Custom Grow Systems that Break the Mold

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Andrew Stevens: Grow and Nourish, LLC

So, you’ve obviously realized by now that the industry surrounding the green rush is growing… rapidly. Now, you’re asking yourself ‘How do I get my start?’ Well, have you heard about the Gerson Institute study? Because that’s what gave cannabis entrepreneur leader, Andrew Stevens of Grow and Nourish LLC, his start when his mother’s diagnosis led him to this incredible piece of literature. And now he has since expanded on that small bud of information and turned it into a full-service company that builds one-of-a-kind custom grow systems. It all starts somewhere and the beginning of your journey starts here in this conversation with this savvy Midwestern businessman.

What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?

Six years ago my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, that then spread through her lymph nodes to attack the whole upper diaphragm of her body. My family took every precaution we could to go the extra mile in helping her with her disease. She was having a tough time with chemotherapy and radiation and so we started looking for ways to relieve her in any way we could. We first came across medical marijuana, but since it wasn’t medical in Illinois yet, that wasn’t an option for us which was extremely disappointing because it could have helped her out a lot. But we didn’t stop there and came to find from researching the Gerson Institute, that an organic diet would make a great difference. So, being in the Midwest, we started growing crop for my mother to eat. But if you know the weather of the Midwest, you know that eventually winter would come and you could no longer grow outside; So, we moved inside.

She was having a tough time with chemotherapy and radiation and so we started looking for ways to relieve her in any way we could.

Again, we went back to researching to find systems that would allow us to grow indoors and eventually realized with our expertise of working in fabrication and manufacturing for the food industry, we could essentially build these systems ourselves. And that’s what we did; we started off with two machines so we could again start growing vegetables for my mom and in time we became even more passionate about what we were doing and started another division of our company called Grow and Nourish. We knew that there were others out there that had ideas and dreams about a particular system or machine, so we started a company that offered the resources they needed to help build those out.

What were you doing before you joined the green rush?

My father started our company about 30 years ago and I’ve personally been working with the company for about 15 years. It’s family-owned and has been growing and growing since the start. We did fabrication and manufacturing for conveyor and material handling equipment in the food industry. Basically anything that moved food along inside a distribution warehouse, we had a big hand in doing the manufacturing and fabrication of the necessary components of this equipment. We did this for companies across the United States and worked with very well-known companies nationwide. We also handled the installation of this equipment and the programming required to get things moving along.

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What are you doing to impact the industry?

We are a little bit different than other companies out there in that we don’t pre-make systems, we custom-build them for our clients. A lot of companies already have their product line intact: They’ve tested it, sent it through trials, and they know it works and they are selling it to end-users for either residential or commercial use. We start from scratch with our clients are not centered on one type of growing system like many other companies are. We focus on multiple different systems such as aeroponics, aquaponics, and hydroponics. We’ve done our research and have visited countless farms. If anyone has an idea of a system they’d like, we can make it.

Our clients come to us with their ideas and say something like ‘I want to start selling our own product. We have our marketing and sales team set up and I would like this equipment custom fabricated for us to sell.’ They bring us the pieces they want involved; the tub, the plumbing, the racking system, the lights, and we fabricate a system out of those components that works in the way they envisioned. We can build these systems to be the entire length of their distribution center or the entire height of their distribution center; we do have the resources and expertise to build stackable systems. We build staircases to each level of their grow systems, so they can maximize the space in their warehouse

Describe your work ethic to me in one word.

Persistent. I don’t give up! Especially, since I am so driven by passion for what I am doing.

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?

I would probably say it was around 2008 when the market completely crashed. We were going through that recession and the business really lessened up. A lot of the companies we worked with either reigned in on spending or shut down completely. What this forced us to do was to find new avenues. We put our heads together and thought, ‘Ok. What is something that people have to have?’ So, we started to target other industries such as food and that became our largest avenue. We began focusing on beverages, like bottled water. We also focused on, what some may refer to as the ’sin baby’, the alcohol industry. We figured out things that, no matter what, people had to have and kept buying; these were the industries we found that never slowed down. We started to implement more sales and went out knocking on doors and really aligned ourselves as a company and came out of that recession on top.

What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read we should put on our list?

A book that has really stayed with me and is probably one that many other people have already read is The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. It’s all about positive thinking and urges you to keep trying and keep going. I think the message is relevant to all areas of your life. You have to stay positive and do what you can to keep going and be the best person that you can be to others. I think it’s one of those things that you’ll get back in return when you come by other people in your life.

You have to stay positive and do what you can to keep going and be the best person that you can be to others.

There is another one out there called Healing the Hopeless from Gerson Institute. I think it’s a book that anyone can read and really learn a great deal from. It’s about food and where it comes from nowadays and why it’s so important to grow food that is natural and organic as well know what’s in the other products that you’re using daily, like deodorant. People need to know what’s in these types of products and why it’s so important to know what you’re putting on and in your body. Cannabis is mentioned in there and it talks about how it’ s helped people with their particular ailments. People don’t have to suffer, there is natural relief out there for people. This book shows how people that are diagnosed with an illness can reverse their disease. It stresses how you need to get your body back to a state in which your immune system can actually fight the disease. I’m not going to say that chemo and radiation is a bad thing, but I’ve seen the harm that it’s capable of and I don’t believe it’s the right treatment for everyone and this book shows an alternative way.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

“If you haven’t failed, you’re not doing things right.” This came from my father who always stressed that it’s not about the failure, it’s how you pick yourself back up from it and make adjustments to keep going. It’s a part of life! Nothing is smooth sailing.

How would you advise someone who wants to join the industry?

Find out what talents you possess. Are you a grower? Is that your passion? Are you someone who wants to build machines? Find your niche. What type of materials do you possess and what type of passion do you have towards it? Follow your passion. We got into what we’re doing now because of a passion we had for it. We weren’t originally in this industry. We took a step back from where we were, inventoried our tools and skills, and placed ourselves in an area where we were confident we’d succeed in.

What is a skill or trait that you think is necessary to make an impact in this industry?

I’d definitely say that you have to be one of those people who is very hands-on. This is one of those industries that you have to be present in and know everything about what’s going on in your business. You have to know your equipment, you have to know the process, you’re going have to go through the cycles of the grow period so you can see what works and what doesn’t. If you’re not hands-on and getting a little dirty on the floor, then it’s going to be very hard for you to be successful in this industry.

What is the most important thing for us to know now about the legal marijuana industry?

It’s coming. Whether people are ready for it or not, it’s coming. People are beginning to understand that there’s a need for it. There is testing and research surfacing that is proving that it can help these suffering medical patients. There are a lot of people that simply aren’t educated out there, but once they are.. and they come to understand what this industry is really about, it’s going to be huge. In my eyes, medical cannabis trumps what’s out there in terms of medicine. It’s not something that is a manufactured in a laboratory, it’s something that is naturally growing.

In my eyes, medical cannabis trumps what’s out there in terms of medicine.

If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?

We’ll probably be talking about how we were sitting here talking about the very beginning! It’s an industry that has so much room for innovation. It will constantly be changing! We will be talking about new ways to grow, new ways to distribute, new research breakthroughs, to name just a few.

There are going to be new things happening: It’s going to create jobs and it’s going to help a lot of people! That’s what we’ll be talking about a year from now and onward into the future!

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