This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com - #StartingABusiness
How a stressed-out Wall Streeter went from vodka to cannabis and created a soda to chill by (minus the hangover).
5 min read
After 30 years of trading bonds on Wall Street, Jay Moskowitz got tired of it. “I felt like I heard the clock ticking, and I knew that if I didn’t try something else soon, I’d never have the chance,” he says. So one day in 2013, to everyone’s surprise, he up and quit.
He had no idea what he would do next and didn’t decide for a while. But he was tending to his beehives at his lake house when a former coworker called and said, “I’m buying a medical marijuana license in Connecticut, and I want you to run the company.” This was totally out of left field for Moskowitz. He didn’t smoke marijuana, and he wasn’t following the cannabis market in the least. However, his old colleague had a successful track record in politics and film, so Moskowitz figured he might be onto something and took the offer.
Ultimately, the deal fell through when the license and facility were way out of their price range, but it set Moskowitz on his new path. He suddenly realized: All those years as a bond trader — honing his business skills, learning from entrepreneurs, and garnering insights about human behavior — had prepared him for this very moment, and perfectly positioned him to start…a cannabis company.
So he began learning more about it. Within a few years, he hit the market with his new CBD sparkling drink line, Bimble. Here are four strategies he used from his Wall Street days.
Follow the research. Back when he was a trader, Moskowitz prided himself on his ability to understand markets, identify new opportunities, and know where to focus from a business perspective. A lot of it boiled down to good research. So Moskowitz ended up in Israel to meet with top laboratories researching cannabis. “Clinical studies in the U.S. have been nearly impossible, and Israel has had a huge window of opportunity to establish itself as a leader in the field,” he says, noting the country’s more favorable regulatory atmosphere. After all, it was at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where Professor Raphael Mechoulam isolated THC. What Moskowitz came away with from that visit was excitement about the promising science behind the plant’s other famous component, CBD.
Watch for signs that it’s time to jump in. In the spring of 2018, the Standard Hotel announced that it was going to start carrying Lord Jones CBD products in the minibars of locations nationwide. That’s when it hit Moskowitz: Aha! Now it’s out of the shadows. This is a real business, and it’s going to be a race against the clock. He knew he needed to be early and get in quickly, but he still didn’t have a product.
Look to the folks around you. Moskowitz thought back to his Wall Street days and envisioned his colleagues: They were holding a drink. “The only way they had to deal with stress was either slamming their phones on the desk, yelling, and cursing, or going out and drinking heavily,” he says. Moskowitz himself didn’t smash any electronics, but he did enjoy a Ketel One on the rocks with lime from time to time. “Truth is, it was unhealthy, and the next morning you’d come in to find people sleeping under their desks.”
So, he thought, what if there were a nonimpairing way to deal with stress and social anxiety — a subtle drink to take off the edge that doesn’t leave you with a hangover? He’d sold soda as a teenager at Madison Square Garden and figured, why not create a carbonated beverage with CBD? Then he threw in some 100 percent raw honey to support his beloved beekeeping community, and kept out the preservatives.
Move fast. Within two months of that Standard Hotel announcement, Moskowitz had hired a branding agency to help with naming and design. He also brought on a sales director with 25 years of beverage industry experience, before they even had bottles to sell. Seeding the initial investment himself and then doing a small friends-and-family raise, he sought out experts to help him develop the actual drink, which includes 25 milligrams of CBD (as opposed to the typical five to 10 milligrams) and so far comes in Grapefruit Basil Mint and Blueberry Lemon Ginger. Bimble started distribution in January and today is sold in retail stores in New York, New Jersey, and New England as well as online nationally. “Speed to market has been my mantra,” Moskowitz says.
He is already thinking of new flavors and raising capital to expand. And Bimble is a growing family business: In July Moskowitz’s wife and cofounder, Janet Silverstein, became the company’s creative director. “Twenty years ago, it never would’ve worked, but thanks to CBD, today it works great,” he jokes. “I know the FDA doesn’t like it when you make claims about CBD, but if I’m claiming it helps your marriage, I’m pretty sure they’re gonna let that one slide.”