June 18, 2021
by Matthew O'Brien
How Michael Beaudry built HERBL Solutions, the leading cannabis supply chain solutions provider in California.
Did you know that over 60% of people in the U.S don’t like their jobs?
This is why one of my favorite parts about working in cannabis is the opportunity to meet so many amazing people who are incredibly passionate about their jobs with the knowledge that their work is directly contributing to the creation of the cannabis industry.
For today’s edition of Four PM, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from an individual who certainly fits this profile, having left his “stable job” in 2015 to focus on the cannabis industry such that he could pursue his passion for cannabis, by helping operators scale their supply chains.
Michael Beaudry is the former President of UNFI and is currently the Founder & CEO of HERBL Solutions.
What was the insight that led you to join the cannabis industry?
I spent most of my career working in distribution, having spent 10 years with a company called United natural foods, also known as UNFI.
United natural foods is the largest distributor of organic natural products in the U.S, and it was my time with UNF that led me to cannabis.
For two years I started looking over the fence, reading articles about cannabis, attending trade shows and I fell in love with the industry.
I recall being both fascinated about the business side of cannabis, however, I was also fascinated by cannabis having consumed it since my youth.
There are many similarities between cannabis and natural foods, such that I understood the challenges the industry would face as it scaled which allowed me to identify the opportunity to help support the industry.
What led you to focus on the distribution of cannabis as opposed to creating your own branded products?
The industry was at an early stage in 2016 — distribution was a word that was just starting to be talked about.
I wasn't from a cultivation background, however, I do have experience in manufacturing products having spent five years as CEO of a company that manufactured dietary supplements, but my love has always been distribution.
That's really my passion — it's been 80% of my career over 30 plus years.
I saw a giant need for companies to come in and develop the systems and the processes to connect the supply chain and ultimately help scale cannabis supply chains.
(HERBL’s warehouse in California)
What are some of the skills that you learned outside of cannabis that have ultimately allowed you to succeed within cannabis?
The main insight is that it all starts with people.
Having been in business since I was 18, there was a tremendous amount of learnings of building successful teams.
I also learned an enormous amount about products and supply chain systems, and how things work, and how they can break with scale.
Most importantly, the biggest thing that we've done at HERBL, is everything we've built in the last three years.
We have contemplated — when we put enough weight on it, how do we look then?
It's not about, can we ship the product this week — it's about can we ship the product when we're 10 times larger? And if so, how?
Are there any particular trends in cannabis that you're paying close attention to right now?
Cannabis beverages are a trend I’m watching closely right now.
There was a lot of talk in the last few years on how vapes would replace dried cannabis flower, and I think we've come to the absolute conclusion that that's not going to be the case.
I think flower will be the dominant product category for the foreseeable future, however, I also think beverages will play a significant role.
There's a lot of folks leaning into the beverage category, and the category faces many of the same challenges we faced in scaling the supply chains for the natural food companies from the 1990s-2010.
Distribution can handle the products, but many dispensaries aren't equipped to deal with storing and displaying a beverage in their store right now.
It's going to be a minute before the infrastructure and everything works out, but I do think that cannabis beverages are going to be a very large category in a few years so that's something that we're watching very closely.
As you look to the future of the cannabis industry what does success look like for HERBL?
It starts by continuing to honor the legacy of this industry.
We are not a corporate machine and never will be.
We are a company that pays deep respect for all of the folks who paved the way for companies like HERBL to be here.
That's a foundational aspect of who we are, and who we will always be.
We look to professionalize the industry and really help support the growth of cannabis by helping to scale the supply chains in cannabis.
For HERBL that growing and scaling means creating services that help our brand partners and our dispensary partners. That's really what we're here for.
What has you most excited about the future of the cannabis industry?
When I first looked at this space, what really excited me was my passion for cannabis and the legalization of cannabis in the United States.
That was really first and foremost and what excites me the most is the clear progress that's been made on federal legalization and the access people now have to cannabis in multiple states today.
For HERBL, I’m very excited to be able to bring high-quality, lab-tested, compliant, cannabis to market and how we can expand this service over time.
Our team has tremendous experience in the national expansion of companies but with that experience came the fact that we knew we had to build a base, and that's really what we've spent the last three years focusing on.
Source: Four PM article.