"I started the business with a goal to meet investors one day. I presumed they would call me into their offices, open a briefcase and hand me a document with a proposal on it. Well I had something similar happen the first year and it was very exciting. But we learned there would be a better fit later down the road and I am still talking with that investor. But now, I have also met about 50 investors. I wish someone told me how to screen investors. It can be at a dinner party with friends, someone learns I have a CBD business and says “hey, are you looking for investors”? Well since I am in the cannabis business and have a 5-year plan to be a national franchise, I cannot afford to take these comments likely. As such, I pitch my business to everyone who asks. But 10 times a day can be exhausting. So, I’m still looking for that ideal investor and trying to qualify better."
I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Wick. Adam began his career in Sales and Distribution shortly after graduating from the University of South Florida with a Major in Business and Minor in Entrepreneurship. After spending 3 years in the Computer IT Industry with start-up companies, Wick joined Tech Data (a top three worldwide Distributor), entrenching himself with the IT Distribution and Channel world. In 2017 Wick began suffering from chronic rotator cuff pain. After traditional physical therapy methods proved to be unsuccessful, Wick decided to seek a holistic approach. He quickly experienced positive results from CBD and was inspired to find the best brand available. During this adventure, Wick uncovered a much-needed solution for CBD distribution and DNA Distributor was born. DNA Distributor then led to his now full-time CBD Business — Owner and Manager of Healthy Hemp Outlet.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
After working in the IT industry for 20 years, I was searching for a new and exciting business opportunity. During this reflection, I experience chronic shoulder pain and found benefits in CBD. With cannabis becoming more mainstream and the rate of growth sky rocking, I knew there was a much bigger opportunity for me. I wanted to open a Cannabis Store, but the state where I lived did not offer this type of business license. However, it was legal to open a health and wellness business with retail CBD products. At that time, I thought this would be my entry into the market before cannabis becomes legal in my state. After being in business for over two years, I’m overwhelmed by the excitement — the CBD industry has, and continues to grow with continuous innovation.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
It would have to be one of my early testimonials. From my Enterprise Sales Career, I realized that there needed to be a certain level of trust with customers when selling a premium health and wellness product. Testimonials were key to getting my business off the ground. Manufacturers are always touting their product as the best, so to compete I needed real life examples of people detailing the success of CBD.
The most interesting story has been — Jack. Jack has prostate cancer and found my store while vacationing from Canada. He was a cannabis consumer but had not tried CBD specifically. He had a procedure coming up soon — a painful shot injected to help lower the Prostate Cancer PSA level. In the past, this procedure would “wipe me out for days” Jack said. When Jack called me, he wanted the CBD fast, so I agreed to meet him. He was a thin and healthy-looking man and invited me to his home to meet friends that were also interested in CBD. I agreed and spent another hour talking to his friends about Cannabis HEMP CBD. Jack purchased his product from me and I left. Then the next day Jack called me to tell me he was feeling better than expected before his surgery. He told me “I’m usually grouchy for days after the procedure and I don’t start moving around until 2nd or 3rd day”. Not only was he up and moving, his friends noticed a huge difference in his attitude and mood. Through our interaction and success of the treatment, I now have a satisfied customer, but more importantly a friend. When I saw not only a client and friend rejoice, but also saw his friend’s appreciation and fondness for hemp CBD grow — it was truly inspiring and at that moment — I knew I was doing the right thing with my life!
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?
Recall that I started this business with a few driving factors — one was to help provide education to help clients learn about hemp products and how to use the. Well, during one of my studies I incorrectly read info about the Hemp Plant. Then, for weeks I was telling folks on social media about the differences between Hemp and Marijuana. Someone on social media pointed out that my “statement was not entirely correct”. I went back, and double checked the info and found out he was accurate and my information — while not critically wrong, was not accurate. I had to laugh at myself for this, but it also reminded me that while the Cannabis and CBD market is growing, so is the total education available to us all. There is more anecdotal data than clinical trial data and with so much social media sharing of “headline news”, there is going to be a misinterpretation of facts, words, etc. Now I always triple check anything before we share as educational information.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes, not only do we have our online e-commerce site, we also opened a retail brick and mortar in October. Six months later we are in the final stages of opening a second location. We are also in the process of working with the local fire, police and EMS teams to raise awareness across public services.
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? I’ve had several key influences and mentors, but my first partner has been the biggest influence, to date. I started this company with a partner and we learned this business together. It was a great experience but ultimately, we decided that we wanted to move in different directions. So, we separated the company and we are now both supporting each other in a professional manner in the business. From mentors I met after this, I was also told this experience is a valuable business experience to go through and I agree.
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?
Yes, the answers here could reveal my competitive strategies, so I’ll be brief and not reveal all the secrets. Since the Cannabis industry has numerous online marketing challenges (banned words, banned ads, banned sites) it is challenging to market your company. Our first year we focused in our local area and started attending every local market we could. This not only helped get us — in front of live clients (website is not personal), but it also gave us a great way to build our brand and credibility. Not to mention, get testimonials. For months we went to every market we could and from there grew a local loyal base that provided a sustaining business while we were still very small.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1. Optimistic about the “adult choice MMJ” market and earning a spot in that sector.
2. There is not going to be a shortage of testimonials as CBD continues to help client and word travels virally. I’m excited to see some largely shared stories about huge medical breakthroughs with CBD — especially where traditional medicines and pharma scripts have not been as helpful.
3. Deregulation and move into a traditional market. Everyone in the Hemp Business seems to be in it to help others and sure, capitalize on a growing trend. As more and more Americans’ see the true health and wellness benefits, we’re excited to see regulations lower and the right for Americans to have their “adult choice” will be exciting to see. And we’re excited to be able to offer these services in the future (with deregulation).
1. Banking rules — some states are fully legal, some are not, but across the USA every HEMP business is struggling to find stability from financial institutions. There are solid business decisions that cannot be executed due to banking policies about a rule that has now been reduced in value with the 2018 Farm Bill Passing.
2. Public Perception — there are still a lot of misguided people that due to the “yellow journalism” spread in the early 1900’s believe that the Hemp Plant is a bad thing or that it is a drug. I’m concerned about other such stories being false and without the best interest of Americans’ in mind.
3. Big Pharma inclusion — we’re concerned that big pharma may use power and influence to leverage a position in the cannabis business. It is debatable that a large amount of medical illnesses in American are a result of another pharma script or abuse of a pharma script. More and more Americans are growing concerned about big pharma’s true intentions and I’m concerned that if they get into the market will they synthesize the product and degrade the true organic medical value.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. SEO lessons — They train me, I train them!! Before starting my cannabis business, I did not have relevant SEO skills and was not aware of the necessity for SEO if you want to be recognized and grow. I knew old fashioned marketing, just not SEO entirely. I also did not have the huge budget for the SEO quotes I was getting (12K+ a month). I was blessed to be able to grow the business slowly and organically — literally. I decided I would need to do my own SEO and see how far I could get. After a year’s time I was able to get a decent showing of direct and organic search hits, but I was still not widely relevant on the net. So, I hired a SEO firm and learned a lot. We watched the standard SEO efforts begin to pay off, traffic was growing and trending up. Then, the SEO team and I made a few changes that in other industries was no biggie, but in the Cannabis industry there are different precautions to follow and our resulting changes caused a significant change in our web statistics. We learned together, it can be hard to pay for those lessons, but we did and have already passed the high mark before the dip.
2. Banking accounts — I knew there was a need to be discreet and how you worded your company. Our first name had nothing to do with cannabis and that gave us an early boost by not having banking challenges if we would have started a company called “CBD for All” or something like that. So someone did tell me this one, I always share it too.
3. Public perception challenges (but we use this positively). At 47 I was right in the middle of the Century as far as perspectives on Cannabis. My elders feared it, my peers mostly accepted it, and the younger generation has as much or more peer-to-peer education and is PRO-CBD based on several reasons. I figured our target client would be over 40 (like me) and not already PRO-Cannabis, so the negative perception of my elders and peers needed to be altered and by showing how other peers and the younger generation is more “aware”, we help educate on the facts. BUT, I did not know how hard it could be at times. Like the time I opened my first store — I was opening the front door and my new neighbor looked out her unit and asked me with a smirk smile on her face “are you opening a weed store”? She obviously had the wrong idea about Healthy Hemp Outlet, we had already helped 100’s of clients online and now we were planning on doing the same, I was hurt at the negative perception, but again, used it as a challenge to overcome. Later that week I spent time next door and helped the girls in the insurance office understand hemp and CBD. Now they enjoy the discount they get and the great products they receive.
4. Mentors / Investors — I started the business with a goal to meet investors one day. I presumed they would call me into their offices, open a briefcase and hand me a document with a proposal on it. Well I had something similar happen the first year and it was very exciting. But we learned there would be a better fit later down the road and I am still talking with that investor. But now, I have also met about 50 investors. I wish someone told me how to screen investors. It can be at a dinner party with friends, someone learns I have a CBD business and says “hey, are you looking for investors”? Well since I am in the cannabis business and have a 5-year plan to be a national franchise, I cannot afford to take these comments likely. As such, I pitch my business to everyone who asks. But 10 times a day can be exhausting. So, I’m still looking for that ideal investor and trying to qualify better.
5. Barriers to commerce.
It just seems wrong after a while, you know, why is it challenging to share with people education about a plant that can help with a variety of personal health and wellness needs. There are children that have tried medical procedures and meds for years and now would like to see if Cannabis may help. I’ve seen testimonials about children that try CBD oil a few times and have 100% noticeable improvements in things like: they smile now, they can use the restroom easily, they interact, and they go from 80 seizures a week to 1 every 6 months — how can there be barriers to allowing everyone to benefits. I am glad to see that most folks are gaining an awareness and can make their own decisions. Therefore we support the right to Adult Choice.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I have been in the IT distribution business for 20+ years and had the pleasure of working for worldwide enterprise companies such as Tech Data and HP. I presumed that in the cannabis CBD market the business rules would be mostly the same regarding what to expect from “other businesses” in return. In this business there are a lot of new companies, with young owners and you may need to try hard to find a good company that offers professionalism and reliability in their service. I’ve had orders get lost, product that didn’t ship, handshake deals that never made it. And in today’s era of white label solutions and modularly built website companies — you are not entirely sure who you are partnering with. What looks to be a great vendor online, may be a smaller company that may not survive long term and this could ultimately affect YOUR brand. So, you must do more digging and maybe need to talk to the with the owner of the company to determine if they are credible or not.
And, if you are going to apply what you already know to the cannabis business, it would benefit you to consult with a smaller company, like mine, to hear what their challenges have been early on so you can avoid roadblocks. You can usually get this information for free with a vendor lunch or dinner meeting. I have benefited from bits of helpful information here and there that has saved time and money.