There are many new cannabis entrepreneurs.
If you are one of them, read on! This article is designed for you. If you’re a seasoned veteran in the legal cannabis space, we’re not going to turn you away, you can finish the article as well.
And if you’re thinking about getting into the legal cannabis industry, it’s probably a good article for you as well.
[RELATED: Click here and listen to the new podcast – The ROI of Cannabis Industry Networking]
Cannabis entrepreneurs are by nature an enterprising lot – frankly, you’d have to be, given the nature and circumstances of the business. Earlier this week, the DEA announced that they were not going to re-schedule or de-schedule marijuana, so it remains a Schedule I narcotic, although many people debate the fairness in the scheduling, and that is another story for another time.
It’s a great idea for cannabis entrepreneurs to spend time networking with their peers.
Any time you have an organized industry, it’s generally not a bad idea to get to know your vendors, suppliers, retailers, or competition. Often we learn the most by listening to what has worked for others, and finding our own way down that path.
When an industry is completely uncharted, such as the internet in the late 90’s, making friends and connections can turn out to be critical for your success. The legal cannabis industry faces a similar situation; there’s a lot of movement of bodies between companies, jobs, and segments of the industry.
But that comes at a cost – your time and your money – to attend these networking events.
Whether you’re stopping in at the monthly meeting of your local WomenGrow chapter, or heading somewhere like Hempfest in Seattle, you’ll incur costs along the way. After all, hotels in Seattle are not cheap even when there won’t be 250,000 people hanging around downtown all weekend.
How do you determine what’s a reasonable cost for attending an event? We’ve always used a checklist of sorts to decide what conferences and trade shows we attend, and whether or not we’ll exhibit or submit a speaker proposal.
#1 – how many people are attending the event – this one isn’t critical to our decision, at least not if the next question has a good answer
#2 – who is attending the event – sometimes smaller conferences and meetings offer a better opportunity to meet people and actually spend time talking to them; we also want to connect with both new people and people we’ve successfully worked with in the past
#3 – what do the logistics look like – if we’re going to be there for more than a few hours, what is our plan for lodging, parking, airport transportation, etc
#4 – how much is it going to cost, all in – are we going to a show that has meals included, will we be buying dinners (where, how much, how many), or how much collateral do we have to print- keep in mind that we’re throwing most anything away that doesn’t get distributed since we tend to market to specifics in our collateral
#5 – what’s the travel time for everyone – it can be hard to get from Miami to Vancouver, sometimes harder than getting from London to San Francisco, and you can’t forget that it’s exhausting on the long trips so you might need to go early
Now that we know what factors into the equation, how do we run the math?
Most cannabis entrepreneurs are probably new to running a business, so this part gets tricky, especially with the state of banking in the industry.
You’re paying for things with your personal credit card, and there are no business deductions on your taxes if you run a dispensary or a delivery service, etc. You may not even have a company bank account, and it’s not that easy to pay for things like airline tickets in cash. You can’t bring product with you on a commercial airplane, and you can’t ship it through the mail either.
You also have to evaluate whether your can reach your target demographic. If you’re based in Denver, for instance, then maybe you skip Hempfest since you can’t sell product in Washington; if most of your customers are B2B, then going to a consumer show may not pay off either. It’s hard to speak to people when they’re manning a booth being mobbed by people wanting free lighters.
At the end of the day, everyone tallies up the cost and decides what’s worth it and what isn’t. Don’t decide not to go to an event that might help you network or make new relationships just because it’s expensive, or just because it’s 5 states away from you, unless the attendees aren’t a good fit for your business.
One last thought – conferences that are designed to encourage interaction with investors, product manufacturers and advocacy groups are almost always worth the trip; these can be invaluable contacts down the road.