Botani's Alex Boone on Evolving Rolling Papers for Cannabis
Alex Boone is managing director of Botani, maker of premium botanical and hemp paper products for cannabis use. Botani, which launched in February, is an offshoot of the SWM Group of Mativ Inc. (formerly SWM international), where Alex is also VP/GM alternative markets.
With nearly 20 years of experience within SWM, Alex has led sales, marketing and product development teams for North American and international markets. In 2018, Alex was a part of SWM's entrance into the cannabis and hemp markets. Alex received his bachelor of arts in management from Gettysburg College.
We spoke with Alex for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Alex, tell us...
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
I'm the managing director of Botani and I'm based in Atlanta.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
I've spent the past 20 years working for our parent company, Mativ, Inc—formerly Schweitzer-Mauduit International (SWM)—a producer of papers, films, nets and nonwovens used around the world in a variety of products, applications and industries, including cannabis. The cannabis industry has given me the opportunity to take that experience and transfer it to our new cannabis-focused brand, Botani. So to me, that's extremely positive—the chance to be a part of a burgeoning industry that's making a positive impact on people's lives.
A favorite flower, edible, product, or brand.
I am by no means an expert in the multitude of strains and products on the market, but I do prefer more "old-school" styles like OG Kush. In fact, when I started in the industry my golf buddies nicknamed me "Bubba-Kush." Will need to try it one day! I'm also intrigued by some of the new cannabis beverages on the market as well as faster-onset edibles.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
Standing out in a crowded market is certainly one of the biggest hurdles. There are literally hundreds of rolling-paper brands on the market today. Companies have to be really smart about branding—everything from the watermarks used on rolling papers to the quality of the materials to packaging and design comes into play. For example, bleached paper offers a more polished look, while natural shades have an organic appeal. Brands can also use custom colors and flavor infusions that help them stand out in a crowded market and create a premium and consistent smoking experience. You can even decorate your hemp cones or wraps with designs unique to your brand for an extra dose of visual appeal.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
There is a lot of creative energy being poured into the cannabis industry, and every time I turn around I see collaborations and partnerships that impress me. Whether that's music industry collaborations, art activations or fashion, it's exciting to see the ways that cannabis brands are becoming more sophisticated in terms of branding. I mean, just look at what brands like PharmaCann did with their Allman Brothers collaboration or the activation that Garden State Greenhouse did for Garcia Handpicked. Brands are pushing boundaries and taking a page from CPG marketing and branding like never before.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.
Since we are new to the industry, we have gravitated to the more established organizations such as the National Cannabis Industry Association. We believe a common voice at the national level will help drive the need for common standards, legislation, and ultimately, federal legalization.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm proud of our new tobacco-free, 100 percent hemp gummed wraps. Until now, single-use foil packaging has been the go-to solution for blunt wraps, because without it, most blunt wraps will dry out. Our team managed to do something that's never been done before—we got rid of the foil all together. Now, cannabis brands can provide blunt wraps that are gummed, and/or in a booklet—the same way you purchase joint papers. It's a cost-effective and more sustainable way to also help roll-your-own tobacco brands make a seamless entrance into the cannabis market.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
One activation I read about recently that is super cool is from the cannabis brand Jeeter that is kicking off a 100-stop pop-up tour that will bring retro-style mini-marts to convenience stores at dispensaries in California, Arizona and Michigan. To me, that's just brilliant.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
We have many great customers that are dedicated to supporting and changing the industry, whether it is from our legacy RYO lightweight papers or to our new offerings of wrappers and fillers. I do, however, admire those that have been in the industry for years, starting as small, independent entrepreneurs and have grown into much larger, global brands, without the support of a large organization. One such entrepreneur is Joshua Kesselman at RAW. He's always pushing the envelope of what can be done in the industry, with a mindset of always trying to improve his customer's experience.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
Likely something similar to what I have done with Botani and Mativ, Inc (SWM). Helping a business grow into an adjacent market by leveraging the success and ideals of their legacy business.