To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast

088 New England Cannabis Brand That Sells Good Buds To Great Neighbors with Alex Mazin of Bud's Goods

February 21, 2022 Shayda Torabi Season 3 Episode 88
To Be Blunt: The Professional Cannabis Business Podcast
088 New England Cannabis Brand That Sells Good Buds To Great Neighbors with Alex Mazin of Bud's Goods
Show Notes Transcript

“As you think through product development, it needs to be well thought through with the intent of how does this help the retailer, and how do we get bud tenders to support it, and not necessarily focus on the consumer, because I'll say this, further, you don't need to focus on the consumer. Because if you're passionate about this industry, you yourself are a consumer. And thus you should create something for yourself.” - Alex Mazin

In this episode, Shayda Torabi welcomes Alex Mazin of Bud's Goods as he shares the way to building a brand that can grab your attention. He believes that focusing on the retailer, not necessarily the consumer, is the key to successful product development.


[00:01 – 04:26] The Magic Happens When a Brand Catches Your Eye

[04:27– 15:35] The Journey to Establishing a New England Cannabis Brand

[15:36 – 25:08] The Cannabis Landscape in Massachusetts - Micro Level 

[25:09 – 30:35] How Passion in Cannabis Entails Creating For Yourself

[30:36 – 52:39] Imposing Authenticity in the Brand and Inviting Trust

[52:40 – 54:01] Food for Thought: How do you invest in your brand?


Alex is a native from Worcester, MA who first became involved in the cannabis industry in 2014. He is the founder of Lifegrabber LLC, one of the largest silicone accessory companies in the vaporizer device industry. Products are sold across all 50 states in the US, in Canada and in Europe under the brand name VaprCase. In 2016, he founded Bud’s Goods which now has 2 retail stores in Worcester and Abington, and a third due to open in Watertown this fall. His mission is to build the first recognizable East Coast cannabis brand across the US. Prior to the cannabis industry, Alex has had nearly a decade of strategic management consulting experience in the life sciences industry for a top-tier consulting firm and fortune 100 company. He was raised in Worcester, MA and is a graduate of Babson College with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management.

Connect with Alex

Visit and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn @budsgoods


Shayda Torabi has been called one of the most influential Women in WordPress and now she’s one of the women leading the cannabis reformation conversation building one of Texas’ premier CBD brands. She's currently the CEO and Co-Founder of RESTART CBD, a female-run education first CBD wellness brand. And has formerly held marketing positions at WP Engine and WebDevStudios. Shayda is the host of a podcast for cannabis marketers called To Be Blunt, where she interviews top cannabis brands on their most successful marketing initiatives. When Shayda's not building her cannabiz in Texas, you can find her on the road exploring the best hikes and spots for vegan ice cream. Follow Shayda at @theshaydatorabi

Key Quote:

“The key to building a brand, at least what I've learned, is very simply authenticity. You can't fake a brand, that will definitely not work.”  - Alex Mazin

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Alex Mazin  0:00  
One of my most famous brands that I'm trying to not emulate, but I use as a very good proxy to help me navigate is Ralph Lauren, and Polo. I think anything they do is still on brand but you know, they can sell lights, they can open restaurants, they can do beach chairs, they can do some of the most prestigious custom suits and dresses known to fashion. They really know how to play on all scales and all elements and they're a great iconic Americana brand in that fashion always sits there, whether it's the 40s 50s 60s 70s 80s 90s today, you know, they're still on trend, but they're not really changing anything and so that was a part of the brand vision is how do I keep it iconic, classic words always on trend

Announcer  1:03  
you're listening to to be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers, where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing, educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here's your host Shayda Torabi.

Shayda Torabi  1:26  
Hi there. Welcome back to another episode of the TV blonde podcast. I'm your host Shayda Torabi, cannabis business owner and brand marketer. And today's guest takes us into the New England cannabis market. I personally haven't explored New England in many, many years. And I certainly haven't gotten to enjoy their cannabis brands or businesses just quite yet. But I do know a good brand when I see one. And from the moment I spotted buds goods, I was legit obsessed you guys. For real, you can ask my sister we were at mjbizcon and wandering through the hall of flowers exhibit, and our eyes just fixated on every single detail at their booth, which is saying a lot if you can imagine what their actual dispensary looks and feels like inside. But nonetheless, we were immediately fixated and started to fawn over everything from their packaging details to their booth look and feel their brand aesthetic. It just lit my little brand marketing heart up and I knew I had to have them on the podcast. So you're welcome very fortunate for y'all we were able to make that happen. And I am joined today by their CEO, Alex Mason. Alex is a native from Worchester, Massachusetts and founded buds goods in 2016. For reference Massachusetts went adult use right at the end of December 2016. So Alex was one of the first movers in the state. And since then, him and his team have done an incredible job delivering on their brand values. They own and operate two locations with their third on the horizon, and have won numerous industry awards for their branding and just overall excellence. I seriously mean it when I say I want to visit Massachusetts more than ever, now solely to go experience what they're up to at Budds goods. And we'll get into it in the episode. But as a teaser, Alex will share some of him and his team's approach to building the brand and how that was one of the earliest investments they made into the company. He will also share the inspiration for how they breathed life into buds goods. And when you hear him tell the story, and then you look at their branding, it will just it'll just all make sense. This podcast was really meant to help highlight these types of stories because they're taking best practices of other industries and bringing them into the cannabis experience and creating stickiness, which to me is at the center of a great brand. When you look at Coca Cola, Apple or even Ralph Lauren, there is timelessness among other things. And both Alex and I share the belief that those components really matter when you are building a brand, not just for today, but also for tomorrow. My hope as always is this episode will inspire and encourage you on your cannabis journey. So with that said, let's get right to the episode. Please join me by lining one up and let's welcome Alex to the show.

Unknown Speaker  4:27  
My name is Alex Mason. I'm the CEO and founder of buds goods and provisions. We are a Massachusetts cannabis brand with two retails open a third on the way and then a product manufacturing facility for wholesale which we're launching this year. I got into the cannabis industry back in 2013 14 when I tried to start a smoke shop e commerce and that didn't go well. Because merchant processors didn't want to work with me back then even to buy glass online. And second, it's very hard to market a business when you can't buy Google or Facebook ads. Because again, they're against even glass for cannabis use. Then I create after that lesson learned and starting to dabble in the space, I started a company called vapor case, vapor case is basically an iPhone case for vaporizers. So in 2014 15, there was something that came and revolutionize the smoking industry. It's called the packs, right? The packs device changed how we smoke. And it was the first sleek, Apple like vaporizer on the market. And it became revolutionary for smoke shop retail owners. It doubled every smoke shops revenues, because of the volume that they were selling. And so that was the first intro to you know, a successful endeavor in cannabis, I ultimately closed the deal with at the time, they were known as vape. world today, they're known as greenline, a distribution deal. They had the exclusive distributions back then on packs. And so it made sense to try to sell a product directly in line with the company that's selling the product everywhere else. The success of that product was not the product itself, which I learned over time, the success of that product was it helped drive additional sales for stores of PACs devices. So for an additional $5 Gadget MSRP of, let's say $20. You know, the buyer feels like they're getting an added value when buying a $300 vaporizer device. And so that, you know, really helped me kick off my career on the ancillary side of the cannabis industry still not touching the plant. And in 2015, I was approached by a very good family friend, to pursue the cannabis industry from a licensure standpoint. My research really led me at the time to two states, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, both had medical programs that were open for opportunity to apply and pursue. Growing up in Massachusetts, I obviously felt more comfortable with this market. Sidenote, my family and I immigrated from former Soviet Union in 1990. And we landed in Worcester, Massachusetts. That's a part of the story since now, my first retail store is in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is the second largest city in all of New England. So getting back to the journey in 2015, we started to pursue hunting for licensure as I would call it, or figuring out all the pieces you need in order to apply. We ended up in 2017, getting a medical approved license, which was also right in line with one adult use became legal here in Massachusetts, which was November of 2016. And so through the medical process, I really learned

Unknown Speaker  8:30  
the non cannabis stuff, I'll call it right the regulations, the zoning, working with small municipalities working with the state, understanding what zoning bylaws are, and how to read them and you know how to look for real estate. And so most people probably listening to this. This is much less about cannabis than that I in my opinion than it should be, to be a lot more about cannabis than it is but it's really more about understanding the law and understanding how to build and in real estate development and doing all those things. So I learned that under the MediCal program, and applied what I learned to going full steam ahead with the adult use program. And I believed because zoning was so restrictive in which was already restricted municipalities. I believe that good retail locations that are positioned in a normal commuter route, ideally striving for what would call like a Starbucks worthy location would ultimately the most valuable licenses over time. And so I just set off to really find the best retails I could Obviously, not all of them panned out at the time I was, you know, I probably had like 10 properties I had identified and I only ended up getting three, which is perfect. Because in Massachusetts, you're only allowed three. And for people maybe watching or listening, you know, similarly to your markets, I would say in today's Massachusetts landscape. Licensing for retail opportunities is very, very now limited, because most towns that wanted it have made their decisions, and what's really left their towns that don't want it, and converting them to being towns that do want it takes years. And so in November 2020, we opened our first store in Worcester, Massachusetts, really kicked off our vision to being a good retailer. But I think in parallel with going through all that process and dealing with all the what I'll call the non sexy stuff in the cannabis industry, there's, as a cannabis user, myself, a daily cannabis user, I wanted to give cannabis, the energy it deserved. And so we really, I lived in New York City for 10 years, I'll preface and when you live in an awesome city like that, you really start seeing creativity and business and differentiation and market penetration tactics and things like that. And so I was like, okay, wouldn't it be cool to create a New England cannabis brand. And so, you know, we really put our love into each one of our locations and how it came to be in the markets responded really well, we've launched a white label brand called little buds, which is the first popcorn brand and branded popcorn brand and in massive, New England, Massachusetts. And so you know, today, we're just kind of continuing to build on our successes that come on a daily basis that we've worked hard for, and starting to really evolve as a, not just as a retailer, but as like a cannabis New England lifestyle brand, which will include our own product lines that we think are missing in the market. The nice thing about owning retail is you kind of are at the forefront of understanding what consumer behavior will be like, and what that will turn into. I think, if we think today's dispensary is what it will be in the next 20 years. And if we think consumer behavior is going to be the same in the next 10 years than it is today, then truthfully, you probably shouldn't be in the industry, because it's going to change, consumer behavior is going to change, I can see so many different facets of where this could go. And I think it's important to kind of be understanding of that, because the real success that everyone is seeking, I think in cannabis only comes to those that are at the forefront

Unknown Speaker  12:58  
within their markets. And so being first or second or third to market is really where success will be found, you know, everyone else kind of just follows and gets the crumbs is what I'm noticing. And so that started from a licensure standpoint than that started from like, we're, you know, did this product first or that product first first mover advantage, I think is essential in cannabis. So anyway, that's sort of the background of myself and buds, goods and provisions. And how we came to be, I think we really focus on our experience. Although, you know, in the state, it's called the retail, I'm coming to learn that. It's not exactly what retail is defined as, at the very least, I'm currently calling it essential retail. Part of the reason for that is, you know, the conversion rate in retail is usually, you know, around 25% When someone comes in even lower essential retail is like almost 100% conversion. So, you know, no one goes to a grocery store or walks around like, Hey, I don't need anything. So I think similarly, in that sense. And, you know, there are many different nuances that we have to continue to understand and to think that all cannabis products need to be viewed as one thing and how that's done. You know, even from a menu display component like we're currently strategizing how to display flour versus edibles versus this Because just having a list of those things named is very confusing to the consumer. So I think being in retail at the forefront is a great way to sort of work backwards. That would be my advice is you know, a lot of these vertical companies are standing up from cultivation and then kind of retail at the end. You're seeing a lot of them actually now working backwards right cleaning up their room. tails, understanding how important it is, you know, for me, I like the approach of slowly going backwards from retail, to manufacturing, distribution, and only at the very end getting into cultivation, if even, that's something we would want to do think there's enough product, soon to be in our market where you can look around and find better quality things and less quality things and separate them and that that can be a differentiator in and of itself. So that's a long answer to your question. But hopefully, it was helpful.

Shayda Torabi  15:36  
That was the most helpful introduction I think I've possibly ever heard, like, I'll go there, because I think you encapsulated a lot of the ethos of this podcast, and I love speaking directly to the listeners, which you obviously are really keen on doing as well. And so I think they appreciate that direct approach and direct advice, because, you know, I set out to make a marketing and business podcast and very quickly realize both through the conversations I was having in this medium, as well as what you're highlighting as a business owner with a retail storefront. I also have a retail storefront and getting to see the reaction and dynamic nature of the market with that feedback directly from consumers is so important in this whole ecosystem. But also, the other flip of that, right is the regulations and the laws and kind of like what is actually available for me to have access to before I can actually even dream about being in the industry. So just again, you sharing, you know, kind of the structure of how you approach it of, you know, yes, I have this vision, and it's how I want to go about it. But I can't even have a brand in the capacity, maybe that you were originally thinking of it until you secure the license. And so I don't want to spend too much more time because you definitely articulated a lot and shared a lot about how kind of like Massachusetts cannabis laws are set up. But I do want to dive in just a little bit deeper if you can kind of share, you know, again, you were speaking on certain cities, obviously opening up, because I think sometimes there's a misconception too. Like I think people think California is legal everywhere, right? They assume, Oh, California is legal. So every city in California must welcome cannabis. And that's not the case. And so it sounds like that's the same case with Massachusetts. And so you have certain cities that are coming online, certain cities that are much not that it's inevitably never happening, but like it's not happening anytime, immediately.

Unknown Speaker  17:36  
You know, we call those towns it gets like the NIMBY and NIMBY, not in my backyard.

Shayda Torabi  17:42  
Oh, my gosh, that speaks Yes, so accurately to it. Because it's like, no, just because my state legalizes like, I'm not gonna let the cannabis come in, like poison.

Unknown Speaker  17:50  
In my town,

Shayda Torabi  17:54  
I will go over to the next town and grab it. But kind of with that understanding, and also sounds like Massachusetts is not vertically integrated. But there are sounds like there might be some limited licensure and especially with you speaking to, you know, if you're not one of those first mover players getting those licenses, there's not really licenses available, so realistically, and like dynamically, what is the cannabis market look like? You were mentioning, you know, sometimes maybe you don't even have to go into cultivation, because there's such a, an access, maybe a surplus of products on the market. And so, again, from like a brand business perspective, if someone's like, maybe I'm gonna open a dispensary or maybe they do or maybe they just want to open a, you know, edible brand. What how does someone get into the market now? What is the market in Massachusetts in New England really look like for cannabis business owners and

Unknown Speaker  18:40  
entrepreneurs. So 50%, roughly, of municipalities in Massachusetts have opted out of retail sales. Massachusetts is a Commonwealth state, there's only four Commonwealth states. What that basically means is the most power is given at the most micro level. So a municipality will have a lot of more say then, let's say in Massachusetts than maybe in Texas anyway. So that's just the Preface. 50% of those towns have opted out of retail 50 have opted in. So the biggest challenge in the Massachusetts market is real estate. Currently, there is very, very little real estate. So let me preface Massachusetts has about 7 million residents that live in Massachusetts. It's a very dense small state, relatively speaking. And so from the if you were to draw a line down the middle of Massachusetts, will say anything to the west, or anything to the east. The East makes up About 80% of the population, and then the West makes up about 20% of the population. Now I'm just I'm keeping it very, like high level numbers. You know, I don't want anyone holding me. You know, it was 77.2%. Naughty. Right. So what's happened in Massachusetts as people have been getting a lot of licenses west. So ironically, 50% of the licenses that have been given out from a retail standpoint, have been west, but they only serve as 20% of the industry, right of the population, not even the industry. So I think one thing to notice, is distinct sort of has their two components there, right? Do you want to be in the actual competitive market landscapes? Or are you out in more rural, lower population communities? So, you know, I focus on the denser side. And I think that markets sort of its competitive, right, Massachusetts has more MSOs and more vertically integrated operators than any other state, right? We have all 10 of the biggest publicly traded they're all here. It's been a pleasure chat is though, because it's a it was a very lucrative market to get into couple years ago. And it's sort of like, the crutch of having a position on the East Coast market. Right. Like, there isn't any other real cannabis market on the East Coast.

Shayda Torabi  21:36  
That's a fair point, especially with New York and New Jersey coming online after Massachusetts.

Unknown Speaker  21:41  
Yeah, exactly. And so, you know, I think Massachusetts overall, also from a New England standpoint, which is six states, right, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, mass, Rhode Island, Connecticut, right. Massachusetts is sort of like the one that's the dense population, and where most people live in New England. So it's a very attractive market. And like I said, like 7 million people, large student population, because of all the colleges in Massachusetts. So overall, it's a strong market, without doubt. And so I think, you know, that, and it was also very costly to get into, from like, a licensure standpoint. And so that obviously prevented smaller operators, like Budds goods is, by far considered a small operator here in Massachusetts, but still, you know, we're doing leaving our mark. And so getting back into the Massachusetts market, so starting, I think real estate is the key component there. But understanding what you what someone really wants to do in the space, don't just chase licenses, I think that era is over, I think people need to start genuinely thinking about how not to just become a part of the industry, but how to like, grow it and expand it. Because there's, you know, we estimate 15% of adults consume cannabis currently, you know, 77% of adults consume alcohol. So we still have a huge gap there to fill. Even if we get that 15% to 30%, or to 40%, and we're half of alcohol, that's still a huge growth that needs to occur. And I think, eventually, they'll need to be product categories that sort of continue to attract people from that audience in Word. Obviously, I think beverages is a great example. Because at the end of the day, how many more chocolate bars and gummies do we need, that's not from a retail standpoint, for the audience listening to from a retail standpoint, like your I would be cannibalizing my own business if I let all the chocolate and gummy brands come into my shelves. And so ultimately, back to first mover advantage, the first few gummy companies and chocolate companies that I felt were really well done. That's it, that's my partnership and my loyalty. And working with that those companies is, is going to make it very difficult for anyone who's like, I want to start another chocolate company. And so I think it's important to start thinking creatively. Okay, you know, let's keep keep going on the chocolate example. Like, we know the majority of the market is meeting the regulation standards in Massachusetts, it's five milligrams per piece. You can have 20 pieces in a thing up to 100 milligrams per purchase. So you can compete on price. Maybe you want to come in and try to differentiate on price. Maybe you just want to sell a five milligram individual unit. You know, I think so I think as people continue to think through where they want to play in the space, they have to also understand, at the end of the day, the throughput here in Massachusetts is still coming through the retail level. So

Unknown Speaker  25:08  
what I'm learning is, it's really how do I focus and create things that make it attractive for the retailer to say, this is going to drive sales, this is something customers are going to buy. And then secondly, again, not marketing it necessarily to consumers yet, but marketing it to the bud tenders and the staff. Because those are the people that are going to be making the decision of what's cool. And what's trendy in the cannabis industry as time progresses, just like Coco Chanel gets to determine what fashion is cool next year, or the year after that, or, you know, any designer for that matter. So I think bud tenders, you know, I think as you think through product development, it needs to be well thought through with the intent of how does this help the retailer? And how do we get bud tenders to support it, and not necessarily focus on the consumer, because I'll say this further, you don't need to focus on the consumer. Because if you're passionate about this industry, you yourself are a consumer. And thus, you should create something for yourself, and be confident that there's an audience that reflects similar desires as you yourself. And I think if you do that, you know, as selfish as it sounds, I think if, you know, as I create things, I'm kind of doing them for what I would want. And luckily, you know, I'm not that unique in my consuming behaviors of there's a lot of us that feel the way I feel. And I think that's that's sort of what I would advise as you're thinking through just entering the cannabis spaces, you know, something you would like to do, and then how to tactically roll it out is think about the retailer.

Shayda Torabi  27:09  
Hello, just want to take a quick moment to thank my sponsor, and full disclosure, my company restart CBD, restart. CBD is a brand that I built with my sister. So we are family owned and women owned, we do operate a brick and mortar in Austin. So if you ever find yourself in Central Texas, we'd love for you to come say hi. But we also ship nationwide and we carry a wide range of CBD products, we really care about this plant, we really care about educating our customers, this show would not be possible without their support. So please go check us out at restart and use code to be blunt for $5 off your next purchase. Thanks. And let's go back to the show. Now, it's really sound advice because it is at the end of the day, you know, you are selling a commodity. And sometimes you're competing on price, sometimes you have the strategy to build a brand. And I think the brand can bring that product or market, you know, idea to a consumer and capture their attention much more deeply. Then just the transactional approach of hey, I sell the cheapest, whatever. And I think it's a nice merriment when you can incorporate brand and price consciousness. But I think highlighted as well just the understanding of the market is saturated to some extent, too. And so there's a lot of room for innovation. And so I think what's really fascinating to me is as you have all these different states coming online, some states like Texas, not quite online, but we're playing with you know, you see the parallels in the hemp market where there are some interesting new products hitting the market. It's like I saw, I mean, this is kind of like a joke at this point. But someone was selling like a CBD candle. It's like, you know, is there really efficacy to CBD being in a candle, I don't know, some brands, they take it a step further. And then there's actually CBD oil in the wax. So then the intent is to pour the wax on yourself and rubbin is a topical and it's kind of you know, far fetched out there but more innovative than not right. And so, kind of taking all these ideas and how do you create something that in my opinion, the goal for me is always you know, not something just for today but something for tomorrow and I think that is in line to with what you're expressing just around the authority. It's like once you get to that, that position, being able to leverage it to do more in the industry to champion to lift up you know, brands and brand awareness but kind of in that vein, I definitely do want to transition into your brand because it is a very beautiful and very thought out like aesthetic, whether it is the visuals of what it looks like externally, I mean, the paint colors, the fonts. I was really fortunate to get to meet Your team in person at MJ biz con in the Hall of flowers experience. And you know, my listeners know that I'm a brand girl through and through and my eyes just you know, focused on your exhibit booth and you can tell the thoughtfulness and the detail of everything. It was like y'all had branded lighters and the packaging that your pre rolls came in was just so well done. And so I would love to learn from you. What was the inspiration behind the brand? What was some of the, you know, things that you were considering, as you were bringing this concept to market? And what has really been a part of that evolution for you, as you've now gone to open, you know, multiple stores? After that? Are all those stores, you know, similar different? Is there something that's consistent, and kind of what has been that approach for you, because branding is, I think I read some article that you were talking about, especially like reflecting on your New England background, you know, California has all these very iconic, or the West Coast has all these very iconic cannabis brands. And so being able to create that for your market is a passion of yours. And so it's exciting to see that you guys have achieved that, and then also won some awards because of it too. So I'm just curious, you know, to get into the meat of the brand, that is buds goods.

Unknown Speaker  31:17  
Yeah, I'll start by saying I think, ultimately, it's better than I could have ever thought out on day one. And it's a living breathing thing in my mind. So it's, it's changing, it's pivoting. I think the key to building a brand, at least what I've learned is very simply authenticity. You can't fake a brand, that will definitely not work. Authenticity will give you the highest chances of building a successful brand, but not guaranteed either. So yeah, when I first set out and started to really think about brands, in my mind that it was like one day there will be an East Coast, New England cannabis brand that's recognized on the West Coast. Like I just feel that was going to happen, because we knew West Coast brands were coming to the East Coast. And so, you know, I started to think about East Coast, New England brands in general, and sort of started to think, what's the similarities that they all share, and what caused all of their successes. And so one of the trends I saw was, the founders were always, you know, had a real local, hard working story. And that resonated, because all of them were blue collared, I would say more focus. And so as I continue to think, through New England, and what that meant, although it's not easy to reflect the uniqueness of where you live, when you grew up there your whole time. That's good. That's why it's important to get away and come back to really see that. And that's sort of naturally what happened when I left and moved to New York City for to live there for 10 years, and then came back, it's, you know, New England is made up of hard working blue collared individuals who are, you know, I'm going to go on a limb and say, more patriotic, because this is sort of like, the home of where the dream the American dream was started. And so, you know, thinking through hard working, the seasonality changes make you hard work, and because the cold is cold, and the summers are wet, and so weather wise, I think it just makes for a bit more tougher shell of people. And so when I tie that all together, the obvious answer to me was like, okay, a New England, Americana themed cannabis brand. Makes total sense, because it's going to connect to everybody because it connects to me. And then, you know, I started looking into Americana, and one of my most famous brands that I'm trying to not emulate, but I use as a very good proxy to help me navigate as Ralph Lauren and Polo. I think anything they do is still on brand, but they can sell lights, they can open restaurants, they can do beach chairs, they can do some of the most prestigious custom suits and dresses known to fashion. They really know how to play on all scales and all elements and they're a great, iconic Americana brand that sort of isn't changing in that fashion always sits there, whether it's the 40s 50s 60s 70s 80s and 90s. Today, they're still on trend, but they're not really changing anything and so that was part of the brand vision is how do I keep it iconic, classic words always on trend. And so what I call it is a New England modern Americana cannabis brand. That's how I summarize the vision of it. And the modern Americana is sort of a reflection, I think of my own soul, which is like, I'm a young man, but I have an old soul. And so in buds there, you know, each store sort of has that theme. So our first store in Worcester, is a play on off of a diner. So more of like the classic 5060s type of diner, we have beautiful marquee signage, and sort of like a bar counter and things like that when you come in. And the reason we played off the diner was growing up next door in the building that we're located in, there used to be a very famous diner in Worcester that everyone went to. And so that inspired that first vision.

Unknown Speaker  35:52  
Our second store was a play on of like, an Americana old school movie theater where like, you buy a ticket, quote, unquote, outside and that from like this blast circular booth and, and so we play into that theme a lot into our second store. And then our third store theme is really buds house. And so the reason we did buds house is because this store is the only store in Massachusetts, that's located in a building that also has a residential units in it. So you know, it's an more affluent community. And so bloods house is sort of like a reflection, just like if you were to walk into again, like a Ralph Lauren store, you know, they are a double RL store. I know, you know, those are more higher end brands, but there's an experience there, you feel like you're walking through Ralph Lauren's home when you're shopping. So that was sort of the vision many years ago for that third store, it's been a ton of work way more than I ever expected to pull it off, it's about to be sort of revealed over the next six to eight weeks when we go to open it. So we're very excited to launch that. But that's really the gist of the brand. And how it came to be it's a it's a true reflection, it's authentic, it speaks to me, and I'm just establishing it. So looking at our colors, you know, we have a cream, a brick red, and a dark blue, that to me is sort of a spin on have like red, white and blue, right? Not to go too iconic. I also wanted it to be warm and inviting, because I knew one day, it's not just about opening a store, it's about opening a store that can adapt to the market as it evolves. And so, you know, we always think about our stores from a non consumers standpoint. You know, we like when people come in and basically say, Oh, shit, I didn't expect this, I'm not going to speak poorly about this, when I leave here. You know, I think it's important from an industry standpoint is like, we all have a responsibility to make sure this industry, you know, the haters have to be silenced at all times. Can't give them one thing. So that was sort of how the branding came to be. And then I think one key piece there is, I'm not the creative creator. You know, I'm the visionary. I know what I want to see. But I think finding the secondary piece to the one, the art, fully minded individual, you know, our creative director just is the other half of the success, you know, she's able to take things in my brain and make them look how I envision them to look, because I would not be able to do it. So you know, and that was something we invested early in, you know, we had a creative department probably earlier than any other company has creative departments. And really focusing on building that brand, I think is going to be the key separator. You know, we won last year, we won three Clio awards. And we also were awarded Best New England cannabis company. And I think our brand is really reflecting not just with consumers, but decision makers at companies, you know, who, you know, see the buds brand and it speaks, you know, they to feel invited by it. And that is not just on a buying level, but on a doing business level. You know, your brand is a reflection not just to your consumers, but your peers and your industry folks. And it's helped us tremendously in our, you know, as in our growth because companies want to work with us now, because they see how much effort and care we put into what we do. Yeah, I

Shayda Torabi  39:44  
was gonna ask I'm glad you addressed it, just the understanding of how the creative comes about and so learning that you have a team that you have put that at the forefront of establishing your brand is obviously a credit to why it's been recognized and awarded in the way that it has been because it is very intentional, it's very thought out. And I also want to just say thank you for bringing us along that journey of kind of the, the consideration that you went into and to like, reflect on what are brands that you really love and admire, I think is a really good exercise for the listeners to maybe spend some time to think about, which I always try to stress. And it's never never like a practice that you know, you do want and then like you put away it's like to me, I'm always thinking of me, and why do I really love this shoe brand? Or why do I really love this recreation brand? What is it about that brand? How does that brand make me feel? And what are all those different touch points. And so you, you know, expressing about Ralph Lauren, and the different levels to their brand and the different ways that they're able to extend their brand into different products or markets or conversations, the timelessness over the years, it's, it just shows the growth that a brand should have because to me a brand is living, it's not static, it's not, hey, I pick some colors, and I picked a font, and I paid someone to make me a website, and I'm just gonna run with it forever. It's, you know, well, maybe this month, this is what works, maybe, you know, six months from now I have to evolve and kind of grow from there. And, and so I personally really appreciated that because I think, and I'll probably preface this too with I don't think there's a right or wrong way to approach it. Like I think your expression is successful for you. And I think that some people like you look at Apple's model, every Apple Store is inherently the same. And that's equally successful, right. And so, kind of putting my own thinking hat on, I'm like, man, you know, well, where are areas in my brand, that I should be very tight, because I do think that, you know, if you have a brand, and then you add in random colors, well, that's not really your brand anymore, necessarily. Or if you're constantly changing everything, there's not really something for people to wrap their arms around and really fully, you know, embrace. And so it's finding that balance. And I think, again, to kind of sum it up, you know, it's having people in your corner who can help you manifest those dreams into reality, whether it's to create a team, whether it's a partner, whether it's just like working with external agencies and groups to just kind of go bring that to market. And so again, it's cool for me, because I'm somebody who like, literally, when I'm at shows or scrolling the internet, I just I love seeing how people are expressing their brands. And so your brand is really beautiful, aesthetically, but to get to hear the depth behind it is really powerful. And so I just encourage our listeners to of course, go and engage with your brand, socially digitally. And then if they happen to be in the New England area, obviously like in person, but kind of you know, want to ask a little bit too, because you mentioned it, and I thought that it was an interesting touch point. little buds, which you mentioned is like popcorn buds is the first white label product in the state go into that, like I think people have an understanding for sure of what white labeling is we touched a little bit on the different degrees of some states are vertically integrated required. Some are not some players still choose to be vertically integrated regardless. And so when you white label products, that's essentially someone else's manufacturing it and then you're putting your label on it. But part of that magic is obviously also the brand for which you're selling the product. And so it's like the kudos like you've put the hard work building the brand. Now you can sell whatever you want in that packaging. And so knowing that you were first mover in that capacity, or like why also had nobody else white labeled? Is that kind of frowned upon? Why did you pursue that and just kind of get into that aspect of business a little bit, please.

Unknown Speaker  43:39  
I will preface that I think the brand has to represent something it's not just about the package and you know, reaping the brand earns trust. But the question is for trust in what. So for us, it's all about quality control. So you know, when you buy a little buds branded product may not have been grown by us, but it's been quality controlled by us. And I think that's a really key piece that I try to focus on. And so any popcorn we buy, every you know, I have, myself, my VP of Operations a buyer, one of us will go and inspect all the popcorn before we buy it. Is it trimmed well enough? Are the terpenes meeting a certain expectation? What are the testing results? Does it look, you know, desirable as a popcorn small mug. So quality control is really at the forefront when it comes to white labeling for us might be something else for someone else, but that's really what we're trying to convey in our white label. In terms of you know, we were the first white labeled flower brand, I would say that is in a vertical operator in any sense. sense. And that was unique, because a year and a half ago when we launched little buds in December of 2020. So a little bit over a year, though, the supply markets here in Massachusetts, were way below the demand. And so it was a big concern. Will we even have enough products to sell? Luckily, our store was so appealing. And our brand was so on point for vendors, that when they got to choose where to allocate the flower that they grew, they chose us 10 out of 10 times. And so when buds opened, we had the largest cannabis menu in the entire state. Obviously, over time that, you know, that's not true today, because over time supply. So I realized, like, when our first stores in, in an inner neighborhood, all of our stores are really neighborhood focused. And so I thought to myself, well, I know this neighborhood, I grew up in this neighborhood. I know, you know, that money is not easy for people who live in these neighborhoods. And so I knew I needed a product that was going to really separate because at the time, every age was 50 $55. Like, there was no there was nothing. And so I spoke to every large MSO they all said, basically, why would I do that I can make more money, selling it another way. And we found a really great partners whose quality we really believed in. And they're sort of a large scale cultivator, but a Massachusetts based one, and called Revolutionary clinics. And they sort of saw the vision of like, let's try to shift people to the legal market. And let's really focus on that consumer and do what's right for them as a as a, as from one weed smoker to the next like, you know, I just want to make sure you have what you need. And so the struggle there was just really convincing someone I think, convincing a company to take lesser profits is, you know, an insane thing to do. You really have to sell a vision that's greater. And I think that's why, ultimately, we were able to do it and other companies haven't.

Shayda Torabi  47:32  
Yeah, I saw, I guess it was on your press website, talking about the shift of which I think every legal operating cannabis state struggles with this, especially in the news, you see, California is still paying a massive tax, which is just crippling businesses trying to operate legally. And so I imagine Massachusetts is no different dealing with that I saw there was like a 20% tax on cannabis products. And so just kind of going off of what you were just sharing as well as what I again observed from your press page, the story that you were quoted and talking about, there is this need for people to do it legally, and to have access to it legally. But the pricing and the accessibility is so astronomical for people that it's cheaper for them to go in the black market.

Unknown Speaker  48:20  
And we're snacking more than more than ever right now with inflation rates on everything else. Cannabis, consumers are not not consuming, they are shifting to a lower, more affordable offering. Inflation hasn't hit cannabis, but the inflation of everything else has hit cannabis legally. So I do have a hard stop and five minutes just FYI.

Shayda Torabi  48:46  
No worries. Yeah, I think it's just a very unfortunate circumstance of the cannabis industry as we inch towards legalization, too, still have this very thriving black market, for better or worse, that is just making legalization, even murkier for people to have access to legal products. So I was just curious about that from your perspective. But yeah, to kind of wrap it up, I'd love to just kind of get your take on what the future of cannabis looks like for buds goods for the New England, you know, cannabis industry. What are you looking forward to maybe some prophecies of what you expect to come maybe in the next couple months or a year as you continue to open up your third retail location?

Unknown Speaker  49:32  
Yeah, I think for God's good specifically, it's really pivoting from being a pure retailer to a brand which has retail, launching our two wholesale products and then offer you know, we have some other ideas in the pipeline where we're working on, I think, industry wide. You'll see you'll continue to see states open up, but I think the public markets are really hurting. And so you're going to start Seeing investor dollars probably shift towards them because they're cheap versus the private markets. So I think smaller companies, again, are going to have more challenge raising capital, even though I think they might be the better operators long term, I think it's the independence that will really continue to shine. And these MSOs are going to continue to struggle with every acquisition, because it's really hard business. I think product wise, we're going to start seeing more technologies for consumable goods that are like Nano, that are more rapidly, you know, more rapid uptick, and a more measurable, you know, high. And I think craft cannabis is going to continue to be a good opportunity. And then lastly, I think starting to look here, from like a b2b standpoint versus a b2c standpoint, on market evolution, it's really starting to be a part of an industry. And that's what I would say to anyone listening, like, focus on one state and really, like, go deep, not wide. And there's so many more opportunities from like a b2b standpoint, offering services, support, you know, there's so many headaches, all those headaches are opportunities for somebody to solve. You know, I recently, you know, I had an employee bring me a great idea where, you know, under our regulations, it's such a pain in the ass to like, discard or destroy product, why not offer like a waste management service that just goes from retail to retail and handles all of that, like, thinking in those contexts of like, where's the problem is really, where's the opportunity? And so, you know, I think more b2b services and a more robust industry will continue to emerge here, Massachusetts, and across all the states, because right now, it's just retailers growers. You know, it's like such a mundane, really early staged industry in that nature. So I think, ultimately, for us, it's continuing to expand our penetration in the market with our branded products here, Massachusetts, we're looking at other New England states to get into Connecticut's now on the horizon. Obviously, we're watching New Jersey and New York, but I'm not too bullish this year on either of those states. They seem disastrous, from a regulatory standpoint. And yeah, I mean, I think every you have to reevaluate your thoughts and cannabis at least every four to six months, because that's a long period of time.

Shayda Torabi  52:40  
I'm curious how many of you share Alex's approach to starting a business? Do you agree with investing so heavily with your brand up front? First and foremost, maybe you wish you would have invested more time into your branding before you launched. I don't think that anything is ever said and done. And there's always room to improve, adjust or hell even rebrand. But I really did feel inspired by how passionate him and his team were about putting so much importance into their brand. And all I have to say the proof is in the bud jar, and in this case, the buds good jar. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with at least one friend and give the show a five star rating on Apple podcast. And as always, thanks for keeping it blunt with me. I'll be back with another episode of The to be blunt podcast next Monday, and encourage you to keep championing cannabis in your community. By all.

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