Exclusive Interview with FlowerHire Founder and CEO David Belsky
FlowerHire focuses on strategic, six-figure salaried roles in the cannabis industry, and the staffing company has filled more than 400 jobs in its niche over the past few years. Founder and CEO David Belsky sat down with New Cannabis Ventures to discuss the importance of talent in the cannabis space, hiring trends and building a collaborative industry. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
Talent at FlowerHire
FlowerHire is not Belsky’s first foray into the talent space. He built his career in executive search over the course of 16 years. During that time, he spent 13 years with the same company, focusing on tech. He found himself growing restless and followed some of his mentors into the cannabis space in 2016.
The FlowerHire team currently has nine members, and Belsky expects that to grow to approximately 15 by the end of this year and up to 25 by the end of 2021.
Chief Revenue Officer Sloane Barbour brings his experience in the tech space as well. Previously, he worked with the HR tech platform Hired.com. Strategic Advisor Mike Siebold started and sold his own CPG company prior to working with FlowerHire. Ian Keilty and Karen Meshkov serve as Directors of Client Services.
Recruitment in the Cannabis Business
Talent is the missing link to strategic success in the cannabis business, according to Belsky. He has found that companies with the right people are better equipped to navigate the challenges of the industry.
For FlowerHire, education is an important element of recruiting the right talent. Cannabis is such a new industry that most candidates don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the market and the companies that are hiring. One of the company’s biggest value-adds is handling that education piece for its clients, according to Belsky.
The company is based in California, but it serves markets across the country. While lessons learned in California can be useful in other states, every market is different. FlowerHire has team members from different states, like Massachusetts, Illinois, Michigan and New York, which helps give the company local perspective in different markets.
Belsky is seeing a number of hiring trends at play in the current environment. Roles in finance, accounting, legal and compliance are some of the top jobs that need to be filled. Belsky is also seeing demand for talent in supply chain and manufacturing roles. And as cannabis companies mature and build their brands as employers, human resources talent is becoming more important.
While the onset of COVID-19 created some uncertainty, FlowerHire is remaining busy. By the week of 4/20, the company was back to its pre-COVID level of weekly interviews, and now in June, FlowerHire is as busy as it has ever been, according to Belsky.
FlowerHire works with a wide range of companies across the cannabis industry. Eaze, HERBL, Kiva, Ascend Wellness Holdings and Acreage are among its clients. Currently, the company is seeing the most growth in demand from single-state operators in markets like Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts.
While FlowerHire is not the only recruiting company in the space, Belsky is confident it has found a unique niche. FlowerHire is solely focused on strategic, six-figure and above jobs in the cannabis industry. Belsky describes competitors like Vangst as focused more on hourly workers, while CannabizTeam has a broad focus on both hourly and executive roles. Other companies, like HerbForce, are spinoffs of recruiting businesses in a traditional industry.
Belsky sees the value in maintaining a niche focus, but FlowerHire is forming strategic partnerships in an effort to build a stronger industry. Seeing the increasing need for consulting and advisory services, the company partnered with BlueFire Cannabis to offer those services to its clients. FlowerHire also has partnerships with consulting firm Global Go and the cannabis networking platform Leafwire.
FlowerHire is open to building more of these types of partnerships. For example, Belsky sees potential opportunity in partnering with a cannabis fund. FlowerHire could help evaluate talent within a fund’s portfolio and evaluate the talent behind potential opportunities. A fund could also invest in FlowerHire to add a non-planting-touching business to its portfolio.
Reinvesting in the Business
Thus far, the company has been self-funded. In March, the company took some cost-cutting measures in response to the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. But, Belsky has seen demand rebound quickly. He sees recruiting as a high-EBITDA margin business and is bullish on the long-term viability of the industry. As a result, he is reinvesting in the business to hire more people and support technology and marketing.
Belsky is open to taking on outside funding to support faster expansion and the ability to capture more market share. His preference would be for an equity partner that has already invested in the cannabis space. Alternatively, the company could find a capital partner in the business development arm of a larger staffing company that is interested in making a play in the cannabis space.
Outlook on 2020 and Beyond
FlowerHire is aiming to do $5 million in revenue this year. As the company scales and adds more people to its team, Belsky believes it will be possible to double revenue next year.
While elements outside of the company’s control–like the pandemic and regulatory changes–are always a challenge, the market is still growing. And a growing market means cannabis companies are going to need more talent. FlowerHire will continue scaling in order to capture that opportunity.
To learn more, visit the FlowerHire website. Listen to the entire interview: