Cannabis Startups Pitch for the Prize

Once again, the Investor Pitch Contest was a high point of Emerge. Four businesses attended the Spring 2021 Emerge Virtual Cannabis Conference hoping to take the win, but this year ended with a twist.

For the first time, there was a tie for first place between Hala Hemp and Dama Distributing.

Leafwire and Regennabis hosted the Investor Pitch Contest. Each of four businesses gave its best pitch in hopes of gaining access to a $5 million funding pool managed by Regennabis.

Photo courtesy of Hala Hemp.

Hala Hemp is a sustainable CBD lifestyle brand.

While the company currently focuses on CBD products, there are plans to expand into clothing and other lifestyle options.

Mahala Herron, the founder of Hala Hemp, has also expressed that the company is devoted to incorporating fair trade practices in its business model. 

“I feel like something we’re missing in the world is simply brands who care about who they’re endorsing, as much as consumers care about the brands that they themselves are purchasing from,” Herron said. “So, it’s one thing for a consumer to purchase from a brand, but who is that brand purchasing from? Who is that brand supporting?”

Hala also launched an initiative called Hala Sustainable. It’s a pilot program aiming to set a sustainable standard in cannabis.

Photo courtesy of Hala Hemp.

“All of the practices that I’m urging other brands to implement, we’ve implemented ourselves,” Herron said. “And we’ve put guidelines on the site of certain things you can do. But, we encourage brands to contact us and come to us, so we can inform them on how to be more sustainable and implement these sustainable practices, such as fair trade, water conservation, and so on.”

Tied for first was Dama Distributing.

Dama Distributing is a locally owned and operated company based in Colorado. The company is developing sustainable, home compostable, and compliant packaging for the cannabis/hemp industry and a variety of other industries.

Photo courtesy of Dama Distributing.

“Everything we do is eco-friendly,” said Cole Gibbs, founder and CEO of Dama Distributing. “We don’t use any petroleum plastics. We work with hemp plastic and hemp paper, hemp fabric. We’re trying to be that one-stop shop for anybody in the industry, really looking for truly sustainable packaging solutions.”

Dama is seeking between $20-30 million to construct a new facility to produce their products at commercial levels. 

“We just need a little bit of help to make this a reality and so we can actually start eliminating more and more single-use plastic,” Gibbs said. “Right now, we eliminate about three and a half tons of material a month. We’d like to jump that to 100 tons a month or even 1,000.”

Gibbs said Dama’s sustainable plastic is only .10-.25 cents more expensive than traditional plastic, where other options in the past have been dollars more per item. 

“And what we’ve found is consumers are willing to pay for it if the business is not willing to absorb that price difference,” he said. “NYU’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business did a study to find out if it is worth it to make the switch to sustainable packaging and offer sustainable options to the consumer. And they found, between 2013 and 2018, those businesses that marketed sustainable options saw a 29% increase in their sales.”

Coming in third at the investor pitch conference was BizBoxes. BizBoxes is essentially a software service that is developing a hands-off solution to selling marijuana at dispensaries. Think of it like the software to run a cannabis ATM or a Redbox for weed.

Cole Gibbs, Founder and CEO of Dama Distrubuting.

BizBoxes can retrofit their solution to existing vending machines, lockboxes, and more.

“We help cannabis retailers by enabling a more efficient and less capital intensive way to distribute or dispense cannabis to customers,” said Elsbeth Hurry, founder and CEO of BizBoxes. “We also provide more convenient locations and a unique and fast experience in terms of delivery for the end customer as well.”

Hurry said they noticed the increasing demand and overall cost of opening a dispensary, and they decided there might be a better way. The original vision was for a cannabis ATM, and they say it’s still a possibility. 

“If you look at the numbers between now and seven years from now, the anticipated growth, it just seemed like an opportunity,” Hurry said. “Because there just isn’t going to be enough people, entrepreneurs that can really get in, or enough retailers from a profit perspective that they can grow as fast as they’d like.”

The company is currently working to raise $1.8 million to get the product through testing and its pilot program. ϖ


  • Corey Noles is the Digital Editor for Cannabis & Tech Today. In more than two decades as a journalist, he has covered crime, MLB, business, healthcare, politics and anything else that can snag a headline.

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