Collaborating with companies that have complementary products and services can be beneficial in any industry, but in the cannabis industry, it can be critical for growth. It’s a field with challenges that other industries just don’t have, from banking to marketing.
We checked in with the founders of a couple of start-up cannabis companies in Texas and Missouri and a nearly 10-year-old Ohio-based accessory business to get insights on how and why product and marketing collaborations are part of their business models.
Whether a cannabis company focuses on wellness, lifestyle branding, culture, or accessories, these company founders say there’s no sense in trying to go it alone.
They’re finding success with like-minded brands in the cannabis industry. It’s the reason they’ve been featured by national press and joined forces with national organizations.
House of Kush – Based in Kansas City, Mo, offers cultivators consulting services to grow the House of Kush strains. The company also helps market strains for clients that include entrepreneurs with backgrounds in sports and entertainment
Reggie Harris, co-founder of House of Kush, says his company is not a plant-touching company, but its focus is rooted in science. The main goal is to bring quality legacy genetics to the mainstream legal market. The company offers a customized portfolio of products in various states backed by the ‘Kush Certified’ logo. That guarantees customers are getting a legitimate legacy product that adheres to the company’s criteria and standards for grow procedures.
But after a couple of decades of working in professional sports and entertainment, Harris said he realizes that great genetics is simply not enough. It’s important to build a strong brand and story around products. House of Kush has combined sports and cannabis in a way that opens the door to a conversation that breaks down the stigma of cannabis use.
One thing he learned from talking to so many athletes is that he wanted to play a role in helping people who couldn’t find relief through traditional medicine. The other thing he learned from sports and entertainment is that it takes creative ways to build brands with loyal followings. Clients include multiple Super Bowl champions, Pro Bowl NFL players, and NFL Hall of Fame inductees by assisting them in building their brands and businesses off the field.
Besides partnerships with SunMed Growers in Maryland, Illicit Gardens in Missouri, Pleasantrees in Michigan, House of Kush has a partnership with Black Gold Buddha, and former NFL player Boo Williams.
House of Kush is also partnering with LL COOL J and Rock the Bells to launch a line of THC and CBD products under the Strictly OG brand. That line is expected to hit the market in the fall.
“We started this company by focusing on genetics, as in we do the vetting for you. But the bigger picture is that you should think of an experience,” Harris said, noting that the company’s offerings include a high-end grinder and business strategies involve pairing with companies that offer the best way to consume premium flower.
“That’s why you see our entertainment collaborations. We are all about the experience,” he said.
“One of those collaborations is with LL COOL J and Rock the Bells. We want to speak to the hip-hop crowd in an authentic way. The best way to do that is to collaborate with the OG’s of hip hop.”
For just a two-year-old company, collaborative efforts are being noticed nationwide. Reggie has been featured by High Times, Leafly, Benzinga, KC Business Journal and most recently on the March 2023 cover of MJ Biz Magazine.
Genius Pipe – A cannabis lifestyle brand based in Highland Heights, Ohio. The simple thin aluminum and steel device used to smoke cannabis is aimed at offering a cool, smooth, and cough-free experience.
Dyan Ferman is an innovator who created the pocket-sized Genius Pipe. He’s also a businessman whose business model involves actively engaging with customers and other businesses in the cannabis industry. Since starting the company several years ago he’s learned that one of the best ways to build a business is to engage with fans and businesses that can help you sell your product while benefitting them as well.
Needless to say it all starts with offering a quality product that stands out from the crowd, but it’s not enough. You need people to help spread the word.
The Genius Pipe is a simple thin device used to smoke cannabis that does not involve liquid or electronics. It’s made from three rectangular-shaped pieces of anodized aluminum and steel held together with strong magnets. It measures six inches in length, making it truly pocket-sized and portable. When the precision-cut pieces are snapped together, an air-flow route is created between the bowl and the mouthpiece.
Testimonies from various users throughout the years talk about how dimples in one of the pieces not only cool the smoke, but also catch tar, oil, and sap. When the smoke finally reaches a user’s mouth and lungs, it is cool, smooth, and cough-free.
Genius collaborates with like-minded brands within the cannabis industry. Many custom designs are inspired by musicians, celebrities, and artists like painter Sean Dietrich, who created several limited-edition designs. The company has joined forces with various companies to create products such as a custom-designed protective carrying case. One exclusive partnership is an elegant wooden RYOT humidor box that features chambers for a Genius Pipe, grinder, and accessories or smoking material.
“Collaborations are part of our business model. We are an accessory company that works with companies that have similar objectives,” he said. “It’s important in this industry because we are still in an industry that is not legal on the federal level. That means it’s not easy to market your product.”
“When you can’t use Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and other social media the same way that other industries can, the best way to work around that is to collaborate with other businesses,” he said.
“When it comes to product development, we like to partner with other companies and sell our products together.”
Marketing collaborations include a game that is played on social media platforms. Participants are guaranteed to win something, ranging from a free product to a discounted product
Genius Pipe has received glowing reviews from the biggest names in the smoking industry. High Times called it “revolutionary.” GQ said, “One of the best ways to make an adult-acceptable pipe? Make sure it doesn’t look like a pipe at all.
Ferman said the company’s collaboration efforts are vast. Not only do they offer an authorized dealer program for retailers and distributors, but they’re also constantly finding ways to make it easier for supporters to help drive sales. When dealers join the program they get sales training, marketing, and display materials to help tell the brand story to customers including access to customized social media content they can use to engage customers.
But they also participate in offering products for in-store accounts and contribute to co-op advertising buys for in-store giveaways. Retailers and dispensaries can also custom-brand pipes with their own logos and artwork.
Genius has created an Authorized Dealer Program, which provides retailers and distributors with the structure and tools they need to drive sales. When dealers join the program, they receive training for their sales teams, marketing, and display materials to help tell the brand story to customers, and free access to customized social media content they can use to engage consumers. Genius often provides products for in-store giveaways and contributes to co-op advertising buys for top accounts. Retailers and dispensaries can custom-brand pipes with their own logo and artwork using either a full-color print or elegant engraving, making the pipe a marketing tool in itself or a memorable corporate gift or company swag.
The company also appreciates and focuses on rewarding followers with exclusive “Genius Karma” currency tokens that can be traded for exclusive accessories and products.
Genius Pipe recently collaborated with Curaleaf to offer a box that includes a custom pipe with two different strains of cannabis.
“If you think about it, in the end, we are all basing our businesses on the benefits of one plant,” he said. “That’s why companies should be open to working together.”
Platinum915 – The Dallas, Texas-based company is a veteran-owned life science brand that offers innovative hemp-derived & natural plant products such as nootropic functional gummies, cannabis beverages, hemp-derived gummies, and legal psychedelic amanita muscaria mushroom products. The company launched its first product at a Benzinga conference in Chicago in 2022.
Elijah Davis, founder of the start-up company Platinum915 is a true believer in taking a nontraditional route to forming collaborations. Partners range from major companies in the cannabis space such as Benzinga to more nontraditional relationships. One of them is being a participant in UPS Ignite. The transportation company partners with the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs to elevate underrepresented founders and businesses they lead nationwide. That program is trying to reach more than 250 small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) over the next three years.
“I only collaborate with people and companies that make sense for both of our goals,” he said. “You have to bring that energy to any collaboration. But for me, I look for people who are authentic. I’m not a know-it-all, so I like to partner with companies where the benefit is mutual.”
“Nobody gets to be successful overnight, but in the end, we all want to win,” he said.
The recent MBA graduate said he follows Jack Welch’s Leadership Principles regarding hiring and collaboration.
“They have to pass three screenings. First, they must have Intelligence, Integrity, & Maturity. Secondly, they have to display 4E’s and 1P (Energy, Energize others, Edge, Execute, and Passion),” Davis said. “Third, one must be authentic, and have the ability to see around corners. I want to connect with partners that are intuitive and have the ability to attract the smartest people. “
But one of the biggest factors that Davis considers is resilience. All big companies started out small.
“Entrepreneurs have to have heavy-duty resilience,” he said. “When I’m thinking about partnering with a company, I pull up articles of people when they first started their businesses.”
And yet despite his efforts to surround himself with people from all walks of life that may have way more years of experience and bigger teams, he says being intuitive is extremely important.
“Being intuitive is my spirituality. There is no separation of the two,” he said. “Self-love is important. So when I hear my inner voice I never doubt my inner voice and I never talk bad to my inner voice. Your first collaboration has to be with yourself.”
“A win-win scenario has to be for both parties, otherwise collaboration bonds won’t be as strong,” he said.