“We are who we are. We use what we grow and manufacture. We willingly and eagerly share our experiences with anybody who is willing to chat.”
–Serge Christov, financial partner of Honest Marijuana Company
Serge Chistov is the financial partner for Honest Marijuana Company, which utilizes all-natural cultivation methods to produce only the finest organic and eco-conscious cannabis products. Serge is well versed in all aspects of the marijuana industry having been involved in the development and launch of Honest Marijuana Company and regularly provides advice and commentary on cannabis product and technology trends, financing/investing, political environment and much more. Honest Marijuana Company’s recent innovations made with their own patented Nanobidiol™ Technology include THC capsules and Hemp Theory full spectrum hemp oil extract tincture, infused honey, gummies, and pain relief cream.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry?
First, I find a great deal of excitement in the increasing amount of passionate people working in the cannabis industry. That is definitely exciting to me. Second, the sheer idea of an industry of this size coming from the dark side or coming from the black market into the open is not something that happens very often in our lifetime. Third, it is so fun to observe how the patterns of consumer behavior are changing nationwide as cannabis becomes available in other parts of the country. It is so intriguing how quick and fast this industry still communicates through the legal and underground channels. There are passionate followers in the states that have not legalized cannabis. They are more or less aware of what’s coming, what’s going on, and what’s going to be available. So that’s fascinating, quite frankly, because there’s still that camaraderie as some kind of societal behavior patterns of the underground society translate into the more corporate structures. It’s fascinating to observe; it’s very unusual.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about this industry?
What I find most concerning about the industry is the unpredictability of the federal regulations. There are still unknowns for banking, the IRS, and how they look at us. From the manufacturing side, there is also the inconsistency of packaging, compliance, and regulatory framework or the ever-changing inconsistency. This is like sticking Jello to the wall- virtually impossible to do every time. You think you are successful and you finally have your product. You end up re-doing the packaging because there’s a new regulation and it now needs to be not just child-resistant, but child-resistant and re-sealable child resistant. It’s very painful to do and challenging to keep up with.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Nanobidiol™ is the trademark name for the technology that we have received a US patent for.
Honest Marijuana Company is currently working on a nano-cannabinoid technology that will deliver cannabinoids in a time-released fashion.
Nanobidiol™ Technology is unique in that it nanoencapsulates each hemp cannabinoid molecule to make it much smaller. This in turn makes the molecules much more water-soluble, which increases their bioavailability and efficiency of the delivery of cannabinoids into the human body. That’s extremely fascinating to us because it’s very new. Not many people have had experience with cannabinoids of that form, of that purity level, and the early tests show tremendous results. In comparison to other forms of consumption, this technology allows for a quicker, cleaner, and more efficient delivery.
This is interesting and worrying at the same time, because as a manufacturer, obviously, we would like to produce more. But now, science clearly shows us, that in the right form, you don’t even need 10% of what you think you do to obtain desired results on either the THC or CBD side. This is the most recent development in that part of our business.
Can you share 5 questions that one should ask in order to successfully invest in the cannabis industry?
With any investment you make, you need to look at the dollars and cents. Does the company make money, do they have sales, and do they have debt? Take a hard look at the books. You need to also understand who the players are and the longevity of their position in the company. What are their goals? In today’s world, people often come into the industry for the short-term play- build something and then try to sell it. So you need to understand their agenda and the outlook of their people. This applies to any type of company. You’d like to know that your partners will invest for the same time as you looking to invest. How are licenses maintained? What is the potential competitive landscape? It is almost like a political risk where you’ve been warranted 100 licenses in a market like Nevada, let’s say, and now there is a rumor that 300 more licenses will be appearing so that takes a bite into the investment structure, its profitability, and so on. I think that grow methodology is important to understand because I think the market is shifting more towards cannabis produced in a healthier way rather than just cannabis. So people need to be able to adapt to it going forward. I would say do the regular due diligence that you would do for any business. You just kind of look at the nuances in terms of the permissions, licensing regulations, and business plan in relation to adapting to such regulations.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Listen, I’ve been a user of cannabis since I was an early teenager. I smoked cannabis in four different continents, and consider myself a knowledgeable, experienced consumer. So for me to get across a formulation (Nanobidiol™) that would be a couple of milligrams of THC, which was able to get me to the point of a change, altered consciousness, I did feel the presence of the cannabis in my body, while looking at the packaging and thinking, there’s no way. There’s no way I will feel it in any other shape or form. That was the moment where my brain was partially acknowledging and fascinated by this discovery while the other part of my brain almost until now, was still questioning. Did that really happen? There’s no way! I think that is probably one of the most interesting moments in my personal life related to the cannabis field.
However, as far as the business is concerned, we are very excited that we will be able to share it with the consumer and actually recreate a similar to smoking effect without people smoking, without combustion, without actually dealing with a sticky messy substance and still providing them an access to that feeling that today only is available through smoking. And most of this experience is today attained only through the unhealthy, old-fashioned delivery mechanism of combusting large amounts of cannabis to deliver it into the bloodstream. So for us being able to address this as a challenge, it’s really exciting to anticipate how the consumer will actually like, what we are preparing and it’s an exciting time to be in the cannabis industry right now.
We believe that we’re going to roll out the fastest integratable pill on a THC market in Colorado by the end of the Q3 this year, right before the holidays. We expect by the end of the Q3 beginning of the Q4 to have a mint like preparation, which is a fast disintegrable pill, which will give a micro dozing of five milligrams of active THC per fill, almost in an instantaneous fashion, and we believe to start in Colorado probably by the end of October.
Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I am sure that mistakes were made and I am more than certain that we continue to make them now. And you know, there was not a lot of information about the industry. It was very limited- a lot of people holding their secrets and the info and the news close to the head chef. So they don’t have to you know, they can everybody believes that what they’re doing is extremely unique and will be the only way people will consume cannabis that makes it very interesting and exciting but really nobody shares much.
So the mistakes were made by originally over concentrating on the cultivation. We thought that by growing the plants in the most organic and healthy fashion, it would motivate the consumer to switch. We basically overestimated the education of the consumer when we were starting out in the industry. I think consumers at that time only knew two numbers which were the price and the THC concentration or the potency. They were looking to get the lower price with the higher THC concentration and that was their formula on how they were buying cannabis.
We thought consumers in Colorado would be more in tune with the organic nature of the plan. No pesticides, no gross accelerators, all plant-based nutrients, and everything was presented to make this product as clean as it possibly can be. Customers would tell us, your weed seems to be too expensive and we don’t know if we want to buy it in the nitrogen preserve container because we cannot touch it. So it was a lot of re-education on our part and I think today looking back I probably would have gone about it differently. But I’m very glad that we held our ground and actually kept our positions and maintained our preservation and strategy techniques. And today, the market is finally understanding it. So, I don’t think it was a mistake. I think the timing issue was more the issue. Yes, the time and effort that was spent on creating something that was too early for the market. I would recommend for anybody who’s going into the business to try to be a little bit more current. It’s cheaper and way more beneficial this way.
This industry is becoming young, dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
Quite frankly, our advertisement opportunities are way more limited due to the industry specifics. I wish I could tell you that we have some magical formula for the advertising. We do a very good job with SEO on our website. The Honest Marijuana website gets close to 750- 800,000 unique visitors each month. That’s a huge number.
In addition, our blog is one of the top ten blogs in the universe and that’s including Leafly High Times. We wrote about the subjects that we found interesting, edgy, and persistent. Then, optimizing the good content. That was our formula to bringing us to where we are now. Content and an explanation of the certain parts of the industry where we saw the interest difference between the organic and non-organic preparation, perishability, preservation, clean and growth, processing all of this topics were discussed for many years and we found that they bring a lot of readers, a lot of customers, a lot of comments. So this is what we’ve done right.
My recommendation will to do the due diligence and find out your niche angles to be visible and be able to break above the noise- because there is a lot of it in any industry not just in cannabis and be true to what you do. Don’t write one thing and do the other. Stick to your guns and try to grow an authentic business- something that you believe in and that your users will believe in it just by default. It becomes a reality and that’s really I think what separates Honest products from some other products on the market.
We are who we are. We use what we grow and manufacture. We willingly and eagerly share our experiences with anybody who is willing to chat.
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?
I’m thinking of the person that is the hardest-working, hands-on person and the guy who gets up early in the morning and goes to bed late at night. The guy that takes no days off and works based on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. Obviously, that is Anthony Franciosi, the head grower and the guy behind the brand; behind the actual every day operation of Honest. He’s the guy with the golden touch and dirty fingernails. He actually knows his soil and knows his plants. He has a crew. I’m not trying to make it sound like he’s done it all by himself. It was a crew and the tight crew of very passionate people that can work 80 hours a week. And if something were to happen on Sunday, they show up by 7:00 in the morning doing what needs to be done. It’s a privilege and a joy to be able to share the market place where the people that are as passionate and as hard-working and able to show up as Anthony and his crew.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Be clear about the goals of the company. Make sure that everybody understands their role. I guess there are different ways of managing, mine always was to make sure people have a goal that they agree with the entire team and they’re working towards that goal which is a part of the company’s success. Then it becomes easier to convey the ideas or to motivate people to make an extra step. I also believe that we are lucky and privileged to have quite a tremendous number of passionate people. Passionate people are not always square, corporate material, some of them are passionate because they are free artists. It’s important to let them to use what is it that they naturally and normally do while adjusting it and bringing it into the world of business.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Right now, the one thing that stays in front of me is I would like to educate people on the fact that they do not need to smoke in order to be able to enjoy cannabis. Smoking still is a predominantly widely used way of consuming cannabis. I am a former smoker. It is my own personal challenge dealing with nicotine, cigarettes and smoking of the cannabis. So I do believe that it is an old, inefficient and very dangerous due to the combustion and the rest of the unknowns that we consume to get to the benefit we’re looking for. I think my mission right now in the short term and will be considered to be a big success for me personally will be to educate a consumer on the fact that he doesn’t have to know that there are other options. That would be a huge beginning step to start changing the mentality and the attitude and maybe not of this generation, but the next one that is way more conscious about what they putting in their system, how they treating their health their longevity, etc. I do believe that that would be the most rewarding success story for me.