Chris Connors – COO of Americas First Brands
Chris Connors, COO of Americas First Brands, is youthful, exuberant and has always been a serial entrepreneur on the lookout for the next big business opportunity. When he was younger, Chris’s father taught him how to trade stocks and by the time he was just a sophomore in college he was hooked, day trading when he wasn’t playing lacrosse. After the tech boom, Chris turned his attention to the cannabis industry, an industry in which he saw great potential. His grandfather inspired him to research and study the big time CEO’s in the industry. He even spent a summer interning with industry expert Tripp Keber. All this experience led Chris to where he is today, COO of Americas First Brands, a marketing, packaging and distribution company for all of the Americas First Cannabis Cigarette lines. Check out how we roll with Chris, as he shares his journey and discusses the path ahead of Americas First Brands.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
My father probably inspired and propelled me to enter this industry more than anyone else. He showed me the ropes when it came to trading stocks and it became a big time hobby of mine. Eventually I got bored of investing in the same old industries and I really wanted to find that next big business opportunity. Technology was done, so I started doing heavy due diligence into medical cannabis stocks. At that time there weren’t many to choose from, but I had found ones like MJNA, CBIS and HEMP.
I have always been a serial entrepreneur, on a quest to find the next big thing.
My grandfather, in addition to being one of my biggest long-term mentors, was one of the four presidents at Bristol Myers Squibb. He recommended that I do my due diligence before entering the industry. Find out who the big players are and what they are doing that is making them successful. That’s when I found Tripp Keber, who was working with Dixie Elixirs. I was so interested in working with the cannabis industry that I turned down a paid sports marketing internship in New York City so I could instead intern at Dixie Elixirs. I packed my bags and moved out to Colorado where I spent and entire summer interning for Tripp. It was one of my best experiences ever. I learned an incredible amount from him as well as his entire team of great people. It was a big step for me professionally and directly led to where I am now. To this day, Tripp remains one of my biggest mentors.
What skills from your previous experiences helped you in what you are doing now at Americas First Brands?
I have always been a serial entrepreneur, on a quest to find the next big thing. From starting a college course blogging site with my buddies in college to creating America’s First Cannabis Cigarette, I’ve learned so many different skills and trades. Perhaps the most important thing I have learned is that when you are an entrepreneur, on the ground floor of your own company, you have to be willing to do everything. From marketing and sales to distribution, the more you can handle yourself the faster you can grow your business.
However, if I were forced to pinpoint one skill, it would be sacrifice. You really have to be willing to make sacrifices to make your company work. That being said, you never want to sacrifice your core values to obtain that success. The most successful entrepreneurs I know do a great job balancing both of those aspects.
Where are you guiding your passion and energy towards at Americas First?
Right now my energy and passion is with our company, Americas First Brands; which represents all of the Americas First Cannabis Cigarette lines. Highlands Cannabis Cigarettes is our first product, a connoisseur blend of cannabis cigarettes. I’m excited about this product because the cigarettes consist of all natural, organic, unbleached cigarette paper and a biodegradable filter that will disappear within weeks of disposing of your Highlands Cannabis Cigarette. The ‘Green Rush’ isn’t only about cannabis. It is about living a greener, healthier global lifestyle. It is important to me that our products are not only great for the consumer, but also the environment. Seriously, how often do you see old cigarette butts littering the ground as you walk down the street? For us, it happens way to often. That is one of the things that inspired us to be as green as possible.
Our brands are all machine rolled and consist of the highest quality of cannabis. Our “tins”, or our cannabis cigarette cases, come in a 5-pack or a ten-pack and are very sleek and stylish (check out the pictures!). In addition to fitting perfectly in your back or front pocket, the tin closes tight so that it will not open in your pocket. The tin won’t open until you want it to open. We have had such great feedback on the look and functionality of our tins that we actually started to sell them by themselves. People love showing them off to their friends or using them to hold their business cards and money. It’s just a great novelty item in itself. When you combine the tin with the Highlands Cannabis Cigarettes, that final product is something special. That is where all of my passion is going right now.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
What do you consider your weakness as an entrepreneur? What do you consider your strength?
My strength in this industry is getting tasks done quickly and professionally. My weakness as an entrepreneur is this industry is not being okay with tasks getting done slowly. When I have something to do, or when I delegate a task, I get so excited to complete it and take that step forward that I can be too eager at times. I continue to work on finding that perfect balance for myself that will enable me to be the best entrepreneur I can. By constantly reflecting and recognizing your strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur, you can continually teach and re-invent yourself, both professionally and personally.
The ‘Green Rush’ isn’t only about cannabis. It is about living a greener, healthier global lifestyle.
How are you differentiating yourself from your competition?
At Americas First Brands, we’re differentiating ourselves from the competition by being all-natural. Our biodegradable filter is a major selling point for us. As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to do more than create ‘just another piece of trash’ that’s thrown on the ground. We fixed that process through our ‘green friendly’ practices and we are proud to be contributing to a healthier global environment. In addition, while ‘Highlands’ is our connoisseur blend, Americas First Brands will soon offer several different lines of cannabis cigarettes, each of which will offer a unique aspect its own brand. We intend to offer a variety of SKUs in hopes of satisfying every type of cannabis consumer in the market.
How do you find inspiration in this industry? What have you found that has inspired you the most?
The consumers! I get inspired to keep pushing forward when I hear back from our consumers about how much they love the cigarettes and the tin. Consumers been waiting for somebody to do this and we took the reigns and made it happen. This wasn’t an idea that we just came up with out of the blue. This idea, this chance to fill the void in the industry, has been around for a while and we couldn’t be happier to have executed on it. We have worked very hard and it’s extremely rewarding to know we are putting smiles on so many people’s faces. When you build something from the ground floor as a team, it means everything to you and you will learn to find inspiration.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
It may sound simple, but the best advice I’ve received is to treat people the way you would like to be treated, especially in business. Also, things will happen if you keep your eye on the prize and avoid stringing yourself out in to many different directions. I’ve learned that is a recipe for failure. I always remind myself that I need to just keep working hard, and keep having that vision. Don’t let anyone put you down. Just keep working for your goals. Each day is a new day. That’s what people have to remember in this industry.
I’m ready to do whatever it takes to meet my goals but I want to look back and say that I accomplished everything professionally.
Where do your great ideas come from?
Mostly our great ideas come from diligence. We do so much market and online research before we make our decisions that, by the time we act on an initiative, we have considered it from all angles and vetted its potential to impact our goals. Just by studying what is out there, where is there oversaturation, where are there voids, we can develop ideas that we think will work. Sometimes, you will find opportunities just by looking at how another product has limited itself. For one reason or another they have hit a barrier that didn’t allow them to see a whole new opportunity. By opening those barriers in your own mind you can come up with a ton of great ideas. Barriers that one entrepreneur would call crazy, another entrepreneurial mind might see differently, so they run with it. It will end up working out if you truly believe in your idea and you work incredibly hard for it.
What is important to you? Mission? Vision? Or core values?
Core values. Not just for me but for Americas First Brands as well. Personally, it is imperative that you go that extra step to show people that yes, you want run a successful business, but you also want to keep great core values at the same time. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to meet my goals but I want to look back and say that I accomplished everything professionally.
We have worked very hard and it’s extremely rewarding to know we are putting smiles on so many people’s faces.
While core values are the number one for me, I think success also requires a long-term vision, especially given the budding state of the cannabis industry. We really are in uncharted territory and the entrepreneurs who can see the forest through the trees are the ones who will have the most long-term success. You have to recognize that things may not always go as planned, but if you can harness that long-term vision and stay faithfully on your path then it will work out. We have many generations of growth in this industry that lie ahead of us and I couldn’t be more excited to be along for the ride.
What will we be seeing from you and Americas First Brands in the coming future?
In the immediate future we are most excited about showing the market what we have to offer! We only recently gave people a sneak peak of our all-natural, biodegradable and unbleached cannabis cigarette. We received immensely positive feedback and can’t wait to release several additional brands we will be coming out with over the next year. Each one of them will be designed to serve a key niche in the cannabis community. We also have some major projects upcoming I can’t yet talk about it, some of which will be released within the next six months. I’m so excited for everyone to see where we are headed because we have worked so hard. My team and I have put so much sweat equity into these products that now we are working to be sure we launch them all in the right way. We can’t wait to see how the market reacts to our upcoming releases because it is going to be the culmination of so much hard work.
Do you find mission, vision or core values most important in business? What do you think of the packaging for Highlands Cannabis Cigarettes? Join the conversation and comment below!