Talking Reputation Building, Cultivating Company Culture, Top Shelf Flower

Talking Reputation Building, Cultivating Company Culture, Top Shelf Flower

Our founder and CEO sat down with Mike Mejer. In this episode of the Mejer Journey Podcast, Marianne Cursetjee, MBA joins the show!

🤝 She talks with us about her journey with cannabis, what led her to form Alibi Cannabis, an Oregon based cannabis cultivation company, and how she’s been able to foster a strong company culture among her team, vendors, customers, and cannabis community. This is one you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re an advocate for the healing and connecting powers of the plant!

Mike Mejer 0:02
Welcome back to another episode of the major journey podcast. Today’s cannabis player is the co founder and CEO of Alibi Cannabis, a top shelf cannabis producer for the licensed adult use market in Oregon. Her passion for doing business through strategic relationship building and integrity has put her in an incredible position to do what she loves. With a trusted group that feels like a family and operates as a team. I cannot wait to explore how she’s cultivated some of the best flower in Oregon, as well as an unbelievable company culture. And so without further ado, Marianne Cursetjee Welcome to the show. Hey, Mike, thanks, welcome. Glad to be here. Thank you so much. So Marianne, you and I chatted a little bit before we went on air about about your journey and your road into into the cannabis industry. For those who aren’t familiar with you and your work and are being exposed to it for the very first time. Can you take us back to sort of how you got into cannabis and what that journey looked like to bring you to where you are today with with alibi?

Marianne Cursetjee 1:08
Sure, happy to. So, years ago, when I was in college, and starting off my career, I would have never guessed that I would end up in cannabis. At that point, it was very much illegal and very much not a part of the culture that I was in. So I took a traditional approach, degree in business, got my MBA, worked for a number of Fortune 50 companies in both tech and accounting. And then I started an e commerce company. And that was a lot of fun, I really enjoyed the entrepreneurship and building a team and building a business. After that, I consulted for a few years on digital marketing, and it’s all very traditional sorts of things. And then I got cancer. And that made my career and my life basically do a whole 180 and reevaluate what was important to me. And a friend gave me some cannabis to help me with my cancer treatment. And that changed the entire the entire path. So, so excited to find this plant that could help replace pharmaceuticals. And Oregon’s market was just beginning. So we took an opportunity and bought some land, built a building and created a team. And five years later, here we are one of the top shelf companies in Oregon, really excited to be producing amazing flower and, and growing.

Mike Mejer 2:34
That’s amazing. And so you know, one of the things that that you and I talked about was, how good it feels, to be in business and to be in business with people that you actually enjoy doing what you do day in and day out. And so you know, how how would you say that that alibi cannabis kind of plugs into the cannabis industry of today? And also, you know, and beyond, right? How does alibi plug into the cannabis industry? Not just today, but for the next three, four or five years? And how do you see other businesses around you and consumers benefiting from the way that alibi is run and operated and the culture that’s kind of cultivated within the company? I know, that was a loaded question. But But yeah, I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Marianne Cursetjee 3:24
Well, what’s interesting is, from my background, and you know, running my own business before, and seeing lots of small businesses both succeed and fail, I think I have a pretty good sense of what it takes to make it work. And we do one thing, and we do it right, and we do it well. So we grow the best flower efficiently, period, we’re laser focused on that. We are not making edibles, we’re not making topicals we’re not making, you know, other things like that. You know, certainly I support all of that. But that is not what that is not our core competency. So I feel like that’s what we can add to the industry is being laser focused on doing this one thing, right. And the way that we do that is we pay a living wage. All of all our full time employees get medical, dental, PTO, we treat our employees as though they are part of the team, listen to their opinions, want to know how things are going. Some farms have a lot of pressure on wages and employees that so they kind of push push all of that stress of running a business down to the bottom. And I don’t, I don’t like doing that my employees are not disposable. I don’t want to burn them out and then toss them aside. You know, if they need to move on to a different job, that’s totally fine. But I, you know, want to create a place where they feel happy working and can grow and learn.

Mike Mejer 4:46
Absolutely, I I applaud you for that too, because it’s not an easy thing to do. And one of the interesting things that you just brought up was that you’re you’re very focused on what you’re best at, right? Like you said, you know, this This is what we do. We don’t do X, Y, and Z. And so as somebody who like yourself, who has seen businesses, you know, succeed and fail, and you know what to look for, how important do you think it is, for a business leader and operator to, you know, be very disciplined about what it is that their core focus is, and to not stray away and to get distracted by some of the shiny objects, that that may be distracting them and kind of taking them off their path of growth?

Marianne Cursetjee 5:33
Well, it’s a challenge. And that’s part of what I think just having some experience in business helps. Because if the industry and if your market is telling you, you need to go somewhere, well, then of course, you need to adapt, because, you know, there’s always new things to learn and things that don’t go your way, you’re like, Oh, I guess I should be doing this instead. So balancing the flexibility and the responsiveness with, like you said, not, you know, not shifting to every shiny object. In cultivation, specifically, there are so many new innovations in terms of lighting technology, and nutrient technology, and, and soil and equipment, and, you know, all of that stuff, there’s, there’s a lot of improvements happening. And it’s easy to, to want to try it all out. But we have to stay focused on this is what we’re doing. Do it slow do it right? I see. I’ve talked to so many other cultivators who have a big storage room filled with equipment that they bought, and ended up not working out for them. So you imagine the hundreds of 1000s of dollars that were wasted, that that are not used? And I don’t have that, you know, we tried to run an efficient, smart operation. So I don’t have excess capital sitting around to spend $50,000 on an experimental whatever.

Mike Mejer 6:51
Yeah, and don’t you think that that’s actually almost an advantage to some of us, you know, not having, you know, disposable capital in the in the 10s, or hundreds of 1000s of dollars, or even millions, because that kind of forces us to be very calculated with every step we take, and to be very crafty, and very innovative at times that some sometimes that may lead to actually the next, you know, big breakthrough, not just for us, in our companies, but also for the industry as a whole.

Marianne Cursetjee 7:22
Yeah, for sure. And, you know, we have, we’ve really taken the approach of building and designing things around our operation. So we have some very innovative solutions, like our drying and curing, a lot of times that’s an afterthought at farms, where they put all the money into the the cultivation side, you know, like the other pre pre harvest, genetics and environments for the rooms. And all of that is very important, you know, you can’t, you can’t grow healthy plants without that. But we have also chosen to invest in post harvest technology, where we have dedicated space that is climate controlled, temperature, controlled all of that, and technology so that we can cure the all of our harvests in one environment. So that it’s, it’s, it’s the best quality it can be.

Mike Mejer 8:10
That’s amazing. And so no random question, but how did you how did you soak up all the knowledge and information about growing and cultivating because I’ve heard so many people say, you know, anybody can grow pot, but it’s a challenge to grow top shelf, grade a quality medicine? And so what was that process? like for you? Did you kind of just naturally have a green thumb? Or did it take a little bit of trial and error, and you know, just putting all boots on the ground and figuring it out?

Marianne Cursetjee 8:41
For sure. So I’m not the one who’s daily taking care of the plants we have, I have a head of cultivation, who does that. And he has been growing since he was way too young, from the black trend of black market days. So that is completely his skill set. And his he he understands the plants and knows what they need. And the way our team is constructed is we have an engineer, so the engineers has worked on the building and designed all the infrastructure and the equipment. And then we have had a cultivation, who takes care of the plants. We have a sales head of sales, and then I kind of my job is to, is to supplement and fill out. It’s like what do what does my team need to do their job the best and how can I help you? So it’s, it’s not so much that I know everything. It’s more, I help everybody do their job the best?

Mike Mejer 9:34
Yep, I applaud that. Because that’s what that’s what I think a lot of leaders need to do. And sometimes they don’t realize that so that’s amazing. And so, Marianne, what would you say that working in cannabis has taught you that may be working in any other industry simply would not have taught you just because of the nature of how the industry moves and how it’s developing and how nascent it is.

Marianne Cursetjee 10:00
Well, what’s interesting is, you know, with my MBA, part of the traditional schooling is how to write a business plan. And what you’re taught is okay, you write a business plan, you raise some money, you build a team, you have your product and, and everybody wins. Well, the cannabis industry is not that way. Anytime you’ve by the time you’ve written it down and printed it out, it’s already changed. So there are so many pressures, both regulatory, financial, you know, like, I’m sure you’re familiar with to ADP, so all of our expenses, we have to be really lean. So there is nothing traditional about running a cannabis business, there’s so many things and so many challenges that, that you just don’t encounter in other industries. So learning how to be flexible and, and take the hits, because things are, things are not easy. And we’ve had, you know, especially on the cultivation side, it’s agriculture. So we’ll have crop failures, we’ll have genetics that we’ve invested months in, in, in developing and then they turn out to be unstable, and we have to take down a whole room and throw it away. So those are not the things that people talk about all the time. Because, you know, it’s better to tell a story of we’re so wonderful, and we’re so great. And, and yes, we are that. But we are also adaptable, and we have to be flexible and learn that, that we just got to take your punches, and it’s how do you how you get back up? And are you gonna stay in the game

Mike Mejer 11:29
is all about how you get back up and stay in the game, especially in not only in entrepreneurship, but especially, especially in cannabis. And so just as an entrepreneur and as a leader, how do you how do you personally kind of just deal with those punches that get thrown, right? Because I think like you said, a lot of folks are just like, everything’s wonderful, everything’s great. And then when the going gets tough. It’s like, Oh, I don’t really know if I want to do this anymore, because I didn’t sign up for for the punches. So do you have any any advice or or any tips for people listening who may be, you know, are just are really trying to power through some tough times, or some struggles or some punches that got thrown, and how they can kind of come out on the other side, bigger, better and stronger?

Marianne Cursetjee 12:15
Yeah, there’s a couple of things. When I got cancer, that was definitely a punch. It was unexpected. It’s a big surprise. You know, I’ve been fairly healthy but but this was a one of those big things that takes you totally out of your game. And friends told me to start yoga or start meditation and, and both of those things are wonderful. But what what called to me in that moment, was learning how to fight. And so I started taking prof Mugu, which is an Israeli martial art, it’s self defense, it’s very physical, it’s, it’s kind of dirty fighting, in a safe way. And so not only was that good for my body, because the exercise is amazing. And you really learn some awesome skills. But also, it’s the mentality of, okay, you will end up on the ground, you know, I’ve gotten punched in the face. Not that that’s an awesome thing to be proud of. But it’s like, did it actually kill you? Well, no. So get back up and get back, you know, and get moving. So there’s this, there’s this strength that comes from knowing when you’re down, that you can get back up and keep moving. And I don’t think any amount of, you know, no business school, no education is going to help you do that. That’s got to be something that you choose to do. It’s always a choice. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of like being happy, right? You know, there’s all these things, you know, everybody has challenges in their life and things happen. But at the end of the day, what can you control, you can’t control what happens to you. But you can control what you do with it, and how you react. So I choose to be happy, I choose to come back, I choose to show up every day and do the best that I can.

Mike Mejer 14:05
That’s, that’s great advice. And it’s not the advices it’s very simple and straightforward. But it’s tough to actually, you know, put into motion day in and day out. But so true. And so many people just subscribe to that, that philosophy. And it works. It really does. And so, in terms of cannabis companies today, and from from what you’ve seen in the industry so far, what do you think from your perspective? as somebody who’s seen a lot and is most definitely, you know, in the trenches day in and day out? What do you think is holding back the success of some companies today in terms of how they go about their business, both internally and externally? For example, vendors, suppliers, employees, teams, etc, etc.

Marianne Cursetjee 14:56
Yeah, it’s a really interesting question, because I don’t know why there are so many challenges in the cannabis industry, I think part of it might be because a lot of the operators came from the black market. And so they don’t have the rigor that that, you know, being in a regular business would would give you they don’t understand what it takes to actually run the business and be profitable. Other people have this completely wrong impression that by being in the cannabis, you’re just going to make fistfuls of money, it’s going to be super easy. So they end up taking shortcuts. Other people just don’t, I don’t really understand what, what, what the drivers are. But to me, I’ve kind of thought of it like Tonya Harding style behavior, you know, they fight dirty, you know, they’re gonna come bash you at the knees, there’s there’s a lot of bad behavior, and things that are are not. not representative of having integrity. But instead of getting into that, and I don’t want to bash people, right, like some people try to say, well, son groans best indoors best. Oh, that’s a terrible company, whatever. I just, I don’t think that that does anybody any good. All I can do is focus on the interactions that I have, and do my business the right way or the best that I can? and treat everybody right. So we pay our bills on time, which seems basic, but it’s not. I mean, I have one of my major suppliers is a large public company. And they take my money two weeks before they shipped me myself, just because I’m in the cannabis industry. So it’s ridiculous. In no other industry, would that happen? I mean, it just doesn’t. But I think that there’s room for everybody. And I think there’s room for lots of solutions. So I don’t need to bash somebody else to make my business better. My business is good, because of because our work, we’re doing things right. And we have a vision and we have a path. And I’m getting distracted by other bad behaviors is not that’s just doesn’t do anybody any good. We need to focus on on doing our thing. And I’m, you know, I’m hopeful that as more people get into the industry, and as more innovation happens that, you know, five years from now, this is this is going to be an amazing place to be, you know, people will be getting degrees in cannabis, and the whole industry is gonna take giant leaps forward. And I’m really excited to see how that’s gonna look and feel proud that we’ve had a small part in that.

Mike Mejer 17:35
Absolutely. And what’s so cool about everything that that you, yourself, your team, other companies in the space, everything that we’re doing today, it’s sometimes we don’t even realize it, but we’re really writing history. And we’re what’s going to happen in five years, it’s going to largely depend on what we do today, next year, and so on, and so forth. And so what you what you talked about just now really kind of came from a mindset of abundance, right? There’s so much room for everybody to come in and do their own thing, and succeed without having to step on other people or to cut corners or to, you know, not not pay suppliers or vendors because of whatever, whatever. And so I think I think as time goes on, I think the better business practices like you alluded to, I, I’m optimistic, and I’m hopeful that that will change, and it will get better over time. But I do agree, I think that’s going to play a big role in just advancing the entire industry forward and not having to deal with with challenges, like you described, where one of your suppliers has to pull the money two weeks before they ship ship supplies.

Marianne Cursetjee 18:50
Yeah. And I think the other thing that you’d asked what, what else we’ve learned, and I think that the other thing that is, is we’re a values based business, and other so any plan that you have, you have to pivot and you have to know what you’re doing. But we have we have a core sense of our why. And if you don’t have a why, if you’re just in it for some other reason, then it’s easy to get distracted and easy to get off on some some track that’s maybe not good. So it really is a values based decision making. And understanding that it’s just, you know, being flexible, but also knowing what your values are. And and being true to them. There’s there’s all kinds of temptations to cut corners to maybe do things a little cheaper, maybe a little not right. Maybe not be fair with your employees. There’s all those temptations because the financial headaches and the financial challenges are real. It’s a very tough business to be in. So if you don’t know why you’re doing it, then some of those other decisions are just easier to make the wrong one.

Mike Mejer 20:01
I couldn’t agree, any any more with with what you just said. And so one thing, one thing I wanted to ask was, with alibi, is there anything new and exciting that that we should keep an eye out for? Are you working on any new fun strains that maybe you can share with us? Or have you noticed any, you know, any genetics or anything like that really take a lot of just favor and a lot of popularity recently. If there’s anything, you know, kind of new and exciting happening with you and your team that you’d like to share, I think a lot of folks would probably be interested in hearing that.

Marianne Cursetjee 20:36
Yeah, for sure. Strain hunting is one of those really interesting things, because the old school people, you know, people who have had cannabis in their life for a really long time, they’re really particular about their strains. And it’s fun, finding new things that people will really enjoy. Our current strain that we actually just got written up as the hot strain of the month, is called grape octane. And it’s this amazing purple strain that is really potent, and just a lot of fun. We have some others that are coming up, that are still in r&d, we go through a pretty lengthy testing process, because when we, we don’t choose to run mixed rooms. So we have to make sure the strain is stable and will fit into our production environment. But we do have some really exciting things, as well as we’re working on a line of pre rolls for the Oregon market that hopefully will be out in another month or two. So really excited about all of that. And yeah, I mean, there’s always there’s always new things. And it’s that’s part of what makes it fun. Yeah, I’m

Mike Mejer 21:39
very excited to see how the pre rolls come out and and how that rollout takes takes place. And so for folks who would like to connect with you or alibi, maybe reach out to you have a question or maybe get in touch about possibly connecting and doing some business in the Oregon market. What’s the best way for someone to reach out and connect with you?

Marianne Cursetjee 21:59
Yeah, we’re pretty easy to find. Our website is . We’re on Instagram @alibicannabis. And I’m also pretty easy to find on LinkedIn. I’m happy to mentor people and connect and collaborate and just do what we can to help people along their journey.

Mike Mejer 22:19
Amazing. Well, Marianne, thank you so much for stopping by today and being so so positive about participating on the show. And thank you for for doing what you do in the cannabis community because it goes way further than just agriculture. The impact that that you and your team are having on everybody in this space goes way further than, you know, just the plant. It’s really, really incredible as to how cannabis can impact people’s lives, especially when done the right way. And so kudos to you and your team for for doing what you guys do.

Marianne Cursetjee 22:54
Well, thanks, Mike. It’s been a pleasure talking and I really appreciate getting to know you better. Likewise. All right. Well, that is it for this week’s episode. We will catch you all next week.