Today we had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Cobos, Chief Operating Officer of Dolce Foglia
Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
We come from a pharmaceutical background with multiple pharmacies in Southern California. We produced the bulk of the medications we dispensed to all 26 states we were licensed to service. A few years ago we were asked to make a supplement energy drink for a client in China. Our beverage manufacturer was having issues with executing our flavor, so we reached out to an old family friend, Ed Vanderloo, who has been a professional flavorist for the past 45 years. Ed has worked with many renowned companies, such as International Flavor House & Fragrances, Sanofi, Pepsi Co, Pfizer and Dupont, and he personally holds two international patents for natural sweeteners. So, we sent Ed our supplement drink unflavored and he created the signature blueberry flavor that our client fell in love with.
Fast forward to 2018, there was an opioid crisis and we wanted to get out of the pharmaceutical industry. We wanted to follow a more homeopathic way of treating people’s ailments, thus entering the cannabis industry. After brainstorming many unique business ideas, we decided to get into the niche market of flavoring oils for THC. We wanted to create flavors that were powerful enough to mask the smell and taste of THC. We decided to reconnect with Ed, and asked him how we could achieve this goal. Since Ed had never smoked or consumed cannabis, it was definitely a challenge for him. But, he was excited about the challenge and couldn’t wait to get started! We flew Ed out from New Jersey to Los Angeles and spent the next couple weeks testing his flavors with our products. It was a huge success and Dolce Foglia was officially born.
We had successfully hit the target and nailed the exact flavors we needed to make this venture work. We even went as far as flavoring edibles up to 50mg per piece and our flavors were still able to mask the taste of the THC. That’s when it finally hit us that we were onto something great and couldn’t wait to share it with the cannabis and CBD industries.
We spent the last year building and testing our flavor library of both oil and water-soluble flavors and officially launched March 2020, the exact month COVID-19 became more prevalent. As discouraging as it was to begin with, it actually ended up working to our benefit with having ample time to work with manufacturers and testing our flavors with their products.
We wanted our company name to be unique and to stand out from competitors, so we decided on the name Dolce Foglia, which means “sweet leaf” in Italian.
Our team consists of myself, my two brothers, Max & Levi, my dad, Stephen, as well as Ed, our senior flavorist, and Fabio, our chief of treasury officer.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
After visiting a few manufacturers and working with their staff and incorporating our flavors into their products, their factories ended up smelling like candy factories. This happened because we have higher quality flavors than our competitors, with a stronger smell and flavor from the moment you open up the package, to the first time tasting it.
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?
When Ed got to LA, we spent the first day testing products. Before we knew it, we were all extremely high. Just goes to show how effective our flavors are in masking THC. The lesson is only try one product at a time and wait in between tasting sessions! lol
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes – we were actually just recently approached by a large manufacturer that isn’t currently in the edible business, but we gave them commercial grade samples to taste and that quickly changed. They loved the flavor – they noted that they typically hate edibles because of the taste, but that was not the case with ours. This first impression led to him asking us to help him with formulation, production and best-selling flavors for this company. We are very excited to help accelerate the learning curve and help take him to market with a product he feels proud of.
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?
Because we are a family owned business, we have all worked very closely through and through. We are constantly strategizing together and working on ways to build the brand together. We’ve learned to respect one another’s boundaries and roles/duties, thus being able to efficiently move forward and take on anything as a unit.
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?
We choose to focus on long term and repeat customers. At the end of the day, that’s what matters most – our customers happiness with our service and quality. Our customers’ success is our success, so we go into every project with the same hard working and determined mentality, no matter how big or small the client is. Every customer is valuable.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
- We can be pioneers of this market and help brands large and small.
- That we are the only flavor house that focuses on just cannabis and CBD products.
- Because we’re a flavor house and not first handedly working with cannabis, we don’t have borders that limit our reach. This means we have the ability to do business all over with exclusive formulas, and proprietary blends.
- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google have all openly stated that they will not allow any marijuana-related advertisements. That means no ancillary, or brands can be openly doing it. There are limited amounts of ways to get my brand name out there, and something like this blog is one of those ways. But luckily, a good product speaks for itself.
- Uncertainty about the future of the industry. Even with the wave of support towards the goal of legalization, there is considerable opposition rushing to meet it. But I’m an optimist, and always up for a good challenge.
- This industry has a very high entry cost – not only are taxes and licensing eating away at your profit, you also have to put money into experimenting with product, mainly though machinery and equipment. It’s also not always easy to find the right scientists to work with to ultimately bring your vision to fruition. That’s where we come in with our proven formulas, knowledge of equipment (production), and proprietary blends of flavors.
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.
- Which edible category has the best return on investment?
- Start with the flavor and quality, then move to branding/marketing. You want to make sure your branding reflects your excitement in the product effectively.
- Stay ahead on trending flavors. For example, today’s trending flavor is pineapple habanero. (information found on headset.io)
- Be more aware of seasonal flavors and stock accordingly.
- Take every meeting because you never know what will come of it.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Find employees that are as passionate as you are. You need to find people that love what they do and allow them to open their minds and feel comfortable to share new ideas and new methods to create the best possible products for your company. By getting your employees excited about the product by listening to the people that help in production and considering their advice. Your employees are an extension of yourself so spend the time and effort to find the most passionate and caring of people. We believe in investing in training and education to constantly stay ahead of the competition. You’d be surprised at the new kinds of products that arise from training your employees.
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.
The biggest issue that our country is facing and that’s the opioid epidemic it’s scary how addicting opioids can be and how opioids basically kills your organs from the inside. My idea would be to have a fund to research the use of natural medications such as cannabis and cbd to take the place of opioids. As a family we’ve actually already invested in a cbd company called RED Pill. One of our close friends Gregory S. Smith, M.D. (Pain management Physician) launched it a couple years ago. Dr. Smith’s specialty is pain management and detoxing patients that were addicted to opioids. As we are, Dr. Smith is passionate about his desire to replace opioid use with cbd and other cannabinoid products.
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