26 Oct Marijuana Startups: Top 5 Priorities for Your First Year of Business
If you’re starting a new business in the booming cannabis industry, your head is probably spinning from a never ending list of “to-dos”.
And with so may things to cover to get your business up and running, it can be difficult to know where to start!
If you’re hoping to build a strong, lasting cannabusiness, these five things should be your top priorities for the next year:
1. Legal Compliance
You won’t get very far if you don’t do things legally- especially in an industry as closely regulated as marijuana.
You don’t want to get shut down before you’ve even gotten started! So your first goal should be to apply for all the licenses your business will need to function.
Once your startup is up and running, be sure to adhere to all state regulations on the property and in your day-to-day operations too! These rules will lay the foundation for your business, and therefore should be your top priority.
You can find more information on your state’s cannabis licenses & regulations using the links below:
Colorado: CO Department of Revenue
Oregon: Oregon Liquor Control Commission
Washington: Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board
California: Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation
Colorado: Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry
Connecticut: Department of Consumer Protection
Delaware: Delaware Health and Social Services
Florida: Florida Senate Bill 1030
Georgia: Georgia House Bill 1
Illinois: Illinois Administrative Code
Maryland: Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission
Massachusetts: Medical Use of Marijuana Program
Michigan: Michigan Medical Marihuana Program
Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Health
Montana: Montana Marijuana Program
Oregon: Oregon Medical Marijuana Program
New Hampshire: Therapeutic Cannabis Program
New Jersey: Medicinal Marijuana Program
New Mexico: New Mexico Department of Health
New York: New York State Medical Marijuana Program
Rhode Island: State of Rhode Island Department of Health
Vermont: Vermont Marijuana Registry
Washington: Washington State Department of Health
2. Solid Branding
Now that you have a basic foundation for your cannabis startup, you’ll need to decide how your new business will compare to other, similar brands.
What is your message to potential customers? How do you want them to feel about you? Why would someone choose to buy from your cannabusiness over a competitor?
All of these answers will guide the future of your company, because they define who you are as a brand.
But aside from an emotional brand (how you sound & feel to customers), every business needs a visual brand as well.
Creating a Visual Brand
For most marijuana startups, I recommend focusing on a logo first. It’s the most important element of any visual brand, so it’s really the first step for a bootstrapped business needing branding.
But if you have the funds and time available, it is a much better option to design your entire brand at once! This will create a clear-cut direction for all company materials, and make it much easier for potential customers to relate to you.
So whether you design your full brand now or later, it’s something you will want to do as soon as possible.
(For more information on how branding compares to logo design, check out our article “Your Logo Is NOT Your Cannabis Brand”)
3. Develop Procedures
Efficiency is the key to growing a successful startup in any industry. You can make thousands of dollars every day, but what good will it do if thousands are also being wasted?
In the early stages of your cannabis business, do everything you can to cut costs and save time. This starts by defining exactly what needs to be done- and how.
Defining Team Roles
Start by mapping out the various roles that someone will need to take on. If you’re a grower, you’re obviously going to need someone to tend to the plants, trim, and package the marijuana for sale.
But you’ll also need someone to manage your finances, someone to make sales with dispensaries, and someone to promote your products to consumers.
As a startup, most of your business’s roles can be performed by a few team members. That’s perfectly fine!
But regardless of the number of people you have now, it’s essential that you understand the “big picture” of your business by creating processes that every single role would need to follow.
That way, you’ll be ready when the company needs to scale up. And your current team members will have everything they need to train others.
Defining roles also helps fix any internal issues by making it easier to identify where a problem is happening, and then take action to prevent it again in the future.
Once you know what tasks need to completed, I recommend automating anything and everything you can!
There are hundreds of tools out there that were designed to take over basic small business tasks. From CRMs, accounting softwares and marketing platforms, using automated systems will significantly decrease the amount of time you spend on just running your day-to-day business.
4. 1st Year Marketing Strategy
The first year of marketing your startup will be different from any other.
No one knows who you are, and you don’t have a broad history to back up the work you do, so- chances are- your phone isn’t going to start ringing off the hook without some leg work.
Since it’s much harder to generate sales when you’re starting from scratch, the key to your first year of marketing is brand awareness.
Brand awareness is exactly what it sounds like: getting people to know that your cannabis startup exists, and then helping them understand what it does.
Establishing Brand Awareness
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just getting them to see your ad. It takes multiple contacts on multiple channels for someone to remember your company.
For this reason, there are two marketing channels I recommend that every startup focus on: Social Media & SEO.
A good SEO strategy will put you in front of the people that are searching for your product or service online. They are looking to buy, and typically need less pre-established brand awareness to convert into buyers.
On the other hand, a good social media strategy will target a large group of people that aren’t quite ready to buy, but have already expressed an interest.
When done correctly, social media will reach new audiences on a daily basis. So while no one might know your business now, after a few weeks there will be hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of people who have at least heard of you.
And if they like what you’re doing, they’ll start following your profiles. Then you have a guarantee that your messages will be seen by the same group of people multiple times. So by the time they ARE ready to buy, you will be the first business they think of!
5. Networking & Strategic Partnerships
No matter what your startup does in the marijuana industry, you aren’t going to be able to provide EVERYTHING you’ll need to grow. This is where strategic partnerships come into play.
A strategic partnership is a mutually-beneficial relationship between two businesses.
Example: As a marketing agency, we’re often approached by industry publications who want to refer customers to us for ad design. They’re able to offer a service their customers need but they can’t provide, and in exchange we take in more business.
Of course, you can’t form any business relationships without networking. That’s why networking needs to be a top priority for your first year as well!
Attend every single event happening near you, regardless of whether you can afford a booth space. If possible, join a cannabis industry association and attend their regular meetings as well.
But above all, be sure to follow the rules for networking in the cannabis industry!