Denver-based Medicine Man Technologies announced last week that the company was rebranding itself as Schwazze to bring the business in line with its new vision and strategic focus following a very busy bout of growth last year.
When Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed HB19-1090 into law last year, allowing cannabis licensees to be owned by publicly traded companies, Schwazze started building out its cannabis supply chain through a series of strategic acquisitions.
The company kicked off 2019 with an agreement in January to acquire MedPharm Holdings LLC, an intellectual property development and holding company focused on cannabis research and product development, and days later announced plans to acquire Medicine Man Denver, which operates an indoor cultivation facility and four dispensaries in Colorado.
In June, Schwazze announced its acquisition of outdoor cultivator Los Sueños Farms, as well as Purplebees, an infused products manufacturer and dispensary. The following month, the company unveiled plans to acquire Dabble Extracts, a Colorado-based cannabis concentrate company.
Schwazze closed out 2019 with leadership changes as co-founder Andy Williams became the company’s vice president and chairman, and Dye Capital’s Justin Dye was named executive chairman and CEO.
Now, the company has tied it all together with a new brand name that Chief Marketing & Merchandising Officer Shane Sampson says better reflects the company’s goal of creating a dynamic, innovative culture and brand identity to support its current and future house of brands as it continues to grow.
Here, Sampson shares insight into the new brand, as well as Schwazze’s goals for 2020.
Cannabis Business Times: Why did the company decide to rebrand, and why was the name “Schwazze” chosen?
Shane Sampson: We’ve been [researching and] looking at our brand since last year. As we build out the company, it’s really a house-of-brands approach. We’re a growth company. The brand [reflects] our Three A Light methodology. “Schwazzing” is a technique that was created by our chief cultivation officer, Josh Haupt. It’s the pruning of the living organism to create growth. We thought from an innovation perspective and an unparalleled thinking perspective that that should be our brand as we move into the next generation, the next era of cannabis.
The teams have worked really hard on the architecture of the brand, along with our internal message, our external message [and] how that fits into our omnichannel approach. And we’re doing this rollout in the unprecedented times of COVID. I think it was something that we wanted to signal not only to our associates, but [also to] our consumers and investors, that we’re working hard behind the scenes to serve our customers day in and day out in our retail establishments. We’re out there continuing to do transactions in a different way. I’m not sure anybody knows that the new normal is, [but] we’re doing brand work and continuing to move the company forward. We’re excited about building our house of brands. [The company rebrand] was the first [step in] doing that.
The other thing that we’ve done a great deal of work on is our mission, purpose and vision statements, which support all of this, as well. When you’re building a brand, you’ve got to start with those things, and our mission is really to provide the most trusted products and experience with a focus on helping the well-being and happiness of our people, customers and planet. We’ve cascaded this through our organization. Our purpose out there is to recognize the full potential of cannabis, and we’re devoted to proving its ability to improve the human condition. [We also have a] vision to create the most admired cannabis company in the world.
CBT: What was the overall process like to rebrand the company? What were some of the key steps to launching this new brand name?
SS: You first do research [and] a series of internal and external interviews. We had small working groups on this; after we got our external and internal research done, we had small working groups that started to bring it to life. There were daily video conferences or in-person meetings as far back as October.
You first start with, what’s your vision? What’s your mission and purpose? Then it’s building out the core values—what it means to you and how it ties back to the brand. How is this going to come to life, and how is it going to become real and resonate with everybody? Also, how do you start telling that story internally?
It was a daily process. After the research and [building] out the direction we were going, we had to then go implement it, execute it and tell the story.
CBT: How do you want this brand to be received in the industry, and how do you want it to resonate with consumers?
SS: If you look at our core values, first and foremost, we’re a customer-centric business. Everything is extremely focused on the consumer. We want to be known for being committed to compliance, doing what’s right, [and] making sure that we’re living up to that expectation. We’re an innovative company and always thinking about how to do things in a better way. That’s listening, learning, researching and developing ways to continuously improve, [and] making sure we’re supporting our team. The most important thing to us is our customers and being very customer-centric, but in parallel with that is making sure that we are pulling together a winning team. That’s how we’d like to be known in representing our core values.
CBT: What is the importance of branding in the cannabis industry? Why is it necessary to have a strong brand?
SS: We’re in the early days of branding [in the cannabis industry], and it’s really making sure that you’re creating brands that do what you say you’re going to do. You live up to your promise to your customer, your client. I think if you do that, you’re going to resonate as a brand. How are brands and products positioned? What are you going to stand for and be known for? I think that’s what makes this industry so exciting. We just absolutely love the growth about it and what it does for our consumers, which could be indulgence [or] better health and wellness. Again, we’re in the early days of those things around our house of brands, and we look forward to the future of building all of that out.
CBT: What are some of the company’s shorter- and longer-term goals going forward?
SS: We’re continuing to grow. I think that the secret to growth is a repeatable playbook in Colorado [to] close our transactions that we announced from seed to sale. We’re extremely focused on the state of Colorado. We love the opportunities there. We’re extremely excited about all the capabilities and elements of the company, from retail to manufacturing to cultivation, and bringing all that under one roof. We’re working on repeatable processes to get better every single day. Those are the immediate things that we’re working on for 2020.
Then, where do we go from there? We’ve said openly that we want to continue to grow, and we’re going to look for opportunities to do that, first in the state and then outside of the state. We’re going to make sure that we’re doing what’s right, [that] we’re living up to the expectations that we’ve set out there, and we’re going to make very good, sound decisions around the growth potential.
Behind the scenes, it’s been an interesting time, but the team of people has been working really, really hard. I wouldn’t say it’s business as usual—it’s business as unusual—but we’ll continue to serve our customers, associates and external communities and stakeholders.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.