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 Duane Dennis of Plain Jane.
Meet Duane Dennis
Duane grew up in Baltimore in a single parent household. After studying laboriously in high school, MIT recognized his efforts and he became a student there. In college, he fell in love with entrepreneurship. Hearing the stories of those a few years down the road inspired him to finally take the leap.
He started a supplements company, Miramix after college. Miramix taught him the ins and outs of running a company in a highly regulated space. He wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
In the past year with all of the legalization efforts finally reaching a breaking point, he called his college roommate who was then a software developer in San Francisco, and they have been working on Plain Jane since.
In our interview with Duane, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about Plain Jane, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Duane, 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 Plain Jane?
Duane Dennis: Hemp Cigarettes. Our cigarettes are smooth, natural, and non-addictive alternatives to nicotine. Unlike their THC filled cousins, these won’t get you high, but many find them relaxing and a more than adequate substitute.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Duane Dennis: In college, I grew cannabis with my roommate and now CoFounder. We knew we wanted to create a cannabis company, but we were actively trying to find a specific focus on what to work on. Right before I moved out to California to pursue this adventure, my CoFounder quit nicotine. It was rough for him. Coincidentally we learned about CBD at the same time. The combination just clicked. We made a product and found people really like having an alternative to tobacco.
DCN: How is your business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Duane Dennis: I hope to serve as an example for fellow minority entrepreneurs. I wrote this article a few years ago: https://techcrunch.com/2015/09/14/if-the-new-american-dream-is-entrepreneurship-why-are-so-many-black-millennials-missing-out/
We’re still a new company, but I’m making Plain Jane diverse and hopefully a shining example of what the Cannabis industry can be.
I also believe our focus specifically on targeting tobacco replacements makes our mission stand out.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Duane Dennis: One of the biggest challenges continues to be trying to earn respect and gain legitimacy for the industry. Many people don’t take it seriously or brush us off for what we do.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Duane Dennis: We’ve self-funded everything to this point.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Duane Dennis: Don’t give up. You’ll have 100 reasons every day for why you should stop. Your job is to ignore those and focus on the few reasons you should keep going.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Duane Dennis: Keeping your head on straight under all the pressure. You have to continue to execute despite FUD.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Duane Dennis: People are super friendly. I could’ve never anticipated the warmth and acceptance of the cannabis community. I’m truly grateful.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Duane Dennis: Resilience, creativity, discipline.
DCN: Being an entrepreneur can take a toll on one’s self, How do you stay balanced?
Duane Dennis: Physical exercise helps keep me centered. I train Muay Thai
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Duane Dennis: I recommend Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet. It’s the closest thing to a step by step guide for being a successful entrepreneur that I’ve found.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Duane Dennis: Keeping fighting for equity programs.
DCN: Thank you, Duane, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!
For those looking to learn more about Plain Jane, please check out, https://plainjane.io, social-Instagram @tryplainjane