“We consider ZZZ’s an art company more than a rolling paper company”
I bought my first pack of ZZZ’s papers last fall and have been through half a dozen since, saving all the skins to display on the shelf behind my desk. I first purchased them for the cute little stoner sloth drawn by Tim Molloy on the flap, but within weeks I started counting them among my favorite wraps. Unbleached, organic hemp that “celebrates artists one booklet at a time,” the product is the kind of cannabis collectible I love. Plus they burn quite nicely. And did I mention the sloth?
Over the past few months, I’ve also started spotting goods from ZZZ’s Rolling Paper Company at what seems like every other head shop, event, and dispensary in Mass. After seeing on their IG feed that it’s the result of their team going door to door opening new accounts and having loads of fun with it, I contacted the company’s owner, Aidan Cyr, with some questions about their unique approach and design collaborations. Our exchange follows …
First, please just give us some background and history on the products, the artist revenue share, those basics …
ZZZ’s Rolling Paper Company was founded in May 2020 by Eric Sellew and one of his classmates. They noticed an opportunity to make a traditionally uninteresting product a collectable piece of art, and worked with two friends to design the first booklets.
Almost three years later, we’ve now worked with over 15 artists on our mission to promote art and artists in the cannabis industry. Our artists make 10% on all booklet sales and a higher cut on our merchandise and we love helping them grow their own brands and platforms as much as ours. Over the last six months, our total commission payments have multiplied by 10, and we can’t wait to keep expanding our ability to promote our wonderful artist partners.
What has it been like launching a non-flower company in a time when so many people are lining up for licenses?
In a lot of ways it has been a massive blessing. The licensing process can be extremely costly in both time and money, and selling a product that is legal nationwide is very helpful as we continue to grow our brand and ship across the country. So many people are trying to innovate in this industry with actual cannabis, while there are only a few established rolling papers, who are all playing a very similar game.
The only way this impacts our business is how long it is taking our current partners to open up their new locations. We have lots of retail partners that would be selling ZZZ’s already if they had their license. Dispensaries are currently our primary target so our market is heavily dictated by the licensing regulations and processes state by state. For example, in Massachusetts, where we have the largest retail presence, you are only allowed three retail locations per company. This means we need to form many more partnerships compared to a state where one company could have 15 locations.
Regarding the actual papers themselves, how did you come to decide on the size, feel, and format? Isn’t that a tricky world to navigate, with all sorts of proprietary secret glues and stuff?
The differentiator for our product is the beautiful artwork, but that doesn’t mean we compromise on quality. We wanted to use premium organic hemp papers for the cleanest smoke you can find. Our booklets include the pre-folded filter tips and magnetic clasp for a premium smoking experience.
Finally, we make sure to include information about the artist so our customers can follow the artists and see their other works. The magnet is really nice because you can put the booklets on the fridge or store them together in a collection when you are done, and they protect the papers while the booklet is closed.
It seems like you are in every other head shop and dispensary we walk into. And we have seen your videos of walking into places trying to get your product on shelves. Has your success up to this point really been rooted in that kind of door to door initiative?
We are growing our retail presence, especially in Massachusetts, but still have a long long way to go. Most of our sales come from walking in, cold calling, or meeting contacts at networking/industry events. It can take a lot of work to get into even one store, but once our papers are in we’ve seen an incredible sell-through rate for an accessory, making it really easy for our partners to reorder.
As our brand grows, we’ll look to use larger distributors and take more inbound orders from dispensaries and head shops that are interested in joining our mission to support artists. For now, we’ll continue to do whatever it takes to get our papers into new stores.
Tell us about some of the characters—where the ideas come from, which are the most popular, which are your personal favorites, and which should have their own Saturday morning cartoon.
Our logo is named Samuel the Sloth, and he is really the only character who appears in more than one of our booklets. We do our best to give our artists complete creative license on their designs which is why they are all so unique. A lot of our artists have played with the idea of animals in their booklets, which is a nice theme but not something we require. The ZZZ’s team loves Samuel and we always joke about how he is always living his best life no matter which design you see him in.
What accompanying merch have you put out and are you already considering yourself more of an overall utility / accessory brand as opposed to just rolling paper people?
This is a great question. We consider ZZZ’s an art company more than a rolling paper company. Our entire business model revolves around supporting artists both financially and with brand recognition. We just released a bunch of merch featuring existing designs and exclusive new designs from current and new artists, all of which artists will receive commission on as well. We also sell the prints of our booklet designs and other works of our artists online.
Our long-term vision for this company is to be the best way for a new independent artist to grow their brand and gain new opportunities. We’re always looking for new products to print their art on and continue to push our retail sales to allow us to pay them more and more in commission every quarter. We believe that the art community and the cannabis community fit so well together, and we want our business to be the bridge that connects these two amazingly creative parts of society.
What’s in store for the rest of the year, and where do you envision taking things after that while staying true to your mission?
As we are still in our early growth phase, this year is all about the basics. We’ll continue to meet and work with new artists to come out with new designs throughout the rest of the year. Our main priority will be getting our brand out there and signing on as many retail partners as we possibly can to expand our customer base and increase commission for our artists. Hopefully after this year we will be able to start scaling up the size of the team and become a well oiled nationally known brand in the cannabis industry.