Meet The Founder Of Industry Leading Cannabis Subscription Box Service: Michael Berk
Founded in 2013, in Phoenix, AZ, Cannabox was the first weed subscription box available on the market, introducing an innovative alternative to the traditional smoke shop.
The online retailer offers premium cannabis smoking accessories, custom T-shirts, and other paraphernalia, offering monthly, themed, mystery boxes to showcase exclusive bongs, hand pipes, rolling papers, and smoking necessities.
The site is tailored for discovery by both new and experienced cannabis users, with curated recommendations, and more than 3,000 user reviews.
We interviewed with Michael Berk to discuss the development of Cannabox, favorite inspirations, and what to look forward to in the ever-growing Cannabis industry.
What was the inspiration for the development of Cannabox?
Back in 2013, local smoke shops around my area were pretty sparse. I found myself wanting accessories and products that were otherwise difficult to access. The bi-weekly trips to the shops we did have weren’t feasible for me due to my heavy work schedule at the time– as well as the accumulated time it took to go back and forth long distances just for a few smoking essentials.
I was a subscriber to LootCrate, an adored subscription box service, and thought, “Is there anything like this but catered towards stoners?” The answer was a hard no, possibly because of the unnecessary stigma around cannabis and cannabis-adjacent businesses, but it all started from there. I spent months planning, researching, testing, networking, and advertising with the help of my local friends– just about every “-ing” you could think of. It had its ups-and-downs, but what small business doesn’t? From there, it just kept growing.
How do you think cannabis consumers will benefit from this?
Cannabox caters for both experienced and inexperienced consumers. We all have to start somewhere, and there shouldn’t be any shame in asking questions regarding cannabis use or cannabis-adjacent products. The internet is a great space to share new ideas and market new concepts, and I find that when our monthly boxes come out, we get tons of messages asking us what certain products are or how to use them.
Messages, to this day, telling us that they bought the box for their colleague, friend, or family member and that they were ecstatic about it. I love that. The feeling of introducing users to products they weren’t aware existed, and are now their go-tos, is one of the most satisfying things ever. It brings people together, and our boxes are just that– an introduction, a gift, a shared experience, a theme. It benefits those who started smoking just yesterday, and the stoner who has been smoking for years. It’s a fun experience meant to be a monthly surprise, and while the products are design-oriented, we prioritize functionality and quality just as much so consumers get more for what they paid.
How do you prefer receiving feedback?
Feedback is essential for growth, which is why I don’t necessarily have a preferred source because feedback could mean anything. We get it from anywhere we can, and absorb all of it to find ways to improve. This comes in the form of our customer service tickets, social media comments, messages, and our theme forum where our customers tell us some of their favorite things and concepts that we could turn into a box. I guess I do prefer that latter one a lot, just because it’s really fun seeing some of the creative ideas our members have, and how much they contrast from one another.
What was one thing you did that exceeded your expectations when you began developing your Cannabox?
I didn’t realize how much our members would love the idea of custom shirts until we first started putting them in our boxes. Before we consistently ran with them in every box, we used to do smaller accessories and attire like socks, bandanas, etc. Our first t-shirt came out in 2017, and the response was the best we’d gotten compared to our past boxes– so we thought, why not make this a monthly thing? It’s been working great for us so far, and I’m glad we took that step. Our custom shirt designs are made by talented artists that we commission work from, or establish in-house.
The Fox Magazine is all about inspiration, what/who inspires you the most?
Other smaller businesses, and as cliche as it sounds, our members– from the Cannabox team to our customers. With all of the input we have received from those supporting our work, we’ve been able to grow at a rate that we’re super content with. Seeing smaller businesses hustle just as much as I do (if not more) is also a truly inspiring thing. These are people coming from all different walks of life, with original ideas and strong morals that they carry throughout their businesses. I view us as one big family leaping towards the same cause, that is normalizing cannabis-centric subjects, use, and the whole “taboo” of it all. It’s pretty great seeing all of these businesses launch, grow, and thrive by driving a base that is unapologetically by stoners, for stoners. We’re really proud to be a part of the industry we’re in.
What makes you most excited about the cannabis industry?
Inclusion! We’re seeing so much more in the news lately about decriminalization and legalization, both subjects that should be high-priority subjects for all cannabis-users. It’s amazing to see a growing industry that was built on the backs of BIPOC finally begin to make a space for them as leaders and creatives. This is just the beginning, and I’m looking forward to this continual growth and detachment from stigma and stereotypes. As stated before, we’re one big family and should be looking out for one another, with any and all means necessary. I think that differentiates us from a lot of other industries.
What does success mean to you? What are your rules for success?
I think that as long as I’m satisfied with my work, creating a healthy work-place environment for my members, and able to continue to pay my employees a fair living wage– I’d say I’m pretty successful. It’s waking up and feeling excited to get things done for the day and it’s interacting and collaborating with your colleagues and friends to get points across the board. I feel in order to have and maintain a successful business, there are quite a few things that need to be done.
For one, you can’t neglect your employees in an attempt to boost customer satisfaction. They’re both very important. My team is the backbone of our business, it isn’t just me running things from my garage anymore. You need to create a space that they’ll thrive and feel comfortable in, and keep an open-mind with ideas, designs, themes, all of that good stuff. Keep tabs on them and how they’re feeling about work. A stressed and overworked employee means stressed customers, so it’s important to find that balance. It’s also important that you don’t blame yourself for every little issue that occurs within your business, especially issues that are out of your control.
If there is something that all businesses have in common but don’t want to admit, it’s the fact that we are constantly dealing with issues left and right. Customers see the product, but we’re looking at design, functionality, orders, delays, stock, and way more. You are allowed to mess up and sincerely grow from it, but as soon as you let that little anxious voice in your head tell you no, it’s over.
Just stay authentic and genuine with everyone, all the time. Be transparent. Learn how to politely decline or call out misinformation. I’m practically droning, but you get the point– there’s too many rules, but the most important is to just be true to yourself and those around you.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love animals. This isn’t anything crazy, but when people meet me, and I think this may be because of my voice for whatever reason, they find me somewhat intimidating. It takes a few meetings with me for people to loosen up, even if I’m just saying a few words. So when they learn that I love animals and a majority of our charity work goes towards causes that support them, they’re a little surprised and find it out-of-character. It’s pretty funny, actually.
What is your favorite or original innovation-related motto, quote or words to live by?
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” I was in high school when I heard this Japanese proverb, and it stuck with me. It’s practically the same as “if at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
Since we are a monthly mystery box, we can’t get it right for everyone every single month, but we can try our absolute best. So to see our creators work so hard and feel satisfied about the products that they make, as well as talk about how they think the consumer will feel, makes all of the bad go away. We’re proud to have started our business, and if someone doesn’t like a box and decides to try our competitor, that’s perfectly fine. If they want to come try our products out, that’s great too and we’ll welcome them with open arms. We’re just glad that more people are finding ways to make their sessions more personal and fun.