This week’s Trailblazer is Andrea Dobbs, Managing Director of Village Bloomery, a cannabis retail business and community of quality people, all in the heart of beautiful Vancouver.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
In 2014. I came to Cannabis later in life. I had tried it earlier on in my teens and while it had been fun I didn’t feel the need to engage with it. Fast forward to my peri-menopause years and long story short Cannabis played a huge role in my feeling whole again. That was a powerful experience and I wanted to combine my life’s experience in retail and retail design with the plant. I was hugely inspired by the BC Compassion Club in that I was attracted to a holistic approach to Cannabis and its role in a healthy life.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
For me, it’s the bridging of two worlds. There’s the before time when Cannabis retailers were self-regulated and when purchases were made between vendors whom we developed working relationships and or directly from farmers. It was very personal with very little “salesmanship”. Now it’s “the now time” and there is a whole new slew of folks in the mix many of whom feel sales is their calling hired by folks who have a serious agenda to move product.
For me, it’s taken a moment to let the dust settle and to find the folks who are genuine around building relationships. I’ve had to reframe my expectations many times and I think it’s important to be ready to do so because we have more people to be accountable to now that Cannabis is more widely available.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
Testimonials are important. I’d like to see that open up. I would like to feel free to show products and product images without being censored, I’d like to be able to discuss how said Cannabis products make me feel without having to censor myself. I get that we don’t want to make unfounded claims etc but we’ve got to make room for people sharing their experiences. Consumption spaces might make that easier.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
I think connecting socially is a good way to build relationships and work with retailers to create pop-ups so that they can tell their stories directly to the consumers. In particular, it’s great to meet the growers.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
There are so many people creating pathways in this space at the moment. I definitely have to say Hilary Black, Dr. Rielle Capler, Janeen Davis, Necole Hines, Siobhan McCarthy, Ashley Athill, Lisa Campbell, Rosy Mondin, Christina Michael and Emily L. have been folks I’m always happy to see! There are lots of people who I feel are doing great work in the space. There are lots of people whose names might not ring a bell that I’m inspired by. The budtenders who are on the front lines every day absorbing information at all times. My kids are budtenders in my shop and they blow my mind.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
To do their research. Read about the people you are approaching if you can. Check out their websites to see what they carry. See if they say why they carry what they carry. If it is a cold call ask if there is someone in particular in charge of exploring new products so that you don’t spend a bunch of time downloading on a budtender who has other things to do.
It really comes down to good old-fashioned relationship building. Respect that retailers are busy, respect that they have a brand of their own to build and be prepared to wait a minute until you are connected with the person who is the decision maker. It will save paper, it will save inauthentic banter and it will move us all forward. This is how you find your people.