Fostering good customer relationships is especially important for small businesses with limited resources, as customers are the lifeline to business. Building a positive customer relationship should be your top priority, as customers with fantastic customer experiences can be expected to become repeat customers. We meet up with Arun Chairman at Petalfast who shares his experiences in the cannabis industry as well as best practices, and the importance of strategy, sales and marketing.
Harry Brelsford 0:07
A 420MSP and marijuana venture magazine readers Harry here with Arun at Petalfast How you doing, sir? How you doing today?
Arun Kurichety 0:15
I’m great Harry, great to be here.
Harry Brelsford 0:18
Good. Well, what is your I kind of know your story, what is your you’re a lawyer, you’re a marketer, you’re kind of a renaissance individual professionally, what what’s your story personally
Arun Kurichety 0:28
had to had a little bit of a winding path to get to where we are today. But I think the last, you know, 5 10 years is kind of in building to where we are, and the company is today, just briefly a little bit about myself. I am, corporate back corporate lawyer by background. So I’ve got practicing corporate law for about 15 years, but I’ve always had a little bit of an entrepreneurial streak of, you know, tried to kind of do some different things in the cannabis industry. You know, like a lot of lawyers, you know, worked for about 8 to 10 years and was thinking about, you know, whether or not I wanted to continue on the partnership track in big law. And quite frankly, it just wasn’t for me, I wanted to have a little bit more control over what I was doing. And around the same time, this is about six years ago, proposition 64, in California, was gaining a lot of steam, and I always had an affinity towards cannabis, I knew it was going to be a highly regulated market. So basically jumped headfirst into the industry started learning as much as I could about the plant about the different players. That led me to advising a number of different companies kind of in the early stages. One in particular is the guild Guild Extracts, which was a great learning experience, because at the time, they were somewhat vertically integrated, they had interest in retail and manufacturing, and cultivation. So for me, it was great kind of having that experience and understanding, you know, how all these different pieces fit together to get to kind of the end consumer in terms of what that finished product looks like. From that point, I, you know, decided to look to raise a little bit of money to potentially invest in a couple of different companies. And one that kind of stood out to me was a company called Kushco Holdings. And they were looking for their first in House Counsel. And I met with the leadership team. And I really thought that even though Kushco Holdings, which is a large, publicly traded, sort of ancillary company, they provide packaging vape hardware and solvents to cannabis operators and CBD operators throughout the country, I really thought that that would be a very good lens to kind of see the industry and I was proven right. I mean, through that experience, I was able to meet folks all along the supply chain from California to Illinois to Canada, you name it, and then understanding kind of the the supply chain, even coming from China, in terms of some of the vape hardware that we were importing, and then distributing. So that really got me, you know, to understand the kind of the big picture landscape, and that’s Essos when all of the kind of Canadian artios were happening. And really kind of, you know, when we were, you know, in that experience, we were obviously dealing with a lot of parties. And although we were selling packaging and insolvencies folks, they were telling us about, you know, all of their concerns in terms of how do I get my products to market? You know, once I’m in a retailer, how do I make sure that I’m staying in those stores and I’m increasing my sales velocity. And, you know, without fail, that was the same kind of comments that we were getting from our customers at Costco. So I ended up leaving Kushco at the end of last May. And the President and Chief Revenue Officer of Kushco also left Jason Rogowski. And we started what is now called Pedalfast. So pedal fast is a third party sales and marketing agency. We represent brands and we help them essentially, you know, get sales in stores. Right now, we’re just in California. And then on the marketing side, we provide a lot of field and trade marketing. So we’ve been finding that, you know, rather than Superbowl ads, that more kind of boots on the ground in store activation is really what’s causing, you know, a lift in sales. So we’ve been around for about 10 months. We started formally last September 1, and since that time, we’ve grown to about 30 employees. We’ve got 12 sales folks distributed throughout geographically located, you know, throughout the major markets in California. They’re supported by a five person field and trade team, and then they’re supported by 15 brand ambassadors. So the idea is, you know, if you are a brand and you are looking to chat, you know, solve two problems, how do you sell into the retail channels and how do you sell out of those retail channels. So with our sales team, we are working with our brands in our portfolio to and you know, we got the kind of the best sales people in California based on their retailer relationships. So through that team, we can then sell into retail stores. And then again, once with those products are in those stores, then that’s when we start activating those stores, through our through our field and trade marketing team. We also have a sister agency that does a lot of the more traditional marketing type work. So that’s, you know, websites and brand reach, brand hygiene, those kinds of things. high level right now we represent about 10 brands. And, you know, we’re those brands are highly differentiated, when we look at, you know, kind of building out our portfolio, we’re really interested in in category management, and making sure that we’ve got differentiated products. So we’ve got, you know, a high end premium indoor flower brand, we’ve got an infused pre roll brand, we’ve got a gummy, we’ve got a beverage, we’ve got some other kind of interesting new form factors, space crystals and ship chips. So the idea is to have this kind of diversified portfolio, so that when we actually go to the retailer, we can make their buying decisions, hopefully easier. A lot of these retailers, you know, the sophistication that I’ve seen over the last year has really increased. And, you know, we’re seeing a lot of consolidation in the retail side. So if we can make it easy for that buyer, rather than having 150 meetings over what their next vape pen might look like, we hope that we can come in with our portfolio and introduce, you know, some of the products that might fit their needs. And if we can’t, if we don’t have a product in our portfolio that fits their needs, then we’ve started an incubator program, which allows us to work with smaller companies that are looking for more of a proof of concept. And the idea is that we can kind of take that proof of concept, show that to a retailer. And if they’re interested, then we can give that feedback back to the incubator brand, and then hopefully fine tune what their go to market strategy will look like going forward. Yeah, I like it more than you asked for there.
Harry Brelsford 7:09
Oh, no, no, no, that’s, that’s why we’re here a couple of thoughts. One is what you’re kind of describing to me, I think you use the word portfolio and my side of the aisle over in tech, we kind of call that a stack, a product stack, right. And the IT pros will often go into an entity than not to be cannabis and recommend, you know, this cybersecurity solution, this email solution. So you’re kind of if I’m tracking with you, it kind of a stack concept. And you’re right, it brings a lot of simplicity. The other thing is he said brand ambassadors, so you know, having a named an influencer in the cannabis field, that’s not a foreign concept to you. With that said, what events? Are you going to go to them back? So what events? Are you planning to go to what journals magazines? Do you read any podcast or websites? I always like to find out, you know, where can people find you? Or kind of understand you?
Arun Kurichety 8:09
Yeah, sure. In terms of conferences, I guess we’re all probably very glad that with, hopefully, you know, this delta variant, you know, stuff goes away. But it’s nice to see that we’re actually having events, in terms of what we’re doing at Pedalfast. And, you know, in terms of our brands and our portfolio, we will be at mjbizcon we’re also really excited about a new conference, I think they did a virtual one last year, but that’s being held around the same time as mjbizcon, called MJ unpacked, will be more of a brand focused event. So brands can come in and there’ll be, you know, various retailers that will be there looking kind of for that new and exciting new products in a similar vein will be at hollow flowers, both in Santa Rosa and in Palm Springs. Again, you know, that’s an opportunity for us to get some exposure to our brands in front of kind of the, you know, the important retail folks in the state of California. You know, and then you know, I’ve spoken on from what my lawyer had on a, you know, spoken on a number of different panels, kind of from the legal side. One of the interesting things I come from a corporate restructuring background bankruptcy background. So as you may know, cannabis is federally illegal, and companies are looking to restructure are in a distressed situation. They’re always looking for avenues and unfortunately because bankruptcy is not available to those companies, you know, figuring out how to be creative to you know, create a deal that’s fair for for all the stakeholders using all of the kind of non bankruptcy means
Harry Brelsford 9:47
I have not heard that, you know, you
Arun Kurichety 9:48
mentioned kind of varied interests, but you know, in terms of trade magazines, I kind of the the usual suspects MJ biz, you know, I like new cannabis ventures in Canada. The public markets stuff. And then you know, we are looking to come out with some of our own, you know, content. And this year, we’ve been gaining a lot of insights over the last, you know, year, both from the incubator and the accelerator side, in terms of, you know, data that we’ve been collecting along our brands, and we hope to be able to kind of present those to the outside world, you know, when we have a little bit better kind of data and story to tell.
Harry Brelsford 10:27
Well, I’ll tell you what, let me make a side note, let me check in with you. I’ll tell you what, I’ll check in with you after the first of the year to see how that’s progressing, how that’s go and get some updates from me. It’s a fast moving industry. But again, congratulations on being recognized by marijuana venture magazine as an influencer. And you are Keep up the good work, my friend.
Arun Kurichety 10:48
All right. Well, I really appreciate it and I look forward to talking to you again soon.
Harry Brelsford 10:52