Business and branding lessons from a former celebrity stylist.
7 min read
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The cannabis industry is a booming market with a predictive spending value of $57 billion dollars by 2027 worldwide. As a pioneer in the field, I’ve seen an incredible shift in the conversation surrounding cannabis as it becomes more mainstream. As the stigma decreases, it seems that everyone is trying to get into the market: CBD water is hitting shelves, beauty products are rich in CBD oil, and athletes are using creams and micro-dosing for medicinal and preventative recovery care. Cannabis’ omnipresence in other industries is a testament to the rise in popularity and acceptance.
The cannabis business is relatively new to me. In my former career, I was a fashion stylist, working with such celebrities as Dustin Hoffman, Anna Pacquin, and Idina Menzel. But many of the lessons I learned styling have transferred over to the world of cannabis and become core attributes of my success. Here are five of them.
1. Make a Lasting Impression
First impressions are so important. When I was styling for my clients, I would focus on their personality, the type of event they were going to, and the message they wanted to portray through their outfit. Similar to styling, the packaging of my cannabis products has to be eye-catching and tell its own story. I can stare at the products on a shelf in a dispensary just like I used to stare at the monitor on set at a photoshoot, picking apart any small detail that looked like it needed fixing. When it came to Punch and Hora’s packaging, I took into consideration colors, shapes, sizes, and overall aesthetics and trends that do well with specific audiences.
In the early years with my company Punch, there weren’t any guidelines for packaging. This was a time when companies wrapped edibles in candy foil. We used a nice red with a paper label band. We knew that the high-milligram bar was mainly going to appeal to a specific type of marijuana user — let’s just say a more recreational user. It had to have a certain look to it, be a little “street”. The name and logo came from the same concept; the edibles really do pack a punch.
Round two of the packaging moved to a box. We kept the same look mocking the foil and paper band so customers could still recognize us. Foil red sides, white in the center, only this time we added nutritional facts and additional food info (not necessarily needed, but appreciated by the patients). For the packaging of my company Hora Skin Care, I had a specific color in mind. It was a hot color at that moment — rose gold with a touch of copper. After going through four books of Pantone colors, I found the perfect one. The box was designed to be simple, trendy, and professional. I would buy the product just for the box alone. First impressions matter.
2. Be Up On Trends
Styling for celebrity clients was solely based on the current fashion trends. They could be photographed at any time and criticized for not being “on trend”. The last thing you want is to end up on the worst-dressed list.
I think of extracts the same way. They’re constantly changing. Just when I finally learn how to perfect a technique, get the perfect texture and color patients want, a new trend arises. With Hora, I’m trying to stay ahead by starting a trend. I want to break the stigma of “pot” products and get CBD into mainstream beauty.
3. Trust Is Everything
People are extremely loyal to trusted brands. Keeping in mind common phrases such as, “holy grail products”, and “holy grail designers”, I understand what my audience wants and how important it is to create something of quality. As a stylist, I had the huge responsibility of understanding my clients’ brand and styling them accurately. They had to trust that they were in good hands and that they were receiving my full attention.
I use this same form of relationship building with my cannabis clients. I want to know that they are receiving only the highest quality of cannabis products. No matter what the industry, understanding your relationship with your clients and keeping their needs in mind is crucial for the success of your brand. Some dispensaries require special attention or have special requests. We do our best to accommodate all of them to keep the relationship.
4. Be Quick On Your Feet
Once I accepted a styling job, each day would be 12-14 hours long, gathering all the wardrobe requested by the director and client, and making sure fittings, shoot days, and returns were all on a strategic timeline. The Cannabis industry is the same. Rush orders, maintaining customer satisfaction, creating new recipes, inventory, budgeting — the works! You’re always trying to beat the competitor on coming out with a new product first.
This year in California there was also a race to get licensed as soon as possible. It was like starting from the bottom all over again. Since dispensaries in Los Angeles got licensed before the manufacturers did, we had to make sure we were ready to submit our application the day it opened.
You Need to Hustle
As a stylist, you are constantly fighting to secure yourself a job. There is always someone competing with you to get a prime position (even your own assistants!) on a production or with an individual celebrity, so offering something unique is essential.
Dispensaries are just as competitive and selective. You have to fight for that shelf space with so many other manufacturers vying to get that spot. Beauty is a multi-billion dollar industry with hundreds of already trusted brands. If I wanted to be competitive, I knew I needed to make sure my products offered something unique. That’s why Punch was the first to offer 225mg bars, providing a high dose in a sensible size for half the calories.
I have the fashion industry to thank for teaching me the value of care, hard work, and trust that goes into creating a successful business. No matter the industry, your clients/consumers come first, your business is nothing without them. Understanding their needs is one thing, but understanding how to build those relationships to achieve their needs is what separates a decent product and a trusted brand. Be punctual, consistent, and always deliver. Only then will you find constant success in any industry, even those as seemingly different as fashion and cannabis.