Aimee Warner: Cannabis Basics
She is a woman on a mission and we are not saying this as a light play on words. If there is anywhere you wouldn’t find her, it would be sitting contently on the sidelines. Instead, she is in the Senator’s office, nose-deep in industry research, and years ahead of the competition in terms of experience. This ravenously passionate soul would belong to none other than Ah (Aimee) Warner, founder and CEO of Cannabis Basics. If you think we’ve spoiled the story and given you all the details of our interview with her, you will be sorely disappointed. We dare you to not read on- the only one who will be at a loss is you. The green rush is a movement and Ah is the one tinkering with the gears of the engine.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
Well, it all started 20 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, Darienne Zoa, and I walked into the Fremont Hemp Company and like I like to say ‘My world has never been the same.’ I saw the possibilities, the multiple possibilities that were there and I began building my own company. When I started out, my company had several different lines, but the line that beat the competition was my body care line, which became the foundation of Cannabis Basics.
About 3 years ago, some friends of mine asked me to help them open a medical dispensary here in Washington and I found myself once again immersed into, not only the culture, but the science of cannabis and realized that there was every reason to add cannabinoids to my already award winning hemp products and here we are now!
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now?
The science of what I do is something that I have really learned along the way; it wasn’t a skill set that I had, it was from the research that I’ve done and from trial and error. 20 years of trial and error working with the cannabis plant. In terms of previous experience, I’m actually a certified draftsman and project manager, so I think both of those skills, mainly the project managing, helps me to stay on task and keep things moving forward in a pretty organized fashion. Also, being a former military personnel in the U.S. Air Force, in the supply unit, then implementing the skills I acquired really works to keep my business going in an efficient and organized manner.
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
Well, there are a couple of things going on right now. I reopened my hemp line, my hemp-only line because the line of products that have cannabinoids can’t leave the state of Washington because of its THC content. The ironic thing about cannabis being legalized is that it really has brought life back into my hemp company, which is great! Currently, we have 6 hemp-only products that we are selling across the country unrestricted because they don’t have the cannabinoids in them.
The ironic thing about cannabis being legalized is that it really has brought life back into my hemp company, which is great!
Aside from that, all my remaining time and effort is going towards working with legislators and decision makers here in the state of Washington that are going to help me to define cannabis topical so that it can be regulated separately from other cannabis products that have intoxicating effects, which mine do not. That means working with Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who has been there for medical marijuana and hemp from the very beginning, and doing a fundraiser for her! She was the first supporter, so I am really proud to be working with her.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Ridiculous. I’m one of those people who has to stop themselves and remind themselves to breathe and slow down. When I’m passionate about something, I’m really full-out for it. It’s really more of a matter of making myself take a break than organizing myself, because I am really always working. I am constantly thinking about what’s next, what’s the next move, what’s the right move, and what is on the task list for tomorrow. I have a very extreme work ethic and I think anybody that has worked with me would second me on that. My work ethic is extreme. It’s a good thing, I promise.
What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? Your strength?
Well my weakness, which is very clear to me, is that I didn’t get a business degree. My education is in sex studies which I acquired at University of Washington; I thought I was going to be a sex educator. Needless to say that’s not the direction I chose. Cannabis Basics is not my first business; I have opened and closed several businesses, so I have definitely learned on the fly how the process works. That is my weakness. I really wish that I had spent all that time focusing on business education instead of sex education. Even my daughter, Darienne Zoa, who is a photographer, I told her that she must get a second in business because no matter what kind of artist you are, you still have to do business with it. I’ve learned it of course, but it’s been through the school of hard knocks.
As far as my strength is concerned, I would definitely say my passion. I have a very clear vision of what my line looks like and also what it doesn’t look like. I am always clear and strong about keeping to that vision and taking all the steps it takes to make that happen. There is always a vision, but you have to have all the follow-through and I feel like I do both really well.
How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
First and foremost, my experience. I feel like I’m the only one who has been doing this for 20 years. There are certainly people who have been working with cannabinoids in topicals longer than I have, but no one has the experience of working with the entire plant like I do. I started back in 1994; when you’re talking about experience, I’ve got everybody beat in longevity. Secondly, our products excel in quality and using the hemp in the way that it’s supposed to be used. I have really focused on using NO chemical preservatives and NO man-made fragrance oils. Those ingredients are actually counterproductive for our patients’ therapy and so, Cannabis Basics, compared to other products out there, really sit at a higher level in terms of quality and conscious design.
Another strength is our branding, which sets ourselves apart from everyone out there. My graphic designer has just hit it out of the park with our logo. Most people who approach me to talk about the company always bring up the branding. Branding is so important! In fact, I spoke at a convention in the past, and I told them, “As entrepreneurs, we have all kinds of great ideas. Our brains are wired to that tangential way of thinking of ‘Oh that looks great!’ and then ‘Oh that’s cool too!’, but you need to realize that there comes a point when you need to spend the money, invest the time, and hire professionals to do it properly. It really does make all the difference.”
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?
I am just so excited about the entrepreneurial spirit in this industry. I’m part of a group called Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics in the state of Washington and the entrepreneurs that are in my circle just blow me away. I’ve always been one of those people that instead of feeling competitive with somebody, I’m much more likely to bring them into my own circle so that I can learn with them, align myself with them, and utilize them when I need their support. I would say that it’s the other entrepreneurs that inspire me. There are some really amazing people in this industry here in Washington and we are watching each other’s progress. Our stories 2 years ago are very different from how they are now and that is just very exciting stuff. These are all people that are completely dedicated; they are not just business people, they are also the people who are working to change legislation to get their voices heard, and to make sure that our concerns are heard. They are really the most inspiring element to me in this industry.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
It all goes back to focusing. The first time around, I literally did have 8 or 9 different lines of products. I was hand-dying hemp fabric, I was making pillows, I was making clothing, I was making beeswax hemp candles, I had many different things going on, too many things going on; I needed to streamline. It wasn’t until I narrowed it down to the topical genre that I really started picking up momentum in my business. It’s about bandwidth; you really cannot do it all. You have to focus and do one thing really good. Scoping your core focus empowers your bandwidth. You have to kinda push everything into a funnel and keep the focus there. It has worked really well for me and definitely a great advice that I took wholeheartedly.
Another essential piece of advice I got was through a mentorship program here in Washington that guides entrepreneurs through the steps of building a business. 3 years ago, my mentor in the program told me that if I wanted to do this properly, I needed to make myself the authority in my particular niche. And a few short years later, I feel like I have almost accomplished that. It’s not only building the brand of my products, it’s also about building my personal brand. The one that works with not only topical products, but also the one that works with legislators; it all works together to progress my business. It was really a golden piece of advice.
What’s your newest knowledge about the marijuana industry?
I’m very Washington focused since I only have a production facility here in my own state, so I don’t know a lot about what’s going on in other states, like Colorado. But in Washington, the city of Seattle just gave us an extension for medical marijuana dispensaries to continue to operate because they are trying to roll medical and recreational into one system and everyone is kicking and screaming about it. So, that just came down recently that we have until July 2015 which isn’t a lot of time. The medical marijuana dispensaries are my foundation for selling my products.
The medical marijuana dispensaries are my foundation for selling my products.
We are gearing up for another legislative session soon and we are focusing on how to best set ourselves up for the next session regarding medical marijuana. For myself personally, the topical niche is in a very different place than any other product on the marketplace. Because my products are less than 0.3% THC, I believe that I should be able to sell them wherever I want in the state of Washington; they are not intoxicating and I have been told by countless advisors that I am right in believing this. So, in terms of new knowledge, this is where my head it at right now.
What will we be seeing from you and Cannabis Basics in the coming future?
Oh, that’s a big answer! Right now, we have 18 products and 6 of them are hemp-only, meaning that 6 of them can leave the state of Washington. We now have a national distributor that will be selling retail and wholesale accounts. So, I believe we will see the Cannabis Basics hemp line jump ahead of the cannabinoids line very quickly due to the sheer fact that there is a larger marketplace for it. So, we are really excited to see that play out.
We have a big deal in the works that I just would love to tell you about, but I absolutely can’t about it because it is literally in the works right at this very moment. It is going to be BIG! It involves moving into Canada and across the United States with a really big name in cannabis – quite a big deal!
And as I spoke of earlier, we don’t consider Cannabis Basics to be medicine, we consider our products to be health and beauty aids. I like to make this differentiation. So, whether it be a pain creme for arthritis, a lotion for eczema or an anti-aging face cream for wrinkles… that’s what we are! We are in the botanicals world, not in the medical world and don’t want to be regulated like that. So, if we can fix legislation so that we can sell anywhere, the marketplace for our product will grow immensely. It means that I can sell to Whole Foods Market. My number one goal is to put these products back into the hands of all the health conscious consumers out there. What I do is nothing new, it is really just a rejuvenation of what used to be. 80 years ago, every doctor who walked around carried creams and poultices that were made of cannabis and that’s what I want to revive. My ultimate passion is to get these products back into the hands of the masses.