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Real Cannabis Stories

DCIM100GOPRO

Meet Francois and Tamar: Husband/Wife + Cannabis Professionals

What did you do before entering the Cannabis industry?
Tamar: I worked as a marketing consultant for a market research firm called The NPD Group, working with some of the biggest tech manufacturers in the world. These market research firms collect point-of- sale data from retailers and help the retailers and manufacturers understand, using this data, what is selling and what is not selling… allowing the retailers to make category and product assortment decisions and allowing the manufacturers to strategize their business around ‘The 4 P’s: Product, Price, Place, Promotion. Before working with The NPD Group, I got my degree in Biochemistry. I did a stint at a lab in Israel doing research on solar paint, waitressed a little, and finally did some B2B sales before getting my MBA and moving on to a career in market research.

Francois: I got my degree in computer science and then went straight into the tech world. Since I didn’t want to code, I decided to get into the customer success side of tech. I worked for a medium-sized government contracting firm, eventually running the technical support team and servicing about 9,000 customers. From there, I moved on to become a business analyst for a startup in Carlsbad before taking our “first retirement” and traveling the world.

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How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?
Tamar: After a year and a half long backpacking adventure, we came back to California and began figuring out our next steps. I got reconnected with Liz, BDS Analytics’ President & co-founder, who was an old co-worker of mine from The NPD Group. She was  looking for someone to launch BDS Analytics in California, I was looking for my next mission and I just so happened to be passionate about this particular industry, so yeah – here we are!

Francois: I was looking for a position in San Francisco as a customer success manager. I had a profile on AngelList and was looking around for startups. One day, Treez popped up and I looked at Tamar and asked, "Should I apply to this company?" and she said, “Yes! Definitely! Apply” so, I did. Two days later, I got a call from the CTO, had a conversation with him, had an in-office interview two days later, and three days after that I received the offer. It happened very fast and there was an instant connection
between me and the rest of the C-suite. Now I’m the Director of Customer Success and I’m growing the team here at Treez.

Directed towards Francois: Did you have anything relating to cannabis on your resume? How did that happen so quickly?

Francois: No, not at all. I consumed occasionally, but had no idea how big and developed this industry was until I learned from Tamar as she was getting into the industry. What I learned sparked my interest, so I decided to take a risk and just go for it. I applied to a few other cannabis companies, but they were either too small/not hiring/not the right fit, so when I met the folks at Treez, I felt right at home. I think the feeling was mutual.

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What have your struggles been in this industry since it is so different from other industries?

Tamar: One of the biggest challenges I found is getting used to the pace of this industry. I’m used to a world where if a client e-mails you at 9 a.m. and you haven’t responded by 11 a.m., they think you’re dead. Also, I’ve had to get used to texting with
clients, which I never did in my NPD days. Now I'm texting all the time and it’s totally normal to get a response at a week’s delay.

Francois: Nothing’s really changed for me – I still work for a software company that
services clients. I just had to quickly learn the lingo of the industry.

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Directed towards Tamar
: Do you work remote or in an office? Is that different from what you were doing before?


Tamar
: I work remote, which is absolutely different. I used to work a ‘9-to- 5’, but realistically it’s never 9-to- 5 if you’re salaried. I traveled a lot, but spent most of my time in a proper office. In my current position, I spend most of my time on the move – either
at events, visiting dispensaries, manufacturers, and cultivators, or traveling down to So-Cal.

Have you felt stigmatized by family or friends for working in the industry?

Tamar
: Not at all. My family and friends are all very excited that Francy and I are in this industry.

Francois: Nope, and I come from a pretty conservative family!

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What have been some of your favorite things about working in the industry?


Tamar
: I have met some of the most incredible people since getting into this industry. I had no idea I would develop so many close friendships – that’s definitely something I had never experienced in the tech industry. Working, hanging out, sharing a mission
with folks of all ages, sexes, races, religions, nationalities… and cannabis is what’s bringing us all together.

Francois: Just gonna piggy-back on what Tamar said, since she said it perfectly.

What have been some of the Challenges?

Francois
: Keeping up with the pace that the industry is growing. As a POS service provider, we see new dispensaries opening up and coming on board each day… keeps us on our toes!

Tamar
: This industry is very “legacy”. People have been growing weed in Nor-Cal for decades, and I was this new-comer trying to prove that I have a place in this industry, which was tough since I didn’t know anything about this industry! I knew data, I knew
how to work with data, but I was no cannabis expert. Getting to know this industry and figure out how it ticks has been the real challenge, and it’s been awesome.

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Do you have any advice for job seekers looking into the industry?


Tamar
: Industry events. Go to anything that you can. This industry is still refreshingly welcoming. Check out events by the NCIA, CCIA, CMA (Cannabis Marketing Association) and other local communities, task forces, and organizations. Some events are free! Join Facebook groups and Meetup groups online, ask questions, and network!

Francois: Like Tamar said, get your name out there and meet people. Go to community events, research online, learn as much as you can about the industry.

Do you think that you need to have cannabis knowledge, or be a heavy
consumer to work in the industry? 

Tamar: It really depends on the job. If you’re hiring a grower, you definitely want
someone that’s been around the plant. We’re a retail analytics company… we want
people that know how to look at data and turn it into business decisions. Whether or not
they consume doesn’t matter to us, but if they have knowledge of the cannabis industry,
that is definitely a plus!

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Meet Lucie: Sales Director @ Plus

1.What did you do before the industry?

Before working in cannabis, I did legal recruiting for a year and was set to go to USC law school in the fall (that obviously changed!).

2.What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry?

I was interested in working in cannabis because it is such a burgeoning industry and I like to be on the forefront of change. The opportunity for learning in this industry is immense. It is a completely unpredictable and rapidly growing landscape, which always keeps things interesting. I was also very attracted to the fact that cannabis helps so many people, I really believe in its medicinal values. Plus, free weed.

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3. How did you first get involved in the industry?

I saw on LinkedIn that my CEO (who I went to high school with) was starting a weed gum company. I thought this was the coolest thing ever and asked to grab coffee with him to discuss. He needed a fourth co-founder and Head of Sales, an opportunity that I jumped on.

4. Did you ever feel any stigma against yourself  from others for working in the industry?

Initially, I was concerned about the stigma that I might face turning down law school to work in cannabis. I have found that most people have the complete opposite reaction. Strangers and friends of all ages and backgrounds are very interested in learning more about the space, and most people think it’s pretty cool that I work in the weed industry.

5. What have been some of your favorite things about working in the industry?

I love the people. I have met so many amazingly interesting, diverse, and open-minded individuals in this industry. People are working on some truly exceptional things in cannabis. I also love the constant opportunity to learn.  Because weed is still federally illegal, not nearly enough research has been done.  As a rookie to the industry, there was a steep learning curve – but there is always more knowledge to gain.

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6. Do you have any advice to job seekers looking into the industry?

Find a company that speaks to you and a team that you are excited to make history with!

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Meet Greg: Marketing Director @ Vapor Nation

 What did you do before the industry, as far as work, education?

Greg: Well, I went to Loyola Marymount University. I came out to Los Angeles from Chicago, in the first place, to get more involved with entertainment and the music industry. So while I was in college, I was taking on various internship programs and opportunities within entertainment and music with MTV and Disney. After I graduated, my experience helped me secure a job at CBS Radio. From there, I began working for a marketing company by the name of Grace Entertainment Marketing where they were basically in-charge of all the entertainment and music culture integration for the Red Bull brand. So whether that was product placement on TV shows, movies, music videos, or actual events themselves, such as private listening parties or big large-scale Grammy parties. Most of what we did was more geared towards influencer supports, whether they were the actual talents themselves or people who simply work in the industry.

I was basically overseeing a lot of the music integration through Red Bull and obviously music culture shares a lot of interest with the Cannabis consumer and it is just as widespread as Cannabis consumers go. It is all sorts of cultures and walks of life and interests when it comes to music and I think the exact same thing can be said for Cannabis consumers. There is not one type of consumer. There are many different types of consumers. So I think the background and history I had with incorporating a specific brand into such a diverse interest which is music really helped with a lot of the marketing and advertising opportunities that I have uncovered for Vapor Nation in regards to targeting a Cannabis consumer. It has just as wide as the variety of cultures and people and types of consumers as music. So I think that really relates itself well to what I’m doing now.

The real lure, if you will, of the Cannabis industry and the Cannabis consumer was more based on being able to create and grow and build a specific brand within a specific industry as opposed to just kind of managing and creating opportunities for something that is already very much established.img_5975
How did you get involved in the industry?

Greg: I wish I had a lot cooler of a story … I was kind of exploring various opportunities in and out of the Cannabis industry. I understood there was a fantastic opportunity for me in working as a marketing director with VaporNation, not just in the sense of the industry itself, but the position itself. Before, I was a lot more focused on artist integrations  and events. VaporNation really gave me the opportunity to cast a wider net as far as what my responsibilities were. Being able to build our entire marketing department based on what I know and my experiences in marketing and advertising was really the main appeal. The fact it was in such a booming industry was also a huge appeal.

I was sending out resumes and connecting with various people in the industry, in really all industries, and VaporNation reached out to me. They must have found me somehow online and approached me to oversee all their marketing  efforts. In all honesty, I don’t want to use the term it fell on my lap, but at the same time, I was just at the right spot at the right time and took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.

I did take a pay cut in moving to Vapor Nation. For me, it wasn’t about the monetary value. It’s about the long-term ability to not only further myself as a marketing professional but also to integrate myself as a marketing professional into an industry and company that are ready to explode.

You’ll find in the Cannabis industry that a lot of these emerging companies don’t have the type of marketing and advertising focus that what more well-established companies like Red Bull have. It is kind of like there is a certain aspect of the startup approach that is very much still there within the Cannabis industry. I certainly think that you’re going to see that changing soon but right now, it is very rare that you encounter a company or business that’s really just throwing marketing and advertising dollars at professionals and opportunities. 

When did you start with Vapor Nation?

Greg: Over three years ago. I think it was the beginning of January, 2014. So I’ve been the marketing director for Vapor Nation for over three years now.
image001-1What does an average work day look like for you?

Greg: Right now, it’s totally different because we’re gearing up for 420, which is basically like our Christmas, so obviously we’re a lot busier. But I would say there are a few different aspects that I touch on every week, almost every day. Number one would be managing and evaluating the current advertising and marketing campaigns we have going. Whether that’s looking at analytics as far as what type of digital aspects are bringing us traffic or what type of traffic it’s bringing us, what’s worked, what hasn’t. Basically overseeing all the current efforts that we have on the table whether they are event driven, whether it’s print advertising, or our email blast marketing, whether it is digital marketing, content development, social media, etc. So everyday I’m diving into the analytics, making sure that they are performing as best as they can, and adjusting our campaigns to optimize. Beyond that, when our campaigns are finished, it is about evaluating the value of that campaign. What type of ROI did we receive? What type of ROI can we expect if we are to move forward with another? And really evaluating whether the opportunities that we are currently involved in once they end are worth renewing. On top of that, every single day I’m encountering new opportunities for advertising and marketing Vapor Nation and our line of products. Whether it’s a new event that pops up, whether it’s a new media company that’s starting, whether it’s a one-off artist integration that has come across my desk, whether it’s media research on my own about what is out there as far as marketing and advertising a Cannabis Vaporizer retailer or wholesaler. And again, everything I do is double-headed too, because you have the whole sale aspect of Vapor Nation and the retail aspect.

So I would say, optimizing what we currently have going on, deciding whether to move forward or not with campaigns that have concluded, finding and seeking out new opportunities. Beyond that is managing the internal aspects that we have as far as personnel go. Making sure that our SEO team is staying on top of what they are doing and that we’re still ranking. Making sure that the content team is creating relevant and original content for the brand and for the line of products that we carry. Making sure that our social media manager is taking advantage of the best practices he can. Really just staying on top of our internal teams and keeping that channel of communication open between all of us to create synergies are very important. So I would say, in a typical week or typical day, those are the main focuses of what I do. And again, a lot of that is internal too. It is working with the people we have as a part Vapor Nation, not just our marketing aspect, but even the sales aspect as well. Communication is definitely key in not only survival, but our success in this industry.

Do you have any advice for job seekers that are looking to enter the industry?

Greg: The most valuable asset that I have is just pure knowledge of who the major players are in each given area, whether it’s media companies, vaporizer brand, and understanding of the industry itself. So if you’re going to try and get involved in or be a part of the Cannabis industry, whether it’s for a media company, an online retail store like Vapor Nation, or a dispensary… Whatever it is, you need  to be as knowledgeable as humanly possible for that specific area of the industry and even beyond that. For example, if we had someone who could be an amazing social media manager, they don’t necessarily need to have ton of experience working within the Cannabis industry but they also need to know who these major players are, who do they need to align themselves with –– whether they’re influencers, media companies, or specific brands. So I would say being extremely knowledgeable about this field or the area of the Cannabis industry that you’re trying to get involved with is going to give you that much more of an advantage over anyone else who comes across their desk as a potential candidate. I mean, if you have product or knowledge in that industry or that specific product, you’re going to be that much more valuable. I’ll take somebody who knows the industry a little bit better over somebody who’s, maybe, come from an irrelevant industry background but perhaps has more skills and experience. If I’m hiring people for our marketing department, I would want them to have an understanding of who’s who.

So just basically doing your research. You don’t necessarily have to have the experience growing unless you want to grow. With the the internet, you can do all this research and you can learn about what’s out there, what’s working, what’s not working, and you can become pretty knowledgeable on what you should be doing specific to this industry.

Greg: Absolutely. There are so many people that have great experience with working in various fields and probably have a solid resume as far as marketing and advertising or any related position for that matter but you don’t necessarily need to have worked at a WeedMaps or a Vapor Nation to get a job at within the Cannabis Industry. As long as you can apply the knowledge you have as a professional to the Cannabis Industry  and you are able to voice that in an interview or cover letter or even within your resume itself, that’s going to give you the biggest leg up in my opinion. And it also goes without saying, as with any industry, it’s all about the people that you know, and that just falls under the same category as being knowledgeable. Connecting with people on LinkedIn who are executives within the industry, I think, goes hand in hand with knowledge. It is doing what you would do in any other industry that you would want to get involved with. But I think the knowledge aspect of Cannabis is even more valuable than it has been because that’s really going to set you apart from anyone else who is coming in and maybe competing with you to pull a position. As simplistic as it sounds, that’s the truth. A lot of people don’t realize that. Like, “Oh, I like to get high so I should work in the Cannabis Industry.” Well, no. There’s a lot more you need to know than just getting high. If you like to watch TV, you can’t just go up to CBS or NBC and say,”Give me a job. I like TV.” You know?
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Very true. I remember back when I met you at the conference, you guys were hiring. Are you still hiring at this time?

Greg: Yes, in the Los Angeles area we’re still hiring wholesale reps.

Visit: http://www.vapornation.com/

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Meet Sara: CEO @ Hifi Farms

1. What did you do before the industry?
I was in technology startups in San Francisco and then worked in the Angel Investing industry.  Tech and finance basically.
2. What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry? How did you first get involved in the industry from a career standpoint?

I moved to Oregon at about the same time as Measure 91 passed.  It was a coincidence but I quickly felt the energy around Oregon’s legalization measure.  Friends of mine were setting up a grow and asked me to look at the business side of things.  It was just so much more interesting than anything else I was looking at.  I just got hooked.


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3. Walk us through a normal work day? What skills have you learned from past careers that have helped you succeed in the cannabis industry? 

My days are largely taken up with meetings and events.  As the CEO I have to cover a large expanse of ground in terms of understanding what is happening in the business.  I am also constantly networking, attending events and emailing people as part of our ongoing need for capital and talent in the company as we grow.  It’s a huge amount of relationship management, business oversight and management.  I usually find time to duck out and take the dogs for a walk around the farm.

4. Have you ever felt any stigma against yourself  from others for working in the industry?
Not really and that has been a pleasant surprise.  I was not sure how folks would respond to my decision to get into cannabis.  People have been generally curious and positive about it.  I have been snubbed a couple of times at non cannabis events but I think that is to be expected and I don’t take it personally.  People have been subjected to decades of propaganda.  It’s understandable if some of them remain in the dark about the real benefits and value of cannabis.
5. What have been some of your favorite things about working in the industry? 

The people, the social justice agenda, the energy and the amazing talent that I have come across.  The incredible perseverance and resilience of this comment of entrepreneurs as we struggle with a very challenging regulatory and business environment.  The degree of female participation in the industry. It is all pretty inspiring.


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6. What have been some of the hardest things?
Seeing good people and good companies fail because of the challenges of the emerging regulatory landscape.  That is hard and it could have happened to any of us.  

7.  Do you have any advice to job seekers looking into the industry?
 
Cannabis is a great industry to work in and it badly needs skills coming in from other sectors.  It’s a refreshing change if you are coming from a more mature corporate environment.  Some companies are probably better employers than others and it’s worth having a very clear list of your expectations in regards to how you are dealt with as an employee or a consultant.  This is a world of startups so ask for equity if you are going into full time employment. If you are helping a company grow, you should have the opportunity to benefit from that growth.

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