Franklin’s Stash House: How KC’s homegrown hemp company became the next big thing in marijuana
In 2021, Greenway spoke to an upstart cannabis company based out of Kansas City, Missouri. Franklin’s Stash House was founded on the idea of uniting the cannabis community with the cannabis industry, aiming to embody the community the brand was birthed from.
Franklin’s first launched in the cannabis industry through legalized hemp. The DIY spirit and drive for success of the company’s founders brought Franklin’s into the fold of visible brands in a quickly emerging industry full of new opportunities.
Bootstrapping its launch by targeting corner stores and neighborhood hotspots where the brand could find its footing while building relationships with dispensaries to carry products, Franklin’s quickly becoming one of the most recognized cannabis brands in the state on the back of its hemp prerolls and hemp flower offerings.
In 2022, Franklin’s secured license for medical marijuana production in the state. By year’s end, the new offerings and brands from Franklin’s emerged as some of the hottest products in the state, with the company bringing its already successful line of blunts and prerolls to Missouri’s marijuana market and launching the award-nominated infused beverage James’ Lemonade, as well as True State tinctures and balms.
Now, with approval to operate as a comprehensive license holder, Franklin’s unique flair and stellar products have become fan favorites for adult use consumers as well. In 2023, Franklin’s Stash House will bring recognizable names like Guy’s Snacks and Una Familia into the company’s house of brands, with the first products set to roll out later this spring.
Greenway recently caught up with Franklin’s Stash House Co-Founder & CEO, Michael Wilson, to discuss the journey so far and what lies ahead for a company that continues to embody the spirit of entrepreneurship in a market rich with opportunity that becomes steadily more competitive.
What went into taking Franklin’s from a successful hemp brand to a licensed marijuana company?
A great deal of coordination, collaboration, hard work and local investment went into making the transition from a successful hemp brand into a licensed medical (now comprehensive) marijuana facility. The whole process to acquire a license itself took approximately two years to plan and 12 months to execute.
Specifically, we raised two million in capital to acquire the license, build out the facility, get the facility commenced, acquire all the necessary equipment, hire sixteen employees, and manufacture/distribute approximately 20 SKUs to 115+ dispensary locations in Missouri.
In addition, it also took a great deal of alignment and support from friends and family. Operating and scaling a startup is a serious commitment for everyone involved. Without the support of those around us, we could have never achieved what we have as a group, nonetheless in such a short timeframe.
What obstacles do you face as a small business in the marijuana industry?
As an independent, locally owned business, our ownership team knew getting into this industry that we would face plenty of challenges. If I had to chronicle the biggest obstacles along the way, it would look something like this.
The financial commitments necessary to enter this industry, stay within state regulation and compete successfully are immense. The cannabis industry is still one that requires the raising of investment capital to truly compete in almost any given market in 2023.
This industry is not for the faint of heart. In what an industry analyst has been calling “the green rush”, the cannabis industry is not a market designed for entrepreneurs who lack fortitude and street smarts.
Cannabis is a rapidly evolving industry. We’ve seen plenty of companies that rely on the same suite of products they had a year ago… sometimes two years ago. Without an innovative manufacturing process and an always-evolving product line, cannabis consumers will shift their interests to new experiences elsewhere.
Do you feel like your brand is perceived less as a newcomer to the marijuana market since your hemp products were on dispensary shelves longer than many of the other brands that had medical licenses before you?
First and foremost, we are thankful for how well-received Franklin’s Stash House and James’ Lemonade have been in the market. Dispensaries, budtenders, and customers alike have really put on for Franklin’s. The word-of-mouth buzz that’s been bubbling since 2020 has really helped elevate and accelerate our company.
The road to getting here started by investing our time in building strong relationships with dispensaries, manufacturers, and cultivators across the state. We are a company that believes in staying true to doing good business and invests heavily in customer service.
It’s also our belief that when you have a highly motivated team that are masters of “the fundamentals” – it’s amazing how quickly you can accelerate.
We’ve heard other brands that were late to market say that adult use, in many ways feels almost like recalibration and resetting many of the companies back to a level playing field in the eyes of consumers as far as brand awareness – how do you feel about that statement?
I think some evidence in favor of that sentiment is the growth of Franklin’s from October 8, 2022, to January 15, 2023, and then January 16, 2023, to today.
While we had a strong opening in the medical market, dispensaries around the state saw an enormous influx of new customers asking for James’ Infused Lemonade. Our weekly volumes are up 8x-14x per dispensary and we attribute most of that growth to new buyers coming into dispensaries that had heard about James’ Infused Lemonade from our marketing efforts over the past two years.
Rec has leveled the playing field between big brands and local brands on a massive scale. A new wave of over one million customers is now able to enjoy the variety of products in Missouri dispensaries. That means 80% of the dollars spent are from customers who are new to Missouri dispensaries. It was a nice and favorable reset.
How is Franklin’s continuing to invest in and stay centered in the community as the company grows and changes?
First and foremost, we invest heavily in listening to our customers and the cannabis community and mirroring their feedback through new products and revisions to current products. Every article, social media post, online comment, video review, etc. gets logged, cataloged and analyzed by our team. We stay emotionally detached from product feedback in order to show that consumers have a voice that should be heard. At the end of the day, if we’re not innovating our products to meet the consumer’s demands, then we aren’t building this company in the most responsible way possible.
Beyond product development, we’re passionate about spreading the knowledge and know-how of doing business in the cannabis industry. As an entrepreneur who grew up with a very focused and encouraging family, sharing knowledge in a transparent manner is important to community development. We’ve spent countless hours sharing information that traditional businesses would deem confidential, all in the name of building up the knowledge and experience of those around us.
What does the legalization of adult use marijuana in Missouri mean for Franklin’s?
What new products or changes are in store for Franklin’s in 2023?
Lots of blunts. Lots of beverages.
What lessons have you learned since you launched Franklin’s hemp products in Greenlight locations in 2021?
A focus on customer experience is the best long-term strategy.
Budtenders are an under-appreciated element of the industry’s infrastructure.
A cannabis consumer’s product journey is shaped like a carousel.
Maintaining independence is challenging… but 100% worth it.
5Ps, Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
What other information would you like consumers or other companies to know about Franklin’s?
To our customers, thank you! We appreciate you.
To fellow operators, Franklin’s co-manufactures approximately 50,000 pre-rolls per week for over a half dozen brands (outside of our own) in the Missouri market. We are a collaborative company, focused on quality and communication. Any Missouri operators looking for support in scaling their pre-roll manufacturing, Franklin’s is just an email or phone call away.
You can find out more about Franklin’s Stash House online and on Instagram, or click here to explore the company’s loyalty program. See the Franklin’s Stash House team tell more about the company’s journey here.