Getting in the Weeds of Expanding All Kinds of Businesses
There are very few industries that are growing as fast as the cannabis industry, which saw about $20 billion in sales in 2020, and that number is expected to double in the next five years. With that much potential profit and opportunity available, getting into the cannabis game is something that a lot of folks are starting to jump into. But as with any other industry, there is more to it than just the product itself. Manufacturing, distribution, expansion and regulation all play a role.Liz Wald has experience in all of these areas, and she is putting them to use as the Chief Strategy and Digital Officer for Good Earth Organics. Liz has a long and impressive history in the digital world, having gotten her start at places like AOL, Etsy, and Indiegogo. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, she guides us through all of it, including the trials and tribulations of turning an ecommerce marketplace such as Etsy into an international player and what other companies can learn from that journey. Plus, she talks about building partnerships, expanding into new markets, and how all of that will happen in the cannabis space. Enjoy this episode. And as a special treat, from 6/23/21 - 7/7/21, enjoy 20% at checkout on Good Organics orders by entering the code UPNEXT20.Main Takeaways:International Interests: Companies, especially ecommerce companies, can sometimes think they are ready for international expansion before they actually are. In order to not get in over their heads, companies or marketplaces that want to expand internationally should start with countries similar to the one they already operate in — they speak the same language, use similar payment methods, and have common standards and practices. Once expansion there is successful, they can continue to seek other opportunities abroad.Partner Up: Sometimes the best way to reach potential customers in a new market is to partner with companies that already have those customers’ business. In the case of Good Organics, reaching new customers in Oklahoma or New York means forging partnerships with distributors of other goods and services that target customers need, and bringing the conversation into that space rather than trying to reach them elsewhere.Work Smarter, Not Harder: There is nothing wrong with riding the coattails of a big industry boom. If you can position yourself as ancillary or as an offshoot to the main product or goods that people are rushing to purchase, then you have just as good of an opportunity to be successful, and you don’t have to compete with the big guys who are dominating the game in the main space.For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.---Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce---Transcript:Stephanie:Welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles CEO at mission.org. Today we have Liz Wald joining the show, who currently serves as the chief strategy and digital officer at Good Earth Organics. Liz, welcome.Liz:Thanks so much, Stephanie. Great to be here.Stephanie:Same. Yeah. I wish this was in video format so people could see your background, but for anyone who can't see it, describe it a bit because I think it will be a good segue way and intro into this show.Liz:Absolutely. Well, my background is an amazing cannabis plant. It is fully crystallized and ready for harvest, full of amazing terpenes and somebody is going to really enjoy consuming it.Stephanie:Yeah. When I was going through and looking at where you've worked previously, it was really cool to see where your journey has led you through places Etsy and Indiegogo, and now to the cannabis industry. And I wanted to hear a bit about your background and how you got to where you are now.Liz:Sure. Well, I went to business school at Kellogg at Northwestern and I graduated in 1995. And a lot of people were going to banking and consulting and whatnot. And I looked around and I was like, "This whole internet thing. It seems it's going to be big. People are going to be shopping and doing things like that." And so, I was also not really interested in going to a big corporate. So, I found my way to a small group of people doing consulting to a little company called AOL back when you [crosstalk] mail was a thing. We were getting thick magazines with CD ROMs in them and you had a dial up internet connection. So, some of your listeners might have been too young to even know what all that is.Liz:But, basically that was the beginning of when people were really thinking about whether e-commerce was going to be a legit thing. And at that time, people were like, "You'll never buy clothes. That's crazy. You'll only buy books or CDs," back in the day. So, I got into the industry, through that initial work with AOL. And then, from there, I did a lot of different things. One of which was built my own business working with women all over Africa bringing fair trade products to the US and then reselling those products. And I'd like to say it was about 15 years too early, a little ahead of the curve on a sort of fair trade sustainable businesses, but I learned a ton about what it's like for makers and importing and exporting and just the whole life cycle of getting a product made. And then from point A to point B.Stephanie:I think we still need that. I mean, I think we can just come back and do that still.Liz:Exactly. That experience between my experience at working with AOL and then, my experience working with these makers set me up really well when I saw this opportunity to join Etsy. And it was back then, there was only about 50 people working at Etsy. It was really small. They were doing under a hundred million dollars of what's called gross merchandise value sort of stuff sold on the platform. And they really wanted to go global. And I was like, "Well, I'm your girl. I live in New York. I've had experience doing global and I've got some experience with e-commerce." And so, that's how my journey got me to that space. And then, from there when new things popped up like crowdfunding, I got on that boat and then cannabis.Stephanie:That's amazing. So, I would love to maybe touch on Etsy for a bit and hear about, what that looked going global. Like, what was it when you entered Etsy and where did you take it to? Just some of the details around that, that seemed super fascinating.Liz:Yeah, sure. So, the thing that's interesting about the internet is you can look at your stats and almost immediately you're like, "We're global. We've got people coming from all over the place." So, it's very tempting early on to say, like, "We're ready to go international." And I think a lot of the learning is that because the internet is so global, it makes companies, I think jump early, perhaps even earlier than they should. But I didn't know that then. Etsy didn't know that then. It was very early days of all of this. So, when I came in, I was like, "All right. Well, we've got all these sellers who are living in other places," but most of the buyers at that time were still in the US. So, it's global, but it's a little bit different because you're not having a full marketplace outside the US and a lot of the buyers don't even know that that product was made in France or the UK or Japan or whatever. They just see a cool product and they want to buy it.Liz:But we wanted to try to develop those outside markets and Etsy had a real first mover advantage in the US for like digitizing the craft fair, if you will. So, the first thing you really understand is the way business works in other countries, isn't necessarily the same as the US. And the first thing I did, everyone was like, "Hey, let's go to Guatemala, let's have sellers." And I was like, "No, no, no, we're going to Canada. We're going to Australia. And we're going to the UK because A, they speak English, B, they use credit cards, C, culturally, the expectations for quality control and everything else are the same.Liz:And then from there, we can start looking at other European countries where you've got language and other things that might be different, but similarly, expectations and whatnot." The other major challenge when you have a marketplace is payments. So, the way somebody typically pays for something in Germany, France, and the UK are entirely different. And this was way before we had all these amazing payment companies that existed. 10, 15 years ago, we didn't have those kinds of tools. So, back then, you know, Germans use very little credit. They use effectively a debit card. It comes straight out of their bank, but they do that differently than we do it. They don't actually, do it the same way. The French at that time were still writing checks. I mean, they weren't using credit either. And then in the UK, they were using credit sort of the way we normally think of it and the systems were different. So, Carte Bleue was the French credit card. We didn't have a way to process that in the US. So, those kinds of issues came up very early.Liz:Like, are we really going to invest in the payment platform, let alone the language and converting euros to dollars and all those different tax pieces and all that stuff. So, that stuff spirals up real quick. And I think when you're a small company, you've got to understand, like is it worth it for us to take part of our engineering and product development team and put it toward that problem today? Or are we really going to just allow sellers who are willing to jump through their own hoops to be on essentially a US platform and then cultivate that and come back to international later. So, those were some of the challenges we had to think through. And then that learning really helped me when I went to my next places.Stephanie:Yeah. I think that's such a good lesson just overall, because it can be so easy to see the shiny thing of like, "Of course, I want to like be in Vietnam and get all the products there and serve this tribe here and buy their goods." It's easy to want to jump on that instead of being like, "Wait, let's do the maybe more risk-free semi boring things or like do more of what we're already doing a good job at, and then expand afterwards and bring people to you if you can, while building up a stellar platform."Liz:Yeah, exactly. And I put together this thing in my mind, I called it best. B-E-S-T. And the B and the E were sort of at a macro level, is a country easy to do business in? Is there an entrepreneurial mindset? Is there access to credit? Like at a big business level. And then economically, is there strong GDP? Like, do people spend money? Is there access to regular services? If you're going into a very much a developing country and you're expecting regular shipments and all of that, and then power is going out every other week, that's a real problem.Liz:So, you have these two business and sort of economics pillars and then you have the other side, which is sort of the social and technical pillars. So, that's the S and the T. Like, socially, is it very trusted and common and high risk tolerance and a global mentality and a trust in the markets and people are just very fluid with shopping online and that kind of thing. And then finally, it's just the basics of like, do the payment systems integrate? Are the platforms open? Is there social media access? All those kinds of things. So, you really have to look at those big macro economic things, as well as the cultural things to figure out if you're going to the right places for your products and services.Stephanie:Yeah. I completely agree. So, the one thing I keep thinking about too, now that we're talking about payments and how to explore different countries, and I feel you've been ahead with seeing certain industries and I think being way ahead of your time and introducing things probably before it's even like has the technology there to be able to support it. But I keep thinking about crypto and right now we're still worrying about payments and there are a lot of payment companies, but it's still tricky of like converting things. And I think of this world where you don't even know what's happening behind the scenes. Like everyone's going to be transacting, it's all going to be a similar currency and all of that's going to go away when it comes to converting different currencies and what plugs into what, like, things will just work in the future and the underlying tech behind it, or whatever crypto is behind, it doesn't really matter to the average consumer, even if it's maybe smart, not just payments, but also smart contracts and stuff too. Like, same thing. Like it just works. What are your thoughts on that today?Liz:A hundred percent. I couldn't agree more. I mean, the analogy I to use is everyone watches TV, zero people know how a television works.Stephanie:Yeah. [crosstalk] in the early days, or they may have known how their computer works in the early days or storage and all that, but then it's like, you kind of take it for granted.Liz:Yeah. You just use it. And crypto I think is really interesting and I think more interesting is blockchain, the technology in general. The backbones of this. And it needs to be figured out so that you can... If you happen to have ether and you want to use it, it's as simple conversion that you don't really think about just the way you have your phone and you hold it up over a terminal and somehow magically your credit card pays for something. It needs to be at that level of simplicity so that people don't think about it. And I think that the key benefit of blockchain and crypto, setting aside, of course, the security and traceability, it's just removing costly friction. It makes me bananas that it takes three days to send a wire transfer and they charge me $25 on one end, $15 on the other end. And I'm like, "Guys, I sent that email in a millisecond, why can't I send my money? And why are you charging me $25?"Liz:And, you know, it has so much to do with the security of, "This one transaction, is it going from bank A to bank B?" With blockchain, all that goes away and you don't have to pay those crazy fees. You look at the developing world, the amount of money that goes to a Western union on transfers and payments, it's outrageous. [crosstalk]Stephanie:... very scared, I would think.Liz:Absolutely.Stephanie:Yeah. Like, they're definitely going to be gone in a couple of years. I used them. My aunt and uncle are in Germany and they're like, "Oh, we sent you money via Western union." And I was like, "What is that? What do I do with this?" And then they're like, "Yeah, I think you just go to a grocery store like Safeway." I'm like, "What?" And I saw the fee and it was a whole thing. I'm like, "Wow, how are you all still even around? Like, can you guys just send me a Bitcoin and I'll be good." So, how should companies be preparing for that? Because right now so many companies, I see them either investing in their own payment technologies, figuring out all the logistics for that, or investing in other people's technology of course, and onboarding with that. But to me, it all feels a little bit short-sighted if knowing that the world could be very different in just a couple years, and it's not going to be this much friction.Liz:I think most companies, I mean, Etsy was in a really unique situation in that it was a marketplace and very few payment options existed for marketplace. You basically had PayPal and eventually Amazon payments, which was domestic only for a long time. And so, Etsy made the decision to build a payments platform. I would not suggest for most companies, that is a route to go. Blockchain and crypto on top of that, I think Visa and MasterCard and companies that are trying to dethrone Visa and MasterCard use their rails, bring in crypto, be able to use their backbone, but not really pay all the Visa and MasterCard fees. I think those are the companies that are going to solve this problem. And most companies that are doing e-commerce, whether they're selling soil or t-shirts, or Elon and his cars like, ultimately they're going to have a third party that's figuring out the backend of that to make it easy for consumers.Liz:But those problems, I think just like dial up was a disaster and now, we're doing a live Zoom with streaming video, no problem. So, I think those problems will get solved. And especially for smaller companies, I would just let the process happen and then just integrate it when it's easy for consumers. And in the meantime, most people are going to use a credit card and be fine with it.Stephanie:Yeah. I love that. It's easy to forget how many technological problems have been solved and how many times people thought like, "Oh, we'll never be able to figure this out. Like, we'll never be able to figure out dial up. We'll never be able to figure out cars like horses are the way that we're going to be traveling." So, I feel like it's such a short term mindset right now. And people are like, "We won't be able to figure out the energy usage of mining Bitcoin," or whatever it may be. And it's like, "We figured out a lot of other things so I'm pretty bullish on America and people in general figuring it out."Liz:Well, it's so interesting you said cars and horses because I'm working in the cannabis industry and hemp, the cannabis plant is the same thing. Hemp and cannabis, it's all the same plant. Obviously, it's grown in different ways for different purposes. But back in like the twenties when Henry Ford was making a car, he made a car out of hemp. Like, it's as strong as steel. And here we are now a hundred years later figuring out that, "You know what? Hemp could be an amazing product that is a carbon sequester. It's super strong. It helps regenerate the soil. There's so many great things about it." So, sometimes we make innovation moving forward and sometimes we come absolutely full circle and now have the additional technologies to make it scalable or whatever it is. So, I just think it's a really interesting dichotomy.Stephanie:Yeah. Well, let's jump into Good Earth Organics. Tell me a bit about what it is and what drew you to this company.Liz:Yeah, sure. So, in a nutshell, we make soil. And so, I didn't know this and a lot of people probably don't realize that like when you go down to a store and you buy a bag of potting soil, there's no dirt in it. It doesn't come from someone's backyard. No one dug that up and put it in a bag.Stephanie:I actually always wondered where it came from.Liz:Yeah, where does it come from? Is there a giant place where we're taking all the dirt? So, soil is made from organic materials. It's made from compost and it's made from peat moss and it's made from perlite or pumice or other natural and organic elements that you mix together. In our case, Good Earth Organics, we do all natural 100% certified organic inputs.Liz:So, when you put a plant in the ground, it gets its food from what's ever in the soil. So, a lot of the earth soil today because of farming practices, pollution, just people stomping on the ground, all over the world, that soil doesn't have the nutrients that it used to have in it. It's compacted, it's got toxins in it. So, if you want to grow really super healthy plants, you've got to put it in really solid soil. And, of course, it needs air and water and sunshine, but the food comes from the ground. And so, we make premium organic soil that is optimized to grow cannabis. So, it will have the right combination of nitrogen and phosphorus and potassium and other bunch of microorganisms and whatnot that will feed this plant and have it grow in a natural, organic enriched way.Liz:And the company is based in an area in Southern Oregon. I like to call it sort of the Napa valley of Weed because it's called the Emerald Triangle and it's Southern Oregon and Northern California. And some of the best outdoor cannabis is grown in this part of the country because of the weather and the terroir and the rainfall and all the things that mix together. But even here, people need to use the soil, actual, not from the ground soil. Some of it, the terroir you can grow, but they add this living soil. It's got living organisms in it. And if you think about what you eat every day, if you eat super healthy, wonderful food, you feel great. You work out, you feel healthy. If you eat a ton of junk food, you don't necessarily feel so good.Liz:And it's the same for the plant. If they're pulling a bunch of toxins out of the ground, it doesn't grow as well, or look as beautiful as the photo behind me, which we'll try to share with the listeners. And then whatever's in that plant is what goes into you. So, if that plant pulls a bunch of toxins and heavy metals out of the ground and then you smoke it or vape it or consume it in a beverage or whatever it is, that's going into your body. So, for us, it's all about a super clean, healthy soil. It's really good for the plant. It's going to be also good for you as a person. And it helps regenerate that existing soil that's not in great shape now. So, it's a little bit of a long answer to your question, but that's what we do.Stephanie:I have so many questions now because this whole world... I mean, I have heard for a long time that the soil that we have today, it's not what it used to be and that we used to be like kids would be out playing in the dirt and they'd be getting good organisms from that. And like, they'd be getting exposed to things and just they're not today. And it makes me start to think about everything we eat now and everything we do, like, is there a certain regulations that make sure that if something says it's organic and that means it's growing in a type of soil and it's been tested for toxins, like, what does the landscape look right now not just for growing cannabis in good soil, but overall?Liz:So, there's a couple of different things. So, at one level, the FDA, the US food and drugs association is not regulating cannabis because cannabis is not federally legal. So, there are other groups. So, we've got two certifications on our soil, OMRI and Clean Green. And these two organizations really look at the inputs. What's going into that soil? Then each state, state by state by state, because again, cannabis is not federally legal, technically legally, you cannot cross a state line with cannabis. So, if you grow it in Oregon, you have to sell it in Oregon. And every state has its own level of testing and their own specific requirements. So, Oregon and California and Washington have very, very, very high requirements to ensure that there are no toxins, no heavy metals.Liz:So, if you're a grower and your entire crop is hinging on, "Did I pass this test?" You want to be pretty sure that the inputs in your plant are great, so you don't fail those tests. And other states, especially where you're growing indoors, most cannabis in the US, if you're growing it in these 36 legal states, most states don't have the environment of Oregon, Washington, California, so it's grown inside.Liz:And even in Oregon, a lot of it's grown inside except for this area of Southern Oregon. And so, they're growing their plants and soil, but they're feeding it hydroponically and whatnot. And they're very, very careful about what those nutrients are in order to pass those state tests. So, if you see, OMRI or CDFA, which is California's certification on inputs like if you're a home grower, you know, "Okay. Nothing going into my plant is going to be bad for me, it's all going to be natural and organic, which is great."Stephanie:Okay, cool. So, why with this amazing [inaudible] like cannabis? Like, why not start expanding into, like "Now we're doing produce, now we're doing... whatever it might be.Liz:It's a great question and the short answer is you could absolutely grow your tomatoes in this soil and it'll be amazing.Stephanie:The best tomato I've ever had.Liz:The best tomato ever. And most of our cannabis growers, some of them have huge farms. They also have amazing vegetable gardens. They grow all their own things because they're amazing growers. And if you go to goodearthorganics.com, there's a woman on there named Joy. And she came in with these radishes that are the size of softballs, and she grew them in our Gaia's Gift Soil. And she's like, "They're amazing. They're juicy. They're huge. They're incredible." So, people do use our soil for things other than cannabis, but cannabis is a massively growing industry. It was about $20 billion in sales this past year 2020. It's going to 40 billion.Liz:So, it's doubling in the next few years and cannabis on the east coast sells for $4,000, a wholesale pound. On the west coast, it might be a thousand dollars a pound. So, our soil, we're optimizing for people that are growing things for a $1,000 to $4,000, a pound. Even heirloom tomatoes don't cost that much, even at the most expensive organic grocery. So, it's just a huge market to go after. And because of our 12 years or 13 years of experience working with growers and really optimizing for cannabis, we want to take that heritage and experience and target it in an industry that's booming and that can absorb a higher cost soil.Liz:If you go down and buy a bag of our soil, it's not going to be the least expensive one on the shelf just like organic food or organic strawberries costs more than conventional ones. So, we want to be in this growing market and we also want to use all this experience that we have from this learning when we go into new markets. We've just entered Oklahoma and you have 6,000 growers there, and they're all pretty new to growing cannabis. And so, we can come in and say, "Well, we've got 12 years experience from Oregon, let us help you think through what might be the right products' soils, nutrients, whatnot, to grow your cannabis."Stephanie:Yeah. So, what does the partnership with the farmers look like?Liz:So, basically, bigger farmers, growers, cultivators, they come to us and they say, "Hey, this is our planting season. This is how much soil we need." Some of them ask us to create small changes based on things that they're doing. But for the most part, we've got these three core soils that we make. One of them is sort of a fully loaded, it's got all the nutrients in it, it's got everything you want.Liz:Another one is we call it inert. It doesn't have any living nutrients in it. It's just a really great base. And sometimes I explain to people if you've got a sponge and you've got dish soap, you can use that sponge more time... You know, you put the soap in it and you wash your dishes, the soap eventually runs out, but the sponge is still there. And that base of the soil is like the sponge. And then you add the nutrients in as needed. So, people who are growing indoors, they have very specific regimen of how they're feeding their plants, but they want really a nice, healthy thing for the roots to hold onto and for the drainage to be just right. And then they can add the food as they need it, but keep using the base and then replace the base in the next growing season.Stephanie:Mm-hmm (affirmative). How do you think about new markets? I mean, I can see you being very strategic about that, just you were with Etsy. So, how do you choose a place to go and then how do you even get on the radar of these farmers and acquire new customers?Liz:Yeah. So, it's a great question. Part of it being in Southern Oregon and since 2008, people know us here. So, they know of us and they come to us, but we started looking... I live in New York and New York just finally legalized cannabis and we have a not legal $4 billion market already. So, this is just a huge opportunity. So, being in the east and looking at already what's been going on in the west, you can see where major opportunities are happening. So, I mentioned Oklahoma, Oklahoma is a medical only state and they have more dispensaries per capita than any other state other than Oregon. And they have 6,000 growers. Now, some of these growers grow two plants and some of these growers grow 2000 acres. It's a wide range.Liz:But when you look at these new markets that are just literally exploding flowers like it's blooming overnight. You can see that they don't have the knowledge of more sophisticated markets. And it's such a great opportunity to say, "Hey, we know we've got products that will serve that market and that there aren't a lot of other companies yet in that market." So, Oklahoma was one place. Another place might be Michigan or Illinois. Those are relatively new cannabis markets with massive amounts of people and a lot of learning. So, we're looking at those kinds of markets. And of course, ultimately New York now. Right now, New York only has 10 licensed growers. They're all these big multi-state operators. So, over time, as we see how many licensed growers are going to be in these other areas with big populations, we could map out where we want to go.Stephanie:Yeah. It also seems like you would have maybe two different types of farmers that you would need to reach. I mean, there's the entrepreneurial person who's just like, "I want to get into this industry. I've never farmed before, but I know there's an opportunity." And they're probably, very savvy when it comes to like their digital savviness or okay with going online, trying something, maybe if they see an ad from you, they're like, "Yeah, sure. I'll give it a try." And then you have this whole other segment of customers that it's probably just a part of their farming strategy where they're like, "Oh, I've done, all the other [inaudible] before. I always just go to my retail location and I pick up the soil I need, or I have a big truck delivery of it." And they're not really accustomed to going online and maybe having orders coming in like through e-commerce. So, how do you approach these different types of customers?Liz:Yeah. You're totally right. So, we think of ourselves as direct to grower. So, instead of, DTC, we're sort of DTG. And the first group you mentioned, I put them in the home grower category. With the pandemic last year, tons of people, particularly young people were like, "I'm going to start gardening. I'm going to start growing things." And now there are over 20 states that allow home grow. And so, those people, you're absolutely right, they're going online, they're seeing Good Earth Organics soil on our website, on Amazon, on walmart.com and they're reading like, "Wow, this looks like great soil. It's healthy. It's going to be good for my plants." They could come on our website and attend a webinar about growing, things like that.Stephanie:I was going to say, I love the tutorial, How To Grow Weed 101.Liz:Exactly. But then there's the large cultivator. And those people are going through either an independent garden center or a hydroponic store and they're coming in there for all their needs. They're buying soil, they're buying lights if they grow indoors, they're buying nutrients, all these things. It's really a commercial endeavor. And so, with that market, we are partnering up either with the distributors that sell to those guys and doing education at that level so that people understand why Good Earth Organics soil and nutrients are valuable to these growers. And that's what we're doing in Oklahoma it's partnering with some of the local distributors there, educating their customers that they've already been working with for years, who like you said, maybe those are people who historically were growing tomatoes and alfalfa and who knows what. And so, they're used to coming into that an environment. So, we see that direct to grower conversation at a different level than the one for the home grower.Stephanie:Yeah. So, when I'm thinking about a traditional grower going in and seeing the products that are there, I mean, even from my perspective, I'll go to a [inaudible] I need some soil, "Okay. We've got Miracle-Gro and this one. Oh, this one has a nicer name. It sounds a miracle. It's going to turn my plant into a big plant. This one seems like it's not." And I just pick one based off packaging. Obviously, I'm not as knowledgeable as a farmer, but how do you really make sure that your product stands out and it really showcases all the benefits without being there? I mean, you guys are there.Liz:It's absolutely a great question. It's not easy, is the answer. For us, our name, Good Earth Organics with the giant organic on the front like that helps. And we have our certifications right on the bag. If you look at some soil that's synthetically made and you flip over and you start reading the back and there's giant warning, "Keep away from children," et cetera. It gives you the idea that, "Maybe this is great to grow my lawn really quickly. Maybe it's not something I want to be eating after I grow it." Of course, these are obviously tested and no one's going to get sick or whatnot, but it's just that-Stephanie:[crosstalk] we know of.Liz:Exactly. If you go to the grocery store and you see the whole organic section and you see the not organic section, you can choose. And especially items that like, I know the berries, they're sprayed and it's right on the berry. It's different with an orange or a banana where you're peeling off the outer skin. So, some people might decide, "I'm going to spend a fortune for those raspberries, but I'm going to buy the conventional bananas." And so, I think with soil, people are starting to understand like learning that like what's in the ground goes in the plant. And it's up to us to provide more of that education through podcasts, through advertising, through our website. And hopefully as consumers really start to think about everything that goes into their bodies. And again, the pandemic, it's kind of like, what is a pandemic? It's a virus that was transmitted from person to person that came about probably because we've done a lot of damage to our planet. There's a lot of pollution and chemicals and whatnot. And I think people are getting that into their heads to think more about what goes into their bodies.Stephanie:Yeah. It also seems like now's the time when consumers for a while we're focused on like bigger is better. So, like I was mentioning around like looking at the soil and being like, "This one will get you the biggest plant or this one will... Go to the grocery store. Oh, I want the bigger one." And now they're starting to really think about, "Okay, what's in that? Where it's being grown? Maybe I'm actually okay with these smaller raspberries that might become bad in two days but knowing that they're organic versus the one that looks beautiful and sits around for two weeks and it's still okay." Like, I think now's the time when people are starting to question a lot about how they eat and consume things and where it's grown, but to your point, education is key. And I think there's still a lot of room there. Now I'm just wondering about anything I'm eating, "What kind of soil is it grown in? I don't know. And what are the regulations here in Texas? Probably not much. I don't know."Liz:Well, the thing is testing. So, we have great anecdotal evidence and we grow our own plants at the company and compare those to others. But now we're doing very detailed third-party testing. So, we can say, "Hey, if you use our soil versus these other soils, this is how your plant is going to grow. This is how much terpenes is available in this plant." And terpenes is what gives flavor and aroma to anything that you eat, whether it's an orange or a cannabis plant. So, it's going to tell you how much production is in each leaf, et cetera. So, we're doing those tests now so that we can say to people, "Hey, this is not only certified organic, but you're going to get more from the plant. And maybe it is going to be growing, not just faster, but much, much thicker stock, much bigger leaves," all of those things.Liz:It's not about how fast it grows. Yes. You want it to not be slow, but how much do you get out of it? What is the yield at the end of the day? And so, through these studies that we're doing now, we'll be able to actually prove what we've known, sort of anecdotally, and just from our own personal experience in-house growing our stuff against other products. And that'll really also be part of the marketing it's like, "Hey, if we can say you get X percent more terpenes in each cannabis plant," people are going to be pretty excited about that. Or, "This much THC is in this plant versus this other plant," people are going to be pretty excited about that.Stephanie:So, what channels are you most excited about right now when it comes to your marketing efforts? Are there any ones that you're bullish on or that you're testing the other people maybe are sleeping on?Liz:Well, I think this last year, it was really interesting. Cannabis is not a federally legal product, but it became an essential item overnight with. It was like, "Wow, from illegal to essential in a month kind of thing." And it exploded e-commerce in this category. In general, e-commerce we saw massive growth but I'm really excited about the home grow market and the opportunity to talk to people yourself directly who are interested and want the education and want to learn more and probably are, I'm not going to say that you don't care about price, but if you're growing four to six plants on your own and you want them to be great and you're going to spend say a hundred dollars on soil, you'd probably be willing to spend $150 on soil if you understood the value and the benefit that was going into that plant.Liz:So, to me, that's a really exciting market because it's brand new and home growers are going to get most of their information online from trusted sources. And because we've done this since 2008 with professional growers, hopefully people will consider us a trusted source. So, I'm super excited about that channel. On the larger cultivators, those people do go to hydroponic stores and independent garden centers and whatnot. And the hydroponic stores are also moving very much online so that they can... If you're buying two pallets of soil, that's very different than two bags of soil, people also want to be able to get that quantity delivered to them. And maybe they don't live that close to a store where they can pick it up or whatnot. So, I do see opportunity in the larger cultivator.Liz:People with massive farms, I mean, they're getting truckloads of soil. They're not ordering it online. They're going direct conversations. But I think the home grower and that sort of mid-sized person starting to... Maybe they're doing a shipping containers worth of grow, they have a huge opportunity to talk to those people online and really help with the education and through the whole growing process like soil is step one. But then, you get to the vegetative state where it's all green and you add certain nutrients to feed the plant at that time. And then it starts to bloom, these beautiful flowers and you give it different nutrients to help with the terpene production and the blooming. And then it gets all crystallized and sugary. There's a third set of nutrients that you add at that growing. So, we want to help people through that entire cycle.Stephanie:Yeah. I mean, I think I just need that 10 step process for any of my plans, even just thinking about which ones do I trim back, which ones don't I, should I be watering it right now when it's dormant? I mean, why don't we have this just for, in general, when even having plants or having at home gardens. That whole world to me feels like something I need to learn, but there's no easy spot to find good education. And then growing cannabis is a whole different level like you said. I mean, do you see more like the large farmers who are used to having the conversations and going to that person... It seems in one to three years, they're all going to be operating digitally too. And a lot of times kind of having the average consumer operating in that market being the home grower also helps, highlight the benefits of that to these bigger farmers who maybe aren't operating that model right now. How do you see that transforming?Liz:Well, I think what we're going to see is lots more technology at the cultivator level. So, I mean, already there are these amazing startup companies that let you see like, "Okay, we have a slightly yellow leaf in the seventh bay of the fifth row in the third level, what's up with that plan?" And it's like, "Oh, that plant got a little too much water." Like everything is becoming extremely technical when you're growing in mass volume and for huge production. So, I think what you're going to see is you're going to see a separation in the industry of... Like we have craft beer today. We have these small batch amazing craft brewery where the brewer is experimenting with things, and then you have huge mass market beer. And I think you'll see that in cannabis too.Liz:If you have a cannabis beverage and you're a Budweiser size company, you're constellation brands, which has made early moves into the cannabis space, they're going to grow... They might even do synthetic THC that's created exactly the same in a very technology driven. The craft person is going to use technology in a different way to make sure that every plant is perfectly healthy and whatnot. And I think the companies that are more integrated with those people, digitally, they will be doing... But at the end of the day, soil is one of those things. You can't get it digitally. It's a physical thing you've got to have. And so, whether they're placing their orders online or talking to their growers or whatnot, I think ultimately they still need to just get this physical product. But we will see huge inroads in technology in running these companies and running these businesses just we've seen in every other industry.Stephanie:Yeah. I completely agree. So, what are you most excited about with Good Earth Organics? What things are you doing right now that you're really bullish on? Where do you want to be in a couple years?Liz:Yeah. In Southern Oregon, we've got this great reputation, we're well known, but I'm super excited just to take us to the whole US. And one of the things we're doing to do that is raising money. And because I spent a few years of Indiegogo doing crowdfunding, I wanted to be able to leverage that experience here at Good Earth Organics. And we're doing a crowdfunding campaign right now on a platform called SeedInvest. And the thing that's great about this is that everyday average person can invest in Good Earth Organics today and ride this wave with us for expansion. And sometimes with private companies, you have to be an accredited investor, you have to have a certain amount of capital, et cetera. With our opportunity, you do not have to be an accredited investor.Liz:The minimum investment is $1,000, which is pretty accessible for a lot of people. And the coolest thing about this is you're investing in the cannabis industry, but you're not, "Touching the plant." We sell a fully legal in every state of the country product soil and nutrients. But because we're going after this cannabis industry, it's a way to invest. And everyone talks about picks and shovels, right? Like Levis got started during the gold rush and all the bar owners and restaurant owners in California who were near the goldmine, they did great, whether or not people found gold. And so, we think of ourselves in that same way and ancillary to the business or to the industry. So, it's an exciting time because we're raising this capital, we're going to go national and all the things you're talking about like how do you build the brand and how do people understand who you are and doing the testing. That's where we are right now.Liz:And my whole career has been come to companies when they've got a vision, but they don't know exactly how they're going to get there. And it's a super exciting time to scale the company and capture these new opportunities. So, I'm super excited about that. And I love that we can open this to everyday regular people who want to jump on this train with us. So, anyone in my [inaudible] you can find us on SeedInvest or from our website, goodearthorganics.com.Stephanie:I love that. I mean, it's also so true to your roots of what you've done so far in your life of like empowering people to be a part of that journey and trying to get artisans to be able to sell their products in the US and it just seems so true to where you've been to be like, "Yeah, we're going to do a crowdfunding investment thesis where everyone can join along with us." That's really cool.Liz:I really do like when we can get, "The little guy and the little girl," on an equal playing field with everyone else. And I think that's probably, technology, one of the most important things that has happened with the result of building the internet and e-commerce, and whatnot is almost anybody can put a website up and it's pretty inexpensively these days. And if not for free and be out there just like the bigger corporations.Stephanie:Yeah. So, the one big question I have is when do you think cannabis will be federally legalized? I feel like [crosstalk]Liz:If I do that [crosstalk]Stephanie:Make a guess, what are you thinking? I know you don't have to talk about this.Liz:So, I actually think we could get to 50 states having it legal before it's federally legal. We're already at 36. Practically, every day I open my email newsletters and it's like another state has it on the ballot. So, I think we're going to see... The way politics is today, trying to get Congress on one page and all of that, I think it's easier for states to say, "Hey, you know what? The job creation and the tax base from this industry is amazing. We need to get on board. Like, our neighboring states are taking all of that from us right now. Like, we need to get on board too." So, I think we could see that and I think we could see some legislation around banking and some of the other things that will allow capital to flow into the industry.Liz:And so, if more states come on and then the safe banking act passes or whatnot, at some point, federal legalization is going to be like, "Well, we might as well do it because all these states are legal." So, I think there's been some hope that the banking might pass this year. And so, we're all crossing our fingers on that. And I mean, Alabama is now got it on the state ballot. So, if you're seeing states in the deep red south thinking about cannabis, it's a really good sign.Stephanie:Yeah. And so, even if all 50 states did legalize it, you still can't do the cross state like transferring of cannabis, which to me is the biggest issue. I read an article a while back where maybe... And I might mix the states up, but there was a huge surplus of cannabis, maybe Nevada or something and then California didn't have enough like they had a lot of demand, not enough cannabis to sell and just the fact that like, they were just stuck in those two states where some of those cannabis was about to just-Liz:Go bad.Stephanie:... go bad. Yeah. And to me that's like, the biggest issue is not being able to like logistically be able to send it around where the demand is and just having to predict accurately like what will the people in the state need? And if you have a surplus then, sorry.Liz:I mean, it is interesting because I always say like, "We don't grow oranges in Minnesota, but everyone has orange juice there." And wine comes from Napa and things are grown where it makes sense, with the bread basket of the US and whatnot. And I think cannabis will get there like interstate commerce is just what we do here. It's just the norm for every other agricultural product or pretty much any product. So, that will change.Liz:And already some states, I think Oregon, California, Washington, and maybe Nevada, the governors have already pre-signed an interstate commerce bill, so if, and when certain things happen legally, they'll be able to... Like, if all of those states are legal, if all 50 states are legal and there are certain things that have happened, they'll be able to start doing that like on day one. So, there's a big push for that thing. And economically, people see, back to the orange juice example, that it doesn't really make sense to grow oranges in 50 states. So, I think we'll get there.Stephanie:Yeah. And I can see a big... Well, I mean, you can tell me, but it seems there'd be a big consolidation effort to [inaudible] people being like, "Wait, why am I growing something in Texas or something where it's very hard to do, maybe I'm going to close up shop here and go where it's a little bit easier or think about an indoor method." And it seems just by all that passing, there'll be another big shakeup coming [crosstalk]Liz:No doubt. And I think indoor has the ability to control the environment. And I think especially on a large scale, almost pharmaceutical grade cannabis, the beauty of outdoor sun-grown, the flavor and the texture and whatnot can be really unique. And it's going to be a little bit different from batch to batch, just like, the 2016 Cabernet is not the same as the 2015 Cabernet. But there's also going to be a huge number of products whether it's gummies like everyone thinks about now or in the future, I think, beverages is going to be an amazing thing. So, instead of going out and having a beer or wine with friends, you go out and you have a cannabis beverage.Liz:They're going to want whatever's in that beverage to be 100% exactly the same every time. So, that you have a beer, you know how your body's going to react to that and it needs to be the same. So, things that will probably be grown indoors and it'll be more of a manufactured type item. So, I think there will be different methods of growing for different purposes no matter what. It's not going to all be done one way. And so, there'll be a lot of opportunity in different areas.Stephanie:Yeah. And it'll be fun to watch.Liz:Yeah, absolutely.Stephanie:Let's shift over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. And this is where I ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. [crosstalk]Liz:Okay. Yes.Stephanie:I'm secretly curious about what?Liz:Oh, wow. I'm secretly curious about... This is such a good question. I'm secretly curious about what other countries will legalize cannabis before the US.Stephanie:That's a good one. When you want to feel more joy, what do you do?Liz:I go outside. 100%. I hike, I ski, I bike. I do something in nature.Stephanie:I love that. Tell me about a time when you made a powerful choice that you still think about.Liz:Powerful choice I still think about? It's funny, throughout my career, I've always been like, "I want to go learn this." And something good will happen from it. And so, that was the case in cannabis. I decided, "I'm just going to start going to conferences and learning." And now I'm working at a company that's 100% focused in this industry.Stephanie:Yeah. That's great. What's something wise your elders taught you?Liz:Keep going, don't give up. I have two older brothers who are about 10 years older than I am. And I learned early that you have to learn how to play the game or learn how to throw the ball or you'll be the ball. And so, just keep at it.Stephanie:Yeah. I like that. If you were to have a podcast, what would it be about and who would your first guest be?Liz:What would it be about? It would be about all the exciting things that women are doing to build businesses and companies. And I would try to bring a bunch of younger generation folks and understand what their challenges are so we could mentor them and ensure that we have a lot of strong women leaders going forward.Stephanie:That would be a good thing. And then the last one, what's up next on your reading list?Liz:I have to say I'm a terrible reader in the sense that I love to read, but I spend too much time reading newsletters and things like that. So, up next on my reading list is, I would really love to read just a good summer beach novel that's completely mindless and I can just flip the pages.Stephanie:All right. Liz, well, this has been such a fun interview. Thank you for coming on and sharing your knowledge and it's just been really interesting. Where can people hear more about you and Good Earth Organics?Liz:Great. Well, first of all, thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure to be here. You can find more about Good Earth Organics at goodearthorganics.com. You can learn more about investing at seedinvest.com/goodearthorganics. And since I've been in the internet space since the mid nineties, you could find me on all the socials pretty much. Liz Wald on LinkedIn and everything else.Stephanie:It's amazing. Thanks so much.Liz:Thank you.