The Edge is a special video series presented by The Bluntness, featuring thought-provoking conversations with leaders and innovators throughout the cannabis industry.
In this episode, we were joined by Julia Jacobson, co-founder and CEO of sustainable cannabis brand Aster Farms.
Based in Northern California, Aster Farms was born from three generations of cannabis knowledge and dedication to transparency, intentionality, and totally organic practices.
With a wealth of experience in tech, retail, and supply chain economics, Jacobson brings an unmatched expertise to the brand, guiding Aster Farms to national recognition and raising funds in a capital constrained industry.
We talked about generational living soil techniques founded in the legacy market, the latest marketing fads in cannabis, and bringing your unique skills to the industry.
Building a Dream Brand in Cannabis
Jacobson founded Aster Farms in 2018, alongside her then-boyfriend, now-husband Sam Campodonico-Ludwig.
Although Jacobson had experienced cannabis recreationally, she never realized the extent of the plant’s medicinal capacity until she began suffering from unbearable migraines.
Following the advice of her doctor, Jacobson ditched the prescription pills and turned to cannabis to soothe her pain. She was amazed by the difference it made in her quality of life, and quickly became passionate about spreading the word.
“[My husband and I] are both conscious consumers. We care about what we put in our body. We care about the companies we spend our money on, and we really wanted to see that translated into the cannabis industry,” Jacobson said.
As they explored the industry and took a look at other brands on the market, Jacobson and Campodonico-Ludwig realized the brand they wanted to spend their money with didn’t yet exist.
“When we were understanding how the legal cannabis market was developing and the types of brands that were emerging, we didn’t see that brand that appealed to us,” Jacobson said.
“The kind of brand you’d see at Whole Foods with very modern branding, but at the same time, very wholesome ingredients from generations of knowledge and proper agricultural practices. So, we wanted to put that out in the market.”
Although cannabis as medicine was a somewhat novel concept to Jacobson, Campodonico-Ludwig’s family has decades of roots in the plant. With over 50 years of experience growing cannabis via living soil, the family legacy is one of pure, organic, sustainably-grown flower, every time.
Embracing Values, Healthy Collaborations, and Smart Marketing
Campodonico-Ludwig’s journey to cannabis was an unorthodox one for his family. While the generations before him were proud growers, both he and Jacobson were the first to begin their careers outside of the plant.
Although they were a bit slow to the game, the husband-and-wife team had a generational foundation to learn from and to apply to Aster Farms every step of the way. They’ve been able to meld that legacy knowledge with what they know best: good, pure ingredients and practices for healthy, well-rounded cultivation.
“We choose other brands and operators who care about craft and artisanal ingredients – who care about the actual flower that’s going into their product,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson and team care about the process in place behind Aster Farms products, but her experience in retail and supply chain distribution informs how the brand should be marketed in the industry.
This step is vital for getting the word out about the TLC behind the flower itself, and to help a brand stand out among others in an oversaturated market.
For Jacobson, the most exciting new trend in cannabis marketing is the concept of a custom installation, a display or “shop in shop” that really allows a brand to shine through in a large retail setting.
“That’s now [starting] to really be a thing in the cannabis industry, and I think that’s where a lot of our marketing attention is going to be focused, because we’re very limited when it comes to our digital capacities,” Jacobson said.
The Key to Cannabis Industry Success: Don’t Reinvent Yourself
When asked for the best advice to give to a cannabis industry novice, Jacobson was quick to highlight how important it is to stay true to who you are as a consumer, advocate, brand, or employee.
“Don’t try to reinvent yourself. There are already unbelievable cultivators in this space,” Jacobson said.
“What the industry needs, for example, are marketing professionals. We need people in financial planning and accounting. We need people in areas where expertise already exists in traditional industries, and just needs to be applied to cannabis.”
Many people have this idea that in order to get started in the industry, they have to ditch their corporate suits to become a budtender. And while you’ll certainly gain a wealth of plant knowledge from taking on a position like that, it’s not universally necessary for every industry operator to experience.
“Taking the skills that you already have today and applying them rather than reinventing yourself, is the right way to enter this industry,” Jacobson said.
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