7 Ways to Overcome Better-Funded Competitors in the Cannabis Industry

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The common wisdom for would-be entrepreneurs is to focus on core needs. In this industry, that’s why most ventures tend to revolve around three specific functions: growing cannabis, developing cannabis-based products, and connecting patients and enthusiasts with cannabis.

As the founder of an ancillary brand that does none of the above, I understood Goldleaf was already behind the 8-ball. Nevertheless, my team and I have been able to build our brand into an authoritative source and carve out a successful niche, all without any outside investment. Your business has the potential to achieve similar results. Of course, when your enterprise is the David in a David-versus-Goliath scenario, you should be cognizant of the landscape you are attempting to traverse.


Although the cannabis space is flush with investment from those seeking to capitalize on the green rush, boutique cannabis brands can thrive despite their disadvantages. Below are seven tips to help your craft business make a powerful impact in the space.

Face your biggest fear

Federal legalization in the United States is a real possibility in the near future. As an advocate for cannabis, you probably perceive legalization to be long overdue; however, as a small business owner in the space, you may simultaneously hold a contradictory belief that legalization would spell your business’s doom once established individuals and well-funded entities blitz your brand with better-publicized variations.

The reality is the cannabis space already is inundated with immense financial backing. Cultivation operations already exist on a grand scale. Massive distribution networks already have been established.

And, yes, when cannabis is legalized enterprises can and will carve out huge chunks of market share through avenues you may not have the money to access. You probably don’t have the capital to air a thirty-second spot during a Super Bowl broadcast like they will. You probably don’t have the ability to adapt your business to new state and federal regulations as quickly as they will. As for hiring lobbyists to canvass Capitol Hill on your company’s behalf and muscle out competitors, yeah, you probably won’t be able to do that either.

Get comfortable with the fact there always will be Goliaths in the marketplace, but that has little bearing on your business’s potential. The key is to avoid trying to beat the “big players” at their own game, because that likely would lead to failure. Instead, as a small business owner, you must embrace the fact you have far more freedom and a better ability to craft unique and quality experiences for your customers than your more established competitors.

Zero in on your story

Larger businesses focus on capturing the widest possible market. While that has obvious advantages, being positioned in such a broad fashion leads to lower emotional resonance with customers.

Small business owners can utilize this situation to their benefit. Harness the power of your story and integrate it into every fiber of your brand. Remember, it’s far easier for a boutique business to create emotional resonance with customers through their story and distinctive products than it is for a bigger and more decentralized enterprise to do the same.

Never compromise on authenticity

Customers support people—and brands—they perceive as honest and trustworthy. This is much easier to cultivate on the small scale from which boutique cannabis businesses operate. Demonstrate you are in this space for the right reasons; you value customers’ experiences and you aren’t engaged in representing your business in a way that can be perceived as insincere. Doing so will allow your authenticity to shine through and establish trust.

Target niche communities

Larger businesses in the cannabis space must ensure their cultivars, products, and dispensaries please the widest possible group of consumers. That strategy is effective for them because of their distinct advantage in reach. Since you don’t have the same resources at your disposal, focus your efforts on targeting niche cannabis communities.

When I started Goldleaf, I understood not everyone who grows or consumes cannabis is drawn to the science behind the plant. I also knew not all who “geek out” on this topic appreciate aesthetics and fine craftsmanship. However, I was aware there existed enough of a base who find science, art, and cannabis fascinating for Goldleaf to thrive. You, too, can find your niche group of consumers and market directly to them rather than aiming for the same broad audiences large companies in the space seek to capture.

Think locally

The COVID-19 pandemic is a significant challenge for boutique business owners who aim to do direct local outreach; however, with the prospect of a successful vaccine forthcoming, forward-thinking entrepreneurs should not overlook opportunities to build brand loyalty within their own communities. Small business owners should strongly consider partnering with local artists or influencers on marketing campaigns, local events, and localized products.

Find your MVP

As an entrepreneur, you probably are bubbling over with ideas. That’s wonderful, but an overabundance of choice often can end up becoming a problem for boutique brands, particularly before they’ve established serious traction. Instead, focus on doing one thing really well. Find your most valuable product and devote the bulk of your resources to its success. If you are able to create a bedrock product you can build your brand around, you’ll have a much better chance of standing out and outlasting competitors. This is true for cultivators, processors, and even dispensaries.

Develop unique product offerings

One of the major advantages boutique businesses have is most people love to support the underdog. That’s largely due to the feeling of exclusivity that cannot be replicated by larger brands. You can utilize this to your benefit by crafting unique, timely releases. Much like small-batch bourbons or once-a-year craft beers, cannabis brands can create holiday-themed cultivars or other similar products.

Facing down much larger competitors may seem intimidating, but small businesses have some distinct advantages. With planning and skill, David overcame Goliath. You can, too.