Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Cody Ziering of PAQ LTD.
Meet Cody Ziering
Cody Ziering is a co-founder and one of the managing partners of PAQ Ltd along with his partner Brett Gelfand. Previously, Brett and Cody together, helped build a vertically integrated Colorado cannabis firm from the ground up, including an 45k sq. ft. indoor cultivation, edible kitchen, extract lab, and dispensary. During their tenure in Colorado, both executives recognized the pre-roll multi-pack as the most undervalued product type in the industry. With a desire to change the perception of their favorite product type, pre-rolls, Brett and Cody resigned from their kush-y jobs in order to develop the world’s first air-tight child-resistant container for rolled herb, the JPAQ. The founders, along with their venture, PAQ Ltd, continues to innovate new packaging and accessories for rolled material and pre-roll lovers world-wide.
In our interview with Cody, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about PAQ LTD, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Cody, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for PAQ LTD.?
Cody Ziering: PAQ was founded to pioneer the revolution of pre-roll packaging and accessories. Our mission is to develop products and engineer solutions for the most iconic class of smoking methods; the hand-rolled smoker.
PAQ allows producers, retailers, and brands to easily design, implement, and distribute a unique, high-volume, high-margin product. PAQ is proud to introduce a first to market pre-roll container that allows your brand message to be shared and your story to be told. The JPAQ™ will allow your pre-rolls to remain preserved and protected, while being sold within a revolutionary turn-key, child-resistant packaging solution.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Cody Ziering: We were tired of seeing pre-rolls sold in boring doob-tubes and less than desirable and wanted to up the ante in our favorite industry, legal cannabis! It’s also a bonus that our cases are perfect for the beach, the mountains, the urban jungle, or anywhere in between.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Cody Ziering: My friends and family were incredibly supportive. After seeing the success that Brett and I were able to achieve at building someone else’s business in the space, they knew we would become successful as entrepreneurs in our own ventures. That isn’t to say that we haven’t had our nay-sayers either. Through the bumps in the road, we have been doubted, but Brett and I have been able to rely on each other for support. That steadfast support and belief in ourselves has blossomed into what will soon become a colossal success and a cannabis industry staple product!
DCN: How is your organization/business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Cody Ziering: We are innovating packaging and accessories for the most underrepresented space in the cannabis industry; the pre-roll enthusiast. Beginners, intermediates, and total heads all enjoy smoking something hand-rolled. PAQ’s mission is to push the envelope in ways never before seen.
DCN: As we near the end of 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Cody Ziering: We have completed tooling on our initial and current flagship product, the JPAQ! We also secured a distribution deal with a cannabis packaging company that the industry is extremely familiar with along with an exclusive deal with one of the largest producers in the world. Soon DCN readers will see PAQ cases everywhere!
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Cody Ziering: We floundered quite a bit at the start of the business. We put trust into a product development firm that at the end of the day couldn’t get what we envisioned done correctly or on-time. So you dust yourself off, try and read the situation from an objective point of view, and make a decision on how to proceed.
We decided to leave that firm and go with another. This new firm is tremendous and has only exceeded our expectations. Sometimes in business, you need to realize that you’re betting on a lame horse, so you cut your losses, lick your wounds, and move on to bigger and better things! PAQ now has the support and infrastructure to release new products faster than ever before.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Cody Ziering: We were fortunate enough to have a friend believe in our idea and give PAQ a convertible note to get the business off the ground. We are pleased to be able to say that in a month or two we will be able to fully pay it back with interest and be totally 100% solvent! We have been considering raising a round to accelerate R&D further. If you like what you’ve read, shoot us a line!
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Cody Ziering: Brett and I gave up comfortable 9-5s with salaries to start PAQ. For two years we survived on unpredictable income from another business that started to keep us busy during the R&D process for the JPAQ. Needless to say, Brett and I went all in on PAQ and wake up every day motivated to bring the company and our products huge success.
I am happy to say that our other business is doing incredibly well and has become a thought-leader in its own space in the industry, Cannabis Credit and Collections! That business is called CannaBIZ Collects (www.cannabizcollects.com) and does an incredible job helping canna-companies get money back from clients who owe them money. If you’re reading this and have a client who owes you money, give us a call!
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Cody Ziering: Find an under-served or emerging niche and move as quickly as you can to capitalize on it! There is a new emerging tech that has peaked my interest for the past year or two; nano-encapsulation. I believe that to be the next big thing in edibles and topicals! My point is to find a need, get R&D completed ASAP, and bring the product to market. There will be hurdles along the way, but if you maintain a steadfast belief in yourself and your team, anything is possible.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Cody Ziering: Making sure the ship is heading in the right direction. It is often easy to lose site of the goal at hand when you can get pulled into three other projects when really you need to finish the one you are working on. Keeping yourself organized with tasks and goals always helps you cross the finish line on time!
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Cody Ziering: We were surprised how welcoming, and friendly C-level execs are in the industry. Many are extremely approachable and happy to chat for a few minutes offering insights and thoughtful tips. Networking is everything, and the canna-industry loves to network!
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Cody Ziering: Hustle, hustle, and hustle (with some organization and self-belief and self-motivation mixed in)!
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Cody Ziering: I am lucky to be apart of the industry while splitting time between South Florida and Colorado. To stay balanced I enjoy cross-fit, spartan races, shredding the mountains and anything on the beach or the water. When in season I love scuba diving for lobsters, spear fishing, sailing, and wake boarding. If its on or in the water, I’m probably doing it as often as I can!
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Cody Ziering: Originals: How Non-conformists Change the World by Adam Grant
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Cody Ziering: Greenlane. Aaron LoCascio built vapeworld.com from his dorm room in college. In 10 years he built the website into a thriving business with 200+ employees, that has now become a multinational corporation that leads the world in vaporizer wholesaling. All who love vaping should thank Aaron for bringing the technology to the states and making it as popular as it has become!
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Cody Ziering: Those of us who are in the cannabis industry have a responsibility to tell others about what a tremendous gift that the cannabis plant is and can be. It is our job to change the narrative of a once negative stigma into one where the world undeniably knows cannabis as an incredibly helpful and powerful healer/medicine as well as a safer alternative to alcohol and other harmful narcotics.
DCN: Thank you, Cody, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers! Any final comments you would like to share with the DCN community?
Cody Ziering: Check out Brett and I’s podcast, Startup Stoners, @startupstoners on IG, www.startupstoners.com . We interview cannabis entrepreneurs on what starting a cannabis company is like, as well as discuss our hurdles and successes over the past year or so starting our two cannabis businesses!
For those looking to learn more about PAQ LTD., please check out PAQCASE.com, social-Instagram @PAQCASE