Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about your company? Indoor or outdoor grown?
Will Perry= WP: Magic Hour Cannabis is a boutique indoor grow and lifestyle brand just outside of Portland, Oregon. We produce pesticide-free, top shelf flower with rich terpene profiles, as well as premium pre roll packs. As one of the only minority-owned and operated grows in the country, we are far from the norm in Oregon —- or frankly, in the rest of the country. I’m Black, Jewish, and was raised in the Bronx, while my partner and co-founder Adriana Ruiz Carlile is Guatemalan, Scottish and grew up in Brooklyn. The diversity in our backgrounds has given us a fresh perspective on the business, and led us to be intentional about who we partner with to meet our ancillary needs. To develop our brand, we chose the Portland-based, women and minority owned branding agency Potency. The same intentional lens has guided our selection of photographers, as well as the dispensaries that carry our products, like Greenbox, a black owned delivery service here in Portland.
Starting with excellent plant genetics is key to any successful grow operation, and we’re lucky to start with some of the best genetics in the world from Archive Portland. To condense growing into a sentence, our job is to make sure our plants are in an ideal environment and receive the nutrients they need across their life cycle. Our philosophy is that cannabis should be as clean or cleaner than the food we eat. This means we never spray our plants with pesticides, or feed them synthetic nutrients. We use minimal inputs, and source most of them locally. As amazing as it is to be a part of this industry, it is turbulent – which means we have to stay nimble and cut costs where we can in order to scale our business.
WB: What brought you to the cannabis business? What did you do originally?
WP: My last office job was in L.A. with a digital advertising agency. It was cool, but it just wasn’t for me. Day after day, as I sat under my office’s fluorescent lights, I could feel my soul leaving my body- but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do instead. In 2014, a good friend moved to LA and started a small medical grow. Knowing absolutely nothing about growing weed, we started helping him at night after our 9-5 jobs. The grow was tucked away in a sketchy industrial neighborhood in East LA, but that was the training ground that taught us many of the lessons we’re applying today.
While California had approved cannabis for medical use, the state was still grappling with how to structure a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana. In those early days, I hustled around downtown LA, selling to shops with 5 or 6 pounds in my backpack and thousands in cash in my pockets. I wondered how long it was going to take California to finalize its regulations, and whether it would be hospitable to small growers who didn’t have access to endless amounts of capital. I had been following Oregon’s progress with legalizing cannabis and was attracted by its low barriers to entry for small entrepreneurs. The state had no cap on the number of licenses and allowed newcomers to obtain a producer (grow) license.
My partner Adriana and I decided to jump at the opportunity in Oregon. I resigned from the ad agency, and she left her job managing the showroom for the Italian clothing company Diesel. In the Fall of 2017, we packed up our Subaru and drove to Portland with the crazy dream of starting a cannabis company with minimal funding and zero employees. We quickly learned that growing excellent flower is a full-time job of intense manual labor, hours of strategizing and researching, and a zen-like attention to detail. We were undeterred and began investing the long hours needed to assure that everything from our branding to the quality of our flower was on point. When we moved to Portland, we took any grow-related jobs we could, starting off at $13 an hour in order to learn more about the industry and pick up tips and tricks from other operators.
WB: Do you have a mentor? Did you always want to do what you do today? Who inspired you?
WP: The cannabis community is unique in that there are few people who truly live the life of a dedicated grower. My number one piece of advice for anyone entering the industry is find solid mentors whose opinions you respect. I was lucky to have my good friend Sebastian Stalman, now the owner at B.A Botanicals in Oregon teach me all he knew. Working with him instilled my love for the art and science of growing quality cannabis. Another mentor is my good friend Clent Baker of PapaJesus Farms, who possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of plant science. I text him plant questions at all hours of the day and night. Another source of inspiration is Jesce Horton, owner of a grow in Portland called The Lowd. To my knowledge, he is one of the only other grower/owners of color in the country. Meeting him when I first moved to Portland was inspiring and empowering; he made me realize that starting this company was an attainable goal. He is also a really cool dude willing to share his knowledge. He and his wife Jeannette started a grant program in Portland called Nuleaf to help people of color infuse capital into their cannabis businesses. This year we were fortunate to receive a Nuleaf grant, which gave our business a boost when we really needed it.
For Adriana, a key source of inspiration were the opportunities that a newly emerging field offered for women to take early leadership roles as owners and growers. An ‘untraditional’ industry has level-set notions of who can operate and succeed — and we are motivated to redefine what the typical weed grower looks like.