When Carrie Solomon and Jody Ake set out to create infused edibles outfit Greater Goods, a serendipitous event would land them in the Portland-based accelerator program called The Initiative. As co-founders and cohorts in the program, the couple built their line of CBD-infused chocolate bars and bonbons while simultaneously connecting with amazing women in the cannabis space. From growth and planning advice to pitching tactics, The Initiative, based in Portland, Oregon, offers female entrepreneurs in the cannabis space a supportive environment to grow their businesses in the consumer goods market segment.
When Solomon and Ake moved to Portland from NYC in 2010, they were looking to de-stress and try something new. The couple met at an art gallery in New York in 2000 and have been working side-by-side ever since. After the success of their first company Leif Goods, Solomon and Ake wanted to extend their reach and deliver a CBD product that is thoughtful, inspired and whimsical. Greater Goods is the result of dedication and years of preparation in numerous creative endeavors and training. “Lately, we work all the time, but we love to go to our favorite restaurants in Portland — food is our hobby,” shares Solomon. When they have some downtime, the two can be found traveling to places full of natural wonder or hanging with their cats. “We have three cats! We are undeniably cat people.”
DOPE Magazine: How did you find out about The Initiative, and can you name a few of the most challenging aspects of the program from a novice entrepreneur perspective?
Carrie Solomon: I worked with Amy Margolis before, both as a lawyer and as a member of the OCA, when the Oregon market was still in the medical era. About a year had passed that we didn’t see each other very often when I walked out of a panel about women telling their truths at the 2018 Cultivation Classic. It was an inspiring hour, and the first person I saw standing across the hall from that door was Amy at her OCA table. I immediately walked up to her and reconnected. She told me about the Initiative, and I knew without a moment’s hesitation that it was something powerful I wanted to be a part of.
The more challenging aspects of the program were around getting so many opinions from different people! Influencers, leaders, business experts … there are so many ways to raise money and strategize that it took a strong point of view on our part to sort out exactly what we wanted and needed for our business. At the end of the day, it helped to clarify our goals and give us a much thicker skin around awareness of our own gut instincts.
What advice would you give to those thinking about embarking on a career in the cannabis space?
In terms of entering the regulated THC space, I would say to explore your tolerance for risk and your ability to handle stress, rejection and financial curveballs. No one should enter this space who does not have a valuable inherent skill that can help alleviate the stress of the business; for example, I am able to design everything from packaging to data stickers to websites, so when rules change, or something new is required, I can act quickly and do it cheaply. Cannabis in Oregon right now is incredibly competitive and challenging, so I would also encourage anyone interested in breaking in to do their research and bring something to market that is incredibly unique since it’s very difficult to stand out and also be lucrative.
The hemp-CBD market is a little different, a little easier to penetrate in terms of the nuts and bolts around attaining space to create things and outlets to sell them, but also incredibly crowded. Do your diligence around a strong point of view, create a great brand, and be ready for some ups and downs since rules and regulations are still not set in stone.
Can you explain how the Initiative has continued to mentor you along this journey now that you have completed the program?
We continue to work with advisors to this very day who we never would have met if not for the program. We’ve been fortunate enough to connect with some amazing women in the space who are generous with their time and knowledge — part teacher, part therapist, part friend!
Part of The Initiative program includes advice and tool building for raising money. Is there one piece of advice that you received that helped propel you in this endeavor that you can share with our readership?
The best piece of advice we received, among many, was not to undervalue ourselves. We began the program looking at raising a bridge round and ended raising much more. What we learned from that is not just how much capital it can take to launch a new brand and engage in multi-state expansion, but also that once you ascend from a start-up, bootstrap mentality into one of the business owners now backed by funding, your perspective on how to operate changes. It’s an important shift to make if you want the business to be wildly successful.
Greater Goods’ packaging is beautiful. What was the branding and packaging process like for your team? Did you work with a designer that you’d like to give kudos to?
I do all of the design work for the brands. It’s hard to describe the creative process, but I will say that we wanted to create a design language that referenced Leif Goods as a connection between the two brands but also wanted to depart from some of the themes in the THC side. Greater Goods is meant to be an incredibly inviting, warm and inspiring brand, so we wanted some eye candy in the form of color and texture in our packaging. We knew that the ombre/gradient theme would be present and so executed with that at the center of everything. The process was pretty seamless and fun.
What is it like working alongside your significant other? Any specific challenges or pieces of advice that you’d like to share for those thinking about going into business with their partner?
It’s great and challenging. It’s a bit like working with a second version of yourself once you get to a certain point in time after doing it for a few years. My husband and I are pretty in sync around the big issues, like strategy, dealing with big bumps in the road, how we want to engage with our employees, and overall company culture. In the beginning, we didn’t have very well-defined roles and often argued about little things. Now, the workload has increased significantly, so we each take responsibility for different things, creating a good dynamic and flow. Ultimately, one person is going to be the dominant force on certain things, so it’s important to be able to recognize and anticipate that to avoid power struggles that could affect the relationship.
What’s next for Greater Goods? Anything coming down the pipeline that you want to share with us?
We just opened our retail space located in SE Portland at 1323 SE 7th Ave Portland, OR., which we’re very excited about. It’s a modest space right in front of our manufacturing area, so you can see where everything is being made, all while enjoying some items that you can’t find anywhere else or sipping on a CBD coffee from the comfort of a communal table with your friends. We are also constantly releasing new products, so in addition to our chocolate bars, we are about to launch CBD versions of our Marshmallow Bon Bons right now and our popping, fizzing candy Dynamites in about six weeks. Also, be on the lookout for a beautiful, clean tincture and a potent topical based on our Wood and Field Balms that we offer under the Leif Goods brand.
There are so many companies breaking into the CBD space. How do you set yourself apart and stay relevant in a market saturated with competitors?
Our approach is to embrace an ethos of joy and optimism through the brand. Many CBD products rely upon a subdued, albeit often beautiful, approach that reads very wellness and beauty product oriented. We want to buck this trend and bring some color and wonder into everyday life. CBD is a pretty amazing, exuberant product in that it can really help people in so many ways, so we want to celebrate it! And we make delicious things that are unique. Everyone deserves a treat. Finally, we’re also committed to using only the cleanest, organically cultivated, full spectrum hemp oil to stay as close to our roots and provide an authentically full plant experience.