Boss Lady Interview:
Karen: Sure. Thanks so much Trevor. So I've run my own company and have for quite some time called Debroni and Associates as a consulting company management consulting and I work with not for profit small medium large enterprises. And the reason I'm here speaking with Trevor today is because for the past four and a half years I've been working in the cannabis industry and with an LP client and others and at that client and with my clients I filled multiple roles to actually build build up the producer to the point of sales licensure. And that's meant that I garnered and worked with people in both the Cannabis and the Hemp space to roll out customer care marketing sales business development operational corporate plans and strategies to help get the company set up. So I have a bit of experience in the cannabis industry.
Bridget: Sure. It's great to have a chance to speak with you Trevor. I have a long history in communications. I've been working in the cannabis space for about the past three years. I cofounded a PR firm called Marigold Marketing and PR. Before that I worked for national PR firms and previous to that I was responsible for the communications and marketing and brand at CBC public broadcaster.
Trevor: You've done a lot in the cannabis industry. So what was the thing that sort of first got you interested in the cannabis industry. Just a client called you up or are there there more to it than that.
Karen: There's a bit more to it than that in that in my previous life I met with a number of leaders in the community and here in Winnipeg Manitoba. The former chief operating officer of Cancer Care Jeff Peitsch who is the Executive Chair of the board at Bonify had called me up and said he was undertaking a new new opportunity and would I be interested in exploring that. And so he had been about 10 years at cancer care and has seen the positive impact of a cannabis oriented medications for patients and also knew that a lot of physicians were prescribing and/or were finding benefit in cannabis for patients and around the same time it was an entrepreneur who connected connected with Jeff who was starting into the licensing process and that entrepreneur had a friend who had had a life altering injury happen to him and was finding that cannabis was the only thing that was really helping him so with them with Jeff Peitsch and this entrepreneur there was this opportunity to actually get in at the ground floor of the cannabis industry and do something do something good for quite a number quite a number of people so that's what really drew me in the industry way back in late 2013.
Bridget: What interested us in the cannabis space is cannabis kind of came to us. So my business partner Katie Pringle and I were also a work in social good and tech sector in those sectors for in addition to cannabis and about three years ago I had a client who is a franchise of cannabis smoke shops and accessories in Ontario approached us to see if we could help them launch their store. We said sure we would be delighted to do that. And. At that time a lot of a lot of a lot of businesses were not in the cannabis space. And so we helped them launch it. It's a small business and we helped them launch and do some PR and we posted it and that attracted a number of companies to reach out to us because we we you know put our toe in the water and then kind of jumped off the dock and right into the cannabis space. And and we haven't really looked back. And now cannabis comprises about 70 to 80 percent of our clients. Right now.
Karen: I think that that women and men alike are very interested in this in this space because there's many different reasons that people are getting into this space. When you think about women in particular they have a lot of strength that can be utilized in the in the industry there in emotional intelligence or ability to build teams just themselves as entrepreneurs there's more and more women. I do in my spare time a little bit of volunteer work and Chair the Women's Enterprise Center board in Manitoba here. And women actually have quite an ability to actually be entrepreneurial and drive a lot of activity simultaneously. I think that women just like men are see the cannabis industry as an opportunity to to create and innovate and lead.
Bridget: Well I think there's a couple things that make the cannabis space really attractive for women. First of all it's a brand new industry opening up across the country. And I don't think that women want to be left out. I think they want to participate and be part of this incredible experience that we're realizing right now. Whether it's in growing, the industry, cultivation, current pharma or medical medicinal whether it's in lifestyle, all the different brands for cosmetics for oil extraction and then there's marketing and the management. Plus there are research, development, chief science officers all kinds of women are very capable intelligent and would fit into a number of those jobs. And I think that they're bringing their expertise and I think that it's a pretty collaborative space and I think that men are also recognizing it's important to have a women's perspective as they move forward in their businesses as well. And there are a number of businesses being led and developed by women like our firm Marigold Marketing and PR where we spend quite a bit of our time focused on our cannabis clients where people want our perspective.
Karen: I think that education is key with Bonify we did a number of focus groups and that was very very clear from all of the participants perspective that that organizations themselves should get educated around what the patient needs are what prospective customers needs are as well as what their physician and their medical community's needs are as well now with the reregulation in the industry with what the needs of the actual industry stakeholders from an adult use perspective. So there are a few resources that I would typically point and point people to get educated on the medical side of things. The Canadian Consortium for the Investigation of Cannabinoids is a great a great resource. One of the scientific advisory board members from Bonify Dr. Paul Daeninck is the president of that particular organization. And there has been a grant just recently afforded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research says that so many different ways of putting the alphabet together. The CIHR are where where a whole host of resources has been aggregated on the CCIC the Web site of so <www.CCIC.net>. And then there's the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicine with medical Web site that also if people are interested in medical aspects of cannabis I would point them there. For that said Dr. Mark Ware from Canada has actually been very heavily involved in that organization. On the nonmedical side of things that are a resource that I have found particularly useful for people to go to is Trina Fraser is a lawyer based out of Ontario who has aggregated the different models that exist across the country. Related.
Trevor: We follow her on Twitter. She's she's fantastic.
Karen: Yes she's a very educated well-spoken. There's a there's a woman in cannabis for you and she and she keeps that resource tool up very very well when there's so many moving pieces part. It is great to have that one sort of central focal point to refer back to.
Bridget: Well I think that there's a number of things to do. First of all it's always best to start with what you've got. And so depending on your background if you're in marketing if you are in if you're entrepreneurial and you have businesses if you're creative if you've got a you know an agriculture or a science background or a business or engineering background you know it's taking all of those things but if you're interested there are hundreds of jobs on all kinds of Web sites across Canada in the cannabis space. So, I would suggest that you go on to places like indeed.com And take a look and see what's out there. I think there's many companies emerging across Canada and depending on where your listeners are situated it would be worthwhile to take a look at the industries and your skills and see if there's matches and reach out because it is a collaborative a collaborative environment. And it's also a it's also a growing environment. So, there's a lot of unknown territories and processes and business opportunities. And so you've got expertise in an area you can you can certainly apply it to the new and emerging areas. Much like Katie and I did in terms of our media and PR and background backgrounds working in traditional and digital media and now applying it to the cannabis space.
Bridget: Yeah well we were thrilled. We were. Absolutely thrilled. Canndora is one of our properties and it was nominated for well in the top accessory category and that's that's another area that you know we've we've worked hard to develop and that's increasing our community and our awareness for women because. What we found when we were looking at Canndora which is an accessories beautifully curated accessories for elevated women as we like to say we recognized that there were not a lot of products geared towards women and that actually started when we first started with our initial cannabis client. We did some focus groups and we did some research and we actually went to a number of retail outlets etc. and women have been left before legalization women have really been left out of the market place it has been a lot of the smoke shops and a lot of the look and feel of the products and accessories in the gray market and had been really marketed to young men and to men and women have been left out. So we have this crazy experience where we said do you have something pretty for women to you know keep their flower in? And the guy gave us a ceramic beer can that looked like a ceramic beer can. And he said this is kind of the best that we've got. And then another store gave us a kind of a barbie pink plastic grinder and said Oh that would be that would be all we have and everything else is totally geared towards men. And so even in those little accessories you can see that there is a market opportunity that from an accessories and lifestyle point of view that women were waiting were waiting to be part of.
Trevor: That was great of you to jump on that opportunity. And I remember a little bit from one of the panels they saw you on. I think it was actually someone from Canndora Club who was up there describing how you know just what you said. Is just no no accessories for women. You know women that want something pretty big not just pretty high quality. Maybe you know a little smaller for smaller hands and you know just that whole half the population seem to be being ignored.
Bridget: Exactly. So. So it's been an amazing experience. And now everybody's jumping on the bandwagon and there's lots of beautiful stuff for women in the space. And more and more companies are coming on board. But you know women want luxury high quality beautiful products just like men and we all want that but I would say that women are far less interested in that quote unquote kind of stoner culture accessories they want they want high quality things.
Trevor: 9:09] No and that's been a trend with a lot of people we've been talking to about this whole normalization. You know it it doesn't have to look like you know it came out of a teenage boy’s bedroom.
Trevor: They know you know you can have a beer in a TV ad. You can have a beer but you can't drink it. You can have a there's you know there's a bunch of we know how to advertise alcohol because the rules have been established it seems like it is less clear in the cannabis space how you can market or what you can do. So what do we know about how we can market cannabis what are sort of the some of the do's and don'ts.
Bridget: Well I think I think what you need to do is the most important thing for anyone is to go to the Cannabis Act and take a look and you'll see in the Cannabis Act. What you're allowed to do so for example you have to any of your advertising needs to be gated. So it needs to be for people over the age of majority over 19 and it you know the goal is to keep cannabis advertising and not persuade young children and young teens it also in terms of promotion you can't talk about the cost or the product. You can't talk about the specific kinds of strains that you have and things like that and you can't have endorsements, and like celebrity endorsements and high profile endorsements that are going to be seen as persuasion. And in addition to that you have to be very careful about the packaging and the products et cetera. So, if you keep that in mind that's probably that kind of restrictive attitude was in place when post prohibitions re alcohol and spirits etc. And even today when you see as you're talking like a wine or a beer ad it's on late it later at night if it's on television or online it's on a it's on a gated site. And so what happens is that those images it's just the idea. So you will see a bottle of Corona in someone's hand when they're sitting on the beach or you will see someone enjoying a bottle of you know a sparkling glass of champagne for the holidays or something like that. But it's the idea of that it's just part of that lifestyle choice. And I think that when it comes to cannabis it will be really up to you as a marketer it's really up to you to determine how far you want to push it because there will be some there will be some opportunities that you may want to push it right up to the edge to keep pushing beyond just see if there's ways of seeing how far you can go within the regulations or you may choose to be completely risk averse. Our recommendation would be to look to be somewhere in the middle to try to get your story out whether it's whether it's through public relations and media coverage or social media and third party endorsers. And and events and speaking opportunities things like that where you can be seen and heard they're still within the guidelines and you're telling your story because you know an unknown brand leads to an untold story which leads to low awareness. And that's a big challenge. So so just tied up and kind of package it for you it's find ways to accurately tell your story in a compliant manner that gets to the right audience and is within is not lost in the clutter of all of the new emerging companies but can be differentiated and understood and seen to be as leading edge.
Trevor: Thank you. And thanks for all our listeners for the free bit of marketing advice. But I want to dig into the strains so there's a lot of we'll call it education that's needed out there for who who should use what strain for what. And if I am if I'm a licensed producer or if I have a license reseller and I want to educate my clientele or my potential clientele about you know strain strain X might do this for you strain Y might be good for that and I'm not allowed to put it in my marketing. How do I get that information to my potential clientele.
Bridget: Well it's very challenging but for some people I think that it will be over time it will be through reviews and things like that and it will also be through customer service. If for people who are buying. It's really educating and bringing that level up. So I think that there's opportunities for 4 4 depending on where you're purchasing the cannabis. I know we were I was recently in Alberta and at some of the retail outlets where a number of the retailers are very well informed about products and what they do and where the strains etc. and people can read the materials on site. It's a little bit more difficult when you're when you're buying online and you don't have the descriptions there. So again I think it's really trying to work within the guidelines and the regulations and trying to find ways to get your information out as clearly as possible.
Kirk: Okay that's that's all very interesting we've just stumbled into a situation where our logo incorporates the marijuana leaf and we've been and that's our logo that's on our business cards and we've been told now we had an arrangement with that with a group of people and we said well here's our business card just used that they said they can't use the logo because it's got a marijuana leaf and I thought well now that's interesting. Half the logos out there incorporate the marijuana leaf. So how do businesses promote themselves if they can't use their logo.
Karen: Yeah you know Kirk it is very interesting even when Bonify was first licensed to cultivate the wording on the Web site just the way the adjectives were aligned we had to alter the way the adjectives were aligned to be compliant. So there there are quite a number of specs that you need to understand to be able to market in this space and I do anticipate that over time particularly when the edibles. Gazette when the Gazette comes out as it relates to edibles which is the document that the federal government puts out to help you interpret the regulations and legislation. That there will be change changes made. But I think that there's been some erring on the side of caution right now.
Bridget: Well I think I I think it depends on what your brand stands for and what the values of your brand are. And yes it's required to have a cannabis leaf in your logo or not. I think that's really a decision about the essence of the brand of your show and it's the essence of the brand of your show doesn't work with your logos and you may want to consider refreshing add or rethinking it or or you know getting creative with it because you'll see a number of a number of cannabis companies are rebranding and refreshing their look and having and using names and images for their companies and products that do not necessarily reflect cannabis but reflect the brand experience you're going to have with the product.
Karen: It's always your call what you do with what you do with your own business. And I think that you know we did see that Health Canada contact some of the licensed producers around some of the tactics that were being utilized that some are sending noncompliant with them with regulation. So I think that. For smaller businesses people are going to decide what is working for them and I don't know that you have a knock on the door tomorrow, if your logo weren't to be changed but it may be something that you consider even just from a branding perspective moving forward with your podcasts your business you are you are very educational and you are very broad in what it is that what it is that you're doing and attempting to do so it may be something that you want to consider where you integrate the leafs which not a lot of people and maybe nowhere see but inside of the Bonify logo is a circular logo and leaves that go all the way around the outside of the logo are the center part of a leaf like a representative of the center part of a leaf but it's just very subtle in what comes out and so there was a lot of thought that went into the creation of the of the logo to make sure that it will be compliant it also what spoke to the industry they're in subtly.
Karen: You know I really do appreciate your time today and thank you for asking me to speak with you and I know that our topic was with women in the cannabis industry and I do know and believe that that women and everyone bring strengths to an organization their particular strengths but women statistically have been proven to bring to organizations round their emotional intelligence and ability to build and engage teams towards common objectives. So I encourage everyone in the industry to look to look at engaging the talents of all those around them to allow them to achieve as much as they can for the betterment of the betterment of the whole industry and country. As we move forward here in the coming days and months and years.
Bridget: I think the most important thing when it comes to thinking about women in cannabis and marketing to women in cannabis. Women are generally you know the decision maker in the home and so they decide the quality and the expenditure and the purchasing for lifestyle products and not and certainly cannabis will fall into that area when it comes to health choices that are often considered the chief medical officer of a family. So when it comes to health therapies and things like that certainly marketing towards them makes that really great decision. And then the other piece is is that finding ways to communicate when Marketing to Women acceptance in the deep stigmatization of cannabis choices right. So but also understanding that women like a sense of discretion discovery and delight when it comes to finding quality products and when they think about cannabis in that space. So women in cannabis really focusing on those pieces when it comes to marketing cannabis it's about getting the right message to the right people through the right media or right channel. So really understanding you know adults recreation cannabis compliance and guidelines to ensure that you're following the regulatory approach but being as innovative as possible. You know sometimes when you're given a sandbox or to work from to play in and to develop creativity it's having those limitations can really force and drive new and innovative creative approaches. So I think as much as the challenges or the health Canada guidelines I think it also spurs really talented creative and innovative designers advertisers marketers PR people to really find how they can communicate in that space and then my final piece is is that the cannabis industry is fast growing. It's moving very quickly. It's time to kind of be adept at the technology and understand the hustle and the fast changes and look across Canada look you know kind of starting your own backyard look across your province look across Canada and Canada is looking around the world and the world is watching Canada as we enter into this global market. So there's lots of opportunity too to enjoy and be part of.