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Daniel Cordova, Project Manager at Highsman – Interview Series

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“Now that I have graduated, more leaders continue to step up and breathe life into Cannaclub SDSU. It’s exciting to watch Cannaclub SDSU continue evolving. I used to be so hands-on, but now it’s like watching all my kids grow up. I’m so honored there is a team of students that appreciate my creation enough to keep it going after I’m gone.”

Daniel Cordova- Highsman Project Manager

Generation Z, better known as “zoomers” have begun trickling into the legal cannabis job marketplace, and they introduce a very interesting dynamic.  This is a generation which unlike their predecessors grew up in an environment where marijuana was somehow socially acceptable. Cannabis stigma had begun to fade away and the therapeutic and recreational benefits were gaining some level of appreciation. By 1996, California had legalized cannabis for medical use and by the time iGen was getting to pre-teen years, a handful of states had legalized adult-use cannabis. If nothing else, Gen Zs didn't grow up watching “this is your brain on drugs.” 

MyCannabis had the rare opportunity to interview a gen-z who’s not only making waves in the cannabis industry but is working to bring other gen-zs onboard as well. In 2021, Daniel Cordova co-founded Cannaclub at the San Diego State University: this is the only formal cannabis club at the University. He currently serves as a project manager at Highsman– the cannabis lifestyle brand owned by the legendary NFL player Ricky Williams.

Meet Daniel. 

As a brief introduction, how did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?

I believe I have one of the most unique stories of how I started working in the cannabis industry. In 2021, I co-founded Cannaclub SDSU — which is the only student organization focusing on cannabis education that is formally recognized by San Diego State University. Cannaclub was a springboard for me to develop a network of cannabis professionals with a diverse range of experience and perspective. Through LinkedIn, I would invite many experts and entrepreneurs in the cannabis space to collaborate with Cannaclub SDSU. I connected with a man named James Choe— founder and then-CEO of the recently-acquired cannabis technology startup named Vessel (acquired by Flora Growth). In 2022, James let me join his small, but quickly growing team at Vessel. During my internship with Vessel, I built positive relations with one of the cannabis brands we collaborated with named Highsman. Highsman also collaborated with Cannaclub, so they connected with me through multiple of my cannabis endeavors. When I graduated in August 2022, I left Vessel and became the lead Project Manager at Highsman. My experiences with Cannaclub and Vessel —  as well as my entrepreneurial business management degree — are what crossed my path with Highsman.

Briefly introduce Highsman and the role that you play in the company.

Highsman is the cannabis lifestyle brand of Ricky Williams— Heisman trophy winner and NFL running back of 11 years. Despite being named an All-Pro in 2002, Ricky faced a lot of criticism for consuming cannabis as an NFL player. He even faced multiple year-long suspensions due to prohibition. Ricky founded Highsman to transcend football and flip his story of cannabis consumption from a negative to a positive. Each category of Highsman strains is curated for customers to easily understand how each strain can help them achieve their goals. Highsman is certainly one of the up-and-coming new cannabis brands to watch, as we are currently operating in six states, and looking to expand even further in 2023.

My official title is Project Manager — but I’m essentially the right hand man of the CMO. I support all levels of brand strategy and marketing implementation, as well as managing partnerships and product operations. I’m a key utility player in the Highsman framework that keeps a lot of moving parts organized to make sure projects are getting done on time and within budget. Some key tasks I manage are Highsman’s website, graphic content production, email marketing, and digital menus. Although, my responsibilities are still increasing everyday as the company continues to expand and mature.

What has been the highlight of your company/career in 2022?

The highlight of my career in 2022 was graduating San Diego State and creating a legacy on campus through Cannaclub SDSU. I’m extremely proud of my personal growth and hard work, but I find greater fulfillment watching young leaders find inspiration and confidence through Cannaclub SDSU — the platform I created. Many of Cannaclub SDSU’s members have never participated in an extracurricular student organization, and the same goes for the team of dedicated student executives running the show. Bringing so many new people together and empowering them to try new, difficult things in service of others quietly became the most endearing experience of my year. Now that I have graduated, more leaders continue to step up and breathe life into Cannaclub SDSU. It’s exciting to watch Cannaclub SDSU continue evolving. I used to be so hands-on, but now it’s like watching all my kids grow up. I’m so honored there is a team of students that appreciate my creation enough to keep it going after I’m gone.

Any predictions for the cannabis industry in 2023?

It will be tough for most companies to maintain profit growth comparable to the last few years. The current economic slowdown and rising inflation weigh down heavier on cannabis companies that are also dealing with high overhead costs associated with the federal prohibition. In the cannabis funding atmosphere, there’s been a dynamic drop in capital investment and interest rates are also very high. The companies that wisely manage their cash flows will reap the benefits in the long run, but they will need to keep sticking it out for now. The cannabis industry has the potential to grow like crazy, but it will be stunted until federal legalization.

Constant news and changes surrounding the laws and enforcement of cannabis create confusion and uneasiness for casual cannabis consumers. Hundreds of new brands and product types in the marketplace add even more complication to the customer’s experience. Companies that connect to customers with the most clarity and consistency will be differentiators. In this obscured marketplace, educational content is so powerful because it provides customers the confidence to engage with the industry. 

What’s next for Daniel?

Just keep working hard and bringing people together. Continuing to mentor students of the Cannaclub SDSU executive board is a priority of mine — helping them plan for life after graduation, building professional skills, and growing into leadership roles. I enjoy the work I do with brand strategy and marketing project management. I’ll continue developing my expertise through my current roles at Highsman and other brands I work with.  The goal is to stay proactive and enjoy the journey as it develops over time.

It was a great pleasure to have this conversation with Daniel Cordova, Project Manager at Highsman. Readers who wish to keep up with how Highsman is transforming the cannabis  industry are welcome to visit their website.

Lydia K. (Bsc. RN) is a cannabis writer, which, considering where you’re reading this, makes perfect sense. Currently, she is a regular writer for Mace Media. In the past, she has written for MyBud, RX Leaf & Dine Magazine (Canada), CBDShopy (UK) and Cannavalate & Pharmadiol (Australia). She is best known for writing epic news articles and medical pieces. Occasionally, she deviates from news and science and creates humorous articles. And boy doesn't she love that! She equally enjoys ice cream, as should all right-thinking people.

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