The rise of cannabis companies have soared in recent years and the budding marijuana industry is expected to bring in an billions of dollars in annual revenue once it’s legalized. Now that the stigma behind marijuana has eased, and with almost half the states in the U.S. legalized, an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 full-time and part-time employees are now working in the cannabis industry, according to a new report by the Marijuana Business Daily.
This number will likely rise in the future, causing people to think about joining the growing cannabis industry. It’s one reason why I’ve been interested in moving into the industry in the last year after working in Silicon Valley for almost a decade in customer service, product management, and marketing. After careful thought, I wanted to see if my experience in those roles would translate into working in the cannabis industry.
To find out what’s necessary to join the business, MERRY JANE caught up with Charlie Cangialosi, head of sales for industry pioneer Kiva Confection, the creators of THC-infused chocolates. Read the interview for insights on what cannabis companies like Kiva are looking for.
MERRY JANE: What is your professional background, your role at Kiva, and how did you get into the cannabis industry?
Charlie Cangialosi: My background is rooted in CPG sales and marketing. I worked for Anheuser-Busch for 16 and a half years and then spent another two years working for MillerCoors and a leading craft brewer from Oregon, Ninkasi Brewing. My positions in the beer industry involved sales, marketing, and distribution of beverages through a three-tier distribution system. Some of my positions included Marketing Coordinator, Market Manager, Senior Manager of a specialty On Premise group, National Account sales, Director of Planning & Performance Management, and Director of Sales and Marketing.
At Kiva, I’m responsible for all of the company’s efforts to bring our products to our patients in the state of California. I also have the responsibility of leading our efforts to bring our products to new states, like AZ, NV, OR, CO, and IL. I manage our distribution company and lead our efforts to build a world-class collection of cannabis partner portfolio of brands in our distribution company.
I came to cannabis via a beverage headhunter who was doing a search for Kiva. The opportunity to lead a group of great people in such a vibrant emerging industry was very attractive to me.
What are the day-to-day experiences like? What are some long-term goals you can disclose?
On a day-to-day level the goal is always the same: provide our customers with industry leading products and give them best in class service. If you can consistently do those two things, everything else will work itself out. Kiva’s long-term goal is to achieve our day-to-day goal for years to come on a national level—where allowed legally.
What does Kiva Confections look for in potential employees?
The employees we want working at Kiva are those who have that customer-first attitude. We want people who put the customer and our commitment to quality ahead of everything. If you can’t commit to those two tenets of our culture, then you will struggle.
If someone has no experience in the cannabis industry, can they translate skills over, or must they receive some sort of education?
One of my first questions in our interview process is, “What’s your connection to cannabis?” We aren’t necessarily looking for candidates to tell us about their day-to-day use of cannabis, but rather what does cannabis mean to them. Do they have an appreciation and understanding of the cannabis culture? Some folks have unbelievable technical knowledge, some have amazing stories of how cannabis helped them recover, and others have fun stories from their youth. Knowledge is a big plus, but it’s not mandatory. Being able to demonstrate the ability to learn the nuances of cannabis is for more important.
In the end, however, what matters is their ability to focus on the customer and commit to our quality.
What should entrants into the industry expect from it? What are your suggestions to readers on how to get into it?
The thing people should expect is the unexpected. The inside industry joke is that cannabis years are like dog years—every day is like a week, every week is like a month, and every month is like a year. Things are changing and growing fast. If you are the type of person who likes that atmosphere then cannabis is a good fit, but if you like consistency and predictability than cannabis isn’t for you.
The best way to get into the industry is to do some research. Do you want a patient-facing position because you have the passion to work with people? Or do you have a background in accounting, production, sales, whatever it might be? What are your skill sets? An industry that is growing this fast needs talent, just like any other emerging industry. Look for brands and operators who are doing things the right way; those are the companies to approach about a job. Show them how you can help them be more successful.