Oct 15, 2018

Denver Startup Week: Emerging Cannabis Trends


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Read the first post in this series, Starting a Cannabis Brand The Can Cross State Lines.

Throughout Denver Startup Week, cannabis session panelists echo the opportunity for brands to establish strategic positioning and visual identity beyond the sea of green and black as the market continues to mature and migrate towards stabilization. “As the price of the marijuana plant itself decreases in today’s marketplace, the opportunity arises for marketing and branding spending to increase,” says local attorney Alyssa Samuel in the ‘States of Cannabis’ panel. So far, the category has been distracted by a frenzied rat race to enter the market and keep up with regulations and red tape.

Cannabis Grows Up

Now that the FDA has approved the first CBD drug, Epidiolex, Canada legalizes, and the overall market spend continues to multiply, the growing momentum creates freedom to shift focus towards brand expression and differentiation, priming the market for more sophisticated solutions (and less bright green marijuana leaves.) With this new wave of brand building in the category, cannabis experts throughout sessions provide fodder on how emerging startups can differentiate from the “Walmarts of Weed,” while also proving credibility and accountability beyond the perception of unregulated garage growers.

People Behind the Products

“Happy people make happy plants make happy owners.,” says Trisha Williams, Founder and CEO of both LEIFFA and LoCol Love.

In the ‘Cannabis: The future is female’ panel, speakers discuss the value of heroing more than the plants, and instead shifting focus to the people behind the products—those who grow and sell to curate experiences with customers from cannabis naïve to brand loyalists to category advocates. Williams pulls from experience in her two Colorado-based cannabis companies to highlight the passion throughout the industry. Each person involved in the process from seed to shelf has a story, and the more brands can bring that passion through externally, the more potential to foster growth. Defining a mission and vision brought to life through a distinctive culture allows brands to create a personality that weaves throughout the customer journey to generate lasting impact.

Culture is Crucial

Another emerging trend panelists agree on is the growing need to standardize HR processes and strengthen professional development to further legitimize standard business practices in cannabis infrastructures. “We like to say that a year in the cannabis industry is more like a dog year,” says Shannon Donnelly, owner of both Higher Standard and Healthy Honeys. Donnelly cites an example of a cannabis business client having a 100% turnover rate in just six months to paint the picture of how crucial it is to foster a strong culture that prioritizes employee satisfaction and retention in the short and long-term.


As far as building upon the existing groundwork of women in cannabis, experts see a horizon where the category becomes a more egalitarian environment for women to work as well as purchase. The question as we approach that horizon—how can brands contribute to expanding consumer education, creating inclusive company cultures, and continuing to legitimize the category across audiences?

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