In today's Cannabis Spotlight, we interview Hammond Potter, the founder and CEO of PotMates, a cannabis delivery service based in Portland, Oregon. He talks about the challenges of an online business and what PotMates is doing to educate cannabis consumers.
How have you adapted your business approach in response to COVID?
We opened on 4/20/2020 right after the shut down. Fortunately for us, we are an online and delivery only retailer so we were sorta COVID ready to begin with since many consumers turned to online shopping and delivery during the pandemic. We launched with integrated contactless payment options, not knowing how valuable that would be in providing customers with a safe, hassle free shopping experience. What we failed to do early on was invest in SEO as we were new and virtually invisible online for customers to find us, so while the pandemic was a huge boost for most of the industry, we did not benefit from it like we could have.
What has been the biggest challenge you weren't expecting when you first started the business?
I did not realize how hard it would be for an online only shop like us to acquire customers. We don't have a store front so the only way to be seen by customers is to have a strong online presence. I was naive to think that if you build it they will come. There’s going to have to be some work put into making that happen.
Also, the 280E tax code which I knew about, has had a profound impact on our profitability. I knew it was going to affect us financially, but I was not prepared for just how much.
With cannabis still illegal at the federal level, what obstacles have you faced in terms of payments and financing?
The fact that I cannot find a compliant (key word lol) seamless debit/credit processing option still blows my mind. Recently I looked into leasing an electric vehicle for deliveries and was turned down because while legal at the state level, financial institutions do not want to finance a company that operates in a federally illegal industry.
As an online business, what is your approach to marketing?
We focus on being a premium brand and only selling high end top shelf cannabis products. Quality at all levels matters, not just with the products we sell, but also our branding, photography, detailed descriptions, and packaging; everything needs to reflect quality and consistency.
Are you doing anything to educate consumers (particularly newer consumers) about cannabis and your products?
We use our blog and product descriptions to educate customers on terpenes and cannabinoids, and how those compounds are going to produce a predictable experience with cannabis. In our blog we write what we call newsies, which are quick articles about various cannabis industry news/events. We want to help normalize cannabis through education.
Hammond Potter is the founder and CEO of PotMates, a leading Portland delivery-only dispensary that allows customers to order cannabis products directly to their home. Their main focus is ensuring that PotMates has a positive impact on the local communities they operate in.
Hammond has a retail background, having managed teams at Apple and Best Buy. He is passionate about the cannabis industry and believes that abolishing cannabis prohibition is important because of the way the war on drugs has disproportionately affected communities of color. He supports legalization as a path forward to healing those same communities that were negatively impacted, and providing new opportunities for prosperity.