Living the Dream: Helen Cho

Helen Cho

Director of Strategy

Aloha Green Apothecary

Honolulu, HI

Aloha, fellow cannabis dreamers! It was a very busy month — we almost didn’t make the deadline for the column. The Hawaii Cannabis Expo happens every February, and it’s a priority project for my team. This expo is one the few ways Aloha Green Apothecary can reach potential patients directly, as Hawaii licensees are prohibited from advertising on any platform, meaning there are limited opportunities to connect with the public on our own terms.

While the local cannabis expo grows in importance to our company, other seemingly similar industry events are passed over. Unless we are speaking or employees request to attend specific seminars, we do not send people to cannabis conferences, even to our industry’s largest gatherings that “everyone” goes to. Though counterintuitive, it’s an easy decision for the team — these events simply aren’t an effective tool for what we want to accomplish.

Depending on your company’s goals, industry events can be a huge asset or a costly distraction. The value of large conferences is especially difficult to measure when they feel so important; why else would “everyone” be at them? The bigger the event, the bigger the fear of missing out on something that possibly “everyone” else may experience. For us, those are not good enough reasons to attend. Instead, we focus our attention on a relatively small and local expo that probably none of you have ever attended or ever will. Why? Because the goal is to enlarge our market. Showing up, educating the public and establishing ourselves as the leader in Hawaii’s cannabis industry is considerably more effective than attending any event outside of the state. So we stay home, but we go hard.

How can you work smarter instead of harder? Define your objectives and make a plan to create measurable results. Looking for partners or investors? It may be more effective to book a suite at/near the expo venue for private meetings with VIP leads (which makes you look professional while making them your captive audience) than to pay for a booth where you must stay, hoping they will come to you. Or do you need exposure? Are you sure your target market is at this event and that this is the best place to fight for their attention? Or are you looking for ways to be different from your competitors? Joining the seminar that hundreds of others are also attending probably won’t give you that edge, but identifying unique partnerships and using the event to connect to the correct people might (assuming they are even at the event; if they’re not, is this where you should look for them?).

The reality for us, and I’d imagine it’s the same for many of you fellow entrepreneurs in this young and evolving industry, is that we cannot afford to waste any resources. We have to be clear on our objectives and work based on our needs, not what everyone else is doing. If not, you’ll just disappear into the crowd you are following. Know what you want and where you are going.

Sometimes being part of the crowd is a necessary part of that journey, but more often than not, you have to carve out your own path.


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