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How To Start A Cannabis Business

How To Start A Cannabis Business

How to Start a Cannabis Business (Without Selling Any Weed)

Looking to start, launch, make or invest in a cannabis business? Are you one who see’s cannabis not as just a plant but you see cannabis for business? Well now is a good time to get involved. As of March 2017, 32 states in the United States of America have recreational cannabis laws or medical cannabis programs allowing adults to access cannabis for either medicinal or recreational purposes. More than half of 240 Million U.S. adults have access to cannabis programs that allow for the purchase and consumption of legal cannabis. With demand (and access) for cannabis related products at an all time high (infused products with cannabis, cannabis delivery devices, cannabis delivery services), existing and aspiring entrepreneurs like you are eager to get a slice of a multi-billion dollar cash pie.

legalized-cannbis-states-united-states-clearwater-branding Cannabis business for sale Washington, California, San Diego, Oregon, Colorado. Best place to launch a successful cannabis business with (or without) selling weed.

Wondering how to get into the cannabis industry? That’s a great question to ask and there’s a few answers to it. Cannabis laws are different in each state. Meaning some states have medical cannabis programs, some have reduced laws for possession and other states have recreational cannabis laws allowing adults to legally consume and purchase cannabis from commercial establishments. Some have all three. So depending on what state you want to do business in, you’ll want to consider whether or not you want sell and distribute cannabis itself or create products and services that support the growing industry.

Want to get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed? Click here.

Back to what it takes to get into the cannabis industry. After determining what state you want to do business in, likely based on where you live,  the baseline for getting into the cannabis industry really comes down to desire: your desire to innovate, produce and add value to an emerging new industry. You can find a cannabis business for sale in states like Washington, Colorado, California and Oregon. Or you can start, launch, create or invest in an existing cannabis business. Sure, the idea of creating and selling cannabis products and services sounds attractive. Just the thought of it sounds better than your average 9 to 5 job, doesn’t it? However attractive it looks, this is a wild-wild-west industry! It’s new, it’s exciting and it’s also extremely unpredictable, compared to other legacy industries.

Although the focus of this piece is to educate readers about how to create a cannabis business, the singular focus here is creating a thriving, six-figure cannabis business without selling weed. That’s where my expertise lies. Below, I’ve outlined a series of insights to help you think through creating a business in the cannabis industry, without cultivating, distributing or selling cannabis or cannabis infused products. Grab your bud, take a read and hopefully you’ll become inspired to get started on your cannabis business today.

Becoming a cannabis industry entrepreneur wasn’t by mistake.

I’ve been involved in the legal cannabis industry for the better part of the past decade. In 2010, I co-founded Kush Groove, a 420 lifestyle brand & a retail head shop in Boston, MA selling glass pipes, bongs, blunts, rolling papers, vaporizers and other cannabis specialty items. In 2014, I launched Clearwater Branding, a boutique marketing & branding consultancy focused on web design, branding and marketing strategies. Since 2010, I’ve been involved in a range of cannabis cultural, entrepreneurial and activist related activities in the greater Boston region.

I write a bi-weekly article, The Joint Perspective, for Dig Boston, a progressive, counter-culture weekly magazine published in Greater Boston and I’ve also taught over 100 hours of coursework at the Northeastern Institute of Cannabis. On the PR side of things, I’ve appeared in numerous Boston area publications including the Boston Globe, Boston Metro, Improper Bostonian, Boston Magazine. I’ve also appeared on WCVB’s Chronicle and presented at Bentley University & Harvard Innovation Lab.

Having been fairly outspoken and visibly active in the cannabis entrepreneurial space, I’ve built a pretty engaging, grassroots following over the years that has sustained the growth of my Kush Groove business. The start up phase prior to opening the Kush Groove flagship location was the typical basement setting most entrepreneurs start at. Migrating from pop-up shop to pop-up shop, festival sales table to festival sales table (along with some notable hip-hop celebrity cosigns), our fan base grew and helped increase our overall visibility in the region. From this, my partner and I recognized it was time to open our first shop.

Kush Groove broke six-figures in 2016

My partner and I opened our first shop in the summer of 2015. Within a year of being in business, our Kush Groove flagship retail location broke over six-figures in sales.

Read through the slideshare below. In it, I show you the exact 4 reasons how (and why) my Kush Groove cannabis business grosses over six-figures a year, without selling any weed.

Now that you’ve swiped through the slideshare, let’s dive into each reason why my business grosses over six-figures.

Reason #1: Location. Location. Location.

My Kush Groove flagship shop is located at the intersection of a thriving college-apartment neighborhood and a transient professionals area with colleges, hospitals and two inbound train stations within a 1/2 mile walk of each other. We sell a range of cannabis accessories and delivery devices our customers like to use during their leisure time either outside of work or school. Our location affords our customers the comfort, ease and accessibility of purchasing their desired products from a location that is close to their home and close their work. Get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed. Click here.

Reason #2: Customer Service, Loyalty & Retention.

In a survey I sent to my customers last October, I found that my customers gave my staff ratings over 95% in areas of customer service. My team and I make a concerted effort to establish strong relationships with our customers by being accommodating, full of energy and prepared to answer any questions they may have about the products we sell. We invest in product and sales training to stay abreast of all the new products that come to the market every day.

Reason #3: Product Selection/Margins

When you first open a retail location selling a variety of items, it’s easy to assume what products customers want and what customers buy the most. My team and I learned along the way that the items we thought were the best sellers weren’t. By actively analyzing the sales trends of our customer purchases we were able to learn very quickly what items sold the most. This gave us the information we needed to negotiate better wholesale prices for the products our customers buy the most. Overall, we’ve increased are margins and are pulling more profit from our core selling products.

Reason #4: Dynamic, Relevant Marketing.

Our demographic of retail customers is a combination of young college aged adults, and health and business professionals working within walking distance of our flagship. We appeal to these audience segments through a series of marketing, promotional and branding initiatives:

Social Media: Our audience engages the most on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat platforms. Not only do we actively post and engage with our audiences on these platforms, we help promote their personal activities (where applicable) and involve them in any of our media production. Countless customers have been apart of photoshoots, social campaigns, and video media we’ve produced internally.

Branding: Gone are the days of the rasta-lookin, old hippie head shops of the past. This generation of cannabis consumers want a tad of luxury matched with an equal amount of authenticity. My partner and I designed and branded the interior of our flagship with a clean cut esthetic matched with a street-style urban flare. Our company logo, created with a graffiti style logo, also appeal to younger demographics.

Promotional Marketing: From stickers to button pins to door hanging flyers, we’ve maintained a level of unmatched creativity that our customers enjoy and connect with. Customers sticker our logos on their skateboards and electronics. They’ve also placed our materials around town on subways, street signs and trash barrels giving us even more visibility than we intended.

I got into this side of the cannabis industry (generating income off the industry but not by selling the plant or its properties as the core of my business model) because I wanted to reap the rewards of this emerging industry but I didn’t want to run the risk (or the high regulatory costs) of selling the cannabis plant outright, or in concentrated means.

I’m sure that’s where you’re at and why you’re reading. You can see the opportunities on the horizon in this industry, but you aren’t 100% convinced that if you sell the plant, the federal government or local law enforcement won’t meddle into your affairs.

Turn a Non-Cannabis Product into a Cannabis Business!

It is entirely possible to turn a non-cannabis product into a thriving cannabis business. I know this because I’ve done it personally with Kush Groove. On top of that I have REAL friends and colleagues in the field who have done the same. (See Shanel Lindsay of Ardent Cannabis or Shaleen Title of THC Staffing Group.) Now that you’ve learned a bit about me, my involvement in the cannabis industry as an entrepreneur, writer and educator and how one of my cannabis businesses grosses over six-figures a year, let’s dive into what it takes to turn a non-cannabis idea into a thriving cannabis enterprise of your own, with out selling cannabis itself.

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#1: Research the Landscape & Consider Options Already Out There

I bring in a few different incomes through my work in the cannabis industry. But when I started my Kush Groove business, my partner and I embarked on a range of non-traditional, informal methods of information gathering from our prospective customers. Since we started with selling apparel items, we found we could gather great feedback from our friends and family on Facebook by posting pictures of our designs and asking folks what they thought. Most companies run focus groups to test and determine if a product will connect with it’s market. We were fresh out of college on a less than a shoe-string budget and we did what we knew how to do and used the technology we were familiar with.

This method worked for product testing which was really important. In some respects, the product testing market research superseded us evaluating the cannabis industry landscape but the times are a bit different than they are today. 7 years ago back in 2010, there weren’t many apparel brands (and lifestyle brands) on the market that had the same appeal we were looking to have.

Born and raised on the east coast, my partner and I were fortunate to travel a bit to the west coast in the late 2000’s and see an early proliferation of what we see now as a booming cannabis economy. This inspired us but also gave us the lens we needed to see the opportunity to create our business in a wide open market.

Scope out the scene and penetrate when you’re ready”How to Create a Six Figure Cannabis Business Without Selling Any Weed_bullseye

Research about the industry, market trends and growth data is just coming to light thanks to a partnership announced between the National Cannabis Industry Association and BDS Analytics. In the coming months we’ll have more access to information about the industry, where it is today and where it’s going tomorrow.

You can log on to their websites to learn more about industry data.

National Cannabis Industry Association: NCIA is the only national trade association advancing the interests of the legitimate and responsible cannabis industry. Our industry supports tens of thousands of jobs, tens of millions in tax revenue, and billions in economic activity in the United States. NCIA is leading the unified and coordinated campaign to ensure this emerging sector is treated fairly under federal law.

BDS Analytics:  BDS Analytics aims to drive the cannabis sector to thrive with well-informed decisions based on factual data. By capturing millions of transactions from dispensary point-of-sale systems we provide actionable insights based on accurate information enabling dispensaries, brands, and growers to sustain their success.

You can also find tons of information on existing cannabis businesses doing informal searches on cannabis specific online directories. Start with a google search of “cannabis businesses” and go from there. Also check out Leafly.com, Cannabis.net and Allbud.com.

There are tons of cannabis directory sites. I’ve listed a few more below:

list of best cannabis websites

These are just a few sites to get you started on your research.

Don’t want to start something on your own quite yet but want to get in the cannabis industry?

Jobs that already exist w/in the industry

Cannabis Tourism: Tourism companies will bring in revenues by taking tourists out and giving an overview of the industry. From dropping by growing locations to going on a tour of retail and dispensary locations, these companies can really tailor their business models as the market sees fit.

Security: When more retail locations start opening up (in the Boston area), security will be of paramount concern for many shop owners. Most retail locations — and many medical dispensaries — will want to keep security guards on staff. Checking IDs and guarding privacy for customers are the most visible duties, but ensuring that money and product transfers go off without a hitch is another important part of the job.

Glass Blower/Merchant: Selling pipes, bongs, and more recently vaporizers is a business that is only expected to grow as prohibition falls across the country. Whether you can create your own devices by blowing glass, or decide that marketing and selling handheld vaporizers is a better plan, there will always be customers looking for peripherals to help them partake.

Administration: From checking patients in or customers at the front door to ensuring shipments and accounts are all in order, administrative staff is essential. This could be a great opportunity for many professionals looking to get a fresh start in a new industry, especially for accountants, secretarial, and marketing specialists.

Web/Software Development: Software to help run marijuana businesses (and non cannabis business) is essential and can include things like accounting programs and product management systems. Companies like WeedMaps and Leafly are there to assist cannabis users in finding the product they’re looking for and creating an online community.

Get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed. Click here.

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#2: Ask Stoners What They Want. Identify Their Needs  

You want to sell products (and/or services) to stoners (and the cannabis market) right? Ask them what they want through informal and formal research methods.

My business partner and I both went to college for business. One of the key areas of business marketing that was drilled into our heads was the importance of information gathering necessary to understanding markets and potential customers. I mentioned before that my partner and mines trips to the west coast in the late 2000’s offered us a lense into what the opportunities were and how they might manifest on the east coast where we live. In the picture to the left, you can see us posing next to a poster of Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg at the High Times photo booth.

I can’t tell you how important it was to visit places like Colorado or California back in the early days of the cannabis economic boom to see what their cannabis economies looked like and what potential territories might look like in the future. We attended every cannabis style trade show, networking event and industry party we could during our trip to the west cost during the High Times cannabis festival in 2012. With our :15 second elevator pitch, we asked people what they thought about our brand and even gave out samples of apparel items, promotional material and accessories in exchange for feedback. Even though our first trip to Denver was part pleasure, we gathered tons of information about the appeal our brand had on individuals part of our target market as well as what the potential entrepreneurial opportunities were for the industry we could take home and adopt back east.

“…great idea. But if people don’t BUY it, not a great business.”

Nothing in life is guaranteed. A human’s lifespan is extremely unpredictable. Circumstances inside and outside our control deepen this realm of unpredictability. The same can be said (maybe tenfold) for starting and succeeding in business, especially if you’re in the cannabis business.

Information gathering on any level (learning how to eat better as humans or learning what your customers want to buy in business) supports long term maintenance of any living, breathing lifeform. Business is a living, breathing lifeform. It needs the right information to be maintained properly.

How often do cannabis businessess succeed?

Success rate of U.S. small businesses

When you spend time learning and gathering information about demographic preferences, customer needs, buying habits, etc., you equip yourself and your business with the information you need to make more informed choices about product development, marketing strategy, sales and overall business management. You increase your likelihood of surviving (and hopefully thriving) long term by gathering the right information that sustains, grows and nurtures your business.

Research is absolutely required.  

Drawing on research from places like Colorado and California were extremely helpful for growing our thriving business. More importantly however, we started our research with our base of friends, family and others within our network. Not only were we asking our friends and family if they liked the products we were showing them, we also asked them at what price would they pay, what color options would they buy, what sizes they preferred? Sometimes our questions went beyond product specifics.

asking kush groove about legalizationWe conducted all sorts of research from the informal to the formal. Even today, as thriving shop owners, we  gather information from customers informally through spur-of-the-moment questions when chatting with customers as they are shopping or more formal through in store quarterly surveys delivered via Survey Monkey. (These surveys can also be created on Google Docs as well.) Informal and formal information gathering works. They both have their benefits. Informal information gathering allows you to gather emotional responses from individuals. Formal information gathering offer much more of a suggestive framework to the questioning, and give more time for individuals to develop a more reasoned, and logical response different from an informal approach to information gathering. Quiet observation is also useful.

Social media was likely our most popular method for communicating with our potential customers. Since my partner and I are representative of the market we serve and also have friends and acquaintances with similar interests, it was easy to reach out to a pool of potential target customers to gather feedback. What I call the Big Three of social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, each platform offered points of value that were essential for our information gathering purposes:

Facebook: What’s great about Facebook is that it publishes a combination of content messages that utilize text and photos in an engaging way for platform participants. They can reply by leaving comments or indicate their interest in a post with a “like”. Facebook is made up of mostly friends and family which is great because you’re getting real, authentic feedback. What was surprising about Facebook were responses from other 3rd tier connections (friends of friends who saw a shared post.) Their tagged posts and shares, helped raise the virility of our inquiring posts and opened us to more diverse responses then we expected through this platform.

Twitter: Twitter is a great social media platform for soliciting instant responses, generating direct feedback and participating in conversational engagement that is unlike the other platforms. The Twitter platform, compared to the other Big Three, was the platform we built the largest of our following on. We have over 10,000+ followers on this platform currently.

Instagram: Instagram is a great platform for sharing photos of product concepts and text memes. Instagram is one of the most popular mobile social media apps with 150 million active daily users.

Asking stoners what they wanted by researching the market gave us an edge to jumpstart our business. Use social media to your advantage, as we were able to, to leverage marketing learning and credibility building. The information my partner and I discovered from communicating with individuals on the above mentioned platforms, and more, offered us the perspective we needed to pivot in the direction towards profitability.

Get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed. Click Here

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#3: What Can YOU Bring to the Market that Adds Value

Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, my business partner and I started a t-shirt line while we were in high school in Cambridge. We made tees for our neighborhood crew and wore them around to school, to the youth center, school dances, etc. A few of our peers from other crews made their own tees actually inspiring us to do ours. Creating the tee shirt brand in high school at such an early age, gave us insight into what we like and what we were capable of creating.

Fast forward a decade later to 2010 as my partner and I sat with friends to discuss the idea, our collective response from our “brainstorming” sessions all revolved around creating an apparel brand (something we knew we could do from our past) focused on targeting  younger consumers specific to the cannabis industry. THIS was what WE could bring to the market.

At this point, the cannabis industry is a consumer based market. Meaning most of the products that are bought and sold are for consumption. Think rolling papers, vaporizers, glass pipes, blunts, wraps, storage containers, etc. These are all items I sell at my Kush Groove shop. As you consider how your offering can add value to the customer marketplace, think about where your product or service fits into the scheme products and services that already exist.

Given your passions & expertise, narrow your focus on your skill sets

I’m good at very few things. I like and have passions for even fewer things. I’m even better at being really bad at a lot of things. Get my drift?

Narrow your focus and get as clear as possible with your idea before you jump into the industry. On the flip side, make sure what you get into is aligned with what you’re good at and what you actually like to spend time doing. The cannabis industry is an amazing industry to participate in. I’m am the happiest I’ve ever been because of all the wonderful people, ideas, products and events that I participate in or collaborate with. But I stay in my lane. You should too.

As I’m writing this I’m looking at the cover of a wonderful book that reminds me of how important it is to narrow your focus on your skills sets how to get into cannabis business tipsas it relates to creating (or collaborating on) a cannabis enterprise. Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie is a wonderful book for learning about enhancing your own leadership skills by focusing on sharpening your strengths and what you’re (we are) good at/passionate about.

Ask yourself a series of questions. What am I good at? What do I really love? What am I passionate about? What is it about the cannabis industry do I love? Although these questions might come off as trivial, they are extremely important in clarifying what type of business you should invest your time and energy into.

Assess your character, skills and personality by taking quick tests

Strengths Based Leadership is a good start to begin the reflective process of assessing your skill sets if you are unsure about where your existing skills sets and passions might be applicable to creating and/or working in the cannabis industry.

“Effective leaders are aware of their talents.

 They work to sharpen them.”

If you want to go a bit deeper in assessing your character, skills and personality (which I highly recommend,) to see where it might be a good fit within the industry, here are a few more resources you can use for your benefit. I highly recommend taking the time to take these tests and apply your learnings to how you approach getting into the cannabis industry.

      • Personality Test/Assessment: Use this personality test to determine what type of personality you have and where it might fit in in a team or solo setting. Click here to take test.
      • Skills Test/Assessment: Use this skills test to determine what type of skills you have and where they might serve the most value for your new cannabis enterprise. Click here to take test.
      • Interest Assessment: Use this interest test to gauge your interest in a particular area of work that might serve you well for your new cannabis enterprise. Click here to take test.

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#4: Find Your Winning Team

The typical stoner dream is to come up with a sweet business idea while smoking an outstanding batch of fire bud with buddies. Sounds great. In the movies, it looks even better. But in real life, stoner dreams (or even general business ideas) rarely get off the ground to seek the traction they need to move towards sustainability, profit and success. Most businesses fail within 5 years. (See the chart above) I don’t have any hard data on stoner businesses but let’s just assume they fail at a higher rate than regular businesses. Wouldn’t you agree?

how to start launch create a cannabis businessBusiness is business at the end of the day and to make business a success you need competent people with specific skills sets to do the work that needs to be done to reach any level of success, stoner business or not. Stoner buddies or not. Moral of the story: don’t look to your stoner buddies for partnership unless they’re already entrepreneurial minded.

Some of the things to keep in mind when building out your team for your cannabis enterprise (or joining a team) really starts with assessing what it is you’ll be doing to contribute and add value to the enterprise based on what you’re good at and professionally competent to do. The vision of the business is also important to consider as well.

I’ve been fortunate to work and partner with competent, intelligent, inspired and motivated individuals within my cannabis endeavors. I started with my pool of friends to source who might be interested and/or committed to taking a risk in the cannabis industry. Not everyone was interested. I then started to attend and participate in networking events that engaged the cannabis community here in Boston and found myself around likeminded individuals who were interested and committed to getting into the cannabis industry. These are the type of places and events you want to be around. They bring together the people you can potentially work with.

“Team work makes the dream work.”

In the Boston area, there are a few networking and professional meet up groups that have ongoing events and engage a great group of interested existing and would-be entrepreneurs. If you are outside of the Boston area, look for local groups in your area. Search Facebook, Linkedin, and Meetup.com to start. Here are a few of them:

Cannabis Society: Cannabis Society launched the first Toasty Tuesday networking event in January 2016 at the Wink & Nod bar in Boston.  This high end networking event began as a winter time event series but soon became a year round event series after its continued success in Boston launch in New York City.  These networking events are now held every second Tuesday of the month and are free to attend in every city we have a meetup group located in. Toasty’s are generally held in high end bars, clubs, and luxury cannabis facilities. Toasty events are now expanding west with events happening in both Denver and San Francisco every month to keep the meetup groups alive and bring the opulence of the NYC and Boston cannabis experience to the west coast. Visit http://cansociety.com/ for more info.

Women Grow: Women Grow connects, educates, and empowers diverse leaders in all segments of the cannabis industry. Together, we’ll start over 1,000 women-owned businesses in the marijuana industry. Founded in 2014, Women Grow is now the largest national network of cannabis professionals with Monthly Events for women & men in 35 cities across the US & Canada. Our popular Speakers Bureau ensures diversity at industry events and in media coverage. And no matter where you’re located, you can access our Video Education series. We model corporate responsibility by fulfilling a social mission in a for-profit structure. But supporting women goes far beyond altruism! Women make 80% of healthcare decisions and even consume more alcohol by volume than men. Female consumers will dominate cannabis purchasing in the same way they already control 85% of consumer spending. The inclusive teams creating marijuana products & services that women love will rise to the top as the end of marijuana prohibition occurs on a national scale. Visit www.womengrow.com for more info.

Epicenter Community: Epicenter Community embodies the values of authentic diversity – the art of catalyzing a real conversation about an array of concepts, connections, ideas and relationships. We inspire this across cultural, physical, political, racial and religious planes to spawn inclusive collaborations that deliver positive impact. These experiences truly matter and define our story, together. Visit www.epicentercomm.org for more info.

Northeastern Institute of Cannabis: The mission of the Institute of Cannabis is to educate our enrolled students about cannabis the plant, the cannabis industry, cannabis activism and the relations between cannabis culture and business. The Institute is committed to developing, protecting, comprehending and sharing information. NIC will develop a community of educated professionals and voters who can apply what they learn to the modern cannabis industry. NIC develops and teaches students with coursework that relates to all aspects of the industry with a focus on the industry positions that our students are most excited about. Our alumni network is laying the foundation for new graduates to find their careers. Visit www.instituteofcannabis.com for more info.

Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA): Founded in late 2015, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) is the first non-profit organization created to serve the specific needs of minority cannabis entrepreneurs, workers, and patients/ consumers. The organization currently serves members from across the United States and Canada. Its 17-member board of directors is comprised of a diverse group of cannabis industry veterans and activists from across the U.S. Visit http://minoritycannabis.org for more info.

Given my experience in the cannabis space and my observation of other thriving cannabis businesses (who do and do not sell weed) I feel like there is a certain profile of people that fill out particular roles within a team setting allowing the team and business to thrive. Here’s my short assessment of the type of people (or skill sets) you’ll need consider as you build out your team (or proprietorship):

Sales/Customer Service Guy (or gal, who’s out making deals): Sales generation is a major priority for any business. You need a guy or gal out in the field or in front of the computer focused on bringing sales into the business. In a retail setting you want someone who is knowledgeable of the products, has ability to connect with the customers, who can focus on the upsell, and more. These type of people are necessary for your cannabis industry business team (or proprietorship).

Business Manager (focused on management level activities): As you build your team out, consider the role of business manager and what activities this person will be responsible for. The business manager’s role is typically reserved for management level duties. The person who makes sure the bills are paid, who oversees all aspects of the business are running and functioning. Your business manager can have a range of titles but at the end of the day, they focus on the day to day health of the business.

Accountant (someone who tracks numbers and spending): Your account is going to be an important aspect to your business team. Watching how the money’s coming in and coming out will be crucial to your success. Although, for the most part, you can bank with a non-cannabis related business. Some banks (or merchants) won’t allow you to process payments which can cause major disruption to your business. It’s happened to me and colleagues of mine in the industry on occasions so an accountant will be extremely important due to the number of expected cash transactions your business will have likely have to incur.

Product Development (your creative guru): A lot of products on the market that are being sold to cannabis consumers have existed for years. (Think ZigZag rolling papers.) I sell ZigZag rolling papers at my Kush Groove shop but I also produce and sell my own rolling papers as well.

kush groove rolling papers how to start create launch a cannabis business

If you’re creating new products from scratch, the product development arm of your business will be an important piece for demonstrating proof to concept for the product you intend to market. If you’re going to be in the service business, consider your service business an actual product (that you can touch) and market accordingly.

Marketing/Promotions: People need to know about your business and that’s the job of your marketing person. Since your considering a cannabis industry enterprise, consider a person who has a background or connection to networks within the cannabis industry (i.e glass blower, party promoter, weed dealer, etc.)  On the flip side, marketing skills can be very transferable. Find someone who knows and has the ability to articulate your brand values to your target audience that convinces them to buy your product or services. Even if they haven’t worked in the cannabis industry before.

Get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed. Click here.

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#5: Target a Community to Test Your Products/Services On

cannabis streetwear apparel

“The Kush Groove brand is a blend of style and culture, expressed through an urban fashion savvy. At our core, we produce high-quality lifestyle products inspired by the four-twenty friendly movement.”

In developing the mission statement for my company Kush Groove, my team and I were extremely intentional about clarifying who we served and how their interests aligned with the products we wanted to create. We knew we (as individuals) shared the same lifestyle and cultural interests as our intended market so we decided to target a specific target market, here in the Boston region, that reflected our shared values: verge culture 20-30 somethings, who appealed to urban cultural influences with a core appreciation for cannabis.

young cannabis consumersAre you a “verge culture 20-30 something”? If you are, this a demographic to [be apart of and] target cannabis influenced products or services to. If you’re not, that’s ok. The cannabis industry is wide open. There are many products and services that appeal to a wide variety of age groups & demographics. It’s really just up to you to define a clear market to focus on that you can test a product and/or service and find positive results from before you invest real marketing dollars into campaigns, websites, materials, and more.

You can find success by focusing on groups you share similar interests with. It’ll likely be easier to create a business, product or service that’s received well by the market if you already share the same interests and values. Your instincts for developing your products or services will be sharp. You’ll have certain sensitivities to customer needs & demands that others might not have. For my team and I, we ended up become ur own test community so things worked out pretty good.

There are a lot of communities to explore outside of your immediate friends and family.  Here are a few communities to consider. These were communities and groups we ultimately targeted (and continue to target) as well.

Music Communities: Musicians and artists (see artists below) have traditionally been known to be not only users and connoisseurs of cannabis and cannaculture, but influencers of the proliferation of cannaculture in modern day pop culture. You will always find an active cannabis community in music communities (i.e. event venues, parties, radio shows, podcasts, etc.)

Meet Up Groups: Meetup.com lists a range of interest groups for all sorts of things people like. Browse the website and you’ll be sure to find interest groups related to cannabis related content (i.e. glass interests, wellness interests, edibles interests, etc.)

Food Communities: What comes after smoking or consuming cannabis? The munchies! Using sites like facebook.com and meetup.com to search for groups specific to food interests like infused pastries and edibles are good places to find groups that combine food interests and cannabis interests.

Artists Communities: Similar to the sensitivities that musicians share around cannabis use and influencing cannabis culture, artists communities are great communities to target cannabis inspired products and services to. You will always find an active cannabis community in artist communities (i.e. galleries, culturally relevant museums, parties, etc.)

Urban Communities: Bigger cities [more often than not] have more people with considerable views, and laws, that favor cannabis use and cannaculture. We focused our efforts in the Boston market because we were familiar with the market but also because the market shares considerable views, and laws, that favor cannabis use and cannabis culture.

Fashion Communities: Fashion folk also share a lot of the sensitivities that music and artist groups do. Their interests all ultimately converge around creativity and freedom of expression. We focused our efforts on the streetwear, “sneaker-head”, accessories and jewelry demographics by doing in person pop up shops at retail sneaker and streetwear shops and blog features with content curators.

Start with collaborative marketing/promotional activities focused on a specific community that brings value to both your endeavors, and the interests of your partners:

Events: If you are working on, or selling a product, start with doing pop-up shops at retail locations that sell similar products as yours. If you’re selling a service, start with trade shows and festivals.

Promotions: Giveaways of physical promotions (rolling papers, promotional pens, lighters, etc.) are great tools for getting people to notice your products or services. Use digital and print flyers to get your message out to the public. 

Blog Post: Write a blog post for a fashion blog or music blog with content that creates value for you as the author but also for the blogs readers.

As you consider launching, starting, creating, joining and/or investing in a cannabis business selling weed or not, the wind is to your back. But keep in mind, this is the new wild, wild west so the wind is to everyone’s back, not just yours. Beware of massive competition.

Written By Marcus Johnson-Smith

Don’t want to wait? Want to get started in the cannabis industry today without selling weed? Click here.

 

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