Max Simon, Founder & CEO of Green Flower Media
Max is the Founder & CEO of Green Flower Media, the world’s most trusted platform for credible cannabis information, training, and guidance.
Prior to Green Flower, Max built and ran Deepak Chopra’s products business where he re-branded the company, developed and launched 49 of his signature products, created his digital marketing strategy, and personally taught tens of thousands of people to meditate. In the same way that Max helped meditation and mind-body medicine become mainstream, he’s now on a mission to educate the world about the value of cannabis.
[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] Are you a CEO looking to scale your company faster and easier. Checkout Thrive Roundtable thrive combines a moderated peer group mastermind expert one on one coaching access to proven growth tools and a 24/7 support community created by Inc. Award winning CEO and certified scaling up business coach Bruce Eckfeldt. Thrive will help you grow your business more quickly and with less drama. For details on the program visit Eckfeldt.com/thrive. That's E C K F E L D T.com/thrive
[00:01:07] Welcome, everyone. This is Thinking Outside the Bud. I'm Bruce Eckfeldt. I'm your host. And our guest today is Max Simon and he is Founder and CEO of Green Flower Media. And he has extensive experience in building products for different businesses. So we're gonna learn more about that. I'm excited to talk to him. I'm excited about what he's doing in terms of training and guidance and providing information for people in a kind of a space with that. Max, welcome to the program.
[00:01:29] Really nice to be here with you.
[00:01:31] So why don't we start with a little bit of the backstory. So before you got into cannabis, give us a sense of your professional experience, your background. What were you doing before?
[00:01:40] Well, first, I've been in cannabis a long time, but more as a consumer. I was diagnosed very young with pretty severe ADHD. And back in high school, I started smoking pot and of course, then had no sense that I was self medicating. But it sure made an enormous difference. And today, I actually credit cannabis with keeping me in school and getting me through college. Of course, now, based on the science and everything I know, I very much understand that I was self medicating and continue to self medicate as my my solution to this thing that I was born with. That's really no real obstacle for me. Yeah. That's my personal affinity to candidates. Professionally, I built Deepak Chopra, whose products business. And all of his signature products, all of the commerce, all of the digital marketing channels. And we were really some of the early pioneers of creating digital media campaigns to spread messages. And so we reached hundreds of millions of people. We sold 60 million books. We built a very successful business on the tail end of using digital media and digital strategy to reach the masses.
[00:02:50] How did you get into with Deepak and what was the. Were you always in kind of digital media space? I mean, how did how did that play out?
[00:02:56] My father was the medical director of the chopper center. And at a time when we were going through a big shakeup, I was just graduating from school. And, you know, to be honest with you, it was the perfect confluence of opportunity, optimistic thinking. They were in kind of a bunch of chaos. And I was a very savvy in my mind business guy. And I kind of came in and said, let me help. And through that, let me help phase, I very quickly rose up to take control of the products division. And then I ultimately ended up taking devout control of the brand standards and kind of spiraled into me really running the business division of the product side. So it's opportunistic and perfect.
[00:03:41] Yeah, well, and a great opportunity. I mean, that was pretty extensive. I mean, I know you had a lot of products that were developed, you know, obviously a fairly major brand. I mean, what were your kind of big takeaways, learning experiences from that that kind of led you or that allowed you to get into the kind of space?
[00:03:56] Well, so at the time, this was an early 2000s meditation, yoga, mind, body medicine was highly stigmatized, misunderstood. You know, it wasn't perceived to be backed by any science and it was attributed to something that people only on the fringe did. And through the experiences that I had of shaping the story, creating content, creating campaigns and strategies to reach the masses, engaging a tribe and ultimately busting stigma, we were able to mainstream meditation and yoga and mind body medicine. And so the parallels between that and cannabis are almost eerie.
[00:04:40] Yeah, right. Yeah, exactly. So great. Both kind of technical understanding, business understanding and where market is and how to kind of usher a market into kind of more mainstream adoption. Right. So in how I guess, when did you make the decision to build to create a cannabis business and what was that process like for you?
[00:05:03] So after my time at chopper, I built a very successful kind of a digital consulting and training company. And, you know, it was very successful. But what was happening was the whole business was based on on me. And I didn't love that role. I liked building platforms and building vehicles that were bigger than me, quite frankly. And so at the time, I actually got a consult. Gig in 2014 with one of. Now what has become one of the largest vape pen companies in California. And that was the process of me opening my eyes to cannabis as an industry. And what happened was I started just doing what I do. I started understanding, you know, how people are perceiving this and what's happening online and what strategies people are employing and and how it's being presented. And my general feeling was that there was no credibility in cannabis and that that I knew how to build platforms that allowed credibility to spread globally about cannabis. It was a particularly unique situation because there was all these individual people that had real credibility, real experts, people like Steve D'Angelo or the Steep Hill guys, but didn't have a developed platform by how they could share that knowledge and share that information with the world. And so that's how Green Flower started, is to become a place by which credibility and expertise could reach the masses. And since then, it's really developed into what we believe is the authority in cannabis education.
[00:06:40] Do you feel like your timing was just there was kind of perfect timing in this? Do you feel like you were a little early on? Things have played out. Do you feel like you were a little late and was catch up? I'm just I'm fascinated with a lot of these businesses, given how quickly this industry is moving, how people have felt around their sense of timing and starting these companies.
[00:06:57] I'm not going to lie. The last five years have been really difficult to build something that is as big as I expected it would be by now. And I believe that that's because the timing was just a little early. From a business standpoint. So now that said, the struggle we've gone through and the challenges we've gone through over these five years have given us an enormous head start when it comes to doing what we do, which is producing cannabis education and building a platform of trust. So while I would not wish anybody go through the struggles we've gone through over the last five years to get to this place, I think that the timing was impeccable because it's given us such an enormous head start now that I sincerely believe we're going to win the game in the lane that we're playing.
[00:07:44] We always have a phrase that it takes about five to 10 years to create an overnight success. There's work that needs to get done before you're really going to, you know, scale a company quickly. Yeah. So let's talk about green flowers. So you knew you wanted to create a platform to help with communication and education. I mean, I guess what were your initial thoughts about how the platform was going to work? What's had to change over time, as you kind of learned as the markets kind of developed? I mean, what are the what are the changes and pivots you've had to make?
[00:08:11] Yeah, well, the the biggest change is that we started really as a pure play consumer facing media company. We thought that the biggest opportunity as well as the biggest impact was just about educating consumers, about how cannabis can improve the quality of their lives. And we're still passionate about that mission. And also, you know, that audience is mostly brand new to cannabis. That audience that we're touching, the millions of people that we reach every month is brand new. And when they're brand, brand, brand new, you know, getting them to pay for content or pay for education is not the easiest thing in the world to do. And so the the pivot, if you will, or the evolution that came in is recognizing, one, how unbelievably hungry of an audience and a base. The professional market is in cannabis. But to how we had to develop a whole different set of products and infrastructure to serve more of a B2B audience while maintaining the B to C audience, which is still very important to us from a mission standpoint and a value standpoint. And so, you know, we've basically had to develop a B to C and a B2B business. At the same time, which has been a challenge. But I again now worse now where we're standing on a well-established platform on both sides. I feel grateful that we've gone through it, too.
[00:09:42] Tell us a little bit about sort of the products and the content you've developed and how you've packaged for these different groups.
[00:09:47] So we have an all encompassing subscription channel, which is very much like a Linda dot com of cannabis where for nine ninety nine a month. You can get access to all of the multi thousands of hours of cannabis education content that we have on the platform. And just like we've kind of developed, it has direct to consumer ties and then industry ties. And so we have Health and Wellness Channel, which is all about using cannabis therapeutically. And you know, I always talk about the fact that while everybody is aware of the fact that cannabis is potential for therapy. There's very few outlets that people have provided actual credible guidance, and so, you know, we have full classes on using cannabis for pain or for cancer or for sleep or for epilepsy or for depression. And, you know, we walk people really step by step through that process of utilizing cannabis therapeutically. We have a channel that's a business channel, and that includes talking about the industry, about investment. About the ways that you can get jobs, the ways that you can become more knowledgeable as an activist and everything in between there. We have a grow channel, which is all about growing personally or professionally. And we talk about cannabis. We talk about hemp. We talk about indoor. We talk about outdoor. You know, there's a whole series of education kind of growing. And then we have what we call a culture channel, which is really more kind of broad. It talks about history. It has some fun programming and has some enthusiast programming.
[00:11:24] But we really try to stay on that line of it's still all being educational. So there's this low price subscription channel, which is kind of a catch all for wherever people are coming in from India. Cannabis and then the evolution of green flower happened really in the last year or two where we really started to see that there is this enormous problem of people trying to get into the industry or being hired into the industry, but just missing enormous packets of knowledge and skills that are important to that sector of the industry. So we spent I mean, literally probably 14 months developing methodologies, technology and an approach to these cert programs that we've created and we have for certificate programs right now, two more that are launching actually very shortly that are medical applications of cannabis as well as cannabis regulations and compliance certificate. But we have also a cannabis fundamental certificate, which is kind of a overview class. We have a patient care certificate which goes very deep into guiding people on how to interact with cannabis patients to make sure they get the best benefits. We have a cannabis cultivation certificate and walks you from seed to sale commercially how you grow top shelf organic cannabis. And then we have a sales compliant certificate for retail so that people that are working in retail actually understand the rules. So we have those sets of products that are kind of professional development training as well as a set of products.
[00:13:02] Are you marketing those to individuals who are employees or people that are in the space and want to level up their skill or get into the space? Or to employers as being kind of their internal professional development program? Both.
[00:13:14] So every every quarter we open up a new semester of green flower certificate classes and individuals. You know, we've had a few thousand people go through the programs already, can register and sign up and go through this online training platform that we've built. Mean, it's really cool, you know? Each class has video lectures from experts, reading materials, knowledge checks, downloadable guides. And then there's a pretty extensive comprehensive final exam that really does take some study to pass. And if you pass and you get a certificate in that domain. And so we have, you know, like I said, a few thousand people that have been going through those programs. And I'm not at liberty to announce it yet. But we do have about a dozen industry leading cannabis companies that have now adopted green flower certificates, their internal training platform, to make sure that their teams across the board are fully trained and fully up to speed. So we'll watch those announcements will be coming out soon, but it should create a flurry of excitement around these programs for internal training purposes.
[00:14:16] Yeah, that makes it. I mean, certainly as a company, I'm thinking about how do I know if I'm going to be finding all sorts of talent from all over the place that has different levels of experience or knowledge of cannabis? You know, this is a great way to really kind of make sure that I've got a standard I've got a baseline across everyone at the company. How do you find your content? How do you find the people to give the programs? What's their side of the business?
[00:14:34] I mean, it's a heavy vetting process that we go through. I mean, we have multiple people on the team that do nothing but vetting. And so what it is, is, you know, we look at what people are doing in the space. We look at what content they've already created. We look at who they're working with. We use our network for heavy referrals. And then oftentimes we'll even start to work with people first and get a sense of how much knowledge they have helped organize. They are and we'll do, you know, a test project with them or something very small, like an interview to then get to the next phase. And so it's this I mean, I don't know how to say. It's a very labor intensive filtration process of making sure that the only people we bring on the platform are true experts, truly credible people with deep experience to be able to share trusted knowledge because green flower is built on a value set of trust. And so we don't take that lightly.
[00:15:31] Anything we do has to be, quite frankly, something that we know will be validated ten years down the road. You know, as the right thing to do. And so we just have very high standards that we put everybody through. And then our our certificates have a whole nother set of committees that go through and validate that the learning objectives are truly what the industry needs, that the people that we're bringing in are respected and can hold some authority. And, you know, it's just it's it's a process, but something that we take very seriously.
[00:16:03] In terms of identifying, you know, content or courses, certificates that you're going to create. I guess how have you decided what is really going to sell what the market means?
[00:16:12] I mean, tell me a little bit about your kind of product development process, product research process to help you kind of identify and prioritize the content you're going to create.
[00:16:20] It's really based upon the feedback of the industry. And so we have this you know, right now we have over 750 experts that we've worked with personally in some capacity and green flower. And so we're constantly just in communication with them about where the greatest needs are. And it's not rocket science. You can start to see the sectors that there's explosive growth. So cultivation, you know, every cultivation company on the planet is hiring people. But you need to know that those people are trained and vice versa. People have a hot demand to be a part of the cannabis cultivation world. So doing cultivation certificate made a perfect sense. You know, the cannabis compliance and regulation certificate coming out is so obvious. It came from the fact that companies are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and consultants to get the information that, you know, if it was packaged and designed correctly, could be done in a single course. And so, you know, that's also highly in demand role for companies to have people that really understand compliance and regulation. So, you know, when you start talking through all the layers of it, it's pretty easy to understand that they are roles in sectors that is in high demand from a skillset standpoint and high value from a company standpoint. And so we built the training modules to make people experts in those fields. And it solves both problems.
[00:17:46] Any any domains, content, subject matter that you've chosen not to cover. I mean, what are water surged your limits or what are the boundaries of the stuff that you want to be focused on? And where do you where do you decide not to play? That's a great question.
[00:18:00] We've been we've been so focused on what the priorities were that we haven't necessarily ruled anything out. You know, for example, we're going to be building it's only kind of like a quarter done right now, but we will come out probably by the end of 2019, hopefully CBD certificate interest in that. It's a weird one, right?
[00:18:22] Because it's not like you could say, well, like, you know, there's CBD consultants necessarily, or that you would need to have a CBD as well. But you would see, I guess my point is time loud. You'd want to have a CBD specialist on your staff. If you're in retail, you'd want to have a CBD specialist. If you're in cultivation about how you grow those strains, you'd want to have a CBD specialist if you're in medical or health care. And so the thing that's so quirky about cannabis is that a lot of these core subject matters have all this crossover and exactly now.
[00:18:52] Oh, I don't know. I guess we've just been focused on what we think are the highest priorities. But there's a lot of interesting places to go here that we just haven't gotten to yet.
[00:19:00] Yeah, I think that's right. I think that it's it's growing so quickly that you have, I'm sure, a pretty extensive backlog of pretty spot on cannabis related topics. You know, I'm curious, as you continue to grow like where you find these odd cases and we decide that, well, you know, we really don't want to cover this thing. This is kind of outside of our our scope, because I think that that will be does as things mature, that will certainly be, you know, that will come up most likely.
[00:19:24] Mean, typically what I see companies that are in the product development space, at some point they get into this issue as well as us on this on our strategy or on brand or not on strategy, not on brand. That's really the art of product development.
[00:19:37] To tell me a little bit about the organization, how have you amassed your own kind of talent pool? What is the talent look like? How have you structured things to be able to, you know, identify, produce, administer these courses of significance in the training?
[00:19:51] We're over 30 people deep now, and that seems like a lot of people. But the amount of content we're producing, it's actually quite slim still. And it's partially because, you know, it takes us. I mean, even at where we're at now, the minimum development cycle for a certificate is six months if we're like pumping on all cylinders and completely organized. And so it's a you know, it's a time labor specialty intensive. So that feeds to the team. My co-founder was the co-founder of the Fox Kids Network. She was a, you know, a premiere executive in cartoons, actually.
[00:20:29] Did the tick and power rangers? Kind of sure. We always say. Now she went from cartoons to cannabis.
[00:20:36] So Stephanie's my co-founder. She runs all the production side. And actually, she's the CEO. She runs the whole team, quite frankly. But, you know, we're filled with curriculum designers, instructional designers, content producers. And we have a you know, it's a 15 a little under 15 person production team. You know that that's working on that side of things. We have a whole digital team that focuses on the growth of our digital strategy. So affiliate managers, we have over 850 affiliate partners that promote our content, social team copywriters. You have a tech team that's been building our platforms and I'm excited to announce that will soon have both mobile and Titi apps to be able to stream our green flower membership platforms on all streaming platforms. Some members membership content on streaming platforms now, so have a tech team. And then we have a business development kind of partnership and sales team that is helping us to create these relationships with companies both inside the industry and outside of the industry. And the only other thing I'll say that's not the most public knowledge yet, but people know that it's coming is Green Flower will soon be powering cannabis curriculums at college and universities around the country. That's the next frontier of where green flower is going, is that we really will be the content provider for colleges for their cannabis programs.
[00:21:59] So I guess strategically, why was that important for you and how have you managed to execute on that? I imagine that's somewhat complicated.
[00:22:07] It's just an enormous opportunity that we're perfectly positioned to fill. We have developed, you know, literally thousands of hours of cannabis education content. And if you really think about who trains people to enter industries, it's higher education. And so we saw this last year and it's been working on it since last year to open up these relationships. They take forever. It requires an enormous amount of effort. And yet it's the next frontier for green flower. And so we've been forming these strategic partnerships with colleges and universities throughout many throughout the country to power their cannabis curriculums.
[00:22:47] That's great. I wanted to go back a little bit on on your own sort of internal team and internal stuff where I guess, where have you been able to find talent and are you finding that you're pulling talent outside of the kind of a space or inside that kind of space? And I guess, how does that play out? Like when you're when you're bringing talent to the set of talent coming in from outside the kind of a space? How do you get people acclimated to to doing business or working in a business or some kind of us?
[00:23:08] We only have a small handful of people that came from cannabis directly and now join Green Flower. The bulk of our people came from higher education, online content and are configuring to cannabis. But probably also 90 percent of those people were pretty diehard cannabis fans, even if they were a closet before that. We really look for people that are deeply supportive to our mission and passionate about what we're doing. And so we just you know, we have a recruiter in-house house that we that that does that full time. And I you know, we just. Cannabis is a hot topic. So it's actually not been very difficult to go on recruiting, you know, recruiting bands and find really talented people that maybe are bored with their stodgy higher education jobs or, you know, tired of of being in a online content company that doesn't treat people very well and bring them over to Green Flower, which has this unbelievable culture, this huge mission. And we're really kind of leading our field. And so all those things make for a really fun environment to bring new people into them.
[00:24:19] Do you have any advice for a company who is trying to grow, is looking for talent, you know, is looking for Don or looking at recruiting from industry? Non cannabis industry is bringing people into the cannabis space. Any kind of thoughts, advice, guidelines, suggestions, you might have to help them be more successful in that process or make sure they're choosing the right candidates.
[00:24:41] We have a mantra here that we look for the best in the world. And I would be my only thing I would say is that people spend a lot of kind of thought energy trying to think about what's different about cannabis or how do I navigate cannabis is different. And we don't do that here. We look for the best in the world and we swing for the fences with every role and every position. And, you know, we don't pay the best in the world. We're definitely not the cautious place where early phase company and everybody, myself included, is scrappy buy. There are design of their role. But I just tell everybody, I'm looking for the people that are the most talented, most passionate and most interested in building something, because that's the opportunity in my mind. You don't really usually get to build some. Brand new and in cannabis, the whole industry is building something brand new. So I think that means you need exceptional, exceptional talent at every level. And I think that means you need people that are really passionate about whatever your mission is. And so I would say to companies, swing for the fences, but also be really clear on why there is a purpose to your company that's special and unique. Because I know for a fact I can walk to every person here, a green flower. And if you ask them why they were here, the first thing they would say is, is that the mission of green flower is just exactly exciting and aligned with what they would want to be doing with their career right now.
[00:26:09] That whole alignment with purposes as is key to creating culture. So let's talk a little bit about what you think is kind of coming down the pike over the next 12, 24, 36 months in terms of the industry that, you know, either your kind is on your strategic plan or your strategic map in terms of knowing that you're going to have to kind of adjust or grapple with or take advantage of and what others might be wanting to put on their map. What what do you see coming coming at us from a cannabis industry point of view over the over the coming years?
[00:26:39] I think legalization is here. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens this year or next year. I just think Trump is too smart. I think Trump knows that the Democrats are running on a pro legalization campaign and it's one hundred percent of them. And that with executive order. He could just decide that I'm going to take the wind underneath that sails. And it would it would it would help. So I I believe that Trump is smart enough to know that that's the direction he's going to go. Now, if that doesn't happen, I think the Democrats are going to do it instantaneously. And so I think we're right around the corner for legalization and for us as an education company. That would be game changing for us on a lot of levels instantly because it would change the regulations with schools. You know, schools get title for funding. They're actually technically not allowed to do anything that doesn't that that breaks federal legality. Interesting. Oh, there's a lot of fancy footing that happens there to get our cannabis content into schools. It would open up the whole marketplace to us instantaneously. I think secondarily, it would make all of the health care companies and all of the companies that are in the ancillary spaces open to getting training and education to be able to get their people up to speed.
[00:27:52] And I think the industry would go through this enormous growth curve. And so what's unique about green flower and again, where I go back to that early thing is I don't know if I would have built green flower the way I did if today if I knew what I knew today. But then there is we're prepared to touch the entire industry. We're prepared to touch consumers who are looking for information. We're touching businesses who are needing training as they scale. We're touching mainstream industries who are interacting with cannabis in some way, whether that's health care companies or insurance companies. And we're touching higher ed that we'll be training the next wave of leaders to enter the industry. And so I'm excited about the future because it's not hard to see that green flower is perfectly positioned to be the authority in cannabis education and all of those different channels just because of how we've built the company to the state.
[00:28:43] Yeah, well, that's good. And any piece of advice you give to other cannabis entrepreneurs here in terms of either learning is that you've had advice that you'd give a perspective that would help them for the folks listening.
[00:28:56] There's a there's a philosophy. I think it's an unconscious philosophy in business that says people should, you know, kind of own everything and be at the top and have all the control and try to build their own kind of empires. And I think in cannabis, it is so flip and difficult. This is such a challenging industry that that attitude just won't work. And I see a lot of people struggle immensely because they're trying to hold as much as they can themselves as they can. And so we first off, every person, a green flower has shares, 100 percent of them have an equity stake in the company. I have given a lot of the company away to other people that are leaders in the space to give them that sense of ownership. And we've raised a lot of money. I think it takes a lot more money in cannabis than people expect. And so my attitude has been I would rather build something enormous and own a much smaller piece and have a really incredible group of people all pushing in the right direction than I would to try to own everything and be at the top by myself. And I think that is crucial in cannabis. I just think it's too big and too fast moving to do it by yourself. And so you people need to, you know, open up their hearts a little and have a little bit more of an abundance consciousness. And I think that'll serve the industry as well as their company.
[00:30:17] Sage advice, too. If people want to find out more about green flower, what's the best way to get that information?
[00:30:22] Green dash, flower, dot com. We're also on all the social channels and look for us very soon. On Apple TV and Roku and all those other fun platforms.
[00:30:31] Awesome. Max, this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time.
[00:30:34] Really. Great to be here with you. And thanks for the time.
[00:30:29] 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.