Mike Alden is the CEO of Blue Vase Marketing LLC, a multimillion-dollar full-service direct response marketing agency offering media production, sales, and customer satisfaction, call centers, warehouse, and fulfillment analytics.
Under his leadership, Blue Vase grew from a small call center into a comprehensive marketing management company, ranked by Inc magazine for three years in a row as one of the nation’s 5000 fastest-growing private companies and named the 2015 Large Business of the Year by the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce.
In this episode, Mike talks about how a serial entrepreneur and attorney like himself ended up losing his merchant processors and half a million dollars in just one day and the valuable lessons that he learned through this experience. He also shares some tools and tactics that he has used in the supplement space that is now being applied to the hemp industry and, most importantly, why hiring an attorney should be a priority if you’re starting a cannabis and hemp business.
It’s not going to cost you a ton of money to have a lawyer take a look at your page, take a look at your labels, take a look at what you’re saying, and heed their advice. Because that small amount of money that you’re going spend today could potentially save you millions later. – Mike Alden
Some Topics We Discussed Include
3:56 – Mike Alden’s background and his involvement in the cannabis space
9:03 – Tailoring his current skillsets to serve the industry
16:23 – Transferrable skills that he’s bringing tot he industry
25:20 – Tips for entrepreneurs to be successful in the cannabis space
34:13 – Potential challenges that companies may face to stay relevant in 2020
45:20 – How much money do you need to get started and compete
53:05 – Where to find them
People Mentioned / Resources
Connect with Mike Alden
Connect with Sonia Gomez
Sonia Gomez: What’s up, guys? Sonia Gomez coming to you from Denver, Colorado. Super excited to be here on another episode of The Hemp Revolution Podcast, where it is our mission to empower you with the truth about cannabis and hemp CBD. Also telling the story of this incredible industry from the eyes of the entrepreneur who are pushing this forward.
Whether they’re working in ancillary businesses or directly related to the plant, perhaps we are going to be bringing on some coaches, consultants, or folks who are applying their skill sets and success from other industries into this incredibly fast-growing industry and the cash-rich industry as that. We are earning our reputation and disrupting some of the major markets in the world right now.
So super excited to be able to bring the truth about cannabis and hemp to us so that you can make empowered decisions about how you want to take care of yourself, the people that you love, conditions you may be suffering from, or otherwise care for this beautiful gift of life.
If you’re someone who’s looking for products that you can depend on to transform the way that you feel and function on a daily basis, check us out at medicalsecrets.com, we are happy to help. And if you are a budding entrepreneur or established business looking for some tips and tricks, resources or relationships that you can use to quickly accelerate your success in this space, check us out at theemeraldcircle.com for our favorite tools and resources that we are using to succeed in this space right now.
We have another rock star episode and story to tell from a CEO of Blue Vase Marketing LLC, a multimillion-dollar full-service direct response marketing agency offering media production, sales and customer satisfaction, call centers, warehouse and fulfillment analytics and anything else that you can think of in this pretty crazy industry under his leadership.
Blue Vase grew from a small call center into a comprehensive marketing management company, ranked by Inc magazine for three years in a row as one of the nation’s 5000 fastest-growing private companies, and named the 2015 Large Business of the Year by the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce.
Super excited to see share some of the tools and tactics that he has used in the supplement space that is now being applied to the hemp industry. Help me welcome our good friend, Mr. Mike Alden. How’s it going, Mike?
Mike Alden: Well, thank you so much for having me. Like, I think I told you a little while ago, it’s going well, but it’s gonna get better as we go.
Sonia Gomez: You know, it’s a start to a brand new day and a brand new year. So I couldn’t agree more with you. Why don’t you real quick– I know that you’re a multi-author, you’ve been translated and distributed all over the world with your knowledge and expertise. I’m super honored to have you here on the show.
Pre-interview I was just telling you that we got one of your books here and my son snatched it right away and was like, you guys always have the best business books. I’m going to read this first and took it down to his room and I haven’t seen it or him since. So, I can’t wait to dive in and read some of your stuff myself. But why don’t you quick and dirty for our listeners, tell us a little bit about who you are, what your background is, and how you are participating in the canna boom right now?
Mike Alden’s Background and His Involvement in the Cannabis Space
Mike Alden: Sure. Oh, canna boom, I like that. Well, yes, let’s see, where do we start? Let’s go all the way back to when I was a kid. I’m here kind of one of your classic entrepreneur stories who grew up you know pretty tough. I grew up in State Housing. My mom is HIV positive, my stepfather died of AIDS. My father was addicted to coke. My stepmother just recently overdosed. The kid I grew up with is in jail for life for murder. One of my other brother’s overdose, and so for me, I’ve been surrounded by crime, drugs, and violence kind of my whole life.
And the interesting part about it is well, we’ll get into the story but more as I’ve always found– and this is a bit of a polarizing thing I’m about to say this early on is that it all started with marijuana. It’s a “gateway drug”, right. I have never even smoked a cigarette. I do drink here and there. I kind of just saw how marijuana and drugs ruin people’s lives as a kid.
Fast forward to where I am today, I’m an attorney by trade. I kind of grew up in the supplement space as an attorney first, but I was also always interested in alternative medicines in health and wellness. In fact, as a health food store in my hometown, where my business is or where my home is, and as a kid, I’m a big dude and I would always go into the health food store and try and find different natural things that I could use to essentially enhance my performance as an athlete–as a football player, baseball player. I was kind of a horrible basketball player but pretty much anything I could do from ginseng before anyone even knew what it was.
I used to buy ginseng in the bottle with a root you know, Korean ginseng and back then there wasn’t ginseng in everything. I was taking supplements that– In fact, one of my friend’s parents is a police officer, and he found it and he had a test because he thought it was like steroids or something.
So, I’ve always been interested in the health and wellness space, and when I became an attorney I grew up in this space, we’re representing a company that sold dietary supplements, so I kind of always had a passion for health and wellness, in particular, natural things and also you really kind of focused on dietary supplements.
So, as an attorney, my expertise really has been in food and drug, FTC and other regulatory environments and regulatory agencies that deal in and around kind of the health and wellness space. You and I met because of this wild world and really now kind of the wild west of CBD. And so that’s kind of like a quick down and dirty story of how we got to where we’re at right now.
Sonia Gomez: Dang. I mean, I wasn’t expecting you to come out like that but okay.
Mike Alden: Coming strong.
Sonia Gomez: Coming in with heat in the first five seconds, I like it. Some attention-grabbing over there. I cannot believe that you faced all of that stuff and you know what I absolutely love this about our industry that in one way or another there’s always some sort of personal story that connects us to cannabis. Whether it’s a negative or a positive experience and the initial but however, somehow someway it always flips the script to where we’re now positively participating in the evolution or revolution that’s associated with hemp and cannabis.
So that never before fails to amaze me and I’m so deeply impacted by your story. I want to dive deeper into that. But I first want to find out. I talked to a lot of professionals who have certifications like yours, licenses like yours. They’re either legal, I call them the white-collar licenses of our world there. They are [00:08:23 inaudible] lawyers, they’re accountants, they’re doing something of that caliber, right. And I always say there are two people you don’t lie to when you’re in the cannabis industry, your lawyer and your accountant, right, because they can make the world go round for you.
And those are the two people that you have to have on your side all the time. So I talk to a lot of professionals and they always ask me the question like, I’m really interested in this whole thing. I don’t have a ton of experience with it. How can I start to– what do I need to know to be able to participate or even succeed or bring value to this industry, so I’d love to hear from you especially with your background and the transformation and mentality that you’ve had to go through. What are some of the things that you had to do to shift or tailor your current skill sets to serve the new and thriving and exciting but challenging industry, that is cannabis and hemp?
Tailoring His Current Skill sets to Serve the Industry
Mike Alden: Sure, yeah, absolutely. Again, I opened with the negative aspect of what I saw as a kid and [00:09:26 inaudible] people that say, well, alcohol can do the same thing. And it’s true and again, this is my own personal experience. And so having again, been in the dietary supplement space for 20 plus years, half as an attorney and the other half as a business owner.
I was interested in CBD before anyone even knew what it was years ago. We were looking at it and saying to my team Hey, look, you know, this is an interesting compound. I’m not a huge fan, and again, now, I’m much more educated about it, but when you hear like marijuana that’s the only thing you don’t– I wasn’t even thinking hemp or even thinking cannabis as the umbrella with marijuana and hemp under that umbrella.
So this was years ago and we started looking at it and we just started looking at some of the research and there really wasn’t a ton of research out there but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence and that’s what a lot of us are seeing now, a lot of anecdotal evidence. My friend took it, and they experienced this, that and the other thing. And so for myself as a marketer, I mean, we’ve literally generated hundreds of millions in revenue selling dietary supplements and also the cost was just extraordinarily high at the time. And so it just didn’t make sense for us.
But in 2016, you know, the world changed a little bit and now CBD is starting to, at least in my world, we’re starting to hear a little bit about it more and I said, you know what, let’s look a little bit more closely at it. And so we had a CBD product made and this is kind of crazy that I’ll even say this.
But I looked at this like, really quickly–so I wear two hats, right? I wear a hat as a lawyer, and then I wear a hat as a CEO/marketer. And sometimes it’s hard to, you know, they say a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. But I saw what was going on in the CBD space? I said, so let’s, let’s do it. Let’s launch. Let’s create one.
So I had, and this is kind of where my mindset changed, I said, well, let’s get some samples. And we got some samples in and I had never put anything in my body. Cannabis-related, right? So that’s the bolt that’s the hemp or this is a matter so I, so I was really hesitant to even do that. But I’m like, you know what, I’m 40 goes at 41 at the time. I’m like, why not just give it a shot. I’m not worried about it.
I’m not worried about drug tests or any stuff that most people didn’t even understand including myself at the time. So I tried it right. So I tried this CBD spray full spectrum CBD spray that we created before I went to bed and I had the most amazing night’s sleep that I’ve ever had. They woke up in the morning and I didn’t have any pain in my hamstring. I tore my hamstring, actually just out of college, ironically, after playing football my whole life and I was like, [00:12:09 unintelligible], I get it.
Right then and there I was like, this is awesome stuff and so we launched that product. It was with a network marketing company that I created. And actually, I talked about that company in my business blueprint of the business, which by the way, no longer exists. And here’s partially one of the reasons why. Because myself as an entrepreneur, not necessarily with my legal hat on because I was like looking, I’m like, Look, CBD is a derivative of hemp, and or hemp oil was just me without spending a lot of time on it.
Therefore, it is generally recognized as safe therefore I have no problem with it. It is a dietary supplement. Well, my merchant processors didn’t see that I didn’t see it the same way. And instantly within one day, I lost almost all of my processors and in one day, they grabbed almost a million dollars in a day. And then I got put on what is called the match list, which is like, I joke around with as I say, it’s like being a level three sex offender trying to get a job at a daycare. It’s the worst thing that can happen to you in the merchant processing world.
And I’ve been doing big business for a long time and doing it the right way. So it really scared me and I’m still here today. It was brutal what I had to overcome. I’m still here today, but I’m a believer now of CBD and the different compounds in the endocannabinoid system and things that a lot of people are starting to learn about, because I have seen anecdotally from myself and from others that I’ve given it to, but I’ve also now seen the science.
Every day, we’re starting to get more and more science that is, in fact, substantiating a lot of the health claims. In other words, disease claims that are out there. But it’s also substantiating some of the what we call structure-function claims meaning Hey, you know what, my aches and pains aren’t really there. anymore, it’s helping me with my mobility. It’s helping me with my sleep some of these more benign type claims and that’s when I was like, Alright, cool, I want to continue to stay in this space and that’s kind of how you and I connected when we connected on a private Facebook group.
Sonia Gomez: Hell, yes. I love how this industry brings us all together and I have to be, like on one hand for you, I’m like, fucking so excited. Because I need, I need, I’m just like taking full ownership of this. I need more professionals in this space who understand that CBD is really just an ingredient that there’s actually a success formula that needs to be implemented to anyone who is in business, especially with CBD.
Of course, cannabis and hemp come along with its own nuances, its own level of restrictions, its own things around compliance, that that tends to create a lot more challenges than necessary, especially when you do they compare and contrast. Like a normal supplement company next to, let’s say just CBD, for instance, marketing, merchant processing, I mean things that are just bare-bones basic for an offer for a company to operate.
But once you get past those nuances and you’re and you decide that you want to be compliant and all of those things and you want to be a contender in an otherwise pretty noisy marketplace. Those things are also true in the normal everyday world of supplements, which I think is the easiest way to compare hemp to the mainstream industry.
You’ve had an incredible amount of success there. As I mentioned earlier, there is a blueprint to that success. You have published multiple books about it. One that actually just showed up at my place, is actually the blueprint to success and the book that I just purchased from and I’m really excited to dive into is the Blueprint to Business, entrepreneurs guide to taking action, committing to the grind and doing the things that most people won’t.
Why don’t you talk a little bit about what your blueprint is? Like what are the two or three things that every entrepreneur needs to know whether they’re in or out of the cannabis and hemp marketplace? What are those key things that allow that are transferable as you dive into new industries and new marketplaces with new products and ingredients that continue to help you build your success?
Transferable Skills That He’s Bringing Tot He Industry
Mike Alden: Yes, I think it’s really, the subtitle committing to the grind. People always talk about the grind. People don’t even really fully appreciate what the grind really is. And I could sit here and tell you well, you got to work 16 hour days and you got to have your side hustle and you got to do all these other things. And we could say we preached all that stuff, but until you really do it until you really live it. You just really can’t fully appreciate it.
If you look at any successful entrepreneur anywhere in the world anywhere in history, it didn’t just happen. People don’t just become successful. I mean, if you’re looking at the social media world that we live in and you look at guys like Grant Cardone or Gary Vee or some of these other guys that are out there, there’s a certain level of smoke and mirrors to everybody, including myself, right?
It’s just what it is when it comes to marketing. You market to the best of your ability and kind of use the English language to your advantage as well. But at the same time, one of the key things that I think people really don’t understand is that you have to be willing to do the things that most people won’t. That means taking out the fucking trash because you had to let go of your cleaning company because your cash flow got hurt. Then you take out the trash, if that means you need to bang out phone calls from Your Home Office or wherever you are, in order to generate revenue to cover payroll, then that’s what you do.
If you need to close out your 401k which I’ve done multiple times, and or borrow money or whatever it is you need to do, then that’s what you need to do. I am also not a proponent of going all in. In fact, I was just talking to somebody who I met through this Facebook group last night as a young kid and he’s like talking about going all in. I’m like, look, man, you don’t have to go all-in, in anything in life, especially when you’re young because you don’t know everything.
I don’t know everything. You don’t know, we all don’t know everything. So this philosophy of like, you need to be fully committed. You need to go all in, there are caveats to it. In other words, you can be willing to do the things that most people won’t, you could be willing to committing to the grind, but you could also maintain your 9-5 job that pays your bills and puts food on the table, [00:18:54 unintelligible] your mortgage and takes care of family and also working whatever wouldn’t cause that side hustle so you’re starting to see a lot of side hustle in the CBD space and even in the marijuana space or THC, where these people are coming into the space and they just they see it as a gold rush and they just think it’s easy money.
There’s no such thing as easy money in any fucking business anywhere. So so what you need to do if you’re a young entrepreneur and you want to get in the space and you believe in it, and you think that I can help people and whatever it is you want to do or whatever it is you believe. You don’t have to jump all in, you can start and you can do the side hustle, work your regular job. Gary Vee talks about working from 10 pm to 2 am, whatever it is.
And then you get to a point where ultimately that side hustle, or that thing you’re passionate about, is now able to actually provide for your lifestyle and it’s able to pay your bills and it’s consistent and it’s stable. When you get to that point, then you can decide maybe you can go all in. But so just to go back, and it’s a long way to answer to your question, but at the end of the day, you really have to be willing to do the things that you can’t do.
I’ll give you an example. Okay, so my products, I have dozens of products, and we and we advertise all over the place, primarily television, believe it or not, it’s still a pretty powerful marketing medium. And me, myself, I will get on the phones, I will answer phone-incoming phone calls, I will answer customer service calls and I will also sit in my home office where I’m sitting right now, sometimes on a Saturday or Sunday, and I will bang out phone calls. I won’t call them cold calls, because they called us but they didn’t buy from us. And I will call them not as Michael Alden, because I’m in a lot of the advertising, not as the guy that’s in the show, but just as Mike from the call center to try and sell them the product that they didn’t buy.
People say, if I make the sale then sometimes depending on how the conversation goes, I’ll tell them that it’s me and then it blows their mind. And they’re like, “why would you do that?” Like, “hold on a sec, you’re big shot this company, books off, you’re an author blah blah blah, all this other stuff. And I said, Look, you need to understand something from a business perspective, I need to and you need to know every aspect of your business in order to be successful.
So why would I sit here on a Saturday afternoon or even in the summer [00:21:23 unintelligible] backyard in the pool, and I’m banging on phone calls because I need to learn my business so that I know it better than anybody else. So I also know my customers and why my customers are saying what they’re saying. Why aren’t they buying? Why did they cancel? Why did they return it? How come we’re not closing at a much higher rate. The only way you know is if you do it. And so that’s what most entrepreneurs do.
You get these guys that are out there trying to promote this, again, this other philosophy that you kind of need to sit from a pedestal that’s bullshit. You need to get in. You need to get dirty and you need to understand your business day in and day out. Because ultimately, at the end of the day, if everyone goes away, the only one that’s left is you so you really need to know everything. Now, do I know every aspect of all my businesses? No, but I could tell you this, I know enough to know and I know enough to be dangerous in every aspect of my business.
Sonia Gomez: Preach. I’m like I cannot– you literally just encompass most of what I tell my clients, my friends, my community. This is such an important piece and I actually had some mentors who were talking to me about the “posturing in sales” and in my background, I do high ticket sales from the stage. I’m an internationally respected and renowned speaker. I’m an internationally recognized bestseller on Amazon. all this stuff and I still an answering customer service emails and my business and I’m still making those “Hey, can you give me some more information on this call.” I’m still that person. And most of the time people know that it’s me when I call so I can’t hide behind the “call center” piece but it’s so interesting to me that I’ve had many mentors say to me, you have to have the posturing in business, you can’t just call any company and get ahold of the CEO. And I’m like, yeah, but aren’t you pissed off when you call a company and you get a robot instead of a human being?
I think that there’s so much missed value when you’re growing a– especially when you’re growing a business or scaling a business. We get separated from the things and the people that actually make it possible for you to be who you are in the industry, let alone in the microcosm of your business. And that’s my favorite piece is connecting directly with the folks who are making it possible for me to be in business and those are my customers. Those are my clients. Those are the folks that we bring value to every single day, whether it’s with a product or with advice or community or whatever it is.
So, I love what you’re saying. I think that it’s a lost art, that ability to connect with the end-user, and really understanding what’s driving their will to participate financially with your company or with your offer and how consistently we are asking for feedback and making the necessary changes to stay relevant in a crowded marketplace.
For those of you guys who are listening, I know that many of you are interested in being a part of this industry in some capacity whether or not you have the necessary skill sets or are currently operating your own business, you’re certainly watching the buzz of the industry right now. And I want to help you turn that cannabuzz into a cannabiz. If you’re interested or have the chops to do it.
Now, it’s not easy. There are about 50,000 different ways for you to be involved in the industry. And the great part is, is you don’t have to touch the plant or product. I would love to hear from you, Mike, what is what would be some key pieces of advice that you would offer a budding entrepreneur or established business owner if they’re trying to transition into this space? What would be a couple of key pieces of advice that you could offer them that might help shortcut their path to success here?
Tips for Entrepreneurs to Be Successful in the Cannabis Space
Mike Alden: Sure, this is, again, I came hot and right in the beginning, and I’m going to give you some more stuff that’s gonna might seem somewhat controversial to people. But this actually came from literally last day from a conversation that I had from someone that I met within this group and everyone’s talking about how saturated the CBD market is right.
And I said, Well, look, I’ve built my entire business and my entire life and generated literally hundreds of millions of dollars on vitamin D in glucosamine. You go to Rite Aid, Walmart, Albertsons, wherever and you can buy vitamin D and glucosamine and vitamin C and all this other stuff, much cheaper than what we’ve charged before.
So I tell people this, and I talked about this in blueprint business, and again, it’s somewhat controversial, but it’s real and it makes sense. If you want to get into this space. The product is almost secondary. And people say what are you fucking kidding me? Like, wait a minute, my CBD is the best CBD, it’s certified USDA Organic, it’s triple filtered, whatever you can say whatever you want. But here’s the thing. What’s really important, in selling things is the story. And this is tried and true basic sales and marketing, right? It’s not necessarily the product. It’s the story. And it’s who tells a better story.
In this digital age that we’re in right now. It’s very, very difficult to sell any sort of CBD or hemp-related product unless you’re playing a cat and mouse game with Facebook or Instagram or even Google. So it’s kind of difficult right now to do that online. But there are ways to do it. And we were all kind of aware of some of the ways to do it. I don’t like to play games. I’m not interested in jumping from one Facebook account. That’s not my thing.
So what I say to people who are in this space, who might be might be stuck, because maybe your go-to-market strategy was in fact, Facebook, and you can’t figure it out. And Facebook keeps shutting down your account. And maybe you lost merchant accounts because you didn’t properly disclose that it was in fact, CBD, so you really need to do is 1) you need to tell a story, but you need to tell an honest story. Because if you tell an honest story, the average everyday consumer who doesn’t know you, right? They don’t know your brand, but they somehow came across your brand, if you’re authentic, and if you’re honest, and you tell a better story, the product itself is secondary.
Now, all that being said, you can’t do that and sell a shit product because then what’s going to happen is you’re going to have returns, you’re gonna have chargebacks and the whole business is going to implode. So, these businesses of this white-label, print on demand stuff, I’m not a huge fan of that. I like it for some kind of young entrepreneurs that want to start. And they may just want to kind of learn the business because it’s a, there’s not a lot of costs involved there. But the formulas themselves are usually kind of like off the shelf. And they might even be dealing with inferior products, I’m not necessarily a fan of that.
So figure out how to tell a better story. And then when you sell them the product, make sure that you are in fact selling them a good product. And that means you might have to spend a little bit more money on your cost of goods, but that extra two, three bucks on your cost of goods is going to pay dividends much, much longer and increase the lifetime value of that customer and give that customer a much better customer experience if it is, in fact, a good product. So the real takeaway from what I’m trying to say and I’ve said it now probably 10 times is tell a better story than everybody else because there are a bazillion CBD products out there and there are a bazillion glucosamine products out there as well. I just happened to tell a better story.
Sonia Gomez: I couldn’t agree with you more. I have like chills everywhere and it’s like you know when you’re in a great– when you’re in– I know that I’m in the right conversation when I’m getting like chills and I get energized from the content that’s being exchanged in a conversation. So this is super inspiring for me because I’m hearing things that I’m generally saying and it’s really refreshing to be on the listening side instead of the speaking side of this kind of knowledge and everyone’s trying to figure out how to crack the code, how to crack the marketing code and how to get more conversions and more sales.
And for me, this is something that at the push of a button we’re able to do quite often not because we have the best funnels and the best– as a matter of fact, I’ve never built a funnel, I’m technically I’m tech tarted. Like that is a literal term, I’m tech tarted. I hardly– I can barely operate my calendar. Like I get confused with my email addresses. I am not a technological person, but my entire business is online. We’ve generated over a million followers, we’ve impacted hundreds of millions of people around the world and our main primary focus has been in story selling, how we talk about our experiences, thoughts, and ideas, how we share and how we draw people in with those stories to make them feel like Yes, me too, I want that too. Right. I want it. I want to share in that experience, I want to have that result.
And I think a lot of CBD companies really missed the boat spending a lot of time and money on big-time funnels and expensive traffic. Which many hit the goldmine and did really well at and other companies spend a lot of time and money on those few no fancy gimmicks and gigs and miss the art of storytelling which today, I see a lot of companies tailoring their plans and businesses for 2020 to be more, “educationally focused”, because that’s the only way that you can get things approved, not because that’s the culture of their company, but because they’re trying to break through the barriers that have restricted them from making the impact with their company and generating the revenue that they’re looking for.
So it’s very refreshing to hear you talk about the importance of telling a good story and to draw and what I call the three C’s system, you have to capture the attention of your ideal customer, you do that through your story of selling and creating relatability not by putting yourself onto a pedestal. The second thing is how you connect with them. An authentic connection is a thing that’s driving everything in this world. And whether it is a beauty commercial and letting you relate to the cover girl more whether it’s a glossy advertisement and women’s magazine talking about how to lose those few extra pounds.
Or if you’re in a fitness magazine, and you have a dad bod and you wish you look like the guy on Men’s Health magazine, like there’s always something that connects with you authentically, that taps into your fear factors that tap into the thing that makes you most human and shows you a pathway, whether it’s through a product or a service, that’s going to give you the result that you want.
So you have to create that authentic connection, once you capture the attention of your ideal customer. And then finally, through that, you’re going to build the know like and trust stability. People have to trust that you care about the results that they’re going to get before they purchase the product. The product is just a vehicle. However, the culture of the company and how that is communicated happens through a person to person connection.
If you’re shy to be on camera, that’s okay. But you have to have somebody within the company that is able to communicate the culture and attracts the people who say like, Yes, I want to be a part of that mission, I want to be a part of that movement. I want to take ownership and be a part of that community because I see myself reflected there. And that’s what’s going to create longevity and the community of folks who will consistently allow you to build revenue through their community interaction. That’s what we have found. And that’s been a that’s what has been the biggest differentiator from the folks that we have worked with.
We’ve helped people build their communities to 30,000 people inside of 60 days because they’re telling a great story and orienting themselves and their community around a topic, a mission, a movement that’s greater than themselves and the product is just a byproduct or a vehicle to help them achieve the desired results faster. It’s not the full focus or attention from the gate out.
From your perspective, Michael, what are some of the challenges that companies in this space are faced in 2020, you’re working on the legal side, I’m not sure how involved you are with the hemp industry as with your legal skills, but I know that you are involved as a business owner. So I’d love to hear your perspective, what are some of the challenges that you that maybe you’re going through or that, you know, companies are up against to stay relevant in 2020?
Potential Challenges That Companies May Face to Stay Relevant in 2020
Mike Alden: Yeah, you know, so I think that because a lot of people, see this– I’m in the crypto space, as well. And I– when I got into the crypto space– I got into the crypto space out of straight necessity because I had merchant accounts go down, and I needed a way to kind of figure out how to survive and things like that. I didn’t get in into one big– I got in when Bitcoin was just over 5000 then we all watched it run up and I’ve been on a million podcast talking about crypto as well.
I did write a book about that as well. And I’m an opportunist in that particular business, but I was also using it as a bit of a survival method. And I see, you just see all these from 19-year-old kids to people that are in their 80s getting into crypto because they see it as a quick buck or a quick way to make money. And there’s a lot of bad things that happen when people go into that and they start thinking like that.
They think, well, if everyone’s doing it, therefore, I can do it. We’re in an industry that, believe it or not, is actually heavily regulated. And we’re in if you don’t understand that, you’re going to get burned. And look, I’m an attorney who practices, I don’t really practice anymore, my license is still active, and I made a mistake in 2016 because I didn’t necessarily have my lawyer hat on. I had more of my marketing hat on and things have changed since then. I mean, they hemp bill hadn’t passed until 2018.
So what I see as one of the biggest challenges is you’re gonna have a lot of charlatans out there that are out there making just kind of outrageous claim in the CBD space, and they don’t have to, right. That’s the other thing too, that people don’t understand is that, look, you can be very aggressive with your marketing and there are ways to do it. It’s an art form, okay? And there’s ways to do it and to be aggressive, and to still make good sales without actually putting yourself in hot water and really kind of pushing the limits too far.
Because, look, as an attorney, I’ve seen what happens to businesses when I do. I’ve seen assets get frozen. I’ve seen people lose their homes. I’ve seen people lose their marriages, because they were just so enamored with the cash flow that was coming in, based off of the things that they were saying, they weren’t really thinking long term. You might be able to generate a shit ton of money pretty fast and I’ve seen it happen.
I’ve seen companies go from zero to like 100 million in a month, and then they lose it all. So it doesn’t mean anything if you’re going to lose it all because of the way you’re doing it. So in 2020, I see a lot more regulatory action coming down. People freak out about, like, the warning letters that recently came out, it’s nothing.
It’s a drop in the bucket compared to warning letters that come out in the entire dietary supplement space, so before you decide to do anything with your marketing, engage a lawyer. Not a jailhouse lawyer, meaning somebody who thinks that they know what they’re talking about. And by the way, in the forum that we’re in, there’s a lot of people like that, they’re out there just giving their opinion, because they read the an article about the hemp bill, but they have no idea really what the shea is, or some of these other regulatory or some of these laws that are on the books, so they don’t even understand that just because the FTC said something or the FDA said something they believe as though that that in fact is law and it’s not really the case.
So what I would do if I’m you spend a little bit of money now, with a lawyer, it’s not gonna cost you a ton of money to have a lawyer, take a look at your page, take a look at your labels, take a look at what you’re saying, and heed their advice. Because that small amount of money that you’re going spend today could potentially save you millions later, right? So you don’t need to make all these outrageous claims.
Even though, here’s the other thing that people don’t understand, when you talk about CBD and some of these disease states, like cancer, like obviously epilepsy, like MS, like all these other things, and you hear the stories of so and so, CBD and they no longer have tremors, or they took CBD in their cancer went away. Okay. That may, in fact, be true. It may have actually happened. However, the science doesn’t support that.
So just because it happened doesn’t mean and just because it may be a truthful statement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s also not violative of the laws that are on the books. So hire a lawyer, spend a little bit of money before you go out with whatever it is you’re going out with and again, not just your buddy who was in law school. I’m talking hiring an actual attorney who works in this space, whether it be in the hemp space, or the dietary supplement space, or both. Because again, that is probably the best advice I could give anybody in this world because we’re big boys now. You get into space–big boys and girls, you can get hurt pretty bad if you don’t do the right thing.
Now listen, one other thing. Nothing is bulletproof. Nothing is bulletproof. There’s still a lot of gray area in this space. But at least if you do consult with an attorney, at least you’re aware of the risks, right? So you have to be aware of the risks in order to get involved in this business and the only way you’re going to do it is to talk to somebody who’s smarter than you? Look, I have all types of lawyers because they’re smarter than me. Just basic common sense, you know?
Sonia Gomez: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Some of the things that I think we’re up against here and I think the industry is going through a wave of cleansing right now I’m calling it somewhat of a tsunami. It’s coming in and really seeing what you’re made of. This industry is not for everybody.
My husband and I have been in the cannabis space for about 35 years. He on the cultivation side since the early 90s. And myself, as a patient in California, I’ve had to go up against the medical system for my rights and safe access, spending 10s of thousands of dollars and way too many hours being misdiagnosed or over-medicated, and then having to pull myself into rehabilitation.
I’ve had to fight the legal system for my rights to safe access, which really pulled me into legislative development here in Colorado where I supported writing legislation that legalized cannabis for the for-profit medical model back in 2009, and 2010. And through my experience of being on both sides of the law, I couldn’t agree more with you, Michael, in the sense that you always have to find people in your inner circle who you can trust. Remove your ego out of the way and trust that there are people out there who are keeping tabs on pieces of this industry that you and your mind don’t have time or space to keep track of.
Your number one focus is on how can you make a bigger impact in the community or in the world that you want to serve? How can you make that biggest impact and your income is going to be a direct reflection of the impact that you’re making, whether it’s through content or products, or sharing your passion in some capacity? It’s all about how you can leverage your knowledge and how can you bring the most amount of leverage to build the most amount of trust in the marketplace so that that market plays pays you with either time, attention, or money. These are the different ways that you can track the impact that you’re making.
And then it’s all about developing the strategies or tactics that are going to allow you to turn the time or energy into revenue for your business. Three heads are better than one, you really have to pull the people around you that are smarter than you, who have traveled the distance that you have not gone yet, and can really contribute to the way that you’re framing and shaping your business. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to execute but having the smarter people around is definitely mandatory.
And I think what’s going to happen in 2020 for a lot of these businesses, is we’re going to start to see more people treat CBD for what it actually is, which is an ingredient and they’re going to start to recognize that there are multiple uses for one ingredient, similar to lavender or any one of these others essential oils, it’s being put into almost anything now, that is a mainstream product. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be some life-changing miraculous medicine, it can be a daily supplement for beauty, for health, for wellness, or managing the symptoms associated with any one of these chronic conditions. So I think that a lot of companies are going to have to step up their game as far as the education, I think that we’re going to see a lot more folks, shifting manufacturing, I can’t help but feel like many of the small-time manufacturers are going to dissipate and we’re going to see a lot more focus.
There’s going to be somewhat of a monopoly-like five or six manufacturers who have the proper certifications to carry us into the future are going to start to get along the business. And we’re going to see a lot of the “white-label” brands dissolve and we’re going to see a lot more acquisitions happening where the bigger brands who have done it right and made the money are going to come in and start acquiring the smaller ones just to consolidate the marketplace.
What’s happening right now in cannabis, and I would not be surprised– it’s already happening in hemp. But I think the wave is going to be quite a bit more substantial coming here into 2020. So if you do not have a really strong brand presence, if you don’t have a strong community, if you don’t have a proprietary product line of some sort, I think that you really should start to look at creating that USP or unique selling point for your industry or for your brand and start to bring that to the forefront and if you don’t have it, start to find groups of people that you can sell your business off to, or pull in some more money so that you can create that your unique selling proposition.
Michael, the final question I have for you. What would be your advice like how much money do you think somebody needs to have to get involved in the industry for 20 years? It’s no longer the landscape of 2016, ’17, ’18, ’19. Things started to stabilize a little bit. We’re in 2020. Now the market has matured, we’re in our fifth year here. I’ve asked this question to a couple of other “advisors”, or folks who are sitting top level in the industry right now. How much money do you think a budding entrepreneur or somebody who’s serious about making an impact in this industry, how much money do you think that they need to have to get started and actually compete into space right now?
How Much Money Do You Need to Get Started and Compete
Mike Alden: Yeah, it’s a tough question to answer. It all depends on how you got to enter the space. Like I mentioned earlier, and you’d mentioned as well, you get these kinds of print on demand white-label type companies where young entrepreneur– the barrier of entry is pretty low, so, you can get in pretty quick but the margins are also very low and the product is usually subpar.
So, this is like any other business. When you get in, I always tell people, and I think I talked about this in Blueprint to Business. I had a good friend of mine, mentor mine. And I thought one of the businesses that I launched when I was in law school or prior to law school that I thought that I only needed 90,000. And that’s pretty much what I had. After closing out my 401k and maxing credit cards and borrowing law school loans for the business and my buddy said to me, “whatever you think it is, multiply it times three, then you probably close”.
That might be a big number for people and so that’s just reality when you start to actually think about the cost of goods and they start to think about merchant processing and fulfillment and call centers, and all these other ancillary costs that you might not be thinking about. Your margins aren’t what you really think they are. So if your cost of goods is six bucks, and you’re selling it for 70, that sounds awesome.
But then when you really start to add in all of your other fixed costs, and other all your other expenses, that you need to run the business, your margins aren’t really as good as you think they are. They’re probably good, but they’re not as good as what you think and by the way, I’m telling you this from the perspective of somebody who has made the mistakes. I mean, I’ve made all those mistakes, I’ve seen huge numbers and generated millions in a week. And like, man, we’re fucking killing it. But no, we were burning, we were losing $400,000-$500,000 a day. So, you just have to really get a handle on truly what the expenses are.
And then the other part too is the marketing. The marketing is expensive. That’s probably going to be your most expensive thing. So, you just need to kind of pay attention to that. So whatever you think it is, multiply times three.
And lastly, to answer that, though, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t get in. Don’t ever let money, prevent you from getting into a business that you’re passionate about. If you can get in and you do it smart, you’ll figure it out. You’ll figure out how it works. You’ll maybe learn more. You get some contacts, maybe you end up with a partner, maybe you borrow some money, maybe you get a loan, whatever it is, don’t let money be the barrier. You say I just can’t get in because I think that that could potentially really kind of ruin some people’s dreams. I’m not a big fan of dreaming, as dreaming for sleeping, let’s start doing, but don’t let that also set you back. So whatever you think it is multiply times three and you’re probably pretty close.
Sonia Gomez: There are some great fucking words of wisdom right there, my friend and for the first time, I think in The Hemp Revolution history, I hardly have anything to add to that. I think it’s just such a really clear, concise way to encompass the two pathways. And I think that there’s a big misconception here. I will say this in closing.
First of all, Michael, thank you so much for being on the show. I think that this is just such a massive value add to the community and offers a perspective, not only as a business owner but for somebody who’s been successful multiple times over and really creating a massive impact with your knowledge and expertise and experience that you’ve brought to multiple marketplaces.
So what an honor to be able to interview you and have you on our forum. And I appreciate you being like so candid and value-driven in the way that you’re advising folks. It’s very real, and not a lot of sugarcoating. And I really want to spend some time with you on another episode, talking a lot about your story and what it actually takes to transition from the mentality, like everything is bad, to a place where you can come into acceptance and pair opportunity with the shift in mindset. So I just want to acknowledge you for that and express my appreciation.
And then finally say that I think that there’s a misconception right now that for people to be “involved” in the industry, that they have to start a business of their own and I think that there’s not enough emphasis or enough people asking the questions, how can you apply existing skill sets or develop new skill sets that will allow you to bring the value that you have to offer to an existing brand or business.
One of the big challenges that I’m recognizing here is having qualified, passionate people joining teams of folks on behalf of a brand that’s already doing things really, really great. An example of this is the Papa & Barkley organization out in California who was just doing incredible things in the way of quality and really, really pulling in strategic partners that have a lifetime of experience and cultivation and extraction and they just do the piece that they’re really great at, which is building the brand and the retail centers and distribution points. But really bringing in those key partners that can do all of the other things really well that make the brand as powerful as it actually is.
So, in closing, I will just say to you guys that while there is a lot of lore and a lot of sex appeal, it’s almost pornographic the way that the opportunities present themselves in the hemp and cannabis industry and it’s really very brand new and I am of the opinion that this is the largest opportunity for wealth creation for the everyday average Joe that we will ever see in our lifetime next to cryptocurrencies sport betting and cannabis and hemp. These are the three industries to watch and be a part of right now, with high risk comes high reward, but you don’t necessarily have to, especially when it comes to cannabis and hemp, you don’t necessarily have to be the one to assume all of the risks.
You can develop new skill sets that will allow you to be an irrelevant value add to an existing brand, and you can bring existing skill sets whether you own and operate your own business now or want to own and operate your own business later, you can learn so much and do so much for the industry by joining an existing brand who needs to utilize skill sets just like yours, in order to hit the next level. So I really really implore you to find out what are the gaps and holes in the industry right now and how can you either develop new skill sets or leverage your existing skillsets to bring value to the industry and help up-level the way that we are operating.
We are still considered to be a self-governing industry. And so it’s so important to have skillsets and success from other industries come into this place so that we can leverage those things to shape the way that we are doing business collaboratively and competitively but in a healthy way, so that we can self-govern in a way that continues to uplevel how we are talked about and how we are utilized while we are causing such significant disruptions and some of the largest industries in the world right now. So that is how I want to leave you with this conversation, Michael, any last words and for today’s episode before we end?
Mike Alden: I don’t think so just keep pushing whatever it is you’re doing, just keep pushing.
Sonia Gomez: Amazing. Well, thanks so much. And where can folks find you if they want to find out more about how they can work with you or if they want to follow what you’re doing in the world?
Where to Find Them
Mike Alden: Sure, you can find me pretty much on all the social media platforms, it’s @mikealden2012. It’s A-L-D-E-N 2012. send me a message Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and I’ll try and get back to you as best I can and help you with any questions you may have. Literally last night, I was sitting there for about half an hour going back and forth, somebody that I didn’t know because I’m passionate about it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And, and I try to help others and so that they don’t have to make the same ones. So, again, it’s @mikealden2012.
Sonia Gomez: Amazing. Well, thank you again, so much for sharing your time with us today. And for those of you guys who are tuning in, thanks so much for being a part of our community. when you like and share content just like this, you are actually helping us push the needle forward with legalization because that you are helping us impact millions of people’s lives around the world. So please like and share this episode and if you’re interested in finding out any more about what Michael is doing in the world, all of the social media handles, as well as his websites and links to his books, will be listed right here around this episode, make sure that you check him out. I am personally collecting his books and items right now just because I like badass people to be close in my circle. And I suggest that you guys do the same thing.
If you’re somebody who’s looking for products that you can depend on to deliver the results you’re looking for, check us out medicalsecrets.com for our favorite pics. And if you are a budding entrepreneur or established business owner looking for some tips and tricks on how you can accelerate your success in the cannabis and hemp movement, go ahead and check us out at theemeraldcircle.com we are happy to help. I’m your hostess with the mostess Sonia Gomez and this is The Hemp Revolution. We will see you guys on our next show. Thank you so much. I appreciate your time again.
Subscribe & Review The Hemp Revolution Podcast
Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of The Hemp Revolution Podcast! If the information in our weekly conversations and interviews have helped you in your journey, please head over to iTunes, subscribe to the show, and leave us an honest review. Your reviews and feedback will not only help us continue to deliver great, helpful content, but it will also help us reach even more amazing folks just like you!