By James Bridges
A true vertical grow with family orientation. That’s what I had set out to go visit. I wanted nothing more than to feel as if I were around close families during the holidays. I believe I got my wish.
Brian Goodwin was practicing pharmacy in Ada, OK with the Chickasaw Nation. His brother, Grant Hall, had a CPA practice. The father of the two brothers was a dentist. The family wanted to go into business for themselves. An opportunity presented itself for them to do so. They would also have the bonus of working collectively.
“We had another investor. We all went in together.” Brian was to the point. “So we then had the financial means to begin. Now it was time for my brother and I to turn on the sweat equity. Here we are 3 years later and we feel like we’re getting better. We know it’s a very hard market right now. We’re doing everything we can to separate ourselves.”
“If it were up to me we would have 8 dispensaries coming soon on a sign hanging everywhere.” Grant Hall, sweat equity and partner for Progressive Grow, laughed. Of course, then we would be spread too thin. My brother prevents me from overdoing it like that.”
I watched Grant talk about the creation of Progressive Grow. He was so passionate and proud in his approach to this natural medicine. I could tell he was a driving force in the company that would carry them even farther down the path of success.
Grant was motioning for me to follow him. “Our other partner is a really smart person. He started lot of companies. He’s very savvy. So when we ever get in a bind and we need some ‘real’ business advice, we go directly to him.”
We walked down the hallway into the flower rooms. Exactly what I was there to see. I could smell happiness as the doors opened.
There are thousands of growers in the Oklahoma cannabis market. They are competing for the same footprint. There are times I step back and take a look at the Oklahoma market and how far we have come and I can only say the word, wow! In order to stand out you must be on your A-game at all times. There most assuredly is no time to pause. Having the ability to adapt and evolve are the key components to surviving in this current environment.
The first room we entered was huge.
Karsten Thompson, flower manager, Clay Balthrop, grow manager, and Christian Colbert, assistant cultivation manager were introduced to me as “part of the team”. They wanted to be sure that I was aware they could not operate with only the people currently standing in the room. I feel it necessary to point out a great character indicator when I see one. So I did.
I asked them all for some pointers for growers wanting to get in the industry. I received collective answers. “Don’t give up. It doesn’t fall into place right away. Be aware of shady people fronting as legitimate grows. They do exist. Sometimes you have to weave through some of the bad to find your place in the industry.” They also pointed out, “Don’t be afraid to try new things. It’s such a new industry that there’s not a set way to do anything. So there might be a better way to do everything. Keep experimenting and finding out.” I thought for a minute we were all going to high five. It was simply one of those moments.
Grant could barely contain himself, “We used to have plants in here that would literally be hitting the top of the lights. They were so lush. So we started growing a ton of different strains. We were spending a lot more on genetics. We are trying to have first generation mother’s. We are now actually flowering out the clones to see which ones we like. Then we’re going to have the first generation mother’s always cloning. So, we are starting to run out of room.” He smiled.
We both had a laugh as we looked around at the flowers. Such a wonderful sight.
Some of the struggles they were facing are common among growers of all sizes. It’s a matter of dialing it in. Growers must consider doing things like changing the size of the pots. Small details that add major weight gain exponentially throughout each cycle.
“This harvest right here is already cut by 40 lbs.” Grant pointed at the flower, “because the plants are too small. We are tweaking operations now to achieve a more full and lush harvest. Our HVAC is being upgraded from 30 tons up to 45 tons. Now we will have much more room. You see all the fans now and everything we have upgraded. We are probably going to be switching over to some high powered LEDs soon throughout the grow. We are also looking into an air scrubbing system that constantly scrubs the air clean. We are basically trying to do everything we can to get dialed in.”
I was curious how Grant chose the strains to grow under the pressure of the Oklahoma cannabis market. Grant informed me of the difficulty to pick something that may or may not be good for the market. The ability to foresee the future somehow missed him when he was created.
Grant shook his head, “Way early on we had a strain called comfortably dumb. It was super popular. It kind of gave us a name. So, we embraced it. We started putting all of our efforts into a ‘popular’ strain. We put so much effort into it we got tired of it. But it’s something we felt needed to be done. We had Comfortably Dumb all over our veg room. It was all over our flower rooms. When you load your rooms with a strain then it takes a while to effectively change that.”
A major issue while dealing with this is finding yourself at the other end of the spectrum. You change everything so that you have a ton of variety. When you go this far over to the other side you get harvests that are only 3 to 4 lbs each. That just doesn’t make financial sense.
Grant talked about how they were focusing on higher terpene and potency levels. He added, “By growing less strains it allows us to focus more on the quality of the medicine. We are able to make it easier on ourselves while still focusing on quality and potency.”
We made it over to the lab. There were two young men operating the lab. I managed to pull Tyde Thomsen, head solventless processor for Progressive Grow Labs. “Straight from harvest we trim up the buds, then vacuum seal them. We throw them in the freezer to get the whole extraction process going. They sit in the freezer for about 2 days,” Tyde was all smiles. “We throw it into our fully automated washing machine. This really helps out not having to break our backs to obtain washes all the time. It has really helped us improve low temperature work. We do that then we drain it into rosin washing bags. It filters out all the tricome supermicro layers. and then we’ll collect that throw it into a freeze dryer. We collect it and then we immediately press it. It’s been a whole process of learning the ins-and-outs of hash. It’s such an amazing opportunity to work in this lab.
I couldn’t help myself at that point of the conversation. I had to point something out. I asked Tyde to tell me again how old he was and how long he had been doing what he was doing. Tyde smiled and confidently said, “I graduated high school in 2019. I’ve been doing this for about a year.”
I was set back. I imagined myself at that age. I imagined the opportunities in front of Tyde.I’m not sure how often Tyde thinks about his moral value to this world and the people that live within his bubble. So I acknowledged it.
I asked Tyde to think about the number of lives that he is now affecting in a positive way. The medicine he is in charge of is making others have a better quality of life. Thousands of individuals touched by the work of a recent high school graduate. His weapon of choice just happens to be one from caring and enjoyment. Just imagine the possibilities.
One of the major factors that a good quality business tends to set aside is marketing. It’s extremely important to advertise and market to your audience and potential customers. There are no cookie cutter ways of doing so. The best way to handle this is through a consultant. Someone that knows the ins and out of both advertising and the cannabis environment. The team at Progressive Grow Labs is now looking into marketing and advertising as it should. “We are no longer in the flea market or barter/trade style market.” Grant agreed as we both talked about the number of current growers in the market. “This industry is starting to grow up, sort of speaking. Also there are just too many people in the market. So if you just do the simple math of 7,000 growers. If they merely harvested an average of 1 lb per month that would already be a lot of cannabis. However, no one is going to grow only 1 lb per month unless they aren’t operational. So that’s just a ton of cannabis in the market. You have to set yourself apart in some way. That’s where our advertising and marketing come in.”
I started imagining how awesome it would be to work on something of this scale with my own brother. Grant chimed in, “My brother and I are very close. This has actually forced us to become closer. It’s been great. It can be challenging sometimes, but it’s totally worth it. Because we learn from everything. Then my dad works with us. Mostly things he could do from home. He’s retired, but he helps us a lot.”
I asked Grant about the next steps for Progressive Grow Labs. “I think the next step is trying to figure out how to make a few more products for our store. We want to make them for ourselves and then also wholesale. I think now we’ve kind of switched gears and we’re going to be hyperfocusing on our current grow. We want to make it the best that it can be then expand from there. Ultimately we want to be multi-state. Right now we need to concentrate on our home bas which will continue to be Oklahoma.”
Brian reminded me, “We had no struggle with the crew when we went through some changes. I feel like now we have a really good tight crew of hard-working people. Everything is family and we’re trying to open a dispensary. So it’s just that. You know? Family. Making friendships and acquaintances. That’s what we’re looking to do in this industry. We are looking to be a good name for the industry. We want to do things right. We fully support the cannabis industry and want to portray the best for it.” Brian was sincere. The way marijuana has been treated throughout the years has been so bad. We are trying to change things.”
“This industry is very progressive. To us that sums up this industry. It’s always growing progressively. Brian had undertones of pride in his voice, “The whole marijuana industry is progressive.”
The name obviously resonated with the group of entrepreneurs. Progressive. It was interesting having the opportunity to speak with the family at Progressive Grow. To notice another crew at the top of their game and to understand that they have consistently had twists and turns along the way helps me see something beautiful. The dream is not dead. Entrepreneurs rest assured. If you do in fact have a premium product idea, the courage to commit, and the sweat to spare then you can, indeed, achieve the dream. You just have to go get it.
A progressive family full of very progressive thinkers. I was once again fulfilled by witnessing the life of a deserving family being made better. All due to our amazing life ally we call cannabis.