What is Interchange?
Maybe it’s better to start by saying what Interchange isn’t.
It’s not a traditional trade show. It’s not a giant giveaway event for brands to hand out promotional items. It’s not a budtender party or a dab carnival or a music and comedy festival.
Interchange is simply the most efficient, productive business event for Washington’s state-licensed cannabis producers, processors and retailers.
Other companies have tried to copy the format, but Interchange is unlike any other trade event in cannabis.
The best analogy I’ve seen is speed dating for the cannabis industry — without the cheesy pickup lines and pall of desperation.
Marijuana Venture has now hosted six Interchange events, each featuring about a hundred different cannabis companies and ancillary businesses. The vast majority of participants tell us it’s extremely beneficial for them, and each time we’ve done it, we’ve been able to refine the format to keep it unique and valuable.
I’ve honestly been blown away by some of the responses we’ve gotten from both producers and retailers.
Steve Lee, co-owner of Green2Go, had this to say: “Interchange is the only event we come to for taking on new accounts. It is the most efficient and effective use of our time. We’ve got more new products and new farms out of this than we do with any other activity. We have pretty much stopped engaging outside of this and with walk-ins to our store.”
And if you’re not familiar with Green2Go, it’s one of the top-selling retail stores in all of Washington.
Steve’s comments have been echoed by many of the state’s producer/processors who, because of the overabundance of growers, often have a hard time getting meetings with retail buyers. In most cases, dropping off unsolicited product samples is useless — there are hundreds of other growers doing the exact same thing.
“The Marijuana Venture Interchange is the single most important sales event for Boggy Boon. We generated more new account sales from this two-day event than we did via sample drop-offs the entire month prior,” Boggy Boon owner Roy Arms said after one of our previous shows. “This is the most successful event for generating new sales. For buyers, I feel that sample drop-offs are an unscheduled interruption to their work day, whereas at this event, they are there with a single purpose: to check out and learn about new brands, new products or new value enhancements to existing products.”
Roy wrote a Living the Dream column in our February 2018 issue outlining the challenges growers face. In an 18-month stretch, he drove 70,000 miles making deliveries, meeting with buyers and dropping off samples. If he were able to average 60 mph (fat chance with Washington traffic), that’s roughly 50 days spent doing nothing but driving.
One week in particular, he mapped out visits to 17 stores, not all of which were scheduled in advance. He said it was effective, but inefficient. Meeting with actual decision-makers was hit and miss. By comparison, at Interchange he met with 24 retail owners and buyers — all decision-makers — face-to-face in scheduled pitch sessions. It’s far more effective than placing ads in stoner magazines, setting up a booth at a traditional trade show and waiting for customers to walk by, or hoping that a free T-shirt will entice budtenders to push your product at retail.
“When my company, Wildflower, first attend the Renton Interchange trade show last June, we doubled our existing business within 30 days,” Wildflower sales director Ken Oakes said.
In cannabis, it can be tough to get industry professionals to steer away from the beaten path. A lot of first-time Interchange participants don’t realize how the event works until they’ve done it, because they’re more familiar with conventional trade shows. At Interchange, the emphasis is on face-to-face meetings that are scheduled in advance, with product vendors being able to identify the retailers they most want to meet.
At our December event, we had 42 vendors and 40 retailers, as well as a select handful of ancillary companies with conventional display booths. Most vendors are state-licensed producer/processors. Ancillary companies included Ario Vape, Cova, Dauntless, Futurola, iHeartJane, Mainstem, Mosaic Insurance, Pax, POSaBit and SpringBig. Even more mainstream companies like event sponsor Obee Credit Union and Bic participated in the show.
We guarantee each vendor will get at least 20 meetings over the course of two days, and most producer/processors meet with additional buyers during breaks, lunch and the after-hours cocktail reception. By design, it’s not a big event. We’ll never have thousands of attendees. With only about 230 industry professionals at our Winter event, Interchange is structured to be intimate and efficient.
Interchange works well because it was based off a similar event from the software industry, in which major retailers like Costco, Target and Best Buy had face-to-face meetings with vendors, like Marijuana Venture publisher Greg James’ former company, a multimillion-dollar software publisher. For many vendors, it was their best opportunity to meet with some of the most important software buyers in the world — all in one place — as opposed to having a meeting in Washington with Costco, a meeting in Minnesota with Target and a meeting in Arkansas with Walmart, and so on.
Obviously, those events were on a national scale, but the same concept applies within Washington’s cannabis industry.
We’ll be putting on our seventh Interchange on May 15-16 at the Renton Pavilion in Renton, Washington, and we’re in the process of bringing Interchange to Oregon. If you want to participate, give us a call at 425-656-3621 or email Ryan Stewart at Ryan@MarijuanaVenture.com.
I’ll close with one final quote from Steve Lee: “If any farms or processors doubt spending the money to come to this event, you’re silly. This is a wonderful use of your time. It’s super-efficient, it really is about the business. It’s not a giant party. This is where serious farms and processors come to sell to serious stores. I really hope that everyone keeps coming and makes this event way bigger in the future.”
Serious farms and processors. Serious stores. Serious business.
Don’t be silly.