Meet the Brand That’s Dominating the Cannabis Industry
While pot culture’s wildest dreams are manifesting, a critical new era is upon us, and only the strong and business minded will survive.
The question is, how do you become a lion amongst the sheep in this industry? I’ve got a story for you.
But first, here’s a warning from my father, “Don’t smoke pot, you’ll grow man boobs, lose all your hair, and you’ll never be able to get a real job. No one wants to hire a pot smoking loser.”
Here’s a quote from a local news channel (walb.com), “Legal cannabis consumer spending across North America grew 34 Percent to $6.7 Billion and can be expected to grow at a 27 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years, 6.7 billion in 2016 to $22.6 billion in 2021. North Americans spent $56.1 billion on legal and illicit cannabis products in 2016, about half of the $105 billion they spent on beer. But $6.7 billion of that was spent legally and 87 percent of that came from just five states and Canada.”
I want you to actually put that in your pipe and smoke it, pops, because the cultivation, distribution, and consumption of cannabis is exponentially beneficial in so many obvious ways, for we the people and for our country’s failing economic platform. More jobs? More pleasantly minded people? More tax money for schools, police, and things that matter??? Yes!
Recently, Attorney General Jeff Sessions compared Cannabis to Heroin, saying “The drug is only slightly less awful”. These misinformed bigots (including my father) need to see the positive side of this industry. including the people striving to bring legitimacy to our industry. These folks wildly deserve our recognition and appreciation.
Meet Aaron Mitchell, born in Cleveland, moved from city to city, then landed in Los Angeles to live his glory days skateboarding for DVS Shoe Company back in the mid-2000s. Aaron’s skate crew consisted of Tim Gaven (DVS Shoe Company), Jeron Wilson (Diamond Supply Co), Paul Rodriguez (Nike Skateboarding), and Torey Pudwill (Grizzly, Redbull, DVS, Matix). “Tim always made sure I always had a fresh set up, and Jeron and Diamond Supply Co. have been a pivotal piece of my success in skating and this current industry. Skating with Paul and Torey throughout the years was so great. Torey came out to Florida when I opened up a skate shop back in the day and signed decks for the kids; he’s a really good dude,”says Mitchell.
If you know anything about skateboarding, that’s a legendary line-up. These individuals not only have ridiculous skills, but also have impressive entrepreneurial backgrounds.
Aaron was living in Deltona Beach, Florida, in 2009 when he met his partner Rosa Cazares. Aaron was in Florida so he could be close to his mom, but had a vision of going into the cannabis business on the West Coast. “My mom was like, ‘no, that’s a bad idea, don’t do it.’ But, I really wanted to check it out, and Rosa was right there with me,” said Aaron.
Rosa flew out by herself to check out property first, then Aaron came after she found a spot, and they rented their first place in Jacksonville, Oregon.
“I had no idea what to expect, but everyone was so helpful and nice, I never wanted to leave. So, we decided to stay!” Rosa said with an uplifting laugh. Meeting Rosa and Aaron for the first time, you can feel how appreciative they are for this business, as it shines through in everything they say and do. “It was a rough start to be honest,” Aaron said, describing the initial steps of breaking into the business. “Dispensaries were all nonprofit at the time; there wasn’t even really a solid program to begin with.”
But the dream endured, and Aaron persevered. “I brought my idea to Jeron. I had all my ideas lined out and he was into it. He believed in me; it was the first huge investment I had ever really seen him make. He and Rosa believed in me from the beginning,” said Aaron.
Their first big investment was in three storefronts located in Medford, Lebanon, and Roseburg. After spending months preparing for their openings, they hit a seemingly insurmountable roadblock: All three cities enacted moratoriums on new cannabis dispensaries.
Aaron and Rosa became frequent participants at each city’s town meetings relating to the moratorium. The moratorium, which started on temporary basis, continued for over a year. Yet through it all, they still had to pay for upkeep, electricity, security, and employees.
“As terrible as it was not to be able to open, we really got in close with the community. The decision makers were elderly, and were worried our shop would bring in dangerous characters and temptation to the youth of the community. After countless town hall meetings, we started to understand where they were coming from. We created a bond with the mayor, the police, and all the decision makers so we could improve our knowledge, while doing our best to make them comfortable with the idea. We wanted to do everything possible to be compliant.”
Unfortunately, this roadblock left them in a dire situation. They had spent their entire investment on those three stores, and eventually were left with nothing and had no way out.
They couldn’t open any of the stores and hit rock bottom. “I literally just started selling everything I owned for half-price to try and start figuring out a way to save money and get back on top. I sold my house, my car, Rosa’s car. It was really hard to do,” said Aaron.
After liquidating all his assets, Aaron found one place in the state that had some potential for the money he had scrambled for. It was an old, beat-down laundry mat on 52nd Avenue in South East Portland. It took everything they had, but they bought it, and moved in. They finally found a home for their vision, but also had to make it home for themselves until they could get out of debt. “We were sleeping on the floor for a while, but Rosa stuck through it with me, and we just made the best of our situation.” In the midst of a remodel, the building permits were denied. They had to start from square one and reconfigure their lay out.
Finally, after exhaustive efforts, the building was up to code and ready for opening. But as opening day neared, they realized all their top-shelf bud was drying out. Their only product was losing value, and fast. Thankfully, that was the moment the $99 ounce was born. “Our doors opened and people were going wild for it. It was affordable and good, so the word about La Mota spread like wildfire. That first month actually made us a major chunk of money that took us out of the red. We started to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Aaron.
Once they finally began to make progress, they moved into a small apartment and worked as managers and budtenders in their first shop. Aaron was CEO and Rosa was managing, but eventually that changed; Rosa took over the role of CEO, and Aaron shifted his focus over to production.
With great pride, they saw the power of their passion creating unstoppable momentum. Aaron said, “Every day is like a dream. I never thought I’d get the feeling I had back in my glory days of pro skateboarding. Every morning I’m so exciting to wake up and get the ball rolling. This business is my life, and I love it.”
La Mota is now a collosal force in the world of cannabis business, La Mota is taking Oregon by storm, and the numbers prove it: They’ve opened 14 additional La Mota locations in two years and are currently ranked as the sixth highest grossing cannabis company in the country, and the highest in Oregon, according to the CBE 200 (Cannabis Business Executive).
What is their recipe for success?
La Mota creates community through excellent customer service, and they hire compassionate individuals with a love for cannabis.
“I want La Mota to feel like home. Every race, every gender, every walk of life is welcome here,” said Rosa. “Our employees are our family. We want everyone to have fun at work, but also own their responsibilities, and treat this company like it’s their own. And, they really do.” Rosa believes in empowering the women in this industry and she’s built a sisterhood in the process: “The bonds I’ve made with my employees are unbreakable.”
You really can set apart good business from bad business, because you can see it in the eyes of the employees. My first experience at La Mota was comfortable and up lifting. The staff on 52nd is knowledgeable, relatable, and intuitive. I had a terrific experience.
“None of this would be possible without upper management and the dedication of our employees. I can’t stress to you enough how instrumental they are to what we do,” said Aaron during a conversation.
“We hire locally, and our goal is to contribute to the community. We want to bring sustainable jobs to our state and educate people on the many misconceptions they may have about cannabis.”
With three outdoor grow operations, two indoor grows, two wholesale departments, and a processing facility, Rosa is constantly on the phone with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). She was part of the OLCC Recreational Advisory Committee and now just joined Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association (ORCA) and stays on top of the ever-changing industry.
Rosa also voiced how crucial the OLCC has been from the start, saying, “The OLCC is helping us transition from small business to big business. The OLCC is so necessary. At first I was nervous about it -who wasn’t nervous about it? I was scared. But, what they forced us to do has made us better business people. They are willing to educate us. We should be grateful that they are willing to answer your calls and give you all the tools you need to succeed. Without them we would be drowning.”
La Mota’s farms are now managed by Royal Ambrosia—best known for their superior strains and outstanding outdoor growing methods. Also, growing with them is Jason Yell at Y Tree Farms. “He’s a force to be reckoned with, he will be a staple in the farming community for sure. The guy is outstanding,” said Aaron.
Aaron is a cannabis connoisseur through and through, which is obvious in La Mota’s selection across all 15 locations. They even tier their product pricing with the varying needs of their customer base in mind. Using their quality based pricing structure, customers may, for example, select a “Premium” strain. Or if you are on a budget, check out their “Every Day Smoke.”
Through the weeks of getting to know these two industry moguls, I have learned that there truly is no excuse for rudeness or impatience in this business. Their day-to-day positive attitudes, willingness to learn and adapt, and the respect they give to everyone they work with has been the key to their success. This industry is exploding, and we are at the forefront of a multi-billion-dollar industry that is constantly bursting with infinite twists and turns. Be informed; educate yourself and your employees, and establish your brand with the consumer in mind. If the people are on your side, you’ll have a winning brand.
All eyes on La Mota.