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Episode 22 - Interview with Chris Becker of the Honeybee Collective


Photograph of Chris Becker standing in a field of cannabis.  He is smiling and looking off into the distance.


In this episode, Scott and Miranda interview Chris Becker of the Honeybee Collective.


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Transcript


[MUSIC: "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)" by Grinderman]


Miranda 0:16

Hello, and welcome to The Heady Conversations with Scott and Miranda.


Scott 0:20

Welcome back in folks. Today we are going to be doing the next in our interview episodes. And we are super excited to have our new friend, Chris Becker from The Honeybee Collective coming on to talk to us about their employee owned company whose focus is sustainability. equity. And I guess more than sustainability, right?


Miranda 0:49

Absolutely generation regenerate. Regenerative, regenerative, regenerative. I have been having a hard time with that word.


Scott 0:57

It's a tough word. Regenerative generates farming is the type of farming that all of the growers that they purchase their flower from, participate in and practice. And that is a step above sustainability. But Chris will tell us all about that. Yeah, we hope you enjoy this conversation with him. And if you're in the Denver or Colorado area specifically, you might be interested to hear about the products they have to offer for you as well.


Miranda 1:31

Enjoy.


Scott 1:33

You would I guess just start us off by telling us who you are, you know your name. And if you would just kind of how you got into cannabis. What you were doing before cannabis, any of that, you know, origin story that yeah, you feel you know, is relevant to the conversation. Go right ahead.


Chris 1:52

Cool. Awesome. Thanks for having me all. My name is Chris Becker. I'm co founder of The Honeybee Collective. Been in the cannabis industry. About five years now I started out as a salesperson and brand ambassador for a medical cannabis company in Maryland, Curio Wellness, also worked in their dispensary. And I've had a few other roles in the industry as well. I sold lab testing services for a lab in Maryland and California. And I worked for Kaviar in Colorado, which is a infused cannabis product manufacturer. And ultimately, my experiences in the industry led me to want to do something better for the community and for the earth. I was frustrated by the waste I saw in the industry, both with plastic packaging, the environmental impact of growing and also with the treatment that I saw of other employees. You know, I worked with a lot of talented people in my various roles. And most of them, despite their talents had a very definite ceiling on how far they could go because the nature of ownership in the cannabis industry is very limited and consolidated in the hands of primarily wealthy politically connected people. And those frustrations led me to reach out to the most talented people I knew and invite them to start a cannabis company that would be different and allow for more opportunity and more equity in the industry.


Miranda 3:28

I love that. Absolutely. I really do love that you like it on every little thing that is wrong with the cannabis industry.


Scott 3:36

Yeah, so without getting too much into who we are, because the people that listen are probably bored with that already. We are both coming out of brief cannabis careers in the, you know, Maryland medical industry, where we were very disillusioned very quickly and disillusioned is putting it lightly, you know, infuriated by--


Miranda 4:04

Frustrated.


Scott 4:05

You know, not working conditions, you know, compensation. But as you said, you know, the waste in the industry. And that's, that's a lot of what motivated us to start doing this podcast was, you know, to help educate people on how to make better choices, or at least to make conscious choices, whether they're better or not, you know, you can only lead people to water you can't make them drink. You can let them know, hey, there are companies that at least try you know, the perfect cannabis company. I haven't exactly found them yet. But there are definitely people that are putting effort in and partnered up with, you know, good programs and putting resources towards at least bettering the industry if if it's not, you know where they will be right now. So that's what brought you up on our radar was, you know, being in the Facebook groups and whatnot, we saw you making posts about the collective and it seemed like your your message and your your mission was lined up with the things that we talked about. So, yeah!


Chris 5:16

Very much so. Yeah, absolutely. And I appreciate you noticing that and reaching out, we, like you said there is no perfect cannabis company, I don't think we are the perfect cannabis company either. We're just working towards a better, more equitable model that's good for the people and good for the environment. And we're trying to work with and support that the ecosystem of other people and businesses that are have similar missions. We're not alone in this in wanting to you all noticed our message and have a similar goal with your podcast of bringing awareness and equity to the industry. There's a lot of other people doing this work. And it's up to us to kind of support the whole ecosystem bring awareness to it. So like you said, consumers can make a conscious choice.


Miranda 6:03

Definitely, I found that like, there's so much politics in Maryland weed, that it's, it's just absurd. And it's like, the like, it's like where do you shop anymore? Where do you go and buy your weed? Because every every place has a story that may not align with your ethics in some way, shape or form.


Chris 6:26

Totally Yeah, it it really brings clear the like idea that there's no ethical consumption in capitalism, but especially when the only choices that you have are all either potentially corrupt, politically connected, you know, strictly supporting wealthy folks. That novel no real ability to support small businesses or where true sustainability in the Maryland market unfortunately.


Miranda 6:53

Oh, straight facts!


Scott 6:54

Now do you find that to be I'm not super familiar with the way that legislation is set up in Colorado and the licensing process. And all of that how I think you're the first company that I know of, other than like the Kaviars and brands like that, that just do like extractions or things to do with extractions, where you're not growing the flower yourself, right? You're buying from people that Well, I don't want to put the words in your mouth. Okay. Can you tell us about where you source your your cannabis from?


Chris 7:30

Sure, sure. So we source cannabis that is grown sustainably. Ideally, we seek regeneratively grown cannabis and there's an important distinction between sustainability and true regenerative agriculture. Sustainability, within the construct of the consumerist world that we live in, primarily means like companies doing less bad, which is admirable, right? If all your competitors are highly toxic, and you're less bad than them, great, that's that's a great place to start. But regenerative agriculture is truly good for the earth. It's it's if it's done correctly, especially with cannabis, it should be carbon negative, like pulling carbon emissions from the air. And really closing loops that create a lot of the waste in the industry. Regenerative agriculture, is growing crops the way nature intended, using sunlight and micro organisms to feed your plants as opposed to feeding them with artificial light and commercial agricultural inputs.


Scott 8:43

Right.


Chris 8:44

And so that's the kind of cannabis we're seeking. What that means is we sourced from growers who use living soil and grow in either greenhouses or outdoors. Those are the two best methods for growing cannabis, in our opinion growing happy cannabis the way nature intended, and growing it in a way that's good for the Earth.


Scott 9:07

Yeah, we actually sat in on a talk at National Cannabis festival down in DC about regenerative Yeah, they had a great panel of five or six people up there from a few different states. I believe that we're all talking about living soil and yeah, carbon negative, like you said, and, and the differences between, like you said sustainability and and actually improving the environment and trying to get it back to a more balanced state versus just making less of a negative impact. So yeah, super, super interesting stuff. Do you find that there, I mean, do you have a large amount of growers in Colorado to choose from that grow that way?


Chris 9:52

Certainly more than in Maryland, we're current work currently sourcing from four different grows right now. And they each have their unique qualities that made us really interested to partner with them. Several are women owned businesses, and all of them are growing under the sun using environmentally friendly or friendlier ways of growing. So it's been a it's been a struggle, I'm not gonna lie we have, in addition to our environmental standards, we have a no assholes policy and that probably disqualifies more people than the environmental standards in this industry. There's just a lot of lack of professionalism, misogyny on my part, like we won't tolerate any of that kind of shit. And we've actually fired partners before we ever got product to market because they just didn't treat us the way we wanted to be treated and the way we think that people should treat their peers in the cannabis industry.


Miranda 10:57

Bravo!


Scott 10:58

Yeah, that's absolutely fantastic.


Miranda 11:00

Yeah, more people should be aware and do business in that way. Because they're just a lot of there are a lot of assholes in the industry.


Scott 11:14

Vote with your wallet, right? So I mean, if if more of us make the conscious choice to not deal with those people to not buy those products produced by those people to not smoke the flower grown by those people, then those people will make less money and hopefully, you know, find the next fad to, you know, bribe their local council person to go become a part of or what have you and, and leave cannabis to the rest of us. But, ya know, that's, that's really fantastic. And I know that none of your partners could join us today. But, you know, we would be more than happy to have you all back on to continue this discussion at a future date. Yeah, it was somewhere down the line where you pull in some more people are available because we love the fact that it's a collective, a collective and a communal environment. And, you know, it really sounds like from what I was reading about some of the people involved you are all coming from different backgrounds and I'm sure bringing very different perspectives and and skills to the table.


Chris 12:21

I'm by far the least talented person on earth. Sorry, incredible professionals. My one of my partners Sholeh is a is a professional merchandiser, and on track to be likely president of a baby products manufacturing company and has extensive consumer packaged goods experience.


Miranda 12:43

Wow.


Chris 12:44

So she makes sure that we have really a, a smart and well rounded product line that's consumer driven, really, I mean, everything that we've done has been based on consumer research and talking to our target market is the daily cannabis consumer, because that's who we are. And also from a business case, like that's who buys the most weed. So, so that's who we want to speak to with our brand. And so she makes sure that we're constantly putting the consumer first with all of our decisions. My partner, Erin, Erin Parkins, is a exceptional marketer. She comes from the ed tech world, just incredible at building programs to get your message across. And I mean, as a brand, that is what we are doing, right. And as a mission driven brand. We're trying to spread awareness about our mission to create community wealth in a sustainable future. And then to bring Authenticity to that we have a Master's of Public Health on our staff, as a co founder, who make sure that our our programs are meaningful and impactful to the people who spend money with us and to the communities where we operate. And, and then on that note, our consumers are really part of that team, and that we intend to set aside 10% of our profits, to a fund that people that purchase from us, people that are part of our community, can help us decide where that money goes and how we reinvest in the communities where we operate.


Miranda 14:33

That's fantastic.


Scott 14:34

That was actually going to be my next question. The thing about the 10% of sales. So you mentioned you touched on a lot of things there. But you mentioned the marketing, and packaging in particular, and I think you all have made a lot of interesting choices with what you're offering so far and how you're offering it for the people that aren't familiar Earlier, I don't want to call them tins because they're not tin. I don't know if you have a name specifically for those, the packaging that you can use. But the packaging itself is very unique. You're also doing a five gram package as opposed to a 3.5 gram package. And I wonder if you could just touch on, you know, some of those decisions that you made there and why you're doing why you made those choices that you made.


Chris 15:32

Awesome. Yep, thank you for asking. So we were seeking to solve the waste problem when we were looking for packaging. A lot of packaging says it is recyclable. But when it comes to plastics, 95% of plastics end up in the landfill even if you put them in a recycling bin. Whereas tin which we do call our packages tins. Tin gets reused. It's basically an inverse relationship about 95% and that lends up in single stream recycling 90 to 95% of it will end up remade into a new product. And it's close to endlessly recyclable it can be reused multiple times whereas plastics get more brittle the more times are used. So it's much Earth friendlier way to package cannabis is is in 10. We wanted to go full compostable, but unfortunately, nobody has yet gotten a childproof, compostable--


Miranda 16:46

Gotcha.


Chris 16:46

Zip certified on a plastic bag, or I mean on a compostable bag. So we do have one SKU that's compostable. We have a two pack of half gram pre rolls that is a compostable tube, that it comes in with a compostable label, and they put it in their home compost will be gone three to six months, which is pretty cool. And we, you asked about the size of the product. So we do a pre packaged flower, five grand tin, which typically, like you said, flowers sold in three and a half gram increments. So five grams is 40%, more product and 40% less waste. And because our target demographic really is the daily cannabis consumer, which we identify as in aid, if it's good weed, it's not enough. Just an eighth, if it's good weed,


Scott 17:39

And a quarter can be just a little bit too much.


Miranda 17:42

Right.


Chris 17:43

Little too much, it kind of lasts a little bit longer than you needed it to carry it around too long, the dregs of it are like that, it's a little shaky at the bottom of it. So really felt like a five gram tin was a good solution to that to give a little bit more product for for very similar price. And in an earth friendly format that is hopefully highly grabbable off the shelf. Because the other thing that I saw that was lacking in cannabis, when we when we started this brand was really professional marketing and branding is in its infancy in this industry. And so the talent of my partners to come up with an aesthetic that will speak to a lot of people and be highly grabbable on the shelf, I think is going to hopefully really set us apart.


Scott 18:35

As someone who comes from a graphic design background, the packaging is gorgeous.


Miranda 18:39

It is, it really is.


Scott 18:40

It is really nice, you know, great. You know, they're very, very distinct color schemes.


Miranda 18:47

Clean. Yes, very clean looking very easy to read. Yeah.


Scott 18:53

Now, one of the things that I noticed about what you all do is your packaging isn't strain specific, right? You're you're focusing more on the desired effects or intended effects than you are the specific flower that you're using, right.


Miranda 19:17

You're, you're still muted.


Chris 19:18

Thanks for your audio listeners. I was taking a bong hit and muted myself. Yeah, so instead of going with the indica, hybrid sativa lingo. We went with Peace, Pause and Party. And we think that gives people especially newer users, more reasons to reach for our product. If you ask people which we did in our surveys, why do you use cannabis? 70% of the use cases are relaxation related. Whether it's sleep anxiety Stress. Those are the reasons that people say they consume cannabis. Personally, for me, that's the majority of the use case for me as well. And then some people say energy, creativity, focus and social reasons. So the Peace, Pause and Party really sums up all of the use cases for why people are reaching for a cannabis package, in my opinion, we still have the specific strain name on our on our products on our labels. And it but it's on the backside, so it's not the prominent feature of our marketing. And yeah, we hope that it will really give people a lot, a lot of reasons to grab the product.


Scott 20:48

And you're not really married to any specific strain or grower at that point, too, right. I mean, you can use any number of indicas or indica leaning hybrids, I would guess for the the Peace or the Pause or...


Chris 21:02

We select for terpene profile. So our Peace strains primarily are going to have high content of what are classically considered the more sedative terpene. So like, linalool, caryophylene, that kind of thing. Pause is going to have similar but somewhat less sedative, and more just generally relaxing terpenes like pining and caryophyllene in certain ratios has a really nice effect for me. myrcene and that kind of thing. And then the Party strains are going to have terpenes that are typically found in your sativa leaning strains that are associated with a more uplifting mood energy, things like terpinolene limonene, and that kind of thing.


Miranda 22:00

Word Sounds great. Sounds like a great, a great way to market your weed honestly, it sounds like it's going to be super is it been super successful so far?


Chris 22:12

So we launched on 421 Which is interesting time to launch as a brand we wanted to be in market before the 420 season and then be on shelves like on 420 proper and supply chain set us back a little bit with receiving our packaging from overseas. But we were happy to launch 421 we sold out our first drop in a week. So our first set of pre packaged flower sold out in a week. The store restocked and is now carrying our prepackaged flower and our 10 packs of pre rolls. So a lot of positive reception. People are saying that they love the flower. First off, it's great flower that we've got in our package. And then they're really enjoying the convenience of the pre roll packs. And the recyclability, the ease of recyclability and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you're not contributing to, you know, this endless cycle of waste.


Miranda 23:15

Well, congratulations on that. It's a big, that's a big do to sell out in your first week.


Chris 23:20

Thank you, we were really proud of it. We were really happy about the reception. And you know, we'd had a lot of buzz going into this launch, we were that I think contributed to our success. So one of the other things that we've done differently. Sustainability to us, I often don't, don't bring it up. But sustainability to us is also about sustainable economics for the people that work for the company. And so we're an employee owned company, and we guarantee all of our all of our employees a living wage, and we funded our company through a crowdfunding campaign. So I say all that to say that when you support the honeybee collective, you are supporting small investors who believe in our mission you invested between $135,000 These are regular people in your community. Many of them are in Maryland, some of them are advocates for cannabis reform in Maryland. Shout out Dawn shout out Roland Roiland. And, and you're supporting living wages for people that are working in the cannabis industry which are which are severely lacking, as you all know.


Miranda 24:31

Yes. Yes, we do. We do know that 100%.


Scott 24:37

You keep. It's almost like you read my outline because you keep jumping to the next thing that I was going to bring up. I was really bummed out when I read an article about you all and found out more about that crowdfunding source that you used. I thought it was more of a Kickstarter kind of deal. And as much as I cared about the mission, I'm kind of strapped for cash at the moment, and I did not read it as an investment that's actually going to be paid back. Can you talk a little bit more about that platform? Because I had never heard of it before. But it sounds like a really interesting and much more sustainable, not only sustainable, but, you know, as somebody who's owned parts of businesses in the past, it's, it takes away some of that stigma. I feel like are you still there, Chris? Yeah, sorry.


Chris 25:35

My partner just texted me. I gotta,


Scott 25:38

You're fine. You're fine. I just wanted to make sure you, you were still here.


Chris 25:42

Yep.


Scott 25:42

But you know, as somebody who's been involved in entrepreneurial efforts before, there's there's a stigma, there's a barrier of humility involved with going to people and say, Hey, you want to give me some money to start a business? Versus Hey, do you want to be an investor in my business and be a part of this project, and this mission that I'm on? So yeah, if you could just tell us a little bit more about the platform, if you're comfortable doing that, I would love to hear some.


Chris 26:18

Absolutely, I am a huge fan of the Mainvest platform, we raised a quarter million dollars from 200 individuals on the on the Mainvest platform to start our company. And that's going to carry us into the next couple of years into what I think would be great success. And, and really, it validated our mission, you know, 200, you not everybody's aware that to invest in early stage companies, you usually have to be what's called an accredited investor, which means that you make $250,000 a year and or have a net worth over a million dollars, not including your primary residence, right. So it's pretty high bar to invest in companies. But crowdfunding allows regular people that don't make a lot of money to invest in companies with as little as $100 and get paid back. A nice return over over the course of a few years. So our investors committed $250,000 To us, some of our investors will get a two times return. So if you invested 100, you'll get paid back a total of 200, over the course of five years or less, depending on how fast we sell out our products. And then the remaining investors will get one and three quarter return. So if you invested 175. I mean, if you've invested 100, you'll get 175 Back. And this is regular people that support our mission, some of the newest prior to going into this, some of them just found us online and decided to invest because they believe in what we're doing. They have seen the inequity in the industry and seeing the waste and support solving those problems. So early stage companies can raise quite a bit of money on may invest, I highly recommend any entrepreneur look into it. You know, it still took us a little bit of seed money to get off the ground, we probably put 60k, I probably put 60k of seed money into the company. Before we went and raised, and we had bought some packaging, and it takes some marketing dollars to do that raise. But at the end of the day, it's it's a very accessible way. I mean, if you go to a bank, if you go to most private investors, they're not giving money to pre revenue startup companies that are basically just an idea that some founders have. Right, right. But when you go to a crowdfunding platform, if enough people believe in your idea, now you've got the money to start your company. It's great.


Scott 28:53

So how does the licensing for a company like yours work? So you're not you're not a grower? You're not a dispensary? What tech Are you a cannabis processor, I guess.


Chris 29:08

Technically, we are a non plant touching cannabis brand. And so the distinction there is we get paid a royalty after our product sells, excuse me. We provide packaging, to our grow partners that meet our standards for sustainability. And then we do the marketing of our products. And we're allowed we do the sales of our products. In some states, a company might have a sales team that would sell our products but in Colorado, we solicit the sales from our products, provide the packaging and do the marketing for our products. But we don't touch the planet. We don't pick we don't go we don't deliver it.


Miranda 29:47

That's interesting.


Chris 29:48

We we don't package it and so the people that do pay us a royalty and that I mean it big brands work the same way Cookies works the same way and they're sure they get They have a licensing deal. Willies same same idea, licensing deal, Kaviar, you know, I worked, I sold Kaviar Curio, licensing deal, same, same idea. So big brands are using that to expand their footprint. I think the unique thing about us is, I don't know of any other companies that have launched as a licensing company, most have a license in one state and then turn it licensed in other states. But I think that speaks to the strength of the problems that we're solving. You know, the other companies are aware of the problem of waste and lack of living wages, but you need founders that are willing to spend the money on expensive recyclable packaging, which is up to like five times more expensive than traditional. And, you know, founders that are willing to see the company and give up equity to the to the rest of the employees, which is there a few and far between.


Scott 30:59

You touched on you touched on the cost of the packaging. How How does your I mean, obviously, we don't need to get into specific pricing. I mean, we can if you want to, but are you able to stay, you know, here in Maryland, we have kind of three or four different tiers of flower and what it cost, right, you've got stuff that you can get for $20 An eighth, because it's untrimmed or it's low in terps, it's larf bud, whatever, all the way up to you know, like you said, your Cookies or now Tyson or you know, Garcia, the the name brand stuff, which is going to be 65 or 70 in different places, right? Where Where do you all fall kind of competitively versus other brands.


Chris 31:54

In Colorado, we're we're targeting a out the door after tax price, which in Maryland, you're not paying tax on that 65 The growers paying a little tax, but so we're talking to an after tax price of between $38 and $45 for both our 10 pack of pre rolls and our five gram flower tin.


Miranda 32:18

Wow.


Chris 32:18

And then our two pack of pre rolls is about going to be about $12 out the door.


Miranda 32:24

That's fantastic.


Chris 32:26

And so we're trying to be extra competitive. One of the ways that we do that is Sungrown flower is less expensive, you know, then then indoor grown flower. But I think it's better, better product. The idea that indoor flower is the best product on the market is ridiculous, in my opinion. It's indoor flowers factory weed, you know, it's it's not the way nature intends it. It's it growing has been pushed inside by a legacy of prohibition. And by NIMBYs don't want to see cannabis or smell it. But sun grown, organically fed Cannabis is some of the best stuff you'll ever get. But it's cheaper to grow than growing indoors, which is incredibly expensive. So we're able to be a little bit more competitive in that regard. We take a little less profit than we'd like to, in order to stay competitive and to kind of absorb the cost of our expensive packaging for a little while until we can scale and get that price down. I do think that by next year, some more companies will be using tin. We might have compostable options available. And like I'm not afraid of competition more, the more companies use this stuff, the better for the earth and the better for our pocketbook and we have to reorder this please more people I will I will hook you up with our packing supplier don't copy or style.


Scott 34:01

Well, I did see I think I think up in the New York market. There was some requirements about the biodegradability of the packaging that they're going to be used in up in New York.


Miranda 34:13

I think it either has to be recyclable or biodegradable up in New York.


Scott 34:17

Yeah. And I mean again obviously like you said what recyclable is as an interesting term and we talked about that I don't know if you all have the High-5 Initiative out there in Colorado but we talked about the High-5 Initiative here in Maryland where you can take those containers back to the dispensaries you know a lot of dispensaries now and they'll come be picked up and processed by this great organization. But yeah, if you just chuck it in your standard yellow recycling bin, it's probably going to end up in a landfill.


Miranda 34:48

Yeah.


Chris 34:50

Totally. Yeah. We have a couple of organizations and dispensaries with take back programs out here as well. And I did see that in New York that I at least saw when they proposed that the packaging would have to be recyclable or compostable. But I never looked into what the specifics of that were like you said that the devils in the details on that.


Scott 35:12

Yeah. But the the point that I was getting to was the more people that do it, you know, the more whether it's actually regulated or whether it's just companies providing the option and, and taking the time to make the effort. Hopefully more people know about it and start to pay attention to it. Right.


Chris 35:31

Exactly. Yeah. Like I said, we fully support bringing more awareness to it more companies using earth friendly packaging, the more the merrier. We can't keep filling landfills. And honestly, like, streams, lakes and oceans. You know, we personally did a Earth Day cleanup, where we removed about 120 pounds of plastic from a stream near our house. And now I have a personal goal of removing as much weight in waste from the local communities where we sell into as we sell into, so if I sell a pound of cannabis, that's roughly three pounds, actually, ours is a little lighter. So that's roughly two pounds of packaging with our packaging. So three pounds of total product, I want to go at least pick up three pounds of waste from a local stream, if not more, three pounds is pretty light.


Miranda 36:35

That's awesome. That is awesome. I feel like we need to be more involved in actually getting our dispensaries and producers to get better packaging on board. Because at this point, it's just it's just, it's I think we have one one company out here who does tin and the rest is all plastic.


Scott 36:57

But there needs to be those options to like you said, I mean, there has to be that childproof, you know, compostable option that we can find and, and, you know, satisfy the regulators and serve the serve the mission at the same time, right?


Miranda 37:18

I know, when we were down in DC, and I bought from Alternative Solutions. And their packaging was paper.


Chris 37:27

Nice.


Miranda 37:27

Which was I thought it was super cool. Like I immediately took it home and put it in glass, but because I didn't want it to lose anything, or get really dry. But the just the simple fact that it was in paper to begin with was really just awesome to me.


Chris 37:44

Love it, Love to see it!


Scott 37:45

Yeah, there's a lot. There's a couple, a couple companies that do pre rolls in the compostable tubes, like you said, here in Maryland, I think Grow West does.


Miranda 37:53

Yeah.


Scott 37:55

There's a few more I can't think of off hand but so are there are there plans are there goals to become an MSO to become the first you know, conscious and, and caring MSO out here operating? Are you are you all trying to take this mission to other places? I mean, I know it's obviously the the early stages out there in Colorado, but it's--


Chris 38:23

Absolutely we aspire to be everywhere that cannabis is legally sold for for recreational use. We're primarily uh, I mean, everybody is using for their own medical reasons, but we're primarily a recreational brand not looking to the Limited License medical states just because of the nature of what that's created. But, yes, we absolutely would like to be in multiple states in the next few years. Specifically, I have my eye on Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Mexico, all three have and New York too. So all four of those actually have unique either craft cultivation licenses, Co Op license, cultivations. Small regenerative farms being prioritized in New York and Vermont, right. We're all growers and such. So all of that is is interesting to us and gives us potential partners that share our mission. There are certain states where I don't even need to look because there are literally no growers who share our mission and meet the no assholes requirement.


Miranda 39:51

Yeah...


Chris 39:52

And there's some states where there's only one right needle in a haystack. So but so the big targets of places where there's going to be growers that we can partner with that share our mission for regenerative agriculture earth friendly and people friendly practices, treat their people well, are pleasant to work with. And where we can add value. So where we add value as a company is we bring attention to the growers, earth friendly practices, we help them launch with a brand that already has name recognition. So I recognize that that's a bold statement, because we're in one one state and building a brand, right, but people have heard of us and more people are going to hear of us. And a grower may not be expert in building a brand, and creating beautiful packaging that's going to sell well in in product differentiation and SKU development. Our team has all those skills. So we're bringing a high volume product line to growers that they can immediately launch with without having to have the upfront development cost of building a brand. Because I told you, we put 60 KFC capital into this, we've already spent a fair chunk of that 250,000 that we've raised, building a brand costs between $100,000 and $500,000, right, so if a farmer doesn't want to do that, which might not be their purview, because growers tend to want to grow, they want, they want to spend time with the ones they love. And we want them to be able to do more of that and not have to worry about marketing, branding, packaging, selling. We can handle all that because we're we're already experts in those freedoms.


Scott 41:48

Well, and I think that's another if you build it, they will come hopefully, where if people know that there's a market out there and that there's you know, not only consumers that care about it, but brands that are out there supporting it, and making it their you know, not just something that they pay lip service to your primary focus being not only that, you know, regenerative aspect, but like you said, I think the no assholes is just as limiting, if not more so.


Miranda 42:21

I think it's more so limiting.


Scott 42:23

More so than finding people that are doing regenerative, regenerative farming.


Miranda 42:29

Because people can learn to regenerator regeneratively farm, right.


Chris 42:35

You can't teach them not to be an asshole. Ya know, it's so true. And we do hope that the work that we're doing will inspire more people to form employee owned companies in the cannabis industry. We really hope that a generation of founders will exit to employee ownership entities rather than exiting to other kinds of entities that would acquire them, whether it be venture capital or private equity, whatever. employee owned companies tend to be more profitable than their peers. Employee owned companies tend to retain their employees during downturns at significantly higher rates than their peers. And they have higher employee satisfaction and engagement rates than their peers. So they're healthier companies. And we think it's the most equitable way to hold a company. And if you have a profitable cashflow, and company and owner can often net the same as or potentially even more after taxes are considered to exit to their employees as they can to exit to another entity. There's significant tax savings when when a founder exits to an ESOP versus excellent to another entity. Interesting. So that's, that's probably a little bit technical, but we ended the day we want. The fastest way to create more equity in the cannabis industry is creating more employee on companies because then you're really spreading ownership in the industry. If you can build those workplaces, foundationally as diverse and healthy workplaces that treat the employees well and respect their time and their value and give back to them and prioritize doing right by them and by the community where they operate over prioritizing profit. That's kind of a new way of looking at doing business that we hope more people can wrap their minds around. Because, I mean, like, I didn't get real radical and I have this conversation but like the alternatives to like solving the inequities of capitalism and solving the waste caused by capitalism, the alternative is not more capitalism, like, absolutely. It's revolution. And it's like, like the polite, the polite term is degrowth. But if you're in power that looks like Red Revolution, right, so companies just need to start changing the way that they do business. Or we're all screwed.


Scott 45:40

Pretty much yeah. So I know you launched at just the one dispensary. Are you still only available at the one dispensary at the moment? Or have you branch that out already?


Chris 45:57

This week, we're still just available to watch. Our first hire is a salesperson. Her name is Andrea. And she starts on Monday. I'm not sure when this layer but she starts five days from when we're talking right now. And so hopefully by the time people are hearing this will be in more dispensary.


Miranda 46:19

Right? Um, that's cool.


Scott 46:20

Do you want to shout out the place where you are available?


Chris 46:23

Absolutely. Yeah, we're in a World of Weed dispensary in Commerce City. It's just on the east side of Denver. Great store. Great team there. They've got our five gram flower tins and our 10 pack of pre rolls. So if you're in Denver area, please stop by and let us know what you think of the products.


Scott 46:44

I know of at least two listeners in Denver. One of them does not actually partake. She just used to work in the industry and likes to listen to the show. But the other one, I hope we'll take a trip over and pick up your flower and give us give us a review on it. And you know, yeah, because it's recreational. Maybe we'll get out there ourselves and get an opportunity to, to check you guys out. Do you live in Denver yourself?


Chris 47:14

I do. Yeah, please let me know if you're in town.


Miranda 47:17

Word, we will!


Scott 47:19

Well, Chris, if there's anything else that you want to plug, or, you know, mention, before we go, I think we've covered


Miranda 47:26

most we've covered a lot of thank you for being answered


Scott 47:30

You answered all my questions and predicted most of them before I even got to ask. So


Miranda 47:35

Yeah, thank you for being so transparent regarding the business aspect of all of this. It's been it's been fascinating.


Chris 47:42

Yeah, be you're the sort of our core values is transparency. Some companies are willing to really go in depth and share our journey.


Scott 47:53

You're the only employee owned cannabis company in the states that I'm aware of at least Yeah, I believe I know of one up in Canada. But I don't know of any others in the US. I don't know if you do.


Chris 48:10

On my Twitter feeds, this morning, I posted about an employee owned that they're a CVD. dispensary. In Chicago, Massachusetts, we've got a few companies that I think are still pre license or pre licensure, but are Co Op, which would be employee owned companies. You've got farm bug Co Op and you've got some others that are forming. And then there is a group that I'm aware of that is starting an initiative to acquire dispensaries and turn them into employee owned dispensaries under the thesis that that's the best way to manage people in this industry and you know how to align the interests of people in dispensaries to create more value for the store. I wish them great success I hope they go out and acquire a bunch of stores before you know their competitors can because I'd love to see just a revolution of employee ownership.


Miranda 49:18

I love that.


Scott 49:21

Absolutely. So, Instagram website give us all that good stuff.


Chris 49:30

Instagram we're at The.Honeybee.Collective. Twitter we're @honeybeecannaco. And I am @chris_honeybee if you want some hotter takes than I gave you all today.


Miranda 49:47

I like a spicy take.


Chris 49:53

Facebook, I don't know the hyperlink but if If you just search The Honeybee Collective, I haven't posted anything, it's gotten shut gotten a shadow banned. So you should find those.


Scott 50:06

Good times. So we've talked about cannabis censorship on the show previously as well.


Miranda 50:11

Yep. And how totally...


Chris 50:15

Oh my god.


Miranda 50:16

It's absurd. It's so absurd.


Scott 50:20

We can only do so much. And, you know, my personal belief is it's just so I used to be a restaurant owner. And basically what Yelp does is they make their money by charging you to take down the negative or take down the negative reviews and push forward the positive. And basically, Meta is doing the same shit. If you pay to advertise with us, we'll leave you alone, you can post whatever you want. If you're not paying to advertise with us, and you're growing this naturally on your own and making money from us rather than for us.


Miranda 50:52

Fuck you.


Scott 50:53

Yeah.


Chris 50:55

That's, I mean, straight up. In my experience the past couple months managing our socials is that I have spent some money with them, despite them being evil. And it has protected our account and grown our account, every time that I'm not spending money. Our viewership is much, much lower. And that's even across platforms. Like I'm not spending money on Facebook. So I have no reach on Facebook, I am spending money on Instagram. Pretty good reach on Instagram.


Scott 51:26

Right.


Miranda 51:27

Right.


Chris 51:27

It's pretty gross. And it's pretty disgusting business model. Our primary goal was social to get people off social to join the hive. So the so the one other thing is join the hive on our website. Go to our websites like to join the hive button. You can join our community and being part of our community, you'll get notifications about parties and events that we're throwing community cleanups and things like that, you'll get notified about new product drops, we've got some great new flower coming from some beautiful woman grows up in the mountains of Colorado here just like it just got delivered yesterday. Beauty beautiful purple ice cream cake moves straight from there. And then you'll also get a chance when we have profits to distribute to help us decide how to redistribute those, you'll be able to join the community advisory board that helps us decide where that money goes. Right on.


Scott 52:26

That's fantastic.


Miranda 52:27

Well, thank you for walking the walk.


Chris 52:30

Absolutely, thank you. I, I had It's pretty surreal to be here. I mean, about a year and a half ago, this was just email to about 14 people saying, Hey, I think all of you are really talented and people I would like to work with. And I'd like to start a company that does some good in the community, would you be interested. And that's what we evolved from. And so I owe it all to my founders, my co founders, and as a group, we've been able to like, stick by our mission and stick by your guns even when that's like the harder thing to do for business. But we think it's the best thing to do for the community. And ultimately, we're part of this cannabis community, not just a part of the industry. We identify as part of the community first, and I think that's probably the biggest difference.


Miranda 53:27

Absolutely.


Scott 53:29

If you're going to cash in, you should also chip in, you know, it's, it's really pretty simple shit. But yeah, so few people are concerned with it, or even if they say they're concerned with it, actually doing it. So, again, Chris, we wish you all the best. And we will of course, you know, push out links to all your information on the website and all the social and that good stuff. But thanks again for joining us. And we look forward to you know, bringing you back to talk with you when you expand into the next state or, you know, launch the next product or whatever it is. Anytime you you have something you want to promote or or push out to the world.


Miranda 54:10

Give us a shout.


Scott 54:11

Let us know. We're happy to be that amplifying voice.


Chris 54:16

Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you taking an interest in what we're doing and supporting the mission to create community wealth in a sustainable future. That's what we're all about. So thank you for helping us amplify that message.


Miranda 54:27

Thank you.


Scott 54:28

Right on, man. All right. Well talk to you soon.


Chris 54:32

Take care, Peace. Bye.


Miranda 54:33

Bye. Thank you again, Chris, for an amazing interview and such great insight into how you came to birth The Honeybee Collective. With your founders and co founders. I think it's a very fascinating and interesting look into the way cannabis can be sustained, sustained, and even more sustained by its employees.


Scott 54:58

Yeah, I mean, we can only hope that other people are as inspired and interested in what Chris and his partners are doing out there as I am. And I think we are.


Miranda 55:11

Absolutely.


Scott 55:13

I would love absolutely love to see a brand like this, you know, like I said, MSOs don't have to be multi state operators, if you're new to listening to this show don't have to be a negative thing. Ya know, the everybody says big brand cannabis, I don't have an issue necessarily with brands, I have an issue with companies that aren't giving back and aren't participating in equity causes or, or...


Miranda 55:43

Or as Chris would say, assholes.


Scott 55:47

Companies that definitely not only don't have a no asshole policy, but may be assholes themselves. Yeah, it would be great to see a company take, take hold and perpetuate and promote these positive notions and practices for the industry in multiple, multiple arenas, you know, obviously, Colorado, you would think a state like California or Oregon.


Miranda 56:19

Right and right.


Scott 56:20

Washington state, you know, places that are a little more granola? Well, I mean, he said Vermont and Massachusetts are places that they have their their eye on.


Miranda 56:30

Yeah. Which I think is really smart. Because I mean, those markets are just, they're made for that sort of industry.


Scott 56:38

Well, I found it interesting that he said they are intentionally avoiding. Like I said he anticipated every question I had. One of the things I was going to ask is if they were available, both because Colorado has both right medicinal and adult use. So I was curious, but he answered that he said they don't have any interest in participating in limited license medical markets because of the environment that that has created.


Miranda 57:08

Yeah.


Scott 57:08

Which is, which is very telling. So. Yeah, like, like Chris said, if you want some hotter takes, you can definitely go follow him on Twitter and get a little more raw, uncut, anticapitalist message from Chris, which, hey, I absolutely support.


Miranda 57:27

Hear! Hear!


Scott 57:28

Yeah, as you know, we support workers rights and worker ownership is an even greater extension of that. So it would be fantastic if we start to see more cannabis companies follow this lead and participate in allowing employee ownership because like Chris said, it really just promotes a more patient or user friendly environment in the long run as well.


Miranda 57:56

A more cohesive relationship, I think, right?


Scott 57:59

We are the customer. Right?


Miranda 58:02

Yeah.


Scott 58:02

By and large folks that are involved in the industry, whether it's a state that has medicinal only, or whether it's a state that has adult use or recreational available. You're talking about people that are generally everyday cannabis consumers, just like Chris said, he and his partners are, yeah, right. So if you have people that are using the plants and probably have been for a long time before it was legal for them to do so, you're more than likely going to have people that are more concerned with things like regenerative farming, and composability and sustainability.


Miranda 58:45

Product quality, right?


Scott 58:47

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.


Miranda 58:48

I mean, just how many how many things that we read in the past several weeks about an inconsistent product in the Maryland market?


Scott 58:57

For sure. That totally makes sense as well. Right? If you're never get high on your own supply, that is definitely not the case in the cannabis industry, right. I mean, that's, I mean, even when it comes to street flower, personally, I've always been of the opinion that if the person that's selling it to you smokes it themselves. Yeah, you know, it's it's probably good stuff, right?


Miranda 59:25

Very telling.


Scott 59:26

Assuming they have good taste. Anyway, we hope you enjoy the conversation with Chris we hope to continue the conversation with Chris and his partners in the future. If you're out in the Denver or surrounding area in Colorado, go check them out at the dispensary where they're available now and Google them and see if they're available in more dispensaries at this point, because hopefully, by the time we air this, like he said they will be.


Miranda 59:53

Yeah, all of the links for Chris and The Honeybee Collective will be available on the website www.theheadyconversations.com, I am Our Lady of Maryjane on Instagram.


Scott 1:00:06

And I can be found at Your Cannabis Coach. Thanks so much for listening folks be well to yourselves and each other get out of here


Miranda 1:00:22

and also remember to stay tuned next month for our District Cannabis review. I'm hopefully looking forward to getting my hands on some different strains other than Gelato Cake and Cherry Chem. I've seen there's some Sour Diesel on the on the horizon.


Scott 1:00:38

There was definitely some Sour Diesel here in the Maryland market I think there was also talk of us getting the either the Peach Flambe or we're a cross of that a Peach something or another, which I would totally be into I guess we also need to decide whether we're going to review just the Maryland product or if we're going to dip our toes into the DC because we can do that. But either way Yeah, next episode we will be talking about the folks at District Cannabis and some of their beautiful flowers. So...


Miranda 1:01:17

And yeah, we'll see you next week.


Scott 1:01:20

Be well.


Miranda 1:01:21

Mwah!


[MUSIC: "Honey Bee (Let's Fly to Mars)" by Grinderman]




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