30/05/2022 Ave Miller, the Co-Founder of Fly Beverage Co. talks about his experience in the cannabis industry what marketing tactics worked for Uncle Arnie’s.
Ave Miller is an experienced sales and account manager with more than 7 years of experience in retail management and retail sales. Apart from that, he has 2.5 years of experience in cannabis retail sales. He entered the cannabis industry in 2017 and was a founding member of the Select Oil California Launch. He learned every tiny detail related to the cannabis vape industry during this period and was rapidly promoted to a management position and became the head of manufacturing and fill production. Ave was soon promoted to Assistant Manager of Supply Chain, where he managed relationships with over 100 growers across the state. Ave also co-founded Fly Beverage Co. in January 2020 and has immensely contributed to the success of the company.
Tell me about yourself and your current work focus and your journey in cannabis. Your origin story and how you started in the cannabis world.
My Origin in cannabis started back when I was 13 years old with a friend back in Lake County, Florida. I grew up in the world of skateboarding culture, cannabis and partying were all kind of intertwined with each other. From the moment I tried cannabis I fell in love, but always had a back-and-forth relationship with the plant due to access, and being shamed for using it. Fast forward to 16 years old I was in an almost near-death accident and my love for cannabis grew more because I didn't use traditional medicine during the healing process, I choose cannabis as a pain killer - I wasn't living at home at the time because my stepfather at the time kicked me out of my house for smoking cannabis and selling it in high school so I was really a free teen and could make those choices for myself. My mother was a restaurant entrepreneur and I got that spirit and motivation from her to hustle and I helped run her restaurants. Fast forward to college I was still selling cannabis to all the local college kids and ended up getting mixed up with the law and was facing felony charges for selling cannabis to an informant.
I took a pause on any cannabis-related activities until my case was eventually dropped a year later and just focused on my career at Zumiez. Once I had gotten the news about the case I immediately moved to Portland Oregon to get closer to states that had less harsh laws on cannabis and had opportunities there to invest more into my career at Zumiez. Then in early 2017, I met Cameron Forni, the founder of Select, and Amy, his COO at the time, through my roommate who had just started a position there. They were talking to me about opportunities in Sacramento California for management and I was on the fence about it but kept in communication with them through the year and even helped them move all of their stuff in the beginning stages of their expansion to California. Then when I was in Garberville dropping off their first truckload and my friend, something hit me that this was an adventure I would regret not taking. A few months later once they were out of the mountains and settled in their first facility in Sacramento I jumped ship and took the Production management / Head product formulator position with them and the rest was history.
Image Source- Fly Beverage
How did you come up with the idea to launch Uncle Arnie's. What inspired you?
The idea of Uncle Arnies was designed by my Partner Matt McGinn and Brand Director Jeff Bull. We wanted a fun, attractive, approachable brand that represented a new direction in the space. Our original drink is an Arnie Palmer - so they dreamt up the ideal stoner uncle, drawing on California skate/snow/surf culture and leaning into illustrations that were fun and original. We've been working on expanding Arnie's world and products... and we're stoked for what's next.
Let's take a go on writing a good cannabis beverage brand marketing plan: What should be an ideal checklist?
Be fun, be original and bring value to your shops & customers. A Lot of brands in the space are following a cookie sheet marketing plan that's simple and sleek. I don't feel like consumers can connect and relate to a product that looks like the next brand. Keep it original and true to you and your consumer base.
Walk us over your experience of Uncle Arnie's, what marketing activities worked for you and what did not work?
It's been an experience, to say the least, this category isn't easy, but it's extremely rewarding. I think our most successful marketing approaches so far have just been marketing and focusing on the budtenders. Contest activations, showing face, word-of-mouth promotion, and getting them committed to us and the buy-in of the brand. Our price sets us apart from everyone and that's what the consumers want. It's pretty simple.
Image Source- Fly Beverage
What sort of creatives are working for you in B2B? Let's say to get dispensaries to pay attention to social media.
To be completely honest, it's really minimal. Instagram is a great tool to communicate with our actual customers and give them a personal experience but the retailers really want in-store support. Making a post will get people excited to go to the stores if you're being clever about deals. A big hit is putting the shops into our world, creating custom illustrations of the shops, and giving them that experience. Our Instagram is still growing and we've kept it completely organic since day one so we still got a lot to build up to.
What's your sales marketing funnel? Do you have set lead generation targets via digital channels?
We use the leaf link to create an Omni focus, but we are on the pavement running getting sales. Retailers hardly engage digitally for sales, these buyers want relationships and to know from whom they are buying the product.
What is the best marketing campaign or work you did that you are very proud of?
We did a collaboration with CANN last October for a Sober October campaign that we did to help uplift the beverage space and play on the micro and high-dose place to introduce new consumers. We did this at Two Rivers Sacramento and Cookies Sacramento. We also just did a huge campaign where we gave away 5,000mg of edibles to a consumer and that was the biggest hit we've done to date, as well as our 4 for 20 deal on 4/20.. get it haha. We have these amazing four packs and FINALLY 4 flavors so it was a way to introduce a customer to all of our flavors and give them a massive bang for their buck. 400MG for 20 dollars, you'd be insane not to buy that. We are really proud of our life-size Arnies cutouts and our art, putting people in Arnis world, creating custom illustrations for our retail partners, and gifting them to hang in the stores.
Give us 2-3 business challenges you faced in growing and launching your company and how did you overcome them.
Our biggest challenge is retailers choosing friends over consumer purchasing data, we are the #1 selling SKU with data to prove, and for some reason, people still say no just because they have their personal opinion over giving the customers what they are asking for. This goes for a lot of brands too, not just us. Storage space is another huge one, retailers never thought drinks would pop off like they have and just people genuinely not believing in the space.
Interviewed by Sid Patel, Beverage Trade Network