Grower Stories #37: Mike Oliva
The World-Wide West: An Interview with Online Headshop CaliConnected
We caught up with online headshop CaliConnected to ask about their glass bongs, dab rigs, vaporizers, e-nails/e-rigs, running an online cannabis business, and their personal favorite strains.
Tia (AskGrowers) : How did you guys start the business? What inspired you to jump into the cannabis industry?
Mike Oliva : We [the co-founders] became close friends in college because we were both huge fans of the cannabis industry, so it seemed like a no-brainer when the idea first came about. We knew before even diving in that there would be difficult times dealing with constantly changing legal issues but we saw an opportunity to excel in this space by putting customer service at the forefront of our business. As fans of the industry, we had made countless purchases online through various stores, some that are now our competitors. We felt like we could make a big difference and provide a better all-around customer experience.
Tia : What are you looking to accomplish as a brand? What’s the ultimate company goal?
Mike : We’re always looking at ways to excel in our customer service and make that the number one selling point of buying equipment from CaliConnected. Beyond excellent customer service, we’re ultimately looking to break the stigma associated with the cannabis industry. We aim to make our website as user-friendly as possible so that everyone feels comfortable shopping with us, regardless of age, gender, race, etc. By normalizing vaping, smoking, and cannabis in general, we hope to make it more acceptable by society so the negative stereotype disappears, and people can see the positive in cannabis use.
Tia : Which of your products would you recommend to try for beginners? What are your top 3 products from your website?
Mike : Not sure if we could recommend just one product for beginners as we carry a vast number of products across a variety of uses. Our general rule of thumb for novice customers that reach out looking for advice is to keep it basic and affordable so you can learn if that type of product works best for you before going all in. We also typically recommend beginners stick with the brands that have been in the industry the longest such as Grav, Storz & Bickel, and Grenco Science.
Our top 3 selling products at CaliConnected right now are the DabCap Fully Universal Vape to Bong Adapter, the Randy’s Path 2-in-1 Nectar Collector Vaporizer, and the Grav Gravitron Gravity Bong!
Tia : Scrolling through your website, I noticed that you have some cool bong/pipe designs. Who handles the design and creation of your paraphenelia?
Mike : At the moment CaliConnected is primarily a reseller of major brands in our industry so they handle most bong/pipe designs, although we do have plans to release our very own American-made glass collection next year. We trust every brand we carry on our website and usually choose to carry their products for a reason. Anything listed under the CaliConnected brand name right now is just unmarked glass that we import from overseas vendors for customers that are looking for cheaper glassware options.
Tia : What’s your favourite strain to smoke and why?
Mike : We’re going to have to go with Jack Herer. It’s a classic and a staple if you want something that allows you to continue being productive while you smoke!
Tia : What is your opinion on the hype for the highest THC levels possible? Do you believe that strains/products with highest THC levels are the ones to look out for - or is it a misconception? Should people look into more balanced products with a healthy balance of THC/ CBD for quality entourage effect?
Mike : Hmm, while we understand the hype it truly depends on your goals. We feel that the cannabis plant can bring you so many more benefits, so only focusing on the THC level certainly seems counterproductive.
Similarly, we believe focusing on the strains with the highest THC levels is a misconception as many people are looking for different things out of the cannabis plant. Even medicinally speaking, people can use cannabis to treat inflammation, others for seizures, some use it for anxiety issues, and the list goes on.
It’s best to do everything in life with balance. As the industry and plant continues evolving together, we’re all still learning new things about the cannabis plant as we go. Science does seem to back the entourage effect, so seeking products with a healthy balance of THC and CBD does seem to be the most effective way to shop right now.
Tia : What’s your best selling product currently? What’s your up-and-coming product?
Mike : Our hottest selling product right now is the MouthPeace 2.0 Filter Kit from Moose Labs! This nifty little gadget has replaceable carbon filters that remove resin and tar from your smoke and helps to prevent the spread of germs. The universal design fits the top of nearly every water pipe we sell, and it’s great to take with you on-the-go so you don’t need to share mouthpieces with everyone else in a group session. The MouthPeace really took off for us since the start of Covid.
Our up-and-coming product would have to be the Eyce Protek Series Spark Rig. Just released last week, this is the first hybrid glass and silicone product we’ve seen from Eyce, and it’s pretty awesome. The base comes with a battery-powered LED light that illuminates the inside of the glass, and there’s an affordable LED expansion pack so you can swap out the colors too!
Tia : What is your stand on indoor vs outdoor? Do you believe products differ based on how and where they are grown?
Mike : Hmm, not sure we could choose a preference on indoor vs. outdoor. These methods both seem to have positives & negatives, and it’s always going to differ based on numerous variables. Weather conditions can have significant impacts on outdoor growing, and nowadays there’s a broader range of nutrients that growers can experiment with using on both indoor and outdoor plants. Like our entire industry, cannabis growing methods are constantly evolving, and there are multiple different ways to grow the plant indoors including hydroponics and aeroponics.
Tia : How does CaliConected maintain transparency in their product line?
Mike : Maintaining transparency is big for us at CaliConnected. First off, we do our best to produce original product descriptions that are as detailed as possible. The immediate drawback of having original content is that it takes a bit longer for us to get our new products listed. However, when a manufacturer doesn’t list the height of a bong, the length of a hand pipe, etc., we know from experience that type of information is critical for our customers who can’t see the product in person.
Our customer reviews are also very helpful in transparency. Each product page has a section at the bottom for customer reviews and questions, and we never audit or hide negative reviews as they can be beneficial for other customers. We’ve partnered with Stamped.io, so all the reviews you see are from verified customers who ordered directly from our store. We allow customers to leave reviews anonymously if they don’t wish to share their name and offer coupon codes for their next purchase to encourage as much feedback as possible.
Lastly, we always order our products either directly from the manufacturer or their national distributors, so the authenticity of each product is guaranteed. You’ll never receive a fake or knock-off item ordering from CaliConnected.
Tia : What’s the most interesting moment you’ve experienced working in the cannabis industry so far?
Mike : The most exciting moment we’ve experienced since we started working in the cannabis industry was probably our first trip to the [tooltip title="Champs Trade Show" content="One of the biggest Smoke Shop/420-industry Expo Trade. Established 1999" url_title="Visit website" url="https://www.champstradeshows.com/" ]Champs Trade Show[/tooltip]. Seeing firsthand the amount of creativity that exists in our industry is mind-blowing. You can get a bong in any shape, size, form, and the range of new products that continue to be released is so incredibly vast.
Getting so much positive feedback from our customers, especially medicinal patients, who are grateful for us providing their hardware is also really fulfilling and something we didn’t expect to be so prolific when starting the company.
Tia : Are there any plans for brand expansion? What do you plan to add to your product list moving forward?
Mike : Absolutely! We have huge plans for brand expansion in the near future. This includes exclusive membership style plans and subscription plans for added savings, expanding our warehouse locations for even faster delivery times, and our in-house brand of glassware we mentioned earlier. We only ship within the US and Canada at the moment, so we’re also looking to offer international shipping in the next calendar year. By that time, we hope to begin offering wholesale to other websites and brick & mortar smoke shops too.
We also plan to continue our company goal of making the website as easy to navigate as possible, and we just launched a new page design last week intended to make the website more mobile-friendly. It also provided new visitors with a cleaner aesthetic and allowed us to begin offering an in-house package protection plan so our customers won’t have to deal with any 3rd-party websites to file claims. On that note, we’re also looking to increase our blogs and create a Knowledge Center that’s more welcoming for beginners to learn the ropes.
We have big plans for expanding our product lines as well. We are putting the final touches on a new line of glassware from Pulsar that has some really cool water pipes, and we’re finalizing the details with a new line of modular bongs which will hopefully be available by the end of the year. We’re also looking to diversify our CBD collection with more brands and different types of consumption methods.
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