When real estate professionals Kavan Thanasith and Travis Chrisman faced the 2008 market crash, they began looking for alternative career options. Thanasith was first to move into payment processing as an agent for an ISO under First Data Corp. Chrisman followed after Thanasith moved to his next ISO.
In 2013, the two partnered, opening Carlsbad-based Coastal Pay, with Thanasith becoming chief executive officer and Chrisman serving as president. "I realized I had to stop building other people's companies," Thanasith said. "We wanted to create a new culture and wanted to do it right."
According to Thanasith, the industry was "full of rotten apples that messed up the ecosystem." He and Chrisman wanted to open a different kind of ISO. "We wanted to keep employees happy and sell ethically," he said.
Initially operating as a First Data ISO, the pair grew Coastal Pay by 300 percent in the first 12 months and 600 percent the following year, Thanasith noted. "We grew to a 20,000 square foot office, 150 employees, a couple hundred traveling sales professionals, and a call center making appointments for them," he said, adding that although the organization was working as planned, it was "a very expensive infrastructure to maintain — especially in California — so we decided to make a shift."
Two years ago, Thanasith and Chrisman modified Coastal Pay's main business model, a move that significantly impacted existing operations. "It was definitely an unraveling, because our company is huge on culture," Thanasith said. "We're all about growth and helping each other, and no one wanted to leave the family culture, so we found ways to repurpose, if possible."
As part of that, they created a program for sub-ISOs and independent agents, believing that their differentiator was a keen understanding of the difficulties the feet on the street face, such as registration and building infrastructure like a CRM system, which typically costs ISOs between $5,000 to $10,000 per month.
"It's what keeps these guys from growing, so we wanted to provide them with the tools they need to thrive," Thanasith said. "We provide them everything from coaching, to training, to access to a centralized system, so they can have that solid structure to build on and a platform that will help them make money without a lot of investment."
They first boarded a sub-ISO from Nepal as a pilot program and helped that ISO set up and expand, using the high-touch, hands-on support approach they'd used for building their business. "We like to help the partners grow, because if we help everyone else grow, it helps us too," Thanasith noted.
According to Thanasith, their sub-ISO model flourished because Coastal Pay had pre-existing relationships with banks and processors and offered the sales force a higher revenue share than other parent ISOs. "They [sub-ISOs] have access to all of our processor relationships with those buy rates," he said. "They can bring in whatever deal they want and we pretty much have a bank for it. It's plug and play, and then we work to nurture them from there."
Thanasith indicated Coastal Pay now has 140 sub-ISOs submitting business now and a hope to grow that pool by 10 more each week. "We want to continue strengthening our infrastructure for our partners and agents," he said.
Thanasith also heralded Coastal Pay's efforts on the CBD front. "Everybody started asking us about CBD, and one of our biggest milestones was being at the forefront of that industry," he stated. "Coastal Pay has excellent banking relationships for CBD, so we'll be first in line when new banks open up for payments."
In addition, to add value to its sales offerings, Coastal Pay is collaborating with Coastal Labs, a sister CBD company founded by Thanasith and Chrisman in 2018, which Green Hygienics Holdings signed an agreement to acquire in 2019. "Our two operations are now helping each other," Thanasith noted.
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