Joe Stolte: Welcome everybody to the very first episode of the GrowFlow podcast, where our mission is to help bring you the best information, tips, tricks, interviews and insights to manage and grow your licensed cannabis business. My name is Joe Stolte, I'm the chief revenue officer at GrowFlow and I'm joined by Travis Steffen.
Travis Steffen: I'm the CEO of GrowFlow
Joe Stolte: Boom! On this very first episode, what we're going to try and do is number one not put you to sleep, keep you awake for the next 15 or 20 minutes. Number two really just kind of lay out our story more specifically Travis's story, so you can know your hosts and about GrowFlow and about what we're up to. That will really set the stage for everything we're going to do in the future and most of these episodes are going to be about you and bringing you insights and helping you get more of the things that you want to scale, manage and grow your cannabis business. But, today we're going to be selfish! We're going to talk about ourselves, is that cool? Let's roll! So, because this is our first episode and I've never in my life had a photographic memory I have notes if that's okay. Right off the bat, let's just jump in. So Travis, tell us about yourself, man.
Travis Steffen: Let's see where to start. So, I've been very fortunate in my career. I've been in technology, starting software businesses, scaling them and selling them for the past 12 years or so and GrowFlow was my very first cannabis venture, but it was also the first venture that I came on board as CEO to an existing company, our incredible founders, Rufus and Tom had gone through an accelerator program I want to say it was late 2016, early 2017 called the foundation and the foundation was actually run by a friend of mine, Dane Maxwell who I met because he's also from Iowa, which is where I was born and raised so random.
Joe Stolte: Yeah, super random.
Travis Steffen: But I was effectively, thankfully because of the diversity in nature of the things that I had done in my career. I had the privilege to be able to work with some accelerator programs as a mentor to help new startup founders and so forth and these two guys, Rufus and Tom just they were outliers in that whole cohort because they just did every single thing that anybody asked them to do and it worked, which is incredibly rare and it's weird to say that.
Joe Stolte: I remember when you were calling me like, Oh, I'm advising this company it’s these guys in cannabis and they literally just do everything I tell them and their businesses like 4Xing right now!
Travis Steffen: Yeah, it was actually really interesting because most of the companies in the accelerator program so at the end of every accelerator for the most part to get a demo day, it's your opportunity to pitch to investors and that's why most people are in it. They actually took an opportunity to listen and do what people were saying and learn and the two of them, basically one of them was Tom was working at Oracle and Rufus had gone through a couple of different other companies in his pas and wanted to start a dispensary, but in the act of talking to customers, they actually just identified a bigger need in the state of Washington and that's what became GrowFlow early on. They had a friend of Rufus who acted as their first sales person, who was effectively a cameraman, sleeping on Rufus’ couch in exchange for Rufus paying his bills. He was just cold calling all day long and it worked. I just started having a call with them every week for two years and then they just started asking me if I knew any good CEOs that might be able to take the helm because they felt like their strength was not in managing people or culture or fundraising, it was just in product innovation. I had just started another company recently and raised money for it so it took a little bit of time and he wore me down over the course of several months and then I agreed to jump in knowing that I had no experience in cannabis whatsoever, but I was bringing experience from all these other industries. I'd worked with a number of incredible people like yourself. You know, Joe and I had started a company together and sold it very quickly previously and had just been collaborating for years in other companies, other other projects and just said look you know this is a really unique time, it's a really unique venture and it's a really unique opportunity and that was kind of how my involvement bean
Joe Stolte: And then it all begins. So take us back though. So, like if I want to get to know Travis, like give us the, give us the origin story. Like where did you grow up? How did you even get involved with entrepreneurship? I mean, you're kind of a Savage peak performance human being. Just give us a quick bit on your background and like what makes you.
Travis Steffen: Um, grew up in Iowa. My mom was a teacher and my dad was a construction worker, super blue collar upbringing. Uh, no entrepreneurs in my family or in the world around me whatsoever. So I didn't even consider that as an option. I was so focused on sports I wanted to go be in the NFL or go be in the UFC and actually kind of made a run at both. At one point I went and played division one football tore my Achilles tendon and then after I rehabbed that got into fighting professionally and moved to Thailand, while I was over there just kind of realized like, what am I doing with my life? I'm not contributing anything to humanity. What legacy am I leaving? I have a certain level of intellectual ability that I have not in any way been made to feel that it's okay to exercise. It was a very hyper-masculine culture where I grew up and inevitably I just started to dip my toes in the waters of entrepreneurship. At the university of Northern Iowa, they had an entrepreneurship program and there wasn't a major. It wasn't even a minor, it was like a certificate, but they gave you an office and they gave you free computers and all these resources and I thought that was really cool. I was borderline unemployable, I did not respect my bosses that I was working for in any of these weird jobs that I had, except for when I was interning at an MMA gym. My boss at the time was like a UFC hall of Famer. And I just thought
Joe Stolte: You're basically uniquely qualified to be an entrepreneur?
Travis Steffen: Exactly! Parents basically said you're either going to need to start something of your own or you're going to be on the street or something like that. I was like, all right well that leaves one option. So I started to just learn, I didn't have a business background, I didn't go to school for business and I kind of just learned by messing up over several years.
Joe Stolte: And you've built and sold how many companies now?
Travis Steffen: Seven eight, if you count selling one to one of my other companies, but I don't.
Joe Stolte: I love it, man. So you got this incredible background, built and sold seven companies, you raised capital for companies. Rufus and Tom call you and they say Hey man, you know any good CEOs? we're looking to bring on a CEO to scale GrowFlow to the next level and eventually you came over and of course you called me.
Travis Steffen: Yup!
Joe Stolte: We've called a few other people but walk everybody through what's happened since then, because it feels like two days, but it's been like two years and so much growth has happened.
Travis Steffen: It's been almost exactly two years for me. I think I jumped in in February of 2019 with the intention of saying I'm going to be the ghost in the machine for 90 days. I don't want to publicly be seen as a CEO. I just want to get to know the team and see if they're even open for new leadership just to see what I've got to work with and what I have on my hands and if this is something that I want to take on, because if they weren't, then it's not something that I wanted to do, but they were amazing like everybody just wanted to learn and everybody was super interested in just building the company as big as it could be. I think the company had maybe 15 people at the time and had raised a little bit of money. I want to say a little over a million dollars through, you know, 60 plus investors. Then in about 60 days I was like all right I've seen what I need to see I'm going to come on Full-time as CEO. And you were my first call and then a couple of the other folks that we've collaborated with in the past were second, third and fourth calls. The rest is history since then, The first thing we did was inject solid business fundamentals into a company that had basically nothing except for pretty significant product market fit in the state of Washington.
Joe Stolte: Yup
Travis Steffen: Unfortunately for most companies, that's the hardest thing to get. So we were very fortunate that that was already a hurdle that was overcome before we even came in. So the opportunity felt even more unique.
Joe Stolte: Yeah. Really quick though. So I'm, I'm a cultivator and I'm not in the software space. What the hell is product market fit? What does that even mean?
Travis Steffen: Right, so product market fit basically you know is just a piece of business jargon that describes how closely you're addressing the needs of the customer, how much value you're giving them as it specifically pertains to a problem they're having and if your product has market fit, it means your product is a perfect fit for the market to solve a specific problem that they're having right now.
Joe Stolte: Evidenced by them opening their wallet, taking money out of their bank accounts and putting it into yours.
Travis Steffen: Exactly! Yeah and sticking around over the course of time, uh, and continuing to get the value from whatever you've created. It sounds like a simple concept and it's a simple concept to understand, but it's profoundly difficult to create.
Joe Stolte: No, it's super hard. Like if you think about one of the hardest things to do in business to innovate, right. It's to like build something, it's to find the person you're going to serve, figure out what they want and then actually give it to them and continue to do so in a way where they continue to give you their money, their attention, their, whatever, the thing is, they're giving you an exchange. That's like why the vast majority of businesses fail. They haven't cracked that code. So Rufus and Tom and the rest of the original team nailed it, crushed it in Washington.
Travis Steffen: Absolutely! And they did it just by talking to as many customers as they possibly could getting to know them on an intimate level and the problems they were experiencing serving the rest of the competition and figuring out how not to do things and just doing things differently.
Joe Stolte: Yeah, I love that. Um, well cool. So what the heck is GrowFlow?
Travis Steffen: So GrowFlow to put it in simple terms helps cannabis companies manage and grow their businesses better and faster. A little bit more detail GrowFlow offers compliance tools, inventory management tools, point of sale solutions, analytics, sales tools. We have a wholesale marketplace, We have harvest tools, Basically, we're a suite of products that are specific to the various needs of cannabis companies at all steps in the supply chain.
Joe Stolte: Boom, love it. And what's our mission?
Travis Steffen: Our mission is to be the most helpful company in cannabis. Period.
Joe Stolte: The end! I love it. Um, well I think if I'm listening to this episode, I just got a decent download of who Travis is and a little bit about GrowFlow. I'm gonna ask you this on the spot randomly, but why should I listen to the next episode and why should I subscribe and leave a five star review for this podcast right now?
Travis Steffen: Yeah. Great question. I mean, first and foremost, you know, Joe and I only have cannabis experience at GrowFlow. We're not going to teach you the industry operators who know better than we do how to grow the plant, how to cultivate or sell the plants to consumers or anything in between, what we're going to teach you is how to start a better cannabis business because we’ve done that. Not necessarily in cannabis, but everywhere else over the course of time. We've also figured out which of those, which of those learnings, which of those concepts, which of those frameworks work really, really well in this industry. We want to pass those along to you. I imagine that the industry influencers or the industry OGs have given you all the industry specific information you could possibly want. So, we're actually going to bring you information from outside the industry, from technology, from business, from you know, the world around you and let you know how to in-mesh all of that with your cannabis business to make you actually a successful company of any kind, which is already by itself, a profoundly difficult thing to do outside of a highly regulated industry, which you basically have to compete in. So beyond that, we're also going to share the stories and the learnings from some of the top operators, just like you and how they solved some of the biggest problems that you might be experiencing. We'll basically dissect with them exactly how others could follow in their footsteps among other things.
Joe Stolte: Yeah, I am the world's number one mistake maker. So I'm just going to show you all the things that I've screwed up and hopefully you don't do that too. But, seriously first and foremost if there's anybody you want to hear from, if there's any insights you want to learn, if there's any questions you want to know about how to scale a licensed cannabis business anywhere in the supply chain, in any market, we have over 1200 customers and, uh, we will go find the answer. So you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org with your question and literally anything. What do you want to learn? We're going to build this with you. The more information we get back from you, the better we can make this. The more interesting it will be. So that's the end of episode one, any final thoughts?
Travis Steffen: Don't hesitate to ask questions that might even be outside of your day-to-day if you think that you might have a problem on your hands, or you are actively experiencing a problem cannabis related or otherwise, let us know. If we personally haven't experienced that before or come up with a solution somebody on our team has and we'll milk them for information before we hop on an episode.
Joe Stolte: Thanks for watching this first episode, make sure you subscribe to the podcast on whatever platform you're watching or listening to it on so that we can go out and tickle the algorithms and get this in front of more people so that we can help more cannabis businesses grow, manage scale, optimize, and get to the next level. Thank you.