The Transition from Underground to Mainstream – As Featured on Direct Cannabis Network

How do you keep what made you unique for all of these years and become a brand? How do you meet with the suits and not get a rash over this?

One of the major concerns when a company comes from the underground to the mainstream is the fear of losing the authenticity of the brand and digressing from the initial idea behind it. People fear that the brand may turn out to stand for something different than it initially stood for. At the end of the day, the only way to do this is truly through trust. You are going to have to educate your employees and consultants about your brand. You and your management team will have to live by what the brand means.

One of the ways you can hold steady with your brand and build trust is to hire the people who hold the same values and ideas that you do. In the beginning, most businesses bring in outside consultants to help start the growth phase of the organization.  When choosing a consultant, start to look at what THEY are doing to build YOUR trust. I have worked with some consultants who will try to charge you for this time so tread carefully so you avoid surprises. Look for simple things to build trust like whether the the consultant or company you choose to work with will meet you online (with cameras) or in person.

For example, my business – Raquel Bowles, feels the need to really get to know you as we have to clearly understand how you want to EXIT the business but we need to determine your risk tolerance to achieve it. These two things are personal to each business owner. The information to really create an exceptional brand cannot truly be done by an online form full of questions about what other brands you admire. You cannot build trust this way.

The next way to hold onto your brand authenticity is to hire the right people to be permanent members of your team – not just consultants. Every person in your business needs to be a representative of your brand culture and attitude. It is OK to be selective in who you hire to the point that you do not break any regular human resource laws in your area. Employees will live and breathe your brand when you are not there. If you have a great team that is living your values this will allow you to be reliable. Customers will grow to expect that they will have the same experience with you whether it is online or via a dispensary/delivery service.

Once you have attained a level of trust with partners and employees, an effective way to assure the success of your transition through to the mainstream is to continue to revisit your mission statement or executive summary. This will remind the whole team of the goal and where it all started from. Bear in mind that this is important to the success of the transition; until your mission statement becomes a vital part of your company, it needs to be the beginning of your daily meetings.

Influencer marketing is one of the main tools most companies use to grow their brand. Trust is very important here. Choose the right influencers and make sure you have a plan to educate them on your purpose and values. You do not want to have to learn about crisis marketing at any time. Make it very clear to influencers that you will hold them accountable as well. Put a feedback loop in place for any activity an influencer is doing on behalf of your company. You will be able to determine if they are keeping with the brand but also what their actual return on investment is for your company.

When making the transition to mainstream, here are some other ways in which to stay true to your brand:

  • Hold steady to the things you know to be true about you, your team, and why you initially started the business.
  • Trusting your own gut will help you maintain your brand values
    • If someone is pushing you too far out of your comfort zone without a full explanation that makes you feel comfortable, go with what you think is best for your company. You know the business better than anyone, regardless if you feel that “the suits” may know more than you.
    • It is OK to disagree with the suits and any employee and hold their decisions accountable.
  • Do not see legislation in your city, county and state as a process that is negative to your brand authenticity. For example, packaging rules do not dilute your brand authenticity but will rather ensure that you stay in business.
    • TIP ++  Packaging is a cost you cannot run from; so reach out to packaging professionals for help. It is also important to make inquiries about the ability of the packaging company to efficiently package your product. If they cannot, you will have to rethink the cost of entire process of packaging as you will now have time and labor costs to add to your budget. These costs can come as a surprise to some businesses when it is too late. ++
  • When trials arise in your business, and they will, your ability to stay true to your brand will be tested and you cannot afford to choose short term financial gains over your brand. Consistency is the key and a firm gripped by panic has a high chance of making you lose sight of your brand rapidly. Keep revisiting your mission statement.
  • Read about how other brands have been able to do maintain their uniqueness – Ben and Jerry and Van’s Shoes are some great examples to check out.

Rocky Bowles is the founder of Raquel Bowles. She helps companies write their concept statement and other sales and marketing assistance. She can be contacted through

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