We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Scherr and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, Why did you pursue an artistic or creative career? Without realizing it, my creative career began in the 3rd grade when I started taking piano lessons. I suppose I wasn’t the only kid who was forced to take up a hobby like this, but I was one of the few who kept at it. I never got the memo that I couldn’t be a rockstar….so I played music throughout high school and into college. Once I graduated from school, I moved out to Colorado, and within a week, I was in a band. I’ve since been involved in a variety of jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock, reggae, funk, and wedding bands. At one point I actually had the chance to travel the world as a pianist/singer on a cruise line.
No matter what genre or scenario, using the art of performance to make people happy was always one of my favorite parts of the job, but my creativity doesn’t end with music. I love finding new ways to use my creative side to make a positive impact and bring joy.
What was your thought process behind starting your own business? Around the time I was wrapping up my career as a musician, I went back to school to get my MBA, focusing on entrepreneurship, branding and product development.
I first started using cannabis as a medicine around the time I was playing the piano for 4 hours every night and needed relief for the pain in my wrists. I later got into cultivating my own cannabis after I tore my cartilage in a skiing accident. The more research I did, the more I was blown away by the endocannabinoid system. I knew I wanted to get involved in the space in some way. I reentered the cannabis industry by working with a package design and manufacturing company, running the cannabis arm of the business, and then got more experience working for another hemp company before creating Higher Celebrations and Arbor.
Do you have a budget? How do you think about your personal finances and how do you make lifestyle and spending decisions? I have a tight budget that I stick to. I think it’s important to be frugal and know what your acceptable loss is from the get-go. Prior to raising capital, I put in a substantial amount of savings into an account from the jobs I had previously worked. We then raised a small seed round and are continuing to raise money and growing the team.
We’re a pretty scrappy team and we’re overly creative and tactful because we don’t have the money to waste if something doesn’t garner the results we want- we flex our creative muscles often due to this, and I think it only makes us stronger. For example, instead of burning through a ton of cash by getting a booth at a conference, our team utilizes our backgrounds in entertainment and overall quirky personalities to spread the word. We actually dress as Waldo at conventions and wander around the conference floor, and you’d be surprised by how many people flock to us wanting to talk.
Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career? Musicians are trained to take risks, it comes with living the gig lifestyle. You don’t always know when your next paycheck will come, and in that way, I experienced the ups and downs of entrepreneurship as a musician.
I take risks every day as an entrepreneur, but I never take a risk without putting in careful thought and consideration to what could go wrong. That said, there are some things that are worth the risk due to the potential reward, and some things that aren’t, no matter what, like choosing the right business partner. Pick someone who you are 100% sure about, and no matter what, pay for a lawyer to draft up an agreement.
Where are you from and how did your background and upbringing impact who you are today? Growing up in Boston, my dad was self-employed and always valued a healthy work/life balance. So the idea of being an entrepreneur was always something that appealed to me. Right now I wouldn’t say I have the balance I’d like, I’m still working pretty long hours and weekends, but I’m willing to work more now if it means I’m able to enjoy more time with my family and friends when I’m older!
What is the most important factor behind your success / the success of your brand? One of my quotes is “the difference between dreamers and visionaries is execution.”
If all it took was a good idea to be successful, I’d probably be retiring early on a yacht somewhere!
Alas, 99% of creating a successful business is execution, and I attribute most of my success to being persistent, realistic, and of course, executing. Creating the Birthjay for example took a lot of persistence… and a lot of wasted joints…There were many iterations and prototypes of this idea before I figured out the best possible way to combine a joint and a birthday candle. I dipped a lot of joints into heated candle wax before I realized I needed to come up with another strategy. It’s pretty funny looking back on it now thinking about all of the perfectly good bud that I totally ruined with candle wax. I was just so determined to make it work, and I kept trying.
What value or principle matters most to you? Why? No matter what I’m doing, remaining true to who I am, and creating joy is always at top of mind. It’s at the forefront of what I’ve developed with Higher Celebrations, a company that at the end of the day, was created to de-stigmatize cannabis use, but in a way that’s slightly ridiculous, and literally sparks joy. (No pun intended…)
[BACKGROUND: Higher Celebrations is an ancillary cannabis gifting company with a line of novelty packaging products, including Birthjays, the world’s first pre-rolled joint birthday candle. Birthjays are patent-pending cones that double as birthday candles with removable cake stakes and candle toppers to catch melted wax.]
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance? This “balance” ebbs and flows. Sometimes it comes down to working smarter, not harder. I used to work 80+ hour work weeks, but I don’t let myself do that anymore. Life is too short to burn yourself out on a monthly basis.
What’s the end goal? Where do you want to be professionally by the end of your career? The goal of Higher Celebrations is to bring cannabis into the mainstream, and make it more acceptable to embrace cannabis-use during special occasions, just like how it’s common to pop a bottle of champagne on New Year’s Eve. I’d love to bring us closer to that as a culture. Eventually I could also see myself using the skills I’ve acquired to make a difference elsewhere, perhaps mentor, volunteer, or help other entrepreneurs navigate startup life. I also intend to continue the mission of connecting like-minded cannabis professionals in Israel and the U.S. through an organization I started a while back called the America Israel Cannabis Association (AICA).
Tell us about a book you’ve read and why you like it / what impact it had on you. I’d highly recommend reading The Buddha and the Badass. It’s a soft skill leadership style book about how to truly align on incentives and goals to create high-performing teams. The book spoke to me personally and the push/pull I experience as a yogi who is also an entrepreneur. I think it does a great job breaking things down and giving tangible metrics to hold yourself and others accountable. It emphasized how leadership styles have changed and creating a more transparent and “family like” team can drive more loyalty and ultimately revenue. Since my full name is technically Michael Scott Scherr, I’d say I’m pretty on board with that technique…
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Any sushi place I’m always down for, and I’m also a big fan of Linger and tend to go there quite a lot.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?