MFused’s journey to prominence in Washington’s cannabis industry is a Shakesperean tale of betrayal, struggle, perseverance, and finally, redemption. The founders of MFused started their business with the best intentions. And sometimes, good guys win.
The Three Musketeers
MFused founders Jeff Freeman, Adam Melero, and Yung Tan share a few things in common. They’re all University of Washington alumni. They’re all men of color, and they all love their family. So when Tan and Freeman had parents diagnosed with cancer, they were eager to do everything they could to help them.
Melero, an engineering major, had already begun to dabble in researching vaping and cannabis technology when Freeman, Melero, and Tan decided to team up and make a splash in the cannabis sector.
In 2012, MFused started as Thinc Extract, along with Ionic and Interra Oils, they were the first in Washington to put out “pure” cannabis extract. At the time, all of the other cannabis extract used for vaporizers was either cut with additives or processed with alcohol.
Once MFused had the process of making CO2 cannabis oil and distillate perfected and established themselves as one of the top medical cartridge companies, leaders at Thinc wanted to take it to the next level. The team decided to hire a marketing agency to help build their brand.
Shockingly, the agency they hired to establish their brand, stole the brand. While Thinc Extracts had filed a federal patent, since cannabis is Federally illegal, it didn’t protect their brand. Members of the agency hired to help them brand, used industry secrets to start a separate brand, Thinc Pure. They then filed a state patent which allowed them to steal their concept and brand, leaving Thinc Extract with little legal recourse.
“They stole our brand, they became Thinc Pure and they hired a couple of buddies of ours,” Freeman told The Sesh.
This left Thinc Extract in a tough spot. Thinc Extract’s cartridges had been some of the top-selling medical cartridges on the market. The Thinc Extract team wanted to fight for their brand, but they also knew that a legal showdown would be an uphill battle. So they decided to pivot.
The company did some consulting and helped others launch prominent cannabis concentrate brands. The leaders at Thinc Extract wanted to continue making and selling their products, and eventually enter the burgeoning recreational market, but knew they’d have to start from scratch when it came to the brand. So that’s what they did.
Out of the ashes of Thinc Extracts, MFused was born. Freeman took the same clean, high-quality product to all of his established sales contacts, and hoped for the best.
“A really big challenge for us was going into these stores, trying to relaunch our brand as one of the original brands,” Freeman confided. “The buyers would know us, but it was almost like it was their opportunity to have a leg up. Everybody is fighting for positioning and shelf space and price. We were aggressive with pricing. We priced ourselves right where we fit in the market, and we got very little traction. Just because, we didn’t have brand recognition.”
Despite being one of the original, top medical cartridge brands, MFused was finding without the name Thinc Extracts, retailers and customers alike weren’t familiar with MFused, and it was a tough sell.
Times were tough, and undoubtedly cutting corners and costs would have helped increased profits. But the leaders at MFused kept their medical background, and love of family in mind.
Tan’s father was a well-respected lawyer who was initially adamantly against Tan entering the cannabis business space. After Tan’s father was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer, Tan helped ease his suffering from cannabis. His father’s opinion on cannabis did a complete 360. The traditional Chinese lawyer encouraged Tan to enter into business with Freeman and Melero.
With this background guiding them the last thing the team at MFused wanted to do was create a subpar product just to make more money. They stuck to their core values and toughed it out.
“We’re not cutting our products, these potency reports are accurate, the product inside of it is accurate,” Freeman explained. “We’re not cutting corners and using inferior hardware that’s leaching out metals. We care about that. We tested all of our products right away for pesticides. All of these things were huge added costs that no budtender cared about, for a long time. So it forced us to become extremely efficient in our extraction and processing. Which is helping us in the long run, but it hurt us at first.”
Not sacrificing the quality and safety of MFused products has finally paid off. With all of the recent scandal surrounding vapes in the news, MFused’s leaders can rest easy knowing they likely already comply with any forthcoming regulations. And it seems budtenders and more importantly their customers, are finally realizing the importance of clean cartridges.
“In 2018 we went from number 100 in cartridges to number three,” Freeman stated with pride. “We’re only in about 20 percent of the state shops, but of those shops, in about 85 percent of them we’re the top cartridge in the shop.”
According to 502data.com, MFused sold $1,058,438 worth of cannabis extract in July of 2019. Total sales since the company switched to the recreational market in April of 2017, are $10,113,612. Out of 211 licensed cannabis processors in Washington State, MFused was number four in sales for July, and number two for 2019 so far. So it’s clear sales are increasing significantly.
Despite significant setbacks, MFused’s team has managed to maintain their integrity and carve out a place for themselves at the top of the cannabis industry.