Many people ask me what the cheapest and easiest way for them to get into the cannabis industry would be. Unfortunately, the cheap and easy ways all disappeared five years ago when the legal market was established, and even those were only cheap or easy for a lucky few. The reality is that this game is tough, with shrinking margins and evermore savvy and cutthroat operators.
Long-term, there’s hope that as the market matures, operators will consolidate and proverbial hangers-on will drop off and create more opportunity. However, I’ve always been supportive of people looking into ancillary businesses as a way to build a cannabis-based brand and raise a profile. An ancillary business, in terms of cannabis, provides products or services for the industry, like packaging or marketing, but doesn’t deal with the plant itself and doesn’t require a license from the state Cannabis Regulatory Agency.
Ever since people started smoking dope, they’ve been smoking it together. Any cannabis user who’s been around for a while knows that it enhances most activities. As professional cannabis events have grown in popularity, consumers have started to demand more to do than just stand there and maybe eat some food and listen to music.
Enter ZAprès Events, a new cannabis event company that will hold its inaugural skiing and snowboarding outings Feb. 5 at the Highlands at Harbor Springs and Feb. 8 at Mount Bohemia Ski Resort in the Upper Peninsula. The outings are followed by networking events where members of the cannabis community can consume together and hear from some of Michigan’s premier cannabis brands.
This setup is unique compared to the standard cannabis consumption events that are common in Michigan. Most are either centered around music or just consist of a bunch of people gathered in a building that you’re allowed to smoke dope in, with reps from cannabis companies giving away swag and fighting for attention from purchasers, store owners and customers alike.
One way ZAprès is different is that it’s run by a pioneer in the cannabis event and networking space. Jamie Cooper has been trudging away in the Michigan cannabis scene for almost a decade. She formed her own independent statewide network of business-to-business and consumer-facing networking events before joining national publisher Sensi Media Group in both statewide and national leadership roles. She has a great deal of marketing experience and has held positions in legal cannabis as well. In addition, she has been a prolific activist in opening up her hometown of Grand Haven for adult-use cannabis.
Outdoor activities and cannabis are natural bedfellows, and Cooper is confident that ZAprès Events will offer people something to do other than stand around and smoke dope. She’s looking to create a strong presence by hosting events in both Michigan and her former home state of Colorado, which has a way more developed ski culture and a comparable cannabis culture.
A summer event in in the works as well. For many years, Cooper has organized a highly successful cannabis beach party, Canna Cantina, at a house on Lake Michigan near Grand Haven. The event has been a business-to-business networking opportunity in the past, but this year, under the ZAprès name, it will be consumer-facing.
The rise of social consumption lounges and legal events have made the cannabis event space pretty crowded. ZAprès and other recreational cannabis event organizers face competition not only from each other, but also from the plethora of gray-market and legacy events that flood the calendar in Michigan. These events draw from an established subculture within cannabis and should be very enticing to potential advertisers and partners. Retailers and producers are always interested in selling upscale products, but the utilitarian nature of our state’s cannabis industry can make finding consumers to purchase the products difficult. ZAprès and other lifestyle-based event companies help these advertisers connect with specific demographics and engage them in an authentic way.
ZAprès and the plethora of designated consumption lounges opening this year indicate a new and exciting time for cannabis consumers in Michigan. As operators settle into a more mature and developed market, we should see more unique events centered around consumption start to pop up.
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