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Fireside chat with Justin Johnson, Founder&CEO of BudsFeed

Who is Justin Johnson?

Justin Johnson is a kid from Washington state who dreamt of being in advertising since the age of five, ended up working at the highest levels of the New York agency scene for some of the biggest brands in the world by his mid-30’s, and decided to take a detour into something else he was passionate about: cannabis.

What’s the story behind BudsFeed?

Cannabis is already one of the fastest growing industries in the world, employing over 321,000 people in the United States alone, and has the power to revolutionize everything from wellness, to manufacturing, to criminal justice. Thousands of ancillary businesses and cannabis companies are creating great products every day, and I wanted to build a platform that showcased that innovation and celebrated the makers.

After spending more than a decade leveraging the power of social media for brands and spending a handful of years in consumer technology, I noticed a strong camaraderie amongst makers in the tech space and a desire to help each other succeed. Inspired by communities like Product Hunt, with its ability to surface the next big thing, I created a community-powered platform that helps everyone discover the coolest new cannabis related products, services, and original content.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings?

Monetizing what is perceived to be a publisher (a website with users and traffic) came with a lot of opportunities that generated very little return. Advertising alone can’t generate enough revenue to make it worth the effort and ran the risk of ruining the organic experience. Branded content has the potential to be a little more lucrative, but is very laborious and comes with a lot of expectations. Eventually, I realized the best route to revenue was really helping brands that I find particularly special, leveraging my marketing expertise, personal network, and access to cannabis-friendly investors.

What are you most proud of regarding your business?

Honestly, we’ve been able to help a lot of brands get early visibility and they never forget it. Often it’s what gives them the confidence to really pursue their dreams. The best example of that is Chill Steel Pipes, the world’s first stainless steel, vacuum insulated smoking apparatus. Through the lens of BudsFeed I was able to identify it as a completely original idea and over the period of a year, founder Rich Gonzalez and I were able to take Chill Steel Pipes from concept to a thriving business that just launched in April of 2021. We are stakeholders in Chill Steel Pipes and continue to invest in its success every day.

What is your vision for the future of BudsFeed?

We will continue to raise the profile of BudsFeed.com as a place for sharing and discovering cannabis related products, services, and original content, and as a community that celebrates all of the makers in the cannabis industry. We will also continue to invest in products we believe in. Chill Steel Pipes is just one of the success stories to come out of BudsFeed and we want cannabis entrepreneurs to know they could be next!

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate?

There is more money flying around the cannabis industry and other “non-traditional” investments than ever before. If you have a great idea, get it out there (on BudsFeed of course), validate it with user feedback, and pursue it. If you need help, reach out.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Outside of the obligatory G-Suite and Slack, two tools I rely pretty heavily on are Mailchimp and Intercom for communicating with my community. Like most cannabis-related brands doing social media right, I also build a lot of my awareness through Instagram and LinkedIn.

What books do you have on your nightstand?

Right now I am reading Branding Bud by David Paleschuck and The Art of Marijuana Etiquette by Andrew Ward. The last non-cannabis book I really enjoyed was Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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