Sun Token Founder Hector Featured as "Entrepreneur of the Week" by D.C. Network.
Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Hector C., Founder of Sun Token.
I am a father, lover of sleep, and cook of dank food. I love playing in the rivers and the ocean by whitewater kayaking and surfing when I can. I went to art school for video game art & design to be a 3D modeler of gaming assets, like vehicles, weapons, robots, and buildings. Although a promising career field, I went from being an eager freshman to being a graduate who knew the gaming industry would not help me be happy and healthy. I had changed over time and wanted different things out of life. After doing an assortment of amazing yet low-income jobs (like being a wilderness adventure trip leader and mountain bike instructor) I started making “Sun Token” solar pipes for family and friends as a hobby. I decided to take it seriously one day and now operate a small manufacturing business. I have even more products in the oven, so stay tuned!
In our interview with Hector Campos, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about the Sun Token, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Hector, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Sun Token?
Hector: Sun Token Products is creating a family of unique, beautiful, and rugged smoking tools with the planet in mind. Our first product, The Sun Token, is the world’s first “solar dome pipe”. It is made of cherry hardwood and borosilicate glass. It has a detachable solar dome that evolves the solar smoking experience, putting it on display in the palm of your hand. It makes solar hits easy and traps your vapors in a windproof environment.
It’s fun to watch and creates hybrid hits of vaporization and combustion. Without the dome, the Sun Token is a well thought out traditional pipe. It is designed to feel good in the hand, have great airflow, and is modular so you can use almost any 14mm attachment for new bowls, water filtration, or concentrate use.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Hector: My idea evolved from me trying to create the perfect smoking toy that I wanted for myself. I kept evolving the design, gifting them to family and friends. I put up a humble website up about it using WIX.com. I got lucky with a viral video and some orders starting coming in. I had to put up a waitlist and I realized that starting a brand was the next step for the pipe, and for my other ideas that have yet to escape the sketchbook.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Hector: My family and girlfriend are more supportive than they should be. They all pushed me to pursue my designs and my handcrafting process. Now, a year later, they are still more supportive than I deserve, accepting that a brand may take years to get recognized and to generate a substantial profit. My family has even helped fund some of the tools I needed to get production started. I know I am fortunate, I would not be able to pursue these goals without them and I know many people do not have the same support structure.
DCN: How is your organization/business helping the cannabis industry in a positive way?
Hector: The average plastic lighter that we all see and use is non-recyclable, non-biodegradable, and non-refillable. There are many ways we can cut back on plastic waste, solar smoking is just of those ways. We are offering products that will possibly outlive you. We want to deliver unique treasures that are sturdy and will be considered heirloom items to whoever owns one. The Sun Token is meant to be passed down over time and is easily repairable part by part.
We want to spread the idea that we should monitor our waste on our planet. Burning through plastic lighters or disposable cartridges our whole lives is not a good way to treat Earth and her oceans. We must find alternative tools to support our habits, and make the best use of them when we can. This includes solar smoking, hemp wick smoking, recycling your butane canisters, and using refillable, or rechargeable cartridges and lighters.
DCN: As we go into 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Hector: I was excited to be featured on the “Touch of Modern” site through a flash sale event. I was also mentioned by the D.C.Network in an editorial about The Sun Token. For a young brand with a super small marketing budget, opportunities like these help immensely! I am also working on a redesign of the Sun Token this year to get it to be more affordable and smaller.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Hector: The biggest challenge is having enough time to spend on the business while balancing home life. I have a toddler who is almost 2 years old, and his mother works almost full time. It means working together, sometimes feelings absolutely exhausted and worn out for weeks on end. It means compromising and waking up early when I don’t want to, staying up late when I don’t want to, recovering and taking naps when I don’t want to, and picking times to stop working so I can try to chill and enjoy life while it is still here in front of me.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Hector: So far, it is all self and family funded. I am realizing that as time goes on, and to get into stores nationwide, I may need to learn all about fundraising. That is a whole job in itself, and a risky one. Right now the brand has been an experiment, pushing my small budget, getting enough profit to afford the next baby step, and searching for my niche market.
Some creative things I’ve done for marketing is plenty of emailing and practically begging companies to shed light on our brand by paying them in Sun Token units! Right now I am learning about writing a proper business plan to be reviewed by investors.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today? What did you have to sacrifice?
Hector: I sacrifice a lot of time. Most entrepreneurs start out thinking that they are going to escape the 40 hour work week by working for themselves, only to find that in order to launch a successful startup, you are entering a 60-80 hour work week, with less security, and little to no secured pay to start with.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Hector: Just because you think your idea is awesome, and YOU would buy your product, does not mean the average consumer will. Just because you get a lot of “shares and likes” does not mean you will get a lot of sales. Read blogs and articles about taxes, profit margins, and calculate all your costs of keeping the company alive honestly. Get help by asking experienced business owners about their challenges and their low periods and their failures.
Really sit back and think whether you have the time, money, and energy to be married to a project for a long time with no promise you will get anything for it. Ask yourself: Is working tirelessly on an idea (that may fail) worth giving up a consistent income from another company that you don’t have to manage? Working for someone else is not so bad if you are with the right group of people doing the right jobs. In the end, a team of great people working on an okay idea will probably be more successful than a team of okay people working on a great idea.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Hector: Knowing that the risk of failure is so high. Knowing that you can spend so much time and effort on an idea and that you may have to walk away and start again one day. Also, the most groundbreaking ideas always have a wave of critics and naysayers. Listen to and respect your critics because they can sharpen your ideas, but realize that the most successful people always carry a cloud of antagonists behind them.
For example, I don’t use Apple products, but I know the company is successful and the product is good enough for China to erect fake apple stores. But think about how many people still talk trash about them! They will do the same to you and your ideas.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Hector: Initially, the difficulty of processing money and getting a bank to open a merchant account surprised me. You have to get creative handling money in the smoking world. Usually, you must find a “high risk” merchant service provider.
I have also found that no group of people can be generalized. In every community, you have a wide array of different types of people. Not all people in the industry are going to fit into your idea of what the “industry” is like.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Hector: Vision- the ability to see ideas and thoughts in your head and bring them into the world through action. Self Honesty- can you be honest with yourself about how much something will cost you? What are your limits, how do you need help and will you ask for it? Communication- Can you be respectful to everyone even if they are insulting you? Can you share your ideas, no matter how complicated, and have someone understand them and get a good feeling about your vision? Know how much to say, and when to not say anything at all. Learn to listen more than you speak.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Hector: I try to get on the local river rapids as much as I can after housework, business work, fathering, and husbanding is done. I love to stand up paddle board, surf, and whitewater kayak. I plan to learn how to sail. If you have a big ass sailboat and need crew for a week or two, hit me up!
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Hector: For a book about human kind’s role on planet earth: Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. For a book about human kind’s quirkiness on planet earth: Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. For a book on the water systems of planet earth: The Drama of the Oceans, by Elisabeth Mann Borgese.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Hector: I like the various “human capital” businesses of the world: The family-owned bed and breakfasts, the artisans, the tourism trip leaders, the white water rafting guides, the surf schools, the people who come to your house and fix your broken stuff or landscape your yard. I admire the scientists trying to learn about the universe, the engineers that make sure every measurement is correct on that new bridge.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Hector: I believe we can partner with the sustainable and permaculture world. Growing food, industrial products like hemp, and medicine locally is the path to a sustainable future. We can also help eradicate the stigmas of our medicine that surrounds us, and for that matter, we can eradicate many corrupt aspects of our world that we were born into. Ending the prohibition will be one the many steps towards disrobing a corrupt history, and building a more enlightened generation after us.
DCN: Thank you, Hector, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice! It was so great being able to feature you as this week’s entrepreneur of the week! Any final comments or advice for the DCN community?
Hector: If you think you we can help each other, don’t hesitate to contact me. Once all this smoking product stuff is done, maybe one day I’ll be leading groups of bright-eyed people on amazing adventure trips again! Or perhaps helping to create a more sustainable, abundant, and healthy societal system.