create more production and through easier controlled lighting environments from metal halide to halogen/LED.

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.

  • Trust but Verify, and Always do your Due Diligence: You don’t know someone until you find out what there is to know about someone.
  • Have a Plan. Your business plan can be in your head, but writing a plan down, sharing it with your team or trusted advisors is a great way to get feedback, create mindshare and deliver success
  • Undercapitalization in the Cannabis Industry can Kill You — there are some business where bootstrapping or shoestring budgets can work. Not Cannabis.

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

A great work environment is key and that sets the table for creating great incentives to drive performance. There is no substitute for setting your personal goals, and those of the Company. And with that all I place, you can create your employee contracts geared towards hitting your deliverables with shared company benchmarks and individual KPIs.

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. :-)

If the cannabis industry focuses on the positive power of the plant, there is tremendous innovation available. For instance, ten or fifteen years ago there was little conversation about the health benefits of cannabis and today it is one of the most talked about innovations in the health and wellness and pharmaceutical industries.

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

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/cameronforni_/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/cameronforni?lang=en

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.