Serial Entrepreneur and Chief Technology Officer of Unrivaled Brands Colin Landforce
Serial Entrepreneur and Chief Technology Office of Unrivaled Brands Colin Landforce
Gabriel Flores 0:01
Hello, everyone and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I have a special guest Colin land force. Colin, how are you doing my good man? I'm so well thank you for chasing me down so we can finally do this. Oh man, I'm excited because yes, I will admit, I chased Collin down for several months because I really wanted to talk to my followers gentleman on Twitter, he has a really good if you guys don't check them out on Twitter, really good handle really good insight. But today, I really wanted to talk about unrivaled brands. But first, I really want to introduce the world to Colin, so please call and introduce yourself to the listeners.
Colin Landforce 0:42
You bet. You know, I'm never never very good at this. I'm a serial entrepreneur. I'm based in Portland, which I think is where your podcast is generally based on our home community here. I'm actually from Corvallis about 90 miles south and I was there until pretty much all the way through college, I've been in Portland for 10 Plus, maybe 1112 years now who's counting. And for the last four or five years I've been in recreational cannabis. So today, what that looks like is, is retail and California production cultivation, depending on how you want to talk about it in California and Oregon, and distribution hubs in Portland, the Bay Area, and Southern California, among other things. So we've come a long way to get here. And of course, as as all good origin stories that started, you know, in a in a closet, or a garage, or some version of that, depending on how you tell it.
Gabriel Flores 1:40
It's so so for the listeners at home, you mentioned you guys are your cannabis brand. But what exactly is unrivaled brands?
Colin Landforce 1:51
Yeah, we're a so in the cannabis industry, the term MSO multi state operator is used pretty commonly to describe a company that has licenses and operations in multiple states, since everything is completely fragmented. So we are a house of brands, and an MSO. And we also are pretty focused on retail and bringing those brands directly to consumers, not just through our distribution channels. We do our own distribution. What's a good term, like it's a necessary evil for us and we also do some some third party brands we are not you know, a logistics or three PL focused operation. It just kind of came about and here we are. So along with our own brands, carova Cabana and sticks, we do some some key third parties that fit well into our overall portfolio. And, and then like I said, big focus for us is bringing those brands directly to consumers through retail. So earlier this summer, we announced actually, I guess late fall, depending on when this is happening, we announced acquisition of people's people's is top three buy revenue in the state of California retail store. And if you are in Southern California, it's arguably the most visible retail store in Southern California. So it's a massive operation 1000 1000 transactions a day. And and we've got more people stores coming online. And so for us, it's that that entire value chain from from the seed, if you will, all the way through to the brand experience of retail with the end consumer. And yeah,
Gabriel Flores 3:31
so So just for to kind of break it down. Just so I'm understanding the correct it's kind of like from the from the growing the product to the selling of the product.
Colin Landforce 3:41
Yeah, absolutely. I think the the vertical integration, right would be that would be the term but I think a lot of a lot of folks are doing that we are very very heavily brand focused so like our indoor grows that we just recently turned on in in California are really to to supply the carova brand primarily. We are we are brand first and really focus on on authentic cannabis brands that have been and will continue to be part of the culture
Gabriel Flores 4:12
night. So how did how did this concept get created? How did you start this?
Colin Landforce 4:17
The origin story is like all good. Not all the origin story is flip impacts, right? I think on several ends and from every angle, the origin story is selling selling weed and so in late medical and early recreational that meant doing doing so to dispensaries and selling bulk flower selling selling pounds. And through that we basically build out a network knowing that if we have a network of retailers that we serve, you kind of have opportunity to to serve them anything if you will. And you That's where I began pre rolls were the first place we went in terms of CPGs. Just because it's such a staple. And it's such a coin toss, if a pre roll you buy in a dispensary is going to be any good. I think it still is today. And it certainly was four years ago, or whatever it was. And so we really leaned into pre rolls and figured out how to make really fantastic ones, or perfect ones. If you read our marketing material. And we've made millions of those, we've made millions of those cents. And our our origin is a little bit convoluted if you back into it, right, because about two years ago, we we did a merger with a California brand called carova. I guess it's been two and a half years, called carova with a very similar pretty similar origin story and footprint in California. And so with with that, all of a sudden, we go from just Oregon to to most of the West Coast and scaling everything up from there.
Gabriel Flores 5:58
Yeah, you know, it's kind of funny. Before we did this, I sent you know, I send my guests solicit questions like, Hey, this is kind of the general summary. And I was like, hey, you know, you guys, LLC S Corp. C Corp me like, you know what, we're beyond that. Let's talk about mergers and acquisitions. And I was like, Yeah, let's, let's talk about merch. So let's let's dive into that a little bit. What are what are some things that you learned during the merger and acquisition kind of phase that young entrepreneurs should know about it?
Colin Landforce 6:26
I think it's kind of two pronged. First thing, I think integrations and anything of that nature are, are super difficult just because of the humans involved. Right. And so it's definitely a master cat masterclass, and communication, and over communication, if you will, pulling pulling any project like that off, but I think that the, the biggest light bulb that I think is probably underappreciated, by by people that are interested in business or want to start a business, and really a lot of entrepreneurs in general, certainly me three years ago, were that there's, there's a lot of ways to get into business. And there's a lot of ways to, to grow business, and one of them is to go and buy them. And a lot of times, it's not nearly as simple as putting down the cash. And by that, I mean, I mean that in a good way. And that you don't need to have a million dollars sitting in a bank account to go buy a business for a million dollars. And that kind of opens up a whole new world. Again, in terms of starting something, if you're not currently doing something now and want to get into X, Y or Z, as well as growing a business, right? If you want to grow from $100,000, a year to a million dollars a year, you can sell 10 times as many of your widgets, or you can acquire your way into that or do something in the middle, which I think is probably the the highest leverage thing you can do and that go and buy something, you know, maybe it gets you halfway there, but has a lot of low hanging fruit that you think you can easily crank up into into that mark. So I think there's a whole new world that again, for me, personally was not on my radar three years ago. And it's only now becoming more popular. I think a lot of what you see on Twitter, I would imagine is, is around acquisition of small of SMB Small, Medium Businesses and, and everything around that it's getting hot, but there's still a lot on the table.
Gabriel Flores 8:22
Yeah, and you know, one of the things you also mentioned was financing, you know, and going through that process because there's there's different ways you know, mergers, mergers and acquisitions and financing. How did you start your funding that was it grassroots was a venture capital, how did you go about starting your business?
Colin Landforce 8:37
There were bootstrap from the beginning. And that included a little bit of friends and family, our business at its core, especially back then was very low margin and very cash intensive. So it was a bit of a nightmare on that front. It's very easy to just eat cash even, even if you're profitable. When you're you're doing something that is you know, 10 20% margin, which like I call it out, selling bulk bulk flower is. And so for us, we were bootstrapped until that first round of m&a that I mentioned, that came along with some capital infusion from our former CEO, now board member that put the deal together and brought those companies together. And then now as of July, we are a public equity, we're traded on the OTC Qx. And so you know, again, a whole nother chapter and a whole nother frontier.
Gabriel Flores 9:37
So that that's pretty cool. So you're now a public trading company. Yes, that is awesome. That is how does What's that process like?
Colin Landforce 9:47
So we got there. There's 100 ways to get there. I think we got there through a merger with an existing cannabis company. So actually one of the one of the first companies to go Have you traded early on in cannabis and long before recreational? So for us, it was a, a stock swap a 5050. Or like, you know, 51 point yatta yatta, a 5050 merger, to bring us on to the public market and into their vehicle and assets and everything in between.
Gabriel Flores 10:23
Wow, that's cool. Now, the cannabis industry in itself is really new. Right? Like it's Oregon maybe been legal, what, five years or something like that seven year mountain next year? So Right? How difficult has it been, you know, to start a business in an emerging market. I mean, this is a brand new market.
Colin Landforce 10:42
I think 90% Maybe that's overstating it 80% of what we do is widgets on trucks into retail and selling them to customers. That being said that last 20% that is cannabis specific cannabis specific is pretty can certainly can be pretty nuanced, and intensive. So the the highest impact thing, especially early on was just no access to things that most businesses take, take for granted, right, like running payroll and having to do it in cash. Or even just the the luxury of like your payroll system calculates that it should be $932.87 versus when paychecks won't have you, you a you don't get to have them doing all your your calculations for you. But then you also have to go and scrounge together the the dimes and nickels and pennies. Right. So access to like basic business services, particularly early on. We still deal with it now. But there's there's entire industries built around serving us at this point, I'll be at an a limited or, you know, always an asterix on pretty much everything. fashion. But yeah, I think the the financial and banking side and speaking to the, you know, the fundraising and, and capital side of it, a lot of small businesses, particularly when when we were a small business could go to the bank and and borrow working capital. And that was of course an absolute non starter when we're drug dealers.
Gabriel Flores 12:17
Gotcha. Yeah, yeah. And, you know, that's, that's an important point for the listeners at home is, since this industry is not federally approved, it's not legally federally, you can't get any federal loans, like federal assistance and federal support. So it's really on the state level. And when Collins talking about, you know, financing on these different businesses that kind of have been established, these businesses are also in emerging markets, because what they're doing is pretty new and novel, and they do have a lot of Asterix. It sounds like next to him. What would you say, you know, throughout their process of, especially in this business, in particular, has been easy, or has there any been anything easy?
Colin Landforce 12:58
No, it's been brutally difficult. Honestly, it's it's as with a lot of industries that are like, considered cool and interesting, right? Whether it's some tech thing or AI, I think all of that is like brutally difficult. And I don't mean to conflate, you know, cannabis CPG, to artificial intelligence, but it's brutally competitive. The regulators don't even have it figured out. And it changes every day.
Gabriel Flores 13:27
Now, this isn't your first business you said to correct?
Colin Landforce 13:31
Yeah, I mean, I'm kind of a lifelong serial entrepreneur and dabbler. So before I was doing what has become unrivaled, I was on a tear doing freelance consulting, like growth consulting, in the restricted consumer goods space, so in medical devices, skincare, firearms, and consumer drums. And I think that the common thread there is kind of like having to tiptoe around the rules, rules or work around the rules. And as kind of a perfect setup for cannabis, which of course is like a, a much more stringent set of rules. But similar, similar, all the same, and that you can't just do the run of the mill, running the run of the mill playbook by any means.
Gabriel Flores 14:17
Yeah, yeah. It's, it's very novel, you know, still new. In fact, I think just recently, if I recall, I think it was just like today or the other day, they actually found a field cultivating there in Southern Oregon about $100 million worth, that they just randomly stumbled upon. So for your industry, is it difficult because you're still having to kind of compete against the the legal distributors versus the legal
Colin Landforce 14:50
I think there's a lot to unpack there. I think the biggest the biggest element of that is that if you are doing legal recreational cannabis, you are restricted To the market that you're licensed in. Whereas the illegal the black market, the traditional market, as it's called, can ship it anywhere. Right? So the state, the states have direct control over how much supply there's going to be they, they are the ones that license folks. So really both in Oregon and California right now we're, for the second time in Oregon, and for the first time in a big way, in California, we are seeing the the side effects of over licensing producers, and what that does to the market, because it absolutely floods the market with great products that can't go anywhere. Right. Whereas those illegal grows that you're seeing are obviously not in place to go and sell, sell cannabis in downtown Portland, or otherwise, they're there to go sell sell into the rest of the country. Which, which just means that the illegal folks don't have rules to play by and the legal recreational have really rules that really cripple you from a supply and demand perspective, right? Like there are there are no options for people that are sitting on a bunch of weight, and market prices that are half what they're planned on.
Gabriel Flores 16:12
Wow. Yeah. And that's that's correct me if I'm wrong, but even though another state has legalized it, you still can't go state to state Correct?
Colin Landforce 16:22
Yeah, absolutely. The the, obviously, the tracking systems are totally independent. I think one of the trickier parts that's probably overlooked is that the compliance and things like labeling and packaging are also independent. One of the trickier parts of what we do is the the similar but different elements of all the components for all of our product lines. You know, even even the exact same SKU take a eighth of an aid of carova flour, which you can buy up and down the west coast in Oregon and California. Even that the the jar isn't quite the same, the label isn't quite the same, it looks pretty similar. And you may or may not notice it as a consumer. But for the the back end team operating the supply chain, it's not even close. And really doesn't matter how close it is, if it's not the same.
Gabriel Flores 17:12
Yeah, interesting. It's just, it's baffling to me still there, there's so many different, it's like, they're different rules for every state. It just kind of yeah, there's no cohesion behind it.
Colin Landforce 17:27
Particularly that, you know, each new state is probably looking at other states, but generally making it up as if, as if other states haven't figured out some of these things or or just figured out what was overlooked, right, like, our license type, especially early on was Distribution License Type, or a wholesale license type rather, when and when the first Oregon rules rolled out, they had a bunch of rules for retailers, they had a bunch of rules for growers, and for processors and labs, and wholesalers were almost overlooked. And so you have these entire, like, huge gaps in the rules that just nobody had really sat down and thought about the place that the wholesaler plays in the supply chain. And just like if any of these things made sense, which of course, plenty of them, plenty of them didn't. But I think that's the nature of what we do. And it's it's what we signed up for ultimately. Yeah,
Gabriel Flores 18:20
I mean, it's like we mentioned, you know, it's kind of emerging markets. So there's a lot of new surprises everybody's kind of learn as they go kind of thing it seems. Now Now, you mentioned you've been a serial entrepreneur for some time. What are some things that have surprised you so far in business, maybe it's in the cannabis industry, or maybe just in business in general, that when you kind of came into becoming an entrepreneur that you didn't really expect?
Colin Landforce 18:45
I think cash is a very elusive and mysterious thing for a lot of businesses, and that seems ridiculous to say, on the surface, but cashflow is, is very, very difficult to get a hold of, for a lot of businesses. And for some it's really simple. And it's a non issue. But it's very, very difficult to manage in a detailed way. And for a lot of businesses that are lower margin, managing it and having enough of it are just absolutely critical. And it's it's a it's a lot. cash flow. Cash is king. I think that Truer words never, never spoke. Yeah, no,
Gabriel Flores 19:26
I completely agree. I'm, you know, been running this podcast for some time. And I always think of, you know, think of your financial reservoir as a reservoir. It's a lake, right? You don't want your lake to dry up. So you need to figure out different ways how you're going to fill up that lake with different cash streams, right? How little streams are going to trickle into your lake. And so that's what I'm also thinking like, Hey, how can we continue to make revenue so we can continue to produce some amazing things right. Now? What advice would you give for an entrepreneur that may be interested in joining the cannabis industry or just joining becoming a small business owner themselves.
Colin Landforce 20:07
Yeah, so on the cannabis front, that's an easy one. And it is don't. And there's a there's an, there's an asterix on that. And I say that just because it's It's brutally competitive. And like most people that want to get into cannabis want to get into cannabis because they like cannabis, which is fine. But that's not a good reason to get into a brutally competitive, you know, early stage industry, that that has a ton of unknown. But what I would do, and I did a thread about this, and this is the advice I pretty consistently give is, there is so much room to do. Business Service services that are niched into the cannabis industry, so picks and shovels around cannabis, and and it's literally anything, you could be a contractor, you'd be an electrician, a marketing agency, anything that serves a normal business niched into cannabis is a massive opportunity. And, and they're also the folks that get paid, right when when things are rough. And you're a grower, you can't not pay the electrician, right? Otherwise he doesn't come and get your power running. And so I think the biggest opportunity in cannabis is for non cannabis, non plant touching, as they say ancillary businesses, the picks and shovels of the industry. And I don't think I'm the first person to have that revelation. I'm sure you're familiar with the the phrase, I can't remember the exact phrase, but the gold miners did not get rich, the Levi Strauss and Wells Fargo and American Express of the world got rich, and they were there to serve those people.
Gabriel Flores 21:48
That's very, very true. That's very true. Now what what should young entrepreneurs watch out for when they're starting their own business? You kind of mentioned some of the things you know, being cash and cash flow in those things. What are some other good things that they should be kind of mindful of?
Colin Landforce 22:07
What a broad question, I might need a second to think on this one. Sorry.
I think that I think that people are the gift and the curse, right? So people are obviously your most important asset. And they, they can also be your your biggest crush. And so the the biggest takeaway I have from that is just to act decisively. You know, I think it can be managing people as difficult and leading people as difficult. And it can be really easy to you know, identify a problem or decide that something's not working out, and then just deal with it for months or longer, really, and I think that the, the ability to address address, have that confrontation, address the conflict is a bit of a superpower in entrepreneurship. And, and really, if you if you boil down to it, if you're sitting there and you've got somebody that isn't a good fit for what you're trying to do, you're doing them a disservice by keeping them in it as well. So while that conversation may be painful, and letting someone off or letting someone goes is never any fun, if it's not a big picture solution for everybody, you're really doing somebody a disservice by keeping them in that spot and, and really helping them go and find their next chapter is is the best thing for everybody. So I think I think acting with decisiveness and and candor on with with your people as is critical. And yeah.
Gabriel Flores 23:43
You know, looking back on everything coming back from you know, live in small town, Oregon, up to Portland, doing unrivaled brand, what advice would you give a younger Colin?
Colin Landforce 23:57
Can you say that again? Sorry. You know, I'm not really big on maybe not maybe regret isn't the word. But I think that everything that I've done to this point is like a critical part of me sitting in the chair that I'm sitting in right now and doing what I'm doing right now. So I'm not sure that I would have any advice because that would potentially, you know, that could potentially keep me from learning something that I learned myself by experiencing it. That being said, I think I study or not study is probably not the right word. I read a lot of stoicism and and modern stoicism and Ryan holidays books in particular, after the source material. And I think ego plays a huge role in everyone's life. And so that said, I think that figuring that out earlier would probably create less pain for everybody involved, and really figuring out how to understand that and good Trouble that, but generally speaking, I can't say that enough. Like I've, I've, I think on the surface wasted a lot of time, or what if I just done it this way from the beginning, everyone's had those moments, I'm no different. But I think they're just a core part of, of getting from A to B. So I'm not sure that I would make any recommendations to prevent them if that makes sense.
Gabriel Flores 25:20
No, I like I actually love that answer. And in fact, that's not the first time I think I've had guests on this because I asked that question often, you know, we, we are kind of our past, right? You know, that we have two eyes in the front, not the back to look towards our future, not back on our past kind of thing. And I like I like, you know, the folks can come on here and like, you know, this is what made me you know, the past made me Yeah,
Colin Landforce 25:43
I mean, and it, it's not just a line, right? I mean, it, like that's the deal that is in fact, how you become who you are, and get where you're going to go. So if you didn't have it, it would just be different and maybe no one's to say whether it'd be better or worse, it'd be different and so if you like where you're at then well
Gabriel Flores 26:02
yes, I like it so so for the folks at home, how can they support unrivaled brands? How can they get the products where are you at in the social media world and the web pages? Let the world know where they can find some more information?
Colin Landforce 26:16
Yeah, so myself personally, I'm doing the Twitter thing as you call it out so land force la NDF RCE is my real last name and it's also my handle on the interwebs so at land forces me and in terms of for us, so if you're in Oregon, we are all over well, I guess if you're in Oregon or California, we're all over the place. It's pretty likely that the shop down the street has our brands carova sticks cabana are the big brands, they we've got skews in every category kind of spread out across those brands is probably a different podcast to talk about all the shelves that we are filling up, but we're all over the place. And then like we talked about, we're publicly traded so we're not in Robin Hood or we bull unfortunately. But any any brokerage account like any Schwab account, you can buy our stock and I have no advice around that but if you like what we're doing, that is certainly a great way to support us and get involved in it.
Gabriel Flores 27:17
I like it and I will admit I am not a financial advisor either but get off of Robin Hood. Delete your Robin Hood account. Come on man get round fidelity get over a Weibull find something good for that. Let's just delete that. Man Colin, thank you so much for your time. I really do appreciate it. So much good information today. Really cool brand really cool what you guys are doing. I'm really excited to kind of see you guys grow. For those listening at home. Please follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram and have a great night.