Ep 358 – A Conference Like No Other for CPG Brands and Investors

george jage mj unpacked cannainsider

The first cannabis event of its kind, MJ Unpacked places passionate retailers, THC CPG brands, and accredited investors at the center of it all with unique opportunities to connect, collaborate, and access capital.

Here to tell us more is revered cannabis executive and founder of MJ Unpacked, George Jage of Jage of Media.

Learn more at https://jagemedia.com and https://mjunpacked.com

Key Takeaways:

[3:31] An inside look at Jage Media, a business to business company that produces distinctive events and focused content to help accelerate the growth and profitability of cannabis brands

[5:10] George’s background launching and leading some of the biggest media companies in the space

[7:12] Exciting parallels between the tea and cannabis industries

[10:57] Lessons George took away from his time at MJBizDaily and Dope Magazine

[17:16] George’s new content platform MJ Brand Insights and the valuable intel it offers cannabis brands and retailers

[20:55] How brands can use generational marketing to target the best audience

[24:18] The thought-process behind MJ Unpacked’s unique format and what sets the conference apart from other CPG events

[28:05] What attendees can expect at this year’s MJ Unpacked, from investor pitches to a Blues Brothers concert

[34:19] George’s predictions for when cannabis will see its first national brand

[35:14] Things that take a pitch from good to great and George’s advice on how to secure investors

Click Here to Read Full Transcript

Matthew Kind: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more @cannainsider.com. That's C-A-N-N-A-insider dot com. Now here's your program. Hi, CANNA insiders. Just a quick note before today's interview gets started that my colleague Sinead Green will be interviewing today's guest.

Sinead Green: Hey, Matt.

Matthew: Oh my God. You scared me. Sinead, I didn't realize you were in the sound booth.

Sinead: Sorry about that, Matt.

Matthew: Sinead, since you popped into the sound booth here, this is a great time to just say hello to all the listeners, since I was talking about you.

Sinead: Sounds great. I'd love to, Hey everybody. I'm Sinead Green and I've actually been working with Matt behind the scenes for a couple of years now. I'm so excited to put on my hosting hat and really get a chance to engage with you and bring you some more great interviews. I just want to say if there's someone you'd like us to bring on the show, please feel free to email me your suggestions at sg@cannainsider.com. I'd love to hear from you, and I really hope you enjoy these upcoming shows.

Matthew: Got you. I want to get a host hat, now that you mentioned it. I’m thinking a huge, purple velvet hat. What do you think about that?

Sinead: I think that would look great on you, Matt.

Matthew: Really important, Sinead. We want you to do a good job, but not better than me. Does that sound fair?

Sinead: We'll see about that. [chuckles]

Matthew: Everybody, enjoy this episode with the host Sinead.

[music]

Sinead: Today's guest is one of the most revered Cannabis executives with over two decades, launching building and leading some of the largest media companies in the space from MJBizDaily to DOPE Magazine and more. I'm pleased to welcome George Jage in Jage Media. George, thanks so much for sitting down with us today.

George Jage: Sinead, thank you so much. That's quite a grandiose introduction being revered, but I'm just the guy and I love doing what I do.

Sinead: We're so excited to have you on. I know you were on the show a few years back, but you've done a lot since then. I'm excited to get into that, but before we jump in, George, can you give us a sense of geography? Where are you in the world right now?

George: I am out in the sunny Seattle area. We live on Bainbridge Island, which is just west of Seattle. You have to take a ferry to get here. It's really just such a beautiful part of the country. I'm so glad that we live here.

Sinead: Oh man, I've heard there are a lot of good wineries on Bainbridge as well. You guys go to some wineries here and there?

George: Yes. There's several on the island. We have some subscriptions to them so we can get [inaudible 00:02:43] when they get their wines ready. A couple of them actually, they'll let you volunteer to help bottle and process the wine during the season. Then you get a couple of free bottles for it. I haven't done that yet. I'm more of a IPA and a Bourbon drinker and my wife is the oenophile.

Sinead: That sounds like a fair trade-off volunteering for some free wine. I would be there in a heartbeat.

George: It's just starting to get to be blackberry season and every street and row and wild growth there has massive blackberry vines.

Sinead: Oh my gosh. That sounds like paradise, [chucklles] sounds so nice. Very cool. George, like I said, you've been on the show in the past, but that was quite a while ago. I think that was in 2014, if I'm not mistaken. You've done a lot since then and you have started Jage Media in the last few years here. Can you tell us what is Jage Media on a high level?

George: Sure. Jage Media, obviously just a placeholder corporate name. It was founded by myself and my wife, who's my business partner Kim, and she ran a previous business with me, World Tea Media, World Tea Expo. As a company, we saw an opportunity that cannabis, at the end of the day, is a consumer packaged goods industry.

When you look at the most important trade show in business media resources in a CPG industry, they're really brand or retail-focused. The only reason that we don't have anything on a national level for brands and retailers is because there isn't a national market because of the state bifurcation of all these individual markets, but we know that's going to change. We really started this company based on a conversation I've been having with Patrick Ray for close to three years after leaving MJBizDaily and MJBizCon that the market was going to shift.

We're at the precipice where we are going to see the advancement of interstate commerce or federal legalization. It is going to be a tsunami of change for our industry. We want to make sure that the companies that really carried our industry forward that are operating on a smaller state level, have the opportunity to really expand into the national market when it comes.

Sinead: Great. You dived into your background a little bit there, but what you just mentioned is really only the tip of the iceberg. Can you share a little bit about your background in B2B media and how you first got started in cannabis?

George: Sure. To answer the second part of that question, I first got started in cannabis after discovering the devil's lettuce and at a very young age and expanding that into a very small entrepreneurial herbal distribution business while I was in high school and college. I've had a relationship with the plant for some time. After leaving college, I had an opportunity to help my father's business. He was an apparel liquidator.

He was going through some changes in his business, he needed some help. We had an opportunity to create a trade show for the off-price apparel industry. These are people that would liquidate excess manufacturer's inventory at the end of the season, or buy distressed assets or stuff that got stuck in customs that just needed to get sold cheap and they would turn around and sell it to the TJ Maxx's and Marshall's, they were separate companies at the time and other regional discount apparel stores.

It was really interesting because they all independently set up these suites around town, around the big manufacturer show and the jobbers, as they're called, weren't really welcome there because they would be selling, say, Tommy Hilfiger's goods at 70% below what Tommy Hilfiger was selling them for. It was really fascinating because what they had in their inventory was what they had to sell. They weren't manufacturing, they couldn't make more. They lived and died by every deal. These people were hardcore merchants and purveyors of products, and a lot of our clients did 70% to 80% of their annual sales that are two and trade shows that we did a year.

Sinead: Wow. You mentioned World Tea Media and World Tea Expo. You've spent a lot of time in the tea and cannabis industries at this point. Have you seen any parallels between the two over the years?

George: It's incredibly fascinating how closely related they are. After we sold the OFFPRICE Show, I moved to Las Vegas and I had started a couple of other non-business media-related companies. I started the trade show for tea really because somebody had mentioned anyhow, is there a trade show for tea? I saw there wasn't. I was fascinated by it and launched that company.

One of the things from a commercial standpoint that I saw when starting that is there really wasn't a good understanding or model around what tea retail looked like. It was somewhat challenging for somebody to have a tea retail place where somebody would come in and maybe spend $10 or $12 on a pot of tea, and then sit at a table for two hours expecting free refills for water versus a coffee shop where you have that very high turn. Can have multiple instances that you can sell a customer that's sitting at a table.

I think that got parallel a lot of the cannabis industry when I got in in 2014 of really defining and understanding what the retail model look like, the strong need for education in a very early stage market. Tea has been around for a long time so is cannabis, but especially the tea market, which we really focused on was relatively new and certainly very exciting for people who were passionate about it. That was another similarity. The people that were in the tea industry were wickedly passionate about tea and then sharing this experience with people.

The same way that people in cannabis are like, "Oh my God, you've got to try this amazing plant medicine for people." On a scientific standpoint, tea has a lot of flavonoids and catechins that also cross your blood-brain barrier and actually have a psychotropic effect on your brain. Not nearly to the same extent that you would expect with cannabis, but there's things like L-theanine which is a non-essential amino acid that actually increases the alpha wave activity in your brain when you drink tea that creates calmness.

Alpha waves are when you're meditating, you have a lot of alpha waves going on. This is why Buddhists have used tea in their meditation practice because the L-theanine creates that calmness while the caffeine creates that alertness. It's a calm state of relaxation that tea creates for people. Then on the historical side, that was really fascinating. I didn't know this until I was just entering into the cannabis industry. Tea has been accredited to being discovered by Emperor Shen Nung who lived some 5,000 years ago in China and is deemed the father of modern herbal medicine.

Legend has it that he had a translucent stomach so when he would ingest herbs and plants, he could see what was happening inside his body. I don't think that was truly the case, but certainly, I think he was very tuned into it. I found out that he's actually also attributed for discovering cannabis and wrote quite a bit about using cannabis as a plant-based medicine, like I said, 5,000 years ago in China.

Sinead: Wow, I had no idea. I've never heard that before. That's really fascinating.

George: The biggest difference was that the tea industry, it's very commoditized. It's truly a global industry. It's the second most drank beverage next to water, but it's such thin margins, and there wasn't a lot of commercial opportunity there. It was a difficult business. Seeing all of the similarities and seeing the exuberance around investment capital and growth opportunities in cannabis was the biggest differentiator, I would say.

Sinead: Very interesting. George, getting back to your background, since you last came on the show, you have not only been president of MJBizDaily and MJBizCon, but also CEO of Dope Media where you led the startup to its acquisition by High Times. What was the switch from business to consumer media like? Were there any challenges or some lessons that you took away from both experiences?

George: Yes, absolutely. When I was running MJBizCon, I came in the industry as a president of the company. There was one full-time employee, Chris Walsh, who's now the CEO, great guy, and a good friend. Unfortunately, after growing the company to 20 tabletops to well over 1,000 booths at the convention center, I had some contract disputes with the owners of the company. They couldn't get resolved and ultimately led to an executive divorce with them.

There were some litigation that needed to be resolved. I wanted to stay in the cannabis industry. I just love the space. I think it's so exciting. There is so much opportunity for growth, and just meeting the people that are in this industry and the passion around it really fills me. I was presented with the opportunity to step into Dope Magazine. The founders of that company had built a tremendous brand. I always look at their consumer media space.

In business media, you have a very finite audience that's your turning target, people that are actively working in the industry versus the consumer media space, where you have this blank canvas that everybody could potentially be your customer and somebody could engage with your media platform. I was really intrigued by the opportunity and the challenges that that presented. Dave Tran, the CEO at the time of Dope Maganize, just hats off to him. He's such an authentic and kind and passionate human being.

People who know him know him as probably one of the funest guys in the industry. That's Dave. He wakes up and wants to help people. Just watching him was fascinating because he could walk up to somebody he's never met before and have a conversation with them, and they walk away feeling like they just got reunited with their long-lost brother. Also, going to a room of 200 people and start dancing by himself in the middle of the dance floor, and everybody going, "Who is that guy? He's having way too much fun. I want to hang out with him."

Listen, he's also a really smart guy, and as much as he's got a brand of being party-- the Tranimal, as we called him. He's really smart, and most importantly, an incredibly compassionate and authentic human being, and also a good friend. The opportunity with that company is that they really started out really early on, they caught fire, they raised a bunch of money and grew really fast. That can be really challenging for businesses, so there was a need to really reset things and find a path for them to reach profitability.

Unfortunately, what I've seen in the consumer media space, companies like Cultivate, Mary Jane, even High Times, Dope, and all of those consumer media assets out there. I don't know if anybody's really cracked the code of how to create a very profitable business. At some point, somebody will and create that success story for consumer media. One of the things that coming into Dope that early on in the industry, I think it's common to see all of these different opportunities you want to explore simultaneously. I call it squirrelitis.

One of the things, for example, that Dope did was they had these budtender appreciation days. They called them the bud events. The concept was brilliant. The execution was great, and the engagement was fantastic on those events. The idea behind trying to really corall the budtenders and being able to create a path for the brands to be able to educate them about their products and create some brand loyalty amongst the people who have the most influence with the consumer is really challenging.

To do that, because of the high transitions in those roles, you'd almost need to go into individual localized markets and do two or three events a year. If you start looking at that on a national scale even back in 2017 and '18 before all these other states have legalized, we are talking about really needing to do 300 plus events a year to make those effective.

What I saw as the opportunity is that as a publication in the space, the Dope Magazine should really be focused on educating the consumer upstream so that they're aware of what the products are, create that discovery, that intrigue, that understanding, and take away that stigma around those products so that the consumers became more empowered when they went in the store and weren't so reliant on the budtender to help them make the decisions.

I think any retail person should always be well versed in the products that they're selling to be able to explain them to consumers, but the reality of cannabis is that most of the people, and certainly the people, the new consumers in our market, go into a store, and have no idea what products are what and what the differences are. The brands and the products in our industry are so powerful. The concept of brand is how does somebody create an emotional response to seeing, touching, feeling, tasting, or trying that product?

In cannabis, it's a very powerful response. It's a psychotropic response. This product is going to have a very profound effect on how you feel. How do you differentiate your product from making people feel the way that they want when they try it that differentiates it from other brands in the cannabis space? Again, it's just the stuff that I love thinking about and talking about. I don't know if there's an answer to that.

Sinead: Absolutely. Tell us a little bit about MJ Brand Insights, and maybe what your goal is and who your target audience is with that media platform.

George: Sure. As a business media company, typically, our business model does rely a lot on our events to generate revenues and profits to continue to be able to build a community and create value to an audience, and really help lift up an industry. Having a content platform like MJ Brand Insights is really critical for us to create an opportunity to engage with people on a regular basis, on a day-to-day basis, not wait every year for an event, or every six months for an event. Offer them something of value for free as an olive branch to engage with them and ask for some of their time or their attention, and maybe their email address.

Before I talk about MJ Brand Insights, I want to give a shoutout to Felisa Rogers. She's our managing editor. She's written for The Guardian, Salon, and other major publications. She's absolutely a rockstar. If you have a chance, I think it was in The Guardian, they did a story about her on 4/20 that really talked about growing up with her dad growing pot in Oregon well before legalization. Growing up and experiencing having the SWAT team kick down her door, and take her father away in handcuffs.

There's a lot of harm and damage there, but there's also hope and aspiration there. She's really an amazing human being and we're incredibly fortunate to have her on our team. From a content standpoint, we also have a strategic partnership with BDSA, one of the leading market intelligence and consumer insights company in the space. Been around for a long time as most people in the industry know them. They contribute content on a regular basis, and we're really looking for the thought leadership.

I'm not trying to be a daily news bulletin. There's a lot of publications out there doing that well. I'm not trying to cover the regulatory aspects of the industry because Tom Angell of Marijuana Moments is doing a phenomenal job of that, but really providing something different. It's talking about insights and actionable intelligence to help people perform better in their roles in the business. We recently published an article by Chuck Underwood who's been a good friend for a long time.

He was one of the founders of Generational Marketing Strategy as a academic science of really understanding what defines Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. Looking at that their behavior and their worldview gets formed during their formative years before they reach adulthood at 18. It's really like 12 to 18 years old that events happen in the world that influence how they're going to behave towards marketing, how they're going to act in the workplace. We used to joke when Gen Y started entering the workplace, that they would just text you that they're quitting or post it on Twitter.

That's obviously a little bit of a misrepresentation. I don't want to slam any Gen Ys for that. There's certain things that happen in these generations that do impact their behaviors in the marketplace. Understanding the science behind generational marketing strategies can help marketers be more efficient in targeting certain segments of the population that they want to engage with.

Sinead: Absolutely. What would your advice maybe say to a young brand who's just getting going? What would your advice be in terms of generational marketing, how they could maybe implement that to really dial in at the demographics there and figure out who their niche is?

George: There's so many new brands coming into the market. It's really an exciting time for our industry. Some people would argue that the biggest brands in our industry haven't yet been introduced. I don't know if that's the case. There's some companies really making some big moves these days. What's great about this is this is really this post-prohibition of alcohol, again, over again for cannabis. Companies like Seagram's, and Bacardi, Southern Wine & Spirits.

You're talking about some of the wealthiest, privately held companies in the world that have been created in the alcohol space. We expect to see the same in cannabis. As far as generational marketing strategy, when you really listen-- and I was fortunate to listen to Chuck speak at a different conference before I had him come and speak at a couple of mine. You listen to him break down what those formative events are, and like for Gen X, which I'm a Gen Xer, there was rising divorce rates.

It was typically most of the children were raised by a female parent who's also going back to work and so they were latchkey children. The idea of having dinner around the family table like been abandoned, and so there was this despondency amongst Gen Xers that they were a lost generation and everything else. I'm like, wow, that all happened to me. I understand that and it made me distrustful and also resourceful. You look at the Baby Boomers and they didn't have just one revolution.

They had the sexual revolution; they had the women's rights, they had social equality, and all these different drug revolutions. They're this empowered baby boomer that they can do anything and they're going to live forever and forever young. You don't ever want to market to them in your golden years because that will offend the hell out of them. They don't want to be perceived as old, but they're also at a point in their life where their body aches a little bit, salves, low dose products are really popular amongst that group.

How do you communicate to them that this product is going to make them feel forever young and really resonate with that audience that you're going to feel like you did when you were in your 20s. You had long hair and were protesting at Haight-Ashbury. I think that there's some really powerful nuggets in there. Again, Chuck's going to be doing a series and drilling down on each generation and what those events were that define their worldview and how they're going to react to certain messaging in the marketing space.

Sinead: Wow. Okay, great. I'll definitely have to check out Chuck's series there. That sounds really fascinating just the psychology behind generational marketing. That's all new to me so I'm very fascinated by that.

George: I can give you a couple of books and he's actually-- they've aired a couple of PVS specials that he's hosted.

Sinead: Oh, okay, great. I'll have to definitely check that out. George, MJ Brand Insights, that's really just the media arm for MJ Unpacked, which is a big event that you have. You got your first in-person event this October in Vegas. I know you had a series of 3D virtual summits last year. Can you share a little bit about this year's upcoming event and what sparked the idea for MJ Unpacked?

George: When we started business back in 2019, built out the business plan and laid it out, raised some capital around it, the idea again was that this is a CPG industry. That technically in the future, the biggest show or the most important event in our industry didn't exist yet. We want to be in the best place to manifest that. We raised our capital in February of 2020, and the business plan at that time was to run a series of state-focused executive conferences that were exclusive for brand and retail executives.

Not a big pan-industry event, letting anybody in willing to pay a ticket price but really creating a high return on objectives by having the right people in the room and keeping it exclusive. Come March, obviously, everybody's plans got laid to waste in 2020. We did do a number of virtual events that I know you want to talk about that a little bit later. What happened at the end of 2020 was we saw that there was a good chance Biden will get elected and people believe that the senate and the house would both flip. Biden to get elected, the senate didn’t flip-- the house was already Democratically controlled.

The Senate didn't really flip until January with the Georgia runoffs. That was really exciting, but I saw that there was a couple of key factors that were going to happen in the marketplace. One is everybody was going to consolidate their events into late 2021 bringing it back to market. Instead of our industry going to an event in February and one in May and July and September, people are going to really probably go to one or two events in the fall of 2021. The other thing was that no events in our industry that on the national level actually qualify their audience.

They're more transactional in nature, buy a ticket, buy a booth, buy a ticket, buy a booth, and we want to create an event that was really differentiated. There's so many events in our industry. Some of them have waned away a little bit because of the pandemic, but I didn't want to come to market with more of the same. I don't think that that's adding value, and I also don't think that that's where the puck is going. We decided to launch the live event in October in Las Vegas. It is the same week as MJBizCon, the company I formerly ran.

That was also strategically a decision because I've talked to so many of the brand and retail executives and I've seen it happen. The investors, they go to Las Vegas during MJBizCon, but they don't really need to go to a show to look for light bulbs and label makers anymore. They're really going there to set up business meetings, and they're scattered all around town hosting meetups at a lobby bar or getting a suite at a hotel. It's really inefficient and people are wasting time in cab lines and hotel elevators.

We really want to create an event that created that exclusivity and that feel and productivity of an executive conference where four out of five people in the room are going to be relevant to you. There's somebody you want to talk to and create the space really for them to sit down and have a conversation to get to know each other. Not just hand them a business card or get their badge scan, but really create an engagement opportunity that we believe leads to a higher level of transactional value than the typical trade show experience.

Sinead: Okay, great. Going into that, I see you have a lot of various events planned for that weekend from investor pitches to even a Blues Brothers concert. Can you share a little bit about that agenda for that weekend and who is attending?

George: Sure. I don't want to call our show an onion, but it does have a lot of layers. We're doing our event on Thursday and Friday. On the Wednesday before, we're going to have a brand-only mixer and a retailer-only mixer. It's really just taking the time to have the conversations with our target audience and understanding what their need sets are. The brands are looking to engage with brands from other states and explore licensing and partnership opportunities.

The retailers are doing the same thing. They're looking to acquire additional licenses or existing businesses or also looking to create partnerships, to create a multi-state brand the same way that brands are doing that currently through licensing agreements. We want to really create some intimacy around that to kick off the conference. The event itself when it starts, BDSA again, as a strategic partner, not just of MJ Brand Insights, but also MG Unpacked will be in a leading off with incredible data session. Kelly Nielsen, who joined their team a few months back.

She comes from Nielsen Media. There's no relationship to her last name and the company's name. We've got some really fantastic sessions. The way we're designing our event gives us the ability to really elevate the conversation. No disrespect to the great sessions that NCAA or MJBiz, or Cannabis World Congress offers, but they're trying to do 50 different topics and they have 70 or 80 sessions. It's how deep can you get, right? You can. By keeping our event focused allows us to really focus on high-level retailer and brand pain points, real success stories, actionable intelligence.

We're bringing in gentleman Michael Spremulli. My wife and I talked to him and within like a minute and a half, he was able to tell us exactly what roles we play in the company and how we effectively communicate with each other and what our strengths are. He's really great at helping build teams. Having the right team and having talent on your team is such a critical thing of importance.

We're bringing in, as I mentioned, we have the Blues Brothers concert, Dan Akroyd, and, Jim Belushi are going to take the stage with Christie Hefner, Hugh Hefner's daughter, really talking about CPG brands. Dan's got his Crystal Skull Vodka line. Jim's such an iconic figure in our industry, and Christie Hefner obviously has had a very central role in building the Playboy brand. That's going to be a fantastic session. It's content around how do you localize your retail location in new markets, right? If you go and take a store-- Sinead, where are you located?

Sinead: I'm in Bend, Oregon.

George: You're in Bend, Oregon, you take that same-store concept that appeals to you in your market and try to drop it in Florida or in Massachusetts, you might not have the same response. It's really understanding those localized nuances that you can really create a successful retail footprint well beyond your localized market, partnering with your community, brands, how do you partner with the retailers to sell more products, really key topic for the brands in the space. Right now, the relationship with the consumer exists almost exclusively with the retailers.

There's certainly case studies for that existing in other markets like whole foods. For example, whole foods owns the relationship with the consumer in a lot of cases. Ultimately, if we continue to migrate towards the alcohol industry model, the brands are going to be the ones that own that relationship. Right now, because of the limitations on advertising and marketing, the brand's best bet is to really partner with the retail store and find ways that they can support their activities and the sale of their brand in-store. We also know there's a lot of M&A activity.

Andy Williams, who recently sold Medicine Man to Columbia Care for $43 million, will be moderating a panel that talks about integration, best practices for merging your company. We've got a great session talking about the future of cannabis consumption, which to me, is I think really the next generation topic for our industries. How do we build a successful on-premise consumption model? You look at the alcohol industry, again, $200 billion in sales in the US, 48% is on-premise consumption.

A lot of things are happening right now are precursors to us seeing a cannabis lounge bar orr going to a restaurant and being able to order a cannabis-infused iced tea at some point as that product development of companies like Canne or Vivid Oak, who's got a cannabis-infused wine in California. Well beyond, what we saw originally in the market from a beverage standpoint, which was 100 milligram, 16-ounce bottles of really having that fast-acting low dose so you can go to a social lounge and have multiple consumption instances and have a good time.

When you start seeing interstate commerce and the ability for these brands to not have four or five state operations but start creating some economies of scale and some production efficiencies, is going to be a huge valuation. I think the federal legalization and the development of on-premise consumption lounges is going to just send this industry to the moon.

Everybody talks about how big is the industry going to be? I see no reason that the cannabis industry can't exceed a $200 billion industry that alcohol is because it's safer, it's better for you, it's less harmful to society. We're going to get the cannabis industry or the world paying attention to cannabis instead of alcohol someday soon.

Sinead: Yes, I couldn't agree more. George, going on that if you had a crystal ball, when would you say we're going to see our first national cannabis brand?

George: Oh man, that's such a loaded question because there's some brands out there. You look at Select and Won On and Wild and Cann, for example. You could say that those, to some extent, are national brands. I think we'd find a national brand when we have a national market, right? Somebody can be producing a product that you can get in every single state I think is really the starting line of one when we'll see a national brand. There'll be some mix-ups and some stumbles at the starting line for some companies that you think might be in the pole position. We won't know who's going to win that race until the race truly starts.

Sinead: Absolutely. George, something you said a second ago, there really seems with MJ Unpacked, you guys are really lowering the entry to barrier for young brands that are looking to access capital and even just network. I know you guys have multiple investor pitch sessions at the MJ Unpacked this year. What are some good things that take a pitch from good to great, would you say?

George: Oh, well, listen, access to capital is key for the brands and the retailers in the space. Tied in with the fact that we've got all these venture capital firms already setting up in suites at our show, marketing our event has opened to accredited investors that are actively investing in the cannabis space. We'll have a lot of investment capital there and a number of the MSLs that are looking for acquisition opportunities.

We also brought on Debra Johnson who worked at Arcview for a number of years. She's really managing our investor engagement opportunities, and we're creating what we call the money stage. This is really like a micro-cap type of event for companies that have that corporate presentation. The only people allowed in that room will be people that have identified themselves as an accredited investor and verified that. I've seen a lot of pitches in this industry.

Anybody who's on that side of the world looking at decks know it takes a lot. Fortunately, I had Patrick Ray do a lot of coaching with me when I went through the Canopy Bowler program. You need to be concise. You need to be able to tell the story of why your product will be different in the marketplace, that you have the right management team, you have the right vision for the business because anybody's business plan today is going to be different tomorrow. As long as they have confidence in the team, that's executing on that plan, will make the difference.

Without going into a two-hour discussion about what makes a good pitch, I think, it's be authentic. Really sell on how you're different and your product will get traction in the marketplace, or define what traction you've already gotten, and don't be afraid to make the ask.

Sinead: Those are some great tips. I appreciate you offering that advice to our listeners who are just now getting into the game. That's really helpful. George, on the flip side of that, what advice do you have for our listeners who are looking to invest? Anything they should look for in a brand? Any red flags?

George: I think you got to make sure that the company through the due diligence process, you really want to make sure the company is buttoned up, has good legal representation and has the required licenses for them to operate, that they have the vision to scale the business. On the licensed operator side of the business, we've certainly seen companies that have fallen from grace.

I forget the name of the retailer that got busted for what they call looping where people were able to go into the store multiple times throughout the day and buy mass and mass of cannabis and then be able to bring it out of state. They completely destroyed that business and went glove-glove or got shut down by the Colorado marijuana enforcement department. I think making sure that you do some due diligence, not only on the business plan, and that they have the proper licensing, but also the operators.

There's some people that have unusual relationships with ethics in our industry from time to time. Make sure that they're committed, that they've got some skin in the game, that they're ready to go, that they're all in, and then support them. The operators in the space like the investors that we have in our company have been incredibly accretive to our success.

I talked to them frequently, I send them updates so they know what's going on and keep them bought into what we're doing. There's always an interesting relationship between the capital and the management of any organization. Use that to your advantage and make sure that the management is open to having you involved as an investor to help support them when you're asked.

Sinead: Okay. That's great. Thanks so much for that, George. I'd like to-- As we wrap up here, I'd like to move into some personal development questions. First question, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life you'd like to share with the listeners?

George: Yes, I know Matt loves asking that question. A book that I read probably most recently I thought was absolutely fantastic is a book called The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. It really addresses what he refers to as an upper limit problem. Our ability to fully actualize ourselves is all self-inflicted. Being able to recognize when you run up against these upper-limit problems that we've created for ourselves, and realize that we're the only ones holding ourselves back from being able to break through that.

It's really a great book. I think it would fall on a self-help type of category. We're all human beings, we're all flawed. I've got plenty of my own misgivings and defects as a human. Being able to accept those, and recognize those, and then be able to resolve those I think is what allows us to grow as human beings. Love that book very much.

Sinead: Great. George, I would imagine in your last interview with Matt, this is where he probably would've asked you a Peter Thiel question. I've got an equally thought-provoking question for you here, I think. You can only watch three movies for the rest of your life, which do you choose?

George: Wow. First and foremost, it'd be The Blues Brothers. As a kid, I had my VCR. I taped it when I had SelectTV. This is like back where HBO's called QTV, so I'm dating myself a little bit there for some of your older listeners. I must've watched that movie 100 times when I was a kid. I just love that movie. Obviously, I've gone back and watched it a few times recently. Love that movie. Miracle, about the 1980 Olympic hockey team. Every time I watch that, there's just goosebumps and my hair and my back of my neck standing up. Such an awesome movie of the underdog where somebody took a bet on a team that nobody thought had a chance, and they surprised the world. The last movie, I don't know. One of the movies I love watching with family is Secretary. I think probably the other movie I'd also probably like to throw in there is what I would consider my top five sports movies of all time is called Let It Ride with Richard Dreyfuss. It's technically not a sports movie. It's basically a story about a degenerate horse gambler, a horse better. I just love the raw humanity of that movie. He'll go into a bathroom, there'll be an attendant there, and he'll have this internal dialogue with himself. He's like, "All right, if people need to go to the bathroom every two hours, you have this many people here. If they leave an average of 50 cents a person--" Calculating his mind the exact productivity of every job in the world. It's a hysterical movie. If you haven't watched it, I strongly encourage you.

Sinead: I haven't seen that. I'll have to check it out. That sounds so good. Very cool. All right. George, as we wrap up, how can listeners find you and maybe connect with you online?

George: They can find about our business by going to mjbrandinsights.com and about our event for mjunpacked.com. We have a site jagemedia.com if you want to look at who is on our advisory board, and a little bit more about our mission and our values. We are certainly are on social media @mjunpacked@mjbrandinsights. They can reach me at george@jagemedia.com.

Sinead: All right, great. George, thank you so much for coming on. We really appreciate it, and we wish you the best of luck with MJ Unpacked this year.

George: Awesome. Thank you so much, Sinead. I really appreciate that, and give Matt my best. I love his smooth, silky radio voice. He's really been a pioneer, and I'm glad to see you join his team. CannaInsider was a podcast before podcasts were cool, and you guys have how many episodes in your belt now?

Sinead: Oh man, I think we're closing in on 360, I think. Yes, so quite a lot.

George: Fantastic. Listen, it's been an honor, it's been a privilege. Really appreciate what you guys do for the industry really with the storytelling, and having people come on and talk about what makes them passionate. I'm a big fan and avid listener of your podcast, so please keep up the great work.

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