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Growing In The Light: Nicole Wolff on Building a Cannabis Brand

I’m always in awe of people with cool jobs, doing awesome things in unconventional industries, disrupting what as a society we know to be commonplace. I’m even more fascinated by the journeys it took them to get there. One such person who is doing remarkable things within her industry is Nicole Wolff, brand director of The Flowr Corporation, one of the only cannabis corporations operating globally, in Canada, Europe and Australia.

What makes Wolff’s story so fascinating is that she left the comforts of working for a legacy brand, to start something new – from scratch. Before her role at The Flowr Corporation, Wolff launched and scaled regional and global beer brands over eight years at Molson Coors Canada, leading the launch of the Belgian (Blue) Moon brand in Canada, bringing back Coors Banquet stubby bottles and managing the Toronto Raptors partnership with Coors Light. Her accomplishments really built the foundation for what she needed to know about marketing, but near the end, she was drawn to try something new. That came in the form of a cannabis startup.

I think that’s one of the unique things about being in a startup and having a small team is that no two days are the same; there are so many things in between that fall under my hat, and as a small company, I’m super passionate about the brand and the product and what we’re doing, so I’m happy to wear all those hats.

As the Brand Director of Flowr, Wolff is responsible for developing all things brand related, from the communications strategy, to their visual identity and brand activations. Most recently, she can add activist to her list of accolades: last week, the Flowr Corporation wrote an open letter to Justin Bieber as a tactic to bring awareness to the generational devastation that cannabis prohibition has caused thousands of people, and as a call to action to expunge countless former cannabis convictions dated before the legalization of cannabis in 2018. Their corporation put up $100,000 of the organization’s money and an additional $100,000 from its directors, officers and employees to support Pardons Canada, a non-profit that helps those with cannabis convictions petition the government to have their criminal record pardoned. They are on a mission to help every Canadian with a cannabis conviction erase that past, and hopefully, be able to start afresh.

Like I said, a pretty cool job. 

We talked to Wolff to understand the inner workings of marketing a brand, and what made her decide to go from working in the alcohol industry, to cannabis.

I really enjoyed my eight years at Molson, and being able to work on some of the biggest brands in Canada, as well as some of the biggest brands in the world. It really allowed me to build the foundations of what I needed to know about marketing; learning about the consumer, learning about the consumer journey, learning how to work with an agency. I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities I had and I think what really started to call me to cannabis was my desire to get back to building brands from scratch. I think that’s really where I get my passion and drive from. Cannabis was still very new at the time and there was still a huge opportunity to get into a company in the early days and wrap my hands around something and call it “my own”. That’s the opportunity that Flowr presented. I really believed in the team, their story and being able to build that brand from the ground up was a challenge I hadn’t experienced in a long time, and an opportunity I couldn’t resist. Even though there’s a ton of risk going to a startup, I felt like it was the right time in my career and in my life to take that type of chance.

With all the hats she now wears, the one thing that has surprised the most about working in this role, is her access. 

The number of people I get to interact with within the organization is unlike any other role I’ve had. On any given day, I’m on a call with our CEO or CFO, next thing, I’m talking to our cultivation leads, our operations team or the quality team, or our shipping team who’s organizing a plane or a truck to get our product into stores. I think the nice thing about working for a startup is that there’s no segregation between levels. I don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call our Chief Legal Officer – for example – or a cultivator in Kelowna to ask a question and this change for me is a breath of fresh air. Because we’re all so passionate about what we do, and the company is small, we just want it to succeed, so everyone is willing to lean in and go outside their traditional job descriptions.

This for Wolff – as an integral part of the Flowr Corporation – also includes being a changemaker in altering the perception of cannabis use, and using education as a way to end the stigma, as well as help those convicted for cannabis charges here in Canada have their records be erased. One of Flowr’s tag lines is “Grown True,” as a marker for their identity and definition of their purpose. Part of that is upholding their integrity as a corporation born under those prohibitions, to shed light to this issue, and do right by their community.

Even though cannabis is legal, there are many people who still have records. If those charges get expunged, it would help restore some of their most basic rights. Pardons Canada is there to support people on a number of things, cannabis being one of them. Part of the reason that Flowr exists is because we – as a corporation – were able to get those very same cannabis pardons. When we talk about Flowr “being born in the underground,” that’s not just marketing. 

One can only gain a reward if they take a risk, and this is a principle inherent to the cannabis industry at large, but also specifically to Wolff’s role at The Flowr Corporation. 

As a marketer, every single day is so new and so scrappy, that there is so much to do all the time. Cannabis can be the Wild West. And when I say no two days are the same, no two days are the same, because there’s a new brand or multiple brands out every single day; there are new regulations we need to consider as a brand, changes in packaging and several things happen in between harvest. But when I put my mind to something or put my heart into something, I am all in. Passion is absolutely necessary. There is still so much runway for Flowr, and that’s what really excites me. 

You can learn more about Nicole Wolff on her Instagram, Flowr here, and follow along on Flowr’s Pardons Canada campaign.

Danai Mushayandebvu

Danai is usually scrolling through Instagram in search of new restaurants, things to do and places to be. While she has no formal dance training whatsoever, she hopes to be part of a professional hip-hop troupe someday. You can follow her escapades @dnizzler