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Dean Harris, Co-founder at TabBrands- Interview Series

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Building a cannabis retail business from the ground up is like navigating a maze with a thousand doors, each leading to a different regulatory challenge. The stringent requirements, like the ever-important Certificate of Analysis (COAs) for products, can feel like a regulatory jigsaw puzzle. However, in these challenges lie unparalleled opportunities. Crafting a brand that stands tall amid a sea of regulations is where the magic happens. It's the art of branding and marketing that transforms these obstacles into stepping stones, allowing businesses to not only comply but to shine and connect with consumers in a meaningful way.
In this interview with Dean Harris, Co-founder of TabBrands, we delve into his fascinating career journey and explore his insights into the wellness and cannabis industries. Dean's career path has been a remarkable one, beginning with a successful stint in advertising, where he worked with major consumer goods companies including Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. Later, he founded a full-service ad agency and then transitioned to the digital landscape, serving as the Chief Marketing Officer for three consumer-facing internet-focused brands that achieved valuations exceeding $1 billion. What's most intriguing is Dean's venture into the plant-based wellness space with TabBrands, a company dedicated to enhancing the taste, solubility, and bioavailability of various plant-based substances, including cannabinoids, protein, and coffee. TabBrands' mission to promote global health and wellness sets it apart in the cannabis industry.
As a brief intro, how did your career path lead you to the cannabis industry?
I have a formal education in social science, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and Anthropology, as well as a Master's degree in International Affairs. In addition, I have an MBA with a specialization in Marketing and International Business.
My career started in the highly competitive landscape of New York City, where I worked at two prominent advertising agencies. I had the privilege of managing accounts for two renowned consumer goods companies; Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson where I helped build brands in detergent, fabric softener, and disposable diapers.
Building on this foundation, I started a full-service advertising agency, which operated both in New York City and Connecticut. The agency worked with major brands such as Coca-Cola, Sotheby's, J&J International, Nestle's, M&M Mars, MasterCard, ADP, and Chase Bank.
My career then took a digital turn, as I assumed the role of Chief Marketing Officer for three consumer-facing internet-focused brands. Each of these brands achieved significant success, with valuations exceeding $1 Billion. They included HotJobs, which was acquired by Monster; Vonage, acquired by Ericsson, and Kayak, subsequently acquired by Priceline.
Most recently, I co-founded a new venture in the plant-based wellness space. Since 2018, I have been involved in the development of TabBrands, a company with innovative intellectual property capable of making lipid-based plants and fungi truly water-soluble while enhancing taste and bioavailability. We have applied this IP to cannabinoids, protein, and coffee as well as a wide range of beverages. TabBrands is committed to the global promotion of health and wellness, with a mission to create a positive impact on the well-being of individuals worldwide.

Dean, you have a track record of successfully overseeing startups from inception to IPO. Could you share some key strategies or principles that you believe are essential for the growth and success of disruptive brands in the wellness and Cannabis industries? 

TabBrands uses established and proven effective principles of building a brand that includes a category audit, a formal SWOT analysis, consumer market research, a well-vetted communications (positioning) strategy, and then the application of this strategy to all consumers, partners, and potential B2B customers.

As someone passionate about disruptive brands, how do you approach the development and positioning of Tab Brands in the competitive wellness and Cannabis markets? What sets your company apart from others in this space? 

When we entered the cannabis space there was very little emphasis, expertise, or regard for branding/marketing. What's more, there were next to no wellness-centric cannabinoid brands, Instead, there was a clear emphasis on adult-use brands. Our first offering used THCa which is non-psychotropic, and later after applying our IP to hemp-derived cannabinoids the emphasis of our product offerings was to help people feel better, not get high.

Tab Brands emphasizes the production of plant and fungi-based wellness products. Can you elaborate on the potential benefits and opportunities you see in incorporating such products, including Cannabis, into the wellness sector? How do you ensure the highest quality in your offerings? 

Unfortunately due to legal constraints for cannabinoids, we cannot specify the many benefits our products deliver. In fact, we cannot link to scientific research nor can we provide customer testimonials in public-facing published materials. In terms of quality, we are all about quality in everything we do. We use the best quality, all-natural USA ingredients, produce our products in cGMP and GMP facilities, and have every batch we produce third-party tested for purity and potency by a well-respected independent testing lab.

Your role as a Portfolio CMO involves working with various brands part-time. How do you balance your responsibilities between different brands, including Tab Brands? What unique challenges and advantages does this approach bring to your work? 

I am only working on TabBrands, not with other brands. That being said, I would hope my experience in branding and marketing could be valuable to our customers.

Could you provide an example of a particularly memorable or challenging experience you've had while building Tab Brands, especially in relation to the Cannabis segment? How did you overcome it, and what lessons did you learn from that experience? 

The most challenging experiences in this industry have been receiving COAs from potential active ingredient suppliers that are untrue. Our solution is to have everything we receive independently third-party tested. I recognize that this is a relatively immature industry, but I am struck by the number of times people do not show up for calls or meetings, do not answer their emails, and do not deliver what they promise.

What’s next for Dean? 

I'm not sure. I am energized by the opportunity to build our brand and business globally.

It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Dean Harris, Co-founder of TabBrands. Check out their website to find out more about what they are doing.

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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