Darcy Bomford: True Leaf
He’s dedicated to integrity, staying true to himself, and bettering the quality of life. As a veteran of the pet food industry, he’s well seasoned in the field and has harnessed what he’s learned in that endeavor with what he sees as incredible nutritional value in hemp and bringing that to our pets. Darcy Bomford, founder and CEO of True Leaf, is forging ahead with his mission to bring better wellness to our dogs, cats, and other furry animals and is playing a positive role on the direction our industry is taking.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
Well, I exited my last company with a one year non-compete in late 2012 and at that time, I recognized the opportunity of changing regulations in this brand new industry that was forming around hemp, recreational, and medicinal marijuana in both Canada and the United States. Colorado, Washington, and the Canadian Federal Government all announced new legal regulatory platforms all around the same time in late 2012. Canada’s program was for medicinal marijuana and was called, Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulation (MMPR). So, since I had a background in manufacturing and marketing and had a one year non-compete with my previous company, I decided that my skills would be a good asset to this new industry. I had a good look at both countries, but based on the residency guidelines in the United States, I knew I wouldn’t be able to act quickly there, so I decided to open a company in Canada and take a closer look at the new regulations they approved for medical marijuana. I was one of the early applicants for Canada’s new system.
What were you doing before the green rush?
Well, that’s quite a simple answer. I founded a pet food and treat company and spent 25 years building the brand for it. It’s called Darford International and we manufactured natural pet treats. We had 3 plants in North America and marketed our products throughout North America and Asia.
What are you doing to impact the industry?
We are focusing on hemp for pets and forging ahead with the development of functional treats with hemp in the conjunction with veterinary-approved cannabis-based medications for pets. As we know, hemp is non-psychoactive and is really a fantastic ingredient: It’s the highest plant-based source for fatty acids, like Omega 3, 6, and 9 and it’s gluten-free and high in fiber and protein. It’s a great ingredient for functional pet treats. In conjunction with this and hopefully with our approval in Canada, we want to contract the research and development of cannabis-based veterinary-approved drugs for pets. Though we know it will take a few years, we see a great opportunity there!
As we know, hemp is non-psychoactive and is really a fantastic ingredient: It’s the highest plant-based source for fatty acids, like Omega 3, 6, and 9 and it’s gluten-free and high in fiber and protein. It’s a great ingredient for functional pet treats.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Passionate. I love to put a team together and create something out of nothing!
Tell me about a time in your career that didn’t go as planned and what you did about that? How did you handle it?
Well, looking at my experience with the last company, I lost it to an aggressive group of investors. They ultimately ended up taking over the company and I exited. I was offered a position to stay on, but I didn’t. I was the CEO at the time and so I have to take responsibility for what happened, but it was still a bitter pill to swallow. But anyways, I put it behind me and continued to do what I’ve always done, which is work hard and never give up! I started my new company, took my previous team from Darford International and brought them into True Leaf, and together we’ve brought in even more people and we now have a fantastic team to focus on our success here with what we’re doing.
What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read we should put on our list?
Yes, there’s a couple that come to mind. One is, Good to Great which tells us that getting people ‘on the bus’ is really the key to a great company. That book has some particularly great insights on some really successful companies and what they did to get there. Another good one is called, Art of the Start and it’s a great book for anyone looking to get into a start-up or even anyone looking into getting into a new industry. I recommend you take the author’s advice and read the last chapter first, it really puts everything into perspective.
One is, Good to Great which tells us that getting people ‘on the bus’ is really the key to a great company. That book has some particularly great insights on some really successful companies and what they did to get there.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Keep smiling, never give up, and trust your gut!
How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?
I think it comes down to being really humble and remembering to treat people the way that you’d like to be treated. That’s what everything in life comes down to, really, but it is also applicable to this fast growing industry. There’s lots of opportunity. Be the person you are and be real!
What is a skill or trait that you think is necessary to make an impact in this industry?
Like I said previously, being able to trust your instinct and not believe everything you hear. I’ve met a lot of fantastic, down-to-earth people in this industry, but I’ve also met some people that are in this for the wrong reason. So, just know that this industry is just like any other in that there aren’t any short-cuts, and it’s important to have a solid plan and to do things right.
What are your thoughts on activists who don’t agree with mega-corporations approaching the hemp and cannabis industry?
I don’t believe we’ll be able to create barriers that don’t allow for mega-corporations to enter the space; that’s just the natural progression of things. There will be many companies competing head to head and it will be the innovative ones with the right team that are successful. More than likely, I think that the mega-corporations will buy-out the successful ones and enter the industry that way. That’s certainly what I saw in the pet industry – They kinda just sit on the sidelines and watch who’s grabbing the market share and then they buy them up. There’s always going to be space for smaller companies, so I don’t think the moms and pops have to worry.
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
A year from now it will still be growing in leaps and bounds. I definitely think that the edibles market will see the highest growth, but I also see a lot of regulatory pressure coming into play. It’s like death from taxes, regulation and control are inevitable, and I think that the companies with a good team and the resources to handle regulatory issues and be able to scale their growth, will ultimately be the successful ones!