Business

Get to Know: Sunderstorm

By Alex Halperin
@bysunderstorm

WeedWeek’s “Get to Know” column introduces readers to California cannabis companies. To be featured in a future Get to Know column email hello@weedweek.net. Our previous entry featured Flow Cannabis.

Responses to our questionnaire have been lightly edited. 

Company Name: Sunderstorm 

Products: Sunderstorm is the parent company of Kanha gummies, Wind Vapes and NANO5 sublinguals.

Location: Los Angeles, CA 

Founded: 2015 

CEO: 

Cameron Clarke, 57, co-founder and CEO 

Age: 57 

I am a serial entrepreneur with a track record of transforming technical innovation into high impact applications. In 1994 I co-founded Visionary Information Systems Inc. launching the modern electronic courtroom. In 2000 I founded Vodium, an internet-based video streaming company. My other ventures include Aero Glass, a pioneering company delivering augmented reality technology to pilots, and Amazon-Mania USA, an original importer of Acai berry products from Brazil. I am also founder of several social projects including the Blue Nomad Foundation, a non-profit funding algae-based research for bioremediation and biopolymer development, the Wet Lab in San Diego and Berkeley Biolabs biohacker spaces teaching synthetic biology and providing research facilities. I am a graduate of Stanford University. 

Annual Revenue: 2021 Projected Revenue $45M 

Tell us about two or three key decisions, pivots or course corrections the company has made and how they paid off: 

  1. When we transitioned into 2018 we had been operating out of Los Angeles under Prop 215. Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles was backed up and unable to issue licenses to any manufacturers or cultivators at that time, though many of us had been expecting to get licensed in the city. In late 2017, we made a quick decision to get licensed in Emeryville in the Bay Area, which is a very cannabis friendly city and supportive of the industry. In addition, city administrators are easily accessible so we were able to get licensed in just 60 days. We moved our core production team to the Bay Area and provided housing for them. This allowed Sunderstorm to become operational very quickly in 2018 and we easily transitioned from the 215 market to the fully regulated industry. Being ready for the July testing cutoff meant that we were able to launch Kanha as one of the premiere edibles brands in the state.
  2. When we formed Sunderstorm in 2015 we knew that cannabis oil was hard to find so we bought a CO2 extractor and processed cannabis oil ourselves from trim. This is a very complicated process and honestly, is a business unto itself. We knew that eventually cannabis oil would become a commodity and we could simplify our business when the time was right. In 2017 we felt confident that there were enough solid sources of oil for us to avoid interruption of our supply chain, so we shut down our extraction facility in early 2018 and focused our energy on making the best tasting gummies in California. Though this was a radical change for our business, it has allowed us the resources to build one of the largest edibles companies in the country. Many competitors in the industry have not focused and are struggling as a result. 
  3. Additionally, in 2017 we made the decision to automate our gummy production and invested heavily in production and packaging equipment. At a time when all other companies were manually making edibles, we changed course from a very manual process to a highly automated one. By early 2019 this automation was fully operational, which allowed us to cut costs dramatically and scale production significantly in a very small facility. This has allowed Sunderstorm to get to cash flow positive much faster than our competitors and create highly consistent products. It was a very important decision in our history and is pivotal to who we have become today. 

What are you doing that no one else is doing? 

As a science based company, Sunderstorm pioneered nanotechnology for edibles with the launch of Sunderstorm NANO5 Sublinguals over 4.5 years ago. We were also the first to launch fast acting nanotech gummies in May 2019. Science is a crucial basis for our company and we leverage it to deliver some of the highest quality products in the industry.

Recently, we launched our line of Nano5DNA sublinguals and the associated test kit in partnership with Endocanna Health, which provides consumers with customized products depending on their genetics.

Key revenue streams: 

Primarily Kanha gummies which is a top 10 brand in California. Secondarily, NANO5 Sublinguals and Wind Vapes 

Primary competitors: 

Wana, Kiva, Wyld, Plus 

Five to eight key employees:  

Name: Kaylee Fagan 

Title: R&D Supervisor 

Kaylee oversees the R&D process and timeline to develop food safe products using science-based methods to ensure that we continue to put out new and high-quality edibles. 

Name: Sarah Bird 

Title: R&D Specialist 

Sarah creates product formulations that the production team can use to produce Kanha gummies including sourcing high quality ingredients. She also works to bridge departments to ensure a smooth production process from start to finish. 

Name: Brayden Cimino 

Title: Cook Supervisor 

Role: Brayden oversees the entire cooking operation from preparing and weighing each of our ingredients, to cooking gummy mixtures, and depositing mixtures into the molds. 

Name: Max Ryan 

Title: Cook Supervisor 

Role: Max also oversees the entire cooking operation and manages our production schedule so that customers always have access to Kanha gummies – even in this unprecedented time. 

Name: Sergio Cruz

Title: Production Supervisor 

Role: Sergio oversees all day-to-day operations from the making of the gummy to processing in production to the packaging of the gummy. He also ensures all company policies and procedures are being followed and implemented. 

Name: Ike Nwachie 

Title: Production & QA/QC Manager 

Role: Ike makes sure that products are up to premium standards and prepared according to our Standard Operating Procedures. He watches over critical control points in our production process and reports any issues he may find including recording and tracking all deviations throughout the entire process. 

Name: Jesse Ising 

Title: Production & Safety Manager 

Role: Jesse works to ensure the safety of everyone on the production floor, which includes determining the ideal and safest process when developing and teaching a new role or task. 

Name: Tae Chun 

Title: VP of Operations 

Role: Tae oversees innovation and the overall production process at our LA manufacturing facility. He ensures that everything is happening correctly and works as a fire-fighter when the unexpected happens.