Anchored by the 10th Annual MJBiz Conference, and leading what has become unofficially recognized as “Weed Week,” the inaugural Lemonhaze Cannabis Industry Executive Golf Invitational ushered in a highly curated group of industry executives in Las Vegas, Nevada last month.
Hosted at award-winning Cascata golf course in Boulder City, 30-minutes outside of Las Vegas, against the backdrop River Mountain Range foothills, and coined “the most coveted invitation in the cannabis industry,” the Lemonhaze Las Vegas golf tournament lived up to its billing and served as an idyllic paradise shake a few hands, see a few friends, and meet, Brian Yauger, CEO of cannabis event company, Lemonhaze, whom I dubbed the “$2,700 man.”
Rumor had it, he’d changed career paths a few times, launched a start-up or two, and survived a brutal pandemic year, and with tenacity, a no-lose attitude, and a bit of luck, grew a $2,700 budget into a cannabis industry-recognized events and data company.
From Coach to Cannabis
Yauger wasn’t always in the marijuana business, coaching was his occupation. In fact, he wasn’t a even consumer of the plant at the time he got into the cannabis data game in 2014. He had been a journeyman college football coach for over 13 years before operating a construction company when a friend of his convinced him to help run a cannabis investment business in Seattle.
It was an auspicious fit. From scouting reports to studying play probability ratios and payer statistics, the prize commodity Yauger was surrounded by was actionable data, and at the time, the cannabis industry in Washington state had no available business analytics to better understand and predict buyer and seller behaviors.
In a 2018 Forbes article I wrote, I described the struggle cannabis marketers have in understanding consumer personas to better target their audiences. I argued the key with extrapolating meaningful business analytics from research on a small sample to a whole population, is in getting information directly from the finite samples that reflect the greater population.
In the case of cannabis consumer purchasing behavior and meaningful sales and marketing analytics, expected effects are often worked out from pilot studies between integral data points, in the case of Yauger’s first company, Washington state cannabis sales data.
Waterfalls in the Desert
On this particular mild, sunny, Nevada day, my quest to meet Yauger led me on a welcome journey.
I boarded the cart still warm from the founder of Select, Cameron Forni’s, tour of the lush, stream-guided grounds, drew a pre-roll from my Jesus Malverde silver cigarette case, struck fire with my Colibri lighter and ventured on an unguided excursion.
Riding through the thicket and brush, a desert squirrel, unphased by oncoming traffic or cannabis vapor, shuffled before me. It’s his domain, I reasoned, conceding his right of way.
I sputtered aimlessly down more narrow winding pathways. “This is one-way traffic,” a golfer from MJ Holdings yelled. “I’m getting another Red Bull,” I yelled back. The were free, after all.
A crimson red cactus blended in with the rust red mountain hues as I cut a sharp turn. “Have you seen Brian?,” I asked one event organizer. “He’s on hole 10,” she replied.
The course was a labyrinth, featuring sponsor booths with swag and snacks at each hole. By the time I’d made my way to hole 10, Brian was long gone, but a new set of golfers assembled at the tee.
For 80 of the industry’s top executives, along with 35 sponsor players, the day was a peaceful respite from the activity-packed week to come. Nature alone invites that calming effect, like-minded company does, as well.
On the horizon wildlife looked on. “Do you see the wild rams?,” I asked one exec. “They brought them in from L.A.,” he replied jokingly.
Largely known for hosting Lemonhaze Budtender Parties across the country, Lemonhaze carved a niche in the cannabis events industry producing private, credential-only parties bring together cannabis brands face-to-face with the most influential people in the consumer-facing retail space, the budtenders.
Limited marketing channels and tight advertising restrictions make in-person cannabis brand promotion a business necessity, and the economics of sponsoring a spot at one of these Lemonhaze Budtender Parties makes sense.
The company’s data concludes that the budtender influences an average of 900 transactions a week. If you’re a vendor paying a couple thousand dollars to have a booth where you can easily interact with over 100 budtenders within a few hours, you’re in a position to affect over 90,000 transactions weekly.
The key is having the carefully curated influencer in your audience, and that’s what Yauger has been able to do with Lemonhaze.
When the 2020 pandemic isolation decimated the events space, Lemonhaze was able to pivot with a new offering, virtual upfronts using Zoom to match buyers and sellers, vendors and budtenders, and like-minded executives.
Yauger likened it to speed dating and stressed how that adaptivity is what helped him keep operations afloat. "There's no better training to be in for business," he said. "You have to be able to adjust on the fly. Just like coaching football.”
Lemonhaze is focused on strategic expansion in 2022. “We are very excited to announce new Executive Golf Classic markets of Northern California, Colorado, Ohio, New Jersey, and Missouri.,” Yauger told me. Additionally, the company will be expanding its budtender events into Arizona, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Massachusetts while picking back up in Washington, Oregon, and California.
And it’s forever flagship, the Lemonhaze Cannabis Industry Executive Golf Invitational in Las Vegas is poised to become the most coveted invite leading into the world’s largest annual cannabis conference.
Photo credit: Andre Bourque
Andre F. Bourque is a cannabis industry connector, licensing consultant, brand strategy advisor, and occasional writer when he feels inspired. In addition to Benzinga, Andre’s articles have been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur.com, HuffPo, Yahoo Finance, Ebony Magazine, and Ebony.com.
© 2024 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.
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