Mrs. Nice Guy

DispensaryNext In Portland: Day One

While some of you were stuck in an office all day Monday and Tuesday, I was at the DispensaryNext Conference in Portland. You may have seen me tweeting about it, but if you haven’t, this conference was held at the Jantzen Beach Red Lion and it was geared towards individuals looking to start a dispensary, or those who already have one and want to further educate themselves on what’s going on in the cannabis industry. This event was great for networking as some well known people within the industry were there offering tips and showcasing some of their services. Initially I wasn’t sure what to think about the event, I mostly wanted to go and check out a lot of the media classes that were being offered.


I was pretty nervous on the way to DispensaryNext, being dropped off didn’t help, it felt like I was a little kid and I was being dropped off on the first day at a brand new school. The nervousness subsided a bit when I got my badge that had my name on it and everything! Can you tell I’m new to this? When I walked into the event room I was taken aback by how awesome the breakfast setup was! Danish, coffeecake, fruit, coffee, and tea!? It was a wonderful spread and I couldn’t help but indulge. While getting my nosh on, I met with Shon and Lynn from New Vansterdam. Lynn and I were both interested in “The Psychology of Retail Design” a seminar that was put on by Megan Stone of The High Road Design Studio, and Anne Marie Luthro, of AML. In this seminar both women combined their years of knowledge in the business world and how they apply that into this new industry. Megan Stone is a Cannabis retail design educator and her passion is educating dispensary owners on the importance of designing welcoming environments to new and old cannabis shoppers. She was very adamant about focusing on a bright, open, higher end atmosphere. Some people might scoff at my use of “higher end” and say that “weed will sell itself”, and you’re absolutely right, but what’s setting you apart from the competition? Why not create a brand that makes people coming back? As a customer a store’s appearance and overall atmosphere matters to me, from the outside in, that’s what keeps me coming back and talking you up to my friends. One of the things that’s being talked about a lot since this green rush is how important it is for new cannabusiness’ to market to women, and that is SO TRUE. Women love to treat ourselves by spending money on the things that make us happy, from massages to shoes, we love to spend! With that being said, I should also mention that as a woman, we can be very judgemental, so your business’ image matters to us. My message to new and current cannabusiness owners: understand your customers wants, needs, and learn about what makes them happy. Us consumers pick up on that and can’t wait to share that with our friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recommended some of my favorite shops like H.E.M.P. and New Vansterdam, knowing that my recommendations satisfy my friends makes me happy. Weed is legal now and one of the most important things to remember is that you want your customers to feel safe, you want to educate them on your products. New customers and old, you have to cater to all of them. One of the things I took away from this seminar was how understanding the customer is done in the same old ways, it’s just all new because of how new weed is to some people…and isn’t it kinda trippy that people are studying how we buy our weed (recreationally anyway).

The next seminar we had I won’t talk about too much, it was called, “Marketing For the Future” and was conducted by Lee Weiner. In this seminar we learned how marketing to your customers in engaging ways is important. One of the things I kept hearing was “know your demographics”, sadly, I stopped listening to what this guy had to say after he showed an image of a successful ad he created for a shop that was having an edibles sale. The image wreaked of sexism with a half naked chick on her knees licking a lollipop, when one of the other women in the class complained about how it was indeed sexist, the speaker proceeded to tell a room that was mostly filled with women that, “Sex sells”. That’s all great, but he basically insulted all of us to our faces and didn’t seem to care much. The woman who said something actually walked out of the seminar she was so offended. Aside from that I also learned that with shops and their marketing that consistency is key and that you have to be a marketing ninja of sorts these days. It made me think of Phat Panda, one of the local I502 growers in Washington. Looking at their labels and their instagram account, you can tell they’re marketing ninjas. Lunch was awesome! There was chicken, salmon, and pasta salads with bread, I did my best not to over indulge. Things got awkward when the speaker who showed the sexist ad sat down at the same table as the woman who had complained, she couldn’t even sit at the same table as him. I want to say that I’m not mentioning any of this to dog on the conference whatsoever, I am merely mentioning it to point out that there is sexism in this industry and it does need to be addressed when it’s present.

For the third seminar of the day, I decided to check out the “Effective Video Marketing For Dispensaries” seminar that was being conducted by Matt Williams of Garlic Media Group. I was pretty excited to see what was in store for us, but Matt’s computer crashed and his presentation was lost…talk about suck! Some of the things I learned from that class that may be beneficial to some shops was that it’s important to document the culture of cannabis. Almost everything happening in a dispensary or rec shop is content and people will watch it. People are reading less, so engaging with your customers through video is proving to be effective. With that being said, most shop owners would probably think YouTube is where they should be focusing, and though YouTube is a great tool to help spread your message, it isn’t always the best financially. YouTube doesn’t pay for cannabis ads, and since YouTube winds up owning your videos, you should think about using a different sort of video player that you can embed on your site. You can still use YouTube to post short clips, but you want to drive them from there to your website. Videos shouldn’t be long, about a 2-3 minute average is good. I want to also say that STONER VIDEOS AREN’T THE ONLY VIDEOS OUT THERE. Show other sides to the industry.

“The Truth About Organic Growing” was a good class and the speaker, Adam Jacques of Oregon Micro Growers Guild down in Eugene was probably one of my favorite speakers of the day. This seminar touched on the importance of trust between growers and shops. As a medical patient and a recreational consumer it’s my right to know if the weed I am consuming is harmful, and I rely on the trust I put into the shops that I frequent that they aren’t doing business with people using products that are harmful. We need to set good standards and practices that are the norm for the entire industry, because if not, what are we doing? Adam Jacques told us that when we learn about what products growers are using, to look up the companies that own them, and their parent companies. Go down the rabbit hole and find it for yourself, you don’t want to be using a product owned by Mansanto, do you? Oregon has a very high pollen count and that can make growing outdoors difficult so if you’re a grower you want to make sure your crop is protected with a cover of some sort, it’s also important in case your neighbor or someone nearby is using pesticides as those can get on your plants. This panel helped me realized that there’s a lot more I should be asking when I am consuming cannabis.

Afterwards there was a panel on “The Future Of Retail Cannabis”, and in this panel a lot of the attendees shared some of the hardships they’ve been facing with their own business ventures, problems getting banking, insurance, and finding lawyers are a few things that were mentioned a lot. This panel was great for networking, a lot of information was trade and that was pretty cool to witness. I didn’t stay for the Happy Hour shindig afterwards, but I am sure it was great…it was an open bard too. All in all, after the end of day 1 I felt good about most of what I learned and I had met some cool people. I was ready to make day 2 my, b***h!

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