Jed Wexler, Founder and Director of Elevated Talks
Jed is the founder and director of Elevated Talks: Luxury Meets Cannabis Conference, a platform for luxury-minded and design-forward visionaries in the modern Cannabis space.
He is also CEO and head of content strategy for his company 818 Agency, an award-winning event content marketing agency based in NYC — as well as a leading retail and market trends journalist and strategist quoted in WWD, Forbes, The New York Times, Fast Company, and Shopify’s, “2018 Retail Predictions and Marketing Trends.”
[00:00:01]You're listening to Thinking Outside the Bud where we speak with entrepreneurs investors thought leaders researchers advocates and policymakers who are finding new and exciting ways for cannabis to positively impact business society and culture. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt
[00:00:30] Welcome everyone this is thinking outside the bud I;m Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host today I'm here with Jed Wexler. Jed Welcome to the program.
[00:00:37] Thanks. Great to speak about this topic at this level. So I appreciate you having me.
[00:00:42] Thanks. And just to introduce your moments to our audience. Jed is founder and director of elevated talks which is a kind of US conference we're going to hear more about. We're going to talk a little bit more about the background to you and what's going on there.
[00:00:54] He's also CEO and Head of Content Strategy for his company. It won the agency. We're gonna find out a little bit more about that and the work that they do with businesses and helping them with content marketing.
[00:01:04] So Jed I want to just start with background.
[00:01:07] Give us a little sense of your background and professional and then how you got into the cannabis based in the most curious how I got in how people got into it professionally I've always been in the publishing digital and event marketing space in 2013 in New York I started a firm designed to help large trade shows conferences and events with their content and all of their digital marketing with a focus really on what's trending at retail mainstream retail big retail India retail it's such a huge amazing space now.
[00:01:40] And then we had this large client who had this little baby THC smoking excess accessories trade show with a trade show and we worked on that as you know in a small way doing content and strategy. And I just saw real opportunity because it was very like it was just bongs and high and then every now and then you see this beautiful booth with this beautifully merchandise everything was visually like super moderate and I was like These guys are really early.
[00:02:13] When was this how long ago was this conference.
[00:02:15] I think we started on that 2014 and then it worked on it a little bit until 2000 2017 and then you know since we're especially I'm an editor in this retail space and trends space for always doing this for clients there was something in the luxury upscale market where I needed to canvas can have a dial a powerful carries in and we all thought as a team we need to flesh out this the next great opportunity at retail whether it's Main Street retail luxury retail we want to treat this as a legitimate mainstream retail product and what that means and how from where we said we wanted to tackle.
[00:02:59] How do you build a prestige brand in this space and how do you merchandise and how do you bring all of your professional retailer tools and marketing tools into this space so late last year two thousand seventeen we started planning elevated talks which is really about luxury needs cannabis whether as wellness beauty design media and so we had really like for visionaries and each one of those verticals we talked about it we had exhibition and then essentially created this platform to give leading brands bigger and emerging a place to get exposed to retailers media and an investment from private equity family offices you know things like that. So that's it in a nutshell the pretty big nutshell it was a word you.
[00:03:48] It's an interesting one because I think the one I think big factors have been dynamics in the cannabis industry right now is this kind of the segmentation on the multifaceted and of the new market. You know it's coming out of this pop culture background and as it moves out of that into these other areas it's it's it's very kind of multiple run.
[00:04:08] So I think this whole luxury one is a really interesting one. Let's define luxury a little bit in terms of you know from a retail point of view particularly from a cannabis one of you.
[00:04:18] What are we talking about when we talk about the luxury I think luxury you know to your point about this multi threads we know the market is about to really go into the maturation phase because they're starting to be some verticals that we can kind of tackle or which is why I still think we're slightly early but we're not it's about to pop. So luxury today for a major brand can mean several different things and it's all important. I think it's about being luxury minded more design forward because luxury at the traditional end for Louis B tons and LVMH is Karl Lagerfeld. It's about exclusivity craftsmanship being wildly expensive and you couldn't get it anywhere else but the definition of luxury is very much more nuanced today and where I think luxury can also mean accessibility. You know Tiffany's sells 20 dollar bracelets which is their revenue driver and now I have 50 diamonds and all the big brands are doing that. And you can have luxury is I think more of a point of view to how you present a product and then also luxury which is great for this independent market people want things that not everybody has. Otherwise as a pure commodity. So yes I need a T-shirt from a gym that cost ninety nine nine ninety nine. I can go to unique low and get X Y Z. That's the commodity approach. So I kind of take a taking approach of what is luxury mean for cannabis CBD. Like a point of view of looking at it so that that clarifies.
[00:05:55] Yes I think it does and I think it's it's important to know or to think of it as more of the mindset. It's easy to look at it as a price point. Diseases are saying what's really expensive stuff right.
[00:06:04] I think this idea of kind of exclusivity and it's not just about expensive but it's about sort of a limited limited ness.
[00:06:13] Not everyone has it or not everyone can get it right.
[00:06:17] And this idea of the mindset of even tying into a larger luxury lifestyle or luxury approach to things and general right.
[00:06:26] Exactly. And it and it's also you know again not about price point. You want a product especially in the THC and or CBD space it's the product is quality it looks and feels cared for. The design resonates with you. I mean there's plenty of larger brands like one of our panelists was Andrew gets the founder of Melanie gets they have eleven stores worldwide they just opened one at Hong Kong. I think everyone would say their prestige brand but their price points are accessible. It's more of like let's do things in this modern way. No no no.
[00:07:05] And do you see now looking at how this market to possibly play out and then I guess it's I think is having in many aspects of cannabis which is because of the nature of cannabis because of the legality of caveats in different areas. You
[00:07:20] Know this question is are new luxury brands going to develop and emerge or are existing luxury brands sort of come into the space with cannabis products.
[00:07:29] What's your stance on that.
[00:07:30] I think it's I think it's actually both you know like any other brands I look at it from a fashion standpoint back in the early 90s. Street style and street where was this very marginal. Baby brand thing and so you had thousands of independent brands but only a small handful actually had the team in place financing product pricing all of the things in place to really become these larger viable brands. And then we talked to bigger brands all the time that ah you have to have a plan in place as any kind of business around CBD especially skincare beauty wellness and THC which is a little dicier because it is not fully legal but these kind of things are putting plans in place for when everything is there are no grey areas. I think it's very similar to the dot com era where these companies would just put money in a lot of different places just to make sure they were covered. Yes the bubble burst but this is this is a consumer product. It's something that you can whole use benefit from and so you know it's actually. So it is definitely both. And you know we see like these apothecary brands like keels or beauty brands for you know the Maleny gets they are dipping their toes into products that reference cannabis. And so they're they're doing stuff here and then you have the core independent brands that are looking for funding you have a lot of baby brands and then I think the apothecary and the dispensary at the luxury level or the modern level they're going to start fusing they're going to start becoming each other.
[00:09:17] So that's some of our product categories are a little bit about the product mechanism I think that's people.
[00:09:24] I mean you mentioned beer bongs in the beginning. All right so there's this kind of paraphernalia kind of categories but we're talking about much more than that. So give us a sense of the types of things that are coming out when you talk about cannabis based products.
[00:09:36] Well well from from our our talk and our conference the insights that we pulled out is really in the immediate CBT beauty skincare and wellness products that are driving the retail opportunity. I don't think that's news for a lot of people like in the business. And then there's all the ancillary non THC non CBD which are pipes accessories you purses that can cover up any smells but also the design is elevated it's meant for a customer with an elevated taste level and getting away from that stuff or Hacky Sack connotation which is great. That's still a huge business that's going to be there forever but that's not what people who travel people who want elegance around the products they choose so you know all of these ancillary products and then you have the CBD skincare wellness products as well.
[00:10:37] The analogy often uses like cell phone technology and until 20 years ago Ivan was carrying around bricks. Now before buying you know the time case you know on their eyes right in time four for the pipe Mark get there.
[00:10:50] There are a couple of great e-commerce shops where going back to you know tech speak it's like the UI you ex of your cannabis delivery device is important now. So yeah I think that's that's where we see that's what we've learned. You know the market is going in. The interesting thing is it dovetails so well there's a whole hand derived part of the business and the agricultural bill recently passed the industrial hemp bill passed. And so you have these him derived products hemp derived fashion you have and then which dovetails even bigger into sustainable eco fashion and sustainable products that are pesticide free. So you have if you start with hemp and CBT and cannabis your you're tapping into what experts say is a multi trillion dollar health and wellness business and then a big customer customer driven sustainable eco slow fashion movement because that's what the customers are demanding and companies as big as Hugo Boss are making big shoes and you know animal free products. So I don't wanna get too far with candidates but like there is something the hemp and cannabis aficionados. This is a real central point that this is a holistic product that is natural. And so there's so many folks on this on this wheel that you can really retailers can if they plan correctly and brands make a lot of money doing this.
[00:12:26] Yeah I think it's an important one to bring up because I think it's kind of a whole other thread.
[00:12:31] It's important one which is and the reason that I at some level I do include hemp in the discussion is because it has been caught up in the anti cannabis laws and stuff in terms of know history and you know it's very much a fact that production companies aren't yet affected about in terms of current legislation and laws on the books. And yes when when are as hemp becomes legal to to produce and use as an industrial product as a father as a as a fiber things and that now we're really talking about you know all mainstream fashion lifestyle.
[00:13:05] But it's also you know there's hemp crete you know there's building materials and it's you know if you get if you have someone who is a hemp advocate on your show they can talk for hours about what it can do it's like a miracle product. It doesn't need pesticides it grows everywhere.
[00:13:23] Well it's an interesting one in terms of voluntary market. Once we kind of what happened to the max Yeah. How how the luxury market begins to use that as as a product. And I think from a brand and sort of segment or lifestyle point of view this idea of know not only from a as it as a cannabis related product are really as a sustainable eco friendly ties into all these other things there which which become really fascinating or the market becomes quite huge.
[00:13:55] Yeah. And when we talk to retailers and big brands all the time and they're starting to respond to these rising ethical tides from millennials to Tansy to Gen X which you know I am and there's a fashion brand that's really big call her name is Myra Hoffman and she's got like 500 thousand followers on Instagram. She's one of the great great fashion brands out there. And I think you combined you again you combining that with the quality of certain CBD beauty skin care and all this is really the consumers demanding this media is covering you know you see it every day there there's articles on two different verticals. There's the THC business and all the private equity going into the chief sea business. And then there's this like CBD skincare beauty that from Vogue to business of fashion to Wall Street Journal to head propeller to all the entire Instagram influencers sphere is talking about this. So brands have to respond and it's our view. We're starting to be with retailers about attending our next event. It's our view that retailers especially the larger ones now that have the resources they need to build a CBD skincare beauty wall and then on and make it a category and commit to it because these indie guys are really good at.
[00:15:22] No they can't. They're very nimble and in retail parlance we call it lifestyle merchandise or crossover merchandise and back in the day a store sold fashion reading cards only or desk accessories school grooming and they were totally separate not but in the last bunch of years they've combined them all season to one cool shop and get your fashion get your journals get your grooming and get your not so gift novelty Books. Books are they won games and now this we feel is the next category to slot into your mix. That's like the next lifestyle category retail. So that's what's exciting for us now. So in terms of the products and stuff that you see I mean what are some of the more interesting or different or innovative things that you've seen kind of in the market right now we're coming to there's so many I think there is a brand there is a couple of brands that make topical creams. You know CBD kind of pain alleviating creams and a brand called Laura Jones is very good at that and you know tinctures that they contain anxiety tinctures are a big one. And on the beauty side you know you have that wellness side because CBT is it's anti inflammatory properties you're starting to see face masks now.
[00:16:48] And I like eye treatments and it's not necessarily you know lipstick persay but you're every category of makeup and beauty and skin is tackling this. But I've seen my sprays a spray into your into your mouth and then I've seen manicures cures which are like cannabis manicures and you know there are so many ways to slice it but I think like you know the creams and the top apples are are what's seem really interesting because it's kind of all ages you have your cool influencers talking about CBD and then you have people like our parents like my father who takes CBT instead of like lotions for arthritis instead of you know this is kind of a once in a two generation opportunity where you have every age group talking about this from mall to mainstream to uncool and I haven't seen this in a while since the advent of the Internet where everybody is it really is there is someone so in a funny way of putting it is that if there's a surface or a home we'll figure out how to use cannabis and it's kind of like it's own medium.
[00:18:02] It's almost like starting to parody itself a little bit.
[00:18:06] So like just the word cannabis in front of everything or at the end of a sentence and then you'll get press you'll get some watching you watching in there as well. What's your thoughts on a cryptocurrency block chain and cannabis. It's kind of like what everybody's talking about and accepting you know using block chain technology to get candidates payments.
[00:18:29] Now people are like oh yeah I know the fusing together as you say you know looking at this market is this You do kind of anticipate your or do you see the direction going that Covergirl and Revlon are gonna be coming out with CBD makeup lines I mean is this I guess this is my that is my stance on the big brand.
[00:18:50] And it's like you'll see a Sephora come out with brands along these lines or you'll find that say Lauder really go deep into this and you'll see maybe Karl Lagerfeld or Stella McCartney these legendary designers create beautiful cases or types for something like they're getting into it because what they have which is a lot of what most parents don't have is they have all the distribution so they have to do is turn on the product make sure it's legal in there and they're fine. And the lethality of it in the US and then outside of in other countries is so all over the place like we had you know Andrew gets from Malin and guess when they started his cannabis candle line they wanted to put cannabis in it but in the US when they started it five years ago they absolutely couldn't put anything any cannabis in it they could only call it cannabis candles perfume you know lotion that kind of reference it in a cool way and kind of make it smell like it using other materials. But he said in Europe when they wanted to roll out to their European stores since it didn't have cannabis in it they weren't allowed to call it a cannabis collection because it was misleading. So in the US I would say anything to market a product you want in Europe. They're like Yeah to you have to put cannabis in your misleading our customer you can't do that. So it's like at some point this will this will smooth out. So oh and you know another thing another consumer product. Are these beer companies Constellation Brands Molson. They're partnering with THC brands and they're starting to put CBD into their drinks. I mean this has consumer products written all over it. And I'm just hoping a that some of the some of the good independent brands can benefit from that because they've really fought the good fight now and also hoping that we have a lot of diverse led businesses in this space. So we want to take as many people with us into what's going to be huge.
[00:21:04] Yeah. And I think it's an interesting dynamic going on in the space in terms of inclusion of both gender and racial diversity. It's certainly a big part of the movement.
[00:21:13] So tell us a little bit about elevator talks and what you're doing in the space to help kind of have these conversations get people kind of onstage into that kind of public eye. What's your goal with this and how is it working.
[00:21:25] Yeah. I mean we want to showcase brands that are leading the way that are combination of independent and these bigger brands that we're trying to bring into the CBD or cannabis space or we may be thinking about it about to launch a product because you have you know all this activity inside the canvas and CBD space but we want to expose this as a mainstream modern opportunity at the luxury end. And so I think it's really important still to create conversations around as productive ones because people there's so many people who still think it's completely illegal they're afraid to take it. They don't know what to do with it. So we would like you know we're evolving the trade show conference model where we'll just focus on a handful of brands and drive all of our content and marketing opportunities around this small handful of terrorists brand doing interesting things. So you know these these independent brands talking having conversations of these bigger brands I think they have a lot to offer each other. And also partnering with larger media outlets and also some independent media outlets as well. So it's kind of that combination. Like how do we create a productive conversation that drives results for everyone who participates not just in a vanity way. So we can create poor content. But like really driving a specific result for each participant and I think that's one of the plans that just might be looking to go. Lots of these conferences is this is is a luxury conference itself or how are you kind of on I think you know now we're looking at our next venue and partners or for the spring we're considering New York again or Montreal because there's a lot of obviously there's a lot of media moderate and modern design and brands in both it's legal and obviously legal more legal in Canada. So be interesting to have those conversations now and then really help these retailers roll out this kind of product. So good. Yeah.
[00:23:38] In terms of other things that you see going on in the industry how are you kind of keeping up to date on the industry in general you know about the sort of the legal side the market side the brands things like that. Where do you go to get information.
[00:23:51] Well I mean there's tons of events. And then when you start doing these events since it's now we have this sense we have a platform. You just start meeting with a lot of industry people and everybody has a different point of view. I mean I really like what Lee flea does. Yeah just pure cannabis. I like it. I love reading broccoli magazine gossamer is another one. But then you have Mary Jane come on you know those are good for pure cannabis lifestyle. And then we focus on reading the fashion and retail publications know sort of seeing how those intersect. You know since we're starting to make connections between these brands with certain family offices and private equity where we're keep an eye on the activity in the markets you know what people are buying what people are not buying you know not so. So we're in constant talks with those folks.
[00:24:53] So if I'm honest now are either sort of in the kind of a space or if the team are getting in. I'm looking kind of these different market segments particularly this luxury and what advice what recommendations like where would you kind of point people to when they're thinking about product development and developing companies around the space.
[00:25:11] I mean I think it really depends. That's a really good question I think it's like any other business. It's like what do you want to create. Do you want to create something on that hardcore THC side. Do you want to have a dispensary NY or do you want to get into an the retail product which is for now is that cannabidiol CBD. And I think they both the regulations are very grey you know. So I think what I noticed is that the best companies in the business make sure they have amazing partners in terms of formulations on the CBD side where we're buyers. But there's still so much space in the luxury high end market. You know we've had meetings of luxury retailers and they're not even carrying this stuff yet. So if someone with a good product good design good team walks in and starts pitching them I think they're going to land something.
[00:26:08] Yeah it's an interesting. I've spoken to several different scenarios and it's amazingly successful companies. And oftentimes they say you know when I ask them what's the one thing they wish they did differently is this and grow faster. It's just because things are so going so quickly and the markets are expanding so quickly that even if you're growing up you know one hundred two hundred three percent a year the market is expanding 1000 percent a year and essentially losing market share even at that incredible growth rate. So it's a really phenomenally kind of interesting situation.
[00:26:38] And where we said you know whether it's like prestige beauty brands or luxury brands you know if you're going to start a brand I think experiential strategy is really important. You want to do events where you let people try it at product or you get feedback or you know I think it's important to be in it you know and not hovering above and hoping your customer likes a certain thing. So that's why I think it's so important to create experiences and conversations around this you know in a structured way.
[00:27:09] So that's the other thing I would definitely do and that's point I think that anything actually interferes with your market with your customers get them into a physical experience you have a much bigger impact.
[00:27:20] And I keep thinking about your What advice would you give. I think like with anything else like with our business or any business you need the right team. Like even if it's one other person or two other people I mean Dropbox was started with two people he wanted to do it himself alone and as his partners right now you better get somebody like and just think about only working with the highest level professional dedicated positive people you can and get money it himself. So funding is important from a habit forming standpoint but you really need to in order to take advantage of the market you need to get into the marketplace and get funded. Yeah yeah it's brutally honest and that's great to hear. Yeah. To your point I mean the market's expanding so fast you need to carve out that share as quickly as you can.
[00:28:13] So it's been a pleasure. I thank you so much. I want to know more about you about you one aide about elevator talks.
[00:28:21] What's the best way to find out more information or get all of you making can just email out my conference email which is elevated talks at 8 1 8 agency dot com and that's the numeral 8 1 8 agency dot com and it's elevated toxic that a winning agency to come and that's the best way to start a conversation with us. We'll take it from there.
[00:28:44] Excellent. I'll make sure that that email is in the show notes here so people can just click on it. All of you.
[00:28:49] Thank you again for being on the show. Being on the program I enjoyed it. Learned a lot.
[00:28:53] And I'll look forward to keeping Stockton likewise during how the next conference goes.
[00:28:57] Thanks Bruce. I appreciate it. We'll keep you posted. Thanks man. Yeah.
[00:29:02] You've been listening to Thinking Outside the Bud with Business Coach Bruce Eckfeldt to find a full list of podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and access other great content. Visit the Web site at thinkingoutsidethebud.com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter at thinkingoutsidethebud.com/newsletter.