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 Robert Smith of Atlas Plant Trainer.
Meet Robert Smith
Robert is a medical cannabis caregiver from Maine, who has provided top quality medicine for patients for over 4 years. Robert and his wife, Danielle started a trimming machine rental and sales company about 2 years ago, focused on the caregiver industry in Maine and have now expanded it across to New England. After years of wishing for a better solution for plant training, Atlas Plant Trainer was born. Now, their journey transitions away from cultivation, as they begin to focus on the ancillary businesses and products to better serve the cannabis industry.
In our interview with Robert, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about Atlas Plant Trainer, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Robert, 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 Atlas Plant Trainer?
Robert Smith: Atlas Plant Trainer is a customizable, click together tomato cage designed specifically for the home grower of cannabis, by the home grower of cannabis. No other product allows growers to grow their plant to the exact size, shape, and dimension they want – encouraging deeper light penetration, air intake and ultimately bigger yields.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Robert Smith: After 4 years of being a medical cannabis caregiver, I grew tired of stakes and cages and wanted something exactly like this to fill the need – but there wasn’t anything like it. So, voila – here it is, a plant training and support system that grows with your plant to any size or shape is easy to clean, fun to use, and makes a real impact on yields!
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?
Robert Smith: I am a long time cannabis consumer and enthusiast – so my family and friends were not surprised when I started the caregiving business. We also launched a trimming machine rental business 2 years ago, so we have lots of irons in the fire so to speak.
DCN: What is unique about your business?
Robert Smith: We launched our product for sale – which took 6 different prototype iterations in order to be satisfied with a top quality product.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Robert Smith: There is a lot to learn when launching a brand new physical product, and we’re still learning a lot of them. Marketing and brand message has been the toughest, as we are not only a new product but a new category essentially. There are very few products that are direct competitors with us, so learning to speak to what is important to the consumer is critical to our success.
DCN: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Robert Smith: We are currently raising a seed round to help reduce our costs and execute on our marketing plan. We’ve had to be scrappy with our bootstrap money, and the little money we have raised, in order to get to this point we are and will continue scrappiness even after we raise funds.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Robert Smith: Every entrepreneur gives up time with friends and family when they are focused on building their business – and we are no exception. I think it’s about deciding what’s most important right now – and Atlas Plant Trainer needs to be everywhere, in every garden, and that’s what we’re working towards!
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Robert Smith: Ask questions, and listen to the advice. If you don’t know something – don’t be afraid to ask either!
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Robert Smith: I think working towards something without ever knowing if it’s actually going to work, and only being able to rely on yourself (or small team) to give your dreams the best shot of success.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Robert Smith: I did a lot of listening and learning before taking the leap, but one thing that has surprised me is the consistency of helpfulness and kindness throughout the industry.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Robert Smith: Family – gotta have some time with the family. The occasional round of disc golf and Red Sox – GO SOX!
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Robert Smith: The 4 hour work week by Tim Ferris. I certainly don’t work 4 hours a week, but the inspiration and the message behind the book continue to resonate with me and give me something to work towards!
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Robert Smith: This is a really tough question that I’m not sure I could answer if given unlimited time! There are so many businesses doing good and doing well, we aspire to grow our business to the point where we can contribute to the world in a much more meaningful way.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Robert Smith: Education is the biggest difference maker in our industry. There is so much false information, that if each of us can affect one person’s opinion about the plant on a daily basis – we will overcome the stigma.
DCN: Thank you, Robert, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!
For those looking to learn more about Atlas Plant Trainer please check out, www.atlasplanttrainer.com and on Instagram at @atlasplanttrainer