Building a Cannabis Accessories Retail Brand – Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel

Interview Video

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Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel shares the story of starting and growing a Cannabis accessories retail brand, building a large and loyal client base, the unique challenges of marketing to the Cannabis industry, taking the company public, and, finally, pivoting the business model to minimize expenses and maximize efficiencies.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

What You’ll Learn

Interview with Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel

1. Could you please share the startup story of Smoke Cartel? How did you come up with the idea?
2. What does the Cannabis industry look like right now? What is the competitive landscape? Who are the major players? What are the barriers to entry?
3. Could you share some of the first steps and decisions that you made when launching this business? Which and how many products did you initially launch with? How much time did it take from the idea to launch? What was the initial investment?
4. Could you share a little bit about your products? Do you have some private-label products (if yes, where are your products manufactured)? or mostly distributing products from other brands? What is your value proposition?
5. How big is your team? What is your hiring process like?
6. What does your day look like managing the business? What areas do you spend most of your time in? What would you say is the most complicated part of your business?
7. How would you rate the effectiveness of different online marketing channels Social Media, Paid Ads, Email Marketing, etc. in terms of new customer acquisition versus building relationships with and selling to existing customers?
8. Could you share one marketing campaign that works/worked really well for you?
9. What are some of the things you do keep your clientele engaged?
10. How is your wholesale business different and supported by E-commerce?
11. Marketplace?
12. What was the decision behind going public? How has it impacted your business?

Rapid Fire

In this segment, the guest will answer a few questions quickly in one or two sentences.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel

  1. One book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs/business professionals in 2020 and why (Response: (How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie)
  2. An innovative product or idea in the current eCommerce, retail, or tech landscape that you feel excited about (Response: Augmented Reality and VR)
  3. A business or productivity tool or software that you would recommend (Response: Slack)
  4. A startup or business (in eCommerce, retail, or tech) that you think is currently doing great things (Response: Dirty Lemon)
  5. A peer entrepreneur or business-person whom you look up to or someone who inspires you (Response: Meni Morim – Namaste Technologies)
  6. Best business advice you ever received or you would give (Response: Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is good and you can always learn from it.)

Interview Transcript

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel

Sushant Misra: Hey there entrepreneurs My name is Sushant and welcome to Trep Talks. This is the show where I interview successful ecommerce entrepreneurs, business executives and thought leaders and ask them questions about their business story and also dive deep into some of the strategies and tactics that they have used to start and grow their businesses. And today I’m really excited to welcome Sean Geng to the show. Sean is the chairman and chief operating officer of smoke cartel smoke cartel is a leading online retailer and wholesaler of glass water pipes vaporizers and other related accessories of the cannabis industry. The company has differentiated itself by providing a wide variety of high quality products 24 seven customer service and fast shipping. Small smoke cartel went public in 2017 and is now a multi million dollar business. And today I want to ask Shawn a few questions about his startup story, starting smoke cartel and some of the strategies and tactics he has used to grow

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, thanks for having me. Yeah, so let’s let’s get right into it. I’m really excited your company is really interesting. So I want to know, how did you get started? How did you get the idea? And yeah, what is your startup story?

Sushant Misra:  Sure. His eCommerce business. So thank you so much for joining us today, Sean at Trep Talks.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Sure, um, my background is in the tech industry. So, you know, I worked primarily as a freelance and full stack developer for a number of companies, including at a startup startup incubator, and so I had a lot of experience in tech. I started Smoke Cartel when we were seeing a lot of the legalization efforts happening on a state level and several states here in the US, primarily, you know, begin with Colorado going medical and recreational with cannabis and You know, I was a cannabis user, I started shopping online for some accessories and realized that there was a good opportunity in this space to provide a lot more of the innovative products, and especially some of the newer designs and some of the newer technologies that were emerging in an industry where a lot of people were pushing for innovation and getting started, and there was a lot of interest in and so I built the e commerce store. And, you know, we kind of focused on some of the basics at first, which was like, hey, let’s just educate customers, right because there’s a lot of people coming into the space who have never tried smoking accessories before and never tried candidates before and they needed a lot of guidance and there was a lot of stuff out there. Not all the products are good. And so we wanted to curate and deliver high quality products and more importantly, product education to a growing segment of users. And I think it worked out well, because we built a pretty large audience, and a great deal of trust and respect in the industry as a brand. And we’re continuing to stay true to those missions and values as we look into the future and as we continue to scale.

Sushant Misra: And so you started your company in 2013, I believe, correct?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, it’s 13 2014, something like that.

Sushant Misra: So I’m very interested to know as you know, Canada’s cannabis industry is still relatively I would say new in terms of you know, legalization and things like that. Anyone who does not know much about this industry itself as a business, can you share a little bit about, you know, what does the cannabis industry look like in 2020? Who are the major players? Where does your business fit into this? The whole ecosystem? And yeah, Where? Where? Where do you think the industry is going?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah. the cannabis industry has changed quite a lot in the last decade. We, you know, first when when the industry was in its infancy, there was a lot of entrepreneurs and startups who were entering the space, you know, there was a huge amount of demand and interest in entrepreneurs trying their hand in the space and it was a great time for innovation and a lot of explosion. And I think we saw a lot of different states and governments trying different types of regulation. And now, you know, I think that a lot of people are looking at it and trying to evaluate what what works What didn’t. And among the business landscape, the The result was, you know, there were a different, constantly changing set of rules. And so companies had to be very adaptive, and they had to be very lean and have really strong business models to be able to survive. You know, the the current landscape is very competitive. There’s obviously still a lot of interest. There’s a lot of larger corporations and a lot of capital being used strategically in the industry, whether that’s through acquisitions or through strategic investments or partnerships. I think we saw a lot of the people who kind of came in in the industry in the first wave, either make it or break it and now we have kind of a second way is with people who are trying to problem solve for you No unique cases in our industry and we’re seeing some players try to establish themselves but I don’t think there’s a clear winner of any kind and I don’t think, you know, even if you look at from like a public markets perspective, from the investment community, I don’t think anyone’s kind of like flagged though. This is like a clear front runner, right? The feedback is very much, you know, a lot of capital was invested. Let’s wait and see how those investments turned out. You know, did they meet the ROI is that some investors were expecting? Did they not did they meet? Did we discover something else along the way? And so I think there’s a lot of capital, either waiting on the sidelines, or, you know, people who have diversified portfolios into a bunch of different segments and really want to be invested in the cannabis industry. We felt the growth cycles and a lot of business Who are adapting right now or failing to adapt? And so it’s really exciting is what I’ll say it’s it’s constantly changing one in the regulation landscape but but also to in the competitive landscape

Sushant Misra: of your business small cartel, you describe it more of a retailer and distributor. I would assume there’s like some brands that actually produce different strains of cannabis. There’s like other brands that produce like the accessories and things like that. Are there are there other players and there’s also like, what, where does the innovation come in? Like is it that you innovate in terms of producing new strains, new products, new ways of consuming cannabis or

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: so there’s, there’s innovation happening on a lot of sides, you know, from the people who produce the consumable goods. That’s like cannabis and cannabis derivatives. The innovation is primarily happening in the derivatives side, which is, you know, the grow aspect of it has more or less been mastered, in a sense, like it’s, you know, you’re growing a crop, right? And so it becomes just a lot of yield science and people with agricultural listed

Sushant Misra: in the business, you

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: know, so with smoke cartel, we don’t do anything that touches the cannabis plant itself. We’re in a state where we don’t have a recreational program. And we do business throughout the United States as well as internationally, primarily our audience bases here in the United States, but because we’re, you know, shipping products to every state, we don’t do anything that actually touches the plant. We do accessories, we do CBD products, and we’ll do you know, counterculture and things like that, that fit within the scope of the consumer base. But we’re not able to actually sell cannabis itself online and so it’s it’s not something that we’re federally able to do until either the laws change or you know something else happens and so you know I always like to look at it as I think with every you know a lot of people refer to the cannabis industry growth is like the the green rush as compared to like the gold rush for example, well pretty conservative bet is to who wins, you know, strikes it rich in the Gold Rush just comparatively to the green rush is the same answer, you know, the guy who sells you the shovels. So at the end of the day, I don’t think that selling accessories and things like that isn’t ever going to delineate too far away from the growth of the industry itself. You know, as we see more demand from users and more customers introduced to the cannabis industry. So will the demand for auxiliary products and CBD products continue to grow. And we position ourselves to be able to capture that growing segment very well and to continue to to scale with the industry without incurring any of the traditional liability that a cannabis company who has to go through all these regulations has to deal with because they’re plant touching.

Sushant Misra: But isn’t that all? there any company who any company has this accessory? Can I can like there’s not an order you do it like anyone can, you know, any manufacturer or the new manufacturer? You know, buying?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, absolutely. You know, and that’s, you know, you’re right like there is not a huge

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: You might not think there’s a large economic moat, let’s say, a barrier of entry, but there actually is a number of other ways. Yes, you know, if you have some capital, you can absolutely go out. And let’s say try to manufacture a product. If you have an idea, you know, by all means, I think plenty of entrepreneurs do and they bring new products to market, in the industry constantly. So we see an explosion of innovation that’s still continuing to happen in terms of new and innovative products, whether that’s for consumption or for lifestyle, or whatever. But to actually capture a segment of users is tricky because you can’t really advertise the way that you traditionally can. Right. So your your growth strategies primarily limited to the success of your product. And what I think has continued to happen industry is that there’s a lot of good products, but almost all of those products are one off products. So You can, it’s really hard for somebody to build a brand off of just one product. Whereas we, you know, play the role of the retailer. And we’ve consistently built customers over time, and are able to leverage new products by, you know, partnerships or just letting them sell on our sites or purchasing the products directly and being able to offer that to our existing customer base where we’ve already developed quite a bit of trust with just throughout time and through our reputation in the industry.

Sushant Misra: So I want to take you to the first year of your, you know, startup because it’s always very interesting to know this, you know, how does someone start I believe you guys started with $600 in capital, which I read online. Can you take me to the first You know, one or two years of how do you go from an idea and $600 and Start building that, you know, what were your first products? How did you get your first customers? You know, what was your revenue and at the end of the first year and second year? Because a lot of other people that are entrepreneurs or starting out, they were interested in knowing this information.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel:  Yeah, absolutely.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We had the fortune where, you know, I had a tech background and so we mitigate a lot of the startup costs that came with say development, right? If somebody says, I want to get into ecommerce Well, unless you’re a developer, or you have some experience, and it already is going to be a little trickier to offer kind of like a custom experience outside of just say, like a templated store out the gate. And so you know, we’re able to do that because I put in sweat equity. The capital was used strictly to purchase some inventory. We sell Did some some products that

Sushant Misra: was you and I believe you had a Co-founder? Was it only two people? Yeah.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: But what’s that? Yeah, it was myself and my co founder Darby. Okay. Good. Yeah, I mean, we sourced products and you know, there’s a good margin within like glass products as you’re started. So that was identified as a good segment to be in. I think a lot of people like when they started ecommerce, specifically, the idea of product curation is a little bit tricky, and I think some people tend to go like super broad, right? Like, I want to carry a little bit of everything, you know, all the top sellers like Well, I think it’s better to try a few things that you feel really good about, you know, wait for you to Establish a good return on investment on it, you know, look at what your final margin is going to be. And then look into expanding based on where the demand goes from the customer side, rather than trying to put products out there and hope you hit the right customers. Right. It’s, it’s I think it’s better to specialize, especially in the e commerce space, you know, because there are giants like Amazon out there or like you’re not going to compete with them on selection. But of course, you can always compete on having specialty products and having a good customer experience.

Sushant Misra: And in terms of sourcing the products and creating that curated experience, like are these products all from the US or did you go overseas to to get more like less expensive or, you know, better value for money?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We looked at both. There’s a lot of demand in our industry. At least from the, you know, social and community side that’s vocal about, you know, some American made products, we do carry both. And we did carry both, you know, ever since the start for me, you know, everything is about testing and what does the data back We’re moving you know, there’s a segment of audience who’s willing to pay a premium for an American made glass, you know, pipe, then there’s a segment people who just wants something standardized and affordable. And we’ll often source that abroad, right from China or India and Nepal or any of these places that we can remain competitive on the labor rates and we’ll let the you know it’s, it’s an open market and so we let the supplier dictate The price level and we

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: choose a competitive and quality option from the marketplace.

Sushant Misra: Now, one thing that you mentioned was, you know, the, the, your development experience and you know, the ability to create that custom ecommerce platform. And so my question would be, why? Why go that part? Because I would assume in 2013, I think you still had like these ecommerce platforms like Shopify or big commerce. So I’m like, I’m in product management. So, you know, from my perspective, it’s like, why not? Instead of spending all the time doing the development for like, you know, creating a new ecommerce platform, why not just choose to like a pre book solution? It may not be the most customer customizable thing. But yeah, at least it gets you started like, quickly and cheaply. Yeah. doing that.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, we do use Shopify. In terms of custom development work. There’s a lot that happens on the back end that we do for analytics work. There’s a lot that happens in terms of the customizations that we’ve made to the platform. What I’m simply speaking is, you know, a lot of people, you can start a Shopify store, you know, straight away and just use like a bullet plate template. But you’re really limited in what you can offer in terms of a user experience. If you want to get into a really consistent brand experience and a really consistent product experience from any number of like customizations you want to make, you’re going to have to know a bit of developer work. And even more if you want to do like, you know, what we do, which is like sometimes, like custom apps, you know, different kinds of like, you know, front end proxies and things like that, so that we can achieve the functionality that we’re looking for

Sushant Misra: and Do you consider these apps? Like do you make them a product like other people also use it or only for like, your personal or your business? Most?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, most of the applications that we’ve done in terms of the custom bells are entirely used by us. You know, we’ve got one app that we’ve made publicly available on the App Store. That’s us kind of testing out a different arm for revenue in the business, which is SAS, you know, we’ve got a lot of applications that we’ve built, that have practical applications for other merchants, you know, we will have to evaluate whether or not it’s worth the expenditure to go and pursue that. But you know, we’re certainly testing our experience in that revenue stream. And we’re open to it but at the end of the day, you know, the even continuing to utilize The degree of customizations and proprietary knowledge that we do have continues to deliver a competitive advantage for us as a business. So it’s been, of course worth the investment. Okay.

Sushant Misra: Can you share a little bit about you know, I know you’ve heard, you know, the product you get from within us some of the products you source it. So mostly what you’re doing is you’re buying you’re creating the products and and warehousing it is that or do you also manufacture some of these products?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We have done all of the above at one point or another, you know, when we first started the business, it was we were purchasing products from a brand or supplier. And, you know, we buy them at wholesale and we sell them on retail. It’s obviously very simple supply chain. We’ve diversified a lot since then, you know, we’ve done acquisitions where we’ve acquired Somebody who was in the wholesale side of it to get more vertically integrated and to have access to the better margins in the supply chain to do manufacturing, we’ve done that. We have tried a lot of different things, to evaluate whether or not this will work in the cannabis industry. At the end of the day, where we’ve essentially are now and where we’ve kind of honed the business model, to be at this point is to be very operationally efficient, while producing the maximum profits that we can. And so that often means we are working with a lot of suppliers to build a bit of a market this model where we recognize that there is a lot of innovation happening in the industry, and we want everyone to participate in this free market system and to build leverage our customer base. And so we have very symbiotic relationships with a lot of brands new and old and established, where we allow them to sell on our store and fulfill the orders directly to our customers while we retain, you know, our margin on it. And so this effectively reduces our cost carrying burden significantly, you know, from us having to manage manufacturers, which we still do, and we still produce and fulfill our own in house brands. But it’s allowed us to be a lot more lean rather than trying to supply and demand plan for, you know, two to 400 plus different vendors and brands, to focusing on the ones that we do best and then letting those individual brands and suppliers dictate their own supply chain, making it a lot more efficient from a business perspective. Yeah,

Sushant Misra: So basically it is that now you have built this brand, you have certain traffic to your website. And now you have created this marketplace where these brands can come and put their products on your site, you already have the people coming and shopping. And you basically charge the commission every time someone makes a purchase on the site of that. Your work?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, it’s, you know, we’ve adopted a very similar marketplace model. But I think, you know, places like Etsy, or Amazon or utilizing that we’ve seen continue to win out over time. At the end of the day, the focus is about how can we deliver the most value to our customer base, and how do we grow that customer base. And the answers often align in a way that’s very symbiotic to the manufacturers and suppliers that we work with, which is hey, if we can optimize this supply chain these fulfillment agreements, then we can not only provide very consistent, very high stock levels on inventory and have an extremely expanded product catalog and be able to deliver a great experience to the customers by handling all that

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: logistics work internally along with its technology. So

Sushant Misra:  That sounds very interesting. And the interesting part also is that, you know, you’re leveraging Shopify, which I assume then if you’re doing all this development, that would be on Shopify plus probably, where you’re able to make changes to the back end to make it into a marketplace or something.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Are the shop fine hosts or store? So it’s like the front end, right? When we actually go and check out through the site they’re using, you know, they’re they’re seeing a Shopify hosted store. You know, our site specifically is modified and customized like years and years and years, and so it’s extremely customized in terms of life. Just every facet of it, but we still rely on Shopify, for the hosting and you know, the PCI compliance certifications and all of that. When an order is placed a lot, then our technology kicks in and handles a lot of that routing technology so that we can make sure that that the products that are being ordered are delivered, and the appropriate information is being relayed back to the customers in the most seamless way that we can offer.

Sushant Misra:  So I was thinking because Shopify because it’s a closed system and read correct me if I’m wrong. So basically, your your code is interacting with Shopify using API’s or because I thought that they don’t allow a lot of customization into their code. But I may be wrong.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We do. I mean, we’ve been developing on Shopify for like, five, six years at this point. So we’re we’re You know, a Shopify plus certified partner, we have a good communication with Shopify. And we have a lot of things that we figured out how to do through either the API’s or through some other methodology. But I mean, when there’s a wealth away, and you know, I think we’ve smart people, and so we tend to figure out how to do what we want to do.

Sushant Misra: Okay. I want you to know a little bit about your team. So can you show share, you know what your team looks like, right now? Of course, right now, I think everyone is probably working remotely. I’m very interested in knowing like, you know, you mentioned you have developers, you know, what does your marketing team look like?

Can you share a little bit?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel:  Yeah, so, right now our team is probably about a dozen people. We at one point, you know, when we were doing all of our own warehousing and things like that, we probably have close like, 50 people. doing all kinds of things from, you know, receiving the picking the packing and all that. That’s great and all, but at the end of the day, you know, we realize, okay, we don’t want to run a warehousing business that’s separate. The cost benefit of doing so was really marginal, in terms of us, simply just like outsourcing our fulfillment, or moving to like a marketplace model like we did now. And so we are able to save a considerable amount of expenses and really lean down our operating structure to a core team of about a dozen people, you know, that are remote, the customer service, marketing, you know, photography, administrative, and, of course, the C suite level executives. And so it’s people that we’ve had for a while, of course, building a good team takes a lot of time. You know, we’ve, we’ve hired and fired a lot of folks over the years to get to the team that we are today. And it’s it’s a well oiled machine.

Sushant Misra:  Yeah, I mean, it makes sense like you basically have pivoted from you know, that, you know, sourcing products to fulfilling to now more of a marketplace model. So the team has to change because of that. As an entrepreneur and other Chief Operating Officer, what, what does your day usually looks like? What like, what are your biggest priorities in the day? Where do you focus most?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: So my role with the company right now is I’m the Chief Technology Officer. We have an interim CEO named Steve. And so primarily he deals with a lot of our executives. strategy and a lot of the public markets stuff, primarily. I like to focus on the operations. And so, you know, I work very closely with our team here locally, where I’m in Savannah, we’ve got some folks in a small office here for marketing and some warehousing and whatnot. And so, you know, My typical day looks like problem solving, right? With any entrepreneur, there’s, there’s always something and we’re always pushing to innovate quickly. And so it’s a tight knit group, and everyone has known each other for a while now and gets along great. And you know, we work on projects to push the business forward, as well as, you know, problems solve, you know, how can we make the problems that we continue to experience lesser, or, you know, how can we solve them so that they don’t happen again?

Sushant Misra: I want to talk a little bit about your marketing because you’re in an interesting space. And I know that some of the traditional marketing, as you’ve said before, does not you’re not able to do like, I believe, advertising, online Google ads and Facebook ads and those kind of things. I’m very interested in oil from the beginning, what kind of and I know you mentioned before that it was more of education and things like that. What, how has your marketing evolved from the beginning and what is working really great right now I know that your social media channels have a huge following and I’m sure that helps a little bit also.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, in our industry, you can advertise on your traditional like ad networks, you know, Google, Facebook, Instagram, you know, etc. which is really challenged. In e commerce because a lot of entrepreneurs basically either heavily rely on it, or it makes up almost all of their income, where they’re basically spending money on ad spend and getting an ROI for it. And that’s, you know, their profit margin right there. So without the ability to do that, you know, we rely heavily on social word of mouth as well as search engine optimization. So you know, organic traffic, direct traffic, and good customer retention once they land on site. A lot of the effort done over the years was in conversion rate optimization, where we’re looking to maximize the value that we can get out of the visitors who land on our site to really leave an impression with them. And we’ve done things like retargeting advertising and kind of retarget style display ads and things like Back on networks that we can do, to be able to recapture as much of the segment as we can. But it is very challenging. I think advertising is one of the big reasons why like people come into cannabis and sale because they, they realize that, oh, all of the things that they thought they knew how to do an e commerce don’t really apply here. So it’s like trying to operate an e commerce with like two hands tied behind your back. And so you, you’re forced to be creative. And you’re forced to do it in a sustainable way. Because even if you get, you know, let’s say like one viral post, or you know, you do things like that, it’s, that’s not enough, right, you can have one hit wonders, and plenty of people do quite often but a business that lasts many, many years, is built on consistent returning customer base and steady revenue growth.

Sushant Misra:  And in terms of customer retention, what? So do you see that a lot of people come like there’s a high percentage of returning customers? And like do you do you engage them using email marketing? What methods do you use to like engage customers so that they keep on interacting with your brand?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel:  Yeah, we we boast a pretty good return customer rate. In my experience, it’s typically been a bit higher than our competitors. I think that has a lot to do with our experience that we try to deliver to our customers or our brand and our marketing efforts. We use a lot of different tools for recapture and re acquisition and some of them include email, you know, we’ll do push notifications, SMS marketing, you know, Facebook Messenger retargeting, you know retargeting display ads, whatever is available to us. If If we look at it and we evaluated and it has a good ROI, then we’ll likely to continue to use it. Okay.

Sushant Misra: One thing that I’m very interested in knowing is, you know, you did go public in 2017 I believe, what was the thought process behind that and how has it helped your business?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We went public because we wanted to have access to the capital markets that were available. You know this. There’s a lot of interest from investors to participate in the cannabis industry and not a lot of great brands or businesses that have been established to To allow them to do so. And so we wanted the access to the capital markets, we did raise some capital, which helped feel a degree of growth to where we are today. And helped us get through some ups and downs in the industry altogether that impacted just about everybody. And so it was a strategic decision. We still remain public, of course, and we are continuing to hone on the fundamentals of the business to demonstrate consistent growth and to demonstrate improving profitability across the board to attract more interest over time, you know, I’m not a get rich, quick kind of guy. I prefer to do it the right way, and to go slow and study and actually win the race. And we’re looking to attract people who want to come along for that kind of work. Okay,

Sushant Misra: So now we’re going to move on to our rapid fire round. And the idea here is that I’ll ask you a few questions and you just have to ask them in maybe a couple words or one or two sentences. Any book recommendations for entrepreneurs or business executives in 20?

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Are you a book reader? Recently, it was like how to win people, how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, which is a terrific read. It’s an old book, but I think a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in this day and age where it’s very polarizing time, like people get into arguments and there’s kind of a lot of maybe like a lack of like networking mobility for some folks. But I think that getting along with people in business and having a synergy and the cooperative spirit really goes a long way. And so think people should, especially in 2020, remember that,

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: I think If they want to continue to exceed

Sushant Misra: perfect and innovative product or idea in the current ecommerce retail or tech landscape that excites you.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We’re starting to see a lot more like augmented reality and VR stuff happening in the e commerce. You know, we’re very happy with Shopify we’ve been with them for since our inception. And so they’ve continued to push out updates to their technology, which has been great. We see plenty of stores including Shopify, experimenting with augmented reality, VR options, and I think that that is going to be really interesting in future

Sushant Misra: a productivity tool or software that you recommend or use.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: We use slack slack is good.

Sushant Misra: a startup or business in eCommerce retailer tech that you think is doing great things

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: I saw a company called dirty lemon, they they, they sell like a beverage of some kind. And I sell for a while they were you could only order from this company via text message, which I thought was kind of prohibitive at first but i think is actually genius in a way. So I’m always interested when I see businesses kind of go a different path, especially in a well established industry like e commerce where there’s kind of like a roadblock on on what you should do. And so I think it’s it’s always important that people like just ignore the rules and and try to do something different because you know, it could work.

Sushant Misra: That sounds really interesting. A pear entrepreneur or other person who has inspired you.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, I’ve had a lot of like really good mentors over the years, especially in the tech industry. I think I work closely with a company called nama state technologies. And I really respect the the CEO, many who who’s also you know, they’re a public company, and he’s from the tech space. So I think we kind of relate on a lot of different things.

Sushant Misra: Okay. And finally, the best business advice that you have ever received or you would give to other entrepreneurs.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Just don’t be afraid to fail. You know, it’s failure is good. And as long as you’re learning from it, perfect.

Sushant Misra: So yeah, those were all the questions I had today. Thank you so much again for joining us today, Sean. And now is your time if you want to share your website or any other products or services that you want to promote this. Good.

Sean Geng of Smoke Cartel: Yeah, no, I appreciate you having me on your podcast and I’m glad you’re doing this and in a time when, you know, I think is difficult for a lot of people. And it’s good to see people make the most out of it and it’s been really enlightening to see people pursue, you know creative and entrepreneurial endeavors and of course encourage everyone to because make the best out of your situation right it’s it’s it’s difficult time for sure. And

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