“It’s a boom town,” says entrepreneur Richard Huang, describing the legal cannabis industry, “but it’s not a gold rush, where just any fool can strike it big.” As co-founder of the vaporizer company Cloudious9, Huang has picked out his niche, putting time and effort behind the vaping trend. He is one of the plethora of professional financiers, scientists, retailers, inventors and entrepreneurs jumping into legal cannabis, which last year surpassed sales of $6B .
Entrepreneurs continue to find a variety of new opportunities in the evolving industry and one of the fastest-growing is marijuana-infused edibles. Bethany Gomez, Director of Research for the cannabis-focused market research firm, Brightfield Group, estimates that edibles sales will reach nearly $1.6 billion in 2017 and as markets mature, they will increase as a percentage of the total market, “reaching more than 25% of total sales in several states.” Offerings in the sector have moved far beyond the stereotypical “pot brownie” to infused beverages, candies, tinctures, and cooking ingredients.
An important public health benefit of legal cannabis is that it is tested for potency, pesticides and other chemical aspects. Accurate product testing offers an enormous opportunity for small businesses because dispensaries and patients want safe consistent products says Will Waldrop, CEO of Signal Bay, Inc., a medical cannabis consulting service. “As demand for cannabis grows, so will product manufacturers’ need for accredited lab testing services,” he said.
For those who prefer a marijuana-adjacent business (which avoids the rules and regulations that come with “touching the plant,”) Lauren Siegel, Marketing Manager of BloomBoss, a designer of high-efficiency LED grow room lighting and accessories advises entrepreneurs to target home cannabis growers. Building a home grow “requires an initial investment of anywhere from $800-2500 in equipment,” she said, and each new legislative session and state legalization brings in new customers. “The opportunity adds up fast,” she said.
Information to accompany new products and uses is another critical area that offers business opportunities. Matei Olaru, CEO of Lift, a Canadian cannabis media and technology company said that putting the right data, instruction, or knowledge in front of consumers, sellers and medical professionals is a need that entrepreneurs can fill. “Decades of misinformation has been perpetuated by prohibition,” said Olaru, “As the number of legal cannabis consumers increases exponentially, so will the opportunities for information and media companies,” in print, video or on the web.
It’s a great time to be a cannabis entrepreneur said Huang, whose company Cloudious9, sells a vaporizer with a built-in water filtration system. “You can differentiate yourself more easily than you can in a mature market,” he said. “But you’ve still got to know about the product, about business, and be passionate.”
by Julie Weed