Part of what makes competing in today’s legal landscape so difficult is that it takes far more than just a quality product to attract consumers. While back in the medical days, many cultivators weren’t even branding their stuff, let alone designing flashy packaging, today, it’s essential for any producer who wants to see their consumer again, let alone generate any consistency.
With major grows driving down the price per pound lower with every harvest, cultivators’ only hope to compete against the money guys is to develop a brand that will generate name recognition. One that the consumers come in and ask for, not just buy because it’s available. While there are many brands that have figured out how to generate a cult following that builds demand for their products even in states still facing prohibition, few are as tapped in as Seven Leaves.
You might not guess it, since you can find knock-offs of their mylars in just about any head shop across the country, but Seven Leaves wasn’t always the visibly hyphy brand it is today. In fact, while they’ve been cultivating stand-out flower since 2008, it wasn’t until the end of 2017 that the brand got its modern facelift. This facelift, as well as the curation of many of the strains the market is currently fiending for, like Zruntz for example, is thanks in no small part to the efforts of Sami Bundlez.
Originally from Yonkers, but having moved to Sacramento at a very young age, Sami’s been running the plant since he was just a boy. Having gotten caught with weed for the first time in 1995, the year before the medicinal legalization of the plant, Sami fondly remembers the experience.
“I got caught with weed at school—a shitload of it too—and it was crazy, bro, because the security guard there was like, ‘Don’t even worry about it. This shit is going legal next year; just don’t fuck around.’” Sami said. “And sure enough it actually went legal, and that’s when my parents stopped tripping off me and weed. But I was never really attached to it; weed just always played a part because I was always into music.”
It was the music that built his network. Between rapping with friends and going to shows with Bay Area-legend the Jacka, who was one of Sami’s best friends before his tragic death, Bundlez built a rapport with many key players across Northern California. He credits much of his network and understanding to Jacka, who even kicked him down some verses for his own projects back in the day.
“This weed shit, and this music shit, go hand in hand. It’s always something I’ve always wanted to do,” Sami told me. “[Jacka] fucked with us in the long way, bro, like where we got phone calls before going out to shows like, ‘Hey I’m performing here, I want y’all to come with me.’ That’s how we built the face.”
“From there, I got into throwing concerts. We brought everybody out—from Future to Uzi, Post Malone, Belly—bringing everybody to Sacramento. I just kept working with the weed shit like I was building my brand—the Sami Bundlez brand. Every time somebody would come to Sac, they would say, ‘Call Bundlez.’
“I know I got some fire-ass weed, and me branding myself as, you know, that guy,” he added. “The name stands for itself. People would always hit me up, but we weren’t branding it, like, on T-shirts or on packaging—nothing like that yet; it was just all an idea. Fieldz from Zkittlez was actually like, ‘Bro, you should start your own shit—just do it!’ But it was funny because once he said it, so many other people came and was like, ‘Yo, you should do this.’”
Understanding that he now had the network and know-how to not only source the products the market wanted, but to get them into the right hands, Sami began plotting his legal play.
“My boy [Brian Khem] hits me up, and he’s like, ‘Yo Bundlez, you know, I work for a company that has a significant amount of lights. And I think that if you came here, it’d be something you know, that you could do here.”
Although the deal certainly didn’t happen overnight, that company was Seven Leaves, and Brian was onto something…
The Next Level: Seven Leaves
Seven Leaves was founded by Mike B, Tyler Kerns and Gary nearly a decade ago in Sacramento. With a cultivation facility already producing solid work by this point thanks to Brian’s know-how, Sami was able to see a blueprint from their first meeting.
“I gave [Brian] a list of what genetics I needed. I gave him a list of who I wanted to work with and what I wanted to do, and we moved forward.” Sami recounted. “I brought [former NBA athlete] Matt Barnes on, and the first thing we ever did was the Matt Barnes prerolls. That started everything.”
More than just attention, Sami quickly realized Seven Leaves would need a real brand voice and some help on the genetics side, to transcend. His efforts can be directly felt through the brand’s aesthetic. From the colors to the names, Sami mapped out everything. At one point, there was even a discussion about totally rebranding and running with a new name.
“They said, ‘You know, we’re down to try something new.’ But just to show them what I had to bring to the table, and what I could do, I was like, ‘Nah, we’re going to run with this’—and we RAN with it. I created the menu there that everybody knows. Blue Slush, Bon Bons, VoVo, Brainfood.
“I brought on guys that I’ve been rubbing shoulders with my whole life, like Zkittlez, from Humboldt and Mendocino County.” He remembered fondly. “When me and Matt came on board, you know, we built Seven Leaves out to be a lifestyle brand—our lifestyle. We brought our lifestyle to this brand, and then we marketed it that way.”
Living the Lifestyle
For Sami, ‘lifestyle brand’ isn’t just a fun marketing term. Sami really lives it. In his own words, here’s the daily routine:
“First thing I do in the morning is roll me up a Lemon Slush and make some coffee. After that, I’ll go with the Blue Slush, boom. After my workouts, you know, later on in the day, I’ll smoke the Brain Food. Then, you know, I might roll up some Vovo. And then, absolutely not before 9 p.m., because it’ll ruin my day for real, I’m gonna smoke the Bon Bons because that shit right there is the insomnia killer. That shit will knock you out cold.”
“I followed the Jacka blueprint, the Berner blueprint.” Sami explained. “I followed the guys that came before me that really did this shit. I tip my hat to these guys. We tried to veer off as much as we can so we’re not mimicking nobody, but those are the people that gave me the inspiration to do everything that I wanted to do.”
Although it’s clear Sami’s happy to take the credit for ramping the brand up, he’s quick to admit he didn’t walk into a broken vessel.
“My boy Brian’s the man that made it all happen, like the head grower at Seven Leaves,” he explained. “I tip my hat to Mike and Tyler and Gary and everybody else who had a hand in Seven Leaves. My boy Hansel. And Brian—this dude is like a green thumb’s green thumb, bro. His shit is literally why everybody is talking about Seven Leaves right now. You know what I’m saying? Like, I just came in and put the shit on loudspeaker!”
A Rising Tide
With more attention and more consumers coming in by the day, the hype the brand has built, as well as the network Bundlez has amassed over his career, has afforded the brand more opportunities to collaborate and carve out its space within the industry. Through an expanded partnership with the Terp Hogz/Zkittlez team, Seven Leaves has now co-branded a few proprietary strains Sami considers to be among the greatest to ever grow.
“I think the Zkittlez phenos and flavors, you know, that they’ve been working on for the past five to 10 years are going to be the next thing that’s going to be talked about for the next fucking 10 to 15 years,” Sami said. “Everything else has had its run, bro.”
But the collaborations don’t stop there. The first of many co-brands with musicians to come, Seven Leaves released Wowzers, Belly’s hand-selected personal strain, earlier this year. Bundlez was also able to mention that they’re currently working on something with Cozmo.
“It’s like Coca-Cola, bro! We’re by no means trying to compete, or compare with anybody. We’re just here to let everyone know what we’re doing. Show them what we have and let them experience what we got coming up on the market.”
With new flavors and partnerships in development, Sami has now set his sights onto expansion. Having started a skate team during COVID, and a street team on the East Coast, Bundlez has always prided himself on delivering the unexpected.
“I feel like we just got to touch on different shit; I don’t think we should just be staying in that box of you know, this is weed.” He tells me, “We’re working on doing more merchandise. Different designs—not always just the logo, or trying to make a quick buck. We’re doing skateboards. Everything that we do, we want it to be educational—lifestyle educational. You’re going to get something from this other than just high.”
It’s clear from talking to him how excited he is about what he’s doing. He gets just as excited as I do when I open each of the different bags to take a whiff. For someone who’s got the visibility across the industry that he does, despite the frustrations of the legal market, Bundlez remains grateful. In maybe the best example of this, before I leave, he asks me to include:
“I want to shout out the guys who helped me put all this shit together, for real. And, you know, our street teams everywhere. And everybody who fucks with us. Everybody who smoked Seven Leaves and posted it. Anybody who’s ever really took their time, and money, to buy and try seven leaves out, I want to thank those people. Other than that, like you know, shout out to Jay Bape and Jigs and… shit, that’s pretty much it.”