Business Ventures on the Horizon with Mieko Perez

October 6, 2020   |   By Mieko Hester-Perez

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Freddy Cameron recently sat down with Hopegrown to tell us about his incredible journey in the cannabis industry.

My Origin Story

I have always been inspired by superheroes origin stories, they all have one. By no means am I calling myself a superhero, I’ll leave that to Spiderman and Superman, but as a 40 year old African American man from Hayward, CA, a suburb of San Francisco, with multiple college degrees in Business, Bachelors of Arts in Business Management and a Masters Business Administration (MBA); establishing a solid career in the consumer products and retail industry for over 20 years, I have done some amazing things and helped countless entrepreneurs from many different races and backgrounds, sell their products at big box retail.

My Grandmother always told me that as a young African American male in a position of influence in corporate America, you have to be educated, determined, and willing to stand up for what’s right, even if it makes you unpopular, in order to build a legacy from within. I spent 15 years working in store operations and merchandising for Costco Wholesale, while championing for supplier diversity within the company supply chain by advocating for products from companies led by people of color, women, veteran, disabled persons, and LGBT persons.

Working for Costco was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life because it allowed me to develop my servant leadership skills which taught me , how to apply personal and company values into daily decision making for the betterment of the community. This experience led to my decision to make the retail/consumer products industry my long-term career, and the realization that I want to leave a legacy via the brands I find and/or create for mass market distribution.

After my position with Costco , I went to work for Sam’s Club, a Walmart subsidiary. At Sam’s Club I learned how to lead operations and was able to continue helping minority suppliers sell their products at Walmart and Sam’s Club. I was able to do this because I was now a part of the company leaders' conversations, while creating supplier diversity events in cities across the southern and western U.S., including my new home of Los Angeles. This was one of the high points in my career, and working with leaders who looked like me was an added bonus. At the time, Sam’s Club Chief Executive Officer was an African American Woman, the first in the nation to run a major retail organization and the Chief Operating Officer was an African American man.

Working for excellent senior leaders of color was a great way to achieve my career goals, but after a few years I decided I wanted a new challenge and pursued a new career opportunity. I went to The Salvation Army as the West Coast Operations leader where I oversaw thrift retail operations and launched a new e-commerce business. This position was similarly rewarding but after 2 years I decided to shift gears and embarked on a completely new journey in the cannabis industry.

Why the Cannabis Industry and my Passion to Succeed within it!

In December 2018, I started an executive position at a new cannabis startup in Los Angeles, CA, where I oversaw operations. My role solely focused on establishing key relationships with suppliers/vendors and retail partners to sell the companies branded products. Cannabis has always been a part of my story; I remember watching my dad smoke with his friends every Saturday morning after their weekly street basketball game at the neighborhood park in Hayward.

Every time he would smoke, he would be so relaxed and in good mood. When he was done smoking, my older brother and I would use this opportunity to get him to buy us snacks and give us money for the arcade, things he would’ve easily said no to any other time. My dad’s brothers also smoked and they had that same cool, calm, and collected vibe that was always evident in him as well. Some may consider smoking cannabis in front of kids wrong, however, it made me appreciate cannabis more because I saw in real time how it made my father and my uncles more likable people. Over the years, I saw many positive effects from cannabis use in friends and family and my curiosity continued to grow, which is why I decided to switch from big box retailers to the local cannabis industry here in California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, California is on track to post a record $3.1 billion in licensed cannabis sales this year, solidifying its status as the largest legal marijuana market in the world. Legal sales are up significantly from an approximate $2.5 billion in 2018, the first year of licensed cannabis sales in California(Mcgreevy, 2019). As a leader in the retail and consumer products industry, these are impressive numbers for an industry at its infancy and many, myself included, believe these numbers will only grow. The cannabidiol (CBD) end of the business was a major driver that led me to the cannabis industry. Industries as diverse as cosmetics, food and beverage, and pharmaceuticals are exploding with CBD products and are generating headlines. Recently, BDS Analytics and Arcview Market Research, projected that the collective market for CBD sales in the U.S. will surpass $20 billion by 2024. BDS Analytics is predicting a compound annual growth rate of 49 percent by 2024 across all distribution channels. Also, they expect that the CBD market, combined with THC products, will create a total market of $45 billion for cannabinoids by 2024 (Dorbian, 2019).

My career goal has always been to create products for everyday consumers, that are high quality and have transparency on the ingredients and sources, while advocating for minority owned businesses. They say you are only as good as your word, and to me that means developing a transparent and trusted cannabis brand. There are many cannabis brands who fail to meet the same level of standards I have personally set for myself and my team and there are always going to be cheaper, lower quality products out there. However, going above and beyond in everything I create in the cannabis industry, I will always have a loyal consumer base because of my personal values and beliefs to creating the highest quality products in the market. Everything I learned working at Costco Wholesale, Walmart/Sam’s Club, The Salvation Army, and my executive position in a cannabis startup, has led me to launch my own cannabis CBD brand, Kunk Brands.

Freddy served as the Head of Operations for Natural Hemp Company and Dayone CBD Beverage Company, a Cannabis CBD/Hemp CPG brand studio in Los Angeles, CA. He was also the Vice President of The Salvation Army, Director of Operations for Sam’s Club, and has held multiple leadership roles at Costco wholesale.

Enter Kunk Brands

The name “Kunk” is a name my friends and I made up in middle school to show our appreciation for any wins we achieved from…. Kidding…. It was our version of the “F” word so we wouldn’t get in trouble. It was our special word so we can rebel against the system, the school system that is. To this day, no teacher, principal or even our parents knew what “Kunk” meant, but now the secret is out. The reputation I continue to build for myself in the retail/consumer products industry includes my entrepreneur ambitions while continuing my path to making/selling products that truly reflect the values I believe in; list your core values (probably the same as those listed for your company. Even though I love the entire cannabis industry, I have really gravitated towards the CBD side of the business, mainly the topical wellness space. CBD creams, balms, oils, etc. have really been a part of my daily routine due to aches and pains throughout my body from walking, hiking, and just being over 35 years old.

I have tried many CBD topical products over the years, and with varying degrees of effectiveness and many have a strong menthol or flowery fragrance. I wanted to create a product that could be used by both men and women, with quality ingredients that, and that would help people, especially those who avoid the doctor like me. Kunk represents the culmination of my personal and professional career, and the brand is for anyone who wants to feel better from an active lifestyle, using only the best ingredients and highest quality CBD. Kunk Branded products are considered outliers in the CBD Cannabis industry because each product was made for everyday people like me, who live an active lifestyle style but aren’t a professional athlete. To fill a void in the marketplace, sometimes you have to rollout up your sleeves,say “Kunk it,” and get it done yourself. My name is Freddy Cameron, I am the taste maker for the everyday person that Kunk Brands represents.

Kunk Brands branded products will be launching 4th quarter 2020, more details to come. www.kunkbrands.com

About Freddy Cameron:

Within his 20+year career leading Operations and Merchandising for big box retail organizations like Costco Wholesale and Sam’s Club/Walmart, Freddy has helped many companies profitability by streamlining their operations and supply chains. He also helped suppliers perfect their products so they could sell in big box retail stores and helped big box retailers find new products for their stores.

Freddy served as the Head of Operations for Natural Hemp Company and Dayone CBD Beverage Company, a Cannabis CBD/Hemp CPG brand studio in Los Angeles, CA. He was also the Vice President of The Salvation Army, Director of Operations for Sam’s Club, and has held multiple leadership roles at Costco wholesale.

Freddy is a former Co-host on the CW Network Television series "Hatched," where he served as the show's Retail Expert. "Hatched" is an entrepreneurial show that gives American inventors – with a special focus on teens, moms, and minority owners – an exciting and educational opportunity of a lifetime. On Hatched, contestants compete for a chance to learn from industry experts, who help the entrepreneurs hone their products and business strategieswhile teaching them how to launch and manage a viable business and consumer product. A true "Tastemaker for the Everyday Person," Freddy has a very impressive track record finding/promoting with new suppliers/entrepreneurs and creating strategies to ensure their success. He is the facilitator, finding suppliers and helping them thrive by teaching, networking, and providing resources to take their products to the next level.

"Having the passion to drive results, while making impactful community level change," is Freddy’s goal and the reason he continues his meteoric rise in the world of retail and operations. Responsible for over $3 Billion in sales in the span of his retail career .

Professional Links

TV Show Reel "Hatched"

https://youtu.be/PqGIbaR8K7Y

ABRAS Brazil (Speaking Engagement: “Costco Vs Sam’s Club”)

https://youtu.be/zZGGGDqQbVA

References:

Dorbian, I. (2019, May 20). CBD Market Could Reach $20 Billion By 2024, Says New Study. Retrieved from Forbes Magazine: https://www.forbes.com/sites/i...

Mcgreevy, P. (2019, August 15). California now has the biggest legal marijuana market in the world. Its black market is even bigger. Retrieved from The Los Angeles Times: https://www.latimes.com/califo...

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About Mieko Hester-Perez

Mieko Hester-Perez, International Autism & Cannabis Healthcare Advocate


In 2009, Mieko Hester-Perez decided to go public with her son's success with medical cannabis and since that day in 2009, she has become a source of inspiration and information for families looking to explore unconventional and holistic treatment options within the autism spectrum.


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