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 Derek Thomas of Veritas Farms.
About Derek Thomas
Derek Thomas is vice president of Business Development at Veritas Farms, Inc (OTCQB: VFRM). Veritas Farms is a public company headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and focuses on producing superior quality full-spectrum hemp oils and extracts made on its farm in Pueblo, Colorado. Thomas’ duties include developing and executing the company’s sales and marketing plans, as well as new product development and strategy; plus acting as the corporate spokesperson.
Before joining Veritas Farms, Thomas focused on fundraising and business development consulting for numerous cannabis firms including Technical420, Hemp Inc., Freedom Leaf, and Stonebridge Partners. Prior to consulting, Thomas co-founded and acted as chief operating officer of Hemp Blue ― a premium hemp-based apparel company from which he exited after a successful acquisition by industrial hemp conglomerate Hemp, Inc.
Prior to his transition into the cannabis sector, Thomas held numerous middle- and upper-management positions with prestigious hospitality operators for over a decade. These positions included general manager of Hyde Beach at the SLS Hotel South Beach, director of Nightlife Operations for the Thompson Hotel Miami Beach, and director of International Business Development for Life In Color, one of the largest touring electronic music festivals in the world.
In these capacities, he led teams and initiatives focusing on sales, marketing, business development, operational management, and strategic partnerships in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.
Thomas is a Jupiter, Florida native and currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He is a graduate of Florida State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.
In our interview with Derek Thomas, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about the Veritas Farms, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Derek, 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 Veritas Farms?
Derek Thomas: Nationally recognized as a booming category in beauty and wellness, CBD (cannabinoid) products are appealing to a growing number of people. Utilizing whole hemp oil and top quality ingredients, Veritas Farms is a vertically integrated “Farm to Table” producer of a wide range of CBD products. Veritas Farms’ whole hemp oil, referred to as full spectrum hemp oil, is made from the non-intoxicating compounds (no psycho-active effects) that come from the hemp plant.
There are over 100 unique chemical compounds in hemp, known as cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are known to promote wellness and keep people resilient to changes in their environment.
Veritas Farms produces a number of products, ranging from lotions, salves, oils, tinctures, gummies and more – even products for pets! The company puts its mission, ‘Be Truly Healthy’ into practice every day by practicing sustainable farming at its 140-acre farm in Pueblo, Colorado. For additional information and to purchase products, please visit www.theveritasfarms.com
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Derek Thomas: Our CEO, Alexander Salgado, recognized the huge opportunity in the CBD market. Not just to enter the space and become a sales and marketing company – a route that would have been easier and paid off bigger in the short run. But because in the beginning of the CBD craze, Alexander had the vision to see that quality and transparency would be lacking in the market, and moved in to establish a fully vertically integrated company that would capitalize on that opportunity.
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?
Derek Thomas: My friends and family were very supportive of my decision. My first career after college was in hospitality. After a decade, I realized despite my success and promotions, I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t happy or proud of what I was doing. I had always been passionate about cannabis, about its versatile uses and humanities intimate history with the crop, so I created my own startup in cannabis.
DCN: What is unique about your business?
Derek Thomas: Veritas Farms is one of a few fully vertically integrated companies in the industry and operates a 140-acre farm and production facilities in Pueblo, Colorado. Here, the brand controls all of its growing, extracting, manufacturing, and bottling to ensure the quality, potency, and freshness of its products. We grow our hemp similar to a quality vineyard, giving quality attention to each plant while using drip irrigation to provide precise hydration and conserve pure Rocky Mountain water.
We are committed to our community, sourcing locally whenever possible. We practice sustainable farming methods, reducing our impact on the land, remembering that future generations of farmers will follow us. We never use any pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and create our own organic fertilizer that helps balance the local ecosystem. We are part of the sustainable agricultural revolution; the phytocannabinoid Hemp farm revolution; and Colorado farmers who say they are “Colorado Proud.”
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Derek Thomas: When we were first starting a big part of our business model was manufacturing private label. We spent so much time trying to cater to clients’ custom needs, often to have them go out of business or move to a cheaper, lower quality provider. The revenue wasn’t worth the resources it required, so we re-evaluated the private label program. We put in new minimum order quantities, lead times, order processes, and stipulations on the types of formulations we would do. Now it is a thriving and profitable part of our business that supports our own brand, Veritas Farms.
DCN: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Derek Thomas: Our name Veritas is Latin for “truth” and that is what you receive from Veritas Farms products. We are determined that all of our customers receive the truth and we do this by operating our own 140-acre farm and production facilities in Pueblo, Colorado, where we control all of its growing, extracting, manufacturing, and bottling to ensure the quality, potency, and freshness of its products. We ship the products fresh and right off the farm!
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Derek Thomas: After a successful exit from my job in the hospitality industry, I began consulting in the cannabis industry with some colleagues. One of our clients was Veritas Farms. After a few months, it became apparent that Veritas was where I belonged, so I made the transition and it was one of the best decisions of my life.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Derek Thomas: Have a strong understanding of your company’s values and make sure they reflect in the company culture. This is key to attracting employees that share in and thrive in those same values. Allow them the autonomy to run with those values in their lane at the company.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Derek Thomas: There are still many unknowns in the cannabis industry. This goes back to the industry being so new, but with that also comes infinite possibilities and an open frontier. There is a lot of potential, but I feel very strongly about my role and the passion I have for what I do, so I look at this as an exciting challenge.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Derek Thomas: The most interesting stories come from customers we interact with at shows, events and online. They come to us with heartbreaking stories of chronic issues that they deal with. We interact with them and inform them of how full spectrum hemp oil products work and what they can do. Very often these interactions come back to us with stories of gratitude, relief, excitement, and thanks.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Derek Thomas: My hobbies include Brazilian jiu-jitsu, volunteering and surfing.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Derek Thomas: Deliverance by James Dickey. It’s the combination of so many classical struggles: man vs. man, man vs. nature, and ultimately man vs. himself. Witnessing Ed survive, overcome, and ultimately grow from the struggles is a true testament to the power of inner human strength.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Derek Thomas: 4Ocean. They pull trash out of the ocean and turn it into bracelets. I’ve attended a couple of their beach cleanups in South Florida however they pull trash out of the oceans all over the world! It’s a very unique and fun solution to a very real problem.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Derek Thomas: There is a lot of education and continued learning in this space. Because it’s a new industry, a lot of people have questions and there are a lot of preconceived notions. But because I’m surrounded by so many passionate people who also love learning, it’s been a very fulfilling experience for me to educate people on this rapidly evolving industry.
DCN: Thank you, Derek, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers! Any final words for our readers?
Derek Thomas: Visit www.theveritasfarms.com or follow @veritasfarmsofficial on Instagram! We’ve got great educational and product content, along with some fun interactive content too.