Bryan Gerber, Co-Founder of Hemper, @hemperco, is a graduate of the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., with a double major in accounting and information systems.
His diverse experience includes operations entrepreneurship & logistics, as well as information technology which allows him to systematically break down problems, and implement creative solutions.
Bryan is responsible for client relations, business & product development, and marketing.
We caught up with Bryan and here’s what he had to say about Hemper and the cannabis industry…
Ganjly: What was your professional background before creating Hemper for the cannabis industry?
Bryan Gerber: I was in my last semester as an information systems major at George Washington University in DC. I was purchasing rolling papers and other cannabis accessories from Amazon and I had to re-order frequently, in part because friends were coming to me when they ran out.
I started wondering if there was a way to automatically replenish my supplies. Amazon didn’t offer that option, but I discussed the idea with Ravjot (RJ) Bhasin and Henry Kochhar, who became my two co-founders. At the time RJ subscribed to BirchboxMan, which sends a curated box of grooming products every month, and I realized that would be the perfect model for smoking accessories. I finished college on May 18, 2015. We shipped our first boxes the next day.
Ganjly: What is Hemper and what makes it different from other smoking subscription boxes?
Bryan Gerber: Hemper is not just a cannabis accessories subscription service. We also design and manufacture our own products, sell a large and diversified portfolio of individual products through our online store, and distribute products through the retail channel. Again, we are building a lifestyle brand, not just focusing on boxes alone.
In terms of the boxes themselves, Hemper offers more functional products without the filler items like lanyards and snacks that come in other subscription boxes.
We also offer better quality and design since we create and manufacture most of the box components ourselves, and we deliver a better value. (Our $30 box delivers $100 worth of product versus $45 or $50 from other providers.)
In addition, our popular celebrity-curated boxes set us apart and usually sell out almost as soon as we start shipping them. They have unique designs that we create specifically for the influencer we’re working with, and they become collectors’ items.
Ganjly: What is the most difficult thing you have encountered while growing Hemper?
Bryan Gerber: Marketing is a major aggravation. We can’t use Facebook or Google ads because both platforms prohibit advertising by cannabis-related businesses, so we’re forced to use other channels like influencers and niche ad networks that cost 5 to 10 times more and have a smaller pool of prospects.
Eventually, given the momentum of the marijuana legalization movement, Facebook and Google will likely change their policies. We’ll have a big party when that happens because it will enable us to reach more people for far less money.
We have also hit some bumps in the road with payment processing. Several banks and five payment processors have dropped us over the last three years because we are considered high risk, despite the fact that it’s perfectly legal to sell cannabis accessories anywhere in the country. The problem started shortly after launch, when we went from selling $10,000 in subscriptions to $50,000 in a single month.
Our second processor even held on to $150,000 in proceeds for six months while they decided whether to keep us or dump us. The processor we’re using now is our sixth, and it looks like we’ve finally found a keeper.
Ganjly: What is your hope for the Cannabis Industry?
Bryan Gerber: This industry is in its infancy with cannabis legalization on a roll across the country, so there are growth opportunities in every channel.
We have an aggressive new product development pipeline, we’re expanding our subscription options with higher price points and a new customization program, we expect to quadruple our retail presence from 700 stores to more than 3,000 over the next 18 months, we’re exploring other avenues like pop-up shops, and we’ve even been approached by marijuana dispensaries that are interested in partnering with us.
With initiatives like these as well as the likelihood that more states will decriminalize marijuana, we expect our revenue to climb from nearly $5 million last year to $12-15 million next year.
Ganjly: What tips and tricks can you give to ganjapreneur?
Bryan Gerber: First, decide which vertical you want to enter in this market. Accessories? Marketing? Packaging? Consulting? Licensing? Dispensary? Identify your niche and the competitive advantages you can bring to it before jumping in.
Second, run your idea up the flagpole with other people in the business world.
Don’t worry about anyone stealing your concept. You might get some valuable feedback that will either strengthen your business proposition or prevent you from making a mistake, find an investor, or otherwise put you in a better position than if you had kept your plans to yourself.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview, Bryan! To know more about Bryan and check out their subscription boxes, go to Hemper.co.
Hemper has set the highest standard for smoking accessories subscription boxes in the industry. Their expert curators hand pick 10+ items every month to pack in your Hemper box, while consistently delivering $100+ dollars in value for $29.99.
What makes the Hemper experience unique is the ability to discover the latest products from an array of categories and premium brands throughout the industry without leaving your home.
Their in-house product development team is constantly innovating, designing, and developing unique accessories to put into your curated boxes, that you won’t find elsewhere. All boxes are shipped in a discreet mailer bag with no branding on the outside as Hemper values your privacy as much as their own.