The fumé family of brands includes their manufacturing entity (Clearlake Growth Fund I), retail entity (Clearlake Growth Fund II), distribution entity (Clearlake Growth Fund III), as well as cultivation site. Under this parent umbrella, they are a vertically integrated business offering sun-grown proprietary flower through the LAKEGRADE brand of Sativa/Indica/Hybrid cannabis in both 1/8ths and prerolls, which are now available on the Confident Cannabis platform.
“We have had a great response to all of our strains especially our Lemon Sour Diesel and Budzilla,” said Jennifer Clarke, General Manager of Distribution and Manufacturing for Clearlake Growth Fund III.
As GM, Clarke focuses on their B2B sales, trimming, packaging, and the distribution of branded products to retail outlets throughout California—in addition to a host of other responsibilities. She joined the company in October of 2018 and oversaw their very first harvest.
“We’re not a big team, but we are a tight and efficient one,” Clarke said. “At harvest, we might be close to 30 people, but the core team is under 10. The best part of this job is the people I work with who are willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. They love fumé and want to grow with us. We’re a big family.”
Clarke says that overall their staff was mostly unaffected by COVID, beyond a few staff members who either themselves or partners have respiratory or autoimmune diseases and sheltered in place.
“We were able to give them a leave of absence to then come back into their positions once they were ready,” she explained. “We did have to get creative to shift people around in roles to cover everything, but our team is so great with problems like these.”
Clarke says the trickiest part of this whole pandemic was the uptick in demand for cannabis as an essential service with people stuck at home wanting to get high.
“Then that demand overlapped with 420, which is our Christmas season,” she said. “Great for business, but we had a lot of pot product that was going through packaging, and the packaging facilities were impacted with either staff not coming in to work or having to shut down for safety. At one point, one of our groups said they were not going to be able to get to your order for a month, and we’re like ‘NO!’ that’s not going to work. We’re scheduled for pick up next week; how can we work together to turn this around faster?”
Luckily Clarke and her team have great relationships with these packaging partners, which has been a lifesaver in helping them get creative in finding solutions. That is something beautiful about this industry, she commented, that people are willing to think outside the box and work with each other because they are in this together and if they don’t have each other’s back, we can’t achieve our goals.
“How can we pitch in and help,” she continued. “Can we help them with something else that will get our product in line sooner? Do they need to have people come in on the weekends and we pay them time and a half? Nothing was off the table, and we got it done on time because we just kept going back and working with everyone.”
Partnership with Confident Cannabis
Clarke was first introduced to the Confident Cannabis team when she attended a Metrc training seminar we sponsored with Trym and Distru and was impressed by the level of knowledge presented.
“I felt like finally someone understands our pain as distributors,” she expressed.
At that time, she started talking with Confident Cannabis CEO, Steve Albarran, about some bulk product she had on hand and wanted to sell on the market as 50lb units. That was her first experience selling bulk flower online.
“The Confident Cannabis platform itself is amazingly helpful for the exposure that it gave us statewide to other vendors,” she explained. “It created partnerships that are now longstanding relationships of ours. I have at least five solid contacts that I have made through people making inquiries and getting to know each other. We discover that we can really help each other out.”
While perhaps not every inquiry leads to a completed transaction, Clarke said it does let her know about their needs. Later she may have Biomass or B-Buds available, and she will reach out to those contacts through Confident Cannabis directly to let them know. She said this open dialogue has been invaluable, especially in this industry, where a lot of people still operate with a traditional legacy mentality of needing to keep their trade secrets.
“The people I’ve met through Confident Cannabis are all above board,” she said. “They know what’s going on and want to get out and network to get business moving and growing. This gives us a channel to really connect with each other.”
The other aspect of the platform that Clarke finds particularly helpful is the ability to look at the pricing of different brands to understand how to price her own products accurately. The thousands of listings gave her an idea of market trends, like what B-Bud sells for at 17% potency versus 25% potency.
“That piece of the tool is handy when you just don’t know how to price your product,” she said. “The market changes constantly. Last year I could have sold my Biomass for $200 per lb. This year I’m looking at $80 per lb. If I was trying to put that Biomass up for sale without looking at the other listings, I would have been way out of the ballpark. That’s why it’s so awesome to have visibility to the trends.”
As someone who is not the strongest user of new technology, Clarke said the platform is really user friendly too. She can navigate the system easily, add listings, get her labs connected with pictures and descriptions, and use the communication tool for inquiries.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Confident Cannabis platform,” Clarke concluded. “It’s just streamlined beautifully.”