The CEO of dispenser maker Patron and co-founder of Freyherr talks business opportunities in Macedonia and Slovenia
Luka Freyer is an economist who specializes in entrepreneurship and management. He established Patron, a producer of easy-to-use dispensers for natural extracts such as oil, wax, paste or resin.
Today, Freyer serves as development director at Patron and chief business officer at Freyherr, a Good Manufacturing Practices-certified producer of cannabis-based products. Both companies were established in Slovenia and operate internationally.
On May 6, Freyer will be speaking at MJBizDaily‘s European Cannabis Symposium in Copenhagen. Visit mjbizconference.com for details.
What were your biggest business “aha” moments?
The first one was when I realized we can set up production of medicinal cannabis in Macedonia. Also, when I realized the advantage of GMP- and Good Agricultural Practices-compliant production that cannabis is lacking.
In my opinion, many companies that operate in the cannabis industry are on short runs. The quality and brand will decide who stays in the market long term. But brand and knowledge are something that we need to build right now, from the very beginning.
Another big “aha” moment came up just recently, after my visit to the United States, where we studied the new Farm Bill. We realized the U.S. market just became a great opportunity, as it allows us to enter the market with food-grade products.
Another “aha” is patience, as cannabis legislation only seems to change fast. The truth is, it will take time for cannabis to be prescribed regularly as medicine. But that could be OK, as we are lacking applicable medical studies. I believe this is also an opportunity for us market players, which is the reason Freyherr is cooperating with universities and research organizations.
What’s been your biggest mistake?
I hired a few people too quickly.
Macedonia doesn’t have a lot of experience with legal cannabis. What are your best tips for hiring new talent?
Macedonia has a lot of hard-working, highly skilled individuals who unfortunately usually migrate (outside of the country). Since legal cannabis is a new industry, it attracts people with passion and devotion to research and change—and, of course, people who pursue profitability.
It is also unique in that not many countries have allowed production of cannabis for medicinal purposes. So, the nature of business itself—along with a very optimistic forecast for this industry—has helped our company in Macedonia to get a solid team of experienced people.
We have fewer problems in Slovenia. There, we have two major pharma companies, which makes Slovenia one of the hubs for young, talented chemists and pharmacists. When you mention the cannabis industry, nobody turns down an interview. Most of them are keen on working with cannabis, and the main motivation is potential for innovation.
What are your tips for evaluating possible business partners and avoiding bad actors in this industry?
Be wary of traders and high promises or predictions. Give your potential buyers or suppliers a complex Quality Target Product Profile (QTPP). The ones who take time and effort to reply are usually worth your time.
Pay special attention to potential investors. You can lose a lot of time and give out a lot of valuable information, and things rarely get done if they’re not led properly and based on internal due diligence.
Looking back, what would you have done differently?
Maybe pay more attention to communications when deciding about collaboration with others. Most cannabis companies’ press releases are exaggerated to say the least, and your expectations may not be realistic. Time lost for unrealistic promises is very expensive.
How do you see the industry changing, and what role will Macedonia play?
I see CBD becoming a new star component in superfoods with wide diversity of benefits/effects. I see the medical market getting fully developed using extracts and final products with simplified delivery methods and standardized dosage forms.
Macedonia will have a significant role in the production of flower because of the amazing climate conditions and low cost of production. Also, tax policies are friendly. It’s in the middle of Europe and has a long tradition in pharmaceutical active ingredient production.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.