Alex Milligan: Nugg
At just 22 years of age, Alex Milligan is one of the youngest business owners in the Cannabis industry. A USC graduate, Alex cut his entrepreneurial teeth hustling and thriving inside other start-up businesses, learning critical do’s and dont’s along the way. A true entrepreneur at heart, Alex believes the customer drives the business. That’s why at Nugg, a tech based prescription delivery company, the emphasis is on a grassroots knowledge of how to solve their customers wants and needs. As Alex puts it, “You have to fall in love with the customer, not the product or the process.” Recently, we sat down with Alex to ask him how he arrived at that refreshing mentality and learned about what sets Nugg apart in the Cannabis industry.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
I wouldn’t say there was a single deciding factor that led us to where we are today. It was a perfect storm of sorts where the timing and opportunity to start a business was too great to pass up. I grew up, like my two co-founders, surrounded by the industry in Southern California, so I’ve watched it grow into the budding market it has become, no pun intended. Then, when my co-founders and I graduated from USC, we realized that we shared a common passion for facilitating convenience through mobile applications. We were obsessed with a customer driven business model where the mentality was that ‘the customer would be the fuel for our fire’. This specific opportunity gave us the chance to not only serve medical patients, but also the businesses operating in the industry.
We were obsessed with a customer driven business model where the mentality was ‘the customer would be the fuel for our fire’.
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now at Nugg?
The most important learning experience for me started my junior year at USC. My friends and I realized we had a knack for marketing when we had immediate success working for a couple of other start-ups, Uber and Lyft. We used online marketing strategies that neither company had previously experimented with, which generated thousands of new users in a short window of time. If fact, we generated so many new clients our first month with Uber, they wouldn’t pay us our commission because they thought we were scamming them. In reality we had just implemented successful online strategies like Google AdWords.
With Uber in our rearview mirror, we turned to Lyft and continued to thrive. The best part about Lyft is that they would actually pay us for our work. In little under a year we had five hundred Marketing Ambassadors nationwide. We learned the how-to’s of a start-up first hand, from online marketing and strategic partnerships to recruiting and training new employees. It was the best possible experience at the best possible time.
Tell me about the point in the time you realized the coming of the ‘green rush’?
Growing up in Southern California, I’ve always known about the Cannabis industry. For me it was never a question of if the rush would happen, it was only when. The tipping point came towards the end of my stay at USC. I saw Colorado really prove that the industry could be regulated in a successful way. That model did wonders to change public perception and really reduced the stigma that had previously been handcuffed to medical cannabis users. Most importantly, I started seeing the industry as a legitimate financial opportunity, one with both investors and new start-ups sprouting up throughout the community. Combine that with the passing of new rules and regulations, which made laws more lenient, and you have a real powder keg scenario. The only question now is how BIG can it get?
What is Nugg doing to impact the Cannabis Industry – What message are you trying to send?
We’re striving to impact the Cannabis industry through improving and legitimizing the process by which patients obtain their medicine. Right now, for someone new to the industry, accessing medicine can be so slow, cumbersome and even dangerous at times. We’ve been striving to change that by connecting patients with the right providers and the right doctors through a mobile technology app that provides safety and convenience and most importantly, peace of mind.
We actually curate a listing of top dispensaries and Cannabis physicians…Eliminating those burdens to the industry.
We’ve witnessed tons of mishandled, inefficient business practices and products. Our experience working at the grassroots street level has taught us not only how to better serve the industry, but what the Cannabis customer is looking for in a service provider. We want to be that provider, which is why we ensure patients receive access to only the most lawful, top performing dispensaries. That peace of mind allows them to get the medicine they need without having to worry about the process and we don’t stop there! We actually curate a listing of top dispensaries and Cannabis physicians on top of all that. This allows current and prospective patients to comfortably find a reputable source for a reliable service. In addition, it removes the concern over fake postings or false reviews. Eliminating those burdens to the industry in conjunction with the reliable, tech-based service we provide, allows us to further legitimize the industry.
Who is a person that you consider as a role model? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
Tony Robbins. I first learned about Tony while at USC. His inspirational message has transcended from my entrepreneurial aspirations all the way to my personal life. He taught me to fall in love with the customer, not the product or the process. Loving the customer inspires me to constantly innovate and add more value to Nugg. One important way we do that is through another Robbins principal, transparency.
He taught me to fall in love with the customer, not the product or the process.
In a customer model you can’t mislead people; Everything from the process to the product needs to be unquestionable if you want to be the best. One of my favorite Robbins quotes is “You have to innovate in a way that causes your customers to care enough to part with their time and their energy to consistently be your customer”. I think that’s a great way to look at both your business and your life. I continue to dive into everything Robbins does because he’s just so inspirational. There’s so much you can learn from a mentor like that.
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you?
The biggest inspiration for me was seeing the benefit of medical marijuana directly impact Ken, one of our co-founders. Awhile back, his mom was hit by an 18-wheeler. It was a nearly fatal car accident that left her hospitalized for months and of course she was prescribed tons of painkillers. Ken, his mom, and their surrounding family noticed that the painkillers were making her life abnormal; Everything was dull. That’s when they discovered medical marijuana. Not only was it an organic, safer alternative to the toxic and sometimes deadly pharmaceutical system, it also allowed her to live a more enjoyable, normal life. We see stories like this continue to break down the stigma of Cannabis and we want to bring them to the public eye. It inspires us to help countless other people out there improve the quality of their lives. We aim to provide both knowledge and accessibility to an industry that has helped so many people take their lives back.
Tell us about an esteemed achievement of yours.
Being only twenty-two years old, I hope my biggest achievements are ahead of me. However, my biggest achievement so far would have to be getting Nugg to where it is today. My co-founders and I earned all the start-up money and were able to self-finance Nugg. We’ve turned down investors and continued to bet on ourselves. It’s a self reliant, bootstrap business philosophy that has worked for us so far. While our success is a point of pride and confidence for me, it also adds fuels my fire to achieve higher levels of prosperity.
How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?
It’s a simple, yet complex answer. You have to learn the market. Since every market is different, there is no getting around having to get out there and talk to the people. Learn the problems and needs of your customers and tailor your business and your value to solving those issues. Everyone from the supplier to the end consumer will give you vital information. Doing your homework, being prepared and knowing the market is the only true way to find a clean foothold in a growing market that can be unstable and unpredictable. Don’t assume you know the answers! Get out there and discover the solutions first hand.
Don’t assume you know the answers!
Where do your great ideas come from?
I think they come from understanding my strengths and abilities. I’m a young entrepreneur, so I find myself outlining my strengths to get a better understanding of how I can use them to help solve problems, both in business and my personal life. I hate to sound repetitive but to have a great idea in business you have to meet with the customer first. Understanding their problems and their needs enables me to best apply myself. If you combine your strengths with your customers needs, you can turn it into an idea that can help people. And those are the greatest ideas of all.
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader in this space?
Learning. We are constantly studying and evolving both our business and ourselves as people. We are obsessed with it, and we have to be because we don’t have an abundance of experience and funding to fall back on. There is no floor plan for our success. That foundation has to be laid by us and that’s the best part of it all. We control our willingness to learn and to grow into better people, both personally and professionally. We have access to more information and technology than any other generation has had in the past. We take advantage of that by reading blogs, meeting with other professionals in the space and taking an active part in our community. By being active and aware, you not only become a participant in the industry, but you can become a go-to source for both product and information. Our motto is ‘Be the most prepared’.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
I envision that we will be talking about the variety of change taking place. If our experience has taught us anything so far, it’s that this industry is unpredictable. We’re hopeful for big breakthroughs in regulations at the state level here in California, since it appears federal guidelines will stay the same in the short term. It’s really those rules and regulations that have shaped the landscape of the industry and will continue to do so. Learning from models like Colorado will enable us to see what works, if that model can be transferred to another state and what adjustments might need to be made to fit certain markets.
Speaking more specifically to our market, we want to contribute as best we can to changing the public perception of marijuana as a medical treatment. The process of procuring a prescription has been a joke in the eyes of the public in recent years. Hopefully, next year we will be talking about the legitimization of that process. Ultimately, the only way to be prepared in this market is to be aware, do the groundwork and understand what’s changing and how it affects your business. In short, I’m sure we will be talking about the advancements in the industry and how we have morphed our business to best adapt to that change.