MJ Unpacked Midwest: Day One Takeaways

On Wednesday, industry leaders convened online for the first day of MJ Unpacked Midwest, an event engineered to build relationships at an executive level. Attendees met in the virtual auditorium for a “Wake and Shake” hosted by George Jage, co-founder of the event series. In the words of Robert Warren of Royal Supply,

“A great conference is much more than a keynote or booth display; it’s the small conversations in the hallways, the line for coffee, or the dining hall. The morning Wake and Shake at MJ Unpacked was a wonderful way to put a face to an avatar and allow us to the know the industry on a personal level.”

This icebreaker was followed at 10:30 by a keynote address from Roy Bingham, co-founder of BDSA, title sponsor of MJ Unpacked and our data partner here at MJ Brand Insights. In “The Complex Intersection of Consumers and Cannabis: Using Insights to Optimize Product, Pricing and Assortment Decisions,” Roy laid forth fresh and original data on what’s driving Midwestern consumers to market.

Some additional highlights:

The panel discussion “Choose Wisely: How to Evaluate & Select New Products for your Dispensary,” was expertly moderated by Joe Hodas of Wana Brands. Panelists Jordan Smith (founder of Green Springs Oklahoma), Rebecca Gonzales (Mission Dispensaries), and Chris Young (formerly of Skymint, among others) weighed in on everything from slotting fees to stocking strategies. Their advice on how to get a brand on the shelves was specific and illuminating. Afterward, the panelists convened in the lounge for networking.

Sponsor Led Roundtables 1:30-3:00

While some attendees explored booths in the exhibit hall or chatted in the lounge, others headed to join Zoom-based discussions. Greentank gave words of wisdom on the importance of building strong relationships, as well as a lively introduction to “The Business of Vape.” Daniel Hwang of Cerak adeptly addressed the pertinent topic of vapor tech and safety, and GrowFlow delivered an enlightening breakdown of retail analytics, which outlined how to use sales data to maximize efficiency, and also delivered wise advice for new businesses seeking to “level up” and compete with established MSOs.

When asked for round table favorites, several attendees mentioned GreenBroz on “How Increasing Bag Appeal + Product Consistency = Customer Loyalty.” In the words of Wendy Campbell, “I LOVE THEM! Such a cool group of guys, and they are passionate, smart and well-spoken. My takeaway: ‘Growers approach the plant like an artisan–we build a product to support their art.’ Plus they have the coolest videos!”

All the round tables were built around actionable information. John Manlove, CEO and founder of Apex Trading, delivered a tight and well-considered presentation on “Wholesale Business Management for Emerging Markets.” With “How to Grow Your Cannabis Business with Outdoor Advertising” Kristy Schlepp, CEO of ODN, gave an overview of the latest in interactive billboard technology while dropping data gems ( for example, the percentage of advertising 43% of cannabis advertising is spent on OOH).

The round tables were followed by a panel discussion on “Promoting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry to Achieve Social Justice.” Moderated by Ricardo Baca of Grasslands, the panel featured industry luminaries Margeaux Brunner (Red, White, and Bloom), Kaliko Castille (Minority Cannabis Business Association), and Arcillia Miller (Oklahoma Women’s Cannabis Association) talking about profitability in diversity and inclusion, as well as many other essential points that deserve more than a brief summary. Stay tuned for a full-length article to bring these perspectives to a larger audience.

This regional event series by MJ Unpacked is engineered to create bridges between state and multi-state players while simultaneously providing tools and networking space specific to regional markets. So it’s fitting that the day concluded (at 4:20, of course) with “State-Focused Round Table Discussions & Mixers,” which featured separate breakdowns for Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

The sessions started with a poll on the most pertinent topic of discussion. Michigan respondents brainstormed solutions to the difficulty of finding reputable sources of flower. While in the Missouri group, Jack Cardetti of MoCann Trade addressed many of the growing pains the state’s developing medical market is experiencing in the face of unclear state regulations, lengthy verification processes, and COVID-19. The takeaway? As cultivators work to catch up with patient demand, budtenders and care providers will need to work together to meet the needs of Missouri’s 65,000 medical card holders.

Overall, the first day was fun yet built on refreshingly specific and concrete takeaways. We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s action. If you missed today, register!

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