There are many aspects of the marijuana banking problem that are a long way from being solved. One of the biggest problems is payment processing – getting money from consumers’ hands to marijuana businesses’ bank accounts. In June of this year, both the Senate Appropriations Committee and the House Appropriations Committee voted to block marijuana amendments and proposals that would allow marijuana businesses to store their profits in banks.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of marijuana dispensaries and retailers carrying duffel bags filled with thousands of dollars home at the end of the day because they have to do all transactions in cash. And we’ve heard about the costs marijuana businesses are forced to incur for security people, safes, and armored trucks to transport cash.
Operating an all-cash business in any industry is extremely risky, but it’s the reality most marijuana businesses, particularly those that actually touch the plant, face every day. Zodaka is trying to solve the marijuana banking problem with its unique payment solution for businesses that have been deemed high-risk.
Zodaka is not a payment processor. Instead, it’s a technology company that routes data to different processors based on a business’ needs. For users, it looks like Square or PayPal – something they’re already familiar and comfortable with.
It’s a quick and easy process for a marijuana business to become a Zodaka merchant and use the technology to accept payments from customers. First, the business needs a bank account. If necessary, Zodaka can refer businesses to marijuana-friendly banks (there were 411 banks and credit unions across the United States that were “actively” operating accounts for marijuana businesses as of March of this year). As a merchant, the business provides some basic information, and followed by a one-day underwriting process, they’re ready to start using Zodaka.
For customers, the process to get set up to use Zodaka is even easier. They just create an account with their bank routing number. The account is verified as legitimate, and the customer can do their first transaction within one to two minutes from when they started.
Unlike credit cards and other processors that could refuse to work with businesses that are considered to be high-risk (like marijuana, CBD, adult entertainment, subscriptions, supplements and nutraceuticals, furniture, online gambling, and more), Zodaka doesn’t require that users fund a wallet. They don’t have to wait days to get set up, and they don’t have to worry about getting shut down or having money stolen.
Zodaka was created for the cannabis industry to solve the marijuana banking problem, but it’s a system that can help businesses and customers in other high risk industries, too. Co-founder and CEO Jordan Friedman says, “I knew there had to be a better way to help marijuana businesses, and I was ready to go further. I did so much research. I even got a job as a salesperson for a merchant payment company to learn how every form of money moves in this country. I saw a huge need, and no one had gotten it right yet.”
Jordan started Zodaka with his father, who was a surgeon. Together, they had a goal to help the neglected, financially under-served, and they stayed laser-focused on that goal. Jordan explains, “My dad’s motto and the company’s motto is ‘We want everyone to win – win-win all around.’”
To that end, customer service is essential to Zodaka. “Most payment providers don’t deliver good service, but it’s important to us,” shares Jordan. “My dad was a surgeon, so he believes in top notch service. We 100% believe in our merchants and always have their backs. That enables us to compete on price, on the fact that we require no reserves and will never hold our merchants’ money, on the fact that we’re 100% domestic, and on service. We’re here to help by doing it better than anyone else, and we really do care.”
Zodaka solves the payment problem for marijuana merchants in a way that is stable, reliable, and legal. Jordan explains, “We have a solution and we can help. What makes Zodaka different (aside from the technology and process it’s built on) is that we’re not just a payment company trying to make money. I love this industry because everyone in it has had to be a pioneer. There is no established model for what we’re all doing, and the retail space in cannabis is more innovative than anything else in many ways.”
“I think the cannabis industry will be successful in the long-run because it’s an open space to be different and innovative,” says Jordan. “Look at the great tools out there that businesses are working hard to develop that solve problems in all verticals. Using these tools frees the retailers’ time to do what they do best – run their cannabis operations. I think this level of innovation will be the defining thing for our industry as a whole.”
Susan Gunelius is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. (KeySplashCreative.com), a marketing communications company established in 2008 offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and SEO services. Susan has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. She spent the first half of her 27-year marketing career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as businesses of all sizes around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing. She is also a Certified Career and Business Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business (WomenOnBusiness.com), an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.
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