Agri-Genesis: Rooted in success
2021 marked the turning point for many of Missouri’s licensed medical marijuana businesses, fighting through a pandemic, litigation, construction and supply issues, and a litany of other unforeseen circumstances – companies around the state were forced to work within new parameters to bring their vision to life.
In Macon, that vision is Agri-Genesis. One of the state’s highest-scoring applicants when licenses were originally awarded, the company did little in the way of branding and marketing since, choosing instead to focus on building leadership and culture from the inside out. 2021 saw the launch of the Agri-Genesis retail arm in Sunrise Dispensaries. Now in 2022, the company looks to make an immediate impact as the company brings its cultivated flower and manufactured products to dispensaries around the state.
Anchored by a veteran leadership team and a cast of experienced professionals, Agri-Genesis is reestablishing itself as force du jour in Missouri cannabis.
Greenway recently spoke to Agri-Genesis President, Sean Carriger, about what went into bringing one of the state’s largest cannabis companies from idea to execution. Carriger brings considerable experience with start-up, design, and building cannabis operations from the ground up. His experience running cultivation, manufacturing, and retail operations helps ensure Agri-Genesis’ position as an industry leader in Missouri.
In just over six months, Sunrise launched five retail locations around the state. With locations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Macon, Maryville, and Clinton, ensuring patients from across the state feel comfortable in stores close to home.
“Sunrise, as a retail store brand was developed by the founders of Agri-Genesis. They wanted a store name that was uplifting and memorable, that also paid homage to the background of the founders,” Carriger revealed. “The sunrise logo is influenced by the farming background of founder Richard Gunnels. The stores were designed to have a fun and casual feel, where people from all walks of life would feel comfortable.”
But the launch of any new retail location is taxing, more so when done amid the backdrop of a pandemic and a highly regulated industry while building out multiple facilities at once.
“The process of juggling five different contractors in five different areas of the state provided many physical and logistical challenges,” Carriger explained. “We were able to keep the showcases and technology pieces consistent across all locations, but ensuring consistent installation and troubleshooting the many small issues along the way definitely took longer than expected.” In addition to the simple logistics of geography, the team also faced many of the same issues that other facilities faced in 2021. “Coordinating the staffing and launch dates was also a big challenge, as construction completion and commencement deadlines seemed to be constantly changing between locations,” Carriger said. “Supply chain issues definitely caused additional issues and forced us to adjust our selections to meet timelines.” Those issues impacted more than the retail locations, as Carriger told Greenway. “The global supply chain issues impacted the cultivation and manufacturing projects the most. HVAC and electrical components suffered six to twelve-month delays, in some cases with little to no transparency from manufacturers on when things would arrive. Pushing forward to meet commencement deadlines meant finding creative solutions and being very resourceful. We were able to put together a world-class facility, deploying the latest in cultivation and extraction technology.”
A combination of strong leadership and a resilient spirit has driven the company forward while facing obstacles and challenges. Much of that credit is due to the foundation of the company.
“Richard Gunnels started Agri-Genesis and connected with Bob Pease through a fortuitous series of calls after seeing a promotional video on youtube that featured a facility that Bob was a part of a couple of years prior in Nevada. After successfully winning licenses, the pair were able to raise capital, develop the team, and guide the company through the startup process. The cultivation team is led by Erik Lerma, who did an outstanding job maintaining plant health despite the many operational challenges along the way, and has the plants in excellent condition approaching our first harvest. Joseph Hinch leads the charge on the manufacturing side of the business, helping to optimize our processes from his many years of experience in both the THC and hemp sides of the cannabis business.”
Can you tell us more about the leadership team?
“Bob Pease acts as CEO of Agri-Genesis, he had 15 years of financial service experience with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan prior to entering the cannabis market. Additionally, Pease has considerable experience launching and operating cannabis operations in numerous other states prior to landing in Missouri.
“Tina Maloney serves as CFO for Agri-Genesis. She has decades of CFO experience for Fortune 500 companies, and a successful cannabis career in California where she helped take an operator from start-up all the way to going public.
“Angela Morelli is the company’s CMO. Morelli has decades of marketing, branding, and sales experience with Nordstrom and Converse Footwear. She helped to make “Chucks” a shoe everyone knows globally. Angela provides oversight of all branding, marketing, and promotional strategy company-wide.
“Zach DeMichele is the company’s Director of Retail. He has considerable restaurant experience prior to working his way up in cannabis retail operations in Arizona. Before coming to Sunrise, Zach oversaw the expansion of retail operations for Harvest (now TruLieve) across the state and managed the operational changes throughout the M&A process. His focus on customer service and store experience cannot be overstated.
“The team is rounded out by exceptional General Managers at each of the five retail locations, Kansas City – Justin Driver, Maryville – Shelby Miller, Clinton – Kristy Stewert, Macon – Bari Thompson, and in St. Louis – Laveenia Hunt.”
How do you gauge the success of each dispensary location early on?
“The first thing is public awareness. Getting our grand opening acknowledged by local chamber of commerce, papers, publications, social media groups in the areas we operate is the first step. All locations seem to start slow and ramp up, so when things are slow we focus on operational excellence and compliance with new staff, and make sure the team is following their processes correctly. Google reviews, even if they are few in number to start, are a great indication of the customer experience.”
How is Sunrise separating itself from a crowded retail space?
“Sunrise offers the best loyalty program in the state. Customers receive cumulative rewards points and hit 5%, 10%, and 15% off for life when they reach those benchmarks. We have also made product selection a priority, regularly offering 30-40 strains of flower at a time. This will be further enhanced with the addition of Agri-Genesis’ flower and manufactured products launching in stores next month. We plan to offer special flower selections and pricing that can’t be found at any other retailer in the state.”
Three Sunrise locations currently offer drive-through services for customers in Kansas City, Clinton, and Macon.
How is Sunrise interacting with the community?
“Active participation with all local chamber of commerce personnel, adopt-a-highway initiatives, offering free educational classes and events in-store and at local establishments, and engaging local businesses for special events.”
Just ahead of the cannabis market’s biggest sales day, the facilities at Agri-Genesis are humming. With product scheduled to hit shelves just before 4/20, the first harvest process is quickly coming to a close. According to Carriger, that first harvest is remarkable.
“Over 20 visually stunning, terpy cultivars will make a splash into the market across 3 different brands. Genetics created by the world’s leading breeders will be unique to brands produced by Agri-Genesis, with a revolving menu to keep dispensaries and patients flush with new options year-round. Our flower is dried and cured to exacting standards, only released when optimal moisture and terpene profile is achieved. The majority of flower will be sold to the open market, with some specialty cultivars sent to Sunrise dispensaries, and other product used for both in-house extraction and collaborations with other extraction companies.”
What can you tell Greenway readers about the products that are hitting shelves?
“Best in market flower will be sold under two brands. Notorious is our “top shelf” brand, reserved for the most exclusive cultivars in the world that can’t be found anywhere else in MO. Flower sold under the Notorious brand will be extremely potent, with complex terpene profiles and an impeccable appearance. Farmer G is our “every man’s brand” for Missouri, developed to highlight the legacy farming heritage of founder Richard Gunnells. Flower in the Farmer G line will be a higher quality and a better price than our competitors. This brand also features an exciting collaboration with Missouri Meerschaum Company, the creator of the corncob pipes, founded and still operating over 150 years later in Washington, MO.
“Farmer G will offer customers a wide selection of corncob pipes in different shapes and a variety of sizes and finishes made famous by US Presidents and historical figures of the past. There won’t be a more authentic way to consume cannabis in Missouri than from Farmer G smoked in a Meerschaum corncob pipe!
“Agri-Genesis’ manufacturing team will be releasing a variety of concentrates and vapes under both Farmer G and Notorious branding, as well as a variety of infused products like drink powders, rice crispys, mints, and hard candy.”
What differentiates the Agri-Genesis brands from some of the competitors already in the market?
“Our infused products will be made with a proprietary cannabinoid delivery formula that will offer the fastest onset time in the industry. Faster effects mean more accurate dosing for patients, and a more predictable experience every time our products are consumed. We believe this will make our infused products category leaders, along with the price competitiveness that being a fully vertical operator will allow us to offer.”
What should buyers and consumers expect from Agri-Genesis products?
“World class genetics, cultivated to perfection, offered at an extremely competitive price. Agri-Genesis is also nearing GMP certification, which means we are committed to operating at the same standards used by the FDA to regulate pharmaceutical drug production. Our quality and consistency will never be compromised, and our commitment to innovation will bring many new and exciting products to the Missouri market in the near future.”
Farmer G and Notorious flower products will be in stores in time for 4/20, with concentrates and infused products following shortly thereafter. Learn more about Sunrise Dispensaries and Agri-Genesis at showmesunrise.com