Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about your company? Indoor or outdoor grown?
Will Perry= WP: Magic Hour Cannabis is a boutique indoor grow and lifestyle brand just outside of Portland, Oregon. We produce pesticide-free, top shelf flower with rich terpene profiles, as well as premium pre roll packs. As one of the only minority-owned and operated grows in the country, we are far from the norm in Oregon —- or frankly, in the rest of the country. I’m Black, Jewish, and was raised in the Bronx, while my partner and co-founder Adriana Ruiz Carlile is Guatemalan, Scottish and grew up in Brooklyn. The diversity in our backgrounds has given us a fresh perspective on the business, and led us to be intentional about who we partner with to meet our ancillary needs. To develop our brand, we chose the Portland-based, women and minority owned branding agency Potency. The same intentional lens has guided our selection of photographers, as well as the dispensaries that carry our products, like Greenbox, a black owned delivery service here in Portland.
Starting with excellent plant genetics is key to any successful grow operation, and we’re lucky to start with some of the best genetics in the world from Archive Portland. To condense growing into a sentence, our job is to make sure our plants are in an ideal environment and receive the nutrients they need across their life cycle. Our philosophy is that cannabis should be as clean or cleaner than the food we eat. This means we never spray our plants with pesticides, or feed them synthetic nutrients. We use minimal inputs, and source most of them locally. As amazing as it is to be a part of this industry, it is turbulent – which means we have to stay nimble and cut costs where we can in order to scale our business.
WB: What brought you to the cannabis business? What did you do originally?
WP: My last office job was in L.A. with a digital advertising agency. It was cool, but it just wasn’t for me. Day after day, as I sat under my office’s fluorescent lights, I could feel my soul leaving my body- but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead. In 2014, a good friend moved to LA and started a small medical grow. Knowing absolutely nothing about growing weed, we started helping him at night after our 9-5 jobs. The grow was tucked away in a sketchy industrial neighborhood in East LA, but that was the training ground that taught us many of the lessons we’re applying today.
While California had approved cannabis for medical use, the state was still grappling with how to structure a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana. In those early days, I hustled around downtown LA, selling to shops with 5 or 6 pounds in my backpack and thousands in cash in my pockets. I wondered how long it was going to take California to finalize its regulations, and whether it would be hospitable to small growers who didn’t have access to endless amounts of capital. I had been following Oregon’s progress with legalizing cannabis and was attracted by its low barriers to entry for small entrepreneurs. The state had no cap on the number of licenses and allowed newcomers to obtain a producer (grow) license.
My partner Adriana and I decided to jump at the opportunity in Oregon. I resigned from the ad agency, and she left her job managing the showroom for the Italian clothing company Diesel. In the Fall of 2017, we packed up our Subaru and drove to Portland with the crazy dream of starting a cannabis company with minimal funding and zero employees. We quickly learned that growing excellent flower is a full-time job of intense manual labor, hours of strategizing and researching, and a zen-like attention to detail. We were undeterred and began investing the long hours needed to assure that everything from our branding to the quality of our flower was on point. When we moved to Portland, we took any grow-related jobs we could, starting off at $13 an hour in order to learn more about the industry and pick up tips and tricks from other operators.
WB: Do you have a mentor? Did you always want to do what you do today? Who inspired you?
WP: The cannabis community is unique in that there are few people who truly live the life of a dedicated grower. My number one piece of advice for anyone entering the industry is find solid mentors whose opinions you respect. I was lucky to have my good friend Sebastian Stalman, now the owner at B.A Botanicals in Oregon teach me all he knew. Working with him instilled my love for the art and science of growing quality cannabis. Another mentor is my good friend Clent Baker of PapaJesus Farms, who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of plant science. I text him plant questions at all hours of the day and night. Another source of inspiration is Jesce Horton, owner of a grow in Portland called The Lowd. To my knowledge, he is one of the only other grower/owners of color in the country. Meeting him when I first moved to Portland was inspiring and empowering; he made me realize that starting this company was an attainable goal. He is also a really cool dude willing to share his knowledge. He and his wife Jeannette started a grant program in Portland called Nuleaf to help people of color infuse capital into their cannabis businesses. This year we were fortunate to receive a Nuleaf grant, which gave our business a boost when we really needed it.
For Adriana, a key source of inspiration were the opportunities that a newly emerging field offered for women to take early leadership roles as owners and growers. An ‘untraditional’ industry has level-set notions of who can operate and succeed — and we are motivated to redefine what the typical weed grower looks like.
WB: What are your goals in business? Six and twelve month? What about the obstacles? What about stigmas?
WP: We’re six months into our first fully operational year (after waiting two years for our producer license) and our short term/constant goal is to keep producing the best flower we can, while building an interesting, fun and new lifestyle brand using cannabis. As Magic Hour owners and operators, Adriana and I wear all the hats: from growing the plants, to creating the brand, to selling the product. We even trim when we have to in order to stay lean and save money. We’re pleased to have accomplished our top short-term goal of selling to high-end stores in Portland that value quality flower and growing methods. Our longer-term goals are to establish ourselves as a brand known for consistent, quality flower in Oregon, and eventually to bring the brand to other emerging legal states.
We know that our experience in running all aspects of the grow and business, as well as experience creating a brand from the ground up will give us a template to take to other states. We’re learning the exact cost to produce our product, how much and what we feed the plants, and are refining our systems with every harvest. We’ve also created an apparel line – our first run is almost all sold out (Check out @magichourcannabis on instagram for apparel info)! Another goal is to help end the false narrative that cannabis consumers are lazy and unproductive. We aim to show that this plant is a wellness product and can be used to enhance life as opposed to detract from it.
Long term, we want to have producer licenses in our native New York, or anywhere on the East Coast with attractive opportunities. The biggest obstacle we face is lack of access to capital, as there are virtually no banking options for cannabis companies, making it nearly impossible to obtain loans. We were lucky to have family and friends who believed in us and invested the initial capital, but a potential expansion into other states will be expensive. In terms of stigmas, we’ve been facing those since we entered the industry as young, East Coast minorities. But we are embracing the challenges and are committed whole-heartedly to producing a high-quality product. We’re grateful to be growing a loyal customer base so quickly.
WB: Do you have a favorite food memory? What does your favorite meal look like? Made by whom? (Living or not)
WP: Being a Black Jew, I’m going to have to go with my grandma’s matzo ball soup, matzo brei, and stuffed cabbage. The stuffed cabbage was legendary, it’s hard to describe but it’s basically ground meat encased in a ball of caramelized cabbage. It sounds weird but it was absolutely unreal, and no one made it like my grandma. Y’all know exactly what I mean. My pops also make some of the best chicken wings in the world. I’m trying to get him to move to Portland and open his own food truck!
WB: What is your passion?
WP: My passions are hooping, playing golf, rolling up our signature GG#4: (4% terpene profile), and growing cannabis that people enjoy. From a social equity standpoint, an emerging passion is empowering other minorities and marginalized/underserved groups to enter the cannabis industry and establish rewarding, life-long careers. Cannabis is here to stay. More companies will pop up as legalization spreads. These companies will need operators – and a larger percentage of those operators need to be minorities or those from other marginalized groups. Why not? From the outside looking in, getting a job in the cannabis field may seem intimidating or overwhelming. We want to make cannabis opportunities accessible. Our goal is to start an initiative or partner with an existing program that helps minorities in Portland enter the cannabis industry and learn skills by coming to our grow and be mentored by myself and Adriana.
All credit to Warren Bobrow. Find original posting here.