Meet Laura Wilkinson Sinton, Cannabis Dispensary Exert, and Consultant for legal dispensary applicants. Founder of Caligrown.
First, a little background about Laura Wilkinson Sinton:
I live in San Diego with 4 kids and 5 grandkids. My husband is a cancer survivor that honed my cannabis chops, and I am a master composter and sea swimmer.
When did you first start working in cannabis?
2015. I got involved in several dispensaries’ marketing operations, as my brother and I owned an alternative rock radio station in Bend, Oregon. Apparently, no one would sell radio advertising to cannabis businesses, and we thought hey, it’s a state-legal business, of course, we can (and we were right). So, that’s how I got started, learning their business model and helping them grow the customer base and promote 4/20 events.
Do you sit on any industry boards or associations that you’d like to mention?
Yes. I am active in the NCIA and serve on the MAC (Marketing and Advertising Committee) and on the NCIA Sustainability Committee. Both are really great groups of professionals, and serving the nascent industry in this capacity has been really rewarding and great networking.
I am also active in the ArcView Women’s Inclusion Network, which has incredible benefits (access to lawyers and accountants and really smart people with experience and business intelligence). The ArcView group is geared towards helping you become successful, which is why the WIN is such a great group full of women with generous spirits. Several small cannabis organizations have cropped up locally, but it’s pretty fragmented and their missions may differ from each other. I am a board member of the local South County Economic Development Council. They promote economic development, and cannabis businesses present that very economic opportunity. It has been very influential in informing elected officials in adopting and allowing commercial cannabis. In California, it’s the individual cities that determine whether or not to allow them. And that last mile” has been really hard to push through in California, as we know.
What lesson did you learn BEFORE cannabis that’s been most valuable in cannabis?
In radio, in information security, and in other start-ups I have done, it’s to roll with the punches, plan for the long game, and bring your best self every day. And there are a lot of punches. Anybody who thinks cannabis is a “get rich quick” scheme is [off] the mark.
Is there a particular cannabis project you’d like to highlight?
Yes, a pending application for a micro-business in National City, CA (San Diego). Our location is actually ON a transit stop, 3 stops from the San Diego Convention Center (think Comic-Con!), has 65 parking spaces, and is actually on the Interstate 5 exit (with on AND off-ramps). San Diego area dispensaries have been relegated to industrial areas, car-dependent and tough parking because of overly restrictive land-use policy. You can’t suspend the rules of retail just for cannabis. It has to be accessible, and San Diego county is way behind the rest of California in permitting. There’s a dearth of dispensaries (50, where the economy can support over 570). So cross your fingers for us. We’ll be the first qualified social equity candidates 100% woman-owned entity (majority women of color) in San Diego.
What’s the biggest misconception cannabis companies have about cannabis marketing?
That big social media will come around (Facebook, Instagram, Google). Go elsewhere and stop spinning your wheels and raging against the machine. Not gonna happen.
What were you doing prior to cannabis?
I’ve been an entrepreneur in many places – information security start-ups, precious metals recycling, owning and operating radio stations and media of several types. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and my husband is a cancer survivor; my mom died from Multiple Sclerosis. Cannabis has been a part of medicine in my family for a while.
In your view, what is the biggest digital marketing challenge facing cannabis companies today?
Misinformation, illicit marketers, breaking out.
What will get easier in cannabis marketing? What will get harder?
Easier? Public awareness of consumption methods. Harder? Nothing. It’s not an easy business now. Too many over-promised and disappointing results. It was oversold by public Canadian companies and private investors. Big plans, delayed delivery. Cannabis was to be legal nationwide by now in every prospectus I reviewed. Like a vacation- bring twice the money and half the clothes.
What can companies do to ease their marketing challenges?
Be patient. Results take time in marketing. Use a mix of media – digital alone will never get it done.
In your view, what is the most under-rated tool in the digital marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?
Creative. It matters more than anything to breakthrough. What do you have today that applies to your audience? Not relevant to YOU – relevant to your customer.
In your view, what is the most over-rated marketing toolbox for cannabis companies?
Digital reliance. It’s really fragmented at this point. And your share of voice matters.
What’s the BEST piece of advice you give everyone you work with?
Meditate daily and enjoy the impermanence in this life. Enjoy every day.
What’s your advice for people who want to get into cannabis marketing?
Be flexible. Leave toxic bosses quickly. Embrace the women in this industry, and lift them up.
How can someone contact you, Laura?
Thanks for sharing your digital marketing insights with us today, Laura.