When it comes to the cone game, everyone knows the name Futurola
The year was 1996. California is about to pass Proposition 215 making it the first state in the US to legalize medical cannabis and springboarding it as the future largest adult use market in the world. Meanwhile in Holland, a brother and sister team by the name of Evert and Yvonne Brandenburg, were about to start a family owned import/export business. This business, ran out of their coffeeshop, Future Coffee Shop, dealt in various smoking products. The end goal was to provide a superior product to customers both locally and around the world, with the hopes of revolutionizing the culture for everyone. Unfortunately, that original coffeeshop in Amsterdam has long since closed, but the dream of providing superior products that the two siblings started has since grown into a titan that has taken the industry by storm. That company? Futurola
Today, Futurola operates around the world working with countless brands and continues to grow year over year. We took a few moments to sit down with Toby Skard and Patrik Eriksson in Los Angeles at Futurola USA’s headquarters to talk about Futurola and the future of the cannabis accessories market.
MRR: Gentlemen, to get started can you tell our readers little bit about the beginnings of Futurola as well as the inspiration behind the brand?
Toby: Well I started out on Match.com, blonde Swedish man looking for…. (laughter). No, in seriousness the brand started in 1996 in Amsterdam by a brother and sister team. They based it at a couple coffee shops.
Patrik: And the coffee shops that they had run there for years ran into issues. A lot of regulations with the coffee shop industry started happening so they were like, “Fuck this.” and went full time with Futurola.
Toby: You have to understand, back then Europe was at the forefront of this industry and everyone from the US and other European countries traveled to Holland to try out the good stuff. What they saw an early need for different high quality products like rolling papers, grinders, cone rollers, and other products for the smoke shop industry and that’s their beginnings. Then, about five years ago we became involved to build this brand in the US and that’s when it kind of took off on a whole different turn.
Patrik: The industry changed for the company coming to the US of course. It’s very different from Amsterdam.
Toby: Big time.
Patrik: Big, big time. We also saw the needs for stuff that didn’t exist in Europe, it was a different market.
Toby: We saw very early on that the taste level here was very different. It’s no different than cultural differences but what works in Europe doesn’t necessarily work in the US and vice versa. So we kind of built the brand by trying to make it more a European company with a US flair.
Then we started seeing a lot of waves in the market place for a product that nobody really made, or if they did make them they didn’t make them good. So we said, “Okay, we should try and make an innovative company that makes products that are needed still in the industry.” By only doing the best quality and by really focusing on that we slowly started building a line up of products over the years that we’ve come to really be proud of.
MRR: You mentioned the difference between the US and the European markets. What are you guys seeing as the future of the cannabis industry both domestically as well as internationally, and how do you see Futurola as a brand as those markets mature?
Toby: We see ourselves as a smoking lifestyle company and we have two different markets. We have the smoke shop market, and then we have the legal cannabis industry with the dispensaries and dealing with the big manufacturers and producers all around the world. So what we Futurola tries to do, is be the Apple of the cannabis industry.
Patrik: Since we launched Knockbox, it’s been very easy for people to do the pre-rolls in bulk more efficiently than ever before. I believe the pre-roll industry’s been growing because of that machine. When we started here most companies couldn’t do enough pre-rolls, it simply was I not possible. They made them by hand and I mean, this was 3 to 4 years ago.
Toby: Another big problem was that a lot of pre-rolls were bad pre-rolls. So what we tried to do was not just make the actual pre-roll, but grinding the flower, filling the flower, the paper, the packaging everything from A to Z.
Patrik: Branding especially. The companies always want to brand their products too.
MRR: Let’s walk through the process. When a company comes on board with Futurola, how does that marriage start?
Toby: Well the first thing we ask is, ” What’s your goal? What are you trying to achieve?” A lot of times, less is more. That approach always works. People always try to do more, and more, and more, and that doesn’t always work. Do what you do well and stick to that. Always hire all the people to do things that you don’t know.
Toby: Sometimes we act like consultants where we actually consult companies on what we think they should do as far as making their product. They may have the best product as far as quality goes but they have really bad branding, or vice versa. The biggest misconception in the industry is just because you have a lot of money, and investors have paid a lot of money, doesn’t mean that you are going to succeed. We take companies and do very, very good high quality products with them. They become really big, really fast because they’re doing things right.
Patrik: I see these Canadian companies, they really need our help. Canada has big companies that don’t really know how to run a cannabis company. They need our help and honestly, we can help them.
MRR: Being leaders in the industry what advice would you give to these startups to make sure they start out on the best foot?
Toby: Number one thing, be willing to do all the dirty work yourself. And just because you start making some money, don’t start acting like you can’t do the hard work. You have to be in touch with the market. Too many people, the second they start making a little bit of money, they think they’re too good to do the hard work. The smallest person in the company, I mean the absolute lowest level position is just as important to the overall company as the highest level. I think it’s very important you really put in the work, that you really know what you’re trying to do, and make sure you’re willing to take chances because the industry will evolve. Constantly staying the course will leave you behind everyone else eventually. You have to be willing to change and have to surround yourself with a good team and be really careful how much money you spend.
Patrik: That’s why you see us personally at all the shows. We don’t just send a team, we make sure we are there at every single show working the booth with that team.
MRR: Now, you guys always have one of the most impressive booths in the industry. At MJ Biz Con, I was stunned at the massive video wall you had as your background along with the massive video floor. When you guys are coming up with the marketing concepts for your own company, what is your strategy?
Toby: Well, first and foremost we don’t pay much attention to what other companies are doing. We try to create new trends and brand ourselves in a different way, our own way. Of course, we have a long past of being in the music industry and the fashion industry, that’s our personal background. So we took elements from those things and used that knowledge to create something that we felt fit with our brand. Futurola is the future of rolling, so we like to be a little bit in the future and a step ahead of the rest of the business as far as how we use our set ups and everything for the trade shows.
MRR: Not just future thinking, but sustainability and helping your fellow man. You mentioned to me before the interview that you are participated recently in a charity event. Can you tell me a little bit about what cannabis companies can do to help in their own communities?
Patrik: A charity reached out to us when the fire happened in Malibu. We’re in LA and, I mean if we can help, we always try to. We try to help people where we can, and I think it’s a good sign for the cannabis community to help out where they can in their own communities, absolutely.
Toby: We try to support things that we believe in and we don’t try to take ourselves so seriously while doing it. We always like being close to our competitors and all the people in the industry. To always have good relationships with people. We support other companies as well. We see a lot of times small companies that we became friends with years ago have become big companies now, and it’s really handy to have good relationships with those people. I think people always try to create drama between competitors. We don’t believe in that. We try to focus on what we do and let others do the same. I don’t look at what other people do because I think it sets you back. Because then it’s in the back of your mind, and when you end up trying to accomplish something that other people have already done. I think you lose that way. If you want to be ahead, you have to make new trends and come up with new products that are exciting for your customers.
CHAMPS Dispensary+: That’s the perfect way to say it. If you are not the one innovating, you will always only be as good as the person you are recreating from.
MRR: So what are some of the future plans for Futurola?
Toby: We are finding our way right now. We have a lot of new products in the works and trying a lot of new stuff. We also have a bunch of new programs that we gonna try out in the next 24 months. We are also coming up with a lot of new simple products that we already have in the line, but with new looks and new materials.
We also have a very high quality blunt cone which just launched a few months ago that you can load in the knock boxes and that is being extremely well received. We were excited about that. Speaking of which we also have some new machines coming along with some new consumer products. Just a lot of stuff going on.
Patrik: The market has grown and changed so fast. As you said before we are a leader, so we take the incentive. There’s a lot of things coming.
MRR: What can people expect to see at your booth at CHAMPS Winter Show this year?
Patrik: We got to step it up every time, right? Show new stuff. It’s going to be massive.
Toby: We’re actually showing the biggest set up that’s ever been shown.
Patrik: No spoilers, but it’s going to be nice, I can promise you that. But it’s also getting a little out of hand. We needed two semi trailers this year!
Toby: We do this because CHAMPS has been one of those shows that we’ve been relying on for many years. We started at CHAMPS with a five by five booth. We had some really beautiful plastic banners and the community was very nice to us from the first time we did it and so we kept coming back. Five years later we got a little bigger (laughs), but it hasn’t changed anything. CHAMPS treated us well from the first day and so we have a great relationship with those guys.
MRR: Well like you said relationship building in this industry is key and making sure that you establish those relationships early is paramount. Toby, Patrik, thank you guys so much. I really appreciate it and look forward to seeing what you bring to the show.
Patrik: Thank you very much.
Toby: Thank you.
To check out Futurola, and all of the products that Futurola can offer your business please visit www.FuturolaUSA.com