Bridge West Consulting had a great opportunity to speak with Jaclyn Moore, CEO, Pharm D., and Dylan Shropshire, the COO, and Founder of Big Island Grown, the foremost provider of premium medical cannabis in Hawaii.
Where did Big Island Grown get its start?
Dylan Shropshire was born and raised many miles from the beautiful island of Hawaii in Alaska. He worked closely with his father in the family business called, “The Green Connection,” an interior plant business. Dylan and his father regularly traveled to Hawaii to bring foliage to Alaska to grow and sell on their farm. The plants they bought from Hawaii would last the longest and looked the best. There was a three-year waitlist for plants from Hawaii, and since that was too long, they decided to start their own farm in Hawaii. After years of going back and forth from Alaska to Hawaii, they realized that it would make more sense to sell The Green Connection in Alaska and move the business to Hawaii full-time. Once Dylan graduated college, he returned home to help his father restart the farm after the recession. After the move, they began to farm more than office plants, and their crops included potatoes and ginger.
Throughout the years, Dylan closely followed the legislation for cannabis dispensaries in Hawaii. In 2015, legislation finally passed through an emergency session on the floor. Dylan knew right away that he needed to do everything he could to focus entirely on the cannabis industry. Hawaii Island had the highest number of medical cannabis patients, and was a very cannabis-oriented community. Dylan saw a huge opportunity to make a difference.
Since a young age, cannabis has been an integral part of Dylan’s life. Dylan always has been extremely passionate about the medicinal qualities of the plant. A huge inspiration for Dylan’s eagerness to focus on the cannabis industry was his best friend’s traumatic experience when he was 13. His best friend was hit by a tractor and very badly injured, and instead of using pills to help with the pain and suffering, he turned to cannabis. Dylan saw first-hand how well cannabis helped his best friend, and how beneficial it was for patients as an alternative to over-the-counter medication. Dylan had been highly passionate about cannabis from the start and always knew that he wanted to focus his career on the industry.
Dylan was only 27 when he started in the cannabis industry and there was a lot to learn. Along the way, he learned through trial and error about the best practices to grow and cultivate cannabis. He powered through the tough times while submitting his application and developed a team to help raise the funds needed to make his dream a reality.
Can you tell us about the importance of your location?
Dylan needed to determine the location for his business, and he selected Pepe`ekeo, an old sugarcane town on the Hamakua coast. Dylan chose Pepe`ekeo for a variety of reasons and especially because the town didn’t have many businesses after the sugar cane industry folded and because it boasted a rich agricultural history. Since there were not a lot of job opportunities for local people, this was an opportunity to revive an amazing agricultural community with great soil. The farm sits on land that was formerly part of a sugar plantation that had its origins dating all the way back to 1857.
Dylan met his partner Jaclyn Moore, CEO & Pharm. D., during this process too. Jaclyn and Dylan were ideal business partners from the very beginning since Jaclyn is just as passionate about cannabis, the location, and the brand. Dr. Jaclyn brings to the table a plethora of knowledge as a Dr. of Pharmacy and having an intimate knowledge of the local culture she now identifies with. Dr. Moore has been immersed over 15 years with serving the community, and patients in a well-known local Pharmacy. She stressed how vital the location of the business is to the brand and the culture they were creating for Big Island Grown. They are equally passionate about the unique story that shaped “this genuine connection with the local community” and their location. Dr. Jaclyn and Dylan wanted to bring light into these communities that were struggling to survive after the sugar cane was outsourced and thousands of jobs were lost. Dr. Jaclyn knew they would be a great fit as partners — they were both passionate about reinvigorating their local community, especially since they each live and are raising their own families in the same community.
Dr. Jaclyn expressed pride in how they have added to the local economy in a way that has made Big Island Grown the largest private employer on the Hamakua Coast with over 65 dedicated, passionate employees, who give 100% every day. “The location of our production center was once home to sugarcane, evolved into the largest banana farm in North America at one time, and is now home to a state of the art cannabis facility. There has been a rejuvenation of the local area as we’ve expanded, and it is just the beginning.” Their production facility uses natural infrastructure that was left behind from the sugarcane plantation era. Their hydroelectric system, takes advantage of the natural resources available on this historical and esteemed parcel of land, which enables Big Island Grown to leave a small carbon footprint. Big island Grown has the ideal natural foundation to be successful growing cannabis while respecting the cultural importance of the location, honoring the past through sustainability. Their facility rivals any other indoor grow operation, organically separating this “craft” Hawaii cannabis from any other worldwide.
Dylan discussed that due to State of Hawaii laws, they had to grow indoors, even though the environment in Hawaii is optimal for an outdoor grow. This was another factor for this location. They committed to being sustainable in different facets of the business, primarily in hydroelectric and solar electricity. So many obstacles stood in the way when first starting the business. That meant that Dr. Jaclyn and Dylan had to be able to “do every single job within their company.” This concept supports the socially sustainable aspect of the business because only three staff members of their 65 employees relocated from off the island. Everyone they hire is brought into the business because of the skillsets, passion and specialized knowledge they have.
How did you recruit your staff?
Throughout this process, Dylan and Dr. Jaclyn tried to be incredibly thoughtful in the hiring process by infusing people from the island to perpetuate culture, and establish local resources. They have had some instances where people have moved off of the island because of the lack of opportunities, and actually came back home and now work for Big Island Grown. Now they can sustain a living there with their families. Dylan shared how amazing it has been to watch people he has known come back to the island and work for their company, “All my friends had been leaving the Big Island because there’s no jobs here. That’s the best feeling, when you can actually see someone come back and be able to support a family.” Their main priority is to help this decaying town by bringing back friends to build up the community and make it sustainable again.
Do you see the number of medical patients you serve increasing in Hawaii?
As the years go on, the number of medical patients in Hawaii continues to rise. Dylan commented about how if it were easier for residents to get medical cards, the numbers would be a lot higher than they currently are. One challenge for Hawaiian residents is that you cannot have a medical card if you own a gun. Many residents hunt and fish for their food, and if you need medical cannabis, you cannot have both licenses. They are at a time now where the growth curve is starting to flatten as Hawaii becomes closer to legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Big Island Grown began with a very mature and growing number of home-patient customers, such as caregivers and home growers. Until legislation makes more moves in the recreational direction, there will be a flattening of growth in medical patients.
What are your goals for Big Island Grown?
For this dynamic duo, it is imperative to provide high-quality medicine and affordable products for their patients during the growth of the market on the island and the increase the number of medical patients. The island has some of the lowest income rates in the entire state. People are on fixed incomes and many people who grow for themselves or people who have purchased from the black-market are impressed by the quality of Big Island Grown products. Customers are always welcomed with Aloha in each of Big Island Grown’s dispensary locations, Hilo, Waimea, and Kona.
In our retail locations, patient attendants aim to educate and elevate the patient experience. The biggest challenge is getting the new patients in the door for the first time, after that, Dr. Jaclyn and Dylan let the quality speak for itself.
What is the vision for Big Island Grown?
Producing quality cannabis was so important to Dylan and Dr. Jaclyn from the start. “When someone thinks about Hawaii cannabis, we want them to think Big Island Grown. “People have been growing cannabis on Big Island for generations, and through our breeding program we are taking Hawaiian genetics to the next level.” Their main focus and mission is pioneering an agricultural renaissance that perpetuates the proud legacy of Hawaii farmers through growing and crafting the highest-grade cannabis medicine in the world.
Can you tell us about your mission for Big Island Grown and your values?
Dylan and Jaclyn explained that the Mission of Big Island Grown is to pioneer an agricultural renaissance that perpetuates the proud legacy of Hawaii farmers through growing and crafting the highest-grade cannabis medicine in the world.
When asked about their values Dylan and Dr. Jaclyn said:
Values are what shape you. They determine your priorities and guide your decisions. Values keep individuals motivated and teams united. Your values declare what you stand for and define who you are. At Big Island Grown, this is what we value most.
Integrity – means we are authentic, transparent, and honest in all that we do.
Malama – means we care for nature, our community, and for ourselves.
Innovation – means we are constantly thinking outside the box to improve our craft and our service.
Ho‘omau – means we persist and persevere no matter the obstacle.
Quality – our top priority in everything we do.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to get into the cannabis industry?
Dylan says, “The number one thing for me is to pick something you are passionate about because you’re just going to give up if you don’t. It is difficult to start a business and run a business as an entrepreneur. If you don’t wake up in the morning and get excited about what you do, you have no chance. Just because you are going to get ‘punched in the face’ many times, and you need to be able to get back up and love what you do.”
Dr. Jaclyn said, “You need to have the passion and the love, but you also have to surround yourself with really solid people. The industry is a marriage and delicate balance of cannabis culture meets compliance. These two worlds collide and it can be quite intense. Surround yourself with the people who you know are committed and in it with you.”
Is the cannabis license structure in Hawaii similar to any other states?
The license structure is set up like New York or Florida – it’s eight licensees that are vertical. Big Island Grown cannot buy from anyone else, they cannot sell to each other, and it is one of the most conservative programs in the country considering how mature it is. Since the program is formulated this way, they can’t include some members they have as employees.
Can you tell us about the Artists Series?
The intention of the Cultivating Art series is to highlight and elevate other people in the community with a variety of interpretations, and they dedicated this section of their website to them: Artists Series: Big Island Grown The idea around this is that they have a print with a cultivar strain, which they will have an artist make an interpretation of this specific strain and give them full reign to do whatever they want for the art. This allows them to promote the artist, and in turn enables Big Island Grown to promote themselves and sell their prints to others in the community.
In addition to the artist spotlight, marketing has a monthly Spotify playlist that they create with local musicians or DJs to enhance the vibe in each dispensary.
What do you like to do in your free time and for fun?
The Big Island has 11 of the 13 climate zones of the world – high heat like the jungle to snow like the arctic. Dylan loves to find many incredible spots to explore, and he enjoys hiking, and searching for waterfalls with his drone. These are Dylan’s huge passions, and anything involving music.
Dr. Jaclyn has two children, an 8 and 6-year-old, who are both home-schooled and extremely active. She lives off grid with her family on a ranch along with a herd of sheep, chickens, and a donkey.