California-based cannabis company, Solfulon its philosophy of selling 100% sun-grown cannabis to small craft growers in Northern California.
Eli Millrod, co-founder and CEO of Solful, explains that at the start of operations in 2017, many people questioned the company’s mission. But Millrod says he saw an opportunity to tap into the network of small artisanal farms in Northern California.
Here, Millrod explains the idea behind the company’s branding, as well as what led him to his cannabis career.
Andriana Rossetto (AR): Can you share a little bit of your background and how you and your company have come to this day?
Eli Millrod (EM): So, my personal journey with cannabis began when my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He is a pancreatic cancer survivor. When I was 11, my father had six to 12 months to live. Fast forward a number of years, two decades later, fortunately, he’s still with us and in good health. Cannabis has truly been an influential part of his healing journey. … Anyway, I have seen this experience up close.
I grew up in San Francisco, went to school a little bit on the East Coast, and came back in late 2014 or early 2015. After that, I could really see the writing on the wall that hemp had become legal in California using the ballot initiative. [in] 2016. I was really excited to get into the space, something I really believed in, and honestly, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I have always been interested in working. So, [I] I got involved in the space and started iterating on different concepts with an old family friend who ended up becoming my co-founder. …this was in 2015. We got really excited about the concept of cannabis retail in California. [We] I really understood that… It’s the best opportunity to build a brand when you have a direct relationship with the consumer.
[We] He wanted to do something that focused on small farms grown in the sun. …so we decided to move to that in 2016 and opened our first location in 2017. And then, recently, last month or so, we opened our second location. [retail] your location. Now, we are in growth mode having had a lot of success on our first site.
AR: Can you describe the idea behind the Solful brand?
M: It was an essential core of what we saw in the market that wasn’t really there. We have these really cool networks of small artisan farms in Northern California.
When you went to most dispensaries in 2015 and 2016, you really didn’t have access to this product, and it’s really the same [today]. If you go to a clinic [today] In California, the vast majority of the product comes from large scale production or a branded product versus California artisanal production. This is what makes California cannabis so unique. …we have an industry that was here where people were [around for a while]. Some of the farms we work with are third or fourth generation farmers, and they have incredibly unique genes and practices. So, when I had the experience of getting up and visiting these farms, I was like, “Wow, this cannabis is a lot, frankly, better and more special than anything I’ve seen on the market.” Therefore, he was trying to create and bring to life the store environment.
AR: What purchase of $100 or less has positively impacted your business in the past six months?
M: We want to make sure that we are competitive compared to our peers. Therefore, we frequently purchase other brands and products to ensure that we are truly able to stand behind the fact that we have the absolute highest quality on the market.
AR: How did failure, or apparent failure, set you up for success later? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
M: Early on as a company, there were moments when we had opportunities to grow the company. Especially early cannabis in California [industry]There has been a lot of rapid growth. …we decided after pursuing certain opportunities that they would not work with us financially. Sometimes that was a hard pill [for us] To swallow it up because we put a lot of effort and energy behind some of these projects. … I suspect [long term] This kind of discipline has allowed us to thrive and be financially sustainable. And so, I think he knows when [stop putting] Resources towards something is not a good way forward and a long-term path. [That] They were some of the most important lessons and moments I believe in business.
AR: What advice would you give a smart, mobile farmer about to enter the regulated legal industry?
M: I know who you are. I think you need to be clear about what makes you different [and] What makes you unique. I think brands [and] The companies that do well in a highly competitive market in most states are people who have a clear definition of who they are, what makes them different, and how they stick to it.
AR: What advice should they ignore?
M: People try to say things like, “This is the way things are done” or things like that. Always challenge it, think outside the box and be creative. Don’t just accept the way things are done, so to speak, because some of the things we did early on that people thought were really unconventional proved super successful.
We were really clear about who we are and what we want, [and] than we wanted to be in this industry. For example, we only sell cannabis grown in the sun. Most dispensaries, and possibly the vast majority of what they sell, is an indoor plant. Early people thought [our idea] He was crazy. There are those who said, “You’re going to fail at it.” and “You should always be ready now to have a mix.” And we said: You know? We want to be a kind of destination for this type of product. It really paid off. I mean, here we are five years later, and we’re getting national recognition for the products we offer.
AR: How do you deal with burnout?
M: I believe in what we do, and I know how to do our job every day for our team, our customers and all our stakeholders. So, I think that in itself activates. At the same time, I certainly, like many entrepreneurs probably, have kind of this go, go, go mentality. I try to get the right practices, whether it’s meditation, acupuncture, different things [like that] It can be useful. I think it is important to find ways to verify. For me, acupuncture was helpful. [It] It forces me out of my head into my body and things like that. For me, it’s just finding those moments to try and turn it off. Also, doing something you believe in, I think, always allows you to have power, even when there isn’t a lot of gas in the tank.
M: This is for us [something] We think about it every day. When we founded Solful, we thought about companies that built an amazing brand and culture around their mission. our mission [is] The development of health and happiness in our society. For every person at Solful we hire, the first thing we assess is, “Does this person believe in our mission?” and “Are they in agreement with what we’re doing in society and the impact we’re having?” And so, we have a team of like-[minded] People who believe in what we do, and see amazing results for people who come in and get products that make them healthier and happier. We do a lot of work with different community groups.
And many of these organizations [are ones] Our team will even bring it up to us and say “Hey, this is an organization.” For example, one of our team members, his partner, had cancer and there’s this organization that was helping them run the healthcare system and provide some financial resources and things like that. They were able to come up to us and say, ‘Hey, this is really helpful for me. We like to campaign “… pretty much with every marketing campaign we do, there’s some kind of societal impact component, whether that’s partnering with a brand and making some kind of donation of proceeds, or activating volunteers, or whatever that could be. Therefore, I believe that just living and breathing our job is the best way to maintain motivation.Also, view [incentives like] Powerful compensation and benefits packages – all of these things. But, I think in many ways, believing in what people do every day is what keeps people motivated and motivated to come to work and make an impact.
AR: What keeps you up at night?
M: I think the challenge in cannabis is that the industry is fast-moving and, more often than not, external shocks happen. Whether it’s a regulatory shock, whether it’s a vaping crisis, or a hypertrophy, [increased] Gas prices and all the things we’re dealing with now. It’s just knowing that external shocks can happen, and sometimes it can be like an earthquake. And I think it just creates a dynamic that you have to be willing to be flexible and rush through all of that.
AR: What helps you sleep at night?
M: I think the other thing that helps me sleep at night is what we’ve been through. From COVID to, you name it, [we’ve] I had some of these traumas, and what always helps me sleep is that at the end of the day, people will always use cannabis. The dynamics will change, but there will always be a huge demand for cannabis products.
If you can understand your customer and build a relationship with them, we find that people generate a lot of loyalty through these various external shocks. I think we saw that through COVID. We were considered an essential business in California. We’ve remained open throughout the entire pandemic, and for many of our clients, that has meant being able to sleep at night or being able to manage their pain, or frankly, just having a way to relax and de-stress away from all that’s going on in the world. I think this is a really meaningful relationship when you give people that level of care. Cannabis really does have this level of impact on people’s lives. It’s so heartwarming that you sell people a product that helps them sleep better than they’ve slept in decades or helps them get rid of pain or whatever it may be. So, I guess that’s what helps [us] Sleep at night and find out [we’re] Helping a lot of people even on those days when it’s really hard.
Editor’s note: This interview has been slightly modified for style and clarity.