Jumping Into CBD & Hemp
In 2005, 2006 when SXSW was still worth going to, people were there to be part of tech, search, and social media for the sake of tech, search, and social media. They were there to change the world.
The aspirations and the ideology were remarkable. The majority of people who are starting hemp & CBD-based companies today are cut from the same cloth. They're in it for it. They are here for the love of what they do. They've defined it. They've been in it for years. They're not flying in from Wall Street or Silicon Valley to be at the hot events. Sure, there are a few of those people in the industry today but the majority of those I've met so far who are in it will define the industry. They are the Lewis and Clarks of this industry.
The veterans in this industry that have been through rough times and weathered many storms in order to get where they are today...and to see the benefit of what's coming tomorrow, deserve recognition and respect. These are the folks who the mainstream media, press, and bloggers will seek out because they are navigating and doing things early that no-one else has done. When you put in the time, earn the scars, and make sure others in the industry feel the tremors of your presence, you get picked. It's very simple. It's about being first. It's called being a winner. They don't tell you that in college, you learn that as part of the grind, but that's what it is.
There's a lot of you out there with all the collective knowledge on CBD & hemp. As I begin working in this industry, I feel a combination of gratitude, humility, obligation, and a sense of responsibility to those who have entrusted me with their brands. I tend to take things nice and slow. I pay attention. I listen closely. I never go into a space thinking I know everything. In fact, I get energized when everyone in the room is smarter than I am on a topic that's new to me. It's one of the things that fuels my passion.
I also rely on being underestimated and misunderstood. Many people don't realize it, but that's a massive business advantage. In every industry I've worked in, there is one thing that always, always exists: lots of people who are so desperate for acceptance for either themselves, their company, or the niche they're in that they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to convince others of their legitimacy, seniority, or the sophistication of the space without realizing that they should be spending 100% of their time on the end consumer. The most important thing is always the consumer. Your time needs to be spent building your advantage and your leverage.
The preference of the majority of people is, when others people enter into their space, to dramatically slow it down, not speed it up. This misses the point that, for all the good that new money and new blood brings, the more time that you need to be spending planting your flag, establishing your brand, and building relationships with end consumers. This is how you’ll gain more leverage when convincing people that you're legit.
Quit chasing your tail and grow a servant’s heart. You get what you want by helping others get what they want. Anything else is a waste of time. This might be hard to read, but it's something everyone in nascent industries need to hear. Be thoughtful of who you try to convince that CBD & hemp are real because there's a lot of wasted energy in early times of any industry. You also need to be thoughtful of all the new people that are coming into the industry. If you play it right for yourself, it can be a remarkable thing. However, as a collective, these very early days for hemp and CBD are really important.
Watching this industry sprout is interesting. In the early days of tech, social, and search, the faces I'd see at events hanging out with everyone else went on to become the founders of Uber, twitter, Instagram, etc and companies like that.
A Couple Of Things:
1) If you are fortunate enough to be smart enough to be "in the room" at the right events in this space right now, do what so many similar people failed at in the dawn of tech, social, & search which is to fail to take full advantage of their pole position. Know where the world is going and take that route or it will be the biggest mistake that many of you will make.
2) Network with other people at the industry. I'm all about people in this industry understanding how many options we have. If you're in this space, if you're a brand, a manufacturer, or if you're a grower, your permission to be the media company of this space is there. Every single person in this industry needs to start thinking about their podcast yesterday. Every single person needs to start producing meaningful content that informs, educates and entertains. Every single person this industry needs to be thinking about writing a white paper and putting it on LinkedIn and Medium yesterday.
Everybody in this industry has to shift from crying (and that's what a lot of you are doing) that Instagram and Facebook and Google aren't taking your money for your ads. Nobody gives a flipity-flap about your tears. Stop crying about what you can't do and start figuring out what you can do. Losers whine and cry. Winners figure it out and own their space.
You can be dominating Instagram. Spend the bold, sweat, and time that's required to build out an influencer network. This will earn you the reach you need. Start a YouTube vlog and document the journey of building your business in a space along the way.
As evil as I think he is, I wish I could watch Zuckerberg's vlog and how he built Facebook. God willing, if your company explodes, your vlog of how you made it will be watched for the next 50 years through perpetuity.
You can do a lot with a little, but we all have to shift our marketing mindset in this space from being advertisers to being media companies. We have to produce great content. When we're done, we have to produce more great content. I implore everyone here to take advantage of this remarkable moment in our industry. It's not a baby, but it hasn't really started. I highly recommend you understand how to exploit different platforms for this industry.
The Naysayer: What About The ROI?
ROI is in the people! The ROI is in the consumer! The ROI is in the community! I’ve done this several times now. I know how it fails and I now how it succeeds. I promise you, right now everybody is watching how you're navigating. Right now everybody is watching and there's a lot of you (and I've seen this time and time again) unfortunately getting seduced by the short term ROI and finances. Everybody knows it is the wrong path but many of you will still walk down it and you will still lose.
If you make a podcast targeting middle-aged, fitness-minded, housewives who are high-net-worth individuals who are going to be in the edible space, because that's who you're targeting: you've got to really just go after your target audience with content that they'll consume. Quit trying to sell. Inform, educate, entertain. That's always been the case. I tell clients that the first three things we need to work on is patience, patience, and patience. This is because that's what it's gonna take, especially in this industry.
There's still a massive stigma associated with everything this industry is doing, whether a product has THC in it or not. Read about the first 15 years of prohibition. Live with it. You chose this path. Walk it or get off it. Everybody's got problems. When they’re yours, they’re yours.
If there is one single blessing I’ve been given, it’s having a positive mindset. I tend to just be happy because I'm just grateful for what I have. Other people have more and other people have less. When I had a whole lot less I was happy with what I had. I recognize that if I'm in my own head and realize that everybody's got their own issues to deal with, then I don't spend time complaining and dwelling on the negative. I spend time on doing.
Those who are working in CBD and hemp have made a decision to be an industry that will be over-regulated for the rest of your life. You have also chosen to be in an industry which will forever have a stigma attached to it which will also be heavily taxed and regulated. I guarantee you this.
You know what? That's okay.
Don't kid yourself. If you're going to be in this industry, you have to have the DNA that is good at fighting/negotiating with government, bureaucrats, and politicians. Everybody here has to make a decision for themselves whether they have the stomach to deal with the ebbs and flows being in a hyper regulated industry. The toughest thing in a regulated business is, "Cool, they opened up Illinois to CBD and hemp." A couple people have Chicago-based businesses in the state. They go and they crush it. Then, for whatever reason, several years later they re-regulate it and it's all gone. Too bad. This is what we're signing up for. Know this.
As Ben Shapiro would say, facts don't care about your feelings. The quicker everyone in this industry understands that it's going to be regulated in perpetuity, and the slog will be uphill, then they can start really thinking about how they are going navigate. Giddy up.