I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Grayson Stone, CEO Mesh Brands
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
I’m new to the cannabis industry. I’ve had a long career that began in database and catalog marketing. Then after a 15 year run at a fantastic tech company (including executive roles in Marketing, HR and Customer Care), a former boss called me about this opportunity. I was intrigued, and then spent the next few months shopping dispensaries, talking with customers, bud tenders and shop owners. I quickly realized a couple of things. First, although cannabis has been grown in California for decades, the legalization of recreational cannabis was totally going to change the game. What a fascinating set of business problems to solve! In addition, most of the product marketing I encountered was pretty terrible. Mostly product-out versus customer-in, which I thought was a pretty big opportunity. Plus, I was excited to get back to my creative roots in marketing and consumer products.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
Well, I had to text may daughter and ask her how to use a vape pen. That was pretty entertaining.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think Mesh Brands and our parent company, Mesh Ventures, have a unique combination of cannabis industry people working with folks from consumer packaged goods and technology. There is a lot of money flowing into the CA cannabis market and some of it is going to teams who come solely from outside of cannabis. Having both disciplines within one organization means that we’re learning from each other all the time, and everyone knows they are bringing something important to the game. It’s a really exciting, stimulating and fun environment.
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?
Oh my! There are so many people I’m grateful for … I feel so fortunate to have had such a great tribe of leaders and co-workers throughout my life. They all share similar characteristics: they know what leadership looks like and regularly demonstrate it, they understand that people are the most important asset of any company, and they are amazing, and yet very humble. Many of them believed in me before I believed in myself.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes! I’m working to build out the organization needed for Mesh Brands to succeed. Everyone on my team is incredibly smart and talented. Everyone brings their A-game … and yet we’re coming together in a start-up flurry, in the midst of massive changes around us. We’re a young company and at times it’s been a bit messy, which sits heavily on my heart. My job is to build out the capabilities that allow the team to be doing their highest value work all the time. Mostly my job is to take problems out of their way. We’re starting to make progress. I find that kind of work fascinating.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
· Working with people in this industry … I’ve met so many incredible and like-minded souls. I’ve always thrived when surrounded by great people. It’s the only thing that matters, really.
· Watching the evolution of the industry itself. You’re lucky if you land in that kind of situation even once in your lifetime and I’ve had the privilege twice: the explosion of tech in the late 90s and now, cannabis
· Watching the possibilities roll in. So many opportunities! So little time!
· The over-supply and price drop we’ve seen in Washington and Oregon
· We’re building to accommodate state laws. What happens when cannabis is legalized at the federal level? What will that market correction look like?
· The immaturity of the technology that supports the cannabis industry. Data is messy to gather and hard to come by. How many mistakes will we make based on not having the right data to support our decisions?
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
If you’re coming from outside the industry, shut up and learn. You really don’t know anything.
Not everyone uses cannabis for the same reason. Make sure you know your customers and what motivates them.
Like all consumer goods, there will be trends. Watch for them and move fast when you see ‘em.
Don’t over-invest in things that don’t matter, especially if they serve your ego more than your customer.
Relationships always matter in business … in cannabis even more so.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does your cannabis passion come from?
The healing properties of the plant. I’ve seen and experienced the positive benefits of using cannabis first hand. After a life-time of sleep maintenance insomnia, I found a cannabis tincture that has helped me sleep through the night and get off of some nasty sleep medication for good … talk about life-changing! And, my big brother is a Viet Nam vet who manages his anxiety and PTSD with cannabis. It’s made a huge difference in his life.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I see Mesh Brands getting better and better at building products that customers want and need. I think the industry will settle down and a few key players in each part of the supply chain will emerge as the leaders in their field.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
He’d kill me if I outed him publicly … he hates that kind of attention.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
I think everybody should be watching the recreational market very closely, despite the exhilarating growth that legalization drives. We may think we know what’s going to happen, but we don’t.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Gwyneth Paltrow. We have a product line launching in the fall that is perfect for a feature in GOOP.