DRI Interviews Drayten Howell, Founder & CEO at indacut
Max Resnik, Medical Cannabis Practice Leader at Direct Recruiters, had the opportunity to interview Drayten Howell, Founder and CEO at indacut, for a series of questions surrounding how he got his start, the cannabis industry and the expansion and success of his company.
Indacut aims to bring knowledge to the therapeutic benefits cannabis offers consumers. They want to break the stigma surrounding cannabis and give clients a natural and effective remedy. With exclusive selections, friendly staff and quality, lab-tested products, clients receive nothing less than a rewarding experience. Indacut is your premier cannabis delivery service.
Founder & CEO
How do you go from college basketball player to one of the youngest cannabis industry entrepreneurs in America with the launch of indacut?
It has definitely been a rollercoaster of a ride. My mom and I have a close relationship. She supports me 100 percent. It was just her and I growing up. There was a time when things weren’t as optimistic, when we lived in a hotel. My dad was in the system, a victim of the drug war.
My freshman year of college, I got a job, and she was livid. “Why would you want to work for somebody? I raised you better, and I raised you to be your own boss. You've seen what I went through,” she said. I told her I wanted to leave my scholarship behind, and she was hesitant at first but then it was a no-brainer to her. That stuck with me, so I showed her my business plan and what I wanted, and it was a no-brainer. I am forever blessed. I did my property search from my dorm in college and found a facility from my dorm room. I used the street view on the map, and the hotel we used to live in was behind it. It is humbling because it is a reminder you are one decision away from going back. It’s a testament to your goals that you can do anything you put your mind to, no matter the circumstances.
To be fully honest, I was oblivious to what was going on in the cannabis industry. After meetings, I had to read up on regulations for the next 2-3 hours to get caught up. Fake it till you make it. Athletics played a part in the transition. With me being competitive – and it’s a competitive market – the discipline athletics instilled in me has made it easy to walk in and go after a plan, execute and get a team around me to help me do that. Since I was able to play point guard and quarterback, the leadership roles transition into being a young CEO, helping my team and getting into these other markets.
How important is your relationship with your mom?
My mom has done 700 deliveries herself. When I trained her, I had to do it in a different way because she has a rare brain disease, but she brings so much to the table when I am away. She does things for us every day and is a big part of my business. We are solely expanding in-house. My mom sold her rental house for us to operate in to start, and we are operating right beside a hotel we were living in. My mom works with me every day. It’s pretty easy with her right by my side.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since starting your delivery service?
One is getting people's attention. Marketing strategy is very important, and in the beginning, we didn't have a lot of capital to run typical SEO ads and pay for premium listings. The second challenge was access to banking. It's very hindering when you do enough volume and scale business up (but still can’t access capital). We have been able to scale up, so banks are inviting us to open an account with them now. Third is growing pains. I had no mentor. The market is new to everyone and no one is an expert. Dealing with curves and punches the regulators are throwing at us and expecting us to abide by is a challenge. It is both an advantage to us and disadvantage. It keeps operators out who aren’t serious.
Is it fair to say the COVID-19 pandemic helped spur your business? If so, what impact did it have?
COVID has been a blessing and curse. We launched in the middle of the pandemic, and then we were deemed essential. We launched on 4/20, and everyone in California was full-go in a stay-at-home order, so that helped us. We capitalized and provided customers with great experience, quality products and we make them feel at home. Especially during hard times, the least we can do is bring some joy to people and bring quality product at a fair price. This is medicine for people and a getaway, and it's at an all-time high with all the uncertainty. We take it seriously and work with our software to create a great customer experience through texts to consumers and communication throughout the process of the delivery. It has set us apart in California right now.
“Why would you want to work for somebody? I raised you better, and I raised you to be your own boss. You've seen what I went through.”
Racial disparities in ownership in the cannabis industry are well known. What has this journey been like for you?
I have to prove myself. During this time with Black Lives Matter and the awareness rising, people have given me a chance and I'm able to lock them into our loyalty program because we make them feel like family. I became a consumer of my own business and put how I would want to be treated at the forefront. At the end of the day, everyone is human and all have things they are going through. So, the least we can do is be nice to each other. The disparity in this industry, every city and county has to have some sort of social equity program going through this. I’m working with a social equity applicant in Michigan. One thing I’ve come to understand is that each program should have their own sets of requirements geared towards social equity applicants, especially as it pertains to capital raises. Only people with money can get into this industry. The playing field needs to be leveled a little, especially for people disproportionately affected by the drug war. There needs to be appropriate changes to benefit the people who put this industry on their back when it wasn’t a legal and essential business.
What advice do you have for other Black entrepreneurs?
My advice for black entrepreneurs is keep going. You have to keep going. If you run into a ‘no,’ you have to break the wall down. It's tough to process, and we aren’t used to having to go through this. Keep going, roll with the punches, persevere and you’ll reap the benefits.
And what in the industry must change?
Overregulation needs to change. As a delivery service, I should be able to build SOPs and what I want out at a specific time. When there is a high-volume base, the cap on what we can have on a truck is limiting. They also make the hiring process so hard, so we have to wait two weeks to hire someone. No other industry has those holes and handcuffs like we do. We are overtaxed, overregulated and we have no access to banking, but we have to wire money to the bank to pay the state taxes. It’s hypocritical. They're doing it because people lobbied.
You have your sights set on Michigan. What plans do you have in The Wolverine State?
I chose Michigan because it’s a new, emerging recreational market. Secondly, my buddy went to school in Michigan, and we are ultimately opening a storefront in Big Rapids next to Ferris State University and offering delivery into Grand Rapids. He saw what I was doing in California, and I saw the players in Michigan running the show. I thought I could find my little piece of the pie and bring my skill set from California and offer it to consumers in Michigan. My business partner Marielle Johnson and I talked for a couple of weeks and decided this is something we should do. Mari is my Social Equity Applicant, and his story is amazing. We found a property and got active on the licensing process. Fast forward and now we are about three months from getting our license. We finished pre-qualifications to meet state and local regulations and are about to break ground for construction. We have a great design group for the dispensary. We want it to be free flowing like an Apple store, so we are able to educate the customer. It’s important to me because consumers are so dedicated to THC percentage, but the plant is beautiful and provides so many different qualities. I want to push education and interaction within the dispensary so customers can feel comfortable, provide fast checkout and bring some of the California feel to Michigan.
The dispensary will be running deliveries. It will be the same model as California in Michigan. Once they loosen regulations, which I think they will, I’ll get a leg up servicing Grand Rapids.
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