In this interview, John Rowe shares his experiences running multiple businesses and his deep background in plant cultivation.
Beyond his natural affinity towards horticulture and his university-acquired knowledge, John has learned a lot from running a business in the cannabis industry. In this interview, he shares his experiences, challenges, and opinions with us.
When you were studying horticulture back in university, did you ever think you’d be owning and operating a hemp farm?
The short answer is, absolutely.
When I studied horticulture in university in the early 2000’s, cannabis wasn’t legal yet. Nonetheless, I’ve always dreamed of owning and operating a hemp farm, and that’s what led me to study garden cultivation and management.
I guess you could say I had some foresight since the industry is booming now.
A Leader In More Ways Than One
As your business is family-owned, how does your role as a COO differ from other COOs in the cannabis space?
For starters, all of my business meetings take place among myself and my wife. We make a great team, and it’s been wonderful running a business with someone so close.
However, as opposed to most COOs, who have a clear distinction between their personal life and their work life, the line is completely blurred for me. It’s definitely a challenge to separate business and personal matters.
What lessons do you try to teach your kids through the work that you’re doing and running your own business?
I think the best word that encompasses all of the lessons we try to teach our children is stewardship. It’s an important part of life, and our ability to take care of the things around us and to maintain our land and nature is the way we can make the world a better place.
It gives me and my wife so much pleasure to watch our kids tend to the land and gain hands-on experiences, like seed planting.
I think the best word that encompasses all of the lessons we try to teach our children is stewardship.
Learning From Experiences
You’ve spent several years running your own businesses in other industries, including remodeling and tiling, what challenges do you think are unique to running the operations of a business in the cannabis space?
Cannabis is unique because of all the regulatory uncertainty. Since it’s an evolving industry, cannabis businesses need to be agile and adapt to the fast changing regulations.
Also, advertising is limited in scope because of the business type. This is quite challenging as we have to figure out creative ways to reach potential customers and grow our customer base without conventional advertising.
What is the biggest risk that you have taken as COO so far?
The biggest risk was taking that first big step to kickstart our farm. I quit my day job in the spring of 2019 to pursue farming full-time. It was a huge risk, and I recently returned to working at that day job. Nevertheless, the cannabis business is still an important part of my life and a rigorous side-hustle.
What has been your biggest operational challenge since the start of 2020?
When we started in 2019, we had a really effective marketing strategy. We did pop-up events at local bars and markets, engaged customers through face-to-face marketing, and gave lots of interested consumers their first cannabis exposure.
We moved the numbers up, I must say.
But with the start of the pandemic, all public gatherings came to a stop, and our marketing strategy needed to completely pivot.
With the start of the pandemic, all public gatherings came to a stop, and our marketing strategy needed to completely pivot.
If you had all the resources you could ask for, what is one strategy or solution that you wish you could implement to better grow your business?
Cannabis can lose its potency over time, so it would be great to freeze-dry everything I harvest so it can maintain its strength for longer periods of time. It happens to be that many businesses freeze-dry their products well, which makes it harder to distribute produce to a far-reaching market. I think strategy could make our product really stand out among our competitors.
With the right resources, I would also like to offer harvesting, cleaning, and drying services to other cannabis businesses.
As an operations leader in the cannabis space, what advice do you have for someone who is interested in taking on an operations role in your industry?
Don’t be blindsided by the financials and the goal of maximizing profits. The true reward for working in this industry is the ability to help others. That’s what the cannabis business is really about.
Don’t be blindsided by the financials and the goal of maximizing profits.
Do you have a personal motto that you live by?
Not really. More of a philosophy of trust.