The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Personal essay: starting a cannabis business during the coronavirus pandemic

3 min read

From left: Wes Cantrall, Kyle Ortiz and Ethan Dillon. (Wes Cantrall)


Staff Writer

It is federally legal to grow cannabis in all fifty states.
The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the growth of hemp, which is more or less an industry term for low THC-yielding cannabis. Essentially, you can’t grow what we know as marijuana, but you can grow plants that have a high yield of other cannabinols, or the “active ingredients” in the plant.
The most popular is CBD, which when ingested has an anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
When I first heard about the legalization of hemp I immediately went into full research mode, and looked for ways to capitalize on a brand new industry.
As it turns out, a fellow Psi Upsilon brother and former UMW student Tristan Babst was already steps ahead of me and had started a hemp seed company called CBD Prime Seeds with his father in eastern Maryland. It felt like my life changed as soon as I stepped into one of his greenhouses and saw thousands of cannabis plants lined up in neat rows.
Immediately I decided it was time to start planning my own business. I joined forces with seniors and fellow Psi Upsilon brothers Kyle Ortiz and Ethan Dillon and we started creating a plan.
Ortiz is a computer science major and an absolute genius when it comes to web design and software coding, so it was quickly decided that he would be our company’s CMO.
Dillon is a business administration major who I’ve worked with at two different jobs and is an absolute powerhouse when it comes to workload, so we appointed him as the COO of the company.
I am a business administration major who was lucky enough to have been trusted with running a small landscaping company for two years, and served as the president of Psi Upsilon here on campus, so we decided I’d lead the team as CEO.
We named our company Sunnyside Supply Co. partially for our commitment to run entirely on solar power in the next few years.
So what exactly do we do?
We pride ourselves on being a seed-to-sale company, meaning we cultivate our own plants, and create our own products. Primarily we are creating a line of CBD oils, lotions and food products, but we also seek to partner with local wineries and breweries to create their own CBD-infused beverages.
What sets us apart from our competitors is our dedication to environmental and social responsibility. We practice regenerative farming techniques, commit to 100 percent solar energy use, and seek to help out our local community as much as possible. Additionally, we are currently seeking a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation to donate a percentage of all proceeds to help plant trees around the world.
As of right now, we’re in the process of building our first greenhouse that will hold twenty plants. At the same time, we are also lining up investors so we can expand our operations to an acre for the 2021 growing season. We came into 2020 as college seniors ready to graduate with a start-up business and a plan.
What we couldn’t have planned for from 2020, was the coronavirus pandemic.
The economy is in shambles, local businesses are shutting down and most frightening of all, so many people are at risk.
This presents a lot of new unknowns for our business. In the past few weeks we’ve been addressing concerns about potential investors backing out, crucial businesses in our supply chain shutting down and if we can even successfully sell our product.
The CBD industry as a whole has already taken a significant hit.
“We are feeling major effects from the coronavirus,” said Babst about CBD Prime Seeds, “six of our trade shows have been cancelled or moved and sales are down this month, but we expect to see a rise in the next three weeks.”
All of these concerns are deeply unsettling, but we refuse to remain pessimistic.
“I think starting a company given the current world affairs is going to be challenging, but I think we are on a bright path. I’m excited to see where this new industry will take us as a collective,” said Ortiz.
“We are all in this together, as business partners, as families and as communities,” said Dillon, “This next year brings a lot of uncertainty, but I’m confident we will all help each other beat this virus.”