With an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School and entrepreneurial success already under his belt, British-born Tim Moxey saw the cannabusiness tidal wave coming to Washington state and thought, “Why not me?” Now he’s got 35 employees at Botanica Seattle making pot-infused cookies, chocolates, mints and more for 120 stores in the state.
Moxey investigated three businesses in legalized marijuana: growing it, processing it into products, and selling it at retail shops. “Growing pot can be hard and the number of licenses and their square footage was capped at a certain amount,” he said, and retail store licenses could only be gained through the lottery system, so he decided to start a processing business. “With processing you can go for the largest scale operation because there is no limit to the number of cookies, candies, and other products you can manufacture,” he said.
Moxey teamed up with a friend from business school, Chris Abbott, who had worked for a hedge fund in New York and then had created a wine storage business in Seattle. Moxey and Abbott share the title of CEO which works well for the pair. “If we both think an idea is good or bad, we make the decision,” said Moxey, “If we disagree we look into it more closely until one can convince the other.”
From the start, the founders agreed that one way to succeed in the burgeoning market was to commandeer as much shelf space as possible in retail stores, and then to defend the shelf space against other brands that would be entering the market. That strategy means the 35 employees are cranking out 25 separate products including four flavors of cookies (made from either Sativa or Indica strains of marijuana) at different potencies, as well as chocolates, mints, brownies, and personal lubricant.
The entrepreneurs weren’t sure if pot store customers would be hipsters, soccer moms, or retirees but, “Amid all the unknown, there was one thing we did know; anyone shopping in a pot shop was looking to buy something with pot in it,” Abbott said. Consequently, their “SPOT” line of products was designed to be a utilitarian brand with a clean design and clear messaging. Packaging generally states the number of items and the THC level in a bold readable font, highlighted in a large colored circle for example, showing 6 Sativa Cookies with 10Mg THC each. “The goal for the brand was for it to feel just at home in Seattle as it would in Tulsa,” said Abbott.
Botanica Seattle has grown quickly and recently moved from a 3,000 square foot production area to a 16,000 foot facility. “It was just bonkers before,” said Moxey, “We couldn’t meet demand in 3,000 square feet.” In the new facility, an open warehouse space, stations to create different products are mostly on wheels, so they can be moved as orders for one or another product come in.
Looking to the future, the Botanica Seattle team sees two groups emerging, a high-end customer who is willing to pay more for top shelf products, and another segment who wants to get high without spending much money. As they plans the expansion of their product lines, the entrepreneurs plan to serve both.