We sat down with Founder and Owner Darryl Borsato to talk how much has changed in the cannabis industry...AND how much hasn’t. The stigma that still surrounds the industry. About what he’d go back and do differently, some of the struggles, and what will be the first thing he will do post pandemic.
Q: What were you doing before you (and Chrissy) started Diablo? I mean let's go waaaay back...
A: Back in 2012 we were working hard on growing our retail business. One of the things we noticed was that no matter how many product lines we carried our customers would always pick and choose products from a variety of manufacturers. We thought what if there was a complete nutrient line that took the best products and created a cannabis specific feed program and a way to calculate exactly how to use it. The challenge was how do you manufacture and promote a product line that isn’t shy about what it is used for? Mentioning cannabis back then was still very taboo. The industry wasn’t as glamorous as it is today. Back then customers would park blocks away from the store and some even wore disguises to avoid being recognized. We have been kicked out of over a dozen banks and to this day we struggle with things as simple as getting a mortgage because of the stigma attached to the industry. Cannabis culture has definitely become more mainstream but Diablo was forged in a time when society still frowned upon it.
Q: How did Diablo Nutrients come to be?
A: It wasn’t until 2014 that we started getting into manufacturing our own nutrients under the Diablo brand. Initially we only had a few products that we produced and sold through a co-packer. It wasn’t until 2016 that we had grown enough to start our own manufacturing company and produced all our products in house, locally in the Okanagan. People are sometimes surprised that we do all of our R&D and manufacturing in the Okanagan, but it was important to us to keep things local where we could still be involved in the day-to-day.
Q: What is something you get asked all the time?
A: Where did you get the inspiration for the name and the brand Diablo. We always love to tell people the story of our beloved dog Diablo. He was such a big part of our lives, along with our other dogs, and he was a total badass. He embodied everything that we wanted Diablo Nutrients to represent. He was THE dog, we miss him every day, but he will live on forever as part of the Diablo brand.
Q: What has been your biggest lesson (in running a nutrient company)?
A: Our biggest lesson in building a nutrient company is that just because you have a great product doesn’t mean people will seek you out. It takes a team to build a company and we have spent years assembling one of the finest teams in the industry. I am still in awe every day of the team that we have built and the people that have been willing to dedicate their careers to building an amazing brand. Getting people to not only share your vision but embrace it is the key to success and we have that in spades.
Q: What advice would you give to yourself if you could go back 10 years?
A: If we could go back 10 years the biggest thing I would tell myself would be to take the time to stop and smell the roses. Even though it sounds cliche the message is incredibly important. We focused all our time and energy into our companies and when I got diagnosed with ALS in 2017 everything changed. It was a huge slap in the face about the true meaning of life. Success is amazing and it’s great to reap the rewards but if you don’t use that success to translate into life experiences then you are truly missing out.
Q: What's left? What's to come?
A: Diablo has continued to grow every year and especially in the last couple years. With brand recognition, an amazing high quality line of products and a superb team behind it we are poised to do even greater things. We are available in stores coast to coast across Canada and we are recognized wherever we go (I am always wearing my Diablo shirt and it always gets attention). Now we are moving into the US and have already established a North East distributor and we are working our way across the country expanding our brand and our company as we go. We have had huge interest from the US for years, so we are pretty excited to get down there in a big way.
Q: You have 3 successful companies, what's important to you at this stage in your life?
A: At this stage in our lives we are finding balance. That is incredibly important and a true life lesson. While we still spend a lot of time on our companies, we have also found passion in giving back. Diablo has always been a supporter of animal rescue, raising thousands of dollars for the local SPCA as well as other Okanagan animal rescue groups, but now we also work with ALS. Last year we got an award as the top fundraising team in BC for the Walk for ALS and this year we plan to do even more. We spend a lot of time working with advocacy groups raising awareness about the disease and its devastating impact both on patients and their families. We give back by donating locally and across the country and we are involved first-hand in the lives of many of these amazing people that are stricken with this horrible disease.
Q: What is the first thing you'll do post pandemic/post vaccine?
A: We have already got our first shots and in anticipation of our second we have started booking vacations for this fall. We want to travel and see the world. We have a big bucket list and really want to start checking it off. Life is short and it shouldn’t take a terminal disease to show you that, but it truly did open our eyes and make us want to experience everything and anything we can while we can.
Any closing thoughts?
I should probably add that success is not measured in dollars and cents. It’s measured in experience and what you give back to the world. As part of my legacy I want to have helped pave the way for the cannabis industry, but hopefully also to have touched lives both human and canine.