This won’t be easy so prepare to work hard. Nothing worth having comes easy and although this industry is exploding, nothing about it is easy. Unless you are fully committed and prepared to do whatever it takes, don’t think you are going to make millions overnight.
Ryan Lewis is one of the leading distributors, wholesalers and manufacturers of CBD in the U.S. using American Grown Hemp. As CEO of Global Cannabinoids, Lewis utilizes technology and statistics to enable a B2B model that offers on-trend products for both big box retailers and high-end companies. With his initial focus on CBD, Lewis is committed to offering product solutions in a variety of cannabis strains. In addition, Lewis has a book coming out soon on CBD with ALL profits going to support childhood cancer research using CBD therapy. Lewis is a graduate of Brown University and resides in Las Vegas, NV.
Thank you for joining us Ryan. Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was an investment banker on Wall Street in NYC for 13 years and back in 2013 one of my best friends, Mark Zittman, decided to start a fund to invest in the marijuana industry called Tuatara. He asked me to help raise capital and identify investment opportunities and that was the beginning of my transition from traditional investment banking into cannabis. While at the fund I got a chance to analyze hundreds of business plans per week and my job was to pick them apart. I noticed a trend right away that seemed like a serious challenge all of these marijuana companies faced — they all talked about building a brand, but since they touch THC, they cannot cross state lines so they all had licensees and manufacturers in different states. It seemed like a flawed business model to me since building brands are all about consistency and delivering the same customer experience every time. I began to ask myself how to build a brand in the cannabis industry. That was when my attention turned towards hemp and using hemp-derived cannabinoids to build a national brand since hemp could be sold nationwide.
As I was building my first company in Colorado, we had to be completely vertically integrated since there were very few farmers and extractors producing the hemp. But the following year there were more producers and the prices began to decline. I knew early on that hemp growing and extracting were becoming commoditized and owning farms and extraction would be less important in the future. So two years later, when I started, Global Cannabinoids, I sought out relationships with the largest farmers and extractors, who had no sales and marketing, and solidified relationships with them to handle all of their sales, marketing, and distribution. This is how I built Global Cannabinoids into one of the largest producers, manufacturers, and distributors of hemp-derived USA grown cannabinoids.
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 can’t really think of any funny mistakes I made, but I can think of some not so funny mistakes! Hiring the wrong people was probably the biggest mistake I have learned from. For example, everyone in this industry claims to be the best grower but until the growth is complete it’s very difficult to know if they know what they are doing or not.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on several exciting projects mainly around the isolation and production of rare cannabinoids. Everyone knows about CBD and THC, as these are the most well-known cannabinoids, but there are nearly 100 other cannabinoids present in the cannabis plant. CBN is one of the more “rare” cannabinoids and has shown to have incredible potential for helping people sleep. We are one of the first companies producing this cannabinoid to be used in formulations for products targeting sleep.
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?
My mother is definitely the most influential person in my life. Without her stern direction and advice, I would certainly not be where I am today. As a lawyer and government employee, she recommended the business of hemp as opposed to marijuana. She encouraged me to create one of the first large scale hemp farms to produce CBD due to it being legal nationwide and the rest is history.
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 and sales is the key to my success. Education is critical in my industry and creating marketing material that captures the attention of the customer and gets the point across is an effective way to win customers.
Can you share three things that most excite you about the cannabis industry? Can you share three things that most concern you?
Three things that excite me about the cannabis industry are:
- New research is coming out.
- There are new cannabinoids that we can mass-produce and use in product formulations to produce specific effects.
- Larger companies are entering the space and putting cannabinoids in well-known consumer branded products.
Three things that concern me are:
- Counterfeit or black market products.
- Companies making health claims and violating FDA regulations.
- Government over-regulating the industry.
Can you share your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Customers mostly care about one thing — how quickly they will receive their products. Therefore, building an inventory of products that are tested, formulated, and ready to be delivered is the key to our business success.
- Choose your partners wisely. My first partners were not passionate about cannabis like I am and were inclined to cut corners just to generate the sale. I learned this valuable lesson and chose to have no partners on my second company, Global Cannabinoids, so that I could implement the high standards of quality control and customer service that are now the cornerstone of our company.
- Identify consumer trends in the industry to know what your customers want. I use data from our inbound lead forms to identify trends in products and ingredients in order to get customers products that we know they can sell.
- Don’t plan for today, plan for next year. By anticipating the market demand for certain products, a company will be able to provide customers with the product they need and not leave you with an inventory of products they don’t.
- This won’t be easy so prepare to work hard. Nothing worth having comes easy and although this industry is exploding, nothing about it is easy. Unless you are fully committed and prepared to do whatever it takes, don’t think you are going to make millions overnight.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
The best advice I would give CEOs or founders is to create a company culture or environment that people want to work in. Happy employees are productive and make for a happy workplace. Don’t just hire people based on skills, hire people based on personalities.
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.
The products we make are being used to help people. Knowing this we strive to make the very best products with the best ingredients to inspire an industry of high-quality products that people can take confidence knowing they are getting what they are expecting. By doing this, we hope to inspire a movement of companies who have the same high standards that we do — which is what they will need to do in order to compete.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
- Global Cannabinoids is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GlobalCannabinoids/
- Instagram: @Global_Cannabinoids
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/global-cannabinoids