How to Network in the Cannabis Industry
Legalization is upon us and you’re now looking to grow your cannabis business. Whether you are in branding, manufacturing, software, or distribution, opportunities abound! Events like Leaf Toronto and Women Grow are great opportunities to meet people in the space. Presenting yourself and your business is an important part of cultivating relationships that will ultimately help you succeed. But what should you say when you’re finally there? Here are a few do’s and don’ts for your networking efforts.
DO: PERFECT YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH
In networking situations you have about 90 seconds to explain to someone why they should continue speaking to you. Small talk may seem like a good segway, but don’t spend too much time on insignificant details. In these 90 seconds you need to say who you are, what you are looking for, and why people should work with you. Here’s my elevator pitch for MediPharm Labs:
“Hi, I’m Mika Unterman from MediPharm Labs. We are a licensed producer of cannabis focusing exclusively on extraction. We partner with consumer brands and help them with product development and commercialization.”
Making sure you communicate the key aspects of your business and what type of relationships you are looking for will increase the odds of making a meaningful connection.
DON’T: SAY YOU’RE NEW
Since the cannabis industry is just becoming legal, almost everyone is new. It’s rare to find a veteran! Saying that you are inexperienced in the industry may turn people off, and indicate you are not the right person to speak to. It’s your unconventional background that lends you an edge. Focus on the skills and strengths you’ve gained from your previous experience. Leverage what you know about your previous industry and demonstrate competence in your chosen vertical.
DO: EXTENSIVE RESEARCH
Make sure you are informed about whatever side of the business you are on. You don’t want to be caught unaware about the operational specifics of the cannabis business. Cannabis cultivation is a large scale manufacturing business, with operations similar to other greenhouses such as ornamental flowers or indoor food production. Familiarize yourself with these businesses to get a better understanding of the cultivation process. Read the Cannabis Act, and make sure you understand the manufacturing and distribution process. Don’t be afraid to reach out to individuals on LinkedIn and seek out more information. Be armed with information before you enter a networking room.
DON’T: ACT LIKE A STONER
The cannabis industry has moved far beyond secret basement cultivators and moldy rooms. A modern cultivation facility is a pharma grade laboratory in a tightly regulated environment, with extensive testing a certifications. This is a developing space with increasing involvement from established industries such as finance, manufacturing, and pharma. Make sure to present yourself in a professional manner and talk about the business, not the bud.
DO: FOLLOW UP
Always take a business card from the people you meet and follow up within a few days. Although connections might not be relevant at the moment, the industry is still young. There may be opportunity to work together in the future and starting a relationship early will contribute to your odds of success. Furthermore, the space is still very small and almost everyone is connected by two or three degrees of separation. A connection that might not seem relevant at the outset may lead to other connections that would be useful in the short term.
In the cannabis space, the world is your oyster! Presenting yourself well will make sure you get that pearl.