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Seven brands with innovative business models

By Alex Halperin
May 6, 2022
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Courtesy of Claybourne Co.

When a brand enters the California market, it has a choice: It can be the 500th (or so) flower brand, the 500th vape brand, the 500th concentrates brand or the 500th edibles brand. In a climate so close to perfect competition, it almost doesn’t matter what a brand chooses to sell. No matter what, they’ll be fighting for shelf space against many other high-quality, largely undifferentiated products. 

Hall of Flowers, this week’s B2B conference for brands and retailers, is where to find this dynamic at its rawest. And buyers are still well aware that what sells is price and potency. So what can make a brand connect better than the brand at the next booth? I don’t know. But here, in alphabetical order, are a couple brands that struck me as doing something smart, different or interesting, something that might work. They’re limited to California now, but most, if not all, have their eye on expansion.

1. Beed

It’s been a minute since the last K-cup of cannabis. While purists may (and do) scoff at the Beed, there could be something here. The demo I saw worked great: You drop in a cone and a sealed pod and out pops a fat joint. All it needs is a shake and a twist before ignition. The device, which just launched, is a splurge at $299 and 8-packs of cups retail for $32. But for heavy users, or on a subscription model, it could quickly pay for itself, compared to buying pre-rolls. At the moment, Beed’s flower all comes from Glass House but expect additional partnerships in the not too distant future. Another edge, the company expects the device to soon be on Amazon.  

2. Claybourne Co.

Top shelf flower and concentrate brand Claybourne Co. embraces its roots in the Inland Empire, where the cultural tone is more Stagecoach than Coachella. Dispensaries can be hard to come by across the weed deserts of Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties, but they hold a prize of 7.5M people. Claybourne has built out its direct to consumer sales to reach that audience.

Striving to connect with consumers’ beyond the plant, Claybourne’s ambassador program includes eclectic artists and creators, figures from the world of motorsports and bullrider Eli Necochea. “Bullriders smoke a significant amount of cannabis,” Claybourne CEO Nick Ortega said.

And California smokes a significant amount of Claybourne. According to Headset, in March it was the third best selling flower brand in the state after CannaBiotix and Pacific Stone. Ortega aims to end the year at number one.  

3. Helmand Valley Growers Co. (HVGC)

After serving as a Marines’ Special Operations Team Commander in Afghanistan’s Helmand Valley, Brian Buckley came home with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He discovered cannabis and then started the Helmand Valley Growers’ Co. which donates 100% of its profits to advancing MED research for veterans. HVGC, which in Afghanistan stood for Helmand Valley Gun Club, found early partners in George and Cody Sadler, the father and son team behind House of Platinum. Since then they’ve gained retail allies eager to support the cause.  

4. The Last Podcast on the Left

For more than 700 episodes, The Last Podcast on the Left has pondered true crime, serial killers, cryptids (bigfoots) and other horrors real and imagined. With its 420-friendly subject matter and global audience, couldn’t that be a platform for a weed brand? The LPOTL crew thought so. It launched in partnership with white labeler Saugatuck Brands.

5. Potent Goods

Founded by Gela Nash-Taylor, co-founder of Juicy Couture, and her son Travis Nash, Potent Goods is a lifestyle brand with a clothing line that goes beyond the usual hoodies and trucker hats. The  decadent robes and silk shirts  that wrap consumers in a cocoon of luxury. To me they evoke a update on upscale dens in the Valley, circa 1974. Though not the point, it doesn’t hurt the business model that clothing isn’t subject to 280E. 

6. Substance 

Substance keeps it simple with 12 packs of .25 gram pinners, the smallest packaging in California, founder Sharoz Makarechi boasts. But there’s a bigger purpose. For every 12 pack of pre-rolls it sells, LA-based Substance donates $8.46 to Impact/Justice, a group dedicated to justice system reform. (The amount commemorates the last minutes of George Floyd’s life.) 

Makarechi, who has a background in advertising, sees the proprietary packaging as the building block for a host of new brands, each with it’s own angle on ending mass incarceration. The next brand, Skewville, supports art classes for prisoners, which have been shown to reduce recidivism.

Substance has even developed a consumption methodology around the product form, summarized in three short sentences: “Smoke less, more often;” “Share the pack, Not the joint;” “Exhale justice.” 

7. White Label Farms

White Label Farms grows high quality indoor weed in Desert Hot Springs. What’s interesting about that? Customer’s for its $1,000/pound product are brands that don’t want you to know they buy their product from a white labeler. Who are those customers? White Label isn’t saying.