The Flower Expo on Elevating Cannabis Connections with Jason Bello

The Flower Expo on Elevating Cannabis Connections with Jason Bello

Dive into the world of cannabis trade shows with Jason Bello, the visionary behind Flower Expo, in this insightful episode of “Roots to Risk.” Hosted by Eric Schneider and Isaac Bach, this conversation explores how Flower Expo is carving its niche by facilitating critical B2B connections between cannabis brands and retailers.

Jason shares the genesis of Flower Expo, its mission to streamline the buying process, and the unique challenges and opportunities of organizing cannabis events. Get an insider’s view on what sets Flower Expo apart in the bustling landscape of cannabis trade shows and hear Jason’s take on the future of industry events in 2024.

Whether you’re a cannabis entrepreneur, retailer, or enthusiast, this episode offers valuable perspectives on the evolving dynamics of cannabis commerce and networking.

Transcript

00:01 Eric Schneider
This is the Roots to Risk Podcast hosted by Eric Schneider, alongside Isaac Bach. Roots To Risk brings you insights, the latest stories, and long form discussions about the cannabis industry. You’ll hear interviews with industry leaders and their perspective on current and future trends, how they’ve built success and what challenges they have faced. Our goal is to facilitate candid conversations and provide informative content for the cannabis community at large. Let’s go. What’s going on, Isaac? How we doing today? How we feeling?

00:31 Eric Schneider
Good.

00:31 Isaac Bock
How are you doing?

00:33 Eric Schneider
I’m good. Check this out. I found this

00:36 Isaac Bock
Little Oh, the, the og, the OG Polo. No,

00:40 Eric Schneider
Og I will say when I do see this, it makes me realize how much better our branding is. Yeah. Moving

00:46 Isaac Bock
Forward. I mean, that stuff with

00:48 Eric Schneider
<laugh>, I mean, the bar wasn’t set too high, so No, it

00:50 Isaac Bock
Wasn’t <laugh>.

00:51 Eric Schneider
But, but anyways, digging into the, the next route to risk that we have on deck, Jason with the Flower Expo, which is the Premier B2B cannabis trade show that connects buyers and sellers in the sector. Flower Expo is dedicated to being the catalyst for transformative deals and partnerships within the cannabis industry by creating an environment where industry players can network, collaborate, and experience high vibes of innovation. You know, Isaac, we’ve been to so many events over the years, and I’m really interested to get their take on how they’re differentiating themselves and then also, you know, what, what are other, some events that they’ve been to that they think are, you know, quality.

01:33 Eric Schneider
Because I feel like there’s more and more popping up each and every day and, and sometimes it can be challenging to suss out, you know, the, the quality events versus some that, you know, may unfortunately not be the best use of your time.

01:47 Isaac Bock
Yeah, for sure. And it sounds like it will probably get into this, this is the one that we’d be overly welcome at, given where we sit in the, the supply chain. That’s very true. But no, definitely be, definitely be good to get his sense on, you know, how they decide to go about it, why they got into the, you know, kind of focus they’re in with their event and see what they have on the horizon for 2024.

02:10 Eric Schneider
Absolutely. Well, let’s bring ’em in. Hey Jason, thanks for joining us today on the Roots to Risk podcast. Great to have you.

02:17 Jason Bello
Thanks so much for having me. Yeah, I appreciate, I’m exciting.

02:21 Eric Schneider
Absolutely. So if you can just give us a little bit more background and information on, you know, the Flower Expo, you know, what you guys are doing in the space, how you got into the cannabis industry, and we can go from there.

02:34 Jason Bello
A hundred percent. Yeah. Well, flower Expo, we’re a B2B cannabis show. We launched in Massachusetts last year. It was a great event that focused primarily on, you know, we have one goal, it’s connecting brands and buyers. Our whole show is around facilitating commerce and really creating an immersive, you know, environment experience for buyers to come curate their product and, you know, place products onto their shelves in their dispensary.

03:06 Jason Bello
So that’s all we do. We sell boot space to, you know, brands, plant touching companies, and we, you know, host dispensary owners GMs, their bud tenders to come in a, you know, it’s, we hold our events at fairgrounds, so it promotes, you know, kind of like a wine tasting show or, you know, any of the big food and beverage shows. You want the buyers to come into, you know, sampling it and touching it and feeling it and you know, seeing what they’re buying. So we really just wanted to streamline that process.

03:36 Jason Bello
And we had our first show in Massachusetts for this year. We’re launching that Massachusetts event again on June 5th and sixth, and then in Michigan, a brand new show on August 7th and eighth.

03:49 Isaac Bock
That’s

03:50 Eric Schneider
Awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah.

03:51 Isaac Bock
How, how do you pick Michigan as a second location that you guys wanted to move into?

03:57 Jason Bello
Michigan is a strong market. A lot of mature operators, a lot of dispensaries and a ton of brands. And you know, obviously it’s the second highest grossing state for cannabis sales in the country. But, you know, and that’s primarily, I would say that’s what we do. There’s a lot of other shows that have different scopes, different, you know, niche, you know, in what they do, different goals. But our show is, is really designed to reach, you know, a mature environment that has retailers standing that has brands, you know, and it’s, it’s obviously it’s, it’s worked well.

04:33 Jason Bello
I think, you know, people who do our event get a lot of in sales and it’s a valuable experience for the buyers.

04:41 Eric Schneider
That’s great. And, and with like all the, you know, obviously there’s a, a lot of, a lot of B2B shows right. In the cannabis space and they, you know, have a, a, a wide variety of, of functions, right. And I would say Isaac and I have, have <laugh> either both been to all of them or Oh yeah. There’s a <inaudible> and, and so, you know, what do you see as like your guys differentiation from other events in the space? And then also, you know, how can people identify like a quality, you know, event and, and you know, where you’ve seen I guess, the industry moving towards in terms of like live events.

05:25 Eric Schneider
Obviously post covid, you know, things are starting to, to kick back up and, and are at, you know, full force. So, you know, what do you, I guess just to consolidate that question, ’cause there was a lot of rambling in between, what differentiates your organization and then also, you know, what, what do you think are the, is the recipe to have a successful event in the cannabis space?

05:51 Jason Bello
Sure. No, I get, I get, I get the picture. I would just say, you know, first of all, it’s a very good thing. It’s a healthy sign when there are a lot of trade shows and when there’s a lot of different focuses of those shows, just like any other industry, you know, we we’re in a, we’re in basically think of it as a commodity, you know, it’s a, it’s a crop. So I would just say there’s gonna be tons of shows with tons of different focuses ranging from science to sourcing your ancillary goods to connecting what I do, you know, the actual product to their potential buyers.

06:26 Jason Bello
There’s, you know, niches for, you know, specific people and groups, whatever. But I would just say that, you know, it’s kind of go to a show for, you know, I guess the goal. Have a, have a goal for what you wanna do there, whether it’s get an ROI on sales or to have an experience or do this.

06:46 Jason Bello
I would say our show, it’s focused on just, it’s a sales opportunity for brands. So you come and you meet all those buyers, that’s what they’re doing, you know, day to day anyways. They’re sending, you know, sales reps out, it’s, they’re sending, you know, bas to go, you know, do demos and dispensaries, all sorts of stuff to push your product just like in any other industry. So what we do is streamline that process, make it way less costly to tap into our network and what we’re doing and, you know, have a great experience.

07:17 Jason Bello
Get in front, make your dollar go the extra mile. I’d say our show specifically too, there’s not many events that actually have cannabis brands at them where you can sample and consume. It’s really just us. And I would say interchange, I’d say my dad show Hall of Flowers. My dad founded that with, you know, a few other partners and Oh

07:38 Eric Schneider
Really? That’s awesome. We had, we had Rama Mayo on the, the podcast as well. I worked very well.

07:46 Jason Bello
I worked with Rama for a long time and we did a consumer event in LA a few years ago. But yeah, I mean, you know, there there’s only so many shows that tap into the brand. So I think if you wanna be, if if you’re a brand and you wanna have a value out of a trade show, other than just sourcing your ancillary goods, you know, this is, this is the event for you.

08:06 Isaac Bock
Yeah. I mean, I guess obviously it seems to rung in the family, but how did you decide to launch a flower expo and, you know, finalize the niche of, you know, kind of being, you know, the brands, the buyer connection?

08:19 Jason Bello
Yeah, I mean, God, I would say, you know, just to start out my, I, I went to USC and I studied real estate, you know, learned a lot of valuable lessons about real estate, about investing, about, you know, just general, you know, how to, how to look at a business, how to look in an economy, how to, you know, just find value in things I guess you could say. But I, I did an internship with Holi Flowers. I worked for Rama, we did, you know, green Street Festival together, and then I actually sold cannabis too at Source Cannabis in la.

08:56 Jason Bello
We were, you know, probably one of the top 10 flower companies in California. I managed a team of about eight sales reps, but that was the main, you know, that was the main issue we were facing every day. That was our, always our goal and our objective was finding, you know, as a brand, finding new stores. I just found that, you know, what we did at Cauliflowers, you know, providing events through, I learned a lot about just putting on an event and how to create that atmosphere. I think, you know, I just found that was the number one thing that needed to be accomplished in the industry and for brands.

09:28 Jason Bello
And I’m a believer in, in pushing economy, free market system and, you know, just creating opportunity for developing, you know, sales and, and growing the economy. That’s the way that we’re gonna accomplish all of our issues in, in the cannabis industry.

09:47 Eric Schneider
So with, with 2023, you know, behind us, like what are you most excited about in 2024? Obviously, you know, the Massachusetts show and, and now Michigan coming online, you know, where, where do you see, you know, the cannabis industry overall in 2024 and, you know, what’s, what’s on the horizon for the Flower expo as well?

10:07 Jason Bello
Yeah, I would say just as an, you know, an overall industry thing. There’s a cloud of smoke wafting over us, which is rescheduling. I think that could be huge. I think, you know, the, the potential of rescheduling could be something where we see interstate commerce begin. We could see, you know, eases on tax restrictions that have burdened, you know, as you guys know, burden companies for a long time. So I think, I think that could really, and obviously, you know, not even to mention, just like funding coming into the industry, that’s a very standard thing.

10:43 Jason Bello
Once a company grows to a certain level, they need to acquire funding to get to the next step. That’s, you know, something really un, unless you were a huge company a few years ago, you weren’t, you don’t get access to that. So could change everything. But I would say as it pertains to our events, I think we’re putting on great shows.

11:03 Jason Bello
It’s an amazing opportunity to work in those, you know, two of the top five markets in cannabis right now in the United States. So if you’re a brand or retailer in in those states, I, I think it’s a no-brainer, come to our shows, you’re gonna meet everybody. You’re gonna make sales and you know, it’s gonna, it is just gonna develop, you know, it’s gonna develop the procurement of products going into stores, make sure everybody’s got the best deal, the best products, the best thing, catering to the, you know, environment that they’re in, the location that they’re at, the demographic they serve.

11:38 Eric Schneider
That’s great, man.

11:41 Speaker: 4:
<affirmative>,

11:44 Eric Schneider
I guess what, what are the, the scope of the events? Like how, how many people typically, is there a cap, like just, you know, overall cost structure, you know, what, what does that look like?

11:56 Jason Bello
It, it’s a small show we do. There’s no more than 2000, 2,500 people only, you know, the only exhibitors to this, 80% of our brands are a plant touching company. So they bring their team and then the only attendees to this thing are, you know, retail owners, GMs, bud tenders, and you know, there’s some media, but that’s about it. Some, you know, very limited cannabis executives. Yeah, I mean, I would say it’s, it’s an affordable price to get into.

12:27 Jason Bello
I think it’s an effective price that you’re gonna come in and make a lot of value outta your booth. But, you know, I, I do think this, this whole show, it’s a, it’s a value opportunity.

12:38 Isaac Bock
Yeah. I mean, with, on that kind of point, I guess, how have you guys set up, like how many days has the event, like what, what’s that process been like? ’cause as Eric kind of mentioned, we’ve been to a lot of events and sometimes some go on too long and others aren’t long enough. So how have you guys kind of set that timing out on your end?

12:55 Jason Bello
Yeah, a hundred percent. We, we, first of all, we do a midweek show Wednesday and Thursday, always. And, you know, that’s to encourage, obviously it’s a business event, so we want, you know, we, I firmly believe it’s worth taking two days out of the business week to come and, you know, do what you’re already doing for one, but two days we pack a lot of programming and a lot of time just to see all the booths. I, I think some of the feedback we got was that it was tough to see every booth and, and just those two days. But, you know, I think those having two days in the middle of the week, that’s a great time span for it.

13:35 Eric Schneider
And, and similar to like a hall of flowers, are you partnering with like a dispensary or anybody to like actually sell product on site? Like I know like Hall of Flowers, you know, you get the little gift cards or you know, samples and then you can go pay for it at the end of the day? Or is it just like samples being handed out? Like how, how does the interaction between buyers and, and sellers, like in terms of exchanging product?

14:03 Jason Bello
A hundred percent. Yeah. It, it’s, it’s a little different in the two states we operate in. We are, you know, licensed as cannabis event organizers. So in Michigan we will have an onsite dispensary where, you know, just like that show, you can get coupons, you can, you know, go up and redeem it. It’ll be a nice, a nice, we’re gonna call it Flower Expo Mart, so you’ll be able to go up and, and redeem everything. Yeah.

14:29 Eric Schneider
Very cool.

14:29 Isaac Bock
Nice. Are there any other, obviously you’re launching Michigan this year. Are there any other markets you’re looking into launching in the long term? Or were there any, you know, others that you have your eye on for this coming year?

14:40 Jason Bello
Yeah, a hundred percent. I mean, I would love to keep the show regional. Like right now we’re doing New England and the Midwest. I think, I think it would be good to keep the show regional, but I would say, you know, the nature of this industry, everything’s changing and you know, like, like I was just saying, like rescheduling just could change everything for interstate commerce. But you know, I, I think there’s so many growing markets right now. You could look at Illinois or Ohio or you know, Pennsylvania will likely legalize or Florida, but I think it’s kind of just wait and see what happens right now.

15:15 Jason Bello
<laugh>

15:16 Eric Schneider
As a, you know, obviously as, as an event, as an events company, what other events, you know, have you been to within the industry that you would say like, you know, those guys are doing a great job and, and the production that they’re putting on?

15:32 Jason Bello
I mean, I would have to give the crown to Cauliflowers right now. They do, yes. Spectacular job. And I’ve, you know, I’ve been a fan of that show. I would say the CEO Danny was a mentor for a while and really just admire everything they did. They had a lot of great people work on that show from Aaron Lavant who I, you know, right now he, he is working on ComplexCon and he founded a show called Agenda, but Danny did a fab, it was like a fashion show called Liberty.

16:04 Jason Bello
My dad comes from the computer trade show industry. So I think they just had a lot of experience and coming into this industry was really good for a show like that. But yeah, I would say, I mean, cauliflowers and obviously the behemoth that is MJ Biz does an incredible job.

16:20 Eric Schneider
Awesome, man. Well, this has been, this has been really great and, you know, is there, before we, we hop off here, you know, is there anything else that you wanted to, to share with, with our viewers or anything that we didn’t get to touch on?

16:34 Jason Bello
I would just say if you’re in the markets in Massachusetts or Michigan or you’d like to come check out the shows, you know, check us [email protected] for our Massachusetts and Michigan event, June 5th and sixth in Mass and August 7th and eighth in Michigan.

16:52 Eric Schneider
Oh, hell yes. Well, you heard it first. Appreciate your time, man, and have a great rest of your day. Thanks for being on The Roots to Risk podcast.

16:58 Jason Bello
Appreciate it guys.

17:00 Eric Schneider
Nice. Another one in the books a a different perspective, right? I I think we’re, we’re, we’re getting a lot of that, which is great. And you know, it’s very interesting to hear his background. You know, obviously the, the lineage to haul of flowers now makes a lot of sense given their business model of buyers and sellers. And you know, to your point on the intro, I think it’s great to have these events where, you know, folks like us can’t attend. Right? And it is just for the industry, for them to get deals done, not to be bothered by, you know, a million other ancillary providers that are getting their business.

17:33 Eric Schneider
It’s, it’s very curated and specific to creating deals, which is, which is great, you know, honestly, and unfortunately there’s not enough events like this, right? I, I can’t name any others between, besides this and the flower, or sorry, besides this and Hall of Flowers, everything else is kind of a

17:51 Isaac Bock
Yeah. Mosh pit. No, it’s definitely, it’s definitely good. And I liked what he said about, you know, understanding what the purpose and goal of your individual event is and trying to keep it to that kind of, to your point, there’s a ton of events where, you know, everyone is welcome and you know, it’s not trying to be ex exclude exclusionary or excluding individuals or companies, but providing a very specific role within the industry is always a good thing.

18:18 Eric Schneider
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, until next time, man, appreciate you.

18:22 Isaac Bock
Another one, another one down. Excited for the next one.

 

 

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