Manufacturing Success: A conversation with Shelby Waggoner and Adolphus Busch of Teal Cannabis
Missouri’s medical marijuana market continues to thrive. With dozens of brands and hundreds of products on dispensary shelves, medical marijuana has become the state’s hottest industry. In a new short-form q&a series, Manufacturing Success, Greenway looks to highlight and introduce the companies and individuals that turn plants into products.
In our first iteration, Greenway spoke to the team at Teal Labs, home to Teal Cannabis and High Five Cannabis, two Missouri-born brands that create some of the state’s best products.
Greenway spoke to CEO Adolphus Busch and Production Manager Shelby Waggoner about what it takes to make an impression and what goes into crafting cannabis from flower into a final product form.
The team at Teal is representative of much of the cannabis community, with blended histories, diverse backgrounds, and unique stories with a passion for the plant as a common thread.
Shelby Waggoner was born and raised in Flat Rock, Illinois, “[It’s] the middle of nowhere and always knew I wanted out,” Waggoner said.
“After graduating from the University of Southern Indiana in December of 2013, I took the MCAT planning to attend medical school the following fall, but I accidentally moved home instead.
“I had every intention of saving some money and applying for medical school over the next few months, but in the meantime, I started working at the Marathon Refinery close to home. Fast forward 7 years and I was still there.” The cannabis industry presented a new and unique opportunity as well as a chance for Waggoner to challenge herself. Her lifelong interest in health and wellness prompted Waggoner, who is a fitness enthusiast, to pursue her passion in other ways even before cannabis. For the last four years, Waggoner has been helping others, working as a health and wellness coach. She spends her free time enjoying sports and physical activity. It’s Waggoner’s enthusiasm for healthy living and passion for wellness that makes her a perfect fit to help lead the culture at Teal.
Adolphus Busch was born and raised in St. Louis before moving to Colorado in 2009 to attend Colorado State University. “I started working in the cannabis space in 2014 in Colorado and spent several years with a few different companies learning as much as possible about the industry.”
While a close-knit family has helped to shape him, it’s his name that often precedes him. While the name Busch may elicit images of breweries and ‘the King of Beers’, especially in Missouri, this Busch has made cannabis his life’s work. “My entire professional career has been spent in the cannabis space,” Busch explained. His resume reads like a crash course in canna-business. “I started working for BioTrackTHC out of college and then went on to work for a chain of retail dispensaries called Lightshade. After Lightshade, I spent 3 years at Keef Cola where I learned a great deal about extraction and product manufacturing.” In late 2017, Busch moved to the vertically integrated cannabis company Pure Greens based in Salida, CO. Through Pure Greens, Busch launched his first cannabis brand, ABV Cannabis, into the Colorado market. In 2020, Busch returned home to St. Louis on a permanent basis with the launch of Teal.
How did you find cannabis?
Busch: I think cannabis found me. I have been a consumer of cannabis for a long time now and it has always helped me for several different reasons. St. Louis has always had a big cannabis culture and I was introduced to that culture a long time ago.
Waggoner: Cannabis accidentally fell into my lap really! After working at a refinery for 7 years, and deciding it was time to do something different I began applying to other places online and Teal popped up. After talking with the guys (Busch and Teal COO, Tim Crook), it became clear to me that the cannabis industry should be my new home.
What does medical marijuana mean to you?
Waggoner: It means a lot! It means that the people are being heard, it means hundreds and thousands have access to a plant that has provided so much help when other things could not. I could go on and on.
Busch: This is a loaded question. It means a lot of things to me, but most importantly, it means that people who have access to it are happier and healthier in their daily lives, including me. I have noticed several medicinal benefits of cannabis throughout my life specific to me as a person. I have also noticed that it just makes me a better person at the end of the day and being a good person leads to healthier relationships and a life of fulfillment.
What is something that the general public doesn’t understand about cannabis extraction and manufacturing?
Waggoner: As far as the manufacturing side, I think the general public doesn’t even know we exist when they think cannabis industry. Everyone knows what cultivation is and that dispensaries sell products, but it’s almost like magic as to what happens in between the two! We bring raw material into the building from the cultivators, create things like distillates, concentrates, prerolls, gummies, etc. and then they leave our building to head to dispensaries where everyone finally gets to see the finished products. Little bit of magic, and a lot of science!
Busch: I think the main thing that the general public needs to know is that there are different extraction types and techniques. If performed properly, one is not necessarily better than the other, some just result in a different end product that may be used for a different type of consumer good. It is important to do your research and understand the different types of extraction and what they are used for before coming to a conclusion.
Tell me about some of Teal’s newest products and offerings.
Busch: The Teal Live Resin cartridges are a mirror image of the cannabis plant(s) they were created from. We use fresh frozen cannabis material from some of the most well-known cultivators in Missouri. Expect amazing terpene profiles and diverse cannabinoid profiles from our live carts. They are truly amazing.
The High Five High Potency gummies are 500mg of THC per pack, 25mg THC per gummy, and 20 gummies per pack. They are currently available in Sour Green Apple and Sour Blue Raspberry with more flavors to come.
What is the biggest challenge in cannabis extraction and manufacturing?
Busch: One of the biggest challenges is differentiation. We all want to make amazing concentrates, vape pens and other commonly used delivery methods. However, it is key to differentiate yourself when in a sea of similar products. We are always trying to improve and make changes that create value for the end consumer.
Another challenge is the inconsistency of cannabis material used for extraction. In a new market, everyone is trying to get their feet under them. We are all striving to create the best product possible, but that does not mean that the material used for extraction always performs the way you would like it to. Picking and choosing the correct material to use for extraction is difficult to learn how to do, but it is crucial especially when you are a standalone manufacturer with very tight margins on almost all product types. Making the wrong purchasing decision can put a standalone manufacturer out of business quickly.
What goes into R&D at TEAL?
Busch: We are researching and developing new products and procedures every day in order to create new and exciting products and to continue to improve our current lines of products. Our extraction lab is always experimenting with new techniques and recording data so that we can constantly improve. We work closely with our testing lab in order to send samples in for R&D potency, terpene, and other tests so that we can record our results accurately and with more precision.
Tell me about the TEAL Facility and staff.
Waggoner: Our staff is the best, and I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without them!
Busch: The Teal Labs facility is located in St. Peters, Missouri. We built our facility from the ground up on a piece of land my family has owned for years. The facility sits very close to my family farm and is located in an area that means a lot to our team. This land and the area mean a lot to my family and our team because it is close to a lot of natural habitats which are home to many different species of animals. Teal takes an environment-friendly approach wherever possible and will continue to live by those values in all future business decisions.
The Teal family is amazing. We have one of the best cultures around and we are committed to staying true to our culture and living by our values and beliefs every day. The vibe in the Teal facility is always positive and everyone treats each other with respect. We are one small family of Teal team members, and we could not be more fortunate to have the crew we do today. We certainly would not be where we are today without each and every one of our amazing team members.
What do you consider when finding sources for your flower?
Busch: Quality of the material is key, and this means density of the buds, terpene profiles, cannabinoid profiles, cannabinoid content, stage of the trichome heads, and many more factors. It just depends on what product you are trying to make. It is also very important to understand what grow techniques and ingredients the cultivator uses. It is important to know these things to have a better understanding of how the material will perform in extraction. Making sure that the cultivator tests their product before sending it to a manufacturing is another important QA step.
What’s the most important thing to creating quality cannabis products?
Busch: Transparency. People have different needs and wants. Some people prefer distillate over broad spectrum/full spectrum products, and some prefer the opposite. To each his own. I understand the argument on both sides of the coin, but the reality is everyone has their preference and the different product categories are here to stay. If you use quality input material, dial in your processes so that they are tried and true, and produce clean and safe cannabis products, then your products should be quality regardless of what category you fulfill. It is important to be transparent with your consumers and let them know your methods and what is in your products that they are consuming. Being transparent with consumers is the only way to do business. Let them choose which product type or delivery method is right for them.
What’s the best way to experience cannabis, in your opinion?
Busch: I am old school and have always enjoyed joints or water pipes the most.
Waggoner: I’m an edibles girl! Smoking of any type just hasn’t been my style!
For you, Live Resin or Distillate, and why?
Busch: I prefer different things for different occasions. For example, if I am in a public place, distillate is my go-to. However, if I am consuming in the comfort of my home, I prefer live resin. If I had to choose one of the other, I would choose live resin. I have a lower tolerance than most everyday consumers and I like to experience more of the true terpene profile derived from different strains of cannabis. Therefore, live resin suits my tolerance and preferences better than distillate. With that said, distillate is a good product and works well for many consumers, including me. Most distillate products include terpenes, whether cannabis derived, hemp derived or botanically derived. Each has its own benefits and this is another area where the general public needs to do their research before coming to any sort of conclusion.