This week’s Trailblazer is Graydon Welbourn, a Managing Partner at White Ash Group, one of North America’s top cannabis recruitment and staffing agencies.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
In 2018, my older brother Jameson Welbourn phoned me, extremely excited and encouraging, urging me to consider getting into the Cannabis industry. At the time, I was a user of Cannabis but hadn’t quite considered it to be a career path, nor did I know much about the plant itself. I was working for a national tech-recruitment firm, servicing clients in the banking industry.
I realised that there was going to be a need for high quality, vetted talent in the industry, with the trailblazers of the industry needing support in finding the right talent to launch their companies and propel the industry forward.
I was itching to leave and start my own company; I figured I had a strong enough business idea and niche and I knew the industry was going to be fast paced and entrepreneurial.
I made my way to several networking events around Toronto and found the community to be really welcoming. I met Jerome Hoyte, now my business partner, through fortuitous events at a coffee shop, and we both had the same vision for a cannabis focused recruitment firm, the beginning of what is now White Ash Group.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
The same challenge everyone faces: the constant changing, all the redirection and the pivoting. Personally, I enjoy how fast paced the industry is and how it’s ever evolving. A lot of our clients have things happen and it will change the scope of a job and we will have to pivot along with them. I think that’s where we bring a lot of value, we understand the industry.
If you could change one of the stigmas attached to cannabis, which would it be?
I think women who consume Cannabis are still seen as different from men who consume. I think the stigma is lingering moreso for women and that needs to change. The way we’re combatting that is by simply making a concerted effort to recruit more women into the industry.
In your observation, what techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to recruit marketing talent?
Initially, I think a lot of people looked at pulling talent from traditionally regulated industries like tobacco and beverage alcohol.
However, a lot of companies found out quickly that marketing a familiar concept, such as beer or wine, is significantly easier than marketing something that is steeped in stigma, criminalization and remains fairly misunderstood.
Companies that have shown a genuine appreciation for brand development and the customer journey, and have understood that they need to bring creative minds into the industry, are attracting the right talent and thus succeeding.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
Also, Michael Elkin, he has put years into the cannabis industry and he is relentless with his ability to make things happen for those around him.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry, especially in marketing?
Go to the stores, try the products, talk to budtenders, figure out what products people are buying. Figure out what is working and why. From there, network with people in the industry – recruiters, other people in marketing, brand managers, decision makers. Get out and go to all the conferences you can, that’s where the magic happens.
Last Updated on May 25, 2022 by Hannah Thomson