Rick Martinez, Founder & CEO of the Green Seed Cannabis Accelerator
As a veteran, registered nurse, writer and successful entrepreneur, Rick brings a wealth of experience – and tremendous passion – for impacting lives. His story begins in the US Army, where Rick enlisted from 1988-1990. He soon earned his BSN degree from the University of the Incarnate Word and became a registered nurse (RN). After several years in nursing, Rick’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and in 2001 he bootstrapped started his first business.
He is now Founder and CEO of the Green Seed Cannabis Accelerator for serious cannabis entrepreneurs. Their mission is to provide these fast-moving, hungry entrepreneurs with the tools, accountability, community and vast experience to aggressively grow and master their businesses.
Rick is married to Lisa, his wife of over 18 years, and has three grown children.
[00:00:01] You're listening to thinking outside the bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policy makers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone. This is thinking outside the bud of Bruce heartfelt. I'm your host and today we're here with Rick Martinez and Rick is not sure we're going to hear a little bit about his story and how he got in to be an entrepreneur and then ultimately in the cannabis space. I'm excited for the conversation. Rick welcome to the program.
[00:00:49] Hey Bruce it's a pleasure being here.
[00:00:50] Sr again today. It is. So why don't we start just a little bit with background because I always I always love to hear people's stories. And I've really got kind of love to hear how they got into the whole kind of cannabis space.
[00:01:05] Everyone's got a different connection to it. Everyone's got a different starting point. So let's let's get a little sense of your background and how it started and then we can kind of talk about the current business and what are you doing today.
[00:01:15] Sure. So I'll give you kind of like a bullet point timeline fashion and then if there if there's somewhere you want to dive in then let me know that it's cool. So in 1995 I graduated from nursing school with a four year degrees or BSN and I'm currently an art and I'm not practicing but in 95 I became a registered nurse in 2001 was when we see my wife she was my girlfriend and now my wife and I launched our first company and simply put as we did a federal contracting we put doctors and nurses into military bases and as we all know 9/11 right around 2001 we obviously had no idea. Business was like was a hockey stick growth just with all the deployments. And then I was activated actually so next bullet point is also became a nurse. We learned to scale compassion is that's really I was on a podcast interview last week and they said so you learn to scale compassion. Mike I guess we did so launched our staffing firm federal contracting I was activated as a reservist so military officers registered nurse Army Nurse Corps for 18 months and during that period the company we had started was continuing to grow. We brought on a professional CEO a management team. So activated came home and the company had was was on and this was on its own legs. So we opened up some crossfade Jim. So I think that that point Bruce was fully engaged into this whole entrepreneurial thing. And now again bullet point fast forward to about 2013 14. We sold our company so we had grown it to several hundred employees 19 states sold the business including our gyms all the assets and there was kind of a reset for my wife and I just like what's next.
[00:03:01] And so got into consulting advising mentoring facilitation especially as we both know you know the accelerator program and became a professional. The air quotes basically professional facilitator and coach and I loved it. And this leads to you know so how does candidates get into this is about two years ago give or take. One of my clients who actually really really good friend two tours as a Marine in Iraq kicking in doors said Rick I want to start a business. And some like sure for me and I imagine for you on some level the startup part is it's almost form formulaic because you do certain things and you just you know just do them in Durham in Durham and and the distinction was he goes and I want to help veterans with PTSD and I'm like cool Grant. Interesting how now how are you going to do that. Well I want to I wanted to launch my own CBD line. And Bruce I had no idea with CBS no idea. I'm a mom. What you call a very traditional type of upbringing versus personal person so anything related to seek to see me they had no idea cannabis was no no good. And that was my introduction to that whole CBD marijuana cannabis world. And so I loved it so much his idea and what he was doing is that I stopped my cocci I just stopped and I became his co-founder. So that's where that whole journey started about two years ago and the cannabis and it's been a ride so far so bullet points. That's where we were where we are what we've done and how we entered the cannabis space.
[00:04:34] So what was it. I'm curious about this whole kind of interaction to cannabis.
[00:04:38] What was your up until meteor co-founder and kind of learning about CBT is I guess what was your take on cannabis. Like what was your position or kind of mindset around kind of the kind of us at that point.
[00:04:49] It's a good question. I want to say that it was myopic I was very I had a narrow view I was ignorant I was narrow minded. I was the prote in my words the prototypical parent who said to your children anything that Cheech and Chong put in their mouths and smoke or if he saw it on the fast times on rich or pineapple express stay away.
[00:05:11] You're telling us right now.
[00:05:12] But yes but that's that's how it was reptile's race. I mean I never it was never part of my upbringing or the circle of people I was in and so as such and being a license you know being registered nurse and I have other considerations and so for me I had a very snow again in my words. And this is this is no bueno.
[00:05:32] Stay away. Yeah. And so when you started to learn more about the media's what do you think was was the epiphanies or what were the things that that got you to think a little bit about cannabis as you know as as a more sophisticated or a more multifaceted product I think it was what would have happened was there was this series of events that had been happening.
[00:05:57] So it was actually a convergence so as an Army nurse as a nurse period. My background is the trauma so and whether it's military or civilian we can fix people up patch them up pretty well you know if they lose a limb we can have the technology to give you know artificial limbs and they can still run marathons if they lose an arm. There's prosthetics whenever these things the one of the distinctions that I didn't really understand then but where does converge was we can't fix what's up here and in their minds. And that's called traumatic brain injury TBI and PTSD. And so seeing this over and over this rampant this rage is this PTSD that we just honestly and I'm not going to get into any personal or political statements but it's there. We can fix them physically but mentally emotionally it's very difficult. So that's when I realized back when I was you know I activated in 0 6 and 0 7 that maybe there's something more that needs to be done maybe as a health care practitioner. So I think where that's where I believe the seed was planted where I was going to be rethinking and reconsidering this whole cannabis thing. Back then I didn't know that cannabis was even an option. No. So enter my friend Grant and you know founding the company citizen CDROM was online.
[00:07:11] So this is a real alternative. And what really really hit me right between the eyes Bruce was my friend Grant the founder the CEO of citizen has significant PTSD. And to the average person they don't see a veteran with PTSD who has issues what they see is a dude with problems. And so that was when I realized we we need to do something differently and collectively. Yes but individually what can I do. And then he said Rick I want to start the CBD company and I'm like wow. So there some good to this plant. There are some things. And then finding out that my friend so Grant was backup. You know he has a six figure job. He's a petroleum engineer now for a very large multinational oil company so he's a high functioning individual with a very difficult to manage with PTSD. CBT I saw CVT up there I saw I saw with my own as a clinician I'm like I could see the changes in him and actually see them in his day to day activities. So it started to change gradually and and that was pretty much the hammer the nail in the coffin that said I need to be a part of this. Yeah.
[00:08:20] And so as as you kind of got involved in this new company what did you and what did you learn about CBT and then what did you see as kind of the business opportunity around this.
[00:08:30] So what I learned what I learned is that there is a huge huge education gap. And I was part of that gap. I was like you asked me if you minutes ago and I just I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't understand. And I see that more and more because I was that person and evening it was all just to me it was all we had was all Cheech and it was all but I just shared with you. So the biggest gap that I saw was was learnt was education. There was simply education as the general public. The average American just doesn't understand the potential of this planet whether it's CD or medical marijuana or what have you. Massive potential. Now as an entrepreneur man it's it's mind boggling. It's it's I mean it's been compared to you know the modern day gold rush compared to you know the tech boom of the 90s and all these things and if you were to ask me what you kind of did I think it's the potential even bigger. I think it's even more massive than we currently understand now. So and how do you choose those kind of
[00:09:36] Myriad of options are myriad a possibility of the market.
[00:09:41] How do you or how have you kind of figure it out. What part of this you want to play in either because of opportunity or leveraging your skills or like how do you how do you parse through that and make decisions.
[00:09:54] That's another great question. That's a good question. So I mentioned a while ago when we started so we started our staffing firm and when we did it was basically me I was my only employee so the employee went from zero to 600 in several years. And on this interview just literally a few weeks ago what emerged was that you learn to scale compassion no Mike we did we scale compassion and I remembered that and I thought about that as especially as your question is how do I choose so how can I continue to scale what I'm really good at. And I have been trained and that's compassion and sure we can scale the business the citizen the CBD company. It's a product but then I remembered a few years ago what I was doing prior to citizen prior to cofounding helping launch. And that was advising mentoring and coaching. And I recall so then it was what would happen. Bruce It was a matter of so do I do I scale compassion in terms of a product based company know CBT company which is now national. Or do I go back to what really fuels me and that's helping those companies grow in scale.
[00:11:02] You know can I stay a part of citizen and help it grow in scale which I firmly believe or tap back into who I am as a nurse as an entrepreneur as somebody who wants to scale compassion and help several companies grow. And I chose the latter. So what I do now is I'm right back to where like I shared it right back to where I was prior. And that's mentoring advising and honestly just coaching professionally high level coaching too on nascent early stage cannabis entrepreneurs and so for me it was it wasn't rolling the dice or flipping a coin. It was you know I did tap into what it was that served me and what I did say say is find year on year. How do you with that phrase like giving your gift to the world your find your true passion and your purpose Find Your Purpose and purpose in life and share your gifts so for me it was working with multiple entrepreneurs in the Kennedy Space.
[00:11:51] And I think that makes sense. I like this idea because a lot of people come to me and say I want to get into cannabis you know and they think well I've got to open a dispensary or I'm going to set up a grill or something like that. And I actually think the idea of well let's figure out what are you really passionate about. What are you really good at and how can we apply that to some aspect of the cannabis space because there's so many facets to the kind of space that need innovation that need entrepreneurs that may have you know very little to do with the actual plant product itself. I've seen companies that own training dispensary workers and setting up testing and standards laboratories and stuff that are quite removed from the actual plant product. But it's a way for people to apply their gifts there their passion and their gifts to cannabis and lots of different ways. Where have you seen the more interesting applications or interesting opportunities for people to taking those gifts and finding innovative ways of applying them to the kind of a space any good and even good stories out there.
[00:12:51] Yeah you know what's interesting is so so as as we're talking today my wife and I and literally in 72 hours we fly to L.A. We're flying to L.A. to work with the brand new client and the brand new client is get this and they are a staffing firm and the staffing firm while they have a very traditional business model they have a very non-traditional client base and that is some of the some of the biggest candidates operations in the U.S.. So it dawned on me as like you said what are some of the things that my wife and I did really well. We mastered the staffing industry public and public and federal private and federal. And I thought a while ago. So I just answer your question to staff it seems like really staffing and the reason is is because the industry is growing so fast. There aren't enough people to fill the positions just short and sweet. So interesting and lo and behold this is wunderbar. My wife and I this is one of our clients and they're a staffing firm. It's crazy. But the second one is is technology and one would think how technology how. I'll give you a real quick example. So there's an incubator here in my hometown called real code and they only work with high growth high potential SAS technology companies.
[00:14:02] And one of them had a very traditional service that they use it helps an individual or make a bigger selection like on mouse dotcom solong Half.com you know you can select bourbons or Peanut's whatever and their AI basically help you go through a kit a decision making tree and it collects all the data. And so I was talking to the founder one day literally and I was you know she saw a T-shirt. I said I had Aamodt said TEACCH seen it Gios are you in the industry. I simply yeah we are. And she said I want to apply my technology to candidates and I said oh my gosh. Because here's the thing Bruce said that's the first time I went into a dispensary. I had no idea about what was what. And with curse with the simple technological piece that fits between dispensary with this. It's like a toy store of candidates and the brand new consumer or participant like myself. This technology helps us whittle through all the stuff. So to answer your question it's two of the coolest things are staffing and technology.
[00:15:00] Technology hasn't even yet been fully tapped into this industry yet and I think that's that's kind of the point of that I see around the cannabis industry right now that it's actually the big opportunities are and are not that Brose are not necessarily dispensaries which are certainly big opportunities.
[00:15:16] But the bigger one is all the products and services around this that need to get some of it is about applying things that we already know from other industries that just need to be brought in to cannabis whether it's you know supply chain management whether it's branding retail design like all these kind of things that are going to matter. But even things that we haven't thought of yet and it's been interesting stuff from block chain applications and stuff to help verify you know various products in the chain of custody and things but there's so much potential in these as why it's such an exciting market really I think for entrepreneurs not not just be the cannabis product itself but really it's just it's a market that needs a lot of innovation and entrepreneurs are pretty good at that. So what else do you see in terms of having been in this market a little while. What are some of the I guess pitfalls lessons you've learned.
[00:16:05] Insights you've developed over time that you know people are thinking about or kind of early stages of getting into the cownose market that you would suggest they look into steer them either away or towards just to maybe lessen the School of Hard Knocks a little bit for some of these folks.
[00:16:20] Another good question and you actually I was actually part of your Inc article about maybe two months ago and I will say one of. I'll mention three things. One of them is merchant processing. It's just it's it's extremely difficult. And I say that because most people think well there's PayPal or stripe and I'm like Okay that will that might work. But there is a lot of pitfalls and hazards to that. And if that is how one receives money from consumers then it's still difficult there's no set goals.
[00:16:50] Let's kind of for folks that don't quite understand this. So what is the challenge around payments and the cannabis market just kind of summarize for folks.
[00:16:58] Yaps I'm not an attorney but basically cannabis in our country. It's still a Schedule 1 drug which means it's not legal even though the states have. Some states have legalized it. It's not legal which means a bank or general processors who like PayPal they fall under the auspices of disease and not legal product. And it's in a very gray area. So it's difficult to capture money to get paid. It's difficult cetera. That's a snapshot. But yeah the second thing is the ease of entry it's the barrier the barrier to entry is so incredibly low right now and the entire cannabis industry especially e-commerce retailers it's the easiest way to get one's foot in the door with the least with the least skin in the game which in my opinion is a dangerous thing because there's all kinds of Swraj just poor business practices shysters but not all. Not all of them. Some of them are really good. So ease of entry is a good and a very bad thing. And I think one of the biggest ones also is compliance. And and so we experienced that at Citizen early because we know we had our labels done the things for our art our tinctures and basically it went on the packaging and paid for it and had a professionally well done. And then later we brought on a company who was experienced in Canada branding and marketing. They asked us simple questions about one word that was on our label and they said how's that working for you. And they said anyway the long and short is they would have advised us to have different wording. We just put something done a different part of the label and boy we wish we would have known do tiny tiny things in the early days we had to go through a whole rebranding relabeling. And so I think the lesson there was to not go about it alone to find a professional to find somebody who understands the industry of cannabis. Yeah.
[00:18:51] To understand the nuances and especially the compliance part yeah we've had a shot here we've had a couple of people on the on the branding and the strategy side and they certainly have echoed a lot of that that there's there's so many simple little things that are easy to get wrong that can be very painful later. Doing a little bit of work upfront can save some saying saved some skin later in the game. What other advice kind of thoughts do you have for folks. You know like I said I get a lot of folks that are interested in the candidate space in terms of either where to get started or things things they can do before you really make a decision if you're going to go both feet into this or make significant investments. What would you or I mean because what do you kind of talk to people about when you're speaking to these folks that are interested in getting it from a business standpoint.
[00:19:38] Yeah so good question. And so I think we can both. So both of us we have been facilitators and trainers so we understand the importance of strategy execution and tactics. And while that's important you know there's a lot of books and professionals like us who talk about that. I simply ask them one question I said and it's really beginning with the end of month. And then I tell them be very selfish about it. So what's in it for you. And there's even that tune your radio to WIIFM. I just I say you know so I understand you want to get into cannabis whatever that means to you. What's in it for you. What is your end state. Is it wealth creation. Is it you know you want to impact the world you want to convert your you know your corn farm to or soy to to know literally what's in it for you. And what began with the end in mind because if we don't know where we're headed then any path is OK. Then it's a matter that I was starting an e-commerce site or let me have drop 10k or 50 çehre came to this dispenser year and then we wonder why the hell it became so hard. If you don't know where the hell we're going so I always ask to begin with the Undermind. And you know what do you want out of this of your investment or your foray or stepping into this world. Because it's a funny world.
[00:20:50] Yet it is and it hits. I find that it can it can take on powers you don't necessarily want to go to people. Careful guys any good resources.
[00:20:59] I mean I know one of the things that's you know certainly been helpful for me is kind of connecting with folks and you know going to events conferences things like that to kind of learn more about things. What has what has been helpful for you in terms of learning more about the industry learning more about the people in the industry seeing where the opportunities are educating yourself. What have you. What have you done to improve your ability to be an entrepreneur in the cannabis space.
[00:21:27] So this is going to sound facetious but it's the truth. The first place I asked the where I started was Barnes and Noble and I kid you not. I went down to the bookstore and the magazine section. Now I go there monthly anyway. There used to be one or two magazines about you know the whole marijuana world. Now there's 9 or 10. You know it's it's painless. If one doesn't have a car to get there then order it online and have it shipped to your home for her for 30 bucks you can buy 10 different magazines give or take and you can immerse yourself into every aspect of the industry so that's the simple painless way the second way is. Again this is something I did as I went to conferences that I didn't know anything about the industry. But I'm like damn i need to learn. So call it total immersion. But I went out and spent several days just walking the floors talking to folks getting to know people and seeing and understand when you go to the conference you get a little taste of the culture. It's a bit of a different culture. The last thing we did is we literally started a private Facebook group for cannabis entrepreneurs or one sharpeners. And it's totally free. We basically created our instead of a place where we can convene that's online. There's no there is no spam no pitching and so on. It can be accessed on our Web site which is Wellman's project or X.com and it's a free group so-called easy easy way. Just go to Barnes and Noble and read the magazines to go read them in a second. Second thing go to a conference. They're all over the place. All they really are the time or place is we have a free group you can convene and ask questions about the business of cannabis.
[00:22:57] Yeah. And I think that finding a community to interact with that you know are potentially at different stages of the path or along that stage of of being an entrepreneur on the cannabis industry. This is huge because obviously we've been on the eco system for a long time and know the power of an Australian group. When you focus on cannabis it's even just more powerful because you get them learning awesome. So where are you going with the business now and what's the next stages for you what are you focused on and what are the big things you've got coming up in the next year or two.
[00:23:25] So that's a great question and I actually went through I went so the training that I give to my clients I went through a re immersion It's in Orange County it's it's map it's management accountability planning. And as a result I had to merge with what were my goals for the year. And so I literally just about an hour ago like I did it on Instagram and said here's my goal and I asked my whiteboard. I pulled my goal sheet and my goal was to have five speaking engagements booked in the next 12 months. And today we just booked our second which is we're pretty excited. And a second goal for us. Honestly I it's about us in our business. We have we have a revenue target that we want to hit by virtue of our our candidates are mentoring slash coaching programs so speak and coach. Yes that's our focus we're driving hard towards those two big things and are smart goals so we have you know metrics around him but yeah and it's just. And then just remaining open to being open because 1 there could be an opportunity that dumb as an auctioneer could get pulled off track. So those are the two big ones that I'm open to seeing what else emerges.
[00:24:30] Just staying open say it's important to stay open in this industry because you never know what's going to come out of your crystal ball for a little bit. Just in terms of the cannabis sector the cannabis industry in general what do you think is going to happen the next next year or two years.
[00:24:46] I mean I know you've got all sorts of regulation stuff that's happening we've got you know various states that are at various points.
[00:24:52] What do you see as likely or maybe not likely just kind of understanding where the market is going from your point of view based on what you've seen or what you've been able to kind of develop insights around.
[00:25:02] Yes. Right now as we're talking it was just a few days ago just this past week Canada is now going to go recreational legal as a country yet and I think September October like in a few months. So all eyes are on Canada and for the entrepreneur who has no vision or even just has a long term like what's in it for me. They should be paying attention. What's going to happen in Canada over the next few months as this goes wreck legal. And I think it's a little bit further out than two years. But where I believe is that it's going to be some emerging companies or players who are going to be setting themselves up for either an acquisition or to be. I just believe. I think there's going to be a segregation between the ones who are getting in it for the wrong reasons and the ones who are in it for the long term. And there's going to be distinctions and we're going to see the whole. Oh that's big business in Canada. Now it's like. Yeah. And if you know it's coming then be the big business be the one. Don't get angry at the ones who are preparing or had been prepared you know jump on board now because it's going to happen fast. I mean the entire country of Canada is now going to be recreational legal in the next few months and there are they are on our border. So all eyes are on I think are on the U.S. side in the next few years.
[00:26:14] You know I agree. I think this has been a pleasure. We're just about a time here. If people want to find out more about you about your coaching about some of the businesses you work with what's the best way to get a hold of you and find out more information.
[00:26:25] Easiest way is to go to wellness Project X dot com and we we have. It's just the simplest. Yet. Project X dot com.
[00:26:34] I will make sure that that link is in the show notes that people can access that. Thank you so much. I'm excited to stay in touch and hear how things go.
[00:26:41] Like I said it's it's always a pleasure to connect with folks in this in this space and I'm sure you're going to be doing interesting things in the coming months and years. So I'm looking forward to checking in and hopefully we can do another episode sometime. Sure sure. Thanks Bruce was a pleasure talking again. Thanks.
[00:26:57] You've been listening to thinking outside the bud with business coach Bruce Eckfeldt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the website at thinkingoutsidethebud.com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter at thinkingoutsidethebud.com forward slash newsletter.