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Authority Magazine Eric photoI don’t compromise an opportunity just because it may be bigger than the brand itself. When I was working for what was a regional food brand and charged with turning it into a national powerhouse, I found myself in a situation where I had the chance to pursue marketing options that would not typically take on a smaller brand. While having a discussion with one of my marketing partners, baseball legend Steve Garvey, he asked me what my home run activation would be. I replied that I wanted to create a restaurant for the brand inside the ballpark, but that based on my previous discussions with the team, that it seemed out of reach. Garvey smiled and said that we were not going to give up that easily. He arranged for a new set of conversations and helped the marketing team develop an approach that would make the ballpark more receptive to the idea. When opening day arrived, our brand had a restaurant inside the stadium. I learned once again that not giving up, leveraging the strength of your team and being open to creative solutions achieves success.

by Chaya Weiner | Authority Magainze

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erick Dickens, Co-Founder and CEO of Kadenwood, LLC. Erick started his career in marketing after serving over eight years as a U.S. Army pilot and commander. He has over 20 years of experience leading teams and driving growth for category-leading brands in fast-growing start-ups and global Fortune 500 companies. Erick was recently selected to the inaugural Forbes CMO Next list of 50 top marketers redefining the role of CMO for his work driving brand and business growth at King’s Hawaiian. Erick has managed household brands such as Post Cereals, Renuzit, Soft Scrub, and Right Guard at Kraft Foods and Henkel. Erick led LifeLock’s branding and product development effort resulting in a doubling of sales over three years and a successful IPO. At King’s Hawaiian, Erick built the marketing function and strategy from scratch — doubling the 68-year-old bread company’s revenue during his five years. In addition to traditional marketing mediums such as TV, print, radio, and digital, Erick successfully leveraged both branded entertainment and sponsorship to drive category-leading, new product launches.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After serving over eight years as an army pilot and commander, I made the decision to transition into business. The recruiting company Cameron-Brooks, which specializes in placing former military officers into business roles, coached and positioned me for a brand management career starting with Kraft Foods in New York. My current business partner and cofounder of Kadenwood, LLC, Doug Weekes hired me as an associate brand manager on Post cereals. Over the last 15 years, I have had the opportunity to launch several new products and build several brands into household names. I see the current environment of CBD as complicated for consumers. I’ve always believed in creating companies and products that directly benefit the consumer and are easy to understand and trust. My goal for this new company is to really shape a new standard for the CBD industry and create brands you can trust will work and be safe on a national scale.

Can you share a story of grit and success? First, can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I constantly draw upon my experience from the military where I made life and death decisions. One event in particular tested my mettle like no other. While flying reconnaissance in South America as part of our nation’s war on drugs and counterterrorism efforts, my Dash-7 aircraft suffered a failed engine over hostile territory. In addition to the engine failure, the aircraft also suffered a series of mechanical issues severely limiting my options to continue flight. To make matters worse, the only secure airfield available for me to land unexpectedly closed due to quickly brewing storm clouds. My responsibility to get the crew of eight home safely forced me to take the most obvious solution of landing immediately in hostile territory and hoping for an unlikely rescue off the table. Instead, I worked with my copilot to develop an alternative flight path towards our base airfield while circumnavigating the thunderstorms. With a fuel imbalance, no visibility, and a limited amount of time to try for a landing, we utilized multiple navigational aids to put the aircraft in a position to land safely. This experience taught me that determination and teamwork can solve seemingly impossible challenges.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

My dad instilled in me the value to never quit. This value was further reinforced throughout my life by coaches while playing competitive sports and my leadership in the military.

So, how are things going today? How did grit lead to your eventual success?

Today, I am the CEO of Kandenwood, LLC where my cofounders and I are building the country’s largest vertically integrated CBD consumer products business. The idea of starting a new company in an emerging space with the goal of building the nation’s top household consumer brands from scratch may seem daunting to many, but we are determined to achieve this by leveraging the talents of our exceptional team and bringing to bear every resource at our disposal to ensure success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from it?

While boarding a flight to New York to do our company’s first national press tour, my very patient cofounder Brian Newberry called me to review our talking points. During this conversation, he quickly realized that I could not pronounce one of the key terms in this industry. He quickly began a repeat after me exercise. So, as I sat in my seat amongst other travelers, one word crossed my lips out loud with every breath, cannabidiol. I sat there saying this strange word over and over and could not seem to get it right. I tried relating it to the word banana, which did little to help me pronounce the second part of the word. As the door closed, I finally go it right. The lesson I took away from this experience is how important it is to rely on the strengths of each team member and to support each other.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The combination of our vertically integrated industry leading farming operation coupled with the country’s best consumer entrepreneurial brand leaders sets us apart from everyone in the space. Our talent, determination and experience will show in our work. We are dedicated to changing the safety and quality of products in the CBD industry and believe we can set new standards that have a direct benefit to consumers. We want to be the most trusted, well known company that consumers can identify and immediately know they are getting the purest product.

Eric Level SelectWhich tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out?”

Don’t compromise talent and empower the team to share the burden of building the business. Tackling how to breakthrough an emerging industry that is oversaturated takes a lot of smart, talented individuals coming together for the greater good. Create a company and product that you believe in and have passion behind and see the bigger picture outside of just your company. To shift the industry, we all need to be in this together.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Todd Davis, founder of Lifelock, hired me to help him lead his company’s marketing efforts through the IPO. He taught me how to turn an unknown startup into an industry leading national brand. He trusted me to deliver against some of the Lifelock’s biggest branding challenges and in turn, I was committed to never let him down. After my time at Lifelock, we each pursued separate opportunities, but kept in loose contact. When I called him six years later out of the blue to get his advice on this new venture, he jumped in and became our first and biggest investor, but he didn’t just write a check, he offered support and council every step of the way and later became our chairman.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Kadenwood, LLC is on a mission to deliver the highest quality hemp derived CBD products that consumers can trust will help improve wellness. We’re committed to only creating the best and making consumer decisions easier with the goal of creating brands that are nationally recognized and trusted.

Based on your experience, can you share five pieces of advice about how one can develop grit? (Please share a story)

  1. Challenge yourself with big ideas
  2. Create options to overcome obsticles
  3. Surround yourself with excellence
  4. Don’t give up
  5. Maintain high standards

I don’t compromise an opportunity just because it may be bigger than the brand itself. When I was working for what was a regional food brand and charged with turning it into a national powerhouse, I found myself in a situation where I had the chance to pursue marketing options that would not typically take on a smaller brand. While having a discussion with one of my marketing partners, baseball legend Steve Garvey, he asked me what my home run activation would be. I replied that I wanted to create a restaurant for the brand inside the ballpark, but that based on my previous discussions with the team, that it seemed out of reach. Garvey smiled and said that we were not going to give up that easily. He arranged for a new set of conversations and helped the marketing team develop an approach that would make the ballpark more receptive to the idea. When opening day arrived, our brand had a restaurant inside the stadium. I learned once again that not giving up, leveraging the strength of your team and being open to creative solutions achieves success.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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