Ready to jump into the state’s legal (retail sales are a go in 2016, thanks to November’s voters) marijuana market, but not sure how? Heed the words of Nichole Graf, a former brand and product designer for Madewell now launching Raven, an Olympia-based brand creating handcrafted cannabis products with an organic-foods-brand vibe.
1. Don’t act like a stoner. “If you’re coming into it from the mind-set of being a black-market or medical grower, you’re setting yourself up for headache and heartache. You’re now in a very public arena. Get a good accountant, and get a good legal team to help navigate the state process. As soon as money starts to get involved, things can go awry, so it’s good to lay a very strong foundation.”
2. Selling weed is not enough. “Hone your brand identity. Why does your product exist in the world when there’s already x number of people doing the same thing? Identifying that gives you a chance to shine—something genuine and honest to talk about, so it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to sell snake oil.”
3. Target your market. “For us, it was the same consumer who spent the extra pennies to buy organic food, who sought out inspiring craftspeople—whether they be mixologists or cobblers—and went out of their way to support businesses that have a story and integrity that is reflected in their product.”
4. Innovate! “If eco-friendly packaging is important to you, don’t cave in just because there’s no readily available solution that complies with the state’s cannabis packaging regulations. Work with packaging companies to develop something new. The potential for this new market is huge. Get creative.”
Good to know: The city’s most buttoned-down business group is ready for the new era: in fall 2014, Shango, a medical marijuana operation with two locations, became the first representative of the cannabis industry to join the Portland Business Alliance.