Michael Gutierrez-Nery originally went to college to study neuroscience with the intent of eventually going to medical school. But by the time he graduated, he realized his passion was geared more toward a creative field.
He followed his gut, skipping the medical field for a career in cannabis — “leaving a trail of disapproval from my mom,” he says — and found his love for retail and design while working on marketing and displays at The Source+ in Nevada.
In early 2022, he took another leap of faith, co-founding Better Brand Collective with industry veteran Matthew Janz, and taking on the role of creative director of the startup marketing and branding agency.
He says Better Brand is an extension of his creative philosophy that everyone deserves good design. He uses the analogy of a chair from a big box store compared to a chair at a boutique furniture retailer: They both use the same amount of wood, but the chair found at the specialty shop is clearly a better design.
“It’s not how much wood you start off with, it’s what you choose to build with it,” he says.
Working in the creative spaces of the burgeoning cannabis industry has given him the freedom to build whatever types of chairs he wants — or, in his case, cannabis brands that are untethered by the rules of other industries.
“There wasn’t an industry handguide or a book that every executive was forced to read. We were writing it ourselves,” he says. “It’s this sense of openness to trailblaze the unknown that has kept me in the cannabis space. It’s given me an open playground and continuously sparks my passion to creatively solve industry-specific challenges.”