Terry Kushner
Jul 1, 2018 · 7 min read

A Conversation With Olivia Mannix CEO and Founder of Cannabrand


I had the pleasure of interviewing Olivia Mannix. Olivia is the CEO and Founder of Cannabrand, the world’s first cannabis marketing and consulting agency. The company was founded in 2013, following the onset of nation’s seminal recreational cannabis program in Colorado. Since founding Cannabrand, Olivia has been recognized as an innovator in the cannabis space and beyond, receiving multiple awards from PR Week, including “Top 50 Influencers” and “Top 10 Young Talents.” Over the years, Olivia has grown and overcome adversities within the cannabis industry — she has built an award-winning marketing team and overseen a major business merger with Cannabrand. Olivia as also been active with charities as well as influential cannabis business groups like the NCIA (National Cannabis Industry Association).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?

I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my whole life and I have always been driven to start my own company. On that note, I started a marketing agency fresh out of college in Boulder, CO (after having ample experience of course). With the onset of the Colorado cannabis industry, we pivoted solely into cannabis in 2013. The rest is history.

In retrospect, Cannabrand was at the right place at the right time. Nonetheless, I remember looking back at my partner in the early years partner and saying, ‘are you sure we want to do this?’ At that point, cannabis was still quite taboo, we seriously thought we might not be able to get ‘real jobs’ after working in cannabis. Little did we know at the time that we were building an empire.

My experiences as CEO of Cannabrand have been really rewarding. At this point, I’m internally driven by all the people who we have helped — not only by educating people about cannabis — but actually helping mmj patients get the resources they need to utilize this amazing medicine.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

Cannabrand’s first major press debut was a New York Times story called ‘The Rebranding of Pot Inc.’ In the interview, we were introduced in a cheeky manner and were quoting saying something to the effect of: ‘We’re weeding out the stoners.

The interview and quote were somewhat misread, and it created a lot of backlash in the cannabis industry at the time. Looking back, I feel much of this controversy was because the industry is changing so quickly, at the time in 2014, cannabis was still largely an underground affair.

The upside of the scenario would be that yes, in fact, the industry has evolved in the years since the interview. Currently, professionalism in the cannabis industry is thriving and becoming more commonplace — most realize it’s required in successful business. Cannabrand, for better or worse, actually had the tenacity to come out and announce that there need to be some cultural evolutions in order to legalize and legitimize the industry.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Cannabrand is more than just a marketing agency, we are an end-to-end consulting operation that has the bandwidth to both build businesses and help owners exit. My team is amazing, they hustle to make sure our clients are successful and to change the way the cannabis industry is perceived overall!

An interesting story has to do with Cannabrand helping facilitate the first cannabis commercial slotted to run on ABC News / Channel 7. Working through it with our client Neos, we were able to create a 15 second spot in a week’s time to ensure they got the first cannabis commercial. Long story short, the network got cold feet and we had to go to our press contacts and tell them it was a ‘no go.’ To our surprise, the press took to the idea and pushed out a ton of stories about ‘the cannabis commercial that never ran.’ The funny thing being, the commercial never explicitly mentioned cannabis or included any imagery of cannabis, yet it was still not able to run. In the end, instead of having the commercial shown on a relatively small local Denver television market, it ran wild on the internet in front of millions.

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?

For starters, I’m grateful to my mom for standing by me and believing in me along this tough journey. Considering how risky this industry is, as well controversial, she has supported and encouraged me along every bump in the road. She has also been a benefactor to the company.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Yes, being involved in the cannabis space, all the work we do is groundbreaking and innovative. Currently, Cannabrand is working on the ‘Green Industries Affair,’ an unprecedented charity event that is bringing together the cannabis and outdoor industries under one roof. The event is organized around a Boombox concert and will celebrate everything ‘Green’ in Colorado, from cannabis to outdoor conservation. The charity will benefit Carbon Colorado, an organization dedicated to offsetting carbon footprints and climate change. For the outdoor industry’s part, Zeal and Osprey Packs have joined our ranks. Looking to the cannabis industry, Colorado’s own Lightshade dispensary chain is on board to help spread environmental awareness. The goal of the Green Industries Affair is to bridge the gap between the cannabis and outdoor communities in a unified front to do well for Mother Earth.

I am also working with several celebrities (cannot yet mention) who are getting into the space.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?

-It’s still so nascent and unchartered with lots of opportunity

-It is growing like weeds!

-Amazing to debunk and change the image of cannabis and use cannabis as a medicine.

Most concerning:

-Government

-Big industries trying to take over

-Banking

Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.

You have to have grit.

You have to be tough and resilient.

You need to have a plan and support

It’s a bumpy ride.

In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does you cannabis passion come from?

Passion to educate, inform and create.

Passion to help sick people, patients, people addicted to opiates, the sky is the limit.

We get calls and emails everyday from people looking for help, it is the most rewarding thing to have the answers or at least be working on them.

Some background.

I went through 2 knee surgeries (ACL/MCL/Meniscus Reconstructions) from skiing accidents. The first surgery, I took the typical pain killers which made me very sick. The second time around, I strictly used cannabis (edibles and topicals) to help with the recovery and it made a tremendous difference. That was my personal epiphany that cannabis was actually a viable medicine, which people need to have access to it.

I launched the agency because I want to change people’s perception of cannabis and help companies generate awareness through captivating marketing campaigns as they strive to get quality products to market.

Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?

We are growing and growing. Expansion of team and locations and areas served though we are global.

Industry, cannabis legal in every state.

Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?

Everyone in my company is a star already. I’m so proud of each and every one of them!

What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?

Ancillary businesses. Miners get gold, but the shovels do the digging.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Terry Kushner

Written by

I have an eclectic background in the media space as a writer and performer. I'm also a contributor to various prominent outlets, including POT.com

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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