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Bryan Gerber, Founder & CEO, Hemper

Bryan Gerber is Founder & CEO of Hemper

For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?

I began my cannabis journey when I was in high school, smoking among friends and appreciating the sense of calm it gave me. By the time I was out of college, I was smoking often, purchasing my rolling papers from Amazon but unable to subscribe to monthly discounted orders because of the product. This inconvenience led to the creation of Hemper, the cannabis subscription box service I wish I had had during those times. I have been starting companies since I was 16, which gave me the confidence to just go for it when it came to Hemper. That, coupled with my accounting background and understanding of profitability, I was able to get the business off the ground.

Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?

It’s impossible to pick just one person who helped me reach where I am today—I have been blessed with an incredible team and support system. Hemper would’ve been impossible without funding, so I wouldn’t be here today without my first investors, Greg Smith and Mike Heller, and Emily and Morgan Paxhia. Of course, I also have to shout out RJ, my college roommate and business partner whose logical thinking and advice were instrumental to the process. Finally, with his experience in marketing and design perspective from Adidas, Hypebeast and more, Thai Tran rounded out our founding team.

Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?

From the moment you start your business, you should act like any capital you raise or profits you make is the only money you will receive. This mindset will ensure that you are wise with your resources and spending, a mentality that will sustain your business up until acquisition.

What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?

Regarding leadership, it always pays to remember that human mistakes happen. Startup culture can sometimes become a hostile environment, which is not conducive to employee trust and success. When someone messes up and receives backlash instead of constructive criticism, they are afraid to try again. As a leader, you must remain calm and move past things quickly, focusing on the positives and correcting mistakes with compassion.

What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?

  1. Be prepared for the legal side of the business—from hiring and onboarding to understanding laws in each state, it is critical to have the support of great lawyers to start on the right foot.

  2. Consider tax implications in your business planning—being strategic with where you incorporate your business can come as an advantage, along with the type of structure and what goals to pursue.

  3. Stress management, fitness and wellness—focusing on handling stress better and taking care of your body and mind will improve every aspect of your life, including your business.

In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?

When it comes to building a strong network of mentors and advisors, it is best to just let go of embarrassment and simply ask. If you meet someone interesting who you’d like to connect with, ask them to join you for lunch. If they seem like they could be a real mentor to you, ask them to make it a weekly or monthly meet-up. Successful individuals often enjoy sharing their advice and experiences, so don’t be afraid to reach out and start building your network.

How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?

Pivoting can be necessary for many scenarios, whether altering the business model or implementing new strategies to boost sales. As a CEO, it is essential to be constantly tapped in on competitors, partners, and the industry as a whole, allowing you to know when to make a change. At Hemper, we identify the lack in markets and take advantage of the window of opportunity when it's time to pivot. We can sense the right time because we understand, evaluate and analyze trends across sectors and have the resources to execute in a timely manner.

How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?

Even the most robust businesses inevitably go through good and bad times. It is helpful for me not to look at running my business as a job but rather as something I am blessed to be doing. This glass-half-full mentality has kept me motivated and inspired even through the rough patches, helping me avoid becoming phased by challenges that arise. As a team, you must celebrate each win and move on to the next goal, pushing through without getting discouraged.

Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?

If I could start it all over again, I would make sure I had an excellent support team from day one. A top-notch lawyer and accountant are essential when starting a business, especially in an industry like cannabis, where regulations and laws vary between states and fluctuate frequently. Having the right people touching your finances and helping you navigate the rules makes all the difference.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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