So in 2018 the duo used their experience in luxury product development and experiential marketing to launch Sackville & Co., a design-centric cannabis lifestyle brand. The goal: to craft beautiful products that resemble art.
Within a year of launch — with less than $100,000 in revenue, 5,000 email subscribers and 8,000 Instagram followers — a buyer approached. But the transaction didn’t pan out as expected, and the founders found themselves in a legal battle to regain ownership of their company.
Within a year of launch, Sackville & Co. attracts an acquirer
Van Brunt and Dineen were eager to design a line of cannabis products that would reimagine the smoking experience, but they faced two big hurdles: convincing retailers this new product category was worth the investment and accessing the capital needed for inventory, staffing, marketing and more.
They turned to 48North, a Canadian cannabis brand, looking for a small investment. (48North has since been acquired and its website is no longer live.) Van Brunt and Dineen had connected with the CEO of 48North at a Shark Tank-style pitch event and hit it off. Instead of investing, 48North asked about an acquisition.
“We saw incredible alignment with the CEO of 48North at the time and believed that partnering with her would be the catalyst to the growth we had envisioned for our brand,” the founders said in an email.
Holding strong during an “incredibly aggressive” negotiation
Unfortunately, being new to the negotiation process, Van Brunt and Dineen found themselves in “a sticky situation financially,” where they had to borrow money from 48North.
“This put us in a position where we lost leverage during the negotiations,” they said.
Van Brunt and Dineen also found themselves going up against what they called an “incredibly aggressive” C-suite team.
In October 2019, the acquisition was announced. Sackville & Co. sold for about $3.65 million (or $3,657,860 to be exact). 48North paid $150,000 in cash and $639,375 in shares. Then, up to $2.86 million (an exact sum of $2,868,125) would be paid out in shares over a 12-month earn out period if the company hit specific revenue targets.
“This was our first experience with an acquisition by a public company,” the founders said. “So in hindsight, there are many aspects to the deal that we would not have agreed to now.”
But they did take steps to ensure they would have ongoing funding during the earn out so budget cuts or other decisions the parent company made would not affect their ability to meet the revenue targets tied to the earn out.
“Those clauses ended up really paving the path to getting the company back when 48th changed their direction,” they said.
“The fight of our lives:” regaining ownership of Sackville & Co.
Less than six months after the acquisition, the CEO that Van Brunt and Dineen had aligned so closely with left the company, according to MJBizDaily. According to Van Brunt and Dineen, the CEO that took her place wasn’t on the same page as them and attempted to shut down Sackville & Co.
“This was the beginning of the fight of our lives to regain ownership of our company, all during the height of the pandemic,” the founders said.
After a few months of legal negotiations, they managed to regain full control of Sackville & Co. in 2020.
“We had started as a bootstrapped company so we went back to what we knew and worked really hard to build the business back to a place of profitability,” the founders said.
48North was acquired by HEXO Corp. in May 2021. We reached out for comment, but they didn’t respond.
Van Brunt and Dineen have been running Sackville & Co. independently since regaining control. They also started a second company, Sackville Studios, a cannabis product design and production studio. Together, both companies now have lifetime sales over $4 million, the founders said.
The pair now work with other brands to share their experience and expertise. Their biggest piece of advice? “You know your business better than anyone ever will, so trust yourself and trust your gut.”