Rising Star: Sara Batterby of HiFi Farms Wants to Make Your Cannabis Clean

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How about some craft cannabis to go with your craft beer? As Sara Batterby, co-founder of Hifi Farms would attest, growing great cannabis is not just about getting people high—it’s also about using organic practices and supporting sustainable energy. After all, cannabis can be green in more ways than one. Here’s more from Sara:

What was the spark that inspired the birth of your concept?

I didn’t know anything about cannabis two years ago. I was hooked by the fascinating new market opportunity and the kinds of people I met once I started to network in the space. My partners, Lee Henderson, Richard Vinal and Cristian Koch (CK), really cemented the deal for me. We teamed up and decided to build a different kind of company. That was at the very end of 2014. It’s been an awesome journey so far.

What problem does it solve?

Building a legitimate, responsible, legal cannabis company is a step toward changing public perception around cannabis and addressing failed policies such as the war on drugs and the incarceration of a huge number young Americans. It’s not about getting people high. We are contributing to solving a much bigger social issue by building this brand in the way that we are.

How did you come up with the name?

My business partners are all musicians and passionate about music. CK and Lee built a recording studio in Athens Georgia, and CK was a professional touring musician. Music is in our DNA and High Fidelity, Hifi for short, means the most authentic expression of sound. We thought that was a great way to describe the way we feel about creating beautifully crafted, clean cannabis, so we became Hifi and we love it.

How are you better/different than your competition?

There are a lot of really amazing cultivators in Oregon, but I think we have done something different in the extent to which we have taken a leadership role in building the cannabis industry and community in the state. We work with many partners to further things like sustainability, sensible regulation, and pesticide-free products. I founded the Portland Chapter of Women Grow to support diversity in the industry. We have the most progressive corporate structure in cannabis with an Employee Stock Option Plan and a Diversity Plan for hiring. We have baked in really high standards for employee pay, benefits, and paid time off. We are totally committed to building a company that is doing the right thing for people from all corners of the socio-economic landscape. I think that makes us better.

How do you make money?

We are basically farmers, and we make money by selling the crops we grow. As we ourselves grow, our revenues will start to have more to do with building a brand and all of the things you can do under that umbrella.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

In a company like Hifi, the best thing about being an entrepreneur is seeing something grow in such a way that it can actually transform the lives of the people who are a part of it. We gathered together a small group of talented passionate people around an idea, and now we have an amazing company. It has changed our lives and it is changing the lives of the people who have joined us in the huge effort it has taken to get this far. That is a pretty amazing experience.

What has been the biggest surprise in your entrepreneurial experience to date?

LOL – I think it happens every day and it goes something like….”Did we really do that? Wow, that’s so awesome.”

Your biggest success?

Our biggest success is still being together as a founding team. Working together under intense pressure and living together at the farm would not have been my idea of a recipe for success, but something about it works, and anyone who has been out to Hifi Farms can tell you that it is a pretty magical place. We are all so proud of our company and of each other for making it happen.

Do you have a failure story to share? What did you learn from this failure?

The biggest mistake we have made was in thinking that there was a part of our company that we could trust somebody else to run, and letting go of the oversight and control because we felt like they knew, better than us, what we needed. That was a disaster and we learned very quickly that you have to be absolutely in the driving seat in every part of an early stage business. We had a bad experience with a partner who took advantage of our inexperience and who we ultimately had to fire.  It sucked, but we learnt a lot.

As an entrepreneur, what keeps you up at night?

Nothing. I am usually pretty wiped out by the end of every crazy day.

What is the best entrepreneurial advice you have received (and from whom)?

The best advice I have heard in ages relates to fundraising. “If you ask for money you get advice. If you ask for advice you get money.” It’s true!

What is your #1 piece of advice for a budding entrepreneur?

Figure out what your own, authentic strengths are and find a way to spend as much of your time in that zone as possible.

What is the #1 book you would recommend for a budding entrepreneur?

Angel Investing by David Rose. If you are planning on raising money, you need to read this book.

What song best describes your entrepreneurial journey?

“You Are My Everything.” It’s actually an album by Nat King Cole

Imagine your venture becomes wildly successful. What does that look like?

I feel that way already. We are still a tiny company but we have been so fortunate to hit some really huge milestones. Our partnership with The Meriwether Group is a great example of this. I think success looks like a company that can grow and maintain its authentic connection to the vision that created it. It can change people’s lives, build community, care about the planet, and deliver a product that really adds to people’s daily experience of their own lives.

What’s your favorite local business and why?

Portland has amazing small businesses. One of my favorites is Sheridan’s Market. It has history, craft, and quality. Those are things we care about.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An entrepreneur. It’s corny, but I have been launching companies since I was five and selling rocks out of my doll’s stroller to our neighbors in a small village in England.

Do you think Oregon is a good place to start a business? How has it helped you, and what challenges has it posed?

Oregon has something so special in its pioneer spirit. It’s a great place to be an entrepreneur. People respect the individual effort and the passion it takes to get something off the ground. The challenge is that those same people care deeply about quality, and you cannot ever drop the ball on that front without feeling the heat.

Any other tidbits or fun facts to share?

I think the coolest thing we do is the “Live at Hifi Farms” house show series. It’s sort of an underground rockstar, music insider gig that we host at The McCormick Mansion, the home of my partner Lee Henderson and his wife Sarah. It’s totally epic.

(Courtesy of Oregon Entrepreneurs Network)