Josh Kesselman, the CEO and Founder of RAW Rolling Papers is nothing like your ordinary entrepreneur and business owner.
When he was just 5 years old, he witnessed his father take a Marshfield Atos Spanish rolling paper, light it, and watch it disappear without a trace. No ash residue left behind, nothing. After witnessing this “magic trick” for a long period of time, young Josh came to the realization that he had a heavy captivation for rolling papers, and would begin to collect them from a diverse number of companies around the world– just like one would with coins, baseball cards, or stamps. This vast infatuation for smoking and rolling pushed an extremely passionate Josh to host one of the most beloved and unique smoking companies today, RAW Rolling Papers.
The history of RAW is not a straight-forward one. It started with a curious young founder taking multiple ventures, risks, and failed attempts in order to grow and learn from them. During this journey, Josh grew a better understanding of the environment and the benefits of smoking rolling papers that are less processed– and 100% vegan. RAW has built a global empire by developing products that make smoking an enjoyable, shareable experience with the authentic taste smokers can differentiate. But like most businesses, they had to start from somewhere!
It all started when Josh opened his very own smoke shop after months of observing his surroundings, and years of collecting different types of rolling papers. His collection influenced his willingness to search for and sell multiple ranges of papers in this shop, and his number one priority was always the customer. He learned as his business grew, and he invested all of the money he earned from selling products (along with his own personal belongings) to improve and spread his life-style. His customers loved his shop, and you could clearly tell just how passionate he was about selling good quality rolling paper that genuinely suited the customer’s wants and needs. Josh knew in his heart that he wanted to create his own line of rolling papers as he had already made his way into the industry, and was finally contacted by Jose Emilio from Alcoy Spain. He was notified that they were renovating the oldest rolling paper factory in the contemporary world. Jose was sceptical of Josh at first, seeing as he was young and in an unlikely market for his age. Eventually, he asked Josh why he had an interest in rolling papers. The now RAW CEO told Jose about his father’s “magic trick” with the Spanish paper Marshfield Atos, and this sparked a certain joy within Jose. The history and impact of that rolling paper was something he had felt for generations, and this influenced his decision to work with Josh and make his rolling paper dreams a reality.
After months of work, the factory had shut down and the brand with it. This didn’t stop the duo from continuing their work and widening their ambitious mindsets, as we wouldn’t have RAW if they had simply given up. Instead, the pair decided to rename his brand “Elements”, and though it was not an immediate hit, it did well enough that Josh continued to maintain his way of living. He knew that the people wanted natural rolling papers, and was aware that some consumers were unaware of what “true” natural paper ensued. It would mean that it lacked chalk and harmful chemicals, and that it would have a natural brown color to it. No artificial dyes, just lightly processed paper with a natural feel. Josh took this realization and incorporated it into his new idea: RAW Rolling Papers. He had already figured out what he wanted to name it and where he wanted to go with it, but now it was a matter of who would produce his creation. After years of this venture and multiple other great but failed ideas, Josh found his true calling and knew in his heart that he wanted to make his own rolling paper line that was 100% plant-based, ethical, and authentic. Of course owning a small business and being a young entrepreneur has its struggles. Josh found himself applying for multiple different factories, travelling all over Europe in order to find a company that was willing to make the specific rolling paper he wanted. After months of rejection, amusement from producers, and much travelling, he finally came across a small mill. The only con was, the mill would only produce his rolling papers at a certain price-point and amount. This amount was so large that it kept Josh up at night– but he knew what his decision would ultimately be despite hours of contemplation. He took the risk and invested all of his money, yet again, into this hemp rolling paper. This frightful decision was one of the single greatest moments to happen to the production and enhanced quality or rolling papers as we know it. In 2005, RAW was officially established– and in 2009, it thrived dramatically.
RAW is now one of the biggest, if not the biggest, smoking essential brands on the market. Josh Kesselman took multiple risks and didn’t back down from any of them, instead choosing to face them head-on and create something beautifully unique.
Josh Kesselman is probably one of the most loveable CEO’s out there today. He is vocal on his social media, spreading tips, tricks, and smoking hacks to his 1.3 million amassed Instagram followers. Not only that, but he just isn’t like your typical mundane CEO. His personality is apparent, different, and he embraces his differences and dresses and acts the way he wants in a way that is confident and genuine. He’s just an overall great guy with an amazing brand.
As RAW Rolling Papers continues to thrive, Josh understands the importance of giving back to the community and underprivileged societies. In 2007, just a few years after the establishment of RAW, he launched the RAW Foundation. This foundation has donated more than a million dollars to causes that provide clean water to third-world countries, supply hundreds of thousands of meals to malnourished children, dig wells within drought-abundant countries, and so much more. The premise is to give back through philanthropic ideals and spread the very message that founded RAW– sustainability, ethics, and love. RAW continues to help countries all over the world and buying their products means that you, too, are contributing to the greater good.
There’s a lesson to learn in this– no matter how many times you fail, learn to grow and use these failures as learning experiences for your next venture. Who knows, you may just be the next founder of a company that preaches self-love, giving back to the community, and producing goodies that are both environmentally and physically life-altering in the best ways.
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