I was first introduced to ZZZ’s rolling papers when they were handed to me in a Puff, Pass & Paint class, and as an artist myself, I was immediately in love with their concept. I am a sucker for beautiful little rituals and enjoying the process of things, so having rolling papers that are not only high quality and easy to roll with, but also visually pleasing, was a huge hit for me. When I learned more about them and how they support and work with small artists, giving them a platform to showcase their work while making income, I was even more impressed. I’ve now had the pleasure of getting to know Aidan Cyr and Eric Sellew of the ZZZ’s team, and watch as their brand expands and grows even more. I would love to introduce you to them and their mission as well!
Aidan and Eric, it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you both as people and also your brand ZZZ’s, which is now one of my absolute favorite rolling paper brands. Can you tell me a bit about yourself, how you became involved in the cannabis industry, and how ZZZ’s came to be?
Eric: We grew up in a small town called Carlisle, MA. My affinity for business started when I was around 8 years old. My family grew garlic in our field, and my brother and I sold the bulbs for $1 each at the local farmers markets. After about 5 solid years of selling garlic, the crop got diseased. Instead, my brother and I started a firewood delivery and stacking business, which turned out to be much more lucrative than selling garlic bulbs!
ZZZ’s came to be when I was a second semester, second senior at college. COVID had just struck, so no one was on campus except for me and a few friends. My classmate & business partner at the time said he wanted to name the paper line “ZZZ’s” because of his last name. We examined the packaging of other brands and saw an opportunity to do something different. From there, the mission was clear - provide consumers with high quality rolling paper at a reasonable price, and create a story behind each booklet. Our first two artist collaborations were with one of my college classmates Steph Eliza, and a Miami, FL-based artist named Stephanie Dovale. Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to work with over 20 artists around the world. We plan to continue growing this number and building out our collections beyond rolling papers.
Growing up, Eric and I had always gone back and forth with business ideas and fun ways to leave our stamp on the world. When he told me about ZZZ’s, I was instantly hooked, but it took about a year or so of just talking as friends about the business before I officially joined the team in late 2021. On slightly different levels, two things that have always brought me joy are promoting causes, people, ideas I believe in, and cannabis. I think ZZZ’s is a perfect way for me to combine those two passions, as we use this magnificent harmony of art and cannabis to spread positivity and promote independent artists. I grew up in a community where cannabis was a purely negative concept: something that is dangerous and will make you lazy. My goal with ZZZ’s is to show people the positive side of the cannabis community as a force for good.
What are your official titles?
Eric: Founder & CEO. We have a third partner Gus Sample (Also our high school buddy) who is our Chief Revenue Officer.
I am the Chief Strategy Officer. My primary business function is to work with the artists to have new designs ready each drop. I am also Eric’s right hand man when it comes to long term planning and other business decisions.
What sets ZZZ’s apart from other rolling paper brands?
Aidan: ZZZ’s is an art company more than a rolling paper company. Our papers provide a new twist on the sacred ritual of rolling a joint, by introducing beautiful art that comes with a story. Each of our artists comes from a different background, uses a different medium to share their vision of the world, and ultimately has a unique story to tell. It is our job to amplify and promote those messages.
Everybody who rolls joints needs to use a rolling paper package, but those who roll with ZZZ’s are making a conscious choice to support and participate in the arts. Like any art, our designs can start conversations, inspire curiosity, or simply make you smile.
Eric: We provide high-quality, intuitive products at a competitive price, while creating visibility for super talented independent artists whose work deserves to be shared with the world. ZZZ’s artists also earn royalties on the sales of their products.
What have been some of the challenges behind creating a successful rolling paper brand and/or being a part of the cannabis industry?
Aidan: We constantly run into new challenges and obstacles. Some challenges are temporary and have to do with being a start up company in an established market. Some challenges have more to do with the industry and don’t seem likely to change.
Our primary problem as a company has been the unfortunate reality that our target market does not make most of its money off of rolling papers. Most dispensaries make less than 1-2% of their revenue on accessories as an entire category, of which rolling papers is a decent fraction. This automatically places purchasing for accessories at the bottom of the list for most key decision makers, which can make it difficult to start partnerships. We pride ourselves on being a brand that people want to see in a dispensary. In addition to the small revenue our customers are getting, our papers help them increase brand loyalty and ticket size, which is where our true value lies.
We also have to face the reality that rolling papers are traditionally somewhat of an “afterthought” product. Most people don’t care too much about what papers they use, but those who do are usually seriously loyal to an existing brand. As a premium product with a story, this is both an opportunity and a challenge. We have to work really hard to get people to make conscious decisions about the rolling papers they use, but when they do, that decision should be ZZZ’s 10 times out of 10.
Eric: To piggyback off what Aidan said, we’ve made the choice to target a sub-category that is quite small (1-2%) within the overall $13.2 billion cannabis market. We thought that targeting dispensaries first would be the most effective way to penetrate what is a saturated rolling paper market. The accessory shelf space is less crowded vs. traditional head shops, and most customers going to dispensaries are looking for products that are new & different. On top of that, we saw the number of dispensaries in Massachusetts rapidly expanding (there are over 250 locations across the state), so we had to take advantage of the opportunity. A challenge for us has been communicating to accessory buyers the importance of building out a unique accessory line for their customers. We are betting on the fact that dispensaries will become a one stop shop for all your flower and accessory needs, ultimately reducing the need to go to a smoke shop to buy your papers. As we expand our distribution, another challenge for us will be creating awareness for our brand within the state, so when we do start getting our papers on the shelves of smoke shops and convenience stores, people are looking for ZZZ’s.
And what is your favorite thing about being a part of this industry, and being a cannabis entrepreneur?
My favorite thing about being a young entrepreneur in cannabis is that I feel comfortable learning, trying things, and making mistakes in this industry. I think anyone who has been able to survive or thrive in this industry has adopted the mindset of continually learning from their mistakes, which has developed a really supportive culture. We’ve had amazing partners that have opened incredible doors like the Cannabis Cactus, met helpful mentors who have helped us grow and think better about our business, and worked with incredible customers who are willing to try new things and work with us as we grow. I think the entire industry embodies an excitement and passion to show the positive side of cannabis to society, and I can’t wait to keep contributing towards that goal with ZZZ’s!
My favorite part of this industry is that everyone we’ve met has been genuinely curious about our brand, is willing to listen, and provide their insights and ideas. It feels like we are all in this together, and moving forward one step at a time to eventually reach the federal legalization of cannabis one day. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet our childhood idols such as Paul Pierce at the first ever crossover event between the NBA and cannabis brands. Huge shoutout to Cannabis Cactus for making that a once in a lifetime experience!
As a cannabis entrepreneur, it has been challenging, yet incredibly rewarding to see and hear people resonating with our mission. We try to not look too far ahead in the future, and rather focus on the moment and set the bar higher each month. It feels like every day there is a new product that enters the market, so as an ancillary item it’s important for us to never get stagnant. Our goal at ZZZ’s is to always be innovating and coming out with new designs regularly to keep it fresh for our customers.
Where can customers find your products?
Online, our rolling papers can be found on our website www.zzzsrpc.com. We are doing everything we can to increase the number of retail locations. Right now, we have ZZZ’s on the shelves of a few stores in Maine, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Our primary base market is Massachusetts, where we are in 50+ stores and rapidly counting. We are confident that throughout the next year we will be able to expand to emerging cannabis markets such as NY, NJ, CT, VT, RI, and MD.
Anything else you’d like to add!
For 4/20, we will have our new collection of designs released, along with our new cones available! We’re so happy to be bringing back two of our favorite artists from our first collection, and introducing a few new artists who have joined ZZZ’s.
If you or anyone you know would like to have your design featured on one of our booklets, please submit your design for consideration under the “submit art” tab on our website.