In addition to serving as President and CEO at the cannabis producer and holding company Friday Night Inc., Brayden Sutton has been involved with some of the most prominent companies in the industry. We talked to Sutton about his experience in the industry, and how his company sets itself apart.
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
Our company is operated from the top down by cannabis experts and lifelong entrepreneurs. We all wake up in the morning with the same goal and that is to build an amazing company. We are not pre-occupied with selling a stock or with buying everything in sight with our stock “because we can” – a very slippery slope in my opinion. We are building a sustainable business, brick by brick and in only 12 months we have a lot to show for this strategy. We have significant revenue, over $12mm per year already, we own significant assets and cash, we are debt free and we see nothing but upside from here and hopefully decades of growth.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
My involvement in cannabis goes all the way back to 1999 when I was only 15 years old. I was introduced to the plant 2 years prior to that, and by the time I was 15, I was hanging around anyone who grew the plant or extracted its flower, so I could gain more exposure and knowledge.
By 2004, I was suffering from serious medical conditions and fortunately, my family physician at the time was educated on the subject, and I was awarded an MMAR license at only 20 years old. From what I understand, I was the youngest in the country by many years to hold the coveted personal use license, a full decade before the ACMPRs (MMPRs) took the country by storm.
In September of 2008, global markets crashed with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and immediately after that, two questionable pot stocks emerged on the capital markets – the first of their kind. I was the only person in 2009 and 2010 willing to warn people on Twitter and elsewhere of the outrageous market caps of these promotional penny stocks. Since I was infatuated with the markets at the time, this budding new sector had my full attention and I knew it was here to stay.
I’ve always been interested on the educational component of cannabis since day-1. I purchased the Cannabis Health Journal and all of its assets and IP in 2012, and revitalized the first publication of its kind, www.CannabisHealth.com which was founded in 1996 by the former mayor of Grand Forks BC - yet another pioneer - Brian Taylor, known as the “Marijuana Mayor.”
Fast forward to 2013, and a Canadian bioceutical company had changed its name and it too got into cannabis. I immediately started following closely and that caught the attention of Alan Brochstein, a highly regarded CFA out of Texas who has been tirelessly dedicated to the sector since 2013. I worked with Alan as his Canadian boots-on-the-ground for almost a year until I came across a news release of a little resource company called Supreme Resources announcing a move to acquire a 7-acre greenhouse for cannabis cultivation. I became its VP immediately after meeting the team in Kincardine, Ontario, and helped turn that company into Supreme Pharmaceuticals, now known as the Supreme Cannabis Company.
I left Supreme to focus on the merchant banking side of the business as it matured, which ultimately led me to a little-known company called Aurora Cannabis, where I led capital markets for Terry Booth in their earliest days when they were pre-licensed, and no one wanted to finance the company in a meaningful way. Through 2015 many were unsure if this new sector was the real deal or just a short-term trend.
Since then I’ve worked alongside Marc Lustig, another visionary in the space, as he was building Cannabis Royalty and Holdings Corp which became the respected behemoth CannaRoyalty Corp. All of the above are best of breed in their respective arenas and fortunately, I was able to see that in each Company, well before the masses, from an operational and from an investment point of view.
Walk us through a normal day.
A normal day starts with a brief at about 6 am with our VP to discuss any open actionable matters for the day, operational updates and a market update. I then connect personally with the CEO of our three assets, Alternative Medicine Association, Infused MFG and Spire Secure. This is my way of always staying connected and ensuring they know that I am always accessible.
I speak to a number of our individual investors and also connect every day with our IR professional, who I think is the best in the business.
From there, the lion’s share of my day consists of looking at growth opportunities in each of the three companies and what other opportunities exist to bring value to each one, and thus to Friday Night Inc. and its stakeholders.
What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?
The importance of slowing down, zooming-out, and assessing a situation from different angles and not being reactionary or shooting from the hip; realizing that all you can do is your best and practicing acceptance. I have also learned that people and things are what they are and sometimes you need to work around them, not try to force change – to adapt and to evolve with the landscape.
I remind myself that Rome was not built in a day and that if you do the work, eventually it will all happen when it is supposed to happen.
As it relates to cannabis, I think my biggest lesson is that no matter where you go, the people and the processes are the same and that you have to genuinely love the product of the sector you are in. If there is no passion and interest, it’s just work. And life’s too short to not be excited about the work you do.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
The American cannabis market is estimated to be approximately $75 billion per year and right now not a single group or company controls even 1% of that market – that is the opportunity of a lifetime. I can’t think of any industry with that type of potential – now or ever before.
Also, CBD. If you take 10 people, maybe 2 or 3 of them are interested in a THC infused product. A few more might be interested in the extracted product or cannabis itself. However, all 10 people on the other hand would potentially benefit from a CBD product. To me, the real opportunity is in hemp-derived CBD and high-quality CBD branded products.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
What sets me apart is that I will always consider myself a student of this plant and of this business. I recognize that despite being considered an expert by many, my knowledge barely scratches the surface of what I would like to know. Status and ego do not fuel me, and that humility and authenticity with everyone I meet in this sector leaves people with a feeling of trust and wanting to work together. Plus, I always get the job done professionally and on time and I always do what I say I am going to do – no matter what. Complete honesty and transparency mean everything to me – it’s all we have.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
Tourists. The empty suits and the opportunists who couldn’t even spell cannabidiol a year ago. The self-proclaimed experts who so desperately want to be a part of this industry. Every sector has them, but ours seem to be extra phony. I get pitched on a new “groundbreaking, proprietary extraction technique” from someone who is brand new to the very notion of extraction for example almost daily. Too many tourists in this space and it’s very frustrating for those of us who have been around it for 10 or 20 years.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
Get ready for life in the fast lane! This sector moves in dog-years and we seem to be moving quicker in a month most other industries do in a year. It is fun and rewarding, but anytime you’re blazing new trails you need to be able to roll with the punches and adapt in real time.
Find a mentor and find your niche. If you are great within your niche, you will be successful. Specialists usually are.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
Do you love it? Would your grandma love it? Would your little sister love it? Will it be relevant in a decade? Ask yourself those qualifiers first. A hot brand is elusive and often it’s surprising as to what sticks and what doesn’t, but if you remember that quality endures and if you keep it attractive to the masses, then you might have a winner.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
Definitely the continued evolution of a shift away from combusting flower and inhaling its smoke. Cannabis is the only drug on earth that we pull off a plant and light on fire, the same way we did 7,000 years ago.
Less smoke, more vapour.
Less edibles, more drinks.
Less cliché and cheesy, and more presentable and professional.
Less High Times, more Civilized, as an example.
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
I do in almost every form. I take CBD capsules daily for stomach and inflammatory issues, I take a low dose of RSO (30mg THC as Phoenix Tears) orally to sleep each night and I always have my vape pen nearby which is a 98% THC blend with reintroduced terpenes with no PG/VG or MCT oil. Very potent, high quality stuff with no toxic filler. My favorite way to consume would have to be a plain-old joint of a high-THC, lab-tested strain that is new to me while I am out enjoying the outdoors in some form.