2 Minutes With ... Max Rudsten, Chief Revenue Officer at POSIBL

On Fernet Francisco, Humo and Rose Delights

Max Rudsten is chief revenue officer at POSIBL, a cannabis farm with over 2 million units of packaged product to date. Max leads commercial strategy around brand partnerships. He guides sales, marketing, supply chain, out-of-state expansion and M&A. Before POSIBL, Max co-founded WOVN (previously Filigreen), a distribution business and B2B network that serviced brands and retailers across California.

In 2015, Max founded North Pacific Development Management, specializing in land acquisition for medical cannabis cultivation, where he launched organic brand Family Tree. One of Max’s first businesses, Fernet Francisco, a distilled spirits company, was eventually acquired by Falcon Spirits.

Max holds a B.S. in management and finance from Tulane University. He began his career at JPMorgan Chase, working with investors, strategic partners and institutional clients.

We spent two minutes with Max to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Max, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Marin County, a beautiful place about 20 minutes north of San Francisco. Once I started having babies, I moved back to Marin to a town called Fairfax, which is a wonderful little hippie enclave nestled in a gorgeous canyon.

How you first got interested in cannabis.

The moment I smelled its sweet pungent scent! As a Cali kid, weed was a big part of my young adulthood journey. I was heavy into playing and making music, and weed and music go together like two passionate lovers, so you can imagine how important it was to my evolution. 

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why.

I've been lucky to be a part of so many fun things, but I have a special place in my heart for my first entrepreneurial project which was a distilled spirits concept called Fernet Francisco. I was a VP at JPMorgan in a job that was sucking the soul out of my body. I felt this intense urge to break away and build something that I could hold in my hands and share with my city and community. 

For those that don't know what Fernet is, it's an extraordinarily bitter digestive which traditionally hails from Italy. Believe it or not, San Francisco (where I lived at the time), was rumored to consume something like 40 percent of the italian import of the most widely known brand, Fernet Branca. There are a couple fascinating myths as to why this category of spirit garnered such a cult following in my home city, but one thing was for certain: we didn't have a brand in the Bay Area that we could call our own. So I went on a quest to change that.

I started obsessing over creating the perfect formulation. I dove deep into internet rabbit holes, translating obscure distillation blog posts in an effort to build a catalog of herbs and botanicals which I started sourcing from vendors across the globe. I started tinkering with infusions and taking extensive notes on flavor profiles. I made some really awful things, but there were also a couple blends that were pretty palatable. I took all my learnings, grabbed a partner versed in the alcohol business, joined forces with a master distiller, and brought my first bottle to market! I made a ton of mistakes but it was one of the most inspiring educational experiences of my life. 

A recent project you're proud of, and why. 

It's gotta be Humo, a fiercely important craft cannabis brand in California sustainably grown using smart greenhouses powered by POSIBL. Humo is on a mission to eliminate the stigma surrounding cannabis in the Latino community. Latino heritage is such an important part of California's cultural fabric and this is a brand that authentically speaks and embraces that. It's especially fulfilling to employ and empower many Latino professionals while giving back to our community in Salinas and beyond. 

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today, and how to approach it.

Brick and mortar retailers tend to be the gatekeepers when it comes to attempting to build brand loyalty. Those gatekeepers can be fickle at times, so it's important to extend your tentacles into all facets of the retail organization in an effort to empower a larger community. Whether that's doubling down on budtender appreciation or layering in authentic, strategic activations above and beyond a mediocre demo, investing in your brand personality at the ground level is paramount to building unbreakable loyalty in cannabis. 

One thing about how the cannabis industry is evolving that you're excited about.

Global adoption! It's amazing to see the power of the cannabis plant proliferate across the world in places like Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg and Germany. There's still a lot of work to do to set up these frameworks for success, but a part of me dreams of a moment in the future when I can buy an eighth of weed in Tokyo while face first in a bowl of ramen.  

Someone else's work, in cannabis or beyond, that you admired lately.

Rose Delights is one of my favorite brands. It's being led by one of my good friends, Nathan Cozzolino, and I have probably been his biggest fan since he launched in 2018. Their attention to detail, pulse on cultural zeitgeist, connection to the community and incredibly vibey collaborations make it an unmatched brand.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Lex Fridman has been on fire with his podcasts as of late. He's been having some very important conversations lately that both terrify and excite me. He’s generally an optimist like me so I appreciate his approach and demeanor when navigating this very strange world. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

One of my dearest friends, Anoushka Mirchandani, is rising to the top of the art game with beautiful velocity. It's inspiring to witness greatness from your core circle and can't wait to see where she goes. 

Your favorite fictional character.

Ziggy Stardust

Someone worth following on social media.

@Hidden.NY for culture vibes and visual inspiration. And you can follow me @thatscoolface if you care about weird dad content. 

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

I think it's my ability to plug into and harness the feeling, the energy, and the emotion of something in such a way that it builds a connection with a broader audience and community. 

Your biggest weakness.

Carving out more space for creative flow in my day. The cannabis industry is hard, and I find myself needing to solve lots of problems, so I need to be more intentional in carving out space for harnessing creative energy.

Something people would find surprising about you.

I am a pretty deep music head. I was a bass player as part of an advanced jazz ensemble in high school, which inspired me to get into DJing around the same time. I've been a DJ ever since and used to frequent the underground circuit around the Bay Area while throwing my own renegade parties in dive bars or nature nooks. My musical taste spans the globe but rooted in dance. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

Walking through the forest with my kids.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The constant realization that there are still people locked up in jail for cannabis-related offenses. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.

I love the apparel/fashion industry and have actually found incredibly inspiring and successful people in cannabis that came from that world, so I think I would most likely be dancing there.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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