HARDCAR Archives - Green Market Report

Debra BorchardtJune 8, 2022
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8min22426

California-based distribution company Hardcar crashed hard as the company was facing a big tax bill and no willing investors. In its death spiral, the company also laid off employees without wages that were owed to them. Yet, the “out of business” company was apparently still making cash drops and deliveries until a co-founder stepped back in to shut the operation down for good.

On The Road

Todd Kleperis founded Hardcar as a way to help cannabis companies move large amounts of cash. The company had security vehicles and relationships with banks and the business was growing. Kleperis though became more interested in another company he was creating on the banking side called Payzel. In order to focus on Payzel, he sold his interest to a group called Apollo. Or so he thought.

Kleperis hasn’t had any involvement with the company on a day-to-day basis for some time and was essentially waiting for the deal with Apollo to close to recoup some of his investment in the company which was hundreds of thousands of dollars. Apparently, an Operating Agreement was never signed which put the deal into question but Kleperis had moved on trusting the buyers would complete the paperwork. The company was on solid ground and he felt that it was in good hands. Apollo had allegedly invested over $300,00 into the company so it seemed like they too were motivated to make Hardcar work.

 

Sinking Ship

Apollo though didn’t like what it saw after spending some time with the company. The new CEO Joe Zerucha was unable to keep Hardcar going and questions were swirling about his management. At one point, there was a rumored deal that Manifest Seven Holdings (OTC: MNFSF) would buy Hardcar, but that never came to fruition. In March 2022, Manifest Seven filed a notice that it was discontinuing the operation of its cannabis bulk wholesale products and finished goods distribution services. The company wrote, “The discontinued cannabis distribution operations accounted for $3.32 million of revenue and a net loss of $2.76 million during the three quarters that ended August 31, 2021.” Manifest 7 is in default on its loans and most recently announced that its President and Chief Legal Officer had resigned. Zerucha confirmed that Manifest Seven would not be a white knight and that the deal was ended in December 2021. 

With no “deal” on the books and a looming tax bill as well, this was apparently what prompted the Apollo group to decide to pull the plug. According to Kleperis, when Zerucha replaced former CEO Salvatore Moccia the excise taxes were up to date and had been paid. Since Zerucha took over, the taxes went unpaid and eventually grew to almost half a million dollars. He was allegedly using the tax money to pay for other items, which isn’t allowed.

 Apollo also supposedly felt the company wasn’t in good shape structurally and was a hodge-podge of cobbled together licenses. The company also supposedly operated for a year without a license in good order – another problem that was bound to get caught by regulators. In other words a hot mess, not worth saving or investing any more money into.

Death Spiral

Without the Apollo money or the deal and a co-founder who believed he was no longer a majority owner, the money wasn’t there to keep the company going. Employees weren’t getting paid on time and the situation was only getting worse. The Chief Operating Officer Morgan Dodson resigned on April 29, 2022, suggesting that the company was operating in a manner that wasn’t legal, which made her uncomfortable. Like Kleperis, she was equally confused as to the ownership of Hardcar. She brought her concerns over operations that weren’t within state regulations to Apollo, thinking the company was a majority owner, only to be told to take it up with Zerucha – that he was the owner. Morgan was not only an early employee, but she also invested in the company. Zerucha was in the driver’s seat, not Apollo.

With everyone jumping ship, employee Blake Villa began informing customers the company was closing and to find a new distributor. Then Villa was let go without pay weeks before his wedding. He took to social media and aired his grievances. Zerucha told Green Market Report on May 18, that there was “significant misinformation in the public space and that Hardcar was not closing down.” 

Understandably, customers were confused. Was it closed or not? One small brand saw its limited inventory held captive by Hardcar. The brand, that asked to not be named, asked for its inventory back from the company that was allowing Hardcar to share some warehouse space. But the company declined and said that was up to Zerucha. The brand said it was asked to send thousands of dollars on an unpaid invoice, but the invoice wasn’t provided. The company owning the warehouse space did not respond to a request for comment.

Zerucha Terminated

Not long after Zerucha insisted the company was still operating, Kleperis stepped back in and terminated his employment. He has also stated that he is returning all inventory to the companies whose products remain and closing every account. Kleperis along with other investors have lost thousands of dollars with the decision to close the company. Accusations of theft, taking money from non-accredited investors, and other misdeeds are being tossed around and lawsuits are a likely outcome. Kleperis claims Zerucha was found to have comingled the client’s money and not deposited customer payments into the company bank account. All major issues are easily documented by the company. Zerucha denies all of the allegations by Kleperis. 

At least the brands will get their products returned, even if they are now once again forced to find another distributor. 

 


StaffApril 20, 2021
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Matt McGinn is the co-founder of Spacestation, a cannabis-infused beverage co-packing company, Fly Beverage Co., and Apollo Distribution as well as Chief Strategy Officer of Hardcar. 

In 2013, McGinn founded Blackeye Roasting Co., which quickly expanded across several Midwestern States in major convenience store locations.

Along with his team, McGinn oversaw the design and buildout of the company’s 30,000 square foot co-packing and cold brew coffee production facility, a coffee roastery, and two cafes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

In 2017, McGinn left Blackeye and joined with Macai Polansky to co-found Spacestation.  Serving as COO, McGinn was instrumental in bringing Spacestation’s first clients to market, as well as helping create Fly Beverage Co. the brand house for Spacestation. 

Pivoting to expand Fly Beverage Co.’s brands, McGinn helped oversee the launch of Nectr, Matts High Soda, and Uncle Arnie’s Iced Tea Lemonade. Nectr and Uncle Arnie’s Iced Tea Lemonade are sold in over 140 Licensed California Dispensaries, with additional plans to launch product lines in Oregon, Maine, Colorado, Massachusetts, and the country of Israel.

 

 GMR Executive Spotlight Interview Q & A:

 

Full birth name: Matthew McGinn

Title: Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer and Product Formulator

Company: Fly Beverage

Years at current company: 14 Months

Most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis: Built a regional CPG coffee Roasting Company, 30k sqft contract manufacturing facility in Saint Paul, MN for beverage retort manufacturing and scaled a CPG business in 18 months into over 3500 accounts before taking an acquisition in 2019.

Company Mission: Simply put, our mission is to make more cannabis beverages (like our Uncle Arnie’s, Matt’s High Soda and Nectr.  https://mattshighsoda.com/) as well as cannabis edibles, more affordable to the daily consumer. We intend to give the traditional market a run for its money!

Company’s most successful achievement: Number 1 fastest selling Cannabis infused Beverage. 152 Retail, licensed Dispensary account pickups in 6 months, with a bootstrap budget.

Has the company raised any capital (yes or no):  700,000 from friends and family

Any plans on raising capital in the future? Aggressively raising 2-4 Mil more

Most important company 5 year goal: Product will be sold in all 50 states, and internationally. This will happen.


StaffAugust 1, 2018
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FINALLY, A CANNABIS SHOW ABOUT REAL PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY PREMIERING ON AMAZON PRIME AUGUST 2nd.

Los Angeles, August 1st, 2018 /AxisWire/ Are people who consume cannabis lazy losers? If you watch most television shows, they typically cast stereotypical stoners like the old Dazed and Confused movie myths. Shows like “Disjointed” on Netflix were rejected by viewers and cancelled after the first season. The Marijuana Show is premiering its third season, August 2nd, on Amazon Prime.

The popular show is like “Shark Tank and The Profit meet Survivor” as nine savvy and engaging entrepreneurs pioneering a multi-billion dollar marijuana industry compete for mentorship and investment. Cast members are put through emotional, physical and professional challenges and one contestant becomes the next marijuana millionaire.

The show is the brainchild of the dynamic duo, Wendy Robbins and Karen Paull, leaders in this movement: “In 2014 we had the idea to look for the next marijuana millionaire… That became our tagline. We bootstrapped the production and two weeks later we had 200 people audition in Denver. The show became a huge hit and a year later we got a million dollar investment to finance future production” said Karen Paull.

Massive mainstream press helped the show be seen by 3 million people and season 2 seen was seen by 7 million and now season 3 is expected to be seen by 10 million people. There is a huge audience for smart cannabis shows especially since over 60% of Americans think cannabis should be legalized. It is medically legal in 30 states. The Hollywood Reporter recently quoted Miner & Co. Studio’s survey results of several hundred cannabis users. 86% are employed full-time and 77% make more than $75,000 a year.

“Our timing to distribute the show now is to help educate and advocate before the midterm elections. We produce our show to stop the stigma, to end prohibition and the futile war on drugs.” said Wendy Robbins, director/producer.

The Marijuana Show was created to end the misguided stigma and the reefer madness myths while educating prohibitionists on the plant’s medical benefits. The show has offered $20 million and now the producers are launching High Finance, a cannabis and hemp equity fund, because of the powerful demand by investors to be part of this growing market.

Who are the contestants on Season #3? The producers held auditions all over the country searching for the Next Marijuana Millionaire. The cast have fascinating and emotional back stories, coupled with unique products or services.

  • Restored Balance’s CEO, Heather Lawrence, a mom of eight children lives in Utah, she created a natural cbd skincare line that has been called immortality in a bottle.
  • Mark Restelli, CEO of Hwy was a professional football player with a career ending injury. He pitches for an investment for the “cliff bar of cannabis.”
  • Jessica Ferranti representing Sesh Technologies has a machine that can roll 450 joints in 2 minutes.
  • Matt Wilson and Nicole Wicker pitch the Oblend, a home dispensary unit that blends the perfect wellness recipe.
  • Lia Conzemius Luz competes to raise money for her hemp farm and products with Lumina Botanicals.
  • Humanity’s, Erai Beckmann’s father died of liver cancer, motivated by love, he and his team created products to help patients.
  • Chris Dell’Olio was building sites with his best friend since he was 14. He is now 23 and is Webjoint’s CEO.
  • Todd Kleperis of Hardcar is a vet who hires only vets to protect cannabis and money.

Mentors include: Bob Hoban and Brent Johnson of The Hoban Law Group, the premier cannabis law group and Bob Eschino, founder of Incredibles. Sponsors include: Incredibles, Hoban Law Group, Reliable Bud, Cannakorp and Vapor Connoisseur.

The show was filmed in Taos, New Mexico with help from the New Mexico Film Commission.

The Marijuana Show (#mjrealityshow) was created and produced by Wendy Robbins and Karen Paull. Release Details:  Episodes 1 – 5 August 1st and episodes 6 – 9 launching in the Fall.  For more information: www.themarijuanashow.com.  Follow on Facebookand Twitter.  A short trailer can be seen here:  Preview of Season 3.  Pictures – http://bit.ly/themarijuanashow Contact: producers@themarijuanashow.com


Anne-Marie FischerJanuary 14, 2018
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HARDCAR Security is a veteran-led organization that leverages the specific skills and talents of ex-military officers for its staff. It provides the cannabis industry with a variety of high-tech services aimed at protecting their cash, cannabis, and people with military-grade security, calling itself a “game-changer” within the industry and it does this with the help of veterans.

The company’s service model was borne from the specific competencies that veterans bring to their services of transporting medical cannabis, and protecting cannabis grow operations. HARDCAR embraces the professionalism and leadership experience from the military and applies it to the high-stakes cannabis environment.

Impacting Veterans Employment

Aside from its goal to become the most high-tech cannabis security service in the nation, HARDCAR aspires to make a positive impact on veterans’ employment statistics and their associated narratives in the country.

The post-9/11 veterans faced a significantly high unemployment rate during re-integration into civilian society, many believing that it was due to the stigma associated with PTSD, with rates being as high as 12.1% in 2011. At this time, veterans were falling behind their non-service professional counterparts in snagging the jobs they were qualified for.

In 2016, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation reported that proactive employment programs like the “Hire our Heroes” contributed to cutting veterans’ unemployment in half.
The end of 2017 showed a decrease in the unemployment rate of the country’s veterans over the previous year from 4.1 in 2016, falling to 3.8%, according to the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

While the unemployment numbers have fallen and show every reason to be positive, underemployment is a different issue. Many veterans are returning to professional life with advanced skills that are hard to find a place for and are finding jobs in which their underutilized, resulting in a lack of professional fulfillment.

Returning To Civilian Life

“It can be very difficult to find your place in the world after serving in the military,” says Aaron Augustis, a former Sergeant and Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army, Airborne, “I experienced difficulty with my transition back into civilian life. I would have uncontrollable waves of emotions that would hit me.”

Todd Kleperis, a former veteran, and founder and CEO of HARDCAR refers to the 8 full-time and 20 part-time employees as “instant coffee”, as they are ready-equipped and highly-trained to get the job done. “Our ‘boots on the ground’ combat experience is essential to our success,” describes Augustis, “Situational awareness, flexibility, adaptability, discipline, focus and motivation and some of the personal qualities that each of our veterans brings to the work.”

“Each canna run or money run is a mission,” Augustis says of millions of dollars of cash and cannabis moved across California by HARDCAR, “Running missions with a purpose of providing safe medicine and knowing that our training and experience can still be put to use in civilian world gives us a sense of purpose again.”

The Everyday Realities of PTSD

Some days Augustis would find himself literally immobilized in fear. He’d be thinking of where he had been serving in Iraq, how dangerous the situations were that he had been in, and the fact that he nearly escaped death too many times. These thoughts replayed over and over in his mind to the point that he couldn’t work, and ended up dropping out of the program he’d enrolled in at a community college.

Augustis’ story isn’t uncommon. Thousands of veterans are returning home with the difficulty of having to reintegrate into the professional world while struggling with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “My bottled-up emotions that I had suppressed in Iraq began to burst out,” Augustus recalls about the time in his life he just couldn’t seem to cope enough to focus on rebuilding his life after combat. Desperate to bring stability back into his life, he looked to medicinal cannabis in his home state of California.

Finding Hope In Cannabis

“By using cannabis, I was able to slow things down in my mind and be more present and stable,” says Augustis, who is now meaningfully contracted within the cannabis industry in California. “I have first-hand experience when dealing with combat-related PTSD and know how cannabis helps. To deprive others of medical cannabis who are experiencing PTSD symptoms is not morally right.”
Now able to cope with the symptoms of his PTSD, Augustis has become a critical link for access to cannabis for veterans. Augustis enjoys a role as Veterans’ Services Liaison with HARDCAR Security, a company providing advanced safety, transportation, and security services to the cannabis industry.

“HARDCAR gives us that opportunity to serve our nation again by providing safe and reliable access to medical cannabis,” says Augustis.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Kleperis states when asked why HARDCAR focuses on veterans’ employment, “We like their attitude. Our employees are happy and are doing something they love. What else matters?”


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