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This week, Zach Pitts, CEO and founding partner of Ganja Goddess, discusses graduating during a recession and stumbling into a cannabis career that has now spanned more than 13 years.
When Pitts graduated from college, he pursued a career in urban planning, but he failed to find regular work. In 2007, developers weren’t hiring and he was at a loss. Around the same time, Tara Wells, Ganja Goddess’ co-founder, was cultivating and manufacturing edibles for the legal medical market — traditional products like brownies and gingerbread. She needed help getting the startup off the ground, and Pitts came onboard as a way to make some money and survive.
But the partnership outgrew his temp job and slowly built a career. In 2011, Pitts and Wells started a California-based delivery business in an effort to make their products available to more patients.
The decision to create a delivery startup was driven by two factors:
- Consumer demand from areas that didn't have access to dispensaries.
- Creating a safer, more comfortable experience for customers, particularly women.
At the time, Wells found medical dispensaries to be unappealing. They were dimly lit, shabby buildings with bars on the windows and security guards at the door, and they were typically staffed by young men. The experience made her uncomfortable — like a criminal. She wanted to create an experience that spoke to her and why she used cannabis. Pitts and Wells carefully crafted Goddess Delivers as a delivery business and website that was more open, accepting and feminine. They wanted to serve the non-traditional cannabis user in pop culture, particularly elderly people and women.
Soon after the delivery business launched, the Ganja Goddess edibles brand was unified with Goddess Delivers under a single brand. The delivery service took off and the edible business took a back seat. The duo eventually put the edibles division on hiatus to concentrate on delivery, but they continue to maintain the proper licenses and plan to resume manufacturing as soon as possible.
Although confusing and turbulent at first, the COVID-19 pandemic caused enormous growth for the company. At the beginning of 2020, the company was on pace for 30% growth. As the pandemic closed storefronts, demand for delivery exploded, and Ganja Goddess experienced more than 100% growth. The surge caused a few logistical headaches and growing pains, but Pitts and Wells were able to navigate the increase while planning for the future.
Pitts is currently working on raising investment capital and hopes to land $5 million to expand the company’s manufacturing capabilities and restart the edibles brand. The fundraising effort is a new one for Pitts, but he welcomes the challenge. The company is also interested in expanding the business model — not just in California, where it covers more than 94% of the population, but in New York and Virginia as those states join the recreational market.
Pitts and Wells emulated e-commerce strategies to make a website that is easy for consumers to navigate and create hubs that enable next-day delivery anywhere in the state.
The company provides a carefully curated menu. When vendors approach Ganja Goddess with new products, the staff vets the branding and packaging to make sure it aligns with customer expectations. The team also accepts as many samples as possible to get feedback on the experience and quality.
Before the pandemic, many companies — not just in cannabis — were already being pushed into delivery by the Amazon phenomenon, but the pandemic permanently changed the mindset of the consumer.
Ganja Goddess is designed to appeal to people 35 and older, and about 45% of its customers are women. Pitts hopes to further expand the market, taking the cannabis-curious and turning them into cannabis loyalists. Some 94% of Ganja Goddess sales are from existing customers; 75% are from customers that have been with the company for six months or longer.
Ganja Goddess was uniquely positioned when the pandemic hit. While it was tough in the beginning, the company's forward thinking helped adapt to rigorous new safety protocols and set it up for a successful year.
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