Eric Sklar, CEO and co-founder, fume'
Photo Courtesy: fume'
Warren Bobrow=WB: Why cannabis? Where are you from? When was the first time that you discovered our plant? Btw: Love the name, I came out of Biodynamic/Organic wine as well… Fume’ means something to me.
Eric Sklar=ES: As a serial entrepreneur, I saw the incredible opportunities and challenges of creating a new business in a brand-new industry and I couldn’t resist taking the plunge. Brand creation has been the foundation of my career to date. Forming the organization behind the brands has been my life’s work. This was an opportunity to bring both of those skill sets to a new industry; that only happens once in a generation and I wasn’t going to miss the boat. And, like all the industries I have worked in before, I love the product.
My family moved to San Francisco from Cleveland in 1975 when I was 13. We were supposed to move to Maui, but at the last minute, my parents changed their minds and we were California bound. Though it was never part of my folks’ plan, that decision determined the type of cannabis that would forever become a part of my life.
LakeGRADE cannabis at dusk
WB: When did I first discover pot?
ES: Although I know it’s not good to start using cannabis before your twenties, it would be inauthentic not to admit my own use. Early in high school I first experienced the high of truly great pot–Acapulco Gold–at a concert when I was back in Cleveland visiting friends after my first year in San Francisco. Since then, I have never seen grass as yellow as that golden treat. It was my junior year of high school when I first met Sensimilla, and that changed everything. Until then, other than an occasional brush with exotic strains, the mainstay for Californians was brown, dry and seed-filled weed from Mexico and Columbia. One day after school, a friend from another high school showed up at my house with a bag of green and purple skunky smelling grass. And, alas, it was Sensimilla, without seeds. It was grown by hippies in Bolinas, CA. Those growers kept moving north ahead of law enforcement until they settled in the more welcoming Emerald Triangle. It’s the offspring of that Sensimilla that I grow today.
WB: Did you grow up with cannabis being stigmatized (as I was in NJ)? How do you foresee removing those stigmas? Some of the greatest stigmas are between wine and weed. What about Napa?
Photo Courtesy: fume'
ES: In San Francisco by 1975, the stigma was largely gone. It felt slightly naughty but not illegal. I think the stigma is dying fast. My 83-year old mother uses cannabis for sleep. The stigma is falling on its own due to legalization, education of its many benefits and from the enjoyment of it with little negative effects. As far as wine and weed, there is no need for there to be a conflict between the two. They are compatible as crops with the right regulations in place. And, they can complement each other as part of the Napa experience. There are older conservative vintners who don’t agree but they are looking backward. In fact, young wine drinkers are not as drawn to Napa as their parents and many of us believe weed is the way to entice them to visit Napa.
WB: Tell me about your company? Who is your mentor? Why? What are your six-month and twelve-month goals?
Richard Derum, fume' Master Grower
Photo Courtesy: fume'
ES: fumé is a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Napa Valley operating four businesses from cultivation to retail. Our mission statement–Planting Trees for Future Generations–comes from our vision to plant seeds to grow a brighter future for cannabis by bringing the most innovative products to market. Our first product–LAKEGRADE that launched this summer–came from our outdoor farm in Lake County, CA. Our three LAKEGRADE cultivars exemplify the way flowers should be grown–from trees and without the use of chemicals or pesticides under the beautiful sun-filled skies of Northern California. Our flowers are sun-grown, full-term and produce big, stunning buds that are packed with high-THC levels as a result of the way we harvest–by hand and one tree at a time. Our cannabis is grown with decades of knowledge and expertise and our proprietary strains have been stabilized through our cultivation efforts, producing consistent plant sizes, flowers, and yields.
(ED’s Note: They grow WORLD-CLASS Flowers, I tasted them during the Emerald Cup this December.)
ES: I have a handful of mentors. First, in business and life, it’s my father, an extraordinary guy. In wine, Peter Newton and Leslie Rudd. In politics, Nelson Polsby, Bob Shrum and Teddy Kennedy. I learned so much from all of them and miss them daily. Except, of course, Shrummy, who I can catch on TV quite often. In the next six months, our top goal is to round out the SKUs for our first brand, LakeGRADE, as well as launch new brands. In 12-months, our goal is to broaden distribution for current and new brands to dispensaries and direct to consumer from our current channel on EAZE.
The beauty of LakeGRADE cannabis
Photo Courtesy: fume'
WB: Do you cook? If so, who taught you? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Where? What kind of food?
ES: I am a pretty good cook. I learned from my father and from running Burrito Brothers, but mainly I am self-taught. My signature dish is carbonara, but I love to grill just about anything. I tend to shop right before cooking to see what is available, and my own whims determine what makes it to the table that night. I love just about every cuisine, from my Eastern European roots to Asian. In the end, lobster and truffles are my two favorite savory tastes and chocolate stands alone for sweets. And I admit, I do eat a little ice cream every afternoon. I have many favorite restaurants depending on my mood, but among the top are Bistro Jeanty (Yountville, CA – French), Morimoto (Napa, CA – Japanese), B Superstar (San Francisco, CA – Burmese), and Jaleo (Washington, DC – Spanish).
WB: What is your passion?
ES: I have several passions. My family, wife and two daughters. It’s such a joy seeing my two adult daughters blossom into strong, determined women with a deep commitment to making the world a better place. I love sailing, in particular on the San Francisco Bay, and racing in the heavy summer winds and fog. Bringing a boat to top speed with everything trimmed just right is magical to me. I have been scuba diving for a long time in warm waters, but have recently fallen in love with the waters off the California coast. Food, wine, and weed are of course passions of mine as well, for better or worse. I love a wide variety of foods and just about any well-made wine with the right pairing of food. And, I love politics and policy. I worked on several presidential campaigns in my twenties including as assistant press secretary on Geraldine Ferraro’s campaign plane when she ran for Vice President. I served on the St. Helena City Council for eight years, and I am currently President of the California Fish and Game Commission. It’s a hobby, incredibly rewarding and sometimes very depressing. The Commission’s mission is to protect California’s marine and wildlife and both are under severe threats.