This week’s Trailblazer is Kaya Arai, Senior Account Manager for Nine Point Agency, a PR agency that partners with clients to develop brands that defy expectations and centre on progress.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I got involved in 2018 after relocating to Vancouver from Aotearoa, New Zealand. I followed cannabis to Canada in hopes of working in the legal industry. Not long after arriving, I started volunteering for a family-owned dispensary that year in April, slowly learning about the industry from the ground up and looking for ways to apply my skills and background to help advocate for the plant. I’m currently a Senior Account Manager at Nine Point Agency, an Advisory Board member for The Retail Cannabis Council of British Columbia, and the host of The Bellas Who Blaze podcast. Like many of us in the industry, I want to help remove the stigma and misconceptions by contributing a positive voice in the space, as the plant has personally helped me through various journeys.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
The pace of the cannabis industry can be tricky to manage when planning campaigns and launches. When it moves, it races, but it can quickly slow to a crawl. Adapting to the ever-changing environment is a challenge as everything you plan can go out the door in a day, but that’s also an exciting challenge.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
For BC, I wish we could have consumption spaces. I’d also love to see the regulations relax and for us to be able to market cannabis in a similar way alcohol is allowed.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
Age-gated events are probably my favourite! It allows more creative freedom and direct interactions with your audience and provides an opportunity to deliver a memorable experience associated with your brand.
Are there any other Trailblazers in the cannabis industry that you follow?
I follow a long list, but my top four picks would be Antuanette Gomez, CEO of Peak Pharm Labs. I’ve watched her journey from Pleasure Peaks, prioritizing sexual health and wellness with cannabis and passionately advocating for diversity and inclusion in the industry, to now being CEO of a medical cannabis company. Julie Domingo, Co-Founder and now CEO of CannaReps is another badass woman who constantly inspires me; with the amount of passion she approaches all of her work and cannabis education, I owe much of my knowledge to the fantastic sommelier courses. Finally, my current mentors, Tiffany Soper, President of Nine Point Agency and Malania Dela Cruz, Vice President, are another powerhouse duo I admire in business.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to marketers looking to enter the cannabis industry?
A little passion, a hint of obsession for the plant, the curiosity and resilience to navigate a new industry and knowing the strengths you bring to the table help a lot.