I started out with a few partners but soon realized that the three of us each had different work ethics and styles. That did not align. I took action to dissolve those partnerships and I now run my business myself. One piece of advice I would give anyone starting a business as a multi-member LLC is to understand each partner’s value. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly stated in the company’s operating agreement and all members need to be held accountable.
As a part of our series on “5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Run a Successful Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Batkiewicz. Julie is the founder of Onward Content, an educational video production company that serves the cannabis industry. As the executive producer, she writes, produces and edits the content and curates all educational materials. Her experience in video production combined with sales and marketing has helped clients big and small create compelling content. As the membership director, She helped launched Women Grow and saw the company grow from 1 to 40 chapters in 2015. She’s also the mother of a toddler who keeps her on her toes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you were introduced to or got interested in this business?
Before entering the cannabis industry, I had a career in video production and advertising. When I moved to Colorado in 2014 with my husband, I wanted to continue producing videos but not in the industry I had been working in. I remember walking into a dispensary and talking to a budtender who did not have much product knowledge, which I found both surprising and disconcerting. I mentioned this experience to a friend of mine and we starting discussing how dispensary waiting room time could be used to educate customers on cannabis. That’s how it all started.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I think the most interesting aspect of my journey thus far are the boosts in self-confidence and self-reliance that I’ve experienced. I’ve started a new business in a new industry, which has required me to learn on the fly and gain new skills along the way. If I didn’t know something, I found someone who did or figured it out myself. When I made a wrong decision, I had to correct it quickly and move on to the next challenge. This has been a time of tremendous personal and career growth for me and I’ve become a stronger, more confident business person because of it.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I don’t really have a funny story with regard to a mistake I’ve made, but I did learn a very valuable lesson early on about the kind of business I wanted to operate. I started out with a few partners but soon realized that the three of us each had different work ethics and styles. That did not align. I took action to dissolve those partnerships and I now run my business myself. One piece of advice I would give anyone starting a business as a multi-member LLC is to understand each partner’s value. Roles and responsibilities need to be clearly stated in the company’s operating agreement and all members need to be held accountable.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
I’ve expanded the business to serve more cannabis brands and I’m excited to start offering more strategic content marketing services. Cannabis brands are very restricted in how they communicate with their patrons and many traditional advertising and marketing tactics aren’t viable. This is where educational content can be very useful and effective.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My husband has been incredibly supportive and understanding while I’ve been running this business. I started when I was pregnant and closed my first big deal when my son was just six weeks old, so I had to hit the ground running. My mother-in-law, who cares for my son, has also been an enormous help. Without her, I don’t think I could have been in the right frame of mind to launch the company.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
I see a real opportunity to use more strategic content marketing like branded and sponsored content to reach more consumers outside of the cannabis bubble. Traditional advertising isn’t an option for cannabis brands and most industry-specific publications are preaching to the choir. I’m working with brands to curate video stories about cannabis that can appeal to broader audience.
Corporate social responsibility programs are also becoming an avenue for cannabis brands to collaborate with their community. Kind Colorado recently launched the Cannabis Doing Good Campaign — a user-generated video campaign designed to highlight all the ways the cannabis sector is driving positive political, social and economic impact.
Can you share your top “5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Run a Successful Company”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Know the plant: People in this industry have sensitive bullshit detectors. Educate yourself on the products, history and especially the culture of cannabis before walking into a business meeting. Snake oil salesmen are a dime a dozen these days and everyone is on high alert.
- Be diligent, yet targeted with your sales. The sales cycle is long and it can take months to close a deal. “Drinking from a firehose” is an understatement in this industry. People are wearing multiple hats and there’s high turnover, which makes the sales process difficult. Research your prospective clients, so you don’t waste your time selling to businesses that don’t value your product.
- Be nimble and listen to the market. This industry moves at a fast pace and you have to recognize opportunities quickly. I’ve adjusted my value proposition multiple times because I’ve made an effort to regularly conduct market research and listen to how I’m serving my clients. Those conversations have led to new services and revenue streams for my business. What you think the industry needs and what it’s actually looking for could be something very different.
- Know the regulations. Recently I had to update my entire library for a market where they passed new restrictive regulations on advertising. If I hadn’t done that, I could have put my clients at risk for a violation.
- Don’t expect to succeed overnight. There’s a misconception that cannabis businesses have big budgets. Due to 280E, most ancillary services are not tax-deductible, so they actually pay a premium for your service. Be prepared to have that conversation.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
While I don’t have employees, I work with a lot of businesses with a large staff. The companies that have the lowest turn-over all have the same things in common: regular training and education, corporate social responsibility programs and opportunity for growth in the company.
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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to be part of more restorative justice initiatives. As states legalize, it only makes sense to expunge those who were imprisoned for the same plant that is now regulated and taxed. I think the cannabis industry could have the opportunity to also build back up those communities most negatively affected by the war on drugs.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Instagram.com/onwardcontent — as long as I’m not getting shut down 🙂
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Roger Ralston is the CEO of DirectView Holdings (DIRV), a publicly traded company that specializes in providing security surveillance equipment to law enforcement, public facilities, schools, and cannabis dispensaries.