How BigMike Has Made Millions From Cannabis
There is normal famous and weed famous, and then there's BigMike.
Michael “BigMike” Straumietis is the founder and CEO of Advanced Nutrients, the first cannabis-specific nutrient line in the world that currently boasts $110 million USD a year in sale revenue from a total of 93 countries. He's the owner of cannabis line BigMike's Blends, co-host of the podcast “Business Outlaws”, overall cannabis boss, thrower of decadent cannabis parties at his $16 million beachside Malibu, California, mansion — all of this to say: If Straumietis has advice for you, you consider taking it.
Straumietis's companies are now based out of British Columbia and Los Angeles, where BigMike's Blends is grown in his $30-million lab and production facility Lacturnus Labs. Since Advanced Nutrients' founding in 1999, Straumietis has maintained his brand following a feature in 2015 by The Daily Mail that spotlighted his lavish lifestyle akin to a world-traveling playboy with women and yacht parties, with some settled questions on dodging the authorities. It never seemed to faze him much, as Straumietis is still thriving in the nutritional supplement game two decades later.
The self-proclaimed “Marijuana Don” doesn't just party, but also gives back in the form of his charity, Holiday Heroes, which he said has fed 30,000 people since its founding. He is now poised to enter the Illinois adult-use marijuana market once it goes live on Jan. 1, 2020, which is the first place he cultivated cannabis in 1983 when he was just 23 years old.
If you're one of his 2.3 million Instagram followers, you have probably seen Straumietis give sage financial wisdom; smoke with Wiz Khalifa, Ty Dolla Sign, and B-Real; and ring the ceremonial bell on the New York Stock Exchange.
On his reality show “The Next Marijuana Millionaire,” Straumietis said, “I wish I had someone show me the way when I first started in business; it would have been a game-changer.”
Straumietis spoke with Weedmaps News to show you the way.
Here are some solid pieces of life advice Straumietis offers for cannabis consumers, business owners, and people looking to cultivate an intelligent brand — personal or business alike.
Q: If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
A: I wish I would've understood human nature earlier in my career, instead of later. What people say and what people actually do are two totally different things. And when you understand human nature, there are certain telltale signs — certain things that people say and do — that help you to understand they're not somebody you want to do business with. Understanding this would've helped me out a great deal with people out of the cannabis industry who were coming into it — it would've helped me to understand what they're willing to do and say for a deal.
Q: How does a cannabis business owner make their brand stand out in a sea of brands? Everyone says the buzzwords like “quality product” and “social media,” but what is the advice no one wants to give up as it pertains to the cannabis market?
A: First off, you absolutely have to be able to differentiate yourself over your competitors, and not in a small way. For example, with my line of cannabis products, BigMike's Blends, I sell outcomes — I don't sell strains. Secondly, you have to be able to connect with your audience on a deep level.
A brand is really just a well-told story that explains why you decided to do what you're going to do, as well as your promise to the marketplace. You have to be able to stand behind your product. I was able to do that with Advanced Nutrients by sharing my story as a grower. Using all my experiences, I crafted a story that spoke to the needs — and pain points — of top cannabis cultivators because I lived it.
Once you know your story, you have to be able to develop the ability to consistently deliver the same message over and over again. In fact, you're gonna get sick of delivering your message far earlier than your audience will be sick of listening to it. That's a trap people fall into, they always want to change stuff up. Don't do that. Once you've got your story, get really good at telling it, because you're gonna tell it at least 10,000 times. And every time you do, it has to be as exciting as the first time you told it.
Q: What's more important: A brand for yourself, or a company brand?
A: Both serve different purposes, and can even be combined into one. You can have a great company under a different name, and also have your own personal brand. In my particular case, that's what you're going to see. BigMike's Blends is only one aspect of a larger, bigger picture. Look, companies don't have intrinsic personalities. You can give them a persona, but people will naturally attach to and understand your brand when it's you who is personally speaking to them. It humanizes your brand. So if you love your brand and you're proud of your brand, why not put your name on it? But that's just one aspect of what we are doing here. It's part of a bigger picture.
Q: How can an employee wow you? What do cultivators, scientists, salespeople need to do in order to stand out within your organization?
A: Employees can wow me by not bringing a lot of drama into work, doing their job extremely well, and being a great team member. I am impressed by people who contribute to the overall health of the company and not just their own department.
Cultivators should already have a great reputation in the space and possess a deep knowledge of environments, genetics, and understanding the different strains. Scientists will stand out if they're open-minded and have an extreme curiosity for the truth. All salespeople that we hire need to be 100 percent on board with what our company stands for, and should have a keen understanding of human nature and buying psychology. I don't want a person who doesn't believe in cannabis and only wants a job in the space because they know that the industry is taking off.
I don't want a person who doesn't believe in cannabis and only wants a job in the space because they know that the industry is taking off. I want a person who is completely aligned with our company mission statement to make cannabis an acceptable and everyday part of healing humanity. If that isn't your core love, if that isn't where your heart is, you're probably not going to fit into our culture.
Q: What is your worst failure? What did you learn from it?
A: My worst failure is not fully understanding human nature. It's probably the single most important thing in life that you could learn. And I'm not talking about the made-up BS that people will tell you on TV. I'm talking about what really goes on in people's brains and how they make their decisions. It's fascinating. It's not what you think it is. Most people have no fucking clue what it is. And they're at a huge disadvantage to the people who do.
Q: In what ways can marijuana entrepreneurs always “ask for the sale?” What modes can cannabis companies look to, given cannabis industry advertising restrictions on social media and search engines?
A: If you've got a great product, then you should never be afraid to ask for the sale. Focus on white papers, case studies, and positioning yourself where you can tell your story the way you want to tell it. Don't be afraid to push the envelope and push boundaries when it comes to the stigma attached to cannabis.
Given the restrictions on advertising, you have to know where the line is and be willing to step right up to it, without crossing it. Learning the tolerances of each platform will be a huge deciding factor in how successful you're going to be. One of the things that I've always been really good at is understanding where that line is. I've walked right up to it many a time… And even looked over the fence with my head back.
Cannabis entrepreneur Michael “BigMike” Straumietis stresses the importance of knowing the science of cannabis, pushing advertising and marketing boundaries without stepping over the line, and learning from failure. (Photo courtesy of Michael “BigMike” Straumietis)
You can't be afraid to push, because at the end of the day, it's about making cannabis an acceptable and everyday part of healing humanity, and the only way we're going to get there is to keep pushing hard against the walls that people have set up for us.
Q: You have a team of Ph.D.'s and value science in your work. What role does the cannabis industry innovator have to inform their consumers in research, education, and science?
A: Science is extremely important because it will always tell you the truth. It's about finding out what works and what doesn't, fully understanding your subject matter, and getting to your final answer — a yes or no. Does it work or doesn't it? That's what's important.
In other words, if you're innovating — you better start studying science, you better start reading technical papers, you better start talking to scientists who are in this industry and who are outside of this industry as well.
This one is especially important. We need to start looking outside our industry to other folks, taking what they have and adapting it and bringing it into our community, because that's where the future is. The answers aren't always within our community. In fact, most of the answers for our future — where we're going — lie outside of our industry … in experts, doctors, and researchers with key information we need.
Q: What's a lesson you have learned in your career that no one else would dare to say?
A: I've risked many things. My time, my money, my relationships — I've risked all of these things in ways that most people are unwilling to do. And because of that, I've been able to continue to build on the singular mission that I've had since I was 23 years old.
At the end of the day, you have to embrace failure because it will help you to understand the bigger picture. I'm never afraid to tell anyone my failures — and I've failed more times than I've succeeded. It's part of the process of getting to where you want to go. I've taken risks that other people would be afraid to take. That's the key: not being afraid of failure, and taking risks that the average person isn't willing to do.