James Kim is the co-founder and managing director of STIIIZY, part of the Shryne Group which is a vertically integrated cannabis holding company with an asset and license portfolio covering California. James is credited with advancing the patent-pending design of STIIIZY’s innovative electronic oil delivery systems. Employing close to 300 people within the STIIIZY/Shryne Group family, he leads one of the fastest-growing cannabis brands in the world and a fully-integrated company from seed-to-sale.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! I’m a Southern California native, and I created STIIIZY in 2017 for my friends who represent the diversity of lifestyles and cultures in Socal. The brand name is a reflection of my personal experience and inspired by the California term “steez,” which refers to the convergence of style and ease.
Prior to founding STIIIZY and forming the Shryne Group, I served in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division during a 13-month tour in Iraq. After serving, I was looking for the best solution to help me cope with PTSD. When I decided that I had the ability to create my own solution, I went for it. I had a close group of friends who helped me create my first e-cigarette store circa 2013. From there we looked around and saw the development of specialty e-liquid flavors on the rise and started playing around with mixology. Next thing we know, KILO was born. And as e-liquids started to merge with cannabis oil development in 2016, we also continued to evolve with the market. Shortly after, I worked with my partners to develop the first STIIIZY device that we unveiled in 2018.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of my partners was also my roommate when we first started the business. We spent a lot of time teaching ourselves the ins and outs of the business… from blending flavors to match distinctive taste profiles to identifying the best technology to deliver the optimum consumer experience. We had limited resources and built the brand with a freestyle approach at the beginning.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Our Art Director and I had an out of town meeting with a major apparel retailer in Washington. We travelled with three huge duffel bags which all had a STIIIZY logo. The bags were full of apparel, however the logo confused the airport personnel. When we returned, we had no bags, as we left the bags of apparel with the retailer so they could review the samples. Upon return, the same airport personnel remembered us and noticed that we returned without any bags! As they knew the STIIIZY brand is also a cannabis brand, they were confused and a bit skeptical of what happened to the large bags.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are rapidly expanding our retail footprint, essentially opening one new location every month with San Francisco locations on the immediate forefront. We also recently introduced BIIIT, a line of precisely dosed gummies, which is currently our top selling product at our DTLA flagship.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Robert Thomas is my army buddy. He taught me the power of leading with my heart, instilling motivation and fueling ambition that helped me gain the confidence to take on any challenges or opportunities that may come my way. Robert passed away in active duty and continues to act as an inspiration to me. I still keep in touch with his mother and we just memorialized the anniversary of his passing on 9/13/13.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
With legalization, marijuana commerce came out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Now STIIIZY is elevating cannabis retail to its full potential. A core part of STIIIZY’s identity is to stay true to our roots in California and stay connected to mstreet culture. Our strategy is a mix of a lot of things but at the heart of it, it’s truly listening to our fans, understanding all facets of their lifestyle, and merging STIIIZY into that. It’s incorporating the “drop” model from streetwear brands our audience wears and celebrating local artists these fans love by showcasing their work in our new flagship store.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis Industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
- This is a brand new industry with so much opportunity.
- The Cannabis Industry is a source of personal passion.
- It’s exciting for me to have the opportunity to fulfill the vision I have for the company on a daily basis.
- The evolution of regulation and compliance. I want our company to be able to anticipate changes on the horizon and respond with the best solutions to meet consumer demands.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business?” Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t do it on your own. Being very independent, I wanted to attack everything solo.
- Regulations in the cannabis industry can be stifling and costly. In this industry it’s essential to build a business that can be nimble enough to respond quickly and effectively to the ever changing landscape.
- The risk of success is other entities profiting off of your ideas. Counterfeiting has caused great risk to our business and has resulted in concerns that impact the health and safety of consumers.
- Outside industry knowledge is not always applicable to the cannabis industry. It’s important to surround yourself with people that understand the business from the inside, out.
- Be strategic about growth to ensure you build legacy brands that can stand the test of time.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Lead by example. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in me that was reinforced when I enlisted in the Army at the age of 19. I have an always on attitude about work that I display at the office and out in the field. I want everyone to see my passion for the business and know that I will always go the extra mile to bring success to the organization.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Pay it forward. If everyone leads with kindness, the world would be a better place.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram, Facebook & Twitter: @STIIIZY
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!