IG Live Q&A with CannaCon
CannaCon is one of the top cannabis conference and trade shows in the United States. After some technical difficulties, we finally sat down with Angela Grelle, the director of marketing at CannaCon, to talk about getting back to in-person events, the cannabis industry and so much more! Read the interview below, or watch Angela and The CVault team on Instagram.
CannaCon cannabis conference is an awesome trade show. If you haven’t been, you need to check it out. They’re starting up again, we’re excited. Thank you for being here.
Thanks, I’m excited. We can’t wait to get back to live events.
I’m sure you guys are more excited for it than anybody else, but everybody is really excited to get back to live events.
Yeah, we’re getting a lot of really good feedback. People are super excited to have the events again and be able to see each other in person and see people face-to-face. It’s such a different experience than the virtual events so we’re very excited. Can’t wait. We’re about to book New York which is exciting.
We’ve been talking about New York. We were wondering what the deal is with shows there now with the laws changing. We definitely want to check out New York. Would that be a 2022 show or would that be this year?
I am not 100% positive. We’re working out dates with the Javits Center right now.
Nice. That’s awesome, that’s exciting.
Yeah, we’re excited about it.
Again, thank you for being here. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where are you from? What were you doing before getting involved in cannabis conferences?
Well, I’m originally from California [the Santa Barbara area], but I’ve lived in Dallas, Texas off and on for the last 20 years now. CannaCon’s a family-run business. So, my brother owns CannaCon cannabis conference, I do the marketing, my nephew is the GM, his soon-to-be-wife Cassie deals with all of the operations. My son works there, he does a lot of the computer back end stuff so we are just a big family business.
How long has CannaCon cannabis conference been happening?
It’s been eight years now.
Nice, it’s almost the same age as our company.
Yeah, since the beginning right? I think [being a family-run business] has helped us make it through this year too because we are such a small family-run business that it was easier for us because we didn’t have a huge staff in the first place. So when we had to shut everything down, we all just kind of did what we needed to do to get through the year and make things work.
So, what’s it like putting on the best cannabis conference?
It’s actually so much fun. I was a Realtor before I started working for CannaCon cannabis conference, which was also fun. I enjoy real estate and architecture and all of that so that was kind of fun for me. But this is just as exciting. You get to meet so many new people. We’ve watched over the years so many businesses grow that have been with us since the very beginning. And they started out with a little 10×10 booth with just a tiny backdrop in the back and maybe some handprinted flyers, and now they come and they have these giant, elaborate booths with this high-tech marketing going on. It’s fun.
Since we’ve been exhibiting at shows, we see the same thing where it’s like your neighbor who had a 10×10 now five years later has a 2-story.
Yeah, and then some people are like “we’re so busy we don’t need to exhibit with you anymore because we have more business than we can handle,” which is kind of bad for us, but we’re happy for them.
Doing shows plays a pivotal role in growth. We definitely are doing less shows because our business has increased, but we are for sure sticking with key shows like CannaCon. It’s so much fun. Of course, we’ve been missing the business leads, but the biggest bummer of [quarantine] was not hanging out with people and see what’s new and exciting in the industry.
I was amazed. My first CannaCon that I went to was right before I started working with them. I told my brother, “I’m just going to come see what this is all about. Let me come walk the show, see if it’s something I think I can do.” I was amazed at the variety of businesses there that were supporting the cannabis industry.
It’s every type of business and every type of person, too.
It’s fun and interesting all at the same time.
So, I’m interested in your perspective. We’ve talked to several females from the cannabis industry and we’re trying to spotlight them. We did a live with Caron Cooper, who did our website, and I know she did CannaCon’s website too. The CannaSiteCo. team is phenomenal, they’re a joy to work with. She suggested we reach out to you, and I thought that’s such a great idea because you have such a different perspective where you get to see and be involved with the cannabis industry from a whole perspective as possible. Especially you coming from a real estate background, with the challenges that women face in other industries. Do you think they’re the same in the cannabis industry or do you think the cannabis industry is a bit more progressive? What have you noticed with your unique perspective?
I think on my end, I find it honestly about the same. I will say in the cannabis industry, the women are really supportive of one another. And you don’t find that in a lot of other industries. Women really like rally for each other, and I do the same thing like with Caron, if I see somebody that wants a website or needs a website, I’m like oh, these ladies over here are great. I think we all try to support one another.
We did a live with Kyra Reed. She runs a group called Women Empowered in Cannabis and she had basically the exact same feedback that it’s a lot of the same challenges, but the huge difference is how women are willing to help each other as opposed to it being a catty (for lack of a better term) environment.
With shows starting up again, what type of turnout are you guys expecting? Do you think people are scared or like super ready to go back to them?
I think it’s such a mix. Oklahoma is super ready. We did a show here in September. And so I think this Oklahoma show is going to be probably our biggest one yet as far as turnout goes just from everybody I’ve been talking to and how ticket sales have been going so far and how excited everyone is to get back to live events. And honestly, I think by the time we get to Detroit and Chicago, things will be settled down enough that those will have a really great turnout as well. I think people are ready to get back out, and I think people understand that you can’t get those same connections, that face-to-face time with your clients is not the same through all of these virtual events, you know?
That’s a perfect segue. What was last year like for CannaCon doing virtual cannabis conference events?
We only did one virtual event, and we didn’t even charge our exhibitors for it. We just did it as kind of a trial, and we discovered because our business model is so much focused on business-to-business and making those business connections and having people actually sell product and make money at our events, it just didn’t translate well to virtual. The seminars were fun. People are happy to sit online and learn and watch seminars, but for the exhibitors like you guys, it’s really hard to sit in a virtual trade show booth and attract people to come in and talk to you.
Yeah, it was hard. I was trying to give stuff away. It was difficult.
So we only did the one. And then honestly, I spent most of my year just doing marketing for all of our exhibitors. I would say like, hey do you want me to do some Instagram posts for you? Do you want me to send an email blast out? What can I do to help you guys? Because we were kind of at a standstill.
Yeah, we did the virtual CannaCon cannabis conference. We also did virtual Champs, and it was comical because I did appreciate at least the [simplicity of the] CannaCon approach. But, with Champs, they had you create a virtual avatar and you physically walked around an exhibit hall. In theory, it sounded great, but taking part in it was hard.
We looked at that platform when we were trying to choose a virtual show, and we just were like this is too much. But, the way we did it honestly didn’t work that well either. I think the trade show booth aspect of virtual is just hard.
A virtual trade show — just the concept alone — seems like a monumental undertaking that’s going to take years to figure out.
You never make that same connection with people even if you do get people into your booth. It’s not the same as being able to see them in person and then maybe go to the afterparty and talk to them there.
It’s all networking, especially because plenty of people in the industry have a product that it really helps to see it in person. It’s hard to translate that. I was ready to do video calls for people in the booth, and it was hard. But we’re back and ready to go.
Thankfully. Hopefully that’ll be the last time we have to do that, and we’ll be back to all in-person from here on out. It was hard on the side of the running things too because on our end, we had so many moving parts going to make sure the seminars were on time and trying to make sure ticketed people were getting where they need to go. And answering questions from them and from exhibitors. The whole thing was hard because we are such a small team. It’ll be better from here on out.
We think so too because people are chomping at the bit to interact. We’re expecting the after parties to be a really fun time because people haven’t been to a party in a year. We have high hopes for the rest of the year. For 2022, it’s going to be a good one. We should be back to business.
I think so too, and as more and more of these states are legalizing, it’s just going to keep growing.
What do you think the next big state will be?
I think if Mississippi can get over this little hump that they’re having right now, the way that they’ve written their bills for licensing is similar to the way Oklahoma has written their licensing laws. So I think once they can get things actually rolling out there and get licensing going on, I think Mississippi might be a really good one.
We’re doing Biloxi!
We’re really hoping it’s going to be a lot like Oklahoma because they’ve been very lenient in their licensing, and I look at them because we go to all these states and we have to learn what the regulations are. I think Oklahoma now is starting to implement some more regulations, which I think is good. But, I think that the way they allowed anyone to get into the game in Oklahoma is the way that everybody should do it. You’ve got big companies — my other son works in in Oklahoma and for Curaleaf, which is a huge company — and they are doing well here. But you also have plenty of other mom and pop facilities that are growing and selling, and they’re doing well here too because Oklahoma made it feasible for anybody to kind of get into the game and do what they wanted to do.
That’s exactly right. You just needed to be a resident and then it was $2,500 or $5,000.
Yeah, it was $2,500 but they might have upped it to $5,000. It’s still doable. Practically nothing compared to so many other states.
Trying to open one with like a half a million to a million in California.
I know Detroit is finally really starting to get rolling out too, and I think in the next few years, Detroit will really keep growing. But they really struggled in the beginning too. And it was part of that same reason, they made it so hard for people to qualify for a license.
And then they wonder why the black market is still there.
Again, I want to draw on your unique perspective. But we’ve seen a consistent increase of women entering into the cannabis industry and improving it immensely in every way. What do you think is leading that charge that’s happening?
I think there’s a few things. I think women in general are nurturers and cannabis is kind of a nurturing thing, especially on the medical side. I know for me, I have a daughter with Crohn’s and my son who lives in Oklahoma has a lot of health problems, and I know how much cannabis has helped them. I’ve seen it help them so I think women just tend to get involved in things that they think will help other people. But I also think a lot of it is because it’s just a new industry and women are so welcoming in this industry.
With hearing that they’re so welcoming and they’re like a family helping each other figure this out, I think that’s also gotta be like such a refreshing change. It definitely has been for entering the industry on our side. From what I used to work in, it’s so much more relaxed and less stress. And people are making money, and people are doing things that make them happy. It’s still cutthroat, but it’s different.
That’s funny. But I think a lot of it has to do with just the opportunity that women see. And a lot of women don’t see that opportunity in other areas because women just aren’t as welcome everywhere.
What advice would you have for someone trying to enter the cannabis industry?
Make connections. Network as best as you can. I think that’s so important in this industry, in every industry, but even more so in the cannabis industry because it is such a close-knit group, even though everybody comes from different places. I feel like everybody that works in the industry is very tight-knit with each other, so if you get to know somebody in the industry, it’s easy to network your way into a job. And then once you get a job, you just have to work hard.
As long as you’re respectful and you work hard, you’ll be welcomed into this industry. There also has to be a willingness to learn, especially in the cannabis industry because it’s so new, and new stuff coming out all the time.
Constantly. I’m always learning something new and seeing something new. Doing marketing for CannaCon has been a really interesting few years to see. When I first started marketing, we weren’t allowed to do any kind of radio advertising, even billboards — I could barely get somebody to sell me a billboard. And we don’t even have cannabis at our events. We’re outside-only, but it’s just because of our name and what we do. We couldn’t do anything. I still can’t advertise on Facebook and Instagram so that’s frustrating, but we’ll get that figured out eventually.
It’s funny, to make this [IG LIVE] work, I changed two things. I took it off of the WiFi and I took “CannaCon” out of the title of the live, so I don’t know which one made this successful, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you put “C-A-N-N-A” [in the title that Instagram] blocks it.
We thought about changing our name a few years ago, but at that point, we had already been doing shows for several years. It was so hard to completely rebrand with something different.
The shadowban is real.
It is. It’s frustrating.
Where can people find out more about CannaCon cannabis conferences?
So, you can find out everything you need to know on our website — cannacon.org.
So, we like to ask this question to everybody. I don’t think we’ve had the same answer twice, which is crazy. But if you could smoke with any three people — alive, dead, fictional — who would they be and why?
This is such a hard question.
- Betty White because that would just be cool. I feel like she’d just be fun to smoke weed with and hang out with.
- Bob Marley because it’s Bob Marley.
- Earnest Hemingway because I feel like he was such an interesting character. It would be cool to be out on the Keys on his boat, fishing, drinking whiskey and smoking cigars.