Jan. 5, 2023

How David Miller is Leading Growth in the Hemp world with Flow Gardens Ep. 102

How David Miller is Leading Growth in the Hemp world with Flow Gardens Ep. 102

David Miller believes in making an impact to support organizations that further the betterment of society through synergizing expert advice. David is a progressive thinker and visionary. For 15 years, he was the founder and CEO for the #1 fastest growing financial company in 2017. He is currently the President of a Cannabis R&D cultivation company and Board Member for a Bi-Partisan PAC to Legalize Cannabis. David's education includes MIT's CEO Masters Program, Oglethorpe, and the University of Tennessee with focus areas in Entrepreneurship and Finance & Accounting. He has held board positions or involvement with the Emory Global Health Institute, NewStory, Deki, GCAPP, TGC, and Entrepreneur's Organization among others. David and his loving wife dedicate their personal time to their blended family of three children, Hudson, Deacon, and Paxton, their adopted cousin Destinee, and their three dogs Jersey, Gogo, and Alfie. He loves traveling and being outdoors. If you treat him to 1/2 dozen Pacific oysters, then you're almost guaranteed to have lunch with him!

Where to find David Miller

Website: flowgardens.com

 

SPONSOR

This episode is sponsored by Entire Productions- Creating events (both in-person and virtual) that don't suck! and Entire Productions Marketing- carefully curated premium gifting and branded promo items. 

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Transcript

David Miller:

So everybody is racing to the highest THC percentage that THC cannabinoid and the other very important cannabinoid CBC, CBG, CBD. Those are all kind of falling by the wayside, and they do have health and medicinal benefits that haven't been fully understood yet. So that's what I mean is that we're able to focus on those alternative cannabinoids.

Natasha Miller:

Welcome to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEUR. How do people end up becoming an entrepreneur? How do they scale and grow their businesses? How do they plan for profit? Are they in it for life or are they building to exit? These and a myriad of other topics will be discussed to pull back the veil on the wizardry of successful and FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS. My book, RELENTLESS is now available everywhere books can be bought online, including Amazon and BarnesAndNoble.com. Try your indie bookstore too, and if they don't have it, they can order it. Just ask them. The reviews are streaming in and I'm so thankful for the positive feedback as well as hearing from people that my memoir has impacted them positively. It is not enough to be resilient. You have to be RELENTLESS. You can go to the RelentlessBook.com for more information. Thank you so much. David Miller is the president of Flow Gardens, a cannabis R&D cultivation company based in Tennessee. He has a background in the financial services space and exited his business to join this company, which he's passionate about. We talked about what FlowGardens can and can't do since THC in Tennessee is still illegal. What the opportunity for growth in this space is and the challenge of changing the perception of this plant that has been demonized. Now let's get right into it.

David Miller:

Whenever I was little, I was maniacal about numbers and writing them down. And those little Beckett like sports booklets, I would always track the value of my baseball and basketball cards on this little cardboard thing. So I've always been really, really good at numbers and tied that into something that was me. and I was never really a thing for formal education. My parents wanted me to go to school, you know, they forced me to fill out the application, so I'm really glad I did. I got a finance degree as quick as I could in three years, three and a half years at Tennessee, and then I got the heck out and I said, I'm really good at numbers. How do I go make money? That's the only thought I gave to it. So I took a job offer in Atlanta, worked for a financial. Found out really quick that corporate America and I didn't mesh and I opened up a financial firm in 2008 and was wildly successful, the fastest growing financial services firm, in 2017 and had great employees, made a lot of money, but something wasn't there. So I stepped down and hired a president and kind of took two years to really look at myself and say, "David, what? Important to you." "Follow the passion, follow your loyalty, and money will follow." And that's a byproduct in my eyes. It only took me like 20 years to figure that out. But that's what I did. And my best friend that I grew up with went to college with and he passed away of cancer. It's been about 10 years now, and I saw how cannabis changed his life and how he had to get it on the black market. He did use Marinol as well, but doesn't, you know, one of those, fabricated or synthetic drugs didn't nearly work as well. And then I have some, experiences with understanding how cannabis helps PTSD. So those were the two main underlying factors. And I said, you know what? I can impact people's health. I can impact people's happiness. I can really believe and get behind. Oh, and I'm sure there's probably a way to make money in it as well. So that's the long answer to your short question.

Natasha Miller:

I like that. So you're following your passion. You are sort of bucking tradition, right? The traditional financial world, corporate buttoned up and you go to what is still considered sort of a fringe business, right? Cannabis, it's not federally legal. I live in California, is very accessible here. And funny enough, and I think I told you this when we were studying at MIT, that I didn't use cannabis at all when it was illegal because I'm kind of a rule follower. I also thought that I would act like crazier, that I jump off a bridge or something was ridiculous. And of course now taking a gummy to go to sleep in five milligrams, it's not like I'm rocking and rolling is absolutely acceptable to me and to everyone around me. So tell me about what Flower Gardens does. What is the company? What do you focus on?

David Miller:

Yeah, so Flow Gardens is an indoor cultivation research and development facility. We're in East Tennessee. It is not legal to grow what the government calls marijuana. It's something with greater than 0.3% THC. So we can still grow the cannabis plant, which looks exactly the same as marijuana. It just has less than 0.3% THC. So what we do is, and it's a huge blessing in disguise, is we are doing research on alternative cannabinoids. We won our Chief Grow officer Eric Melzer. The best cannabis in the country, in my opinion. We won the Emerald Cup a couple months ago with some of his flower, which you know is in the Emerald Triangle there in San Francisco where you are. I think we were the only people not from San Francisco or California there, everybody whose jaws dropped whenever these boys from East Tennessee won the best flower. But anyway, so it's a blessing in disguise because we are able to study. And focus our genetics and the chemotype and phenotypes, you know, what type of plants, what's in the plant, the cannabinoids and terpenes. Not to go too deep into it. We're able to study that and that is not the THC. The THC is what gives you that, what everybody knows, gives you that psychotropic or. The C B, D, the cbc, which is another one that he just found that has a high CBC percentage, just another alternative cannabinoid. So we're excited about that and how that interacts with all the different terpenes. So that's the long answer again.

Natasha Miller:

Well, so you said it's a blessing in disguise. Are you alluding to the fact that if you did have carte blanche to work on THC, that maybe your focus would be afraid or go to that. But because you're limited, you're now exploring these other places that other people aren't focusing on and coming up with incredible discoveries.

David Miller:

Yeah. Yeah. I'm sorry, Natasha. So we do indoor cultivation, so a very controlled environment. We're not growing huge fields. Growing super premium, high quality cannabis and hydroponic living soil. A lot of, lot of different methods. So we are able to focus on these alternative cannabinoids in the marketplace right now, you'll have people that you may have heard of, like Jungle Boys. They will sell THC flower where they're one of the biggest cultivators in California, you know, and their dose killer, for example, has 29 30% THC. And it has probably less than 1% CBD. So everybody is racing to the highest THC percentage that THC cannabinoid and the other very important cannabinoid CBC, CBG, CBD. Those are all kind of falling by the wayside. And they do have health and medicinal benefits that haven't been fully understood yet. So that's what I mean is that we're able to focus on those alternative cannabinoids.

Natasha Miller:

And what do you think would happen when and if Tennessee opens up the law to allow for THC?

David Miller:

Well, I think the market right now is so new, you know? And this wonderful plant has been suppressed for hundreds of years. So I feel like I would be naive if I didn't say there's gonna be a race to the highest THC percentage when it legalizes. I think there will be a strong element to that. But what I do know is that we're one of the most respected cannabis cultivators, if not the most respected cannabis cultivator in Tennessee. So we're involved with the legislation, we're involved with the communities. The bipartisan politic action committees, all that fun stuff. So we are going to set the stage whenever it legalizes that, "Hey, it's just not about how you can get blasted. This is being approved medically." Yes, recreational, it's, there's a place for that as well. But from medicinally, if you really wanna look at what this plant does medicinally, you can't just go for the THC because you're neglecting a lot of the benefits. So, long story short, we wanna make sure people know what are called one-to-one. So one part THC, one part CBD, one part CBG, one part, all the different cannabinoids.

Natasha Miller:

It sounds like you're respected and supported by a lot of people in Tennessee. Do you feel a huge pushback? Is it still so taboo that you can't-

David Miller:

My kids go to, this hasn't happened yet cause I just moved here and. You know, the business has only been around for two years, but it is just a matter of time. Whenever I walk into school and just being in the facility, I'm going to smell of marijuana, or sorry, a smell of cannabis. So whenever I tell people what I do. It's they're either super intrigued and when I talk about it, or they're just scared to address or have the conversation, which is understandable.

Natasha Miller:

So yeah, you have a long way to educate people, especially where you live. Have you ever thought that you should write a book, that you should write the story of your life to help other people learn from your experience? Please go to MemoirSherpa.com and learn how I can help you write, figure out your publishing path and market your story, your memoir, to a best seller status. So what is your team made up at Flow Gardens? How big is the team and who's doing what and what do you do?

David Miller:

We have about 25 people, maybe a little more than that now, but it's mainly made up of cultivators. Our Chief Girl Officer, Eric Melzer, who is the founder of Flow Gardens, we partnered up whenever I was introduced to him and, bought into the company. So he's the Chief grow officer. He's been growing for 25 plus years, and there are associate cultivators that work with him. There are tremors people that just sit there and trim the delicate buds all day. We have an online retail store, so our ladies in the packaging room whenever we drop our flower and it sells out, they're packaging up and sending it out. So yeah, it's pretty much the team. Then we have, you know, a sales and, you know, yeah.

Natasha Miller:

What is your management team made?

David Miller:

A very small, tight-knit group. So Eric, myself, we have two other board members. They were also seed investors in the company. We have a lot of synergies with this company. Thankful to them. They're one of the most successful LED lighting companies, so they sell LED lights for all of these grow houses across the entire country and also outta the country. So they partnered with us and were using their lights, horticulture, lighting group, their scorpion, Diablos. They're amazing. And so that's the board structure for us right now.

Natasha Miller:

And any venture capital or how are you, are you raising funds? Are you?

David Miller:

No, I mean, I've-

Natasha Miller:

Bootstrapping it?

David Miller:

As you and I know, I mean we've had seven figures plus invested in this through the owners, so we do not have any EVC or PE any, anything like that. We're following just as you're aware of the scaling up method and you know cash is king. So we're keeping a hefty amount in cash. We're planning for whenever this does legalize. How do we create strategic growth opportunities to make an impact across Tennessee. And then further than that, if it makes sense.

Natasha Miller:

Do you think it will be legalized soon in Tennessee?

David Miller:

No, I would like to say 2023 year, but then it takes, you know, year to promulgate the rules and all that. So we're 2024 at the earliest. And. I'd probably say there's a 65% to 70% chance of it passing next year.

Natasha Miller:

I have the question. When you were talking about your team and you were talking about cultivators, is that a skilled job or is that something that can be somebody could easily be trained in?

David Miller:

There's elements of both, but you have to have a innate understanding of the plant, how it looks, the bud structure, how the lighting affects it, what are the different pH levels, the parts per million, what type of nutrients the plant needs throughout the different flowering cycle. And actually one of the most important parts, the most important part of the entire process. You can do everything right and then at the very end when you're curing it or drying it, if you don't do it correctly. A million things can go wrong.

Natasha Miller:

Have you ever not done it correctly?

David Miller:

I don't personally dry it and thank goodness we have a team that's super talented and-

Natasha Miller:

I mean Flow Gardens, have you ever gotten to the end of the process and went, "Oh no."

David Miller:

There's been some things that have gone wrong here and there with some harvests. You know, if there is mold on the plant, that has happened before, but you know, we have to throw it away obviously cuz we have super high quality standards, but we follow a private strict and regimented process so that that usually doesn't happen.

Natasha Miller:

That's good, good, good. So what do you see the opportunity in the cannabis business space in the next 50 years? What do you think that's gonna look like?

David Miller:

I think that right now in cannabis and it's alcohol and cannabis is not, is a very general comparison. It's not apples to apples, but a lot of people compare it, so I'll subside to that. So it's, right now everybody in cannabis is, is drinking ever clear. Because that's what they have access to, but there are so many other different. Ways to experience the plant. So we're gonna see the truly and the rum and the vodka and all the different iterations of alcohol, a.k.a a cannabis in this example, evolve. And not just from a recreational standpoint, but also medicinal standpoint. So I think in the next 50 years, the science and understanding the plant is gonna be the big thing that evolves the marketplace and how that evolves. I have no idea. And do you think big pharma is gonna scoop it all up and really realize the potential?

Natasha Miller:

I mean, pharma is all about profit and the medical world, doctors MDs.

David Miller:

Again, I think I'd be naive if I said that big money's not gonna come in, especially when it's federally descheduled. But we are in a very niche farm to table type economy now and the cannabis is a tight knit community. So yeah, I definitely think big money will come in. Big pharma will definitely get their hands in the lobbying in.

Natasha Miller:

In 50 years it has to be passing the federal, like that's a long time from now. I can't imagine that it will somebody's gonna wake up and go, we are losing out on trillions of dollars of opportunity.

David Miller:

Yeah, I agree with you. There's gonna be big companies that come in for sure, but hopefully these smaller companies that have been around can band together and grow into the bigger companies that have a stronger purpose other than profit.

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, please, please make that happen. So for this business, what are you focusing on right now to scale and grow it?

David Miller:

Refining our systems remaining financially stable. And just maintaining communication and trust within our team.

Natasha Miller:

So there wasn't a big initiative that you planned to hit on the head on in January for like marketing or R&D or publicity?

David Miller:

I mean, we're doing podcasts. We've had a lot of partners come to us to take videos of our cultivation center and market them, and so we're doing little things here and there, but right now the hemp market is only so small since there's not a ton of money to be made in it right now, that's changing. So we're not trying to conquer the world right now. We're trying to just-

Natasha Miller:

Yeah, you're playing the long game, right?

David Miller:

Exactly. That's right.

Natasha Miller:

And beside it not being federally allowed, and in Tennessee not being, you know, the THC part not being legal, what is the number one biggest challenge that you're focusing on or facing, trying to solve for in your business right now?

David Miller:

You said it, you hit the nail on the head. Is education, is educating the public and also educating more so the older generations about the plant, removing some of those negative connotations and that stigmatism surrounded with the war on drugs and. Reefer madness and a lot of that, it's just honestly poisoned older generation's minds cause that is already coming around. But the education is our biggest roadblock right now.

Natasha Miller:

I can see that. I mean, I can see where I'm at. A lot of different generations of people are coming around to it. But in other places, you know, I live in a bubble, right? In other places they might not be there. And I really see, especially with the medicinal side, elderly people being able to take advantage of this for a better life. Do you agree with that.

David Miller:

That's one of the things that makes me really nervous is, you know, it's not federally legal here, so there's this, for lack of better word, synthetic cannabinoid called Delta eight that's out there and anyone can go, and I don't know whether it's good, whether it's not long term has been around long enough. But there are all these different CBD and vape shops out there that sell Delta eight and the product is not regulated. I think you have to be 18 or or 21 years old to buy it. But these companies aren't regulated. The re, the reason I say that is these older generations that have very serious back problems, very serious pain problems. They go in and they buy this Delta eight and they're hoping that the dosage is right. That it, you know, all these things because it's helping relieve their pain because they don't wanna use opioids.

Natasha Miller:

Well, that's, they should not be using opioids probably. I mean, I'm not a doctor, but I see that as being a very intense situation challenge. Is there anything that you would love to. Anyone listening to this podcast that we haven't covered.

David Miller:

This plant, it truly changes people's lives and you know, allowing the people to decide and have their own choices so this plant can, which is found in nature, obviously can do its job the way people want it to, is it's the main thing I want people to know. For more information, go to the show notes where you're listening to this podcast. Wanna know more about me, go to my website OfficialNatashaMiller.com. Thank you so much for listening. I hope you loved the show. If you did, please subscribe. Also, if you haven't done so yet, please leave a review where you're listening to this podcast now. I'm Natasha Miller and you've been listening to FASCINATING ENTREPRENEURS.

David MillerProfile Photo

David Miller

Entrepreneur

David Miller believes in making an impact to support organizations that further the betterment of society through synergizing expert advice. David is a progressive thinker and visionary. For 15 years, he was the founder and CEO for the #1 fastest growing financial company in 2017. He is currently the President of a Cannabis R&D cultivation company and Board Member for a Bi-Partisan PAC to Legalize Cannabis. David's education includes MIT's CEO Masters Program, Oglethorpe, and the University of Tennessee with focus areas in Entrepreneurship and Finance & Accounting. He has held board positions or involvement with the Emory Global Health Institute, NewStory, Deki, GCAPP, TGC, and Entrepreneur's Organization among others. David and his loving wife dedicate their personal time to their blended family of three children, Hudson, Deacon, and Paxton, their adopted cousin Destinee, and their three dogs Jersey, Gogo, and Alfie. He loves traveling and being outdoors. If you treat him to 1/2 dozen Pacific oysters, then you're almost guaranteed to have lunch with him!