I was driving up the 405 freeway from the OC to LA and decided to call Allen over at Vaporous Technologies, a leading vape pen company based in Torrance, CA. I asked him if I could stop by (since it was more or less on my way) to check out their facilities (not the bathroom mind you). Allen said that he was super busy preparing for an event that evening so I asked him what it was. He said “It’s called Elevator Nights, and said that I could look it up online to get more info.”
Being a curious type of cat (still hasn’t killed me and, truth be told, I’m actually allergic to cats), I got off (don’t you dare think there’s a double entendre in those last 3 words) at the next exit and pulled into a mall parking lot to see what I could find using my trusty iPhone 7 (how the hell do I know if I should upgrade to the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X? #firstworldproblems). I found out that Elevator Nights is a monthly networking event for CEOs and movers and shakers (I’ve got some pretty good moves on the dance floor and can shake my booty so I figured that I would fit right in). Each month features a different industry and September’s event was all about cannabis.
Apparently, this event has been going on for the past 5 years but I just found out about it! Over the past 5 years, I have gone to dozens of networking events (and dozens of epic concerts as well, but that’s beside the point), but I had never heard of Elevator Nights, Los Angeles’ best-kept networking secret. Elevator Nights monthly events are an opportunity for investors and other business leaders and entrepreneurs to learn more about a particular industry as well as an opportunity for startups to pitch their companies to venture capitalists and angel investors to raise capital and perhaps get some advice or even pick up a new board member. It’s also an opportunity for like-minded professionals to discuss their industry, best practices, future trends, form alliances, etc.
Now I know what you must be thinking (unless you’re thinking about your ex and how they left you for someone who is better looking and younger than you). A networking event with CEOs of the cannabis industry must have had some of the sickest, stickiest joints in the world being passed around and all kinds of succulent extracts and edibles galore! Well, you were right to think that, as that was what I was thinking too. However, my bubbler was burst when it turned out that there was zero weed being smoked, sampled or shared! Vaporous Technologies had a booth set up and gave away free vape pens filled with CBD oil. Noooo!!! I puffed a few puffs of it and it was very smooth and flavorful, however there was no high associated with my puffing. As you may have heard, CBD is all the rage these days so at least I got to be trendy for a few moments. Advanced Nutrients, a powerhouse in the cannabis growing industry, had a booth as well. The award winning edible gummy bears of Kushy Punch (that cleverly featured golden boxing gloves and a trophy for winning several best edible awards) had a nice booth. Finally, Hemper, a monthly subscription service (similar to Blue Apron, only a bit greener) that delivers a box of unique paraphernalia (proudly displayed on their table) each month. My immediate thought was, does anyone really need that much paraphernalia? Well, Hemper is literally banking on it.
There were 3 panel discussions but this particular night wasn’t a pitch night for investors. Instead, it was an industry info night, given that the countdown to recreational use (aka “adult use”) legalization is about 3 months away (Best…NYE…EVER!!!). Eloquently moderated by Elevator Nights’ CEO, Branden Hampton, the panel discussions were broken into 3 distinct topics. Cultivation, Investment and Industry Trends.
Panelists included Mike “Big Mike” Straumietis, CEO of Advanced Nutrients, Kamo Jurn, CEO of Vaporous Technologies, Ruben Cross, CEO of Kushy Punch, Maritza Bermudez, Partner, K&H Consulting, Justin Braune, President of Made By Science, Cory Waggoner, Founder of Higher Yields, Dominick Damico, Founder of Adspire and Matthew Morgan, CEO of Tryke Companies.
One of the most interesting quotes of the night (in my opinion) was “If you are in the cannabis business you have to be active in the business of politics and influencing policy.” As more and more states are legalizing medical marijuana as well as recreational cannabis, it’s important to operate your Cannabusiness within the regulations of whatever state you are based in and pay your taxes. In other words, help legislators to establish the rules and then play by the rules. Just like the alcohol industry (which once was illegal), the tobacco industry and the pharmaceutical industry (who somehow have established their right to legally sell heroin pills). That is how to win over elected officials in your own state as well as to get the discussion started on a positive note to encourage legalization in other states. From cultivators to dispensary owners, it’s in every Cannabusiness owner’s best interest to continue fostering good relationships with law enforcement and regulatory officials.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the downside of Elevator Nights (see title in case you forgot because you are freshly baked). The only downside of Elevator Nights is the price tag. While many business networking events I have attended cost $20-$30 (sometimes networking events are sponsored and are free), Elevator Nights charges $100 to attend one of their networking events. Since their monthly meetings are geared towards CEOs and other “high level” (had to) business leaders, the admission fee is justified and keeps out the riff raff. That being said, the amount of value you get for your $100 is pretty substantial. Just one great business contact could create opportunities worth thousands of dollars, or more.
As the old adage goes, it takes money to make money.