Kary recently launched Hippo Premium Packaging. There, she collaborates with, what she describes as – a collective of talent including but not limited to, Strategic Planning, Marketing Strategy, Branding, Product Naming, Social Media, Graphic Design, Web Design – specifically geared to support the needs of the Cannabis Industry.
In 2017 CannaNews awarded her as “Cannabis industry woman of the year”, Along with Genifer Murray. With women dominating the cannabis industry, we caught up with Kary to discuss the story to her success.
You were recently named “Cannabis business woman of the year”. Must be a great welcome to the cannabis industry?
It was an amazing welcome to the industry! I was a co-recipient of the award with Genifer Murray, who has achieved fantastic success. I am grateful to receive such an honor and to be seen as someone who is helping the industry so early into my cannabis career.
Having moved from a fortune 500 company to start Hippo Premium Packaging, how did the cannabis community welcome your corporate presence?
I think most people welcomed my background from corporate America. We bring a level of professionalism that was sometimes lacking in this new and emerging industry. When I first entered the cannabis industry, it appeared as if every marijuana company had the same clip art logo, and branding was practically non-existent. Of course, pulling out a joint in a client meeting also helped my clients warm up to me in a hurry! Plus, I had just won a prestigious packaging award – like the Oscars of printing – and when I showed the sample, everyone loved it and wanted something similar for their company.
How did the cannabis industry first cross your path?
Two things happened at once: Within a one-month period, I saw five different people walk into the printing plant where I worked, looking for packaging for a vape cartridge. At the same time, one of our suppliers commented that they were seeing some opportunities in the cannabis industry. So, I got my medical card and went to a dispensary to see what was what.
You transferred your experience along with tried and tested methods across to the cannabis industry, did you encounter anything you wouldn’t have in previous ventures?
The lack of banking is problematic, for sure. But the greatest challenge I faced was trying to figure out how to ‘package’ the services I had been traditionally providing to Fortune 500 companies – to the cannabis community of small businesses. I used to work with people who were highly-trained in print/packaging production, and now I was working with individuals who didn’t really understand the process. Plus, their needs were varied and complicated. So, it became a bit of an educational process – for them and for me.
What was your marketing strategy?
As a boot-strapped start-up, we employed a real grass roots approach. I attended cannabis events and festivals, showing my award-winning packaging sample, and began meeting cannabis business owners. We also used traditional marketing methods including social media, email blasts and PR. We also began to look for educational speaking opportunities (High Times Business Summit, Bud Camp) as well as opportunities to write blogs and articles.
Having your team in place, did anyone bring any industry experience with them?
Some did. Our PR and marketing strategist is one of the best known in the cannabis industry. Our art director has done magnificent work for Fortune 500 clients, but hadn’t yet worked in cannabis. Our social media director has been in the industry for years. Some of our account executives are new to the cannabis industry, but have been producing packaging and printing for some of the biggest companies in the world. It’s a varied and immensely talented team.
Before your corporate days, how was your relationship with cannabis on a personal level?
I had been a daily user of cannabis in college. But, as I entered the corporate world and married a psychologist who wrote his thesis on addictions, I felt compelled to give up my cannabis use.
And how is it now?
Once I got my medical card, I started using cannabis again. I discovered how effective edibles can be for sleeping. But mostly, I like smoking flower.
As a successful business woman, you must have the biggest brands in mind for business. With “Chong’s Choice” added to your portfolio, is there a bigger cannabis brand to cast your eye on?
We’ve been blessed to work with great brands such as Utopia, Golden State Greens, Speakeasy, Chong’s Choice, Herbalizer and many more. We are in brand and custom packaging development for a slew of new and refreshed cannabis companies. Also, as the Hippo brand gains exposure, we are thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with some of the biggest cannabis brands in our space. We can’t wait to show the community our stuff in 2018!
Where do you see the industry within the next five years? And where do you see yourself and Hippo Premium Packaging?
I see the end of prohibition on the Federal level within five years, allowing the big conglomerates (Big-Pharma, Big-Tobacco, Big Alcohol) to enter the industry. They will gobble up the best cannabis brands and aim to force out the smaller competitors. Our community has only a few years to establish themselves and create strong brands and position themselves to compete with these conglomerates or to be acquired by them.
I’d like to think that Hippo will be seen as the dominant resource for cannabis brand development, marketing services and custom packaging. Hippo will continue to develop packaging solutions that drive down costs packaging and help small businesses succeed. As for myself, I hope to have time to take a real vacation, without my laptop!