Cannabis Startups Growing Like Weed in San Antonio

In case you haven’t noticed, cannabis entrepreneurship is exploding. As of today, the sale of recreational marijuana is legal in Canada. In the U.S. projections of legal sales of cannabis products range from $8 billion to $10 billion for 2018.

San Antonio has had several dispensary shops selling legal cannabis-derived products open in late 2017 and 2018. The interest in the legal cannabis market is now taking root with the emergence of cannabis startups, including a cannabis startup program for founders looking to scale.

Read more: Cannabis Accelerator Launches in San Antonio

The most recent startups to open in San Antonio offer different types of cannabis products as well as services tailored to the cannabis industry.

Hemp, CBD, and Marijuana: Different Products and Regulations

The cannabis industry includes products made with hemp or cannabidiol. What most people think of when they hear “cannabis” is marijuana, which is cultivated and sold in states where its use (medical and recreational) is legal. However, these terms are not interchangeable.

The least processed form of the cannabis plant is hemp. Hemp and marijuana come from the same plant, Cannabis sativa, but the two are very different. The fiber and seed parts of the cannabis sativa plant are used for hemp products, while U.S. law regards the flower part of the plant as marijuana. Hemp fiber and seeds are used industrially to make rope, canvas, paper, clothing, and other commonly used products.

Liza Mireles is launching a hemp business in November. Courtesy photo.
Liza Mireles is launching a hemp business in November. Courtesy photo.

Entrepreneur Liza Mireles (@HempUDeserve on Instagram) is launching a membership service in November that will offer hemp products from small producers.

“We work directly with boutique farms to offer products like hemp oils, a line of hemp-infused skin care products, even building materials like a concrete made from hemp called ‘hempcrete,’” Mireles said. “My main goal is education about the hemp plant and all its uses.”

Hemp contains most of the cannabidiol or CBD that people use medicinally. CBD does not have the mood-altering effects of marijuana and is legal in all 50 states. Sold for its multiple health benefits, such as pain relief to help with anxiety and symptoms from post-traumatic stress disorder, CBD products—from edibles to products for topical use—are entering the market at a dizzying pace.

San Antonio has two cafes offering cannabis edibles. Folklores Coffeehouse debuted Saturday with its line of cannabis-infused coffee, while Dab Hemp Cafe in the Five Points neighborhood opened in May with hemp-infused bakery items on their menu.

Geekdom has two cannabis-related business members who recently joined the downtown San Antonio co-working community.

Julian Dais and Dan Earle co-founded The Green Lab and joined Geekdom in June 2018. Their cannabis business development agency specializes in the marketing and sales of cannabis products. The duo must take into account the compliance and regulatory issues surrounding digital advertising and marketing of cannabis-related products, which varies by state.

The Green Lab team from left: Nick Verzijl, Dan Earle, Karisa Cantu, Julian Dais, Priscilla Ortiz. Courtesy photo.
The Green Lab team from left: Nick Verzijl, Dan Earle, Karisa Cantu, Julian Dais, Priscilla Ortiz. Courtesy photo.

“Entrepreneurs are great at making their products but are not experienced in marketing and sales, nor have the time to do this well, so we help them build their brand awareness and increase sales,” Earle said. “The industry is so new the focus has been on consumer education.”

The other Geekdom CBD startup is 911 Roll On. San Antonio native and veteran Tom Beighley developed a topical, roll-on CBD product for localized pain relief. After his service in the U.S. Marine Corps and almost 10 years of government contracting, Beighley entered the supplement industry as an entrepreneur. His idea for 911 Roll On came from his familiarity with DMSO or dimethyl sulfoxide, a colorless liquid that penetrates the skin. Combining the two resulted in a patent-pending formulation that delivers CBD’s benefits better than typical CBD topical products. The roll-on CBD gel is available at Alamo Botanicals and various retailers such as Cost Plus Nutrition and PureLine Nutrition.

“I joined Geekdom because The Green Lab was already a member,” Beighley said. “I also got help from others both times I visited Geekdom, that’s all it took for me to decide to join this community.”

Beighley is also focused on education as a goal and is launching an educational series explaining in layman’s terms why CBD is so useful.

“This is a business, but it’s also a service,” Beighley said. “It’s rewarding to help people get relief. When people tell you this product ‘helped my grandma play the piano without pain,’ it feels good to know we’re making a difference.”

Even Traditional Business Owners Pivot to Support the Cannabis Industry

Kelly Smith is owner of LeapFrog and GreenFrog Promotions. Courtesy photo.
Kelly Smith is the owner of LeapFrog and GreenFrog Promotions. Courtesy photo.

In the absence of large advertising companies and large-scale marketing campaigns for cannabis entrepreneurs, this industry has emerged due almost exclusively to word-of-mouth advertising, LeapFrog Promotions owner Kelly Smith explained. Smith is an example of a traditional business owner who decided to spin off a new startup from his traditional marketing and promotions company to focus on cannabis entrepreneurs. GreenFrog Promotions specializes in marketing strategies for cannabis entrepreneurs, from graphic design and printing to media and marketing.

Smith started GreenFrog in early 2018 because he realized there were few if any dedicated marketing firms tailored for cannabis entrepreneurs. Since GreenFrog’s launch, he has experienced a 300 percent increase in his client base.

“We help entrepreneurs mainstream their product given the stigma attached to the cannabis industry,” Smith said. “Because I come from the traditional business world, I can bridge the gap between the worlds, because soon they won’t be so separate.”

If the overflowing attendance at the first ever Cannabis + Coffee meetup in September and sold-out cannabis entrepreneur summit Saturday are any indication, many in San Antonio are curious and looking to get into the world of cannabis entrepreneurship.

“Colorado has gotten over $600 million in cannabis-related tax revenue over the past three years,” Earle said. “This industry is going to create a ridiculous amount of jobs.” Click To Tweet

“There are so many different benefits that can come from this [cannabis]—it’s a game changer.”

Featured image is of The Green Lab team brainstorming with Roll On 911 founder Tom Beighley. From left: Julian Dais, Wendy McCarville, Dan Earle, Tom Beighley, Nick Verzijl. Courtesy photo.

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Iris Gonzalez

Iris Gonzalez is a writer based in San Antonio, Texas, covering innovation in emerging tech, cybersecurity, and bioscience startup companies in San Antonio.

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