Are you prepared for the hard work that goes into succeeding in a highly regulated and competitive industry? This is an industry like no other — one in which high risks will lead to high rewards but you have to ask yourself if you’re ready for a wild ride that it will no doubt be. There will be a lot of obstacles and a lot of no’s. You should ask yourself if you have resilience and patience to get through those challenges.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy Singh Pasricha (Andy Singh), Founder and CEO of Nuvata. Andy Singh is an accomplished entrepreneur, and at age 25, he has already founded two privately-held enterprises and employs 35 people. Shortly after his graduation in 2015 from The University of California, San Diego (UCSD), he founded his first startup logistics company, Prime Transport Inc. But his interest in wellness and a balanced lifestyle led him to cannabis. In early 2019, Andy launched Nuvata with the goal to enable anyone, from new consumers to seasoned aficionados, to easily achieve approachable and enjoyable experiences with cannabis. Under Andy’s leadership and guidance, Nuvata has grown rapidly, and is currently available at dispensaries across Los Angeles and Orange County. In his spare time, Andy loves being present in the moment with his one-year old son, Amar and partner Mia.
In the pre-launch stage of Nuvata, I distinctly remember a conversation with David Tran, co-founder of DOPE (Defending Our Plant Everywhere) and one of the most respected voices in our industry. We participated in the Dope Cup (one of the biggest events in the cannabis industry) where David came over to our booth and thanked us for developing a quality product that contributes so positively to the industry. Having someone of his caliber go out of his way to express such excitement for our product really hit home for me. It was one of those ‘aah-ha moments’ when I realized that we had truly succeeded in identifying a gap in the market and through our products, we are bringing a unique and fresh perspective on cannabis to the consumers.
I don’t believe that anything is a mistake, it’s all part of the learning and growing process. But I do have a funny story. When I decided to enter the cannabis market, no one was developing flavored cannabis vapes. As we were working on it, we came up with some funny names for our vapes like ‘perp and terp’ that were fun and silly, but there wasn’t much substance of structure around it. We ended up spending a lot of time on it but eventually it transformed completely from something silly and rudimentary to something refined and polished. This process taught me that building a brand is so much more than coming up with names for products — it’s about getting to the core of why you exist and being able to communicate your story and values to your target consumers.
We launched Nuvata in April this year, so it’s a very young brand. Each day is different but also an opportunity to work on exciting projects — from the sales process to growing our team to advertising and marketing. In addition to our Mind-Body Series of terpene-rich cannabis vaporizers, we are also working on launching our secondary product line, the Flow series. Each vaporizer delivers terpene-rich, naturally flavored cannabis oil with high CBD to THC ratios.
My dear college friend Alaa Alnaji, who is the director of operations at Nuvata, has worked with me side by side from the very beginning. I am grateful for his dedication and the sacrifices he’s made in the interest of the bigger picture. I remember the early days of the business when we were applying for a license. I could have hired a team of lawyers to do this but I wanted to understand the compliance structures and really “own” every part of the process. So I asked Alaa to work with me on the 300-page application which required spending many late nights at the office (after our day jobs). In the end, we did it and were awarded our license based on our own merits. I will always be grateful to Alaa for his tireless efforts at this critical time in the company’s journey.
We face lot of restrictions as far as digital advertising and marketing goes, which is why our focus is on earned media and experiential marketing. In our industry, it is critical for brands to engage with consumers and word of mouth brand awareness. For example, hosting customer appreciation days at dispensaries and retail locations is a very common practice and an organic way to connect and engage with customers. Local and curated events are another fun and personal way to do this. We recently participated in a Pride event hosted at a venue on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles where brands spent time with their customers, talked to them and shared stories. There are a few legacy companies like Red Bull that still invest in this kind of engagement with consumers, but by and large they lose that personal touch along the way.
A lot of the factors that are concerns in the industry at this point in time are also exciting for me in the long term:
1. The ever-changing regulatory environment keeps us on our toes and makes us more nimble and dynamic as an industry. As the regulations continue to evolve, there will be phenomenal opportunities for businesses and entrepreneurs.
2. Another challenge is the highly competitive marketplace that continues to push businesses to stay competitive at the highest level. For example, brands have to compete on multiple levels to get attention from budtenders who ultimately decide which products are sold at a particular dispensary. At the same time, this level of competition ensures that entrepreneurs have a healthy sportsmanship like approach to their businesses.
3. National expansion is a huge challenge currently because you can’t transport across state lines. It’s an incredible challenge to find licensing partners, operators and distributors, all of which is also capital intensive and time consuming. But if you can figure out a way to do it, expansion into other legal markets is where the most exciting opportunities lie.
1. What do you believe in? The best investment you can make is in yourself so make sure to invest in something you truly believe in and not simply because you think it will make a lot of money.
2. What is the need or problem you are trying to solve for? The cannabis industry is heating up and everyone is jumping in with the intent to make money. But if you’re not trying to solve a particular problem or need with a strong strategy and execution in place, you are not going to succeed.
3. What are you good at? When you’re looking to invest in the industry, find out what you are good at and the things that you lack. Bring in people who offer the skills you don’t have. Make sure your team is a force to be reckoned because you are only as good as the weakest link in your team.
4. What channels and partners will you leverage with the budget you have to ensure success? Think about distribution, sales, operations, marketing, branding, PR and advertising; understand how to bind and streamline all these functions together to create an effective ecosystem.
5. Are you prepared for the hard work that goes into succeeding in a highly regulated and competitive industry? This is an industry like no other — one in which high risks will lead to high rewards but you have to ask yourself if you’re ready for a wild ride that it will no doubt be. There will be a lot of obstacles and a lot of no’s. You should ask yourself if you have resilience and patience to get through those challenges.
1. Take the time to connect with your employees and make them feel like they are working toward a bigger cause that will ultimately lead to everyone’s financial growth. Of course, self ambition and career development are vital but ensure that your employees know you care about creating a better future for all of them as well.
2. Structure SOPs, and KPIs to ensure accountability and monitoring. Delegate strategically and ensure you’re involved in decision making in all aspects of the business.
3. While it may be difficult, sometimes you have to be firm and let go of non-performing employees to ensure stability and sustain strong company culture. If you don’t, this will end up being a liability for your business in the long run.
I would inspire a movement of mindfulness, which is also one of the core values of Nuvata. We get so absorbed with our own self-identity and often forget to be in the present moment and be grateful for all that we have. Instead, we focus on the things that we don’t have. We live in an entitled world in which people put on a facade and are not authentic and genuine to themselves, let alone to others. By being mindful, we can transcend to a place of spirituality, love and gratitude.
I don’t personally use social media much but you can follow Nuvata at https://www.instagram.com/nuvata/