Podcast Episode: How Ruben Lindo Launched a Growing Canna-Empire

Ruben Lindo spent more than 20 years in the legacy cannabis market before a bounced check landed him in federal prison for 14 months.

After getting out, Lindo briefly worked at a small construction startup in upstate New York before entering the cannabis industry in 2015 as an adviser to an aspiring cannabis investor. Together, they founded CBD-focused Phoenix Nutraceuticals in 2018, and Lindo founded his THC-focused cultivation company, Blak Mar Farms in 2019.

To make his cannabis companies successful, Lindo mined his own diverse business experience, including launching his own operations, working in the technology, construction management and M&A sectors as well as 10 years in professional football.

Lindo shares his insights on this episode of “Seed to CEO,” including:

  • New businesses that go for “low-hanging” fruit cost less to launch and have a better chance of succeeding.
  • When your business faces price pressure, focus on your best products.
  • Customer service is what gains traction with customers.
  • How to partner with a caregiver to create a successful recreational business.
  • How to identify and target a consumer segment and create brands that resonate with those consumers.

Who is Ruben Lindo?

Ruben Lindo is a serial entrepreneur, financier and former professional football player who broke into the cannabis industry in 2015 as a consultant and then launched a national CBD company, Phoenix Nutraceuticals, in 2018. The following year, Lindo launched Blak Mar Farms, which today is present in three states and going for more. Lindo spent 10 years playing professional football and is a member of Athletes for Care, a cannabis advocacy group. He has also launched coffee and cigar companies, restaurants, tech firms and has worked in construction management and at nonprofits.

Episode Transcript

Welcome to Seed to CEO the podcast about making your way in the cannabis industry where we explore how entrepreneurs and executives built their businesses. I’m Chris Walsh, the host of this show and the CEO of MJBiz. I want to intro this episode by talking about the COVID pandemic. It obviously created a lot of disruptions in our lives, a lot of heartache and uncertainty and a lot of changes. As we all know, the cannabis industry fared pretty well. But many business owners reexamine their strategies, they took some time to step back and reassess their vision. They also took time to make some important shifts.

Ruben Lindo was one of them starting his latest venture Blak Mar farms during the pandemic, Ruben had been involved in the legacy market for a big chunk of his life, but also had plenty of experience in different mainstream industries. And he had a business background as well, including an MBA. After launching a CBD company in 2017, called Phoenix Nutraceuticals, he wanted to move into the THC side, all came together during the pandemic when he had time to slow down and reflect and plan his move. That’s when he realized this was the perfect time to take the jump into THC.

Sales skyrocketed around the country. Even during the worst part of the pandemic, Ruben partnered up with a caregiver in Michigan and work to transition into a legitimate business and win a recreational license and Blak Mar Farms was born.

In this episode, I’ll talk to Ruben about how he used the knowledge gained operating in the underground market to build successful companies in the legal market. How he set his CBD company apart from the competition and survived the markets, many fluctuations and challenges. Reuben will talk about what it takes to move from home growing to regulated and licensed cultivation and also talk about how he’s approached expanding outside of Michigan. Ruben is waiting in the wings.

We’ll have him on after a word about MJBizCon:

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Okay, Rubin Lindo has now joined us Rubin, thanks for being on the show.

Thanks for having me, Chris. Hey, we

We met at a cannabis focused event that was held at the United Nations a couple of weeks ago. And it was focusing on the economic and social and environmental impacts of the plant the industry;what do you think about elevating the cannabis discussion inside the walls of the UN in New York?

I mean, what a historic moment for our industry. And me personally to participate in any event there. I feel that the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate with all of the states that are looking to legalize, especially with New York State poised to come into adult use market here and, you know, the next several months with the first licenses being rolled out. So I think that it was a really great and well well-intentioned conference better than some of the others that I’ve been to.

Now, Ruben, you’ve had a really diverse professional background, as I understand it, you’ve launched coffee and cigar companies, restaurants, tech companies, you’ve been in construction management, you’ve spearheaded M&A, you played football, you worked at nonprofits, tell us about kind of how all of this diverse background led you into cannabis.

It’s pretty unique. And, and I tell people, I’ve had a really great background, exposure to a lot of different things. But really, I think it culminated into using skill sets from each business segment that I’ve ever been in like high tech, I can pay attention to certain things within our cannabis industry, working in finance, working in health care, working in construction management, so it’s kind of allowed me to to create this perfect or quasi perfect. I like to use the word regular being and myself that that is able to really transcend some of the lines and break through some of the barriers or obstacles that others have, because of my knowledge of a lot of different industries. It allows me to to really focus and be purposeful and intentional in growing our own company.

Give us a real world example of what you’ve taken, what you’ve used from tech or restaurants or construction management and applied to cannabis.

Just in the very beginning. in tech. I knew that we had to become better keepers of records, right, because of the compliance side of our industry. So what we created very early on was a database that is pretty robust, that keeps all of our SOPs centralized data, every from anything that you would have to do to run this company. We have a server, but we also have it in a database that we can call. It’s actually like our own knowledge base, Chris, you know, that’s just one part of what I did when I worked in high tech. The other things that I’ve learned is just taking a look at like in construction, when I build out being a construction manager, I can look at a facility and I can determine the cost pretty quickly and get to an estimate number, you know, and those are all things that I’ve done in other jobs, but now transitioning into cannabis. They’re very appropriate. And it’s, it allows us to move a little bit faster than others.

So tell us what were you doing right before you entered the cannabis industry.

So just prior to me, coming into the cannabis industry, I was working for a small startup company in upstate New York, called Liberty, pipe and supply, selling construction material. And then that kind of dried up. And when I really had an opportunity to transition into cannabis, I was just, I had just come home from prison, Chris, actually, and a lot of your listeners may or may not know that. But you know, I did 14 months in state prison. And it was very difficult to get a job when I came home and, and getting into cannabis. Getting back into construction sales was was easy. Getting into cannabis was was only the right thing, right? Because I think that the timing couldn’t have been better for an industry that was accepting of people who had, you know, a criminal background or an I shouldn’t say criminal, but have had, you know, legal challenges in their lives. I think that was the moment that the industry really was taking a look at decriminalization and legalization, and how to embrace individuals, like myself to come into this industry and give us safe harbor and, and protection and allow us to operate legally and grow within the industry. So what year are we talking about? That was in 2014, I came into cannabis in 2015. Worked for an investor in Canada, who was looking to invest in a couple of cannabis companies. He didn’t know if it was going to be cannabis or not. It was looking at tech companies. And I was a strategic advisor for him personally. And we found two seemingly small companies to invest in and one of them was a holding company that eventually became Tilray. He was an early investor in that and then he invested in Canopy and Hexo. And then he spun off and created several other companies and other companies in cannabis at 5555 Towneplace up in Toronto, which is what we call that the cannabis high rise in the city of Toronto.

And were you in prison for charges related to cannabis?

Not directly but I think that ultimately it always stemmed to it because of the investigation. I actually was incarcerated for bouncing a check. But I believe, you know, a lot of that was because they could never, they could never pinpoint me for you know, the sale of their term marijuana. Right. It came up in my pretrial, but they really didn’t have any evidence that that’s what I was doing. So they got a conviction for a bounced check, a minor larceny. And I ended up getting sentenced to 14 months in state prison.

And you had had kind of a long experience long involvement on the legacy side of cannabis. Is that right?

I did for 22-24 years. I had worked with folks brokering and moving product from California to New York to Boston to Chicago, and from Arizona into Canada actually, you know, so we had a pretty robust operation. And you know that it was it was a scary time, right? We know what we were what we were risking, but we believed enough in the plant and it wasn’t always for economic prosperity. We really believed in the health principle of the planet. And that’s how I got involved in a in a familiar way because of the benefits that it was. I saw helping guys and I played high school or college and professional football with I saw it how helping children with autism very early on. Being in Canada and watching some of these families, really experimenting with the use of cannabis to help kids with epilepsy and things like that. And I just really believed in it. And I thought, you know, one day, it would be legal. That’s what we all said one day, this is going to be legal. And here we are in that moment.

So you came out of prison, and we’re trying to figure out what’s next. Right? And you have this on your record and cannabis had been in your background for a while. And so it seems a natural fit you said earlier. So you hooked up with this investor and tell us what led to the founding of your first company in cannabis.

So I hadn’t really been watching the industry and the trends of the industry and I saw CBD as becoming federally legal. So we kind of really just huddled up and did our due diligence. You know, really deployed some B School engineering when it came to putting together the company. Phoenix nutraceutical is my first company. We launched a 14 different SKUs in the CBD world that we thought were going to be the best CBD products that would allow us to send throughout the country. Right. So we did like the topicals. And in the others, but really what sets us apart was our our skincare and health care line.

Why did you start on the CBD side?

For me, it was low hanging fruit. And I believe that we could get we could come to revenue very quickly on a national model. We knew that we could start selling CBD that was formulated and processed here in the state of California, and then ultimately sell it across the country and multiple markets, which we were very successful doing online.

And you didn’t have to have the cost and resource commitment of winning licenses and dealing with the regulations on the THC side.

Yeah, and right. We stayed away from that, because again, watching what was happening here, and in California and other jurisdictions, it became very difficult to secure licenses. And it was very costly as well, right. Let me take a step back, launching finishing nutraceutical allowed us to really Bootstrap and launch the company within our means we didn’t have to go out and do hundreds of millions of dollar raises like we thought we would have had to do in cannabis just to obtain a license, we were able to launch the company with less than $50,000 on our first product run and spent 20,000 of that in marketing, right just to get the name out of the company.

What was your vision for the company when you launched it? What were you trying to do?

Initially we’re looking at having a brand in Phoenix nutraceutical are two brands within Phoenix, nutraceutical, that would allow the entire household to, you know, really enjoy the benefits and get the medicinal benefits of using a cannabinoid in home care treatment. And we looked at it as you know, our first goal was, we want it to be the over the counter homemade, that everyone can use in the house from eight to 80. Right. And we essentially set out for that. And that becomes very expensive, because you’re formulating a huge SKU spread. So we just kind of narrowed it down. And then our goal was to try and become the household name of CBD for either pain relief, or skincare. Right? We’re still at it, we still own the company. We my partners are still running the company actively. And we’ve grown every year over the last four years, exponentially.

What is your biggest learning from that experience, especially on the CBD side, operating a company in this particularly strange industry?

I always say you have to stay in your lane so you don’t get run over. Right. And I feel like we had to be true to ourselves. We had to really create products that we could stand behind and really get out in front of the gimmicky side of of CBD right because think about three years ago, you’d go to the gas station, they had CBD. So what we tried to do is really focus on the science and and health aspects of it and and start to record statistical data that allowed us to give you know some efficacy to what we were doing right legitimacy to this to this industry. And that’s why we we stayed on the nutraceutical side we didn’t get into the smoking, hemp flour and all All of that stuff growing hemp flour for smoking, we stayed on the scientific side of the CBD. And we supported research projects throughout the world. Anywhere that we could get involved to really ensure that we were delivering a product that we could stand behind.

What did you do when kind of the bottom started to fall out? Maybe that’s the wrong term. But when the CBD industry experienced a lot of pain, you know, there was all the hype in it after the farm bill passed. And then things started to change. And it became more competitive in a lot of ways. And there was the perception issues of CBD lack of trust, and and then just a change a shift in the market. Can you quickly highlight how you adapted to that environment, because a lot of companies on the CBD side have been struggling and haven’t figured out the way forward, they’re,

the first thing that we did was, we reevaluated our entire SKU lineup, we have 100 products, Chris, a lot of people don’t know this, I have 100 products under custom formulation in Phoenix. But what we did was we picked our top three products, and we stayed again, stay true to who we were. And we worked on educating consumers, because I always say this Chris, educated consumers make for a sophisticated marketplace. Right? So we took the time to educate our consumers on our products, and why our products to really separate us from the gimmicky side of the of the industry. And then when we really started seeing it fall out, we started seeing the prices drop, and we started seeing people transitioning away. And a lot of it was fear based or a lot of it was just because of the products that they were using, did not return the results in which they were people were making promises. So that’s the other thing that we did, Chris is we immediately stopped in our marketing, making any claim on any of the products that we deliver. And we always said, when we sell a product, we give everybody the opportunity, if within 30 days, it doesn’t work for you, I’ll give you a full money back guarantee. But on top of that, we’ll continue to work with you and educate you. And if you have any questions, right? You can’t call Facebook and get Mark Zuckerberg on the phone. But you could call Phoenix Intraceuticals and schedule a meeting and I would call you back within 24 hours. Am I as big as those guys? No. But customer service from the C level suite is really what gains credibility within within our industry, right? Because you have to think about it. We’re operating in a highly regulated. But we’re also operating in a time where, you know, there’s a lot of eyes on the executive offices of these companies. And we just have to be transparent if we expect regulators to do it, then as company owners, and manufacturers and product producers, as from the C level suite, we need to be out there in front of our customer base giving factual, knowledgeable information.

How many people actually did call or did ask for a return? Or did try and get a hold of you?

I’ve probably spoken to 50 or 60 direct customers. We’ve had a handful of people that said, Look, this just doesn’t work for me. And no questions asked. I don’t even ask them to return the product. I tell them to keep the product and keep trying it. But here’s your money back. Because again, that goes a long way.

All right, well, we’re going to talk about how you built Blak Mar farms. First though, we’re going to pause for a message:.

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Okay, we are back Ruben talked to us about Blak Mar farms you switched. Big part of your focus from the CBD side with Phoenix nutraceutical to getting heavily involved on the cultivation side what what led to that?

So Blak Mar farms was born during the pandemic, we were looking for a way to pivot into THC at the time, so we partnered with a caregiver in Michigan and help them transition their kid transition their caregiver model to a recreational license. So we’ve under that, and we also brought the SOPs that, you know, I had tons of experience from working in the industry. And we brought really solid SOPs to the table and helped our partner really transition from the caregiver model of 80 plants, to 1500 plants, and in just under a year in a small facility.

So yeah, we see a lot of caregiver small grows struggle to kind of turn the corner and become, you know, legit businesses producing at a larger scale. So how did you help this caregiver navigate that change? You have you brought in SOPs you’ve mentioned?

So yeah, we brought in some solid SOPs. The other thing that we really did was, and this goes a long way in our industry, and I hope that a lot of other executives hear this, we took the time to mentor our partner, right? Because they knew how to grow cannabis in in their small backyard, right, but we brought this global view or, or, or corporate cannabis view in, and we really mentored them and held their hands and walked them through, we didn’t just slam in SOPs, and say here, we’re putting some money here, partner, quote, air quotes partner, and just follow our lead, we kind of took the time to learn from them. Mentoring is a two way street. We kind of learned from them and then we we imparted some of our wisdom, and then we came up with a great system, that that allowed them to really fully blossom and transition into this recreational or adult use license facility. Right. And that’s kind of what my, that was the perfect storm. That was my dream. I didn’t know it was going to work that way. Everyone was warning me about partnering with, you know, caregiver model and transitioning and spending a ton of money in the Michigan market. But you know, we really did it the right way.

What was it about the pandemic, though? And that timing of this? Was it a time of reflection where you step back? Was there something specific about that pandemic time that led you in this direction?

Yeah, during the so prior to the pandemic, I was doing about 250,000 SkyMiles. Right. So I was always in the air. I was always traveling, running from conference to conference, Chris, you know how it is, right? In our industry. When the pandemic hit, I had an opportunity to kind of slow down. And I looked at a couple things. And I, I brought my partners to a conference room. And I said, Look, now’s the time for us to really look at cannabis as the plant touching THC side from cultivation. I think that this global pause is going to allow us to reflect on growth and leadership and really taking our talent from the CBD world and coming into the THC world. And then the other thing is, look, I’m a business guy, and I look at trends. And I saw that coming into the pandemic cannabis sales, THC sales, were steadily climbing. During the first 90 days of the pandemic cannabis sales were up like 145%, because they were deemed essential and states that were shut down California and New York in the medical market, Michigan in the rec market. And I started looking at the numbers. And I said, Okay, I think that this is the time for us to try and squeeze in and get in and start doing what I love, which is creating products and cultivating cannabis, and really, really getting in at the right time. And we were very lucky. Again, we found the right partner in Michigan. And then the rest of it was kind of history. So that’s kind of why the pandemic because it gave me a chance to slow down a little bit. But it also showed us something in the sales, right? men lie women lie but the numbers don’t. And the numbers were steadily climbing. But we also saw there was a huge gap in the quality of products that were being produced. So that’s that’s kind of what drove me in that timing during the pandemic.

What was it about Michigan specifically? Is it just that you you met a caregiver there that you thought would be a good partner? Are you actively eyeing that market?

I was actively eyeing the market. But I was also introduced to the caregiver by the lieutenant governor at the time because we were also the world was crazy. And we were helping some government agencies source personal protective equipment from our other. Our other company here that we have in California. And we were doing PPE before PPE was the catch thing to do during the pandemic. But when they made the introduction, I looked at Michigan very early on what Chris what I do very differently than others is I kind of heat map the country. And I look at target markets that have two things that had over criminalization of the plant. And I look at the viability of, of transitioning and going in, and bringing the social equity, social justice component of our company, into cities, like Dearborn into cities like Pontiac, or even Detroit, right? Because one of the things that that we pride ourselves on the ethos of our company, is to help uplift and support our people. And I’m not just saying our people as black people, I’m saying people as the race as the human race, but we want to support and uplift them through the power of the planet. And Michigan market was relatively new, sales numbers were pretty high. Again, there was some products missing in the Michigan market, good quality, product missing in the, in the legal side of it, and not on the legacy side. So we just said, you know, this is the time, this is when we needed to make a jump into.

So what was it about this person that you said, Hey, this is the right person to team up with?

They were an African American caregiver, first of all, second of all, the caregiver license holder was 27 year old, HB cu graduate. And I thought, you know, this couldn’t be a better ethos fit. But then really, what really made it make sense for us was the desire that this company had to transition, but just did not have the financial wherewithal, and they did not have the really the knowledge, right, again, look, just because you have one kind of license and you have accessibility to certain things doesn’t always mean that you have the full granted access and a seat at the table. And I think that we brought that legitimacy to this partnership. So it just made sense at that time.

You mentioned earlier that part of this was it was a two way street, right? And you would listen and learn as well. What was the biggest learning takeaway that you had from this caregiver?

First of all, I had no idea what the caregiver license model was, I so I had to learn that I. And then when I, when I stepped back, stepped away from it, I’ve realized that they had a very unique way of growing, they used living soil to grow, which was a little bit different from from what we were used to doing, and rock wool in large environments. But the other thing that I really, really learned was how difficult it is. Everyone thinks, oh, you throw seeds in the ground, and you grow product, you somebody’s gonna buy it. And then I realized how difficult they taught me how difficult it was to get into the supply chain. And that’s where I became an expert. I really focused all my energy and attention on how do we create diversity in the supply chain, give caregivers who want to transition a pathway into that very slim window opening of, of the supply chain, to enable them to sell their products in a legally transition way. A lot of caregivers are in the gray area, right. So a lot of states don’t even do a caregiver model at the level that they did and in the Michigan market. But it just, it just made sense that once we learned from them, their challenges, and we’ve also learned some growing techniques, things that we’ve deployed on a larger scale. But once we learn their challenges, Chris, it just became point blank, crystal clear to me that we have to get into the supply chain, and you have to get into the supply chain sensibly, right. And those of us who are in the industry understand how difficult it is to sell product and get product on the shelves. But more importantly, it’s not about pricing. It’s about the quality of the product and presenting it and standing behind your product. A lot of guys don’t do that in our industry. They make really bad decisions. They make bad products, and they put them out and just hope that it sticks. And that’s not what we do. If a product doesn’t pass our quality control. It will never see the shelves. We will destroy it before we put it out and ruin our reputation.

What are you looking for with your processes in that quality? The control side of it.

But we look for on the technical side, we look for blood density, we look for quality, high percentage quality THC. And a lot of it is look and feel right. I’ve been doing this for 20 plus years. Actually, I’m going in my 30th year if you count all the time that I did in the legacy world, but I really look at two things, I look at the nose of the plant, and I look at the density of the product. Because we want to make sure that again, Blak Mar farms, if you pick up an eighth of blackmart farms, that is going to be the best experience that you’ve had in consuming cannabis. Point blank, right? We don’t want to ever have you walk away being Oh, well, this is just another Zuckerberg or another cookie or, and I’m not saying the company cookie, but you know, like the chocolate chip cookie, or the cherry Gelatos or, you know, whatever the strains and the names are out there. We’re just trying to be true to what we are. And that’s the root of the plant.

You mentioned, when you started your first company, you took about $50,000, and you didn’t have to rely on tons of outside investment. How did you finance this initiative.

So we use a little bit of the money from our PPE company, that gave us some startup capital, I did some things personally, that allowed us to start up, use that money. But then we did a friends and family raise, we raised about $450,000, in a friends and family raise, which again, was true to the ethos of the company, right, we wanted to give people who wouldn’t normally have access to invest in cannabis in an industry or in a marketplace like Michigan, we use blackmart farms as that vehicle. And, you know, we brought in about 25 friends and family, close family investors, and we raised about 400 to $450,000. And then we just bootstrap the operation. And we we scaled. You know, we grew, we grew products that fit within the budget, our Growth Facility continued to grow and expand over over the last 18 months. And we got to a point where we were, we hit max capacity. But we did it gradually, right? A lot of people again, I tell people this all the time, you only get one bite at the apple, right? So you might as well take as big a bite as you can chew, and then digested slowly, right. And that’s kind of what we do. When we go into these companies. And we launch these businesses, we’re not looking to launch, if we have a 50,000 square foot facility, we’re not looking to launch a 50,000 square foot facility, what we’re looking to do is fit within our our SOPs that we know that we can come to revenue, and continue to reinvest in our growth. And that’s what allows us to grow the way that we’ve grown and put us in the position that we’re in today.

So that, you know, the 400 to 450 1000, you raised you put in some money too. And then the growth since then has been funded, kind of organically through revenue growth?

100% None of none of our executive leadership take salaries from Blak Mar farms, the only people who get paid our partners on the, on the green growth side. And we reinvest all of our profits, we’ve come up with a game plan to reinvest all of our profits over the next three years into black Meyer to continue our growth and fuel our expansion. So that’s exactly what we’ve done. And we’re now coming into year two. And, you know, we’re expanding into new markets,

How long did it take you to turn a profit?

It took us just about a year. Because once we we had to go in and upgrade, we had to get rid of some equipment. Again, we are looking to create GMP, certified quality facilities when we when we go in there. So that took a little bit of money and and a little bit of partnering with the right people to get that built out and get the environment right. And that cost us probably about 50% of our revenue on the first two harvests to recoup. And then again, I can’t stress this enough sum of successes is being lucky, right? You can be really good all the time. But sometimes you still need that stroke of luck and we were very lucky that we took on a license with a celebrity who wanted us to produce some product that and get into that Michigan market and And we were able to come to revenue in year two very quickly.

Without celebrity partnership, correct? How do you optimize that type of relationship?

So for me, it was a personal relationship with the celebrity. But like you said, I’ve seen and heard horror stories, disasterous pitfalls of folks, you know, working with celebrities. Again, our thing is, we just stay true to who we are, we don’t make any promises or false claims to these partners. And we let them know that, you know, we’re going to, we’re going to grow product that matches the spec that you give us. And we’re going to expect to hold you accountable to keeping your reputation in this industry, impeccable. And you know, that that individual has done that.

So you had a lot of success in Michigan, talk to us about what you did next. And you expanded outside that state into several others.

We came back here to the State of California, and bought some property and started looking to build the facility. Go, we wanted to go back up to the Emerald triangle. And we wanted to build a processing facility up in the Emerald triangle, we purchased some real estate, and we purchased a building, but we’ve put that project on hold, because we wanted to advance our East Coast presence. And we’ve since entered into contract on a facility in Lee Massachusetts, which will allow us to have three licenses in the state of Massachusetts. We should be closing on that project in the next 30 days. And we’ll have product on the shelves in the marketplace at the beginning of the year. 2023. if not sooner, we’ve pivoted as our expansion happen, we really started looking at the viability of just producing high end flower right on a craft cannabis scale. That’s kind of what we do. And I took a look at the trends of the industry in the direction of the market. And I said, you know, look 60 to 70% of all sales are in discrete consumables, ie edibles. vape pens, topicals and Bev, right, Bev markets coming on strong. So I, I just again, sat with my leadership team and said, Look, we’re gonna, we’re gonna flip the tables here, and we’re gonna go 30% craft flower 70% what I call discrete consumables, because our market really talks to those who want to try cannabis but don’t want to consume it via combustible smoking. And we also know that the fastest growing segment in our industry is this beverage segment. Right? So we want to produce distillate that allows for 100% emulsification, into a liquid. Right. So that’s kind of again, we talked very early in this interview, what are some of the things that I brought from other industries? Well, I bring my science background, right. A lot of people don’t know that I graduated from medical school at Millard Fillmore at the University of Buffalo. And my science and chemistry background, is what really makes me formidable in this industry. And I also have a business. I have a business school degree right from Stern. So maybe I’m a triple threat, right? I have the street credibility of operating legally in the street, and, you know, I have med school and, and I have B school, right? So it just, again, I love to use this term. It’s the perfect storm, I’ve really created a great thing for for myself and those who want to follow my path.

What would you say to people trying to transition from the legacy market to the legal market, who don’t have that breadth of experience? You know, science and business and all these other things we’ve talked about? How can they follow a similar path?

The best thing about the legacy market is that it’s operated here in this country for 400 years, right? It’s like prohibition and alcohol. But I always I always tell these these guys that I talk to when I mentor a lot of guys that are looking to transition from the legacy market. I always tell them, you know, find a mentor. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Ruben Lindo. Let me but he who has industry experience, we have real experience of operating legally. But these legacy guys, they bring a wealth of knowledge to and I tell guys now start writing your own SOPs, write down what you do day to day, right? We used to have to keep that stuff in our heads. Because if you were ever caught right now, you’re you’re brought up on conspiracy. You’re just gonna give the prosecution your entire you know, your entire case. If you had it all written down, right, who your sales were, what your sales were, what your revenue was. But now if you’re looking to transition, I tell guys go back now create a journal and write this stuff down. Right? Because that that industry knowledge transcends, and transitions from the legacy market into the adult use or rack market. Because again, men lie women lie but numbers do not.

What do you think is going to be the key to your success? In Massachusetts as you get that started at versus kind of Michigan, you know, every market is so different and requires different things to be successful. So what are you eyeing and saying, for us to be successful in Massachusetts is what we have to do?

This is the most mature market that we’ve entered into, you know, California with CBD. Globally with CBD, that that was easy. This is going to be a challenge because there are so many established brands in the state of Massachusetts currently. You know, just just getting our brand recognition. out there. There’s, there’s unique things that the state of Massachusetts allows you to do. Ie advertise. There’s billboards all along I 90 the Mass Turnpike, from Lee mass all the way to Boston, right. So that’s a whole new area for us is advertising our products and advertising our products publicly. The other thing that they allow you to do a Massachusetts is is is to go to dispensaries and educate people at the dispensary on your product, and partner with dispensaries as a as a producer. Normally what we had to do in other states, and as traditional is when we create products, we have to give them over to a to a distribution partner or a distributor, who then takes it to the retail side. But in Massachusetts, our license allows us to go directly to the consumer and sell to the dispensary. We don’t need to go to a to a middleman to distribute our products. So that allows us to get into the dispensaries and get in front of the consumers in the customer base. And look, we don’t we don’t want to build consumers. This isn’t Coca Cola, this isn’t Palmolive, right? We want to build brand partners in our in our customers who use our products, we want to partner with them. Because again, this is more than just a social aspect of, you know, the bullshit and get party side of our industry. We’re very intentional, like this is medicine. And we want to partner with folks and get the feedback from our customer base that says, Look, you know, we really like this in a vape pen, but can you make it with this terpene and, you know, and if it makes sense, we do it. We really listen to the customer base. And that’s, that’s going to be our biggest challenge and going into what we call consider a mature state.

Okay, we’re gonna wrap up in a second and talk about what’s next for Reuben Blak Mar forums. But first a word:

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Okay, Rubin last question I have for you looking towards the future? What are your main priorities? Where are you looking to expand in the next couple of years.

So obviously, we have our eye on New York as being a native New Yorker, we’re really hopeful that that New York will will come on board here and in this next year. And but outside of that we’re also looking at the entire east coast, we’re looking at the other states like Connecticut. So you know, my idea, Chris is to work on the East Coast and try to persuade contiguous states, you know, states that are contiguous to opening up interstate commerce, so that we can have better testing, we can have better products bed spread, we can give, you know, minority entrepreneurs, a biggest marketplace and they get target audience. And then you know, in the next several years, we’re going to launch our partnership in South Africa. And we’re going to expand on to into Europe into Germany 2024 We hope to have blackmart farms partnering with a German provider there and and then we’re going to look to Panama and Malta and Uruguay as well.

And with so much potential and so much opportunity still in the US. Why are you looking outside its borders now.

Being who we are and who I am as a leader, I think going into these emerging economies and really showing these folks how How to Use adult use cannabis as a way to bolster their GDP. Right. We heard this from from the woman from Brazil who spoke at the conference, we can increase your GDP by using cannabis, the President of Panama Senate recently, right? The problem is, without the globalization of cannabis, we can’t expect them to just produce raw goods and increase their GDP we have to teach them how to increase their GDP by using finished products such as cannabis oil or, or CBD or distillate right and then on top of that, we’re going to teach people how to package their culture. Cannabis is the cultural exchange process. That’s why I’m looking outside of the borders of the United States because I believe in the globalization of the planet, and I believe that I’m the right person and the right leader in this industry, to go globally and take my industry experience. Again, Triple Threat right and, and take this show on the road globally.

Blak Mar farms going international. Can’t wait to see that. Be careful though, because as we’ve seen and reported about and I’ve talked about getting into some of these countries is very difficult. And often they’ll take years longer than in the US to kind of reach their potential. So some pitfalls there but coming full circle in our conversation and having met at the event at the UN, and then ending it with you talking about going to South Africa, and Germany and Panama and Malta. Lots of exciting things ahead for you. Thanks for being on. And let’s hope your vision of interstate commerce comes to fruition here sooner rather than later, especially on the East Coast.

Thank you, Chris. Thank you for having me on today. I appreciate it.

And that’s a wrap for this episode of C to CEO. We’ll see you next week when Christine de la Rossa CEO of The People’s ecosystem comes on the show. People’s ecosystem is a California based company that sells branded flower and pre rolls and other types of products. Christina will share how she leverages legacy market know how what business skill she needed to learn to succeed, a new fund she’s creating for small business owners and much more. We’ll see you then

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