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The Pitfalls Aspiring Canna-Entrepreneurs Should Avoid, According to BigMike of Advanced Nutrients

“Many of these people think that it’s going to be easier than other businesses and they can’t fail. In reality, as more people enter the canna-business space, competition is only going to increase.”

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All photos courtesy of Advanced Nutrients

Since adult-use legalization kicked into effect in California on January 1st, it's been an interesting start to 2018 for the cannabis community. CNN reporters hit gas mask bongs live on air during Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper's New Year's Eve broadcast. Consumers lined up around the block to spend the first day of the new year buying pot. And, if the new legal landscape wasn't shocking enough in and of itself, Mike Tyson announced that he's building a cannabis resort in the goddamn desert. Plus, of course, there's fresh threats from the federal government about cannabis crackdowns, marking a convoluted, though still exciting, start of this new era.

Often compared to the tech bubble, the global cannabis industry is expected to top $30 billion a year by 2021, and market research suggests that California alone will see nearly $4 billion in legal sales by the end of 2018. Hordes of investors are vying to get in on the Green Rush, and fast. However, obstacles like market oversaturation, expensive regulation and permitting fees, and the ongoing battles canna-businesses have with banking and other federally-run institutes make the newfound opportunities to get into the ganja game seem intimidating, to say the least. Many well-intentioned, eager entrepreneurs who want to enter the market are in for a world of pain if they haven't done their research.

To help any hopeful newcomers navigate this murky (albeit lucrative) terrain, we spoke to BigMike, the 20-year industry vet and founder of Advanced Nutrients. There are few better people who can offer advice about building a successful and sustainable canna-business. The nutrient, soil, and fertilizer monolith keeps it authentic — BigMike has worked with all facets of the plant, way before adult-use legalization was even a blip on the horizon — and today it's one of the most successful companies in the cannabis industry.

Hell, without BigMike, there probably wouldn't even be as much cannabis grown out in the world. Advanced Nutrients distributes its products to nearly 100 countries, and its estimated that the company raked in upwards of $105 million in revenue in 2017. So, in the spirit of sharing — we are talking about weed after all — here are some pitfalls to beware of when entering the volatile world of weed, all from a man who helped build a legitimate and lauded business way before the industry went legit.

MERRY JANE: What is the most common misconception that people have about starting a cannabusiness?
Right now, many people are entering the industry, seeing it as the "Green Rush" of our generation. While that's true, many of these people think that it's going to be easier than other businesses and they can't fail. In reality, as more people enter the canna-business space, competition is only going to increase. In short, it's not a sure thing. You still have to have a good business idea and be able to execute it effectively to succeed.

What kind of research should people who want to enter the industry be doing before they formally get involved?
It depends on what facet of the industry they're interested in. For example, the skills to grow amazing sticky weed are different than the sales, marketing, and profit-maximizing skills it takes to run a dispensary. And it also requires a different set of skills to manage employees. In short, people should research what facet of the industry they're interested in first, just like any other industry, and read everything they can get their hands on.

What are some of the most frequent mistakes that you see budding entrepreneurs make in the first year of starting a business? How can they be avoided?
Most budding entrepreneurs waste a lot of time by focusing on everything else but making sales. Doing stuff like printing fancy business cards is just playing business. The key to making any business work is to make your first sale and the next one and the one after that. Once the cash register is ringing, then you improve on what's working and people are responding to.

What are some mistakes you made when starting Advanced Nutrients? Which did you learn the most from?
I don't consider many of the moves we made early on mistakes, because I learned from each and every one. The way I see it, there are no failures in business as long as you keep going — you either win, or you learn from every experience.

You're known for having a very public and exciting social media presence, but you utilize Instagram and Facebook to showcase your lifestyle while also educating viewers about both Advanced Nutrients and cannabis culture-at-large. What tips can you recommend other business owners about how they too can use social media to enhance their business?
Don't be boring! When it comes to social media, there are millions of people out there other people could tune in to — so why would they pay attention to you? That said, be authentic, and let your personality show through. People can tell when you're faking it. But nobody likes to do business or pay attention to a stick-in-the-mud!

What facet of the industry is the most difficult to enter right now? Why?
Producing devices such as vape pens is going to be more difficult than something like producing pre-roll joints. That's simply because you're dealing with manufacturing a more complex product. That said, growing amazing weed that can compete with all the great buds on the shelf at dispensaries is hard in its own way, so the level of difficulty can depend on the person's skill sets and resources they bring to the table.

Legalization is still a work in progress, with changes and new regulations happening almost daily. Is now a bad time to enter the market? Should people wait until the dust settles?
I think it depends on the person, but there's no time like the present to get started. Don't rush into anything without research and making a plan, but the early movers always have an advantage. Even if you make some mistakes, and have to pivot in a new direction — the earlier you get started, the quicker you can find that out and course correct.

For more on BigMike and Advanced Nutrients, visit our past coverage of the influential canna-business, and visit their website for more here.

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