Creative cannabis people intrigue me. Who is satisfied with just sitting behind a desk all day, hacking out metrics, even if it is in the cannabis business? Sure there are jobs for these types of people but let me be the first to tell you that my kind of entrepreneurs in the cannabis space don’t have the patience to sit around and let the world come to them from behind a computer. Far from. What they do is seize the day, create something new, inspire others. Creativity and cannabis really do go hand in hand. Bryant Bowens seeks to open your mind, one carefully sourced cannabis-friendly product at a time. I’m proud to have been able to share my thoughts on his Murano Tips for rolling cannabis joints, even though I’m still unable to roll a joint myself. It’s really quite embarrassing to not be able to use the tips that the Murano folks sent my way. My apologies. But getting back to Bryant. There are many inspired folks who come my way. Bryant Bowens is certainly enlightened. Thank you for this opportunity to share his story with you, my readers. Cheers! WB
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself? Why cannabis? What was your inspiration of the plant?
Bryant Bowens=BB: I’m originally from Gary, IN, which is a small city but rich in history. Home of the legendary Jackson 5 as well as the birthplace of Vee Jay Records—a black owned label that was the launching pad for the Beatles’ first U.S. album release before their official Capitol Records debut. I currently reside in SoCal and I am the cofounder of Cronja Culture LLC, Partner at Murano Tips & JC RAD Inc.
For me personally there is an internal dialogue that I unlock everytime I connect with the cannabis plant dating back to my teenage years. Cannabis increases my self awareness, which is the entire idea behind mindfulness. My desire to obtain new knowledge enhances my epistemic curiosity when consuming the plant, and it also gives me an opportunity to connect with other cannabis lovers through our distribution channel and house-branded accessories Cronja Culture and Murano Glass.
Speaking of my teenage years, me and the plant go all the way back to my senior year in HS. Every year my school would have an Academy Award–themed event for the senior class at which multiple categories are voted upon by students’ fellow peers. The “Stoner Student” award—whose official, politically correct title was “Most Clueless”—highlighted and celebrated the classmate who was well known for a daily zest for “higher learning,” literally.
This prestigious award was bestowed upon me, trophy and all!
What’s ironic is that my mother recently discovered the trophy in her garage while cleaning a few weeks ago! She made the suggestion for me to place the trophy right next to our “Adult Use & Medicinal – Distributor License” hanging in our warehouse facility to remind me of my humble beginnings with this beautiful flower we all love.
Before branching out into the entrepreneurial space I worked for PAX LABS and JUUL dating back to 2015. I handled the Midwest sales channel during my tenure as a Territory Sales Manager and was later promoted to a Regional Account Manager for both brands. It’s funny to reflect back on the very first time I’d received a prototype of the JUUL device. My initial reaction was: what is a JUUL? Why does it look like a USB device? What is nicotine salt? “No One will buy this!” Fast forward to now, and to see the mammoth success the brand reached in such a short period of time still amazes me. My love for cannabis and in-field success didn’t go unnoticed during my stint with both companies so I was hand selected by the higher-ups to help launch the PAX Era in the state of CA during the Prop 64 ruling.
As the brand(s) grew, so did their org chart. New roles were filled and you could quickly tell the new roles consisted of individuals not of the cannabis culture. I could quickly feel the inequality within the corporate apparatus that once was built on solidarity.
After an in-field shadow day with the newly appointed VP of Sales, I was told the following statement: “Bryant, after shadowing you for one day, I can tell that you can be in a room full of millionaires and you can hold your own. And on the other end, I could also see you in the hood with drug dealers holding your own.”
So I took that statement as motivation and went full force on betting on myself. Took both scenarios from the VP and merged both in a positive manner and here we are with Cronja where we are currently partners with a publicly traded cannabis brand (Next Green Wave) and currently give back to organizations whose mission is to repair the harms of the War on Drugs through racial equity and reparative justice.
WB: Please tell me about your company? What are your 6 & 12 month goals?
BB: Cronja LLC is a consumer lifestyle brand that caters to a wide range of different needs within the cannabis industry, from high end accessoires to full service distribution and business development consulting.
What truly sets us apart from other companies is our diversity. As a company we view our differences as one of our greatest strengths. We are a tribe—not in word but in solidarity. Our team is made up of extraordinary people of every race with over 20+ years of extensive practical knowledge within the cannabis industry, from Legacy Brand operators to C-Suite Executives. We’ve adopted the “Hoodie & Suits” business model to our business operations, which is the Best Of Both Worlds.
Knowing our roles allowed us to gain clarity on what our mission, value proposition and cultural fabric are as a company. Our distribution division is social equity operated in the heart of Downtown LA. We offer a variety of services ranging from Last Mile Transportation, Monthly/Overnight Layover Storage, and Supplementary Sales in the SoCal market. We also offer consulting services through which we help emerging startups in the cannabis space by providing white glove solutions and delivering crafted business models suited for each of our clients.
Cronja’s future is all about how we can introduce innovative cannabis products into as many people’s lives as possible. We are strategic in our approach to scale not necessarily in terms of our retail and e-commerce infrastructure, but in ways that consumer habits continue to shift We’re constantly reevaluating how we can become an industry leader when it comes to positively impacting change around full service distribution, as well as capturing brand loyalists through our house-branded rolling kit accessories and affiliate brand Murano Glass. We are seeing a rising trend for craft/connoisseur products and services and feel we are positioned greatly as a boutique startup to be at the forefront of the new pivot.
WB: What obstacles do you face? How do you remove those obstacles?
BB: I think navigating a complicated landscape cluttered with rules and stipulations not found in any other industry is everyone’s biggest obstacle across the board. Also, it’s very hard to predict the future of cannabis from the current vantage point on the curve of the pandemic crisis.
Stressful times have led to Cronja pivoting into uncharted territory.
But we believe that in the midst of chaos lies opportunity and we place a tremendous amount of responsibility on ourselves to pivot through these obstacles with our professionalism and zest for obtaining relevant market insight that will give us context to all of our future decisions, both major and minor.
WB: Who is your inspiration? Do you have a mentor? Who are they? Do you cook? What is your favorite food memory from childhood?
BB: My inspiration stems from my Indiana roots. Being a kid from Gary, IN, I cherish my humble upbringing and the valuable lessons collected along my journey that I’m able to apply in my professional career. In terms of mentors, I would have to give that title to my partner Ryan and my father. My father worked 20 years in the banking industry, but he still had an entrepreneurial spirit that trickled down to me over the years. My father’s gems still stick with me to this day. One lesson in particular he told me all the time still resonates: “There’s no secret to success, the blueprint has already been laid and mapped out, we just have to apply it and remain committed to it.”
Also it’s not easy to find a mentor in this industry, so I’m grateful for Ryan’s friendship. I consider Ryan to be an organizational architect whose job is not to be easy on people, but to push individuals to their highest potential.
Anytime I’m asked that question my response is that I’m great at cooking up conversations. The earliest memory of food that comes to mind is my late grandmother’s homemade ice cream. It was a big deal during the summer time as we had family members that traveled miles for her special recipe. There are only a handful of family members that claim to have the recipe but in all honesty it’s not quite the same as my grandmother’s. When you cook with love, the food just tastes better in my opinion! So I truly believe that the secret ingredient in each of her dishes was her love for each and every single one of us.
WB: What is your passion?
BB: Social inequality has only compounded as the years, decades and centuries go by in underrepresented communities. Cronja began as a commitment to serve and uplift a community whose voices and presence were not valued and appreciated. My passion is to positively affect change in the cannabis industry for the betterment of those who have risked their freedom to be where we are now. Change always starts somewhere and Cronja is in a unique position to bring forth tremendous social change on a state level, with hopes to expand further once legally federal.