COVID-19 has forced many executives in the cannabis industry to change their habits. Increased focus on contactless payments, online ordering, curbside pickup, delivery, and of course, social distancing have brought about new habits for cannabis operators. But some habits, even during the coronavirus pandemic, seem quite familiar. Crafting excellent products, overseeing consistent growth, and giving back to the community amid an ever-changing legal and cultural landscape is right in line with what Advanced Nutrients founder and Chief Executive Officer Michael “BigMike” Straumietis is accustomed to. Some things certainly have changed during the pandemic for BigMike, but much of his approach—and success—remains intact.
Daily life, for many, has changed dramatically during the pandemic. But with cannabis now deemed an “essential business” in most legal jurisdictions, consumers still are able to access products. In terms of profits, for Straumietis, it’s business as usual, or rather, better than usual.
“With people locked up at home because of the pandemic, and many of them stressed about the uncertain economy, cannabis consumption is at an all-time high,” Straumietis said. “And with more [cannabis] being grown than ever before, sales of Advanced Nutrients [products] have skyrocketed.”
Although Advanced Nutrients operates in over 100 countries worldwide and certainly is accustomed to high levels of production, the increased sales have created challenges in keeping up with consumer demand.
“The demand for our products has exceeded our production capacity. There’s currently a waiting list for many of our nutrients,” said Straumietis. “So, we’re in mass expansion mode, investing heavily in increasing production while, of course, never sacrificing quality.”
Often, difficult times like a pandemic usher in some of the best solutions for companies and it appears that Advanced Nutrients is meeting the challenge of increasing capacity head-on.
“Make no mistake, the pandemic put pressure on our manufacturing capabilities,” Straumietis pointed out. “But in the process, it shined a light on areas we needed to improve, which we’re in the process of doing right now. I’m a solution-focused business owner, always looking for the good in any situation and what I can learn and improve.
“Over the past couple of months, we’ve increased output five times and are on pace to ten times it in the next few months,” Straumietis continued. “We’ve hired over eighty new team members over the past seven weeks at our Woodland, Washington, production facility and are about to hire eighty more. We’re also opening a Las Vegas facility for our powdered nutrients and organic line, enabling us to increase the production of powdered nutrients by 1100 percent. Plus, we opened a new warehouse in Barcelona with ten times the capacity of our prior EU facility. We’re on pace to increase sales in Europe by 600 percent over the next two years and make it our second-largest market.”
Although Straumietis and Advanced Nutrients have changed some of their practices to adjust to the COVID-19 cannabis market, success and philanthropy remain a constant. Having experienced poverty first hand while growing up, Straumietis endeavors to help as many people as he can. His previous holiday campaigns have provided essential hygiene supplies to tens of thousands of people as well as food for socially disadvantaged families, the elderly, single parents, individuals with disabilities, those struggling with housing insecurity, and veterans.
Recently, Straumietis has extended his philanthropic reach to help during the pandemic. Through his nonprofit organization Humanity Heroes he donated thousands of backpacks filled with food and clothing directly to homeless people on Los Angeles’ skid row. The group also donated hundreds of N95 masks to healthcare workers at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.
On the cannabis front, Straumietis is helping ensure safe access to essential products. He teamed up with Moxie to deliver “cannabis stimulus packages,” essentially free (delivery cost consumers one penny) cannabis products to several hundred recipients.
“My belief is you should give back to your community where you make your money, and society as a whole,” Straumietis said.
Of course, Straumietis’ ability to give back in such a major way is driven by the success of Advanced Nutrients over the years and his hard-working staff. “My team and I are incredibly grateful to be a recession-proof company that’s leading the industry,” he said. “We’ve averaged 35-percent growth per year for twenty-one years now, and things are only getting better. It’s an exciting time for Advanced Nutrients.”