'The Cannabis Industry Will Be Bigger than the NFL'
Michael 'Big Mike' Straumietis's big predictions on the future of weed.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your companies.
I first started growing cannabis way back in 1983. I was definitely “green” back then — in fact, I killed my entire first crop because I didn’t properly ventilate the grow space. But I dedicated myself to learning how to grow and ended up cultivating and transporting millions of dollars’ worth of illegal cannabis over the years.
In 1999, I founded Advanced Nutrients after I’d already started making my own cannabis-specific nutrient formulations. At that time, no other company was marketing hydroponic nutrients to cannabis growers — they were all saying their products were for tomatoes. I’m proud to say that Advanced Nutrients never hid what we were doing — we’ve always been loud and proud for cannabis. Today, we’re the No. 1 cannabis company in the world.
Now, I’m branching out and launching other ventures, like Lacturnus Labs, a $30-million-plus cannabis research and development facility in Los Angeles. Lacturnus will be the first facility of its kind in the US. I’ve also launched BigMike’s Blends, a line of outcome-based pre-rolls.
What inspired you to get into the cannabis business?
Honestly, when I first started growing at 23 years old, it was simply a way to make money. At the time I was running my own lawn fertilizer company, and two of my friends proposed the idea of using my company shop as a grow house. I’ve had an entrepreneurial spirit ever since I can remember, so I was all in.
But as I continued to grow and learn about the history of cannabis and its incredible medical benefits--as well as consuming cannabis myself --I realized just how special this plant really is. Since then, it’s become my life’s passion to spread knowledge and dispel the stigma that’s been placed on cannabis over decades of propaganda and misguided policy. My mission is to make cannabis an acceptable and everyday part of healing humanity, and I will not rest until I do so.
How are your offerings different from others in the market?
When it comes to cannabis cultivation, Advanced Nutrients is light years ahead of anyone else in the game. I’ve grown my R & D team to include 25+ Ph.D. botanists, microbiologists, and organic chemists. The University of Mississippi conducted a study that found Advanced Nutrients produced 21 percent more yield than our competitors. They conducted that study using our second-generation products; we’re now on our eighth generation.
With BigMike’s Blends, I’ve taken all the knowledge and research we’ve acquired over the past two decades and focused it on making the best consumer product on the market. I mean, you can probably imagine the quality of the cannabis I consume. Well, BigMike’s Blends is the best of my private reserve that’s been formulated to deliver specific outcomes, like creativity, pain and anxiety relief, energy and focus. In the future, you’re going to see more cannabis products marketed this way, but BigMike’s Blends is on the forefront and will continue to innovate and separate ourselves from the competition.
What was one of the toughest challenges you faced in your business and how did you overcome it?
You know, I’ve faced so many challenges over the years, it’s hard for me to pick a single one: evading the DEA and the US Marshals back in my outlaw growing days; learning to fly a plane so I could scout new grow locations and keep an eye on my crops; standing up to one of the most feared and violent biker gangs in British Columbia -- I’ve gone through a lot in the past 35 years!
What trait do you depend on most when making decisions and why is that useful for you?
I’ve developed a pretty good nose for detecting B.S., so trusting my gut is one factor. But I’m also a deep analytical thinker and a lifelong learner. I’ve spent literal millions in the pursuit of knowledge, and not just about cannabis -- I’ve taken courses, read books and joined elite mastermind groups to learn marketing, copywriting, sales, behavioral psychology, and everything in between. At the end of the day, though, I know that I’m not an expert at everything, so I surround myself with team members who I respect and trust, and I turn to them for input on decisions in areas that I’m not as versed in.
What’s the best advice you can give to people just starting off in the cannabis industry?
Have a plan, understand your market and the other players involved, and distinguish yourself from the competition. Also, don’t ever stop learning, get complacent, or feel like you know everything there is to know about your industry. This is true of any business.
For the cannabis industry, I can’t stress enough the importance of staying up to date with the latest trends and market projections. We’re in a young, rapidly developing industry that will only keep changing as it matures. I predict that by 2020, the cannabis industry will be bigger than the NFL and by 2030, it will be bigger than the wheat, corn, and soy industries combined. Between now and then, expect there to be some wild developments. Some of them will stick, some of them will fade away as quickly as they appeared.
How has your leadership style evolved?
It took me many years to learn that leadership is about creating a culture with specific values and a clear mission. At Advanced Nutrients, we have a culture wall with all our company’s values clearly stated and illustrated. I’ve found that once you get people oriented in the same direction and locked onto a common goal, everything else falls into place.
I do my best to embody the key culture traits we’ve established at Advanced Nutrients. They include taking risks, being original, taking 100 percent responsibility for everything I do, and when I fail, failing fast. We all make mistakes, and I firmly believe that what you do after you mess up --how you learn from your mistakes--is far more important than whatever the initial error was.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
"There’s more of “you” in “you” than you could ever imagine."
"Never give up on anything that is worthwhile."
The first quote speaks to my belief that we human beings are capable of so much more than we typically think is possible. Most people, I feel, only tap into maybe five or 10 percent of their true potential. But if you dedicate yourself to constant improvement and consistent learning, your potential is truly limitless.
This idea goes hand in hand with the second quote, too. When I look back on my life and think of all the challenges and obstacles I faced, it would have been so easy to just give up. Hell, at one point in my life, I literally had all my possessions in five plastic trash bags. But I had a goal, a vision, and an unrelenting drive to pursue it at all costs. And I never would have reached the point I’m at now if I’d taken the easy way out and gave up.