Recently, we had the chance to catch up with one of our newest cannabis contract manufacturing partners, En-Tranced, that was co-founded by John Masis and Laura Stevens,
En-Tranced’s success is a prime example of how aspiring entrepreneurs can use cannabis contract manufacturers to their advantage for high-quality results, seamless market entry, and streamlined retail placement.
Hear more about where the co-founders started, how the brand came to be, and the way in which they were able to scale to multiple states in just a matter of years. Tune into the audio version of our interview below, or keep reading to find out!
MGN: Before starting En-Tranced, what was your professional background or experience? Were you already in the industry or just a spectator consumer or admirer?
John Masis: So actually, my background is in the pharmaceutical industry and specifically working with alternative ways to get active drugs actually into the body without going through the stomach. In addition, I've been a big admirer of Eastern medicine, specifically herbal medicine because that's where it all started. Initially, when the Farm Bill in 2018 passed, I was approached by my co-founder, Laura Stevens, to take a look at how we could utilize some of our intellectual property and get cannabis created in formulas that would actually be much more efficient and much more helpful to people than smoking or vaping.
So, we formed a company that actually focused on the hemp space with CBD that was actually launched as Herb Tech Pharmaceuticals. And those formulations and science then formed the basis for us, with En-tranced, to then look at the THC cannabis industry. With that mindset we realized the different business models needed between, let's say a federally legal product like hemp and a product that's legal at the state level like THC.
The business strategies are very different. But I've always been a big admirer of the cannabis plant, you know, the NIH has identified over 100 plus pharmaceutically active ingredients in it and we're just starting to learn and scratch the surface about what they do... so I'm a big admirer of the plant.
MGN: Yeah, well, that kind of answered my next question to you know, why choose cannabis as the industry to enter. But I love that angle, you know, looking at it as medicine and trying to increase the delivery to the consumers. So, you're really like consumer-focused versus you know, “people over profits” is a common saying now, but really getting that delivery of the medicine to the consumer. So that's interesting.
Masis: Yeah, exactly. I think one of the things that is really interesting when we looked at the industry, what we realized is that this is a tremendous opportunity for people to really treat themselves to take an active role in their health care or recreation for that matter, as well. But the issue we saw was that the methods employed to get the cannabis gets into the body were not healthy or efficient. Smoking or vaping can be harmful to the lungs.
With edibles, there's a tremendously poor onset of action. And topicals have limited success traditionally. So our focus in forming En-tranced and using pharmaceutical technology for alternative delivery was to create products that would be beneficial to the body. In addition, we wanted to give consumers control over their experience both in the dosage amount and in the speed of onset of action. If we look at the liquor industry as an example, everyone understands the effects of a glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail and can self-dose. We want to bring that control to cannabis.
MGN: Yeah, like advancing the industry from just flower to actual dosages and definitive information. That's great.
Masis: Yeah, when cannabis first become accessible, cannabis itself was the most advanced. Now the next evolution is how do you make cannabis controllable by the individual consumer and utilize cannabis much more efficiently, safer, etc. And that's what we're about.
MGN: I know En-Tranced is in multiple states, which you can get into more in-depth - But what was the first one that you entered in with the THC products and how did you scale so quickly?
Masis: Yeah, so basically, Maine was the first for us to enter to answer your question. It's a state that’s close to us with a little bit more of an emphasis on the medical side than on the recreational side, although there is recreational as well. And that gave us a chance in a very vibrant market to really begin to work on the efficiencies that we needed to be able to scale. A part of that process was to create the formulation bases for our oral misting technology and transdermal technology that could be readily and consistently blended by different contract manufacturers in different states with uniformity.
So that gave us a chance to really perfect the system of creating the basis in sufficient quantity and variation to then supply to our contract partner. So, Maine was a great state for that. But that then allowed us to really begin to move into multiple states almost simultaneously. California was really the next one, but we're now launching in a number of different states. I mean, most of the major states in fact across the United States.
MGN: So, we kind of touched upon this too, but can we go into how you decided on producing oral Canna-mizer versus other products, and I think you have edibles too, so can you tell us more about your product collection and how those came to be?
Masis: So, our focus is always to have a product or technology platform that's a substantial advantage over what currently exists in the marketplace. So, if we can't create something that is very different, or much more efficient then we don't really want to be part of it. We looked at the Oral Canna-mizer as, and I'll use a technical word, a transmucosal delivery system where we could actually with a mist, create a penetrating technology that would penetrate right through the tissue of the mouth into the bloodstream. And the desire for that was to have an immediate onset or immediate impact on the consumer so that it would allow a person to understand how much cannabis is in their system.
So, with the Canna-mizer, you can create a pre-measured dose so everyone knows exactly how much cannabis you're getting in and you feel the effects. With edibles, there has traditionally been a significant lag between the consumption and the impact. Our edible contains formulation technology that speeds up the absorption significantly and predictably so the consumer is never left wondering if it is going to work.
Working with molecules, specifically cannabis molecules, whether it's CBD or THC, they have a peculiar problem. They're very lipophilic, they’re very fat-loving. So, they have a tendency of getting sequestered in the adipose tissue within the body. So as a consequence, you really need to create a product with technology that can access the blood supply pretty quickly or it’s just going to get sequestered someplace and that’s just going to be it. It won’t be effective. So, our focus, in technology development, was on how do we create that efficiency of delivery into the bloodstream? How do we create the speed and ability to precisely dose, that again, puts the consumer in control of their experience. And that’s the Canna-mizer piece.
On the transdermal piece, we have a system that we can actually push the cannabis molecules very quickly through the skin to target very specific areas of the body, like muscles or joints. Our transdermal is not really designed to be a cerebral product. It’s designed to be a product that the consumer can utilize to treat very specific things, different pains, site-specific, etc. our transdermal produce what we call “a full body high” as it doesn’t really have a cerebral impact.
To follow up on the edibles, what people don't really typically realize is that in the pharmaceutical industry, pectin which comprises most of the gummies available is actually used to delay the onset of action of an active agent. This is because pectin is dissolved not by the stomach it’s dissolved by the intestines. So, with our edibles, our focus was to create oral products, which will be dissolved by the stomach and absorbed very, very quickly and predictably. So, it's not as fast as the Canna-mizer but It's very predictable from that standpoint.
MGN: Yeah, for sure. And consumers are becoming more and more aware and educated on how things work.
Masis: Well, that’s it I mean, people want to be able to incorporate their experience into their daily life. They also want to have discretion with it. So, it's hard to be discreet when you're exhaling a ton of smoke or vapor, so our focus is to create something where someone can comfortably use our products discreetly in a lot of different settings.
MGN: I love that. That's very cool. And even on the health side of it, too, people are becoming more health conscious of what they put in their bodies, the smoking you mentioned. So that's avoiding those, too.
Masis: Yeah, and if I can add something to that as well. This becomes very important on the medical side. You know, there are a lot of people that utilize THC cannabis to treat pain, cancer, pain, self-treat their cancer, pain, etc. And it's very difficult to smoke or get the benefit from smoking or vaping if you're a person, in a hospital bed suffering from cancer, you need something that's much more efficient and isn't gonna be harmful to the lungs. While edibles are often used, their delayed onset of action can be a problem. Further, they may have a negative gastrointestinal impact, especially with chemo…so they may not be as helpful as a smokeless fast-acting delivery system
MGN: Right, right. So, we’ve covered a lot of technical terms, and a lot of science behind your process. What was the research and development process, did you involve consumers? How did you get to the science behind the product?
Yeah, so the research and development process were quite extensive for all of our technology platforms and products. For example, to test the penetration capability of our technology we use what is called a Franz Cell System. In this system, we use skin-replicating membranes to test the speed and quantity of cannabis that we can penetrate through the dermal or mucosal membrane into the bloodstream. The Franz cell testing is analyzed by our HPLC (High Pressure Liquid Chromatography) systems and technology that can create computer penetration models on how the cannabis molecules move through tissue and throughout the body.
Once we get this dialed into our formulation technology, it is then ready for prime time and we get consumer feedback…which then can lead us back into the research and development process. This continues until we get a product that we like …and more importantly, our consumers like. So, it is an expensive and time-consuming development process for each product, but this means that a consumer can really on the fact that they will experience something truly unique.
MGN: That’s what we hear from a lot of cannabis brands, right? So, for those aspiring entrepreneurs, who are thinking of just getting into the industry - in the initial stages of planning and licensing, what were your biggest hurdles? How did you overcome them and what would your advice be to those that are just starting?
Masis: Since Cannabis with THC can’t cross state lines, En-tranced needed to find contract partners in each state that we could blend our bases with the cannabis accurately, precisely and uniformly… - our biggest challenge was finding the right individual groups that were licensed and were capable of producing our product to our specifications in whatever states we're launching the product into. There are a lot of groups out there that claim that they can do that but the reality is far different.
Most contract manufacturers don't have the scientific expertise or precision to assemble our products. So that was the biggest hurdle, finding great contract packers to partner with. This means that we had an extensive interview process that looked at technical capabilities, regulatory compliance and procedures, and market access. Regulatory compliance was an area that became important as each state has its own regulatory scheme and compliance is critical. It's a detail-oriented business, but critical to being successful here was being able to find appropriate contract partners, contract manufacturing partners, that could handle the science, make sure you're in full compliance to the highest level possible.
MGN: So are the established states like California, and Colorado, are you finding more vendors applicable there?
Masis: That's exactly right. As a state matures and multi-state brands move in, companies begin to realize that becoming a contract manufacturer is a viable business without a lot of the risks of brand development. These companies develop expertise at formulating products and compliance issues that make them important to multi-state brands. The more mature states like California. Colorado and Massachusetts are at this level. Other states are moving in that direction.
MGN: Yeah, definitely. So you kind of answered the next question, which was how and why did you decide to go with co-manufacturing and white labeling? But what kind of benefits have you achieved by going this route, business-wise, profit-wise, you know, on the side of not being plant touching? How have you benefited from that?
Masis: Well, it allows you to scale very quickly from that standpoint. I mean, we know what we do very well, which is to create pharmaceutical emulsion systems that can be employed through various delivery technologies. By contrast, we don't grow or extract and we will probably never grow or extract. We want to focus on what we do well and partner with companies that are experts at what they do. In this way, our business model is to source whatever distillate or extract that we feel is the best and combine that with our technology.
It also makes our business model very flexible so if there's a strain that becomes a super-premium strain that someone is developing and it's unique - we don't have to go back and recreate it which can take time to do - we can select the best strains, extracts or distillates possible and work with our contract manufacturer to incorporate them into our products. This way we can ensure that our products are state-of-the-art/cutting-edge and the best on the market.
Rather than trying to be a jack of all trades and a master of none in this industry, we know what we do very well, and we can combine that with what others who do exceptionally well and really create a great synergistic relationship that allows us to - grow quickly, innovate quickly, and provide the consumer with the best product.
MGN: Yeah, kind of lets everyone do their best and then serve the consumer the best in the end.
Masis: Absolutely. That's the key. You know, no company can do everything for every part of this process. If you can create a company that does what it does best then can pick and choose and combine the best of other things - yes, you end up with the best possible product for the consumer.
MGN: Right. So, how has the white label system supported retail placement? I know a lot of growers and extractors get the product and then they struggle to make those connections with the dispensaries or the retail store. So with white labeling and cannabis contract manufacturers, how have they helped you get into the retail stores?
Masis: Yeah, that's big, that's a great question. And that's a big part of a brand launch. Starting from scratch takes a long time. Since we are usually dealing with the best, most efficient, market-established contract manufacturers, they often already have embedded relationships. This gives us a step up where we can begin to look at branding awareness on the state level as well as at the local dispensary level like working on getting budtender training in place to drive local awareness and ultimately sales.
Contract manufacturers provide an indispensable part of our launch strategy and they give us a leg up in the sales and marketing cycle. I think the mistake that a lot of entrepreneurs make, especially in this space, is that they think “well I got a great product. And so, everyone's gonna flock to it” Unfortunately, having a great product is just the start. That's the beginning of the race. You have to work as hard at marketing the product as you did creating that product.
MGN: That's great. So what's the biggest advantage you've gained by working with My Green Network or how does their team support you in the California market, which is well known for being saturated?
Masis: Yeah. So basically, I discussed earlier that we did a lot of research into finding the best possible contract partner in each of the States in which we are launching a product. California is the largest state market in the United States so it was important that we partnered with the best organization capable of handling our business. In our selection process, My Green Network quickly emerged as the best possible choice for us. This decision was made on a number of factors.
MyGN had “best in class” blending capability with incredible precision. My Green Network quickly set the standard for us by which all other contract manufacturers are measured…even in other states. In working with MyGN, we also discovered that their response time to our needs and their ability to turn projects around without drama reinforced our belief that we had found the best possible partner for the California market. So, all of this means that our partnership with MyGN has allowed us to focus on establishing our brand knowing that our products in the dispensaries are the best possible.
MGN: So, can describe the retail part of it more in-depth, and have you gone to sale yet in California?
Yes. Our products are being sold in California. With the help of My Green Network, we started the launch in Tropicana which is one of the premier dispensaries in California. We have a number of others that were spooling up pretty aggressively. There's obviously an education process you need to put in place in order to get the budtenders behind your product so that they, understand what it is they are selling. This is especially important with a product that is unique with unique technology.
But I also think that while you need an education component in launching a unique product, having a unique product is an advantage in a saturated market…it is not the same old… I would not want to be launching a new flower strain …but a product that is patent pending and offers something that is discreet, predictable, with a fast onset of action and long duration…that is new to the marketplace and I believe can inject excitement into a crowded market. But education and market awareness become important and the right contract manufacturer lets you remain market-focused.
MGN: So what does the future hold for En-Tranced as a brand and product line, are there any new things that you're planning on adding or new states you’re entering?
Masis: Basically we want to continue to add states in addition to the ones we are already in…I think that New Jersey and Florida, and Michigan, would be great. In addition, we are looking to continue to add different product offerings as well. Different flavors, different experiences. Without giving away too much of the future, we are working on a concept that we pioneered called the macro entourage effect…. that involves a lot of plant extraction chemistry…so stay tuned.
MGN: Right, right. That's awesome. So all right, the last question here. For somebody that has an idea, like the Canna-mizer or something new and fresh, why work with a co-manufacturer like, My Green Network?
For a couple of reasons. First of all, if you're an aspiring entrepreneur, and you're looking to get into the market, you have to understand this is a complex market. Back when the cannabis industry first started, the thought was “hey, I’ll grow something and I'll go sell it.” Right now, it’s a very, very different, and very sophisticated market. The regulations are confusing and constantly changing. Any entrepreneur that tries to do it all alone has very little chance for success.
By partnering with a company like My Green Network you are instantly accessing a wealth of knowledge and the real-world experiences of a team that focuses on making you successful. Second, their industry/dispensary contacts can help ease the market launch process with great introductions and accurate advice critical for a new product.
And finally, if the product is fresh and new, and innovative, the services, advice, and market wisdom that My Green Network can provide are even more invaluable as the market further needs to be educated as to the difference between your product offerings. My Green Network has been an important partner in our market launch in California.
MGN: To finish, I know compliance can be a huge factor for brands just starting off. Have you experienced any fines or violations or warnings or do you see that the contract manufacturing you don't get as much interaction with those regulatory agencies?
Masis: Yeah, exactly. Regulations in this industry are critical. Unfortunately, as a new industry, the regulatory framework of many states can be confusing and conflicting. En-tranced takes its responsibility for compliance very seriously which is why we have legal expertise on staff. That said, it is often the insights and expertise of our contract manufacturers in general and My Green Network specifically that help us operate efficiently and legally within the state.
Their day-to-day experience can show the way a specific function…like distribution… needs to work. To date, En-tranced has an exemplary compliance record and I believe that one factor to this is the advice and knowledge that we tap into with our contract packers… again My Green Network is top-notch in this area.
MGN: Right, it's a whole other wheelhouse that you would have to be an expert in, or staff somebody to be an expert in. So it takes that complication from the whole business structure, right?
Masis: Yes, and a lot of these regulations are nuanced. The states are trying to do their best. They're trying to learn as much as they can about the industries. But they have a learning process as well with regard to the regulations they promulgate and how the industry is evolving within their state under that set of regulations. There can be a lot of details about the regulations that you may miss unless you're working with them on a daily basis. Since the contract manufacturers like My Green Network are doing that, they typically are up to speed relative to compliance. Again, that gets you up that learning curve as a company very, very quickly.
MGN: Yeah, for sure. Especially knowing California is just as complex as the other state, even though they're established. So, that was the end of my questions - did you have anything that you wanted to add?
Masis: You know, the industry is very comparable if you look at it economically to the post-prohibition liquor industry. At that time the fledgling industry had a lot of confusing regulations with a lot of boom-bust. While the cannabis industry shares that dynamic it also is different in the sense that with the internet, media, social media etc… these cycles have been accelerated. What this means is that flexibility is also key in this industry as it gyrates to accommodate new market entrants and market regulations. We found that My Green network provides us with that flexibility to prosper in the California market.
Increase Your California Co-Manufacturing for Cannapreneurs - The Final Word
As you can tell from our conversation with one of MGN’s Green Leaders - cannabis manufacturing companies in California are giving brands the opportunity to scale growth seamlessly while freeing up capital to help promote consumer awareness.
By partnering with an established cannabis contract manufacturer, like My Green Network, you gain the advantage of compliant facilities, technical expertise, and retail placement while tapping into our network’s collection of vast resources in the growing California cannabis market.
Think you have an idea for the next best thing when it comes to consumption? Want to combine your professional skills with your personal passion for cannabis, with a product you’ve always dreamt of? What’s holding you back?
Consider cannabis contract manufacturing, cannabis white label, or private label goods, and put the best of the best in California to work for you. Get in touch with My Green Network to schedule a discovery call or in-person tour of our facility, today.