I had the pleasure of interviewing Ray Landgraf, Founder and CEO of ISLAND. Ray is an accomplished entrepreneur who has founded and built numerous successful companies. For the past 4 years Ray has turned his attention to California’s budding cannabis industry, and is starting to turn heads.
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?
From an entrepreneurial standpoint I believe this is the most exciting space to be building something on the planet. Only 4 other industries since the 70’s have demonstrated the kinds of cumulative annual growth rates we’re seeing in cannabis: home video, basic cable, broadband internet and mobile. More personally, I saw an opportunity to build a consumer brand the “right” way — through quality product and a consistent consumer experience — something that is extremely hard to do in any industry, particularly in this one where until just recently there’s been no set of standards to abide by.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’ve developed proprietary practices and technology that allow us to manufacture our products with extreme efficiency. This means we can fulfill orders quickly without the need to hold finished goods in inventory and can supply retailers with the closest thing from farm to table possible. We’re setting a standard for product quality and safety that very few other companies in the space are holding themselves to. Since we launched our very first product in 2015 all ISLAND cannabis has been tested by an independent lab. Now with new California regulations our standard has become the industry standard. This is great news for consumers.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are always innovating. We are continually developing new technology, but our most exciting project right now is around CBD and building the infrastructure to properly support future consumer CBD demand. We’re leveraging the best practices we’ve developed for our THC products where quality, consistency and safety are all of critical importance, and applying them to CBD.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1 — Society is shifting it’s view on cannabis, creating a baseline level of support for nationwide advocacy.
2 — New research is helping us understand the many ways this plant can help people and improve their quality of life.
3 — The progress on the regulatory front is happening faster and faster which is critical to create an environment for the regulated players to compete with the black market.
1 — Banking: This is number one on everyone’s list. Lack of proper banking access creates a serious and completely unnecessary safety risk.
2 — Education: There’s a lot of snake oil out there — especially in the CBD space. Some of the fake stuff can be dangerous. This is where proper regulation, research and education can make a huge impact.
3 — Misconception: There’s a misconception that cannabis businesses make a lot of money. That might have been true in the black market days, but in the regulated market costs of compliance, taxes and operations make it an extremely challenging operating environment. It’s actually quite similar to tech, where significant capital is required to build, and success — at least in the short term — is not measured by profitability.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
Like any business, to me success in cannabis comes down to:
1. Team: Surround yourself with smart, talented people who can do the things you can’t.
2. Capital: Great ideas need funding to get them off the ground and give you the opportunity to do them the right way from the beginning.
3. Vision: Even if you don’t know how you’re going to get there, you need to know where you want to get to.
4. Execution: Give yourself the time and patience to do things the right way the first time. Procrastination in business is not a bad thing — don’t be impulsive.
5. Timing: There’s a time and place for every successful business idea to thrive. To be in California in the cannabis industry today — it’s a pretty good time to be here.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does your cannabis passion come from?
I visited a children’s cancer hospital this week and met with doctors who are exploring ways to use CBD and other cannabinoids to help their patients. That’s an amazing thing to be able to get out of bed and work on. In my career, this is the first venture that truly directly benefits the people I’m servicing, and that’s a great feeling. It’s the most exciting and interesting thing I’ve been involved in in.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
We’re trying to build a great company around a great brand. We’ll be patiently building every day for the next 5 years and if we do it right we’ll have lots of tough decisions about where to invest our time and energy for the years ahead.
In regards to the cannabis industry, in 5 years the disparity between state and federal law will be removed. That will mark the beginning of the transition for big companies in pharma, alcohol, and CPG to get involved. If we think the disruption of state regulations is changing the face of this industry, the federal milestone will be a whole new ballgame.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
Our head of production, Kristen Suchanec, is one of the most amazing people I’ve worked with. She led production teams at Johnson and Johnson and came to us with a decade of heavy CPG experience. She has been responsible for many of our operational innovations and will be one of the stars of our industry.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
Everyone is focused on THC and CBD right now, but there’s dozens of cannabinoids in the cannabis plant, most we know little to nothing about. Cannabinoids like CBG and CBN that aren’t really on people’s radar yet are the focus of new research, and we are anticipating will have a lot to offer patients and consumers as our knowledge of this plant expands.