Organa Brands Archives - Green Market Report

Anne-Marie FischerAnne-Marie FischerJune 25, 2019
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6min14380

Like many in cannabis, Chris Driessen is just happy to be doing what he is doing in an industry that he is extremely passionate about. Currently the Executive Vice President of Sales & Business Development at SLANG Worldwide (“SLNG”), an industry leader in branded cannabis consumer packaged goods. SLANG, with its headquarters in Toronto, currently operates across 5 continents, including 10 states in the U.S. SLANG Worldwide has achieved over $250M in worldwide sales, with a SLANG branded cannabis consumer product being sold across the world 1 every 4 seconds.  

Full birth name: Chris Driessen

Title: Executive Vice President of Sales & Business Development

Company: SLANG Worldwide

Years at current company: Driessen assumed the role of Executive Vice President of Sales & Business Development this past January when Organa Brands, for which he was President, was acquired by SLANG International.

Education profile: Driessen acquired a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Relations from the University of North Texas’ School of Journalism

Most successful professional accomplishment before cannabis: Like many, prior to cannabis, Driessen was working in a job that he wasn’t finding personal fulfillment in despite his financial success. He considers his decision to “get out of Dodge” and into a fulfilling career his most successful professional accomplishment. Driessen worked in sales for the hospitality industry, specifically selling coffee machines. “Coffee machines are the thing that everyone has, but no one wants to buy or talk about until it breaks,” he remarked, “I felt the walls closing in around me,” Living in Denver, Colorado, he recognized he had a great thing going on in his own back yard, “I knew cannabis was my passion,” he says. After some soul searching, speaking with his family, he finally decided to make the foray into the cannabis industry where he had the opportunity to “put his skills on display”, and couldn’t be happier with his transition, especially with his recent success with his new role at SLANG.  

Company Mission: SLANG is a portfolio of branded cannabis consumer products that is a leading distributor of cannabis brands worldwide. The company operates on three core competencies: extraction, brands, and distribution. Driessen and his team recognize that within cannabis, there are so many demographics that can be appealed to, with no shortage of opportunity to market useful products to different kinds of people. SLANG seeks to reach all people with branded cannabis packaged goods that meet their needs and their lifestyle.

Company’s most successful achievement:  Driessen attributes the success of SLANG’s ability to aggregate world class brands for distribution into dispensaries over 5 continents, in 17 markets to the people and talent the company has collected.  “What makes SLANG unique is the people that have rallied under the banner of SLANG,” says Driessen, “These people are all hand-selected with a great deal of though into what puzzle pieces are going to fit together well. In putting together SLANG’s brands and the talent that represented them, the company focused on skill sets, and ensuring the individuals that were brought in had skill sets that were complementary to each other as they pursue their core competencies: extraction, brands, and distribution. “Leveraging gifts and skill sets has been what has allowed us to achieve what we have together,” says Driessen.

Has the company raised any capital (yes or no): Yes, although this is not a current focus of SLANG at the moment.

If so, how much?: The fundraising completed, to the tune of $66M CDN was to complement the transactions including acquiring and executing new brands prior to the company going public in January.  

Any plans on raising capital in the future? Driessen explains that SLANG is a company that raises money and uses it judiciously. While the company is nimble and is ready to ride with the twists and turns of the cannabis market, there are no big plans in the imminent future for a capital raise, but “our eyes are open,” he states.

Most important company 5 year goal: “Same thing it is today,” says Driessen, “We know who we are, and we stay in our lane.” SLANG will remain dedicated, now and in the future, to making world-class branded cannabis products. At the moment, SLANG doesn’t have plans to get into retail or create storefronts, “Right now, we’re all about building brand loyalty and brand awareness, and being able to execute that within the market.”

 


Debra BorchardtDebra BorchardtApril 17, 2019
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6min11320

The cannabis consumer is typically characterized as a “stoner” – a lovable, slacker with no ambition wandering around in a high stupor. So, it’s pretty unusual to read the account of a sober millennial working in one of the biggest cannabis companies in the country.  Jackson D. Tilley’s full-time job is the vice president of strategic partnerships and communications for Organa Brands, a vape company that has sold over $100 million in cannabis products.  Somehow, he has found time to write this book Billion Dollar Dimebag: An Insider’s Account of America’s Legalish Cannabis Industry. 

“The book is being published by Post Hill Press, and will be distributed by Simon & Schuster.” It is available now for pre-orders at www.billiondollardimebag.com and it is a true story of being at the right place and the right time for success in the cannabis industry. Tilly started as an intern at O.penVape in Denver Colorado in 2014 just as the adult use cannabis industry began to take off.

O.pen.VAPE is owned by Organa Brands, which just announced the acquisition by Slang Worldwide (SLNG). By logging long hours, massive amounts of travel and lots of hard work, Tilley rose through the ranks to his current position. The book chronicles the changes in the cannabis industry as the stigma quickly fell away, but also highlights the constant challenges that cannabis companies endured along the way.

“Working in public relations for so long, I’ve become fascinated with the ways in which people absorb content and internally assign meaning to it in their own lives,” said Tilley. “You see a lot of people rallying against our industry, repeating the same talking points they were using decades ago. And then, on the other side, you had people who were totally in favor of legalization but still painting the industry and community as a bunch of burnouts.” Tilley said he was motivated to write the book because his experience within the industry wasn’t something that those outside the industry saw. Primarily – really brilliant people taking risks with their careers to advance the cannabis industry.

Sober In Cannabis

Attend any cannabis event in a fully legal state and you will inevitably be offered the product to consume. Corporate events are  known to give the product away for free in gift bags and cannabis is easily accessible. Imagine being sober in this environment. Tilley said that was another reason why he wrote the book, “I’m sober and gay and work in the cannabis industry and that combination is pretty rare,” he said.

However, ask any person working in corporate cannabis and they will tell you how the hours are long, very long. People will often approach a cannabis executive and suggest how awesome it is to work while getting stoned all day. Many will say, if I got stoned all day I’d never get anything done.  It is close to impossible to build a solid company if you spend the day stoned.

“I think sobriety is becoming a more interesting topic to a new generation of people, and I wanted to develop a piece of writing that really illustrates the notion that you don’t need to consume cannabis to fully support its legalization,” said Tilley.

Why Do You Need This Book?

If you think you don’t belong in the cannabis industry, this book could change your mind. Tilley said he’s hopeful that people will read his book and find that working at a cannabis company isn’t like working for a drug dealer. He believes the book is helpful for people both outside and inside the cannabis industry.

Tilley said, “For me – company culture is everything. If you have solid core values for your organization, and you stick to them at every decision point, you can succeed. You can retain talent. You can make sure everyone is working toward a common goal. You might be able to have a successful company without that culture–but what might it cost?”

According to The Hollywood Reporter Simon & Schuster will distribute in hardcover and e-book format, while Tilley has also struck a deal with Audible for the audio rights to the book with Tilley on board to narrate. The book is expected to hit the shelves on September 17.


Video StaffVideo StaffMarch 5, 2019

6min18150

Recorded at the Accelerate Cannabis event in Newark NJ.

Debra Borchardt, Editor, GMR

Slang and Organa Brands just recently did a merger/acquisition. How is it?

Chris Driessen, President, Organa Brands

Oh, it’s been great. It’s been great. It’s been an absolute dream come true. So Slang acquired Organa Brands, so now we’re part of Slang, and it’s been awesome. Our partners, Billy Levy and Peter Miller are great capital markets guys, a lot of experience coming out of Canada, plugged in with us, obviously on the cannabis distribution side, and so far it’s been a match made in heaven.

Borchardt: Now, Organa was already killing it. You guys did over $100 million in sales since 2014, so already a really strong company. What is Slang going to do for you at this point?

Driessen: You know, the ultimate reason we decided to go public and move forward with the transaction, when you looked at what was happening in Canada, and the multiples on these businesses, we really had an honest conversation between myself and my partners to say, “Gosh, we could run the best cannabis business in the world, and you’re just not going to be able to keep up with what’s happening in the public markets.” It was also something that gave us a lot of trepidation, because it’s something we knew little, if nothing, about. So we wanted to identify who was likely going to give us the best opportunity at success in that world. We were very confident, obviously, in what we do, and getting merged up with the partners we did, and Peter and Billy, as I said, it’s just been … it’s been great. It just allowed us really to capitalize yourself to execute on a strategic growth plan and continue expanding our empire.

Borchardt: And, you just signed a deal with Trulieve which is going to get you guys into Florida. So, this seems like a really great combination, because Trulieve already their flag planted in Florida, and you guys have the product, so …

Driessen: Yeah. They are the 800-pound gorilla in the room in Florida. They have, according to the Department of Health, a 60+% market share. And as you know, we go and we really do a lot of due diligence in vetting on our partners when we want to enter into a relationship, and over time it was just clear that their culture, their vision for the Florida market, the infrastructure, just the passion they share for bringing products to the patients in Florida really aligned with what we were trying to create. So it just seemed like a great fit, and over time I think that’s going to bear itself out.

Borchardt: So, do you have any new products on the pipeline, for Organa?

Driessen: We do. We’ve got a lot of fun stuff lined up for this year. One of the newest things that we’re going to be releasing is actually the week after next is the new reiteration of our reserve line. It’s a botanical and terpene-based value-based cartridge. Craft Reserve does great cannabis-derived dominant market share in pretty much every market we’re in. What we’ve identified is that there’s a huge section of the population out there that, you know, wants a quality product at a great price. So being able to provide that to patients and consumers everywhere is something we hold near and dear to us, and I feel really good about it. It’s a winner of a product.

Borchardt: Absolutely. With taxation so high in so many places, it’s really important for the cannabis companies to recognize that for the consumers that are already going to have to have this added expense on top of their purchase.

Driessen: Yeah, no doubt about it. We spend a lot of time segmenting out our products into different tiers, and then obviously doing different pricing segmentation within those tiers. But it’s all about the business of how do I match you up with the best product for what your individual situation is, and we do a pretty good job of that.

Borchardt: Alright, well, I’m excited. I can’t wait to see this new reserve product.


StaffStaffJanuary 28, 2019
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6min57410

“When a brand is so successful that its name becomes ubiquitous with the product (Kleenex / facial tissue), it becomes “Slang” for the product,” said Peter Miller, CEO of SLANG Worldwide. “We are aiming high for our branded products, and their names will be slang for their categories.”

Slang will be going public this week on Tuesday on the Canadian Securities Exchange in an IPO with an implied market value of $541 million using the ticker SLNG. The company was previously known as Fire Cannabis Inc.

Slang is a combination of National Concession Group, better known as Organa Brands and Firefly vape pens. Organa is based in Denver, CO and is best known for its product called O.penVAPE. In addition to the O.penVAPE line, Organa makes the Magic Buzz cannabis beverages, District Edible gummies and a line of dab products called Bakked.

The real key to the company though is Organa Labs, the part of the company that houses its custom extraction process. The company earns royalty payments through its ability to turn other company’s cannabis products into premium vape pens.

Organa’s revenue for the nine months ending September 30, 2018, was $11,699,259  versus last year’s $8,820,455 for the same time period. Total operating expenses for those same nine months was $4.3 million in 2018 versus $4.6 million in 2017. The company reported net income in 2018 of $4.7 million for those nine months. The O.penVAPE brand is the highest selling brand in Colorado with over $170 million in retail revenue generated since 2014.

SLANG is paying upwards of $200 million for Organa, but Billy Levy, the President of Slang said he considered it more of a merger than an acquisition. Levy and Miller decided that the licensed producer side of the business wasn’t a place for big growth in the cannabis industry. They believe that brands and distribution will be the key places for growth. Organa was the way for them to accomplish this goal.

Miller and Levy are very experienced when it comes to LP’s. The two co-founded Mettrum Health, which was acquired by Canopy Growth Corp. (CGC)  for $430 million. Levy co-founded Virgin MEGA with Sir Richard Branson which was acquired by Nike (N). Miller is also the CEO of Agripharm.

As they built Mettrum, Miller and Levy said they came across Organa. The two companies developed a mutual respect for each other ’s businesses. Organa went from selling its products in Colorado to its current count of ten states. Mettrum was sold and Slang became the new plan. “Our goal was to acquire great brands and pair that with distribution,” said Levy. Organa became a founding partner in Slang.

In addition to the Organa acquisition, Slang is also acquiring NWT Holdings, which is also known as Firefly. This is a dry material vape pen that competes with PAX. Miller said he was most impressed with Firefly’s co-founder Mark Williams who was a design manager at Apple leading the Mac OS X interface. “His design expertise is truly blue chip,” said Miller. “We want to leverage his expertise of industrial design across the whole portfolio as well.” He said that the next generation of Firefly vape pens is going to occupy a super-premium segment of the market.  Firefly will also be launching its own oil products this year.

The purchase price for Firefly is $16 million,  50% in cash and 50% through the issuance of approximately 7,450,870 shares issued at a deemed price of $1.50 per share. The company reported $3.1 million in revenue for the nine months ending September 30, 2018, but reported a net loss of $440,000 for that time period.

Slang will also have the right of first refusal to license the Green House Brands, which includes the Green House Seed Co. and Strain Hunters. The Green House Seed Company has produced over 60 award-winning cannabis strains and was founded by Arjam Roskam.  Green House also holds an exclusive master license to Strain Hunters, a series of documentaries centered around the quest for preservation of the cannabis plant, and the series has co-developed documentary series alongside HBO, VICE, and National Geographic.

Following the successful completion of the acquisitions, it is expected that Slang will expand the businesses of Organa and Firefly as a branding and marketing company focused on developing reputable brands and quality hardware products.

 


Debra BorchardtDebra BorchardtApril 4, 2018
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3min17890

The incredibly successful private cannabis oil company Organa Brands was co-founded by Ralph Morgan, who has decided to leave and focus on his new wellness venture. Morgan, not only helped start Organa Brands, but he also founded Organa Labs, the longest licensed cannabis extraction facility in the U.S.

Organa Brands does over $100 million in sales annually and sells one of its products every four seconds around the world. Morgan served as Chief Executive Officer of the company at one point and helped steer it to the juggernaut it has become. However, his passion has always been focused on wellness and he is now taking the time to get back to what he loves.

The new venture will develop CBD and full spectrum hemp oil products for retail channels, as well as support clinical research for the use of cannabinoids to address pain management, seizures, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and opioid addiction.

“This industry is not just an entrepreneurial opportunity, but a massive social movement which I am so proud to be a part of,” Morgan said. “I am beyond excited to continue carrying the torch for this movement as I develop a new business based on cannabinoid science to manufacture wellness products. Organa Brands is my life’s work and has become a shining example of what is possible when friends collaborate on something bigger than themselves. I’m so proud to be known as someone who enacted great social change through this vessel.”

Morgan will continue to serve on the Board of Directors at Organa Brands. In addition Organa’s board, he will also serve on the boards of several cannabis-centric initiatives that focus on medical research, distribution, and brand-building. Morgan holds board seats with The Levitt Pavilion, and The Growing Hope Foundation; he also serves on the advisory board for Timeless Herbal Care. Recently, Morgan has turned his attention to consulting health clinics on the medical applications of cannabinoids for the treatment of PTSD.

“Ralph has contributed immensely to the success of our business, and we wouldn’t be sitting here today without his imagination and drive for what this business has become,” said Organa Brands President, Chris Driessen. “He is a trailblazer in the cannabis industry, and a pioneer for the medical applications of cannabis. While we will greatly miss his presence in the day-to-day operations of the business, we wish him success in the next chapter of his career.”

 



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