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Lisa Weser of Trailblaze: “Focus on the results and the rest will follow”

Focus on the results and the rest will follow. The journey has had its highs and lows, but every day I focus on doing what I do best — delivering kickass results for my clients. Get that right, and money, accolades and opportunities will follow. Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff […]

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Focus on the results and the rest will follow. The journey has had its highs and lows, but every day I focus on doing what I do best — delivering kickass results for my clients. Get that right, and money, accolades and opportunities will follow.


Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Weser.

Lisa is an award-winning PR and marketing pro with more than twenty years of experience creating campaigns for some of the world’s most admired consumer brands. From launching the world’s first smartphone to sending beer to space, Lisa has earned a reputation as an innovator, risk taker and trendsetter on the leading edge of her industry. In 2017, she made her most daring move yet, walking away from a high profile, jet-setting job as the head of U.S. marketing communications at AB InBev, the global brewer behind Budweiser, to make a big bet on the then still-emerging cannabis industry. Lisa founded Trailblaze, a highly specialized and elite communications agency focused on putting a new generation of cannabis and wellness brands on the map. Under her leadership, Trailblaze has become a sought-after marketing communications partner for next generation cannabis and wellness companies seeking connection with mainstream media and consumers, with a client list ranging from psychedelic therapy startup Mindbloom to Martha Stewart CBD.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My thirst for midlife reinvention is very rooted in my childhood. From the time I was born until I hit middle school my family moved every year, taking me to 13 different homes around the country in as many years. Once I left my Midwestern home for college, I was eager to get out and experience the world, which led me to study abroad in London, backpack around Europe and then spend another semester studying and traveling across Italy. Those experiences were very formative, teaching me to appreciate different cultures and ideologies…and sparking a thirst for adventure that’s never been sated.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my all-time favorite movies is Point of No Return, an early 90’s remake of La Femme Nikita. There’s a scene where Bridget Fonda is sent to finishing school to be transformed from a gritty ex-con into a refined and well-heeled government assassin. She’s taught a simple phrase to repeat whenever she needs to keep her cool in the face of chaos: “I never did mind about the little things.” I love that, and it’s become a kind of personal mantra ever since. To me, it’s a way of bringing my priorities into focus and brushing off the distractions, disappointments and drama that can derail productivity and momentum.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

First and most importantly, optimism. The biggest achievements in my career have been born from an intrinsic belief that if I leap a net will appear — and it always has.

Next, I’d say I possess a sense of adventure. From an early age, I’ve always been comfortable putting myself in uncomfortable situations because I value experiences above titles, compensation, or the approval of other people. That natural curiosity has led me to make bold moves like taking jobs I wasn’t sure I knew how to do, accept a relocation to New York City at the age of 40 with three kids in tow, and ultimately leave a high-paying dream jobs to start my own venture in a nascent industry and starting at the bottom again.

Finally, I’m very strategic. I love to take risks, but they are always calculated and considered. In my line of work, you develop a bit of a sixth sense, learning to see around corners to assess how different scenarios might play out. Like a chess match, I tend to think several steps ahead before making a move.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

After earning my Master’s degree in communications, I began my career as an organizational communications consultant at Accenture, starting out in Chicago and relocating to Denver to work at a client site. I transitioned to an in-house agency role in 2006, relocating to St. Louis to join global communications firm FleishmanHillard as an account supervisor for their largest client, AT&T. Over the next six years I worked my way up to the role of Senior Vice President at a time when digital media was beginning to take off, presenting the opportunity to run some of the first corporate social media accounts on Twitter and Pinterest, and even launching the first-generation iPhone. In 2012 I was recruited to join the world’s largest global brewer, Anheuser-Busch, as U.S. marketing communications director for the company’s portfolio of beer brands such as Budweiser and Bud Light. That role took me to five Super Bowls and events ranging from the Grammys to the Sundance Film Festival to the Made in America concert series. It also relocated me to New York City and gave me the opportunity to work with talents like Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and Justin Timberlake and even script and produce a TV Show.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

In 2017, I left a dream job in NYC as the head of marketing communications at AB InBev (Budweiser) to make a big bet on the emerging cannabis and CBD industry. As young companies and brands hit the market, I noticed big agencies weren’t willing to take them on due to regulatory complexities and saw a white space just waiting to be claimed.

I founded Trailblaze, a highly specialized communications agency focused on putting a new generation of cannabis, CBD, and psychedelic wellness companies on the map with a more sophisticated “Big CPG” approach to brand-building. I trademarked “The Cannabis Publicist” and left NYC (with a husband and 3 kids in tow) for a small town to help finance my career pivot.

The only problem? I had no clients. I didn’t know much a lot about cannabis yet but I DID know about beverages, so I started contacting CBD beverage founders and landed my first client. I promoted everything I was doing on social media and immediately began receiving referrals from my network. Over time I built up the experience, results and client list results necessary to take Trailblaze to the next level.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

Frankly, I was exhausted. I was living in New York City, commuting almost two hours a day between Chelsea and Brooklyn, working ten or more hours a day and traveling to events almost every weekend. I had what many people would consider a dream job, hosting press at Super Bowls, concerts, and award shows, but I had ceased to enjoy it. I suppose I was just tired of working myself to the bone for other people, and wanted to spend the second half of my career building something for myself. Once I decided definitively that I needed to quit my job and do something new, I felt an incredible sense of relief and calm. I spent the next six months planning, saving and preparing to make my move — even buying a house in a different state, sight unseen — until I was ready to take the plunge in late 2017.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skill set inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

I’ve spent the past decade in leadership roles overseeing large teams and multi-million dollar budgets, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see “startup founder” on my resume. From day one, I’ve had a vision for what I wanted Trailblaze to become, but I didn’t know how I’d get there. Ultimately, I’ve just had to take it one step at a time, do the hard things that need doing, recalibrate after setbacks, and seek out help when something’s beyond my abilities.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

Almost four years in, I’m so glad I took the leap to start my own cannabis communications practice. My business has grown at a pace well beyond my expectations, which goes to show the untapped potential of a category still in its infancy. Over the past two years alone, our revenue has grown over 1600% and we now represent some of the world’s leading cannabis, CBD and psychedelic companies. From Martha Stewart’s buzzworthy CBD line to the nation’s hottest ketamine clinic to the Home Depot of Weed, we’re putting brands on the map with high profile headlines, compelling campaigns and unprecedented partnerships. As our country moves towards the end of cannabis prohibition, I’m proud of the work we do to help educate, dispel myths and support mainstream acceptance of cannabis and alternative wellness.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I feel lucky to have the most supportive parents on the planet. They both grew up in a certain amount of financial insecurity and encouraged my brother and me to pursue higher degrees and find stable corporate jobs with stock options and great benefits. Needless to say, I was concerned about their reaction when I decided to quit my job at a top CPG and start from scratch working in cannabis.

I’m still surprised by how enthusiastically they supported my decision — even offering seed money to help fund my first hires. Now they text me cannabis articles and call me whenever they see Martha Stewart on the news. I only hope I can be that kind of parent to my own three children.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

It’s funny, because the real trigger that got me thinking about leaving my job to start a cannabis practice was Constellation Brands’ initial 10% investment in Canopy Growth back in 2017. It was a first for a major global alcohol CPG to invest in a cannabis company, and I saw it for what it was — a bellwether for the “CPGization” and mainstream embrace of cannabis and CBD. Then, in 2019 I saw a headline saying Martha Stewart had inked a partnership with Canopy Growth to create a CBD line, and thought to myself, “I want to work on that.” Fast forward a year, and I found myself doing just that, spearheading the PR efforts to launch Martha Stewart CBD into the world with a cover story in the New York Times style section. I’m still pinching myself.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

Throughout my career I’ve thrived in leadership roles, but in my wildest dreams I never imagined founding a company or being a CEO. The hardest part of my journey has been embracing the business of my business, so to speak — making decisions about organizational structure, hiring CPAs and attorneys, negotiating contracts and term sheets, and managing payroll, P&L and taxes. It’s a lot of work, it isn’t always fun, and it pushes me way out of my comfort zone.

As an entrepreneur, it’s important to believe in yourself, but perhaps even more important to have a collective of supporters who believe in you. I’m fortunate to have so many people in my life like that. If I’m feeling overwhelmed and say, “I don’t think I can do it,” they’re there to say “Yes you can. You’re already doing it.”

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

The biggest and best surprise of my mid-life career pivot has been witnessing the personal and professional network I’ve built over the past twenty years go to work for me. As it turns out, almost everyone I know knows someone in the cannabis industry, and they’ve enthusiastically sent them my way. I’m proud of the fact that Trailblaze has been built solely by word of mouth — referrals from my network and recommendations from existing clients.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

The day I updated my social profiles to declare my new career in cannabis was an uncomfortable one. At that point there was still a fair amount of stigma surrounding cannabis, and I was concerned that doing so could seriously limit my future opportunities or even destroy my professional brand. Instead, it was quite the opposite. Outing myself as “The Cannabis Publicist” turned out to be a savvy marketing move, cementing my reputation as an early adopter of a hot new category and allowing me to carve out and own a niche.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Get professional help before you need it. My business grew faster than I expected, and I waited longer than I should have to bring on the CPA, bookkeeper, attorneys and other advisors I needed. This is not the area to DIY or skimp on fees. Hiring those things out to reputable specialists allows you to focus on mentoring your team, serving your clients and growing your topline.

Lean into what differentiates you from the competition. I realized early on that Trailblaze could offer clients something unique and valuable that other communications agencies could not replicate: Deep experience navigating regulated industries, an elite, highly credentialed team, and more sophisticated “big CPG” approach to cannabis communications capable of taking them from the High Times to The New York Times.

Stay nimble. Just as Trailblaze was really taking off, COVID-19 hit. I’d been in talks to take on an investor and open a new office location, but instead I pivoted to building a virtual team in key markets across three time zones. This strategy allowed us to grow our client roster faster, halve our operating costs and double our revenue, and do some of our best client work in the midst of a pandemic.

You’re never too old to blaze a new trail. Don’t be afraid to change directions mid-way through your career. Starting a new business in a completely new category I knew little about has been incredibly invigorating and rewarding, forcing me to exercise my brain in new ways every day, experience new people, places and products, ask questions and follow my instincts when a roadmap wasn’t available.

Focus on the results and the rest will follow. The journey has had its highs and lows, but every day I focus on doing what I do best — delivering kickass results for my clients. Get that right, and money, accolades and opportunities will follow.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Humanity would be so much better off if we could replace synthetic medications, from opioids to ibuprofen, with nature, plant-based alternatives. I’m encouraged by the clinical research underway to determine how cannabinoids like THC and CBD and even psychedelics like psilocybin might be used to treat a wide variety of mental and physical illnesses. My team is proud to do our part in destigmatizing these approaches and educating people about the many wellness benefits of plant-based medicine.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Since taking on my first psychedelic wellness client, I’ve become personally invested in supporting what I believe will be a new and transformative frontier for pharmaceuticals, holistic medicine and mental health. I’ve been closely following the work of MindMed, a company I believe could be the first to develop an FDA-approved psychedelic drug, and I’d love to meet and work with their visionary CEO JR Rahn.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My company website is Trailblaze.co, and I post regularly about cannabis, client work and marketing tips on LinkedIn and via my @cannabispublicist Instagram handle. I also write about the intersection of cannabis, consumers goods, and culture for RollingStone.com.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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