This week’s Trailblazer is Aaron Kumar, District Sales Manager of Kiaro, an independent, omnichannel cannabis retailer and distributor.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I have been passionate about cannabis for over 15 years, it has always been a dream of mine to be able to work in the industry. I joined Kiaro in early 2019 and it has been an amazing journey since.
What excited me about joining the cannabis industry was the newness of the legal side. There wasn’t much structure and organization put in place yet. With my background in entrepreneurship and start-ups, I felt this was the perfect timing for me to enter the space.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
The biggest challenge has been regulations. The inconsistency of how these regulations are applied from a federal to provincial level and also how they are interpreted differently by each province. This makes it difficult to have a consistent brand presence across multiple jurisdictions.
As the industry evolves, we are starting to see regulations change as well. These changes are overall positive but can impact retailers from a cost and store layout perspective.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
The double restriction of window coverings and packaging that is not appealing to children. The regulation on Display (or window coverings) limits retailers on how they can differ from each other. Whether it is the inability to have products on the sales floor or having to cover windows so products can’t be seen from outside, it becomes difficult to differentiate yourself. This is a challenge for most retailers.
Kiaro looks at giving our customers a normalized shopping experience similar to what you would expect at a grocery and liquor store. Even though it is difficult to have products showcased on the retail floor, we look for creative solutions to bring products to life. The High Bar is a great example of this, where we have highlighted beverages, similar to how you would see it at a liquor store or restaurant, this gives the customer the ability to view and interact with the products.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
We are seeing more consumers asking for advice and opinion from budtenders. With the number of new brands and products being added to the market every day, budtenders are being inundated with strain cards and sale sheets like never before. On average, a budtender can look at over 100 different strains a week!
At Kiaro, we have shifted to using video education to share LP’s brand stories and product information but also to engage our team members in a format that can be easily consumable.
Remember, the budtenders are the individuals that will share your growing practices, philosophies, stories, and what makes your brand stand apart, I don’t believe this can live on a one-page sheet.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
There are so many amazing individuals in this industry. Particularly, all of the amazing female leaders at Kiaro! There are superheroes in every corner of our business: retail, finance, senior leadership, supply chain and human resources. Each one of them is making a huge impact on this new industry and defining what is possible when women lead.
I am truly a fan of Bubba Nicholson, not only for his passion for the product but how he went about sharing his story to each and every budtender across Canada.
Emily Leung, who is one of my biggest inspirations in the industry. She introduced me to the legal side of cannabis during the early stages and it has been amazing to see her grow in the industry as a female entrepreneur.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Don’t hesitate. Do it now! The past few years have been some of the best years of my professional career. To be able to be involved in building the foundation in a completely new industry isn’t something you get to do very often. Yes, it is tough. Yes, you need to have patience. Yes, you need to be agile.
But it is so worth it!
A big thank you to Aaron from Kiaro for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.