Get used to hearing the word, “no” but don’t let it discourage or slow you down. I have received and continue to hear a lot of “no’s.” Not everyone will understand your vision. With some determination, flexibility and perseverance you’ll start to see some of those no’s turn into yeses.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Corey “CK” Dunson, the collegiate athlete from the University of Georgia turned successful business owner of Bouqé rolling papers, The Garden District, & GRDN athletic wear. This superhuman fitness professional is based in the Nation’s capital, with a mission set to empower and encourage people to stay fresh and live their best lives.
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?
No problem, thank you for the opportunity!
Growing up in a household that valued holistic approaches to wellness, it was almost instinctive for me to source a natural remedy for the physical trauma and concussions I’ve endured as an athlete. Fast forward to life after college, I immersed myself in the cannabis culture, I fell in love with the experience that rolling papers provided. Inspired by the many entrepreneurs in my family, I brought these two worlds together to build a cannabis business that endorsed sparking responsibly while emphasizing proper rolling etiquette, but most importantly, one that upheld my plant based and holistic values.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your cannabis company?
In this business every day brings something different really. But I will never forget the conversations I had with my family when I shared my plans of entering the cannabis industry. As you can imagine, that was an interesting conversation. It was just funny to see the either the family members who a little too excited (you know that one uncle who assumed you would be the new “connect”) or the shocked look on the faces of more conservative family members. I bust out in laughter to this day with the image of my parent’s faces.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Similar to high end fashion brands, Bouqé delivers a premium product to the rolling paper market. We believe that the brand of paper chosen to roll with says a lot about the smoker. Bouqé is for the refined smoker with a preference for flowers of a certain caliber.
A friend once told us that our packaging wasn’t bold enough and referenced an established competitor that has a much more bold approach to packaging. I explained that Bouqé’s is targeted towards a customer that is more attracted to the quality of our product rather than bold and trendy branding. For this we decided to go with a modern and clean line design that appreciates over time. Think, Louis Vuitton. With this simple description, we went from having a critical doubter to a faithful believer and frequent buyer.
Outside of the product, we have created an awesome culture. I am so grateful to work with such amazing people on the Bouqé team. Our energy is refreshing and brings something different to the cannabis and rolling paper space, that people are instantly drawn in.
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?
Having family, friends and fraternity brothers that champion my success means a great deal, especially when the day to day responsibilities of entrepreneurship can be challenging. We are also grateful for the D.C. /DMV cannabis scene. The community has been very welcoming and supportive of our efforts and we are proud to be a part. Most importantly, We have assembled a team of creatives, professionals, and local influencers who collaborate and push the brand outside of the box. Business is definitely a team sport
I specifically remember a conversation I had with my brother, Jamaal. We were casually kicking it one day and he just simply said, “Why not? Why not Bouqé? A brand that can appeal to and represent our culture, Why not roll with Bouqé?” That conversation basically sparked another level of hustle and faith that has allowed us to grow and ever since, I’ve kept that same mentality when approaching new opportunities or ideas. Why not Bouqé? A brand that can be in cool interviews like this. Why not?
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
As a relatively new brand , we are excited about the organic momentum we’ve been able to maintain since inception. Weeks after launching Bouqé, we have hosted multiple sold-out events and established relationships with multiple retailers in the DMV area. The upcoming rollout of our GROW THE REVOLUTION campaign, aimed to promote good-will in the community and celebrate cannabis user duality, has us buzzing with anticipation.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
3 things that most excite me about the Cannabis industry.
- Working in an emerging industry is exciting because there is always something new. With so many blank spaces that need to be filled, it provides a healthy and filling combo of creativity, challenges, and problem solving.
- Now that the use of cannabis is becoming more mainstream, more and more people are accepting and supportive of its use; this provides us with opportunities to shatter the negative stereotypes and stigmas.
- I am also excited about the current art culture that is surrounding the cannabis industry.
3 things that most concern me about the Cannabis industry.
1. Big Business and the introduction of “fast food cannabis”, producing flowers only for the sake of profits, greatly reducing the quality.
2. Over indulging. The new legal market can be exciting, so I’m concerned about people over indulging. I truly believe in enjoying everything in moderation.
3. The politics surrounding the cannabis industry. I would hate for politics to hinder an industry that seems to be very promising. There is a lot of grey area and lack of congruency in the laws surrounding the industry which can lead to some confusion for customers. Which at times leaves your business in a vulnerable space.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story for example for each.
- Remain authentic to your brand as consumers can always tell when you’re faking the funk. Energy doesn’t lie.
- Ask yourself “How do I fit in?” You need to know and understand what your craft and role is. What do you have to offer, that the consumer wants or needs. Once you figure that out, become a master at what you provide and how you provide it.
- Know how to be active and network in the real world. Although social media is a great tool, nothing beats interacting and making face to face impressions with the people in your industry and potential customers. Get out and get to know your scene, making sure to identify key players and influencers.
- Get used to hearing the word, “no” but don’t let it discourage or slow you down. I have received and continue to hear a lot of “no’s.” Not everyone will understand your vision. With some determination, flexibility and perseverance you’ll start to see some of those no’s turn into yeses.
- Finding the right people is key. There’s nothing more powerful than having partners and teammates that share the same sense of business practices and values but also come to the table with different skill sets and ideas. Having a strong professional network is paramount.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does your cannabis passion come from?
I consider myself a grower. I grow different fruits and vegetables in my home garden, so naturally the art and craft behind growing top shelf flowers is fascinating to me. Also, as a former collegiate football athlete I have suffered from a series of concussions and physical trauma in general. Cannabis has been very beneficial in my healing process and I know it could help other athletes as well.
What are some cannabis industry pain points that you would like to see a solve for?
- I would like to see laws and regulations catch up. With so much gray area it leaves consumers confused at times. I would also like to see the cannabis industry treated the same as other legal industry is treated. For example being able to work with banks and other infrastructures, again providing more structure and legitimacy to business owners in the cannabis space.
- I would like to see equal and more diverse representation within ownership and leader roles, especially given the history behind the plant.
- I would also like to see hemp become legal as well.
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. :-)
If I could inspire a movement, I would want to empower and assist more individuals in urban areas and underprivileged communities to start growing. Not just cannabis but vegetables, fruits, and other herbs in attempt to provide these individuals more access to healthy, holistic and affordable food options.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
No problem ;) Thank you for taking the time to roll with us!