Potent and Delicious Cannabis Infused Products – Julia Bright of Wana Brands

Julia Bright, Director of Marketing at Wana Brands

Julia Bright, the Director of Marketing at Wana Brands, helped grow her company’s revenue from $2.6 million in 2014 to $14.1 million in 2017, a 455% increase, and to around $18 million in 2018.  

Wana Brands is a maker of cannabis-infused products.  

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Julia shares how she and her team accelerated their high value sales by:  

  • Providing a stable and scaleable product that consumers love.  
  • Partnering with dispensaries and providing them with sales training and customer support that’s reliable and consistent.  
  • Developing innovative product line extensions.  

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Malcolm Lui:
Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of Eversprint.com. I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today we're speaking with Julia Bright, the Director of Marketing at Wana Brands, a maker of cannabis-infused products. Welcome to the show Julia.

Julia Bright:
Thank you very much. Glad to be here.

Malcolm Lui:
Julia, you helped grow your company's revenue from $2.6 million in 2014 to $14.1 million in 2017, a 455% increase, and in 2018 Wana hit around $18 million. Before we talk about how you helped grow your company so fast, can you briefly share what your company does beyond my quick intro, and how your company differs from the competition?

Julia Bright:
Absolutely. We are the number one best seller of edibles in the United States. We make cannabis infused edibles and our main and most successful product line is gummies. So we have various ratios of gummies ranging from t THC to CBD in various proportions. And the company actually got started in 2010. We are one of the first companies on the market before recreational use was even legal in Colorado was just medical use and we grew in just a mere eight years to what we are today with distribution covering most of Colorado and six other states across the United States and counting.

Malcolm Lui:
And two questions that one how do you differ from your competitors.

Julia Bright:
Yes absolutely. To start with. When one of brands entered the market in 2010 we're actually one of the first companies to institute testing of our products. And and you know before it was even legally required in Colorado. So we pay very very close attention to quality and consistency in our products. In fact when we developed our gummy recipe we actually hired a Picton expert and tested over three different types of pact and to come out with the right consistency and the right texture and taste. But I think something that really separates our products from the competition is not only the fact that they're potent and consistent but they're simply delicious. People love the taste and they enjoy consuming our products. They do what they say they're gonna do. So people can rely on them time after time. And that really separates us from our competitors product wise but on our customer the dispensary side and on the consumer side we also do a lot of training and education not only just about our products but also about the cannabis cannabis. Sorry also about the way cannabis asking your body we have a course called cannabis one on one big endo cannabinoid system. We talk about micro dosing and we answer questions that consumers actually want to know about because we find that a lot of consumers come into the market without knowing too much about cannabis. Maybe they use cannabis in college. But this is this is not this is not the same type of industry or market that people using cannabis 20 30 years ago are really used to the products are very different. Some of them are way stronger a better quality more consistent than what you're used to and a lot of people have questions and especially about the meds at all properties of cannabis as well. So we are actually on the leading edge in the cannabis industry in terms of education and educating consumers as well as bud tenders who are the people that actually make product recommendations at the dispensary level to consumers

Malcolm Lui:
Right now for those who aren't familiar with the market and I'm one of those can you go over some of their abbreviations on a CBD. That's a very common one and he makes you something else early on about PCH or something like that

Julia Bright:
Oh I'm sorry. It's a THC versus CBD and THC is only one of the cannabinoids that exists in cannabis. It's a compound that actually has psychoactive properties of the compound and CBD is also another cannabinoid but it differs from THC in the fact that it doesn't have the same psychoactive properties as THC does and CBD has been a very hot buzzword lately with people and we offer a range of products and different THC to CBD ratio so something that people may not understand or know about cannabis is that is the entourage effect and the entourage effect actually is something that makes the CBD and THC products more effective when they are in the compound together. So in terms of CBD we talk about full spectrum use of the plan which means that all parts of the plant are in the product to take advantage of the entourage effect.

Malcolm Lui:
Okay.

Julia Bright:
Was that clear

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah yeah. So THC and CBD are essentially different elements of the cannabis

Julia Bright:
Of

Malcolm Lui:
Being you said is always that

Julia Bright:
Of the cannabis plant

Malcolm Lui:
Cannabis plant right now are both used in the recreational products are are one or the other use only in the medicinal products.

Julia Bright:
Actually the recreational and medicinal products are pretty much the same. The only thing that really differs on on medicinal products is the dosage because medical patients usually require a hired higher dose of THC and CBD in order to address their various conditions. Yeah

Malcolm Lui:
Okay got it. And

Julia Bright:
Oh I'm sorry one. One thing I wanted to say to you is that taxes are higher on the recreational side.

Malcolm Lui:
Ok and for the taste you said they taste delicious if I taste that one of your gummy bears. What it tastes like a regular gummy bear. Initially

Julia Bright:
Actually we don't say gummy bears. And the reason

Malcolm Lui:
Ok.

Julia Bright:
Don't say gummy bears is because that is a term or a product forum that really appeals to children. We are very much conscious that these products are adult use only and we do everything we can to not speak that way.

Malcolm Lui:
Ok. Yeah. It just comes out as a habit. Right. Gummy bears. They always go together.

Julia Bright:
Yeah. So do they taste like the gummy candy that's out on the market. What. Although our product has packed in it which makes a vegan and so the texture is a little bit softer and not as rubbery as with a gelatin gummy that's like that Harry Bo Harry Bo product. So it's a little bit softer and I personally think it tastes better. We have some unmedicated products around the office that people eat at meetings and love. In fact we've had many reporters ask us why we don't just start a candy company without the THC

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So the product itself and it's been infused with the THC and or the CBD. Is there a taste to these those elements by themselves

Julia Bright:
Yes there really there really is a taste and I think it's kudos to our product development team who actually are able to mask the little bit of a bitter taste of especially CBD tastes better but they do such an amazing job with masking the taste and that's part of the reason why everyone loves our products is because they really don't taste Tashi

Malcolm Lui:
Ok. And how it the smell does it have the the classical smell of the product when

Julia Bright:
And it actually doesn't smell like tea like cannabis at all. It smells like delicious ripe fruit like our watermelon or mango or we have I use a product that is my personal favorite and it just smells like amazingly good like like fresh fruit.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. And what's the the potency of the recreational versus medicine. How come. How much do they differ.

Julia Bright:
So for example on our 100 mg product there's a law in Colorado that says that there must be no more than 100 milligrams of THC per package. So we have a product that's 100 milligrams per package and usually 10 milligrams per piece and the municipal one I believe is two hundred which with 20 milligrams per piece but we have different ratios actually

Malcolm Lui:
Roughly the medicinal ones are two times stronger or more

Julia Bright:
We're roughly roughly

Malcolm Lui:
Rafa OK. And the way it works. If I wanted to have the impact of the medicinal Can I just eat twice as many of the gummy candies we get the same

Julia Bright:
You

Malcolm Lui:
Impact.

Julia Bright:
Know absolutely.

Malcolm Lui:
It doesn't

Julia Bright:
And you'll just pay a little bit more for the product

Malcolm Lui:
Right. And when I feel gross eating so many of the

Julia Bright:
Sorry. But

Malcolm Lui:
Wherever I feel kind of noxious and sick from eating so many of

Julia Bright:
You know

Malcolm Lui:
The gummies

Julia Bright:
We actually we have a philosophy that says start low and go slow. So we actually recommend that when people start and especially if they're not used to cannabis we recommend that they cut the gummy in half to get a five milligram dose or even in quarters and then wait about 60 to 90 minutes for it to kick in before you decide whether you want to take more or not

Malcolm Lui:
Right. How big are your gummy candies because they're big enough to slice into quarters.

Julia Bright:
Yes. Yes they actually are there about I would say three quarters of an inch square.

Malcolm Lui:
Mm hmm. Okay

Julia Bright:
Well you would still get a good taste if you cut them in quarters. Definitely.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. And how can I buy the buy these products of course the medicinal ones are in the dispensaries. But what about the recreational ones. Can I

Julia Bright:
Well

Malcolm Lui:
Go to my

Julia Bright:
You

Malcolm Lui:
Local supermarket and pick them up.

Julia Bright:
You would have to come to Colorado

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah.

Julia Bright:
And go to a dispensary in Colorado

Malcolm Lui:
Okay.

Julia Bright:
Or you could go to any of the other states that we are in. We have we have dispensaries in Las Vegas on the recreational side. And or again as well for medicinal. We have Arizona. We're starting to sell in Florida and Michigan and Illinois

Malcolm Lui:
Ok so the recreational ones can only be sold through dispensaries

Julia Bright:
Actually any medicinal or recreational all cannabis products at the moment I need to be sold in dispensaries unless it is a CBD only product that contains no THC and then it could be sold at the retail level. I know CBS and Walgreens has recently started carrying CBD products CBD if you remember is the non psychoactive part of the cannabis plant

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Also ahead a no here my notes ask you psychoactive. What does that mean.

Julia Bright:
So psychoactive means that it acts on your brain receptors and makes you feel high.

Malcolm Lui:
Ok

Julia Bright:
Is the term

Malcolm Lui:
Right. And what would the CBD element do for you then

Julia Bright:
And the CBD actually is known to have anti inflammatory properties and other properties that actually act on your brain as well. And people use it to help them with relaxation with sleep with anxiety. It depends on the dosages as well. People use them for other real much more serious medical conditions like epilepsy

Malcolm Lui:
Right now is it the CBD side or the THC side that then makes people hungry

Julia Bright:
You know if it's a very funny thing. It's THC usually is what people report makes them hungry. But I would caution about generalizations like that on cannabis because cannabis acts in different ways on different people. For myself for example I actually feel the opposite. I feel completely not hungry when I ingest THC and it actually depends on your body composition what you eat that day as to how you feel and also possibly on the strain of the team versus indica. Now we're bringing in another degree of complexity to this conversation but that those different strains of cannabis have been known to act differently on the body as well. THC is actually fat soluble so the more fattening food you eat the longer and stronger the effect is probably going to be although I hate to make generalizations because again everyone's different.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now. The product for CBS can. Can they only be sold physically and in retail locations or can I buy it online.

Julia Bright:
I believe that there are CBD CBD retailers online. However I would caution anyone to purchase this CBD products either online or at retail level before they do their research. There are many variations in terms of product quality consistency and especially online. There are a lot of fly by night operators that actually possibly don't have the same amount of CBD as they claim on the label or don't have the right type of CBD. So. I think it's a whole other discussion in terms of what to look for in your CBD product but I would do your research and be very very careful about what you buy. In fact if you want to go to one of brands dot com we do have a whole course on CBD that I personally think is very informative and so I would encourage people to go to our website and learn as much as they possibly can. And there are other websites out there that do a good job as well.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now can I buy a one hour products from your website. If I'm living in Colorado

Julia Bright:
So it's very interesting but Colorado law actually doesn't let us distribute the product out of state. In fact the product has to be grown and produced and distributed within Colorado. If we are operating in Colorado. So for example we can't put the product in the mail and ship it to a dispensary. We actually have to have couriers deliver their product to all the dispensaries. And I believe the laws are the same in all of the states except for in California. They have home delivery

Malcolm Lui:
Right but if I were a resident of Colorado I can order online and have you shipped stuff to me.

Julia Bright:
No we are a wholesaler so we sell to dispensaries only we don't sell to consumers.

Malcolm Lui:
Okay. Some some decent some dispensaries could potentially have an online way of selling productivity

Julia Bright:
Actually so dispensaries can't ship obviously through the mail to people so they do have online ordering but you still you can order online but you still have to show up at the dispensary to pick up your product.

Malcolm Lui:
Ok so so can't can it. But there are other vendors who do ship online.

Julia Bright:
Not THC products

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Julia Bright:
Only CBD.

Malcolm Lui:
Okay good. So at the very beginning of our call before our interview started emerging about some of the some of the challenges he faced selling me because you're not treated your products your industry your products aren't treated like other industries products like say alcohol. What additional restrictions are provided. We talk about some talked about how get this you can only sell and distribute within the state right. You can't go outside that's one restriction.

Julia Bright:
Exactly. Taxation is actually very very different. We're taxed at a much higher rate and we can write off selling expenses on on our product. And one complication in terms of going nation wide also is that each state has different and varying regulations. So for example our packaging looks very different in Illinois than it does in Colorado. The reason is because in Illinois there are laws on the books that you can not. Where regulations on the books that you can not put fruit on the label in our packaging very prominently features fruit on the front. And so we had to come up with a different design for the Illinois market. There are also child proofing restrictions for example in Arizona. There is no child proofing that is needed on the packaging. And so our product goes into a Ziploc bag and a box whereas in Colorado we just implemented new packaging that is actually child proof and it's biodegradable and or landfill biodegradable and recyclable

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Yeah that sounds like these restrictions make it a bit harder to scale

Julia Bright:
You know nothing nothing is a big stop to us but there are definitely bumps in the road

Malcolm Lui:
Yet.

Julia Bright:
Or you know it takes us a little bit of ingenuity and creativity to come up with different packaging to meet regulations in each state.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Going back to the very beginning you mentioned. We talked about how your your revenue grew from two point six million in 2014 to 18 million in 2018. Four years later. So you almost 6 x your business or maybe you have more than 6 x your business and in four years. What were the three drivers behind that

Julia Bright:
You know one is the shelf stable scalable product which really consumers are responsible for for loving and purchasing our products. So I think one of the differences is that our product is simply better than a lot of other products out there on the market. The second is our partnerships with our dispensary customers. We don't view our business as just selling to dispensaries. We actually partner with our dispensaries to help help them sell our product. We you know we give them a lot of tools in terms of training their bartenders and helping their bud tenders to figure out how to talk to the end consumer. And you know we provide a lot of support work at the OS level and we actually partner with some of our largest dispensary customers on the CSR side as well.

Malcolm Lui:
Okay. So the first one is is having a fantastic product it's the people can't get enough of. Second one is partnerships with the dispensaries. Your dispensary customers which go beyond just giving them product but helping them sell more of the product and provide better service to their customers. Is there a third driver

Julia Bright:
Yeah. So you know besides just partnering with our dispensaries they also know that we are going to deliver when we say we're going to deliver. We have extremely consistent and reliable customer service but also we are innovators in the industry and thought leaders. We actually have a strategy you know a very comprehensive strategy in terms of product development and we invest a lot of resources into product development and research. We actually just added a position of director of innovation for our company and his job is to look at the latest and greatest science and figure out how to introduce new products that are exciting new and innovative on the market. And we also partner with best in class companies who are really innovative in their specific areas. So we are partnering with a company called cannabis on our extended release capsule and we're also partnering with another company to develop some quick onset technologies.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. That has to. So. So just to recap the third driver would be tied by a couple of things. It would be that consistent and reliable customer customer service as their third driver that really drove your growth or to be that innovation in that leadership position.

Julia Bright:
And I wanted to add that on the product side we don't just have gummies we actually do a lot of not only just line extensions but product extensions we have a very successful vape line that we just introduced that shot up to the top of the best selling SKU list in just a short three to four months that we we've had it on the market. We're also introducing another chewable press tablet product that's kind of going to be like Smarties that taste really amazing and is a micro micro dose option at 5 milligrams and then we're going to introduce a high CBD product as well. And a quick onset tincture all of these products really represent innovations in their class in their product line. So you know obviously extending our product line is a big strategy for us as well as a lot of state. As

Malcolm Lui:
I think

Julia Bright:
Far

Malcolm Lui:
If

Julia Bright:
North as

Malcolm Lui:
Fire enjoying the one gummies I think in a new product for sure I'd give it a try. After

Julia Bright:
When

Malcolm Lui:
Having the

Julia Bright:
Will

Malcolm Lui:
Favorable experience from before

Julia Bright:
Good will come to Colorado. And you can try all the flavors.

Malcolm Lui:
I just might make it might do that. But on the on the summer road trip plans for 2019. What are your plans that you can share with us.

Julia Bright:
We have an out-of-state expansion plan that's probably going to take us from six to at least 12 states by the end of the year. And we also have amazing product innovation coming which some of them already named but our quick onset take SURE IS COMING AND EXCITING NEW FLAVORS AND gummies like pomegranate blueberry ASIC. That is a high CBD product. The tart we're gonna have more vape line extensions so it's gonna be a very exciting rest of the year for us.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. And how about in terms of getting your product into the dispensaries. Is that one of your challenges

Julia Bright:
You know of course that is always a challenge. And making good partnerships with dispensaries I think is a key for us but we have almost 100 percent distribution in Colorado and we are getting there. I think we have at least 50 percent of dispensaries in Nevada Michigan and Arizona as well. So although that is always a challenge and I think it's a challenge for every manufacturer we are meeting that challenge head on and doing everything that we can strategically and resource wise to be able to be not only the number one best selling animal in Colorado but in all the states that we're in right now.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now. Give me a sense of size how many dispensaries are there in Colorado.

Julia Bright:
So I believe in Colorado is about six hundred and fifty and counting.

Malcolm Lui:
And is it pretty easy for some of the open ended dispensary

Julia Bright:
You know it used to be easier but now I would say it's getting more and more complicated. The dispensary licenses are getting more expensive and people are growing increasingly more sophisticated at the retail level. So competition is is is fierce. And so I think if somebody had an idea of just opening a dispensary and making a quick buck that is no longer true.

Malcolm Lui:
Okay. How about in Colorado. I mean color in California. What's the market size there in terms of number of California which is the biggest market in Nevada Michigan or Arizona. Outside

Julia Bright:
Good.

Malcolm Lui:
Of Colorado

Julia Bright:
And I think you know as far as the size of the consumer market. Michigan is a highly populated state so potentially the size of the market in Michigan is absolutely huge. But you know it's a medical market right now. So so the growth is a bit limited at the moment but with a new caregiver law as it's it's getting it's getting increasingly more lucrative in terms of possibilities.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. OK. So like how many dispensaries are there. You think in Michigan. I get a sense for

Julia Bright:
Well I

Malcolm Lui:
The size of the markets

Julia Bright:
Hear her off the top of my head a few a few dozen but I can check back and get back to you on

Malcolm Lui:
Look

Julia Bright:
That

Malcolm Lui:
A lot smaller than Colorado than we're talking in hundreds in Colorado

Julia Bright:
Old

Malcolm Lui:
And

Julia Bright:
Way smaller and part of that is the fact that Michigan is still a medical market whereas Colorado is passed in recreational law.

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Julia Bright:
But Michigan is going to get there as well.

Malcolm Lui:
Is there. Which other other states are recreational as well.

Julia Bright:
Oregon Nevada and Colorado

Malcolm Lui:
Ok so it is Oregon Nevada. Are there dispensaries numbering in the hundreds.

Julia Bright:
In Oregon there are or they're probably around 300 plus if I'm not mistaken in Nevada. Not as many but they're larger in Nevada. The number is probably close to closer to 100.

Malcolm Lui:
Right

Julia Bright:
But the dispensaries the size of the dispensaries themselves is Las Vegas style. I would

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Julia Bright:
Say

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. All right. Three final questions for you. If you were to have a billboard or billboard advertising allowed in your space

Julia Bright:
Not in Colorado but it is in Nevada

Malcolm Lui:
Ok so say yeah the Nevada billboard for one to brands. What would your billboards say.

Julia Bright:
Consistent potent delicious well.

Malcolm Lui:
You don't hear those three words in the same sentence often

Julia Bright:
Right. And of course two more things. Our tagline which is enhance your lives. And then you would probably say the number one best selling brand of edibles in the United States

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Yeah definitely at the check it out next time I drive through Colorado and in the two last questions for you. Who are your ideal B2B customers and consumers and what's the best way for them to contact your company and find your product.

Julia Bright:
Ok. Well our ideal B2B customers are basically dispensaries who are willing to partner with us in terms of you know delivering this wonderful product with these great medicinal properties to the market. They're more and more dispensaries that are consolidating and they have not just one but sometimes up to 20 Defense 30 is within one chain. But also there are these dispensaries that are there are one or two in the chain but they do an outstanding job in terms of marketing and setting up their retail space to appeal to consumers. So I would say we would we love to partner with customers like that. And as far as consumers are concerned as I just said Our tagline is enhance your life and we really believe that cannabis shouldn't be just the focus of your life. It actually can enhance all aspects of your life. So it is appropriate for anyone who is an adult 21 and over. And there are a lot of new consumers as I said in the beginning of the interview or coming on to the market who are older more sophisticated and we like to you know we we hope that our brand speaks to those consumers although we do have a lot of consumers who are younger skewing male who are huge devotees of our product and love our products as well. And so we feel like our products really appeal to all types of consumers.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. And what's the best way for your B2B customers and your end consumers to I guess for the former to contact your firm about selling your products and then for the end consumers how can they find out where your products are being carried

Julia Bright:
We are at one of brands dot com and they can go to our store locator and look where there is a dispensary near them. But really we are. Our products are carried in almost everywhere in all the dispensaries or most dispensaries in Colorado. So if they just go to a dispensary near them they will probably find our products their

Malcolm Lui:
All right. That makes it easy. Julia it's been awesome having you on my show today. Really enjoyed hearing how you helped grow your company so fast

Julia Bright:
It's my pleasure. Anytime.

Malcolm Lui:
We've been speaking with Julia Bright, the Director of Marketing at Wana Brands, about her company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing, high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.

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