Pursuing Fresh Ideas in the Cannabis Industry with Zane Witzel (Cannador)

Episode Description

Join us on the Kaya Cast Podcast for a discussion with Zane Witzel, the founder of Cannador, about his journey of creating a cannabis humidor. We also cover the basics of cannabis storage, humidity levels and terpene profiles to keep your weed as fresh as can be.

Together, we'll explore what it takes to grow a successful cannabis business and why you need to put blinders on and focus on pursuing your passions in business. Zane has built a successful internationally focused cannabis company, with products featured in top retail locations including Bloomingdales.

Entrepreneur and cannabis enthusiast Zane Witzel founded Cannador in 2014 to help keep cannabis fresh and organized. He acquired US Patent Nos. 7,892,327 and 8,211,209, formerly owned by a cigar accessories company to regulate humidity in humidors and then rebranded to VaporBeads in order to serve both the cannabis and tobacco industry.

Today, Cannador products can be seen on shelves from small boutiques to major retailers like Bloomingdales. He received his bachelor's from Pepperdine University in 2009, and MBA from the Drucker School of Management in 2012, and currently resides in Savannah, GA.

Find out more about Cannador at:

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Episode Transcript

Tom Mulhern: One of the things that's often overlooked in cannabis is storage. Where are you gonna keep all of your fresh product that you just picked up from your local dispensary? You know, a lot of people will put it in an old lunch box or maybe in a shoe box underneath their bed like we did in high school.

Well, Zane Witzel had founded a company called Cannador, which is built to solve this problem of cannabis storage, cannabis quality, cannabis freshness and even organization of your cannabis, all in a Cannador. So that's a humidor for cannabis specifically. And on the show, Zane and I get into what sort of humidity levels you need for your cannabis to keep it fresh and to keep the cannabinoids and terpenes fresh as well.

There's a certain humidity level that's different than cigars or tobacco that you have to have for your cannabis to keep it fresh. So let's jump into this conversation with Zane, and I'm really excited to share some of his knowledge and insights into how to have a better longevity to your cannabis products

Tom Mulhern: Zane Witzel is the CEO of Cannador, a premium storage brand that focuses on functional design and balanced humidity for the home. As an entrepreneur and cannabis enthusiast, Zane founded Cannador in 2014 to help keep cannabis fresh and organized.

He acquired US Patents formally owned by a cigar accessories company to regulate humidity in Humidors and then rebranded as Vapor Beads in order to serve both the cannabis and tobacco industries. Today, Canada or products can be seen on the shelves from small boutiques to major retailers like Bloomingdales.

He received his bachelor's from Pepperdine University in 2009, an MBA from Drucker School of Management in 2012, and currently resides in Savannah, Georgia. So Zane, welcome to the show. It's so wonderful to have you on here all the way from Savannah, Georgia. How are you doing?

Zane Witzel: Thank you. Thank you. I'm doing well.

Tom Mulhern: So Zane, tell me a bit about your background and how did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

Zane Witzel: Originally I wanted to go into entertainment and that's what I went to Pepperdine University for. I got into their telecommunications program because they have one of the best. In the nation as far as TV goes. So I wanted to do, you know, live tv, live to tape. I was enamored with sketch comedy, so I thought, you know, I wanted to go do something in Comedy Central that was like my dream cuz I love sketch comedy so much.

And I wanted to go on the production side, so I wanted to be a producer. And that was going great for the first couple years I was in this program, I loved it. I got an internship in Hollywood and I, I began working right after college in Hollywood at a production company on the Paramount Picture Studios lot.

So, I thought, you know, my general progression here was moving in the right direction as I originally thought it would. And then this was around 2008, 2009, the great financial crisis. Hit and really froze any kind of project that we had in the pipeline at this small production company.

I became so disillusioned and disenchanted with that whole lifestyle. I thought I needed to make a, a serious pivot, so I went back to business school and got my MBA and worked at a consulting firm while I was getting my mba.

and I, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to run a business. I just didn't know how, I mean, I didn't really know or understand anything about business in general. Uh, So I needed that for, for those out there that are interested in business school, they say like, well, if you're gonna be an entrepreneur, you don't need that.

And that's true. Like you, you really don't need an MBA if you wanna start your own business. But the truth is, is I had no clue. I didn't know anything about accounting, marketing, how to budget, how to plan, how to forecast statistics. So those things really helped me. They helped me a lot. Again, business school is not for everybody and it's very expensive, , so you really gotta know how you wanna capitalize on that.

I stumbled into the cannabis industry because this was, now we're in 2011, 2012 legalization started picking. State to state California was, I, I was living in California at the time and they were implementing measures on medical use. And it was so easy to get your medical card.

You just had to walk into a doctor's office and say your knee hurt, and they would give you a medical card and you could go to a dispensary. And so one night I was with my friends and we were about to go out and about and uh, we were about to smoke a few joints before going out, and he pulled out a shoebox and then it was his w33d his grinder, his pipes, you know, all your, all your usual tools.

And I thought, okay, there's gotta be something better. I looked up online. I couldn't really find anything at the time other than, and no offense to the Bob Marley crowd out there, but it was just nothing but Bob Marley Splash, Rastafari you know, hippie-dippy type trinkets. And I thought, okay, well, , that doesn't really speak to me.

I'm, I'm different. I'm not knocking any of that. I'd like something a little bit cleaner, nicer, classier. And I thought, okay, well let's, let's look into building a humidor. I mean, if there's a humidor for tobacco, why can't there be a humidor for c@nnab1s And so that began my exploration on understanding the subtleties of storing cannabis versus tobacco.

Cuz they're, they're different. It's not the same. You can't just throw your weed in a tobacco humidor. You gotta understand a couple things. So I adapted a lot of those elements. and, and I ran with it and I think it was 2013, I just decided, hey, I gotta get this idea out and let the public tell me if they want this or not.

I'd love to hear kind of, you know, what makes a humidor for cannabis unique?

So all c@nnab1s has terpenes and various terpene profiles, and all of these terpenes affect the cannabinoid profile as well.

So they, they modulate and influence the overall cannabinoid on the body. That's number one. Number two is the terpenes ha retain the flavor. Some are more piney, some are more pungent, some are more fruity. All of these terpenes have various flavor characteristics and if you're spending a lot of money on weed

You wanna be able to taste it. And what better way than to make sure it doesn't dry out or lose its moisture content. So all of the buds, after they've been properly cured, still must maintain a level, a level of moisture. . Otherwise, if you go to smoke it, it's gonna be harsh especially on your throat.

It's gonna burn and taste. It's just bad. You wanna be able to have something that will maintain the integrity of those terpenes, and the best way is to keep, keep a somewhat moist environment, not too moist. So cigars are kept at a higher level of humidity. 68 to 72. Percent relative humidity, whereas cannabis is kept slightly lower, say 58 to 65% maximum.

And that range is just ideal for a better smoking experience.

That level of humidity needs to be different than cigars, and does it help also keep the longevity of your cannabis? Like can you keep it longer instead of like, throwing it in a baggie inside of a shoebox, like will it stay better longer?

So in terms of length, What we know, and I wish we had more studies on this because we're really working on studies that have been done many years ago by scientists who studied the degradation length of cannabinoids themselves. And the only study that we're, that we have to go off of says that there's basically a two year curve of when those cannabinoids lose their potency.

All strains are different now and a lot of cross breeding has probably influenced a lot from when that study was conducted. So I, I don't ever definitively say, Hey, this will increase the longevity of your cannabis. That's not true. It will just keep it fresher or in a state that you want when you're ready to smoke it.

So you should always have some level of humidity whether you're storing it for a month or two months, or three months or five months. I doubt people are wanting to store their weed for more than that period. It's not. Wine where you can put it away and come back to it years later and have it be, you know, super enhanced.

There is a life cycle to it.

Tom Mulhern: What's that patented technology that you guys use to make it stand out to other competitors out there?

Zane Witzel: Originally I licensed it from this company guy down in Maryland who invented this. And he was using it for cigars. And I thought, okay. It works so well. I mean, alls you have to do is dip it in water and it wicks off to the right relative humidity.

There are a lot of products on the market that are more like sponges or require chemicals like propylene glycol in order to maintain the relative humidity. So this one just required. Adding a very small amount of water. And these beads, which are filled in this plastic case, have micropores that are impregnated with a salt based solution.

So the contact of the water with the beads allows it to be both a desicant and a humidifier at the same time. You want the humidity to, to maintain kind of a level path. And this product did that fantastically.

So I decided to acquire it from him and I tweaked the composition of those beads in such a way that you can dip the water and maintain a lower relative humidity for cannabis. and was able to segment, you know, tobacco use, cannabis use based on the property of the beads In those cases.

Tom Mulhern: It almost sounds like a science background. Where did that kind of come from? Like to be able to change it and alter it? Was that just you in your garage like.

Zane Witzel: Yeah, it really was. It really was. It was just experimentation and trying to figure out what works. There are actually a lot of labs out there that that do testing for cannabinoid content and terpenes and things like that. And I approached a lab at one point, I was like, Hey, can we do some testing to, for humidity and humidity control?

We tested the humidors for efficiency and maintaining certain levels of humidity. And then, you know, kind of set thresholds based on that.

Yeah, no, I don't have any sort of science background other than trial and error.

Tom Mulhern: What were some of those like huge roadblocks that you hit, that you run into as you were building your business?

Because I mean, Your first step into that business world. Were there any major challenges that you had to overcome?

Zane Witzel: One of the primary challenges that I'm sure you hear often for those interviewees that you have from the US is that we can't advertise. Especially on social media. I've got this new product, I've got this new website. How the hell do I let anybody know it's even there?

I mean, how's anyone gonna know? So I thought okay, since I can't advertise, there isn't a lot of search activity for weed humidor cannabis, humidor weed storage. Why don't I start writing articles on weed storage and bump up the SEO?

I didn't have a lot of money, so what can I do for free? And it was writing articles and like I wrote article after article after article, I mean week after week after week, I was pumping out like 5, 6, 7 articles. Just boom, boom, boom, one after another, and making sure that they all had the right ranking titles so that when people go to search on a search engine, weed storage, cannabis storage, Hopefully I populate, you know, within the first five, five or six.

And that was it. That's all I could rely on. And that worked. I mean, it doesn't take off immediately. It takes months for the search engines to, to crawl and, and find out these terms and, and populate it. But I'd say like 90% of my business is just through organic search traffic.

Do you think that your company would grow even more if those, some of those advertising barrier were lifted, cuz there's probably lots of people out there that are looking for kind of a high end solution for their cannabis storage.

What illustrates that point most is when. A major retailer reached out to me. I mean, that to me was like a, a sort of awakening. It was like, holy cow. Like,Bloomingdale's reached out to me and they said, Hey, you know, we'd love to have you in in our stores.

And I thought it was a joke I was like Bloomingdale's, Bloomingdale's, like the fashion forward. You know, coats start at like a thousand dollars, that kind of store. They reached out to me and they said, yeah, yeah, we want, we want this. And that's when it, it just like hit me. It was like, This is becoming mainstream.

Who are your ideal customers? Tell me about your customers.

It's slightly older demographic. So I'm, I'm 35. That 35 to 45 range is, is, is kind of the sweet spot, but the baby boomers are like my, my favorite uh, because it's the dads that were, you know, smoking in the seventies and the eighties, and they're now just getting back into it because they're state legalized or they're retired so they don't care anymore about drug testing or anything like that.

And they've got, you know, plenty of money to spend. And they want something nice. So the, the Boomer crowd, has been a, it has been a real boon.

Tom Mulhern: So what do you kind of see as the future of Cannador? Like you said you're getting into Macy's, Bloomingdale's, are there other stores that you're kind of, I mean, maybe there's deals you can't talk about, but what do you kind see in the years ahead for how your business is gonna grow?

Zane Witzel: What I've wanted to focus on was expanding internationally. So we launched this year in Europe. Next year we're launching in Australia. After the US we launched in Canada. So we're now in, we have warehouses and distributors in Canada the Netherlands, and soon to be Sydney, Australia.

So it's been kind of my focus is to create this as a little bit more of an international company because these products don't exist overseas.

but that's been my goal is to kind of make this an international. Brand or an international presence, and not many cannabis related companies can do that.

Now as a business owner yourself and you know your, you have your mba, what is like one business tip that you would give to someone in the cannabis industry? To help them grow their business?

I had to put the blinders on from the get-go because not everybody's into weed, my family not withstanding I've always enjoyed c@nnab1s I don't know how else to say it, but like, I really enjoy it. So if you really enjoy the plant and you really like it, put the blinders on. Don't focus on what the mainstream has to say or some sort of negative connotation just put the blinders on and keep marching forward.

That's all you have to do is just put one foot in front of the other and keep marching forward. Eventually you'll look back and go like, holy cow.  It's more or less a philosophy or an approach, which can translate into anything, by the way.

Like it's, if you wanna accomplish anything, it's one step at a time, iterative process. And certainly don't think you know what the customer wants. Don't think, ask them. Talk with them. I love having conversations with customers. Tell me, tell me what you want. What are you looking for? What are you interested in?

You have a bias about how you think things should be, but the market will tell you. Let the market tell you.

Tom Mulhern: You know what, that's such good advice. I think really like focusing on, as you're growing your business, don't, don't listen to haters, you know, like, and they're gonna be all around you. They're gonna say, why are you doing this? Like, why are you starting a humidor cannabis business? Like, why are you starting a cannabis podcast?

Zane Witzel: it's so easy to kind of focus in on those negative comments and go like, you know, like, what am I either, what am I doing wrong and what is this guy not getting?

And then you, you fall into that pitfall of uh, negative thinking. So yeah, you know, put those blinders on and just keep moving forward. You may eventually come to a time where you don't need them anymore. You can, you can fully see things the way you had envisioned originally.

Tom Mulhern: Dude, that's such great advice. I really, that's, I'm, I'm even taking that advice cause I know there's oftentimes I'm, I'm looking around like, am I doing the right thing? But I think just focusing and knowing and having that like certainty that. Just keep, just keep going. Just keep moving forward.

Zane Witzel: One step forward. You don't have to, and that's another thing too. I think people look for big wins or big victories. You know, if you're into baseball, be happy with singles. Rack up as many singles, get a couple doubles. If you get a home run, fantastic. But don't ex don't always expect home runs. I mean, be look at everything as just like a series of singles and doubles.

That's all you need.

Tom Mulhern: So how can listeners find out more about you and your company? You know, there might be somebody with a, an old lunchbox that they're storing their weed in and they are like, I need a, I need a Cannador. I'm the, I'm your ideal customer. How can people connect with you? Zane?

Zane Witzel: Yes, any, any social media, we have the same handle for everything Cannador, c a n n a d o r, or

I guarantee you we've got some storage product cuz you know, we st I started with two models. We've got 12 now. They've got different variations and places for you to store your accoutrement, your tools drawers, lockable, they're safe if you have children.

The craftsmanship that goes into it. It's like a piece of art on your desk and, and then the safety component of like being able to lock it, keep it safe from kids, you know, exploring it.

That was the one thing I I wanted. Make it so if you put it on a coffee table or armoire or your dresser if you see it, it should just look like a, a nice humidor or a box. You're not looking at it and immediately thinking like, oh, there's weed in there.

Like you wouldn't even know. And these humidor, because weed does smell, they have like a double slotted seal that goes all the way around it. So you can load these puppies up with. You know, you're finest and you wouldn't know it. I'm not saying it's 100% smell proof, because eventually you're gonna come across that sticky strain and you know it's gonna , it's gonna linger.

But overall, these products do a fantastic job. I'm, I'm actually really proud of the way these things maintain smell as well. So again, we wanted it to be something that's, that you can just have out. Feeling sheepish about it.

Tom Mulhern: Well, Zane, thank you so much for taking this time to kind of share your journey of growing your business and also giving great insights into storage. I don't think a lot of people think through that, and so I, I just want to thank you for being on the podcast, and I had a great conversation.

Zane Witzel: Thank you. I, I enjoyed being able to share my story as

Tom Mulhern: If you want to keep your cannabis fresh and you want to keep it really lasting for a long time, then you need to invest in the storage of your cannabis products. If you want to keep it organized, you know, reach out to Cannador, go check out their website. They'll keep your cannabis fresh, but they'll also keep your cannabis safe. Keep it out of little fingers from getting in there and you know, you can enjoy it at an appropriate time.

Also make sure that you head over to our website, Kayacast.Fm. You can check out all of our past episodes.

You can click on some links and leave some reviews, and it always helps us grow our podcast and we appreciate everyone who listens to this podcast every single week.

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