2020: A Year of Innovation & Expansion at SōRSE Technology

2020: A YEAR OF INNOVATION & EXPANSION FOR SORSE

2020 – what a year it has been! At the beginning of the year, the SōRSE team was busy working with our clients who were in the process of developing and launching products and preparing for live events. Then came March, and with it, Covid. Our work world changed, with many employees working remotely. Because SōRSE was deemed an essential business, emulsion production continued, as did the support of our clients. Instead of attending conventions and trade shows, we pivoted to hosting and attending virtual events and offering educational webinars to connect and engage with our partners and community.

 

2020 has been challenging for many reasons, but at SōRSE, there is much to celebrate – including over 1 billion unique views of the articles in which we’ve been featured. Here are some of the highlights from 2020.   

Mary Wagner and Allen Hsieh Join the Board of Directors 

In JanuaryMary Wagner and Allen Hsieh were appointed to the SōRSE Board of DirectorsMary Wagner is a recognized executive leader with a reputable career in the food industry, having created innovative products and developed measures to ensure food quality and safety. Allen Hsieh has over 25 years of experience in business and finance and has managed companies that have generated between $100 million and $500 million in revenue annually.   

OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder Shares the Story Behind Mad Tasty with Forbes 

In February, Forbes published an interview with Ryan Tedder in which he explains why he decided to start a CBD beverage company, how he discovered SōRSE, and how SōRSE provided the best possible solution for creating his successful beverage line, Mad Tasty 

SōRSE Featured in Bon Appetit’s “How to Find a CBD Product That Works” 

At SōRSE, one of our goals is to educate consumers on the benefits of products that utilize water-soluble emulsion technology. In March, we were able to share our knowledge on “How to Find a CBD Product That Works with Bon Appétit magazine. In the articlewe discuss important topics such as dosing, bioavailability, the differences between different types of CBD products, COAs, and how to figure out if a product is utilizing water-soluble technology. 

First Beverages in Canadian Marketplace Are Powered by SōRSE 

In AprilBenzinga broke the news that the first beverages to reach the Canada’s Cannabis 2.0 market had hit the shelves, and even better, they were powered by SōRSE! Our partner, The Valens Company, collaborated with A1 Cannabis Company to create Summit, a THC Citrus Water, and Basecamp, a CBD Iced Tea. We were proud to see our technology play a part in bringing these drinks to Canadian shelves.  

SōRSE Secures #61 on Fast Co’s Best Workplaces for Innovators List 

In the beginning of AugustSōRSE Technology was included in Fast Co’s Best Workplaces for Innovators list for 2020Nearly 900 companies applied to be recognized by Fast Companyand SōRSE earned position #61 while also being the only cannabis adjacent company included on the list. Fast Company is an influential, cutting-edge magazine focused on “the future of business” with over 16 million monthly unique visitors.  

SōRSE Partners with Pascal Biosciences on Cancer Research 

In SeptemberSōRSE announced that it was entering into a collaborative research agreement with Pascal Biosciences, advancing Pascal’s PAS-393 into clinical testing. Pascal and SōRSE would share their respective technologies to test the cannabinoid PAS-393 in human volunteers; this will enable testing of cancer patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors.  

Donna Wamsley Shares Her Insights on Flavor Trends with Forbes 

Donna Wamsley is not only our Director of Research and Analytics who works on emulsion innovationshe is also a trained flavorist, bringing a depth of knowledge on flavor and creating flavor profiles to her work. In October, Forbes published an interview with Donna in which she discusses her work at SōRSEthe process of becoming a flavorist, and flavor trends she sees emerging in 2021.   

SōRSE Hosts the First Annual SōRSE Summit 

To connect with our partners and share our knowledge with them, SōRSE hosted its first annual, virtual summit in October, featuring presentations for our 50+ clients on a variety of topics on the infused food and beverage marketTopics included: Trends in FlavorEmulsion Customization, Maturation of the Cannabis and CBD Marketplace, amongst many others. 

SōRSE Launches Clear CBD Emulsion 

Near the end of November, we announced the creation of SōRSE Clear, a stable, clear emulsion with a minimal sensory profile. The product made its official debut at our inaugural SōRSE Summit, which was a big win for our Science team and will be a game changer for our customers in the infused beverage space.  

SōRSE Expands into Latin America through Joint Venture with FCM Global 

In November, SōRSE ventured into the Latin American marketplace by announcing a joint venture with FCM Global, based in Medellin, Colombia, which produces organic hemp and cannabis oils. By entering this partnership with FCM, SōRSE is now  licensed to apply its technology to THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids in ColombiaThe emulsion will be branded as “SōRSE by FCM GLOBAL.” 

SōRSE and Pascal Validate and Optimize Cannabinoid Delivery for Cancer Treatment 

Three months after announcing the collaborative research agreementSōRSE and Pascal Biosciences shared the news that they will be moving forward with clinical trials of the cannabinoid PS-393 in 2021 for cancer patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors. This will mark the first pharmaceutical use of SōRSE’s formulation technology in concert with Pascal’s intellectual property.  

Emily Skrobecki Shares Her Experience Working at SōRSE During the Age of Covid with The Business Journals’ Bizwomen 

At the beginning of December, Bizwomen published an essay written by our Process Engineering Manager, Emily Skrobeckiin which she explained how she prioritizes aspects of her job and communicates with her team while working remotely. Emily’s piece illustrates how SōRSE employees are committed to contributing to the company’s success and can adjust the way they work to fit any difficult situation 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about SōRSE and its accomplishments this year, download our Annual Report that summarizes the myriad ways we’ve innovated and expanded our product offerings, services, and production in 2020. We’ve learned a lot from the challenges we faced in 2020 and look forward to the promise and hope that 2021 brings. 

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Tyler Peterson

Meet our Chief Operations Officer, Tyler Peterson, who has been with the company since 2016. Over the past four years, Tyler has touched every aspect of our business, from setting up production to developing new products and bringing them to market, as well as working at trade shows. You name it; he’s done it! Tyler draws on many of the professional experiences he has had in the past in his current role at SoRSE; he’s a hands-on manager who builds strong relationships with his employees and clients.  

Tyler Peterson

 How did you end up working at SōRSE? What was the first year like? 

Prior to 2016, I had worked with Howard at two other startups. When Howard was presented with the opportunity to take the reins of SōRSE (then Tarukino/ Tribe Processor), he invited me to come along with him to manage Operations. The first year was about figuring out our direction, the technology we were using, and the beverages we were going to produce. From these ideas, we started fundraising to help prop us up. We acquired the emulsion technology and started running with it. The first year was crazy because we went from a virtually empty building with three people and ended the year with 20 employees, products on the market, and with the evolution of the technology well on its way.  

How much did you know about this space prior to coming on board? 

I knew quite a bit about Operations, but not so much about the cannabis industry. Prior to working at the startups with Howard, I was Head of Operations at a materials handling company. I came into SōRSE well versed in inventory, client services, sales, and everything else required to manage a company. The cannabis industry is considerably different in terms of rules and regulations, not to mention how heavily taxed it is. Because of that, there have been more failures than successes across the industry – it’s not necessarily easy to stay in business and make a profit.  

 What do you enjoy about the role of COO at SōRSE and what’s been challenging? 

I am a very hands-on person, and I love figuring out problems. What I need to remember to do in this role is take a step back and trust my employees to figure out the answers to problems while I oversee them and make sure they are making the right decisions. I have to let go of my desire to do what one of my employees can do, which means that I can focus my attention elsewhere. Operations is driving the company to the future – expanding into other states, creating new emulsions, working with large customers. All of this is exciting, but they are high pressure/high risk situations. Operations drives income and profitability, not just in one avenue but in multiple avenues. Our flexibility and determination is what keeps us moving forward.   

Can you share some highlights from the past four years? 

When I look back at where we came from, I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished – like our first approval of products from the Liquor/Cannabis Control Board in Washington. Little things like that are big wins. The success of MAJOR is huge – its growth from month to month has been a highlight. I love hearing that customers love our products; it means we have created an emulsion that has changed people’s lives – not just consumers, but the retailers who are becoming more profitable and successful because of what we offer. Making a company profitable is also a big win. All that said, what I am most proud of is the team around me. People at SōRSE know what needs to get done and never question how to get stuff knocked out.   

Can you share something that a lot of people don’t know about you? 

I love show tunes, and I have inspired more than one person to overcome a fear or physical hesitation by breaking into song. I was in every play and every summer musical during high school. I am not necessarily the best singer, but I love it. 

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Scott Riefler

SoRSE Employee Spotlight: Scott Riefler, Chief Science Officer

Meet our Chief Science Officer and Certified Food Scientist, Scott Riefler, who applied his food and beverage knowledge and experience to create SōRSE, our water-soluble emulsion technology for infusing beverages, food items, topicals and nutraceuticals. Before entering the food and beverage world, Scott worked as an advanced materials scientist in the aerospace industry. By nature, Scott is a teacher; he is a wealth of knowledge on a variety of subjects and is a mentor to many of SōRSE’s employees. When Scott is not at work, you can find him spending time with his wife and daughter, practicing yoga, and making a mean loaf of sourdough bread, which is also a science!

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Scott Riefler

After working in the aerospace industry and at TIC Gums, how did you end up at SōRSE?

Serendipitously. I was at a concert with a friend who had brought a friend, and in chatting, I asked him what he was up to. He said he had left Microsoft and had entered the cannabis space, which I thought sounded pretty interesting. As we continued talking, I let him know that I had recently retired, and I mentioned something about the edibles platform. He then rattled off a whole bunch of reasons why it couldn’t be done. It gets me pretty excited when somebody tells me you can’t do something, so I responded by saying that I had some ideas that might work. That led to lab work, ultimately delivering his version of the impossible. It was revolutionary to the people who were working at the startup, which led to an invitation to join the team.

 

In your time with the company, what are you most proud of?

I am proud of watching a cohesive team form and exploit the value or the potential value this technology brings. I am proud that we have adopted a food business mentality with everything that goes with it in terms of food safety. I am most proud of the progress the team and my colleagues make.

What do you love about your work, and what do you find challenging?

I love that it’s applied technology into new frontiers. It’s new — we are pressing into the not-yet-possible with incredible speed. At times, I do struggle with setting high expectations and then delivering, so what is most challenging for me is outwardly projecting a realistic level of expectations while keeping my internal, unbridled enthusiasm a bit hidden. I often feel I wish I could be a stronger contributor. I do my best to practice that serenity poem.

 

At SōRSE and outside of SōRSE, you are a teacher – you mentor scientists, and you give presentations to people inside and outside of the cannabis industry. Why is sharing your knowledge with others important to you?

There are several levels to this. I follow the teachings and philosophies of a few people. In the world of systems, I am a W. Edward Deming disciple. I believe very strongly in his principles. In selling cycles, I believe in spin selling completely — so there are several facets to this answer.

 

First of all, everybody sells and everybody should be selling 100% of the time. One of the cornerstones for successful selling is first building trust. If you don’t first build trust, it is going to be very hard to get someone to give you their money. Sharing knowledge and educating is fundamental to building trust. For example, if I go to buy a car, and I find out early in the game that I know more about the car than the salesperson does, that person is never going to sell me a car. If the sales manager doesn’t listen to my request to talk to someone more knowledgeable than me, then they have lost my trust. We absolutely need to listen to the customer and hear what they are saying.

 

I also believe that I practice the idea of leaving it better than I found it. Something that we all inherently have is knowledge we share, particularly knowledge on topics other people may not have. If you can figure that part out, then leaving it better than you found it is become easy…paying it forward, if you will.

 

Back to selling — we are attempting to build a brand; we are attempting to get our phone to ring. One of the ways to build that brand and earn trust is to have our brand recognized as an authority in our space. Being invited to speak at industry symposiums, trade shows, attendance at our webinars, or even conversations with major customers is an indication that the marketplace sees us and our brand as an authority figure in our space. This is critical, it’s bedrock, it’s the foundation for us to be able to sell our product. Thus, it is incumbent for every one of us to be a teacher.

 

Then of course there is the burning platform theory — as a company, we need to continually grow and educate our employees, and acknowledge how important it is that employees are always training and learning. You can’t learn through osmosis.  Personally, I am constantly reading and attending seminars; I make a personal effort to constantly upgrade my training and then pass that knowledge on to others. I want to help people become “dangerous” and turn them into dangerous players in their space, and for me, that is almost always about knowledge and experience.

 

If you were to give a piece of advice to someone entering this industry, what would it be?

The first thing I would say is that nothing is special about this industry. Anyone who says that it is, is wrong; they are likely smoking the product.  Work hard, never substitute knowledge for familiarity, make sure it is your passion, and have fun.

 

To end, this is one of my favorite quotes: “If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” Albert Einstein

 

 

4/20, Powered by SōRSE – It’s About a Lifestyle, Your Lifestyle

sorse ops team celebrating 4/20

 For people who believe in the power of the cannabis plant, 4/20 is a day of celebration. Some people attend rallies to promote national legalization, some celebrate at concerts, and others simply gather with friends to share their ‘stash’.  While 4/20 looks a little different this year, for those who work in the industry, every day is 4/20 – including the employees at SōRSEAnd it’s busier than ever. 

Our team is comprised of people from all walks of life with different roles in the company – we are scientists, project managers, designers, product developers, regulatory experts, writers, and thought leaders. These are some reflections on 4/20 from members of our team #poweredbySōRSE. 

 

What Does 4/20 Mean to You? 

4/20 is not generally a special holiday in my book because CBD has become a regular part of my regimen, but it is a great time to reflect on how far the industry has come and where it’s headed. The more we understand about the plant, the more we realize that everyday can be 4/20. For me, 4/20 doesn’t symbolize a day to get highit’s about living a higher quality life. – Diana Eberlein, VP of Marketing 

 

4.20 sorse dogLifechanging at many levels. My wife and I were just reflecting how marijuana social norms have shifted so much during our lifetime. The Sixties was the time of “Turn on, tune in and drop out; the Seventies (my teen years) brought the war on drugsliterally vilifying all things marijuana. Fast forward to today, not only basically legal, marijuana is now considered a “vital” resource and medicine with dispensaries kept open and classified as “essential” services….Wow! What a long strange trip it has been! 4/20 is also Monte’s (our daughter’s dog) birthdayhe is turning two this year. – Scott Riefler, CSO 

 

4/20 is a time of celebration! To celebrate the legality of cannabis and to celebrate all the companies out there that are trying to make the word a better place though cannabinoid research. – Michelle Sundquist, Director of Product Development 

 

4/20 is a time to think about the past, present, and future of cannabis – with the hope that people will continue to embrace and accept all that the plant has to offer. – Dana Perkins, Corporate Communications Specialist 

 

The best excuse to use cannabis. – Jalen TimsMedical Applications Specialist 

 

How Has CBD Positively Impacted Your Life or Someone That You Know? 

 

A good friend I grew up with struggles with an eating disorder and substance abuse. Recently, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. The treatment program she is on the waitlist for will not admit her into the program unless she is seizure-free for 30 days. Since using CBD, she has not had a Grand Mal seizure. She is now eligible to be admitted into the treatment program! – Jalen Tims, Medical Applications Specialist 

 

One of my favorite stories is family friends who have autistic sons or daughters. CBD has helped with calming aggression and forming sentences with more structure and understanding. These parents have tried everything under the sun to help their children, and they are willing to try anything. CBD has been very helpful. – Emily Skrobecki, Process Engineering Manager 

 

One of my best friends has a 15year-old German Short-Haired Pointer, Ruby, who started having seizures last October – which was scary for everyone involved. There were some days where she was seizing multiple times. I suggested that my friend start giving Ruby CBD with her meals to see if it would help – and it did. Ruby’s last seizure was on 2/18 — she has been seizure-free for two months! – Dana Perkins, Corporate Communications Specialist 

 

We Asked the SōRSE Team How They’re Celebrating 4/20 (during shelter in place) This Year, and This IWhat They Said: 

sorse celebrates 4/20 with vertussorse ops team celebrating 4/20mad tasty and dog

  • Topping off a glass of champagne with a THC bubbly, Vertusour Washington State processor’s take on cannabis champagne 
  • Infusing drinks with Pearl Mixer and watching How High on the couch. 
  • SōRSE CBD emulsion & citrusbased mocktails. Full of CBD and Vitamin C!  
  • Trying out some new recipes infused with CBD in the kitchen. 
  • Wrapping up the workday at the SōRSE office and sipping on Happy Apple and Utopia 
  • Hanging out with the dogs and drinking Mad Tasty 
  • Rooting for our Culinary Director, Stacy Primackwho competed in “Cooked with Cannabis” premiering on 4/20/20 on Netflix. 

 

We’d love to hear from you on what 4/20 means to you, how you’re celebrating 4/20, and stories on how CBD has positively impacted your life! Follow us on social to find out how you can enter for a chance to win a complimentary CBD Wellness Kit!

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Michelle Sundquist

Meet our Director of Product Development, Michelle Sundquist, who brings over 20 years of product development experience in the food and beverage industry to our team. If you have ever wondered who was behind Starbucks cold brew coffee product launch, that was Michelle. Her dedication to creating quality products is evident in the work she does with our customers; she listens carefully to their ideas and helps them clarify and actualize their product vision. Outside of SōRSE, she is an active outdoors-person who loves skiing and scuba-diving and a dedicated Packers fan.

Michelle Sundquist SoRSE Spotlight

What have been some of the significant moments in your time working at SōRSE?

For the Mad Tasty project, we were able to put together a number of beverages quickly. I think having Ryan Tedder be able to choose something, go into production and move to market so fast is impressive. What I enjoy the most is building the infrastructure for R & D — how projects come in and get approved, and how we approach timelines. As long as you are confident and good at what you do, it’s pretty easy to turn something around quickly and efficiently. I like creating the processes for getting projects done.

In the very beginning when we were creating the emulsion, we had a good product — people liked it, but they didn’t know why they liked it. Once you try it, you become a strong believer in how controllable the experience is. Because we understand the science of the emulsion and have gathered documentation on it, our customers feel confident in our products. It makes me really proud that as a food ingredient company, we have gotten to that place quickly. Having all of the different departments represented that you would typically see in a bigger company also makes me proud — it shows that we are thinking about the big picture.

What is it like working with customers who are trying to figure out how to create and then launch a product? How do you coach them through the process?

It’s really exciting working with customers. When they talk about their products, there is so much passion. There is a big difference between hearing someone talk about something they are excited about and reading about it somewhere. In person, you get pulled into the passion.

When I start talking to someone about a new development project, I like to have them tell me what they want to do in their own words. My goal is to get to know them and their personality through talking to them. From there, I look at the words they are using to describe their product, and think about if those are words they would use in their life in general. After that, you can get a better idea of who the customer is. At the same time, you have to know what the current trends are and what the competition is doing.

Once you get a sense of how the person communicates their ideas and an understanding of the product they are looking to launch, then you can get into the specifics, coaching them through the nitty-gritty, like calorie count, organic, low sugar…. People are very focused on calorie count, but the more calories you allow, the more ingredients you can use. You need to really explore the customer’s reasoning for the decisions they are making for their beverage.

At Starbucks, we were constantly training, particularly in problem-solving, dialing in on the development process and delivering what the customer wants and needs. A lot of this comes down to conversation and communication. We need to think about how we can make the customers’ ideas work while constantly remembering what their goal is. It’s important to explore the “why” — because there could be multiple ways to get to a solution that may work a little better.

When you think about someone who has been a mentor to you or influenced your career positively, who is that person and how did they help you along the way?

There are a number of people who have influenced my career and who I look up to. There are two people in particular I turn to for advice, and each has a unique skillset I gravitate towards.

One is Lani, a Global VP for Beverage at Starbucks. She has the ability to stay incredibly Zen through any situation, which I think is really impressive. A lot of the classes she had us take were around mindfulness, self awareness and understanding how others may work differently, which was something I really appreciated. Mindfulness helps you get in the moment, step back, stay in the moment and reset. The class made me realize that everyone gets stressed and that we have to own it.

Jill is the other mentor I rely on; she is very creative and a very strong food scientist. In my creativity, I am methodical — whereas her creativity comes from all directions, which makes it messy and chaotic. I love to learn from her because it challenges me to think about things in a different way. I’m constantly curious as to which way is a faster or more successful process.

What advice would you give to someone entering this industry?

I would remind them to focus on all of the attributes that make people who work at start-ups valuable to other companies. If you join a company because you enjoy the culture, you have to know that culture can change quickly with the turnover of a few people. If you join a company because of the product they sell, the industry is so new that the products they sell can also change.

I think it is better to not have expectations. What you can expect is to work hard and know that you won’t get a lot of direction, but you’ll have your name on the plane when you get done building it. You also need to have a lot of self-confidence in the work you are doing and be able to figure out if you are being successful or not — you have to be able to assess and evaluate yourself.

You also have to know that there can be chaos anywhere, in any business. At the end of the day, businesses are made up of people, and people can be messes — you have emotions, frustration, newness to the business, and disagreement. Because of that, every business has their struggles.

If you could, what product would you create for consumer use?

If I had the know-how, I would come up with more reusable, compostable packaging. If there is a compostable solution to packaging, companies should be forced to use it.

Can you share a fun fact that not a lot of people know about you?

I met Kurt Cobain once at the Health Department in highschool where I used to volunteer as a Peer Educator. He came by with his daughter Frances and signed a bunch of swag — so I won a pair of hot pink, glow in the dark boxer shorts that he signed.

My husband and I also got married at the top of Whistler and skied down in our outfits together — peak to creek!

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: John Kueber

John Kueber CRO

John Kueber

Meet our Chief Revenue Officer, John Kueber, who brings over twenty years of experience as a business executive building companies and developing brands to the team. John loves the challenge of building out new processes, educating new customers, and finding people to manage new projects. When he is not at work, you can find John spending time with his wife and twin daughters who love sports as much as he does or putting miles in on his bike. An accomplished athlete, John has completed an Ironman, summited Mount Rainier two times as well as ten other Cascade peaks, and has ridden over the major cycling passes for the Tour De France and Giro D’Italia.   

What have been some significant moments or some highlights in your year at SōRSE?   

I’m most proud of what I accomplished in Canada; I was able to find about half a dozen marquee accounts for SōRSE and Valens, and I felt this validated that we can take what we have to another country. It also validated Valens’ initial investment in licensing the technology, and I’d like to think it played a big part in them increasing their investment on the second license. They saw it was working in Canada and hopefully that was a factor in them seeing the opportunity for the other countries where they have licenses. I’m really proud of jumping in feet first, going out and finding those accounts without a ton of direction and helping get that business set up, from messaging to pricing to process, to helping the Valens team build their sales team. It’s all been super rewarding and fun. People were genuinely excited about SōRSE in Canada, and it’s cool when you have a product that people are interested in. Currently I am happy with the changes and the progress that we’re making in the sales team. I feel like we’ve gone from having limited structure to a more solid structure, and we are forming a team with powerful personalities to build up our business.     

What do you enjoy about your role and what do you find particularly challenging about it?   

In comparison to last year when I was managing my accounts and answering to one person, my new role as CRO has shifted me towards management. The fun thing right now is that we are an early stage company with a startup atmosphere that is trying to reach a national and global market. There is no end of productive work to be done, whether it’s bringing on new customers, building out new processes, or finding people to manage new projects – and all of that is fun. The downside is that every day you’re questioning your priorities and you’re questioning if you’re moving fast enough, using the right amount of capital to go fast… what do you with complete regard to speed, and what do you do a little more slowly and carefully and make sure it’s done right? Every day I’m defining priorities, which is true for most leaders in businesses, but it’s a little more true for this business. I think the cool thing is, unlike a lot of startups, our strong capital base allows us to execute in the right way.     

 

What is your philosophy on sales, and what qualities makes a salesperson successful?   

Salespeople have to have their own internal engine. It’s an overused cliché, but they absolutely have to have grit — the ability to stay persistent and tough even when a deal is taking a long time or a period of some lost deals.  The most important qualities for me, and two of the hardest ones to hire for, are the ability to be both empathetic and the ability to create a narrative.   

 

To be empathetic, you need to be able to listen to your customer, and be able to repeat back (in different words!) what you hear them saying, and understand what they are going through. That is a skill you have to develop, and a lot of people don’t ever develop it.   

 

Combined with that, you’ve got to be able to create a narrative for the customer: “Here is what you are going through, here is what SōRSE does, and here the way those two things can be woven together.” You have to build a story on how our product can provide a solution for the customer. Humans tend to think in terms of stories, they think in terms of what works well for others; what we are working on is taking data and figuring out how it fits in to the narrative.   
 

Good salespeople also understand when a project is not a good fit. They value the customer’s time, and if a project is not worth doing, they’re not afraid to say so and move on, because they know that if they work hard, they will find better opportunities.    

 

Can you describe your first sales job, and how you learned how to build relationships with customers?   

 My first sales job was selling programs for the University of Washington crew team. As a freshman you had to sell 100 programs on Saturdays before you could move on with your day. Many of my teammates dreaded this, but one friend and I had a ton of fun with it and would sell 500 programs each, really just by going the extra mile to have fun with the Husky fans walking into the game. If you love your product and love connecting with people, I found you could have a great career with sales.  After college, I sold internet advertising for the New York Yankees. That was a lot of fun because it was very early days of the internet, so I was learning a lot about technology while also getting to sell.    

Having said that, I did decide early on that while I love to sell, I didn’t want to purely be a professional salesperson. Back in the 90s, if you were 25, a lot of people weren’t comfortable handing you $500,000 to start a company. Once I left my ad sales job, I raised $200,000 from friends and family, and started my first company which I sold for just under $5,000,000 after two years. That was a confidence builder and an experience that made me realize that I had some good entrepreneurial qualities.   

More importantly, I also learned an important lesson about conviction from that experience; that first business I built was an early internet commerce store, and I probably had 200 people tell me it was a dumb idea and that it wouldn’t work, and they were proven wrong. Most people really have no clue what’s going to work and what isn’t. If you think your idea is going to work, if you have conviction and passion for your idea, don’t let the haters keep you down.    

That experience parlayed into a voice technology business which merged with one of Howard’s companies; then it happened with a media business that was bought by a larger media company. In situations like these, you have to do the selling, you have to do the work, but you also have to have conviction, believe that you’re smart, that you’re doing the right things, and building the right business.   

Bringing this back to SōRSE, early when I heard about this opportunity from Howard, I started looking at the CBD and cannabis market – and the conventional, common wisdom out there is that cannabis is weird business for a variety of reasons. Yet once I dug in and looked closely at the marketplace, particularly around CBD, I saw that is was a compelling, good-for-society business. I’m passionate about it, I have convictions around it, I knew I could sell it, and there is room for growth, so it sounded like the right opportunity.    

 

If you were to give a piece of advice just entering the cannabis business as well as someone who has just started at SōRSE, what would it be?   

That one is easy: Find a specific problem to solve or a specific solution to create and work hard to meet it. Don’t jump into the cannabis business just for the sake of it. Right now, don’t JUST launch a CBD sparkling drink; it’s been done. Launch a CBD drink that is targeted towards a specific market or provides a certain function. Fill a specific need.  

At SōRSE, I think it’s important that we stay lean and stay hungry. We need to work each month with the same hunger that we did in the beginning. Let’s keep up the intensity and enjoy it.    

 

We are at the beginning of a new decade. What was your life like in 2010? What were you doing for fun?   

Ten years ago, we were living in Seattle, and my twin daughters were three years old. My wife and I were knee-deep in parenting them. I was COO of a media company, raising my twin girls, and not having much time for anything else. I wouldn’t trade having kids for anything, but it was definitely all encompassing for a few years!  Having two little girls waking up at all hours for a few years definitely took it out of me and my wife, Katarina.  

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Zahra Marin

headshot of Zahra

Meet our Manager of Quality Assurance and the Analytics Lab, Zahra Marin, who brings over five years of experience in quality management in FDA-regulated industries. Zahra’s background in Chemistry and Business Administration allows her to bridge different industry experiences with the goal of implementing thorough quality programs. After years of living in frigid North Dakota and the Midwest, she is happy to have settled on the West Coast and is now adjusting to life as a mother, having given birth to her first child at the end of December. She and her husband also love to travel – and their goal is to visit every state!

How did you end up working at SōRSE?

Coming from the ChicagoLand area and passing by Kansas, my husband and I have always wanted to live on the West Coast (the Best Coast). When he had a job opportunity in Tacoma, I followed and started working for Amazon. I thought working for a big corporation in a liberal state would be a dream.

After just a few weeks, I realized that working for such a big company wasn’t for me. It felt way too impersonal, and there was too much structure. Everything is tracked in multiple programs, no one knows anyone, and people just walk by without saying “Hello.” There are cameras everywhere, a lot of security, facial recognition devices, controlled access everywhere, you name it.

After deciding to remove myself from that environment, I found out about SōRSE and thought how cool it would be to work in this industry in the state of Washington. I liked that it was a startup; it seemed like a place where I could make a difference. There weren’t a lot of people here at first, but you could really see how everyone came together. I thought the building itself was pretty quirky and in an odd neighborhood, but I liked that it had personality.

Cannabis was not legal in states I lived in before, so I didn’t know much about it. CBD definitely interested me, and I wanted to learn about the fast-growing industry and see SōRSE grow with it. Working Quality in a company that uses CBD means that you get to do a lot of detective work and figure things out on your own, which is very satisfying.

There aren’t a lot of places where you are on the cusp of discovery, and here at SōRSE It feels like we are modern day cowboys during the Green Rush.

What have been some of the significant moments in your time here? What are you proud of?

The renovation of the lab has been an important project in the last few months, and it is coming along nicely. A huge project we have been working on is restructuring and revising our safety plan and making sure it is aligned with the company’s goals. When we have had quality issues, we have worked well as a team to find out the problem, gathered documentation, and investigated, and then were able to make decisions on how to proceed.

I find a lot of satisfaction putting systems in place – it’s important to get information out of people’s heads and into a place where others can access it. I am also very happy about working with other departments to organize information flow, how the team tackles major challenges and is committed to finding reliable information when they have to solve a problem.

What do you love most about what you do?

What I really love most is that I get to use so much of what I have learned in my educational and work background in QA/QC—Business, Microbiology, and Analytical Chemistry. I feel like everything I have done in the past has prepared me for this role. And I love that I have great people to turn to who are so committed to the success of SōRSE and are not hesitant to offer their expertise.

What can be challenging about your work?

With this industry being so new, sometimes there just isn’t any information out there that you can go by. This is especially difficult when working in QA/QC where the goal is standardization. This means that we need to put our detective hats on to find resources, solutions and answers to our questions; this kind of work is challenging but intellectually stimulating. Sometimes we have to create the answers we need and show the work behind why we think it is a valid answer.

Where do you see yourself in this role moving forward?

I foresee making our food safety program even more robust. This means fine-tuning the foundation work we are doing right now. For me personally, I want to continue to grow the quality side and take on aspects of the regulatory systems, to keep the customers safe and the quality of our products high.

Can you share a fun fact that not a lot of people know about you?

I am originally from Morocco – I lived there until I finished high school. Then I went to Fargo, North Dakota for my undergrad studies. NDSU had a low cost of living (I wonder why?) and good quality programs. The transition to Fargo was difficult; between the harsh weather, strong accents and me looking so different from everyone else, I felt like I was living on Mars…except Mars was warmer on some days. Living there makes me appreciate the beauty of Seattle, the people, and the mild climate.