A longtime supporter of cannabis legalization, Michael Steinmetz is the CEO of Flow Kana, a cannabis producer that works with craft farmers to produce small batch, sustainable products.
What makes your company different from others in the cannabis space?
We take a unique approach in this industry and Flow Kana’s business model is a testament to that. What we’ve seen in other states is the default vertical integration, but we are building a model that builds a healthy supply chain, while also supporting and serving the small farmers and the legacy that they have been cultivating for decades.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
I’ve been a passionate advocate for cannabis for a long time. I grew up in a house where my mother used it for very medicinal reasons and so I always saw cannabis in that light.
In 2010 when California had legalization on the ballot, I realized we were in fact going to see cannabis come out of prohibition in our lifetime. So my wife and I moved to California and began to find a way to build a business that truly adds value, is differentiated in the space and can have a long lasting lifespan.
Because I was exposed to cannabis in the right light from day one, I want to be part preserving that and helping others see it in that way too.
Walk us through a normal day.
In the cannabis industry, and particularly during this moment in the evolution of the space, things are moving so fast. There is no normal day.
For me personally, I am focused on the goals and priorities of Flow Kana and trying to keep our team, of more than 60 people now, moving as a cohesive group.
So much of my day now is less about what I do and more about what I can empower others to do. We are so blessed to have an amazing team of professionals passionate about our mission and vision at Flow Kana.
What has been your biggest lesson about working in cannabis, and in business in general?
In life and business in general, no matter how much work you’re willing to put in or how much you can do yourself, it’s really about the team and family around you. Empowering people to do what they do, let them make mistakes, and setting them up for success is how you win.
In the cannabis space, the deep entrenched values of this agriculture, sustainable community are at serious risk of being lost. What I believe is that we cannot just bring newcomers into the space and only invite them to like, trust and embrace cannabis, but it is critical to also showcase and bring forward the culture, community and people who have been driving this industry forward for generations. We cannot loose that heritage.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity?
Our mission at Flow Kana goes beyond cannabis. We are here to highlight a new model of agriculture.
The future of this industry is less about distributing a product for people to enjoy, but instead bringing community and sustainable agricultural values to light. These are things that have taken humanity a long time to create and embrace and we have a tremendous opportunity to build the cannabis agriculture business in the right way from the beginning.
Cannabis has the opportunity to be such a massive industry with so much breadth and reach from medicine to energy to cosmetics to recreational. As we grow, we have to be sure to bring along those deep values of community and sustainable cultivation practices.
The federal government has a very important role to play in history in the next four years. California is the fifth biggest economy and at the federal level they have a lot of big decisions to make.
I think they will observe how the public reacts to the new evolution of the cannabis industry. If we can show we have a safe, responsible, environmentally friendly, collaborative industry they have no reason to come after the market.
What sets you apart to make you a potential leader in cannabis?
I’ve always admired and seen the best leaders as the ones that lead from behind. Flow Kana was created with the purpose of and intention to serve and add value. We come to the market with the perspective of honoring what has existed - good people and good quality - and remaining focused on what more we can bring forward and create for patients and consumers.
What is the most frustrating aspect of the cannabis industry today?
What would you say to those who are considering investing in your company?
It is really important for our investors to believe in what we are doing and understand why we are doing it before anything else. Our numbers and results speak for themselves and our vision is in building a long term sustainable company and industry. For those looking for a quick flip, we aren’t the right investment for you. Those looking to build a cannabis industry and company that can scale and stand the test of time, are the kind of people we want to bring on to the team.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the cannabis space?
As an entrepreneur, taking your time to really look at and evaluate the space. There are a lot of crazy plans and ideas that are impossible to figure out from the outside looking in. I suggest that people, if they want to build something for the long term, forget about the quick opportunities. Think about where is this industry going to be in three to five years and figure out how you can contribute differently or what do you have to offer to take it there.
For those looking to get a job in the cannabis industry, I encourage you to find something you have a sense of deep contribution to - does the vision of the company align with you? Find alignment to your purpose and day-to-day life.
What are your biggest tips for branding cannabis?
I am a firm believer that branding is really about values. We live in a noisy world and the companies that are hyper-successful in becoming top of mind are clear with who they are and what they stand for. Be authentic, be you and then communicate it from the inside out. If you are clear on what you believe, you will attract customers and shareholders that share those values.
Do you see any big changes coming in the future of cannabis?
Absolutely. If there is anything we know for sure, it’s that the cannabis industry is changing dramatically over the next two years. The massive legislative changes and expected shift in consumer preferences are clearly what will change the course of this industry in the coming years.
Legislation is the first and biggest change at both the state and federal level. The rules and regulations being outlined are dictating how this industry will function. Those changes are transforming the industry in a big way, obviously.
The second biggest thing is around consumer preferences. I would even say that our biggest cannabis consumer group in the future, may not even know yet that they will be cannabis customers. With so much potential for the industry - flower, oils, topicals, edibles - what will the new cannabis consumer like? What will they prefer? How will they prefer to consume?
Do you consume cannabis? And if so, what's your favorite way to consume?
Of course I consume cannabis. My favorite way to consume is the most unaltered form of the plant - smoking a joint.
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