Editor’s note: Startland News selected 10 Kansas City scaling businesses to spotlight for its annual Startups to Watch list. Now in its eighth year, this feature recognizes founders and startups that editors believe will make some of the biggest news in the coming 12 months. The following is one of 2023’s companies.
Serial entrepreneur Michael Wilson understands that most people don’t equate the cannabis industry with innovation. He and fellow Franklin’s Stash House co-founder Ronald Rice are on a mission to disrupt that narrative.
“This is an extremely innovative startup that uses a wide variety of technology, data processes, and innovations in general to build a company,” Wilson said. “It just so happens to be in the marijuana space.”
Elevator pitch: At Franklin’s, we are relentless in the pursuit of crafting great tasting, smooth smoking and ultra-fresh blunts. We also believe making good blunts is like making great tasting BBQ. While the exceptional quality and commitment to perfection can be smelled, felt and tasted — we all know the real magic is in the sauce. This passion and craft for our products has also allowed us to partner with local, iconic brands such as James’ Lemonade to bring to the recreational cannabis market.
- Founders: Michael Wilson, Ronald Rice (DJ Rice)
- Founding year: 2020
- Current employee count: 12 (projected to grow to 18 by March and 30 by June)
- Amount raised to date: $2 million
- Noteworthy investors: Andy Miller
Founded in October 2020, Franklin’s Stash House is a “craft cannabis manufacturer” that produces THC-infused blunts and drinks out of its Kansas City production facility.
Franklin’s does not grow cannabis or sell directly to consumers, instead buying marijuana flower from local growers in Missouri, then using that to create its line of products that the company sells to a number of dispensaries throughout the state.
Click here to see where Franklin’s Stash House products are available.
With Missouri voters approving a ballot amendment last month that legalized recreational sales of marijuana statewide, Wilson said Franklin’s is poised to capitalize on what could become a massive market.
“I think people under-respect how big this market is,” Wilson said. “You’re talking about some of the largest growth in a market across the nation, and it’s an opportunity for upward financial mobility for a lot of people.”
Specifically, Wilson added, he and Rice hope to “build a blueprint” for others — including people from communities who have historically been denied equitable access to economic opportunity — to become successful in the cannabis industry.
“There’s a lot of opportunity to build a business, see an exit, or maybe make it a legacy business,” Wilson said. “The opportunity to create something so new and so different has never been more applicable than it is today.”
Rice, who’s known locally for his work as a DJ and music producer, said he points to himself as living proof that other people of color can succeed in the cannabis space.
“That’s a passion of ours, to try to facilitate ways to get people in this business,” Rice said. “Because I know I’m an example of the possibilities. In my background with music, a lot of people don’t see that. So being an example to show, ‘Hey, you guys have the same opportunity.’”
Franklin’s Stash House is a 50/50 equity partnership between the two longtime friends, and became the first Black-owned brand sold at a Missouri dispensary in 2021.
The company and its owners are heavily influenced by Hip Hop music and culture, and the duo incorporates that influence into the brand with what they call a “Hustle meets Harvard” mentality.
“I think this is an example of what happens when you really embrace the idea of cross-cultural ideas,” Wilson said. “You’re mixing two parts of cannabis: the corporate side and this hustle side, a whole part of Black culture.”
Rice added that the “uniquely authentic” approach allows Franklin’s to stand out from its competitors.
“We think alike, we move as one, we are one, we treat people with respect, we love everybody, we don’t try to act like we’re better than anyone,” Rice said.
Moving forward, Wilson said, he sees Franklin’s as well-positioned to capitalize on a budding cannabis market in Missouri, projecting that the company could surpass $10 million in gross revenue during 2023.
As laws change in years to come, Franklin’s will be prepared to export its products across state lines, and perhaps across international borders, too, Wilson said.
He envisions Missouri — and specifically Kansas City — becoming a hub for the cannabis industry, with Franklin’s Stash House as one of the key spokes.
“I think it would be ill-advised to undervalue just how big this thing can get,” Wilson said. “That opportunity to go get big is important for Kansas City, because I think we can inspire people. The aggressiveness of the coasts, we can do that here. We’re doing it here. There’s many of us who are doing it here.”
“We’re an entrepreneurial town,” Wilson continued. “There’s nothing that keeps us from being completely exceptional in the cannabis market nationally.”
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Startups to Watch is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.