Please state your name and a little about your current status.
Dr. John Oram and I am the CEO and Founder of NUG, a vertically integrated seed to sale cannabis companies in California.
What exactly does your company do?
NUG is a California-based, vertically-integrated cannabis company with strong historical growth and performance. Founded in 2014, NUG continues to expand and diversify its portfolio. We currently operate the highest volume cannabis extraction facility in California, producing the majority of concentrates, vapes and other infused cannabis products sold in California under the NUG label and other leading brands. Through our distribution company, NUG products are sold in over 80 percent of the licensed retail dispensaries in California, including NUG stores, offering consumers an unparalleled cannabis retail store experience.
How did you start your company/business as a startup?
My educational background is rooted in science. I earned my Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in environmental chemistry and engineering from the University of California Los Angeles and bachelor’s degrees in analytical chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2009, I applied my background in chemistry and engineering with my passion for cannabis by co-founding CW Analytical Laboratories to establish standardized testing and certification protocols for medical cannabis and to ensure quality and safety. In 2014, I founded NUG, a vertically integrated seed to sell cannabis companies. In this role, I’ve been able to apply my laboratory experience to the production side, ensuring that NUG properly prepares our product life cycles so we can efficiently and consistently deliver products of the utmost quality to the marketplace.
What struggle did you go through to reach your current status now?
Prior to launching NUG, I co-founded CW Analytical Laboratories, which established standardized testing and certification protocols in order to ensure the safety and quality of medical cannabis. So, while I was familiar with the regulatory landscape of cannabis production at the time, launching our vertically-integrated cannabis company presented its own challenges. Cannabis is still a growing industry, and a lot of the services and resources other industries have access to, including banking and traditional financial services, are not offered or readily available to those who operate cannabis-based businesses.
How did you manage to cope up with those struggles?
Over the years, I’ve had to face this challenge head-on and spend a lot of time and resources to find alternative financing options and ensure we have the systems in place to remain compliant with local and state regulations and keep our business sustainable over the long-term. While our vertically-integrated business model has not been easy, nor cheap, to maintain, we felt it was necessary to control every step of the process, adapt to changing markets, and establish a brand known for high-quality, safe, and specialized cannabis products.
Who inspired you to move forward and influenced you in all your achievements now?
First and foremost, it was my dad who inspired me to be entrepreneurial. He always supported me through good and bad decisions and helped me keep a level head. It is extremely important to have a clear vision and remain focused while trying to build a company. And that is tough to do in cannabis – an industry with a myriad of both opportunities and challenges. My dad had the coolest demeanor about him; he was tough to rattle. I am forever grateful to have learned from him. Staying calm, cool, and collected has allowed me to grow a successful business amid an ever-changing landscape.
I found additional inspiration from iconic business leaders. Specifically, I admire how Phil Knight built Nike. He faced similar challenges in regards to securing supply channels, finding retail shelf space, and building brand loyalty. I have modeled some of our growth on Nike, especially in regard to establishing flagship branded retail experiences to help control the brand narrative.
1. Set Realistic Expectation
I would say to those looking to start a cannabis business that it’s important to be realistic about your expectations. Right now, there’s a lot of hype around the industry, especially as more celebrities and name brands join the space, which can sometimes set unrealistic expectations for how profitable you can become in cannabis and how quickly. This is a tough business to be in. It’s a competitive, highly-regulated, and constantly changing space that can be difficult for new operators to navigate. Although running a vertically-integrated cannabis business has been a challenging and costly undertaking, NUG has found many benefits, including being at the forefront of industry trends, building close-ties to local communities, and producing high-quality products under a reputable brand name.
2. Develop a Solid Business Strategy and Run With It
When looking to enter the space, it’s important to sit down and really think about your company’s goals and objectives, what products you want to produce, your consumer base, and the market you wish to enter, as it currently stands and where it’s heading. Once you have a strategy in place, be prepared to put in the work to make it happen. You need to wake up every day and put in the effort to bring you that much closer to your vision.
3. Build a Rockstar Executive Team
The road to success in the cannabis industry is a long and bumpy one, so you better chose the best people to have alongside for the ride. You’ll want to put together an executive team that has the knowledge, experience, and skill to successfully navigate a complex and transforming industry. Everyone on your team needs to be committed to bettering the company as a whole, rather than just individual successes. In addition to your internal executive team, it’s important to also seek advice from financial and legal professionals who can help navigate potential pitfalls in the startup and organization process.
How can people follow your journey? Please list your social media URLs