Sebastian Solano Of Jeeter: Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the Cannabis Industry
…First off, let’s talk about expectations. Whatever expectations you have about the industry, you need to throw them out the window. Be ready for any scenario and understand that reality might be very different from your imagination. But in time, you can mold it to be what you want. The industry is full of people trying their best and facing unexpected challenges. So, my advice is to discard any preconceived notions…
I had the pleasure to talk to Sebastian Solano. Sebastian is a recognized entrepreneur and a driving force behind the rise of Jeeter, the #1 pre-roll cannabis brand in the United States. Launched in 2019, alongside co-founder and co-CEO Lukasz Tracz, Jeeter rapidly positioned itself in the market, set to bring in $400M in revenue with a growth rate of over 1,000% from its inception to 2022. Under Sebastian’s co-leadership, the brand commands over 40% of the market share in California and sells more than 3.5 million pre-rolls monthly in the state.
Prior to his venture in the cannabis industry, Sebastian co-founded Life in Color, a prominent EDM festival known for its “day glow day parties”. These events, featuring renowned performers like Zedd, Diplo, and Steve Aioki, spanned more than 45 countries and entertained over 15 million fans. This live event expertise has been channeled into Jeeter, creating a 360-product experience that extends beyond the product itself to encompass the brand vibe and activations.
Emphasizing craftsmanship and quality, Sebastian’s dedication to the brand’s authenticity is evident. Jeeter prides itself on hand-rolling each pre-roll “with love”, distinguishing itself in a market increasingly dominated by machinery. The brand also extends its reach through collaborations with celebrities such as Gabrielle Union, Ludacris, and NBA Hall of Famer, Dwyane Wade.
Sebastian’s innovative approach, commitment to quality, and experience in the events sector contribute significantly to Jeeter’s success and its position at the forefront of the cannabis industry.
Yitzi: Sebastian, it’s truly a pleasure to meet you. Our readers would love to learn about your origin story. Could you kindly share with us the story of your childhood and your upbringing?
Sebastian: Of course, absolutely. I was actually born and raised in Colombia. I made the move to the US from Colombia when I was 14. Ended up in Miami, so South Florida is where my formative years took place. I transitioned into adulthood here in the US.
I attended college at Florida State in Tallahassee, and that’s really where a lot of our journey into entrepreneurship kicked off. It was during my college days that I actually crossed paths with Lukasz, our other co-founder and co-CEO. Funny thing is, we all have a twin connection going on. I’m a twin myself. My twin brother David is one of the founders too. Similarly, Lukasz is a twin as well, and his twin brother is also a part of the picture — Patryk, who’s now the VP of Marketing.
So, all of us met back in college, and what’s even more amusing is that their story mirrors ours to some extent. They grew up in Poland, moved to the US, and ended up in Tallahassee for college — just like us, growing up in Colombia and then finding ourselves in Tallahassee. That’s where the seeds of our music festival venture were sown. The festival gained impressive global success. Around 2016–2017, we all decided to relocate to California.
That’s when the pivotal moment struck — we resolved to venture into the cannabis space and launch the brand that you see as it is today. The journey has indeed been quite the rollercoaster ride.
Yitzi: Can you share the story that led you to choose the cannabis space? What inspired you to leave the music scene and pivot into cannabis?
Sebastian: Well, there are a couple of reasons. We have a deep passion for brand building. Once we began to realize that cannabis was poised to become a major cultural movement, our interest was piqued. We’re the type of guys who naturally align with what I was looking for. That was one thing we noticed, like, hey, this space is going to be huge.
We conducted extensive research. Personally, I spent about a year in New York working for a music entertainment company. Last year, I kept receiving investment proposals from cannabis companies. When I looked at their finances, I was blown away. These numbers seemed unreal. So I started delving into my own research, and my conclusion was that while the potential numbers were legitimate, the actual companies might struggle to deliver on those figures.
I thought, if we invest in this space, it’s going to be quite risky. A major lesson we learned from our successful music festival venture, Life in Color, was that we went all in. We allowed our success to be determined by our actions, not by being wishy-washy. It’s why we dropped out of college back then — to fully commit to the venture. We recognized the immense potential, but we understood that we needed to put everything we had into it.
All the same partners from that music venture, including Scot, the CFO, and Peter, the Chief Product Officer, joined us in this cannabis venture. One of the driving factors was realizing how massive the opportunity was. We also recognized the necessity for a strong brand, which is something we’re incredibly passionate about. Moreover, we understood that if we were going to pursue this, there was only one way to do it. Just as we left college to dive into the music scene, we all walked away from our music careers — which were thriving at that point — and decided it was time to start from scratch once again.
Yitzi: Amazing. So you probably have a lot of fascinating experiences from joining this new industry. Could you share with our readers one or two anecdotes or stories that give a flavor of what it’s like to be in your position?
Sebastian: Sure, I’ll give you an early one too. So again, not to bring this up again, but you know. Being in the music industry, I was the CEO of one of the largest dance music companies in the world.
When you reach those business levels, you become accustomed to operating with a certain level of sophistication. You’re navigating a very professional environment, even though it’s the music industry.
Now, being in the cannabis industry, I remember at the beginning, we had to find creative ways to keep the conversation going. This industry is much tougher than anyone can imagine. While the numbers can be astronomical, the journey to get there is far more challenging than you might think.
We had to come up with alternative strategies to ensure the company was generating revenue and profits, enabling us to meet payroll and cover overhead expenses. At one point, I personally became a significant wholesaler of flowers.
I recall a particular day, about four years ago, when we needed to make payroll within a couple of days. We were going to be a bit short, and I thought, “I need to figure out another transaction to make payroll.”
So, I loaded around 500 pounds of flour into my trunk. Yeah, I won’t mention the car, but it was the Maserati. I squeezed in there with 400 pounds of flour; it was a tight fit. I couldn’t close the trunk, and I had to ask a few colleagues to help me shut it properly.
With the trunk finally closed, I embarked on a journey to various quotations and distribution centers in the area. I approached them with enthusiasm, saying, “Hey guys, I’ve got this excellent flour. I’m ready to make a deal because I need to move it today.”
I repeated this process for a while, and eventually, things fell into place. But I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “What has my life come to?” I had transitioned from booking festivals and collaborating with artists worldwide to loading up my trunk with weed and hustling to sell it, all in the name of making payroll.
It was certainly an eye-opener, a moment of humility. Life often demands that we reinvent ourselves. You could be at a peak in one phase and find yourself at a low point in the next. Athletes, musicians — everyone goes through it. Our experience was a version of that journey.
For me personally, it was quite the shift. Looking back, I’m grateful for that experience. I can laugh about it now, but it also serves as a reminder of the grind we endured to ensure the company’s success. We never take our achievements for granted, knowing what we overcame to reach this point.
Yitzi: It’s been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Do you have a story about a humorous mistake you made when you were first starting and the lesson you learned from it?
Sebastian: I think we were working on this product for months. We had been working on it for months. It was supposed to have this upscale look, with perfect packaging. We put a lot of passion into launching this brand. But then we realized that to get everything right, including the packaging and the product, it would take another four or five months. We thought, guys, we can’t wait that long to enter the market. First, we need to make sales now, and second, we need to be in sales to learn how this industry works.
While we came to this conclusion, we thought, okay, why don’t we create a quick pre-roll brand? We knew that pre-rolls would eventually become one of our main avenues. We believe that’s the future of this industry. Not everyone will want to buy the flower; some will just want pre-rolls. And you can see how this sector has exploded over the past few years. So we thought, let’s create a simple pre-roll brand with straightforward packaging. Fast forward five years, it’s Jitter Ashlee that turns out to be the home run.
It’s crazy because in life and business, sometimes the answer is right in front of you. It’s a lot. Sometimes you just need to get things going. Jitter wasn’t perfect when it launched. Culture Club, we wanted it to be perfect when it launched. But when we put Jitter out there, it was fun. We were talking to investors, friends, showing them Culture Club and Jitter. We were already getting vibes within us that, hey guys, Jitter might become something special. Let’s not give up on Culture Club.
And then, now, Culture Club was a good idea but not the right one. We applied some of the concepts we wanted to implement in Culture Club to Jitter, and it’s crazy how that happened.
Yitzi: Your industry is relatively young, dynamic, and creative. Have you utilized any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you believe other legacy brands should consider using?
Sebastian: I believe that one of the competitive advantages that sets Jitter apart from all other brands, specifically in the cannabis industry, is our innovative and disruptive marketing approach. I really wish Lucas was here to share some of the amazing things we’ve done, as a lot of it stems from his leadership within the company. We’re all part of the brainstorming sessions and creative process. So, when it comes to how we’ve reinvented how brands market in shops, I think it’s noteworthy.
When we entered the industry, these events were referred to as PADs — patient appreciation days. Brands would set up booths, offer some giveaways, maybe a company-branded t-shirt, and engage in some promotional activities. But when it was our turn to launch our PADs, we chose to do things differently. It coincided with a Leaf Link conference, which provided a unique opportunity for us to stand out. The setup wasn’t just a simple table; we put some effort into it.
Then there’s this interesting backstory involving Lucas and the movie “Half-Baked.” He was watching the film during a brainstorming session, and in a scene where they visit a Blockbuster store, he became nostalgic and commented on how much he missed that experience — walking into a Blockbuster and discovering new movies. This sentiment resonated with all of us, as Blockbuster held a special place in our memories. So, we thought, “What if we recreated Blockbuster as an activation for Jitter?” We literally turned that idea into reality by creating a Blockbuster-style store.
We categorized movies into sections, just like in a Blockbuster, with comedy, drama, action, and more. But the twist was that all the movie titles incorporated Jitter, and if the cover featured the main actor, they were depicted smoking a joint. This concept took shape, and at the conference, amidst the presence of 200–300 other brand activations, people were asking, “Did you check out the Jitter Blockbuster activation?” At this point, Jitter wasn’t widely known, but this activation changed that.
The response was so positive that stores began reaching out, requesting the activation to be brought to their locations. Within two weeks, we had to secure a truck and transform the activation into a traveling event. It became the “Make It a Jitter Night Tour,” akin to a festival tour. This initiative attracted attention and foot traffic to the stores. The momentum continued to build, leading more stores to want us to bring the Blockbuster activation to them.
So, this was definitely a significant moment for our brand, a disruptive move within the industry. Just like in any industry, when you introduce something novel, people tend to appreciate it.
Yitzi: Can you share with our readers three things that are most exciting to you about the cannabis industry today?
Absolutely, there are three aspects of the cannabis industry that truly excite me.
- Firstly, the potential it holds. Right now, we’re barely scratching the surface of what this industry can become. When you consider the global scale, it’s fascinating. Countries like Canada and Germany are already entering the market, but there are over 100 more countries to tap into. Comparing it to other consumer packaged goods industries, the cannabis sector is probably just about 5% or even less of what it could be. So, seeing this industry in its infancy is immensely thrilling. I can’t help but anticipate the incredible developments over the next decade.
- Another captivating aspect is the shift in stigma surrounding cannabis. There’s a transformative evolution happening here. Some substances that cause substantial harm, like cigarettes and alcohol, are legal at the federal level. Yet, we have this remarkable plant, a gift from nature, that has the potential to heal, bring joy, and provide relaxation. Now, overindulgence in anything isn’t wise, and I’m not advocating for constant cannabis use. But the exciting part is witnessing the gradual shift in societal perspectives. Take my family gatherings, for example. Just three years ago, my cousins and I would sneak to the backyard to quickly share a joint. Today, it’s different. I’m sitting with my family members, including my mom, aunt, and uncles, openly sharing a joint. The stigma is changing, thanks to the efforts of the industry and those advocating for it.
- The third thrilling aspect is the potential to blend cannabis with sports, entertainment, music, and movies. Imagine the possibilities when these industries come together. Think about Red Bull — it’s an energy drink, yet it has created its own sports and events, pushing boundaries. They’ve made the unimaginable happen, like a person skydiving from space. Our brand, Jeter, aspires to do similar exciting things. The idea of merging cannabis with various forms of entertainment and activities is a major driving force for us. Visualize what we could achieve in the next 10 years, considering our growth trajectory. The opportunities are simply extraordinary.
Yitzi: Amazing. This is our signature question that we ask in all of our interviews. If someone is looking to break into the industry, can you share five things needed to create a highly successful career in the cannabis industry?
- First off, let’s talk about expectations. Whatever expectations you have about the industry, you need to throw them out the window. Be ready for any scenario and understand that reality might be very different from your imagination. But in time, you can mold it to be what you want. The industry is full of people trying their best and facing unexpected challenges. So, my advice is to discard any preconceived notions.
- Secondly, focus. When we started, we wanted to do everything: cultivation, setting up labs, creating brands, and even distribution. While these are all potential income streams, we truly became successful when we decided to concentrate on one thing. If you try to do everything, you risk being average. And in this industry, with the margins as they are, being average isn’t good enough.
- Third, commitment. You can’t treat this as just a side hustle. If you’re entering the cannabis industry, dive in fully, with all your heart.
- Fourth, your team is crucial. Assemble a group that excels in what they do. If you constantly find yourself compensating for their shortcomings, you’re not going to make it. This industry demands that you be ahead of the curve, and for that, you need a stellar team. We’re fortunate with our partners and we continuously aim to nurture our team members to improve.
- Lastly, company culture. As your company grows and evolves, maintaining a cohesive culture is paramount. It’s essential to show genuine care for your employees, recognizing that the company’s success is a result of their hard work. Especially in an industry with its unique challenges and stigmas, demonstrating appreciation and creating an environment for your employees to thrive is essential. When we observe the cannabis industry today, the truly successful brands aren’t just those with enormous capital and executives from other industries. They’re the brands that started from the ground up, grew organically, and value their people. That’s the secret to longevity and genuine success in this field.
Yitzi: This is our final question. So Sebastian, because of the great work you’ve done and the platform you’ve built, you’re a person of enormous influence and people take your words very seriously. If you could spread an idea or inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can inspire.
Sebastian: Legalized cannabis. A unified movement. Let’s all march to Washington together. You know, let’s go on a strike. Nobody, you want cannabis? Well, guess what? You can’t access it because the government is not backing us. And we need help. Because this is the truth. Businesses today really need help from the government. The money available to us, we’re basically taken advantage of by anybody, right? Banks are like, “Oh, you want to borrow money? Okay, fine. Pay me this outrageous interest rate.” You know, “Oh, you’re part of a cannabis business. Sorry, I can’t open a bank account for you. Sorry, you can’t buy a home because your income is all coming from a cannabis company.” So there are so many things that, like, if there was one thing a movement could be created on that would change the world, literally the world, but, you know, let’s focus on the US. It would be just like a unified movement on the internet. Legalizing cannabis, not a bunch of different companies having their own little lobbying efforts and then it really just gets stuck in Congress and you know, I just said what it is.
Yitzi: Amazing answer. How can our readers continue to follow your work?
Sebastian: So look, Jeter today is in Michigan, Arizona, and where it was founded in California, right? Pretty much any licensed dispensary in any of those three states, you can find Jeter. We do have huge expansion plans coming in next year. We’re launching in many new markets markets. We’re super excited about that. It’s actually the next big chapter of the company. So you will be able to find this in quite a few more states next year. But for right now, those are the three states: California, Michigan, and Arizona. And you can find this in any licensed dispensary.
Yitzi: Amazing. Well, Sebastian, it’s been a delight and a blessing to meet you. I wish you continued success in your work.
Sebastian: Thank you, Yitzi. It was a pleasure as well. You.
Sebastian Solano Of Jeeter: Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career in the… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.