How Cannabis Entrepreneurs Can Explain What They Do For A Living -- Without Freaking People Out

In the canna-biz, when a stranger asks about your line of work, the answer can be a little awkward.
How Cannabis Entrepreneurs Can Explain What They Do For A Living -- Without Freaking People Out
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This story appears in the December 2019 issue of Green Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You race from work to catch your kid’s soccer game, grab a spot on the bleachers as you catch your breath, and the mother next to you asks, “So, what do you do?”

The cannabis industry is a booming, legitimate industry with an estimated 340,000 legal jobs, according to New Frontier Data. But for many outside the business, it still registers a word cloud of negativity: shady, druggie, irresponsible, criminal

So how do you explain what you do for a living when you’re not quite sure how the other person will react?  We asked a few seasoned cannabis execs how they handle it.

Related: How Brands Appeal To The Canna-Curious

Be direct. 

“I say, ‘I’m in the weed business.’ Then, after the shock value wears off, I can go into one of several explanations: the benefits of cannabis, those who benefit the most from it, or why it [was] illegal in the first place, and what kinds of people have been most negatively impacted by the laws. It is a point of identity and pride for me to be able to try to form the cannabis conversation into a positive one. I feel like an ambassador for a cause worth fighting for.” -- Ron Silver, founder and chief creative officer, Azuca

Flip the script. 

“I usually turn the tables and ask the person if they’ve ever smoked pot. That question alone will normally level the playing field, especially if we’re in a social setting. Most of the time it carries on with a laugh and some storytelling. If it is going poorly, I bring the conversation forward to compare cannabis to alcohol or cigarettes, and make the point that cannabis is actually safer than both of them, and that overall, legalization is about freedom. Touching specifically on freedoms is something that resonates with most people, especially with the conservative crowd, which I’ve noticed has become increasingly receptive to cannabis legalization.” -- Chase Nobles, cofounder and co-CEO, Kush.com

Related: What Millennials Want In Weed

Ease in. 

“My initial answer usually varies depending on the person asking me the question. If it’s a more conservative-seeming person, I will usually answer with ‘I own my own businesses.’ At this point, most people would ask, ‘Oh, yeah? What business are you in?’ I have owned a clothing company, Satori Wellness, for 20 years and work in wholesale distribution, so I usually throw that out first, saying, ‘I have made hemp clothing for decades that’s sold around the world.’ They hear ‘hemp’ and their ears perk up. Usually they then will ask a question about hemp or ‘Oh, you make clothes out of CBD?’ So I wind up explaining a bit about hemp for fiber and how that varies from hemp for CBD, and if the conversation is fluid, at some point I will usually throw in ‘And I own multiple cannabis companies.’ ” -- Craig Nejedly, founder and CEO, Satori Wellness, Talking Trees Farm, and High Grade Distribution

Go into education mode. 

“I initially communicate that I am in the health-and-wellness/beauty space. Very often I am then asked, ‘What exactly do you do in the space?’ and when I get into details, it allows me to explain that we are a seed-to-face organic skincare line and talk about the ingredients and the use of cannabis. I don’t shy away from sharing how it works physiologically with our own ECS [endocannabinoid system] and how that correlates to elevating the health and wellness of our skin -- as well as the [positive] impact the hemp industry has on the environment. Typically the conversation becomes educational and is received very well.” -- Nick Christensen, cofounder, Cannabliss Organic

Related: Tips For Opening A Dispensary Where Nobody Wants You

Read your audience. 

“You can size up a person or situation pretty quickly. Sometimes it’s just a matter of how much time I have to get into it. There’s a big learning curve for many people when it comes to cannabis, and even the most basic conversations require some educating. If I’m asked by someone I don’t think would get it -- my kid’s teacher, my dentist or, God forbid, my banker -- I tend to skirt the issue and stick with ‘I’m a publicist’ or ‘I’m in marketing.’ Sometimes the risk of judgment or stigma just isn’t worth it. With people I know -- friends, family, or professional contacts -- I don’t hold back. In fact, I’m excited to explain how I’m applying the principles I learned working on big CPG brands like Budweiser to a hot new industry like cannabis.” -- Lisa Weser, founder and CEO, Trailblaze

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