Why Listening Is The Key To Success In Business

I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Barsoom, Founder & CEO of 1906. Founded in Colorado in 2016, 1906 offers an innovative line of edibles. All 1906 products combine great taste, superior ingredients, and rapid-delivery formulations to provide a range of experiences, bringing the benefits of cannabis and plant medicine to health-conscious adults.1906 currently offers five unique experiences that promote sleep (Midnight), energy (Go), arousal (High Love), relaxation (Pause) and a happy mood (Bliss), all in a safe and predictable formulation using single-strain organic cannabis.

What is your “backstory”?

I worked in finance for years before giving it all up to become a cannabis entrepreneur in Colorado. I held a variety of senior management positions at American Express, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Intercontinental Exchange. I have a BA from Colgate and a graduate degree from Princeton. My experience working in finance, another highly regulated industry, made jumping into the world of cannabis less daunting. I moved to Colorado with the dream of founding a premium edibles brand, created for high-functioning, health-conscious adults like me. I spent years in research and development for our first product releases, which made for really interesting workdays.

As part of our initial R&D, we essentially canvassed the history of plant medicines and it’s so fascinating to see that for millennia, humans have been using plants to effectively heal ourselves and enhance different mood and life-states. Cannabis is but one of those plants. With 1906, we aim to bring the best of these plants together to make unprecedented products that can help people function better, or more enjoyably, in many areas of their lives. I deeply believe in the efficacy of plant medicine and it’s a dream come true to be working in a category I’m interested in and passionate about.

(You can read more about me in Bloomberg: This Ex Banker Wants You To Swap Your Chamomile for Cannabis)

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

One of the biggest challenges, as part of our initial R&D, was that we were working away from our hometown. None of us lived in Denver, but to be legal, we had to do all the work in Denver, where we had far less of a community and support system of friends and family who were willing to be guinea pigs.

In this early phase, my wife (and founding partner) and I were trying to dial in three crucial things — flavor, experience, and onset time. That work requires an incredible amount of sampling, and that sampling is a slow process — you can only sample a few cannabis products in a day or the effects start to overlap and you’re polluting the research. One person can only do so much. So we had to figure out, as relative strangers in town, how to find people willing to get high and tell us about it. But then we realized our law firm, which specializes in cannabis businesses, actually has a pretty substantial pool of people, a staff of 20–30. So we recruited them and they were our biggest supporters. Every 6 weeks we would throw a party with them and some friends. They were the perfect samplers because they were discerning consumers of cannabis already, they were exactly our target demographic (high functioning, professional adults) and they were naturally very articulate, which was crucial to getting the feedback we needed to refine our formulations. So basically, we got a lot of lawyers high in order to bring 1906 to market.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are impacting people in pretty simple and yet profound ways. We are there for intimate and vulnerable moments in people’s lives — we’re there when they want to sleep, or have better sex, or relax after a hard day, and it’s such an honor to be able to help them in these moments. Part of what I’ve learned in this work is that so much of the American population is suffering around these issues. We want to give people permission to seek out a better experience — around sex or sleep or hanging out with their mate after the kids go to bed. We don’t have to suffer. Recently, I got a letter from a 92-year-old woman who hadn’t slept more than an hour or two in a row in years. And she got a full night’s sleep after taking her first Midnight chocolate; it was very moving to read. Another woman I learned of recently has been trying to conceive, and after taking High Love, not only had her first orgasm in years, but also started producing eggs all of a sudden. Coincidence? I’d like to think that by removing some of the stress and tension around her sex life, our product may have helped restore her natural body state.

Here’s another testimonial we got :

“My name is Maureen and I am a 61-year-old, post-menopausal woman. Due to lack of estrogen in my body, and because I refuse to use any sort of prescribed hormones, my sex drive has been very, very poor for about 5 years. This has been very frustrating to me and, of course, to my husband! I’ve tried a variety of supplements, but nothing really helped. That all changed…with 1906’s High Love. Within 45 minutes, I felt like I was 16 again. Absolutely amazing! I was so pleased, I called the company and told them that all post-menopausal women need to know about this product.”

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?

Ethan Russo, MD is one of the world’s leading researchers on cannabis. As a neurologist and pharmacologist, he has been a leading champion for the scientific research and therapeutic benefits of plant-based medicines. I reached out to Dr. Russo (thanks to LinkedIn) three years ago to share the initial vision for the company. For the last 3 years, Dr. Russo has graciously shared his time, experience, and knowledge of cannabis and hundreds of other plant medicines. He has been an inspiration and guiding force behind all of our formulations. He saw our initial vision, believed in it, and has been a big supporter. I thank him for believing in the project when it was just an idea, and for helping to make 1906 products the best.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

At 1906, we’re always working on something new and different. Currently, we’re expanding our portfolio to include additional plant medicines and experiences. We are also exploring several new form factors. One of our fundamental tenets is that you should be able to not only choose how you want to feel with cannabis, but also how you want to consume. For example, we were (and are) concerned about the health impacts and logistics of smoking flower — which at the time was the most readily-available way to consume, with the broadest options. That’s why we got involved in edibles in the first place, to provide a healthier alternative for people like us. So it’s a natural progression that we’re now exploring even more formats for consumption.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am always striving for this. 1906 products are all-natural, ethically sourced and only of the highest quality. We want to bring cannabis back to the mainstream and to support a community that is doing the same, ethically and responsibly. Cannabis has such incredible potential to heal people, help mitigate the stresses of modern life, and to strengthen communities. We are very proud to be a part of this movement. Also, the cannabis industry creates a staggering amount of environmental waste, mostly due to the packaging requirements. We are working on new packaging technologies, and in the meantime, we use recycled (and recyclable) materials in all of our packaging.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

Absolutely. The Cult of Pharmacology by Richard DeGrandpre. It made me understand how subjective the classifications and cultural perceptions of drugs are. As humans, we’ve been altering our mood states with “drugs” for thousands of years. But which ways of doing that are demonized vs which ways are state-sanctioned and even actively subsidized, are not a function of their danger but rather of other societal factors. The book conveys how the War on Drugs has affected the availability of substances and impacted the lives of those who use and distribute them, not to mention society as a whole. There’s a ton of deep information in the book about the social and psychological factors that influence how the brain is affected by drugs. It makes you question if any drug is actually inherently evil or if it’s all essentially contextual.

You likely have heard of the famous cliché that in a gold rush the one selling the shovels makes much more than the one who finds gold. This is the modern day “green rush”. Can you recommend to our readers 3 technologies or services that can potentially be lucrative “shovels” for the cannabis industry? Can you give an example for each?

I’ll give you examples of current two gaps in the market and one example of a vital business that has filled a gap beautifully.

  1. Delivery. There are two key problems for the consumer in terms of purchasing cannabis: First, the dispensary experience is not a good one. It’s hard to motivate a person to leave their home to go to a place that makes them feel tense, or lacking in knowledge, and that doesn’t let them interact with product. Secondly, people who are currently cannabis consumers are used to home delivery from black market. We need to develop more delivery options, because consumers want it, they’re used to it, and the retail experience is unpleasant.
  2. Child Resistant Packaging. At 1906, we are creating a premium product that is made for pleasure and life enhancement. But we have to use child-resistant packaging, for regulatory reasons. All other CR packaging is associated with things like pain-killers, and other toxic pharmaceuticals. It is not normally associated with goods for relaxation or pleasure. The mechanism itself is frustrating and creates a strong negative message, ie: ”this is poison.” Cannabis is a ballooning industry and yet there are still so few options available to comply with regulation. We need aesthetically appealing, ergonomic CR packaging that is environmentally sustainable. Someone needs to do it, fast, and when they do, they will have an incredible revenue stream.

3. LeafLink. This is a digital service used to power orders. It’s a core part of our business. It powers our efficiency to be able to serve 150+ dispensaries without having an army of people. They are great partners providing a tech that is critical to functioning and scalability of this industry.

What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?

  1. Be curious. I sincerely want to know and understand every job that people who work for 1906 do.
  2. Listen. I know there are areas of expertise that I lack. So I hire the best people I can find in all areas. And then, I listen to them. I don’t micromanage them. I trust them to do their job. It’s efficient, it’s a relief, and I don’t blunt their expert edges.
  3. Be confident. Because of the years of R&D we did listening to hundreds of consumers who tested our products and the thousands who regularly share their experiences and suggestions on how to improve, I am confident in my product and industry knowledge. If you, like me, are asking investors to take a chance on you, that requires being sure of yourself, your products and your business.

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

Do and know every job. Wear all of the hats, at least once. At 1906, I have done them all. I have made every single product we offer. I have made deliveries. You name it, I’ve done it. That’s how you will know what can make a job, and an entire company, function better. It will also give you greater empathy for all of the people in your organization.

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. :-)

If he were alive, I would say Anthony Bourdain. He was a genius who knew how to connect with all sorts of human beings and cultivated a widespread curiosity about the world. The next person is David Chang. I love his food, his creativity, and his willingness to challenge every norm. And he seems like great fun. I’d love to sit down and eat an edible with him.

Jilea Hemmings is the CEO & Co-Founder of Leaf Tyme. She is running a series on the latest innovations impacting the cannabis industry.


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Jilea Hemmings

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CEO & Co-Founder at Leaf Tyme I Author I Speaker I Eshe Consulting I Advocate For Diversity In Tech

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