CC 037: Entrepreneurial Problem Solving in the Cannabis Industry with Mike Spaniol
Starting a business is perhaps one of the most stressful yet rewarding processes of the human experience. Starting a business in an emerging and controversial industry such as cannabis is like adding gasoline to the fire! Cured’s Co-Founder and CEO Joseph Sheehey sat down with Director of Operations Mike Spaniol to learn his experiences as a serial entrepreneur and effective problem solving skills any business owner or startup can appreciate.
Follow Joe: @josephsheehey
Follow Cured: @curednutrition
Joe: [00:01] Alright, Cured Collective listeners. We’ve got another team member from Cured here. If you listened to the first podcast, welcome to the Cured Collective; and actually, the last podcast that we released, I was mentioning bringing Mike Spaniol, our Director of Operations, on the podcast. He’s going to be joining us more and more here on the podcast. We’ve got a cool XPT and exposure podcast coming up with our friend-
Mike: [00:32] Our friend Amy Morrison. She does mindfulness practice, breath work, XPT. I’ve done some very chilling ice baths with her… sessions, which is quite an experience. It’s a mental challenge as much as it is a physical challenge.
Joe: [00:57] Yeah. So, as I briefly mentioned, Mike is our Director of Operations. Mike and I go back to college days and we’ve both been experiencing the entrepreneur world for years and years. There was a point where we were going to get into the specific cannabis space together, and you spent some time building a company called Sustainable Gardeners. We can touch on that for sure, and just talk about the entrepreneurial journey and talk about what we’ve been doing here at Cured. It’s been a ride, for sure. The big thing we want to continue to do with this platform is, as it’s called the Cured Collective, bringing more and more of the people that are this company onto the platform and share our stories and share this experience, this ride that we’ve been on.
Mike: [01:50] Yeah. It’ll be great to bring everybody on here and see from their perspective. We have a core group that’s been here for a long time, for now majority of the short time that Cured has been in existence, just over 2 years now.
Joe: [02:11] 2nd birthday!
Mike: [02:13] Yup! The growth and the change that’s happened on an individual level and that we’ve seen people from when they first walked through these doors to where they’re at now is astounding. I think that individual growth culminates into this overall big picture of Cured as a whole in how it’s evolved and grown.
Joe: [02:42] It’s funny because we have a longstanding joke here at Cured that there’s not a single person here that has a marketing background. It’s the truth! But then when we look at the business as a whole, there’s not a single – we are hiring people that are experts and have experience – but from Day 1 to where we are now, it’s been a learn as we go type thing. From your perspective on the operations, and you have an engineering background as well, you understand how to put systems together; but the system that you’ve been building and everything that you’ve been experiencing, it’s all brand new.
Mike: [03:24] It’s definitely brand new to me. My background was in architectural engineering, and then I had a focus in architectural lighting design. As far as lighting design goes, there’s not a whole lot of that going on here at Cured.
Joe: [03:41] Not so much.
Mike: [03:42] It’s pretty simple. But it’s that mentality of seeing a problem, identifying a problem, and finding a way to go about it, coming up with a plan, executing that plan, going through the steps, failing, learning from those failures, taking all that knowledge that you built from that lesson and applying it the next time around. That’s really what we’ve done over and over and over and over again, and… it keeps it fun. It’s constantly changing, it’s constantly evolving. We’re learning, we’re growing as people, we’re growing as a business, and it makes it fun everyday.
Joe: [04:26] Yeah, it’s a surprise. It’s a new experience, a new journey, a new surprise everyday. Some are extremely frustrating and we want to bang our head against the wall, and other days we’re like, “How the hell did we get here?” It’s like the rollercoaster of the entrepreneurial journey. What I wanted to touch on with you for a minute is, for those that are listening that want to be entrepreneurs and have some type of an idea and are headed down some type of a path in whatever interest it may be for them, how important is to – and something that both you and I struggled with for a while – is this bright, shiny object syndrome as an entrepreneur, and being able to keep the focus where it needs to be and not allow every single opportunity that pops up to be something that pulls time and energy, and I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons there for sure.
Mike: [05:24] Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, in the first, in the early years, you’re so excited, nervous, kind of fired up to be setting off on your own. I mean, making that first step out of your well-paying, comfortable career that you worked for so long.
Joe: [05:45] Yeah, you quit. You did that 2 years before I did! It was about a year and a half-
Mike: [05:53] About a year and a half, yeah. I just felt it in my heart. I’d been thinking about it a long time. What I was doing wasn’t fulfilling me. I LOVED everybody I was working with. The business was doing well. I just, I had this feeling… I was 26 years old, and I didn’t want to see myself at 35 looking back and saying man, I wonder what it would’ve been like if I just went off on my own and did my own thing. Maybe at that time I’ve got a family to, you know, family responsibility and I can’t just leave my career because people are relying on me. At that point where I was, it wasn’t the case and I had this opportunity and I went for it. When you finally make that step and you go for it, because when you eventually do, you want to put 100% of your effort into it, and that goes straight into that bright, shiny object thing where you’re barreling down this path, you maybe got some momentum going where you’re working on this project and then somebody approaches you and they go, “Oh, hey. I see what you’re doing. That’s interesting. Well, check this out. I’ve got this really cool opportunity here. You should come meet with me, let’s go get coffee. Let’s go get coffee again. Let’s talk about this.” And all of a sudden, you’re distracted and now what was 100% of your effort going towards that goal is now 50% of your effort going towards that goal, and it slows everything down.
Joe: [07:37] Dude, I was listening to this podcast with – I don’t know if you had listened to it – but Joe Rogan recently had Dan Crenshaw, I think… I can’t remember what his last name is, but I was listening to it on my way home from Boulder last night and he was, Joe was just talking about MMA and fighters if they’re not 100% IN get the fuck out because you’re going to have somebody kick your ass. Somebody that is 100% in and has all – they’re sold out on fighting, this is their last resort – if you have any piece of a shadow of any type of doubt that you don’t want to be 100% in, get out because that person could kill you. And that’s the same thing in business. I was listening to that and I was reflecting on it and I was like, wow, that’s right. If you don’t have – and that was the thing with me when you guys were headed down the Sustainable Gardeners path – I was still in the had the one foot in corporate engineering and, at the time, was supporting a partner, and moved to California. I ended up taking, when I moved to California, I took the first job I could get out there and went back to full time, and I still had the one foot in, one foot out type thing. And that works for some people.
Mike: [08:57] Well, you were also very involved in the fitness industry. That was something you were super passionate about, something that you had invested so many years in, and there was that part of it too where it looked like you’re split between many different things.
Joe: [09:15] It was like I had 3 feet, but I had 1 foot in 3 different areas and I only had 2 feet, and I thought I had 38 hours a day and there was only 24, and it just didn’t work. That was basically the if you can’t keep that focus and have 100% of your energy going into that path… for me, it didn’t work. Some people it does. Some people can build businesses on the side. But it didn’t work for me. You took the leap and spent a couple of years with Sustainable Gardeners and probably learned – we haven’t talked about it too much – but probably learned so much from that even though it ended up not coming to the fruition of what you expected. But the time and effort and connections and building of what a business may be for taking on investment capital, and that was going to be the way that it starts vs. getting a product to market, and like so much was probably learned from that. We haven’t even talked about that much.
Mike: [10:19] Right. We’ve been so focused on what we’re doing here at Cured, we haven’t dived too deep into that. The plan with Sustainable Gardeners was so different from the Cured plan from the beginning. We had this big idea; we wanted to bring sustainability into cannabis cultivation. We saw that these massive warehouse facilities were being converted into giant, energy-consuming structures to grow this plant, and the resource consumption is astronomical, and it still is today. There’s a lot of changes, whether it’s energy-efficient lighting, people are using greenhouses where they’re harnessing the power of the sun to grow the plant, they’re recycling water; all these things from building design to cultivation design that can be changed to have less of a negative impact. It helps the environmental concerns with it, it helps growers’ bottom lines with them reusing materials. We became really passionate about that over 2 years, and we had this whole thing modeled out and we flew all over the place meeting with investors, downtown New York City, where my business partner was at the time, and that in of itself was an invaluable learning experience. Those whole 2 years it was, we had a plan, it continued to develop over those 2 years; we set out almost from scratch. You know, the one connection to my previous line of work is, cannabis grown indoors is grown under lighting; so, I knew the science of how light works, I knew human perception of light. I was learning all about the way that plants grow under artificial lighting, and so I carried that with me. But everything from the entrepreneur side was brand new. So, I was trying to raise capital in the beginning instead of where we started with Cured. Where you and T.O. started with Cured was let’s create a minimum viable product. Let’s get something out to market. Let’s build a bunch of different spice blends, send them out to as many people as you possibly can and see how they react, if they like it. And you got a lot of positive feedback, and there an idea grew to something tangible, which is an awesome way to go about it.
Joe: [13:18] And the amount of times we’ve pivoted since then is crazy. The product that launched this business is now a product that drives like 1-2% of our sales, maybe. It’s really, really low… and it was strategic in the way that it was done. But did we think we were going to end up where we are now? No, it was like, there was a demand, there was a community of people that I had through the fitness industry, there was an idea of like, here’s spices. There’s a company called Flavor God that was doing really well in the fitness industry and like, putting this all together. CBD, people didn’t really know what it was; ok, we can educate and blast market things. The evolution of the business since then is just absurd.
Mike: [14:10] Oh yeah. Where were you when you were filling those spice jars for the first time?
Joe: [14:18] In my kitchen in San Diego, and I still have some of those original envelopes and sample packets that we sent out. That’s the thing, is like when you quit your job and set out, and there was actually a point where I was going to be helping you and Max with that, and I was like, you guys, I’m going to California. Part of it was a personal decision based off of the relationship that I was in and wanting to be in California, and then still being super interested in the fitness space and trying to pursue that. And did I think we were going to end up here 3 years later? Absolutely not. And did you foresee this? Absolutely not either, but the lessons that were brought from that are going to stick around forever and the understanding of what it takes to actually go raise capital… that’s crazy. And it depends on what it’s for. What Sustainable Gardeners was doing, every time I think about it, I think it’s still like 10 years ahead, you know? Because it’s definitely a problem; energy consumption is a problem, and there’s green industry, right, in that it’s marijuana and cannabis is green, but the way in which the product comes into consumers’ hands is not green at all; so it’s like this… it’s weird.
Mike: [15:47] Right. And we were definitely – we were battling the times. It’s often a big investment to go green with the business. It’s that upfront cost that you recoup over time. You’re going to install energy-efficient lighting in a building, it’s going to cost you more than what you go out and purchase at Home Depot. But the energy savings over time is where you recoup those costs, so you kind of gotta see what your timeline is going to be; and because of that upfront cost it’s a hard sell to a lot of people. That was definitely a challenge that we face. I think it’s a challenge that the industry continues to face. A lot of the biggest names out there now are making some pretty awesome changes.
Joe: [16:49] Yeah, that’s interesting. How much of that – so you got a LEED certification, right?
Mike: [16:54] Yeah, LEED – it’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s for architecture. You can become a LEED accredited professional by studying all the material and taking a few exams. Essentially what it does is it teaches you different ways that people are applying new technologies or new concepts to building design, whether it’s renovating existing buildings or new build. That was really important to me to have that certificate because indoor cannabis growing we’re trying to convert this structure into an energy-efficient operation, and that was one way to certify your efforts. So, you’ll see it. You’ll walk into a lot of newer buildings in any major city and they’ll have a big plaque on the wall in the entryway, LEED accredited building. They have different levels based on how many pieces of the criteria the building meets; so it goes from silver all the way up to platinum. It was an awesome piece of my journey.
Joe: [18:22] It’s important, dude. The planet Earth is in for a rude awakening unless we make some serious changes here soon, which is it going to directly affect our generation, I don’t know; but it’s scary to see all the scientists sitting there waving their hands like guys, guys, guys, we gotta do something differently, and it’s like we’re just going to press forward because it doesn’t matter to us.
Mike: [18:56] Right, because we can see so far collectively into the future, and I think that’s a big issue with humanity, is that so often we don’t take action until crisis is knocking on our front door.
Joe: [19:19] Dude, it’s the same thing with like… I’ve actually talked to multiple people about this just in the mental health realm, you’ll get a little – your body will be knocking at you, and you’re like oh, I’ll just ignore that. Then there’s a little scratching; you feel it more and you’re like, oh, I’ll just put a band-aid on it. Then your body starts to yell at you and then you’re like ok, and then your body just fucking slaps you, and you’re down and you can’t get out of bed. That’s the thing, how often do we do that with so many things in our life, just these little things that tend to nag on us and then we brush it off, and it’s like ok, it’s not a problem. As a collective, you’re right, as a planet, as a race, we gotta all come together and that’s the big – there’s a lot of morals and ethics and pieces of Cured that, in that way, that’s what drives us forward. As a collective, as a team of people, as people that want to be educators, as people that want to be people that shift stigmas away from cannabis or whatever else it may be, when we’re talking about nature, we have to come together. We have to come together and do this, and that’s why we do our community events, that’s why we bring people together, and let’s be real, we haven’t really made a dollar off – we haven’t broken even on any of the events that we’ve done.
Mike: [20:45] Definitely not.
Joe: [20:46] We’ve brought people together and we’ve started a conversation and the indirect marketing that brings is worth it for us because we’re bringing humans together and we’re putting our mission statement out into the world by, as a collective, seeing each other and understanding we’re all on the same mission, whether you’re selling products or you’re not selling products, we’re just trying to make this place better.
Mike: [21:07] Better. And bring people together. Bring people with like minds together, people who are practicing mindfulness, and in their everyday life, I think it all kind of boils down to that. You know, if you’re practicing mindfulness and you’re trying to understand the signals that your body is telling you, for example, you may catch some of those signs earlier on and be able to treat something or acknowledge something as it’s coming on vs. when it’s, as we said, knocking on your door or slapping you in the face. It’s bringing those kinds of people together, bringing people together who are just starting to learn that for themselves and creating a unique experience of individuals is really what those events are all about. The response has been – it’s been beautiful.
Joe: [22:16] Yeah, I was talking to Ashleigh about it yesterday. Those of you that have listened to several of these podcasts, Ashleigh and I did a FAQ session together earlier, so you would recognize who that is; but we were talking about the pillars of the business and what that is. I was kind of talking through it; I was like, ok, community, experience, education, and the products that support all of that. We bring the community together, we can talk in a way that is educational and that can be a ripple effect from us out into the world so we talk about things that actually help us, like CBD; and CBD’s everywhere now, which is, at times, we can be like “well, that’s frustrating,” but that was what we expected. When we started the company it was like, well, let’s shift the stigma away from it, let’s bring this large scale, let’s bring this en masse, and now it is en masse and it’s like, great but oh shit! But that’s the thing, it started with community. It started with education and pouring that out there, and then bringing people together for an experience. Then, outside of that, when you’re mindful and all of that and you’re practicing a lifestyle that is actually going to take your health and wellness and fulfillment to the area it needs to be, you’re always going to need to supplement it with something. We’re always going to have certain deficiencies in our body, people are always going to struggle with focusing, sleeping, calming. That’s kind of like the dichotomy or thing about the word or name Cured – it’s a perspective shift is what it really is. It’s like, let’s talk about all that and let’s also understand that you will need products to support you. Is breath work alone going to cure you or change everything? No. Are products? No, no, no, no, no. It’s the combination as a whole, the collective of everything that we’re bringing together that creates the lifestyle that we’re trying to pursue because – that we’re trying to push out into this world – because we’re all pursuing it ourselves.
Mike: [24:28] Right.
Joe: [24:29] Which is really important. Makes us feel good. If we don’t feel good nothing else works well.
Mike: [24:35] What we’re putting out there isn’t going to have that effect. If you’re not practicing it in yourself, you’re going out and preaching it, is it going to have that big, positive effect on people? Maybe, but I would presume it’s more temporary for them vs. living it everyday and being an expression of that is when you can really begin to influence people in a better way. And I think it’s good to point out we started this company out as, with all CBD products and the focus was CBD, but it’s evolved so much from that. You were talking about the pillars of this business, and only 1 pillar is the products; and within that pillar, a small portion of it is CBD. We’re starting to learn the power of mushrooms and what those can do over time to enhance cognition, to relax your central nervous system, to affect certain areas of your everyday life in a positive way. Things that we’re just starting to learn and discover, and things we want to share with people, so we create products to get those out there.
Joe: [26:04] And it’s all rooted in nature. I mean, me coming from the bodybuilding industry and taking any and every supplement that was out there, not really knowing where it was coming from, what was synthetic, what was not, what was actually working, and what we should be using – I think that we can dumb down a lot of that stuff. Like, when I look back, I was taking – there’s probably like 3 or 4 things that were working for me, and most of them were some type of adaptogen, some type of – something that was helping me with energy, ATP production – and then if I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t recovering and I couldn’t do anything, so let’s really simplify all of that. It’s interesting because where the company was grown in the fitness industry, that’s a beast to deal with. Like, we go to some of the expos, and you see some of the stuff out there, you see some of the ingredients in some of the bars and stuff like that, and you’re like, “How is this… you’re just really good at marketing!” They’re just really, really good at marketing. I wanted to spend some time on product development and what that takes, and what you’ve learned and experienced. Like really talk about this to help any listener out there that’s, again, an entrepreneur and trying to understand how you bring a product to market, and will also reflect that we’re still learning.
Mike: [27:40] Absolutely.
Joe: [27:41] So, like, whenever I hop on a podcast, am hopping on a podcast with Lo and everything is like, not preaching from the other side of things. There are some things you can preach from – preach, whatever you want to call it – talk from the other side, it’s like, well, I’ve worked through depressions and stuff like that, and I can talk about my experience, but it’s very important for the listeners to recognize that in all of this, we’re speaking from the middle of it. We’re in all of this, and we’re learning every single day.
Mike: [28:12] Waist deep.
Joe: [28:13] Let’s talk about the dough. Let’s talk about things that’s you’re learning, because basically, and I’ve told you this multiple times, is you could go start a food product company, like tomorrow, based off the experience that you’ve gained over the last couple years, and… well, you didn’t learn any of that in school, that’s for sure.
Mike: [28:36] That’s absolutely for sure. I didn’t go to culinary school. I wasn’t even focused on consumer-packaged goods at all. I’ll start out – because it’s such a big topic – I started out by saying when you plan out a product, it starts as an idea, and you want to build a timeline. You want to map out the steps you think this is going to take. And if it’s your first time building a product, you’re going to put down on paper way less steps than it’s actually going to take the first time.
Joe: [29:15] We’re good at that.
Mike: [29:16] We’ve been joking around lately, said if we build a timeline, say we’re going to launch this product in 3 months, we should just tell everybody we’re going to launch this product in 6 months. Will give us maybe a little bit of margin in there.
Joe: [29:32] It’s true. The unexpected, the unexpected and the unknown, and I think that there’s a lot that we’re realizing we don’t know. And there are experts out there that can help us; but even having the experts, even having a chef that that’s his profession, there’s still stuff that you need to understand.
Mike: [29:51] Right. So, it all starts with an idea. We put our heads together, maybe we analyze the market a little bit, see what’s trending, what’s buzzy, really, what at the core are we interested in; ‘cause we don’t want to put out a product that doesn’t get us excited. Why would you do that? If we’re not excited about it, we don’t see that other people are excited about it, then it’s probably not worth going down that route. We put – you guys put spices out in the very beginning, and you’re like these are awesome. You had a friend who’s a chef in Denver, awesome at what he does; he put together some formulations, and you sent them out to a bunch of people and you got that response back. So, you got that response on the idea; you had usable data at that point to support you dumping some money into this thing.
Joe: [30:48] Yeah. I can’t remember if I told the story – I definitely told the story that when I ended up quitting my job, we hadn’t had a single dollar in revenue yet. It was like this testing – it was like, ok, here we go, now we’re going to go full in, but-
Mike: [31:04] Well, heck, you guys didn’t take a dime out of the company for MANY months after it started.
Joe: [31:12] Yeah. The savings account plummet was… a scary hit. We got a bunch of money stolen from us, so it’s been a ride. The product end of it is something that we’re still learning so much about.
Mike: [31:26] Still learning. Still learning. You know, you have this idea, you get some positive feedback, you get some data to support it, it’s time to go to research and development. You start putting formulations together and it’s such an iterative process; and maybe we’ve found an expert to help us with it. Some of our products that we put out had some very brilliant minds behind them, and we attribute a great portion of their success to that because they are powerful in that way. So, it’s iterative. You put together a formulation; you go and test it. Maybe it doesn’t quite work out the way you thought it would. I think back to our first formulation of the Rise.
Joe: [32:15] Yeah.
Mike: [32:16] There’s an ingredient in there that we might’ve had 10x the daily dose we probably should’ve had.
Joe: [32:25] We had peoples’ eyes twitching in here. I had splitting headaches because I took double the dose one day.
Mike: [32:31] Taylor’s palms were sweatin’.
Joe: [32:32] Yeah. But we had to do that experimentation in-house and understanding it is iterative. It’s like, those products – I’ve told this on the podcast several times – this took us almost a year to bring to market. I’ve had friends, a mutual friend of ours, approach me and have an idea about these teas that he was super interested in; and I’m like, dude, just start trying sending it out to people, but also know this is going to take a lot more time and effort than you can ever imagine. One of the things that’s interesting is the shelf stability end of the food products and how much you guys are learning there. Understanding water contents and binding agents and –
Mike: [33:21] Yeah. Say you get a product that you like. Say you’ve done 10 iterations of a product, find you like, ok, maybe it’s a food product. This product tastes amazing, everybody around me loves this, this has become viable, we’re going to start with this recipe. You send it out and you get a water content test done – and you have to be below a certain threshold, because if you have too much water in your product, that’s how you package it up and you start getting mold growing in there, your package is inflated, it goes rancid; a lot of bad things happen. If you have the wrong combination of ingredients and you have some fats in there that are breaking down too fast, your shelf stability is greatly shortened and it goes. It may not be moldy, it may not get you sick, but the flavor profile, the taste degrades really quickly if it’s not addressed. All of these things we’ve found out from experimentation. You know, we weren’t food experts. Talking to food experts, putting together these formulations, having water tests come back too high, it’s all iterative. There’s always way more to the picture.
Joe: [34:43] And then you get the perfect formula, and then it’s like, how do we – cool, we can put together the mixture; now how do we manufacture this? How do we package it? How do we scale it? That is – and honestly, that… well, in engineering, design engineering, I don’t – I’m curious if it was similar for you, because your engineering experience was a little different in the architectural and lighting design world, but to me, I did a lot of mechanical design, and it was like, ok, before you even extrude that surface or drill that hole or make that fillet, or make that corner, can a machine actually manufacture that? Can a machine, like 3D printing’s really cool, and that’s an extremely promising new technology, which we played around with for a while years ago. A lot of things that like – that’s called free form design. If you can’t 3D print that – most of the time, you’re most likely not going to be able to manufacture that with a lathe, with a CNC, whatever it may be. The same goes for food production and just making a bar and understanding how you’re going to scale it. Is it going to go through the v-mag, which is basically this machine that spits out – it’s a big hopper on it; it’s got a-
Mike: [36:07] A guillotine.
Joe: [36:08] A guillotine, a screw that extrudes the material, and then it’s chopping off the bar into the size that you’re looking for. We’ve had stuff stuck in the machine and liquid pouring out the sides. It’s been a ride.
Mike: [36:22] You don’t really realize that that machine heats up on the inside. Coconut oil has a very low melting point, and it’s solid when it goes into the machine and it is not solid when it comes out of the machine. There was coconut oil squirting out every imaginable orifice in this giant machine. It was a disaster. I mean, it’s trial and error, and you’re not going to know that until you’ve gone through that experience. It’s really hard. You know, Josh Waitzkin calls it fire walking, where it’s very hard – but possible – but difficult to learn a lesson like that from somebody else’s experience and have it sit, to walk through their fire and have that experience without actually going through it yourself. So many lessons in life are learned that way by trial and error; you know, riding your bike and falling off. For me, it’s constant battle in that regard. I’m always injured from something.
Joe: [37:37] You were posting – you were commenting on one of our full spectrum capsule pictures and said something about ‘for somebody who’s injury prone’, and I’m like, damnit dude, you are. Why? Maybe you’re taking a lot of risks, I don’t know.
Mike: [37:52] Maybe. Maybe I’m a little clumsy. I like the adrenaline rush. Even then, some of those lessons… I don’t always follow the lessons I learn in that regard, because it’s always worth it to me to get back on the snowboard, get back to doing that. But, back to food production, it’s this constant iterative process, constant learning curve that you’re guiding yourself on, and you get better and better and better at it the more you do. Like public speaking, the more you get up on stage and talk to people, the more comfortable you’re going to be, the more CONFIDENT you’re going to be. We’re pretty confident now that when we go to launch – or when we go to put together a new product – that we know the questions to ask and we know the steps it’s going to take to at least get the answers we need and finding the solutions to getting this thing to all come together. Yeah, food – you get a great, tasty bar doesn’t mean that it’s going to sit on a shelf for a year and still be a great, tasty bar. And then we haven’t even touched on packaging. The lessons we’ve learned from packaging and labeling, you wouldn’t think, but probably my biggest headache as Director of Operations of this company has been labels. Has been the sticker on the package!
Joe: [39:33] Fucking hate labels. I don’t even deal with them. I just always see them and we’re like, damn it, happened again.
Mike: [39:41] Yup. The FDA wants something, the lawyers want something, the Colorado Department of Public Health wants something.
Joe: [39:48] We changed the size a little bit and then it’s off, and that’s – it’s just a lot. And I think that there is something in that in that there are definitely times where you just need to hire somebody to do something, but even in that – pangs of communication and actual clear understanding – and a lot of the practices that I took from engineering and we, and you yourself as well, like being able to implement those from like a drawing/checking standpoint. Man, I’ve had people approach me and say aren’t you frustrated that you spent so much time in an engineering… getting an engineering degree and in the engineer world, and I’m like, there may be some people that look at that and say that money that we put into that education was wasted time, but that’s wrong. Every single day we solve a problem and we take so much from that experience into what we do day to day. And we’re, at the basis, we’re a food and supplement and wellness company. Would you think architectural and aerospace and mechanical engineering backgrounds help that? Like, you wouldn’t, but it actually does.
Mike: [41:08] Enormously. And it’s that thought process, that problem solving. I mean… doing the hard work, putting the hours in and just doing it, especially the days that you don’t want to get out of bed, the days that you’re not in the right mental state, you don’t want to be there. When you have those days and you turn them into a productive day, a productive experience, it’s an awesome feeling that comes out of that and sometimes your best work can come out of that. The most growth can come out of that. The more you put yourself in an opportunity to struggle, the more you’re going to develop as a person and the more you’re going to be able to tolerate and kick ass down the line. That’s kind of what we’re doing here everyday. We solve a problem, we solve some situation and before we’re even completely done with it, another one comes up.
Joe: [42:10] It’s daily. I walked into the office this morning, walked into Spani’s office and I shared something with him, and we’re like alright, here we go. Here’s the next thing that we have to figure out. And can we figure it out? 100% without a shadow of a doubt because we’re committed to it. It’s just takes a lot of hard work. I wanted to reflect that to people that are listening. I’m super… I’m interested to see where the education system goes, like when we have kids that are 17-18 and you’re talking about college. There are times where I talked down on it a lot, but if you want to be an entrepreneur, I’d say that going to into an engineering degree is super helpful. The amount of engineers that I know that became entrepreneurs is a lot.
Mike: [43:00] Absolutely.
Joe: [43:01] And then we’ve gotten our business degree by building a business.
Mike: [43:07] That was our MBA.
Joe: [43:10] Which is – it’s all through experience; and I’ll be honest that a lot of the stuff that I learned at Lockheed, I didn’t learn in school, but I had the foundation for it, and the foundation was exactly what you were just saying, it was hard work. That’s what engineering school taught us, is that… well, it’s hard. It’s really hard. You’ve got to put a lot of time and effort into it. And there are a lot of people that dropped out really quickly. They have those weed out classes – chemistry and physics – those have a couple hundred people in those classes, then you get into your core classes and you have like 50, 60, 70 people in it. It’s like, we had 50% of the people drop out in the first year.
Mike: [43:54] Yeah, and me personally, I was actually admitted into aerospace engineering when I first went to CU. And my first semester, I was in those weed-out classes and…
Joe: [44:09] I was going to say did you get weeded out?
Mike: [44:11] I got weeded out.
Joe: [44:12] Or did you weed yourself out?
Mike: [44:13] Man, I was like, this is going to be a serious challenge. I found a way to challenge myself and not be completely overwhelmed. I stayed in engineering and I took a different curriculum and I was very happy with it coming out. You know, sometimes you just need to find the right place for you. But don’t give up that challenge. If it’s hard, that’s a good thing. Engineering teaches you to sit down and THINK. And think, and think some more. That lesson alone is – it’s invaluable, because that’s when ideas like Cured come to fruition. Or when an idea is born is when you’re sitting down, you’re thinking what if? What can I do with this? Here’s this industry that’s on the cusp of becoming a real thing. What if we got involved with that?
Joe: [45:30] And what if you didn’t?
Mike: [45:33] And what if you didn’t?
Joe: [45:35] Would you be frustrated?
Mike: [45:37] I would’ve been frustrated if I was at 35 and didn’t try entrepreneurship.
Joe: [45:42] Yeah. It’s a fucking rollercoaster, that’s for sure. It definitely takes a special type of person, but if you are willing to fight and get really uncomfortable, you can do it and you will definitely thank yourself for it because what you’ve realized is that you can actually do anything that you want to.
Mike: [46:05] It’s true.
Joe: [46:06] And the only person that can stop you is yourself.
Getting Started in the Cannabis Industry
Mike: [46:10] Is yourself. Put yourself out there. Get out there and meet people. When we were trying to enter the cannabis space, I used most of my time running around Denver meeting people, meeting with people, just getting connected and trying to figure out how other people are doing it. There’s a lot of lessons we could impart on the audience today about entrepreneurship, and the few that I really want to point out is: make a plan; have a plan to support yourself financially when you’re going through the battle, because that’s something that I let go of because – I’m not sure where the inspiration came from, but I wanted to put 100% into what I was doing. That’s all I wanted to focus on. And, like you had said, you drained the savings account really fast and then-
Joe: [47:17] Gosh, faster than you think, man.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Mike: [47:18] And then you start utilizing credit, and it can turn into a mess really quick. If you have the means, don’t necessarily quit your day job right away. Get that plan in place, start building the foundation. You know, a lot of people have said that a great way to start a business is to become a bartender. And all day long, work on your business and then make that money at night to pay your bills, and your life for several years is just work, work, work, work, work your ass off. But that’s how you make the dreams come true. That’s how you make it happen.
Coming up Next on the Cured Collective Podcast
Joe: [47:57] It’s the only way, man. It’s the only way. Man, I’m stoked that you came on the podcast. So, we have – so this is what we’re going to do, listeners. We’re going to have as many people, and honestly, I really forsee and would like to be where you’re continuing to come on, so you guys are going to get used to Mike’s voice. He’s going to be hosting some of the podcasts, like we said – Amy Morrison – an episode with Amy Morrison is coming up, and yeah, sharing stories like this, sharing our understanding of what it’s been like in this journey and where we’re going, and what makes Cured Cured, and stuff we believe in and the products we create. it’s all that education, experience, is going to be coming through all of us as a collective. I hope people enjoyed this podcast because I think that it sheds light on a lot of… just the ride. The ride – and it’s hard for me sometimes to just sit here and communicate everything that we do here because there are times where I’m like… Aubrey had this really good analogy – she goes, it’s like your brain is the ocean and your mouth is a straw, and you’re trying to let all that information in the ocean come out, but it does not have the ability to come through that straw. There are times where like – actually, that’s what my head always feels like. I wish I could tell you everything that’s going on in my head but just won’t come out because it doesn’t fit in the straw.
Mike: [49:43] That’s so perfect.
Joe: [49:44] It’s good!
Mike: [49:45] I love her. She’s awesome. Great analogy.
Joe: [49:46] Yeah, she really is. So, cool. I don’t know what else we have in the pipeline, but Mike’s going to get creative on some topics, and coming back and co-host and host.
Mike: [50:01] I’m very excited to be with you guys and to be sharing our journey, and to be sharing some of the insides and stories and lifestyles of the people that we’ve come in contact with the last few years. That network base continues to grow. If there’s anything that you guys are really craving to hear about, reach out on our platforms. We’re not a big company. It’s a small group of people putting a lot of energy into this.
Joe: [50:38] The front, the façade may look like it, but it’s… well, I counted the other day and we have a total of twenty-something people, including all of the contractors; which is decent, but like, the core group that’s here in the office everyday, it’s a small team, and we put a lot of time and effort into this.
Mike: [50:58] And sharing the opportunity to share it on this platform with all of you is such a big blessing.
Joe: [51:07] Yeah, dude. The Cured Collective, man.
Mike: [51:12] Love it.
Joe: [51:13] Thanks, brother. I hope you guys all enjoyed listening to a little bit of Mike’s story from an entrepreneur standpoint, and then understanding operations. I feel like us diving in to more and more of the understanding of scaling a business from an operations standpoint, from an inventory standpoint, all of that good stuff would be really nice for us to visit on a future podcast. It’s – as an entrepreneur, when we were both listening to podcasts a lot, before Sustainable Gardeners, and when we were talking about a million other ideas, and then Cured was becoming a thing – there weren’t a lot of podcasts that actually sat down and went through all the inner workings. It’s like, it’s easy – and I’ve fallen into that – it’s easy to talk from the other side. Yes, we have a multi-million dollar business; it started with $1.30 spice jar. How the hell did you get there, right? It’s a journey. So, there’s a lot of details for all of us to share and hope you guys enjoyed this podcast.
Mike: [52:24] Thanks everyone.
Joe: [52:26] Thanks, brother.
Mike: [52:27] Appreciate you, Joe.
Joe: [52:28] Yeah, dude. Of course!