Aeron Sullivan – Founder of Tradiv
Aeron Sullivan is a former US Marine who has served America around the world, namely the Middle East. Through his military service, Aeron learned countless lessons, on both life and business, that have propelled him forward to become the business owner he is today. The idea for Tradiv, a business marketplace that facilitates the purchase and sale of wholesale cannabis products between licensed businesses, came to Aeron in a dream. Since inception, Aeron has built Tradiv from the ground up, aligning the company with state regulatory systems in order to save entrepreneurs and consumers time, money and heartache, all in a truly legal and transparent manner. After first thanking Aeron for his military service, we stood at attention so he could share his fantastic story with us.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry? What was that pinch in your heart that like, wow, I’ve got to get involved in this?
I was actually at a birthday party with my girlfriend and I had a pretty extensive conversation with a cultivator from right here in San Diego, CA. At the time, I was in an MBA class, with a focus on business e-commerce and I guess the intersection of those two concepts just percolated through my subconscious.
You know those dreams that you have? Where if you don’t tell somebody, right when you wake up, you forget it within a couple of minutes. Well I woke up with this grand idea and I immediately woke my girlfriend so I could share the idea. She loved it so much that we started doing research immediately. A little less than a week later we were incorporated and working towards building Tradiv.
I think the best way to describe the military’s influence on me is that they teach you how to solve complex problems.
What were you doing before you started Tradiv? How does your background help you operate your business?
Overall, I think the best way to describe the military’s influence on me is that they teach you how to solve complex problems. No problem is insurmountable. They may be difficult, but there is always a way. Building a system like Tradiv, you have to deal with the intersection of federal, state and local laws. Creating that technology application is as complicated as you would expect it to be.
We are working to solve a very complex problem in the cannabis industry and we are approaching it with that very mindset. The solutions are out there; sometimes they’re just complicated. In the military, we never back down from a problem. As you start to break down these barriers, you will find that you are able to open up more opportunities than you ever thought imaginable.
What did you do in the military?
I was an Amphibious Assault Officer. I led a platoon of Marines and eventually a company of Marines that worked and operated on amphibious assault vehicles (AAV). If you haven’t seen them before, they’re basically light, amphibious tanks.
No problem is insurmountable. They may be difficult, but there is always a way.
After I completed my initial 4 years within the military, as a Boots on the Ground Commander, I was privileged enough to transfer to a prototype engineering facility that worked on upgrading those amphibious assault vehicles and other vehicle’s software and equipment systems within the amphibious assault community of the military. The acquisitions side of the service operates much like normal businesses.
We had more civilians working on our site than we did Marines. We had a number of project managers working on a number of different projects at any point in time. We had a budget, timelines and customers. In the military, you get a lot of intangible skills from your time operating in combat environments, but I also learned countless skills during my service there that I am directly leveraging in this new business.
When did you first realize the coming of the Green Rush. When was that ‘aha’ moment?
It really hit me this last summer, when we saw Colorado and Washington go legal and the sky didn’t fall. I figured that, since I had ‘invested’ enough money in cannabis in high school and college, I should probably make some of that back. At that point, I decided to start looking into cannabis as a viable business opportunity. I weighed the pro’s and con’s, did my due diligence and as they say, ‘the rest is history’.
In the military, we never back down from a problem. As you start to break down these barriers, you will find that you are able to open up more opportunities than you ever thought imaginable.
Right now where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
I’m very passionate about saving businesses time and money through a technological solution that also delights customers. All of my energy and passion is going towards building that process as well as improving current systems that businesses have in place today. I want to make their companies more streamlined, but do it in a way that makes it a little more fun as well.
While I was working at the prototype engineering facility, I had a number of different roles. One such role was that of Process Improvement Manager. That position, combined with my previous military training, really showed me that the process is sometimes confused as being as important, if not more so, than the product itself. The goal is to streamline and reduce that process, taking the minimum steps necessary so that you can maximize your time and focus on the actual product.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who’s been a mentor to you. Why and how did this person changed your life?
One of my biggest role models is my former military supervisor. He really broke the mold of what a typical Marine Corps Officer is normally thought to be. To this day, he is the best leader I have worked with. He was very good at empowering both his subordinate leaders and civilian employees. He challenged them, provided them solid direction and pointed them down the right path, but at the same time gave people a lot of flexibility in how they accomplish a certain goal or task. This created a lot of opportunities for innovation. “I want you to do this for this reason,” not “I want you to do it this way.” I appreciate that leadership style and I am working to lead my team at Tradiv the exact same way.
What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read that our readers should put on their list?
Everyone interprets information differently, but I took a very succinct message away from this book. When you approach building something new, be it a product, software system, theme park or whatever else, diving headfirst into consumer interaction, first, will allow you to confirm that what you’re building is right. Sure, filling a need is great, but can you fill a need, want and desire all at the same time?
Sure, filling a need is great, but can you fill a need, want and desire all at the same time?
Tapping into that idea will allow entrepreneurs and businesses to know what their customer craves before they get too far down the line and find they need to reinvent themselves ten times over. Doing this out the gate will save you capital, energy, and the most precious commodity of all, time.
Tell me about an esteem achievement of yours, something that you are super proud of?
I got deployed to the Middle East, where I helped lead nearly 300 Marines. They all came back home.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve received came from my girlfriend. She always tells me that ‘You can do anything’.
What is the most important thing for us to know now about the legal marijuana industry?
The most important thing to know about the legal cannabis industry is that it is going to be much larger than everyone thinks. Take for example, the state of Colorado. Prior to legalization, its medical market was approximately the same size per capita as any other mature medical market out there. Right now, Colorado has a population of roughly five million, compared to the nearly forty million of California, but it’s selling 25% of the cannabis in this country. When you extrapolate that growth to other states; especially states like California, the true growth potential of this industry is staggering. I think that’s something that shouldn’t be underestimated.
However, it’s the execution of the entire business that is really going to set companies on the path to success in this emerging marketplace.
Also, as the industry continues to grow, we are going to see businesses start to rise or fold depending on their processes. Anyone can make a good product, and there are great examples throughout this industry of fantastic innovations. However, it’s the execution of the entire business that is really going to set companies on the path to success in this emerging marketplace. Tradiv was founded with this idea in mind and we are helping businesses function more efficiently. Not just in the present, but for the future.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the Green Rush be going?
I imagine we’ll be talking about the different markets we have rolled into. Also, the explosion of wholesale and commercial production that has taken place and how we have capitalized on that.
Any last words for our readers to know or what you would like to convey to our readers before we get off this line?
If you are interested in joining the cannabis industry as investor, entrepreneur or just an activist, do your research and approach it realistically. The cannabis industry can be very lucrative. However, it is also the hardest industry to work in throughout the entire United States right now.
What is the best advice you have ever received? How about an influential book you have read? Comment below and your addition might be added to our books/advice of the month articles!