How the Gold Rush Inspired This Green Rush Entrepreneur
Pixs and Shvls CEO, Patrick Brennan, likens his company to the picks and pans makers of 1849.
In this ongoing series, we share advice, tips, and insights from successful cannabis entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Tell us a little bit about your background and what your company does.
After 13 years of successfully selling software and professional services for companies like Parametric Technology, Rand Corp, and Cisco Systems, I ventured into being a full-time entrepreneur. My latest venture is Pixs and Shvls, a hardware and package supplier to the cannabis space. During the great Gold Rush, the companies that thrived were the ones that supported and supplied the miners with things like picks, shovels, pans, and clothes. The cannabis market is always referred to as the next Gold Rush. Hence the name, Pixs and Shvls.
What was the problem Pixs and Shvls solved?
I’m located in Orange County, California, which is ground zero for the quickly growing legal cannabis market. All the companies in this space are faced with the challenge of sourcing high-quality and reliable hardware (vape cartridges, batteries, etc) and custom packaging for their products. Before I opened Pixs and Shvls last April, the only option for these business owners was either to go directly to China or visit downtown Los Angeles on a regular basis to pick up their hardware and packaging.
Driving to downtown LA a few times a week from places like San Diego, the Inland Empire, and Orange County is a nightmare with the heavy traffic. And once you arrive, there is nowhere to park, it can be unsafe, and you never know if they will have what you need in stock. After listening to lab owners, manufacturers, and brand owners constantly complain about these issues, I decided to open a store that carries the same inventory but is based locally in Santa Ana.
Related: California's 'Pot Desert' Problem
What was one of the toughest challenges you faced in your business and how did you overcome it?
Like with any other inventory-heavy, distribution business, capital was the initial challenge. Luckily, a great family from St Louis really loved the idea and came on board as an equity partner. Unlike other cannabis-related companies, Pixs and Shvls doesn’t require any special licensing or regulations to operate. We don’t touch the plant. This allows us still grow with the cannabis market without any banking restrictions.
How do you make tough decisions?
I depend on constant feedback from my partners, investors and most importantly our customers. Ultimately, decisions affect everyone so it’s important to get all the information available to make the best choices. I do a decent job of keeping my finger on the pulse of the market to stay a step ahead, which is always important.
What’s the best advice you can give to people just starting off in the cannabis industry?
The cannabis market is still evolving and seems to change daily. My advice is:
1. Be flexible.
2. Plan on everything taking longer.
3. Plan on everything costing more.
4. Once you make your plans be ready for everything to change.
5. Make sure you have a veteran of the cannabis industry on board.
How has your leadership style evolved over time?
I've learned that I can’t do everything by myself. Like everyone in business, I have my strengths and I have my weaknesses. So, I make sure to ask for help more often and play quarterback as much as possible. Partnering and hiring quality people is critical to the success of any business, and I feel I’m better at that now than I was earlier in my career. You are only as strong as the team you build. Make sure everyone is passionate about the business. As the saying goes, “Skills are cheap but passion is priceless."