I’ve been to a lot of cannabis grow facilities. My mother would not be proud. And it’s probably why my car gets tossed whenever I head to Bellingham to buy Trader Joes Caramel Cinnamon Monkey Bread (don’t judge me).
And, usually, they bore me to tears.
- “Look at this colour, isn’t it amazing?”
- “You can practically smell the blueberry, can’t you?”
- “Look at how clean this floor is!”
Frankly, if you’re not handing out product – and you never are – let’s make this quick because I have a hotel room to nap in.
But this past month I took a trip out to Kincardine, Ontario, to see what Supreme Cannabis (FIRE.V) has built and, I have to say, this one I was actually looking forward to. I’ve been talking to head honcho John Fowler for a long time about his plans – to build a factory of the best smoking weed in the world – and no CEO has been more approachable, more honest, and delivered harder on his promises.
Also, none have been harder to nab as a client.
“I like what you do, but we’re going to let our results tell the story,” was what I heard from Fowler, who I had infamously dubbed the T-1000, back when Supreme was selling for $0.07 per share, and every time since that I raised the topic.
A few months ago, however, his tune changed. He had watched his stock not receive the upticks his news had warranted and made a change: He would step down as CEO, choosing to be replaced with someone more in tune with market needs (Navdeep Dhaliwal), and would instead move to the role of President and focus on product and business development.
And, as part of that move, he came to me and suggested we help tell his story.
At Equity.Guru, we held a party that day. Not just because I’d been keen to represent Supreme for a few years, but because I’d been telling people his was a good investment for years, unpaid, and now I could unleash myself in full force.
We also tweeted out that we were being engaged by the company, and its market cap moved from $300m to $550m in a week; Seems more than a few people had been waiting for Supreme to properly tell its tale.
So when given a chance to see the place where, what Fowler had long promised would the best weed around, was grown, I had to go see. Had to walk through it, touch it, and look into every corner. Even if it meant a cross country trip, and a bumpy twin prop flight to cabin country, at a time of year when cabin country is a mean place.
But there was something else I wanted to see that required more than just looking at pictures from my desk in Vancouver. I wanted to meet the people.
Fowler never talks about Supreme without making mention of his people. They’re in all the publicity photos, they’re at the back of everything he says. “Best people” – “like a family” – “heart of the operation.”
You hear this from a lot of CEOs, only to arrive and find folks who could as easily be working in a Whole Foods, or who are there because they really dig weed, more than see it as a career.
I expected, when I got to Kincardine, to see groups of happy enough employees doing what employees do, and not much else – but that’s not what happened. That’s usually what happens. It’s not what happened this time around.
These people are sweaty for Supreme. If Supreme was a girl, they’d be standing outside, holding a ghetto blaster aloft, playing Phil Collins ballads.
Supreme is the second place in Kincardine where locals work, behind the Bruce power plant and its nuclear power/wind power facilities, which don’t just dot the landscape, they dominate it. It’s literally impossible to take a picture in Kincardine without a wind turbine photobombing you.
When folks speak of a ‘one horse town’, it’s usually not fondly. There are towns in the US that are dominated by coal companies and where the people live horrible lives, controlled by the ups and downs of something they have little say in. Cities in the north where car companies have long been the only game in town, and where street lights are sometimes turned off to save money and factories have long gone. Towns in the Midwest where all the farmers sell to one buyer, and where roads are being dug up and replaced with gravel because asphalt is too pricey. And it’s no secret what happened in Fort McMurray when oil took a downturn.. the meth dealers and truck detailers have barely been breaking even.
Kincardine folks don’t mind working for the energy company, but have long had to fight for whatever jobs are going, and make do if they couldn’t get one. Now they have a second option, and that option is looking good early.
Talking to Supreme folks about where they live, and what they do, and who they do it for, comes across like a scene from The Truman Show. They’re so effusive, so relentlessly happy, such big fanboys and girls, you suspect they’re being rolled out for show.
Because I’m a cynic, I stepped outside the tour group and talked to whatever blue jumpsuit wearing dude happened by, and the opinions were unanimous. Everybody is stoked to be there, and everybody is planning the rest of their lives there.
Part of that is because the jobs are real, and decent paying. Part of it is because Fowler is offering everyone – from the guy sweeping floors to the highest paid, head-hunted specialist – management training, and 98% of staff have signed up. And part of it is – and this sounds snowflakey to say – but, respect.
In fact, when you go to the Supreme website, under the ‘company’ tab, where usually you’ll see grand bios of the directors and execs, instead you see this:
Okay, you can find the directors and execs if you dig deep enough, but you have to really dig.
But when you do, the ‘we’re just stoked to be here” theme doesn’t veer.
Scott Walters, who is on the tour with myself, some dispensary folk, and a handful of high net worth investors, serves as both a director of Supreme and VP of Corporate Development. He is on his fifth cannabis project now, after he helped start THC Biomed (THC.C), a clinic chain that was acquired by an LP, a mobile lab that’ll be pulled around to client facilities by an 18-wheeler truck, and others.
But, boy, does he like Supreme.
“I’m doing well,” he says, understating things. “I don’t need to be working with 7 Acres, but I honestly believe this is the best set-up in the country. The best product, the best people, the best leadership, it just makes me happy to be a part of this.”
Soon I learned why. Supreme Cannabis isn’t just a name, it’s legitimately what they produce.
This is Jenny. She’s a legit machine, running the tours but also being collared by literally dozens of employees as she moved around the facility for info to help them do their jobs.
If Fowler is a T-1000, she’s the newer model, a T-2000.
Side note on the footage: It was shot with our new 3D, 360-degree virtual reality camera, so you can be standing right there in the facility with us. This footage is a raw take, because we wanted you to see the colours without filter, and the sound is a bit garbled because it’s not a quiet room, but if you have VR glasses, put them on and look around. If you don’t, hit the fullscreen button on the bottom right, and move your mouse around the clip to see anything that grabs your interest, as well as me in a tight fitting boilermaker outfit and beard net. Hot.
The theme as you walk around the facility is that they want a superior product, period. It’s a massive high quality facility with masses of quality people and massive amounts of quality product; Frankly, it’s Quality City.
Everything that happens is to support that goal. Yes, getting better yield is important but the plant itself is key, and ‘respect the plant’ is literally written across Walters’ t-shirt as we start the tour.
That shows up in the product as it’s growing. Notice the consistency that leaves this room looking like someone laid a green carpet from end to end.
I took a tour through Supreme’s cutting room which was a lot less spectacular than the rest of the place, being as it’s a windowless room filled with employees at benches, hand trimming every head until it’s uniform and breaks apart in your hand.
It’s fine, detailed work but there’s a lot of laughter going on in there.
Laughter, and stonking big bowls of primo cannabis product.
There’s a lot more to like about how Supreme is doing business. One thing I like is the decision, derided by many online, by Fowler to avoid supplying the Ontario Cannabis Store on its opening day of selling.
“Yeah, but no,” he told me. “They wanted the product there a month ahead of time to be on shelves opening day. What happens to weed when it sits for a month?”
I nodded. It gets shitty, no question.
“You get what you’re seeing from some of our competitors. No thanks,” he said. “Patience is important. We put too much into this product to do it that kind of disservice.”
As he was telling me this, trucks were rolling out with his first batch of product that we’re now seeing not only hit the shelves, but resound with customers. Figuring out how to label those boxes efficiently was something I could overhear being discussed by several employees. The amount going out was more than they’d dealt with before, so logistical issues were rearing their head, leading to an ‘all hands on deck’ shift.
Pausing deliveries to figure out answers wasn’t an option. The clock was ticking on quality.
Here’s how Supreme’s Jean Guy strain, going out that day, has been received.
Aurora’s Ghost Train Haze looks like shit, but MK Ultra looks alright. Both products from Broken Coast look great. Supreme’s bud looks amazing. The real sampling will begin on the weekend. $acb $aph $fire
— spicoli (@cpalms_walruses) November 8, 2018
@7acresMJ Jean Guy is on $FIRE!! <3 Nice fast rush to the mind & body feels relaxed still hrs after smoking. I feel mentally focused, creative, energetic, happy, uplifted, bright-eyed… It seems to be a wellness/satisfaction type of strain. No couch lock/Day strain <3 pic.twitter.com/vOw8wnsJJD
— solararms (@solarcradle) November 10, 2018
Three products purchased from @BCCannabisStore Top: $13.14/gram CBD Tonic by Royal High, Left: $7.43/gram CBD Sharkshock by Redecan and Right: $12.85/gram Jean Guy by @7acres / @TheSupremeFIRE It’s a landslide victory for $FIRE! Hand finished to perfection and #terpenes for days! pic.twitter.com/KQGD2CNkan
— Travis Simpson (@t_simpsy) October 31, 2018
Finally got my hands on my OCS order: Jean Guy from @TheSupremeFIRE
Buds were small but any dissapointment went away very quickly thanks to the bright lemony aroma. The flavour was some of the best I’ve had in the #ACMPR #c-45 landscape. Job well done @john_fowler_jd and team! pic.twitter.com/BOKEdiMpU2
— Dan Larocque (@manlarocque) November 9, 2018
The six that have some smell and some trichomes…
That said, for a premium brand, there sure is a lot of smalls in the 7 acres product. pic.twitter.com/tTUPUpyysE
— Travis Lane (@BeardedGreenly) November 5, 2018
You can poke through Supreme’s financials and say they should be selling more, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The company has taken its time getting to this point and been in no rush, with $100m+ in hand, to earn a few million bucks more per month rushing product out.
And you can suggest they should have used some of that money to buy more things, to expand more aggressively, or maybe develop a higher profile brand. Maybe.
And you can definitely suggest that Supreme should have spent more time and attention and maybe even budget to telling its story better, earlier, to playing nice with a market that has delivered those who play nice with more wealth for doing so.
But here’s the thing: At every turn, John Fowler has been second guessed by cynics.
At $0.07, ‘you don’t even have a license yet.’
At $0.25, ‘you still don’t have a license yet.’
At $0.98, ‘you have a grow license but you don’t have a sales license yet.’
At $1.20, ‘you have a sales license, why aren’t you selling more?’
At $1.50, ‘why isn’t more of your product on the government cannabis store website?’
At $1.80, ‘You just raised $100m and you’re selling to Tilray, why isn’t your market cap in the billions yet?’
My thinking: It will be.
So maybe do what the smart people did at every one of those other levels and be rewarded through your faith that he will, in fact, do those things you keep thinking he won’t do.
Because he always has.
Thanks for the show, T-1000.
And T-2000. And all the other Terminators.
–– Chris Parry
FULL DISCLOSURE: Supreme Cannabis is an Equity.Guru marketing client, and will hopefully be evermore because, fuck you, they’re killing it.