When you first start a business, there’s so much excitement and it seems like there’s no way it could fail. But you will always falter at some point, especially in an industry where half the country wants you to fail. But it’s how you react to those obstacles that defines your success. You have to stay motivated and keep going.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Harrison Baum, the founder and CEO of Daily High Club — the world’s most popular smoking subscription box. Founded in 2015, Harrison’s idea of a “$1 smoking subscription box” immediately saw traction (from a single Reddit post). Today, Daily High Club boasts 430K+ social followers, and high-profile fans including Tommy Chong, Cypress Hill’s B-Real, Chanel West Coast, and more. In addition to its monthly themed boxes (like its popular Tommy Chong box, Halloween box and Pride Box), Daily High Club is also renowned for its fun, high-quality glass bongs. These bongs come in colorful shapes and sleek designs — including its Scientific Bongs, Eggplant Bong, Tank Bong, Champagne Bottle Bong and more.
As a cannabis enthusiast, and someone who has always been an entrepreneur — I was very aware of the cannabis industry as a whole. I knew its unique problems and what customers wanted.
In 2015, there were two big issues in the industry: 1) people were spending too much on smoking supplies, and 2) customers would go to a smoking store and have no idea what they needed to buy.
I was working at a dead-end job at VistaPrint, when I saw an ad for a subscription box pop up on my Facebook feed. I thought “Wow, I could do this for the smoking industry, for just a dollar.” I knew my subscription box would solve both the issue of affordability — with the $1 smoking box — and the issue of ‘not knowing what to buy’ — through a carefully curated box.
I jumped on the idea, created a scrappy website and invested $700 worth of materials. I put up the idea on Reddit and it went viral overnight. That week, I quit my job and started Daily High Club.
This is a true story and still gives me chills. When I first started Daily High Club, and I was working out of a garage in DC — I had written the company goals on my whiteboard. The first goal, written in big letters was “TOMMY CHONG.” At the time, Daily High Club was totally new, it had one full time employee (me) and working with Tommy was a far-fetched dream. I even wrote him letters.
Fast forward just 2 years and we had the huge opportunity to work with Tommy Chong. We were chosen to create a special Tommy Chong box and custom glass pieces for all the guests at his 80th birthday party. It was surreal to see Tommy’s friends and family using our glass — including a massive custom champagne bottle rig we specifically designed for him!
Partnering with Tommy, threw us onto a high-profile stage and other celebrities (including rapper B-Real, Chanel West Coast, and Riff Raff) started to take notice of our huge social following, creative, high-end bongs and boxes.
We stood out as a company that has not only embraced the industry’s rich culture, but also have a keen sense of what today’s marketplace wants.
Originally, we had no budget to hire people, so we relied on free labor from the DC community. People were so excited to get in the industry that they came to pack for free. We had senior citizens, a doctor, a teacher, even an entire frat come once!
At first it was great, but as we scaled it became a nightmare. I learned that I should’ve tried to transition into paid labor much quicker, because it was hard to scale without many real team members.
Yes! Our team is working on an entirely new business called Daily CBD Club. We want to use our knowledge and passion for the industry to help people navigate the dizzying array of new CBD products.
A few months after founding Daily High Club, a large company offered to acquire us, in exchange for its vast amount of resources.
I immediately reached out to my entrepreneur advisor, Harry Geller (co-founder of DHL America), who gave me much needed support and advice.
I knew that accepting the offer would mean that it wouldn’t be my company anymore — but talking to Harry gave me the kind of clarity and confidence I needed. I rejected the offer, and was able to build Daily High Club from the ground up.
Yes! Since we aren’t allowed to use the advertising that traditional companies use, we’ve flourished through creative digital marketing and social media. It is affordable and effective, but requires engagement, malleability and transparency.
Over the years, we have cultivated have an enormous network of top-tier social influencers. We engage with them on a daily basis and know what appeals to them.
We also take advantage of Reddit, a platform I feel that many large legacy companies stay away from.
For example, with almost no budget, we made a video that nabbed #1 on r/videos on 4/20, which is the kind of visibility that huge companies aspire for. It took off because we were honest, transparent, and humorous about our product.
What Excites Me
1. The Opportunity — Cannabis being federally illegal means a “Walmart” can’t come in right now and take over everything. If that happened, I would never have been able to start the world’s largest bong company with just $700.
2. Jobs — While a ton of American jobs are disappearing without replacements, we are living through the birth of one of the largest industries of all time.
3. Inclusion — I think the cannabis industry is extremely inclusive. Cannabis hasn’t been accepted in the mainstream before, so a lot of people from otherwise marginalized communities are coming together to make a change.
What Concerns Me
1. Legality — Cannabis is still illegal in the US and people are still getting put behind bars for it.
2. Big Companies — When it is no longer illegal, big companies will enter the industry. Companies like us will need to hit the ground running to get a sizeable head start.
3. Shutdowns — Last year, without much warning YouTube shutdown a large number of its cannabis related channels. Famous influencers like Silenced Hippie saw years’ worth of videos taken down after being verified on YouTube and receiving plaques from them. As the owner of an e-commerce site that has cultivated relationships with hundreds of influencers — this was definitely a reminder that the industry is still new and vulnerable.
1. The stigma — When people find out you sell bongs for a living, they see you differently. It’s as if I couldn’t get a regular white collar job, or that I’m some kind of criminal. Back in DC, it was extremely tough to date when so many people had security clearances and were afraid to associate with me. I directly lost friends because of it.
2. Nobody is making money — When you are trying to grow a business, you want to put everything back into it to help it grow. It’s a good problem to have, but I started out thinking I’d be swimming in cash after 3 years. It’s even worse for cannabis companies who must pay massive taxes and buy expensive licenses.
3. Shutdowns — While climbing Masada in Israel at 6am to see the sunrise, I got a call that our payment system went down. I had to deal with it on the spot. This also goes for social media accounts. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a team that provides a lot of legitimacy in the industry, so we have gotten them back most of the time — but the terrifying fear of losing everything never leaves me.
4. Failure — When you first start a business, there’s so much excitement and it seems like there’s no way it could fail. But you will always falter at some point, especially in an industry where half the country wants you to fail. But it’s how you react to those obstacles that defines your success. You have to stay motivated and keep going.
5. Never off the clock — It’s so hard to get my mind off work, even on vacations I’m compulsively checking my email. My go-to ritual for relaxing was always to hit the bong, so even that makes me think of work!
Work with people you could see yourself being friends with! It makes work never seem like a chore. If you aren’t around people who enjoy each other’s company, you could burn out fast.
I would love to get more people in the cannabis industry involved in community service, something I’ve always been passionate about.
For two years now, I have attended an event called The Giving Spirit, where we assemble care kits for the homeless. Both years, I was surprised to see that I was the only person representing the cannabis industry.
We’ve started to lead the way at Daily High Club, by creating the first LGBTQ Pride Box, completing a veterans drive and participating in local community events. That being said, we, and others in the industry can still do much more!
You can follow us on Instagram and Twitter @DailyHighClub