Cannabis companies have to approach marketing differently according to Buffo. Social media platforms shut down company accounts and do not allow them to use paid ads. “It’s federally illegal, so technically we’re still selling drugs in the eyes of the federal government,” Buffo said.
In 2016 Buffo started Cannabis Marketing Association, or CMA, an industry trade group for the marijuana industry’s marketing and communications professionals. CMA provides educational events and research, and opportunities to network.
After graduating from college in 2012, Buffo worked for several startups before working for business accelerators. These are venture capitalist investors that select a group of early-stage entrepreneurs, back them with money and put them through a 12-week business boot camp. Here, Buffo learned the basics of marketing.
After participating in these boot camps, Buffo decided she was ready to start her own business.
She laid out a plan and decided to lease out a plot of land, grow basil, make it into pesto, and sell it locally.
This was occurring when Colorado was legalizing marijuana. Buffo decided to give the marijuana industry a try instead of committing to a business in her hometown of Cleveland.
In June of 2014 Buffo flew to Colorado and visited dispensaries in Denver. “I was here for literally 24 hours and I was like, okay, I’m moving,” Buffo said and by October she was here.
Buffo worked several jobs in the cannabis industry including trimming at a grow house. Then, CanopyBoulder launched, the first business accelerator specifically for pot, and she joined their team.
After its first business boot camp, she joined one of its portfolio companies as chief marketing officer.
“In that job was when I realized how hard it was to market cannabis,” Buffo said.
Buffo started holding informal meetings where marketers of cannabis would come to talk so she could learn how to combat this marketing struggle. Eighty people came to the first meeting.