Amber Raspberry Mayo and Kari Brua are the founders of WYD Agency, a marketing accelerator for trailblazers. A play on (“What You Doing”) and an abbreviated acronym for "weed", WYD provides a comprehensive marketing approach for cannabis companies. Amber brings over 15+ years in client and agency experience while Kari brings nearly 20 years of B2B and B2C marketing expertise. Together, their powerhouse team is dedicated to helping cannabis businesses make their mark in one of the fastest growing industries worldwide.
What brought you together to launch an agency serving the cannabis industry?
We met over 15 years ago at a marketing agency in Chicago. We became close friends during that time, but our careers took us in different directions. Our friendship actually grew the more we lived states apart from each other, and we got together for girls weekends and other trips. Last year, we were both at turning points in our careers - ready to make that next move. We knew that in the next phase of our careers, we wanted to work with startups and like-minded people where we could make a real difference.
What's the backstory to WYD?
Amber was the first one who knew creating a startup agency was the next step. After career-defining work as head of media and partnerships for Samsung then a series of short stints at startup companies, she knew returning to corporate life wasn’t in the cards. Amber researched the legal cannabis industry and the opportunities it presented, and with a renewed passion for helping startups spend money wisely, she set up WYD -- a play on words of “what you doing?” and short version “weed.” During a girls weekend, we talked about the opportunities and possibilities and shortly after that trip, Kari was on board as a partner. She had just moved to Denver which was a perfect location to get involved in cannabis. We had no clients, but hit the ground quickly and started working with a few retail stores before moving into brand work and B2B cannabis marketing.
What inspired you to enter the cannabis industry?
Honestly, it was seeing the opportunity and potential of this industry. We researched startups and where there was a burgeoning industry. Cannabis kept coming up, over and over. We did more research and realized that this industry has about 35% female founders, and we felt we could make an impact. Neither of us ever had any issues with cannabis perceptions. Amber grew up with hippie parents in Alaska so for the majority of her childhood, didn’t even realize it was illegal.
Tell us more about WYD Agency
We’re a startup with three locations - Seattle, Los Angeles and Denver. We work with stores, in B2B and with brands. We think that working across all three key areas is important to understand where the industry is moving and how each of these categories are working with and learning from one another. WYD also works with non-cannabis clients (tech, fashion) as we think it’s important to learn from all aspects of marketing. We have four partners in the agency, and a roster of talented professionals with a range of skills who support our client work.
What type of cannabis marketing services do you provide?
We’re the 360 model. We have team members who can go deep in individual areas like social, research, creative, PR, etc., but we also believe in understanding the holistic business experience. We have enough experience and depth on our team that we feel comfortable in just about any area - and if we don’t, we’re down to learn it. That’s part of our joy - the cannabis space is growing so fast that changing and growing with it is a great part of that experience. As an example, we’ve helped a cannabis retailer set up a website and social content then optimized it so people could find the store upon searching online. We’ve used data and analytics plus grassroots research to determine a retailer’s growth plan, and we’ve worked with cannabis influencers to create one-on-one relationships for clients. WYD looks at the business challenges and needs and creates a strategy to address it with a comprehensive marketing approach.
How has cannabis influenced your lives?
Amber grew up with it from a very young age. She actually doesn’t remember not having it around in some way so it was never a situation where cannabis was taboo or something that was considered illegal. As crazy as that sounds, it was always just consumed in her family so it wasn’t a big deal and she’s constantly surprised by people who think it is. We’ve also witnessed the impact of cannabis and hemp for pain and simple things like insomnia, and believe marijuana should be legal everywhere.
What have been your biggest hurdles operating in the cannabis industry so far?
Social media platforms are still trying to figure out what to do with the cannabis industry. It’s become a big issue - the lack of consistency and professionalism by the social giants in addressing cannabis. We need these platforms to offer guidelines and have conversations with professionals in the cannabis industry to find a better path forward.
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
We’re stubborn - so to us the answer is never no. It’s...okay, how can we figure out how to get it done. Also, luckily we’ve worked with Instagram, Facebook and Google since their inception so we have experience in keeping at it, even when it seems like the chips are stacked against you. Experience, stubbornness and a healthy dose of optimism.
Name the top 3 skills every cannabis entrepreneur needs
#1 Belief Good days, bad days, they all even out. You have to keep that belief or faith that you got this.
#2 Joy If you aren’t loving what you are doing, even on the tough days when you hate it, it’s not for you. This really isn’t for everyone and life is short so you may as well enjoy it. For us, that means helping others figure it all out too.
#3 Truth Every quote by Oprah can be used here. If you know your truth and stick to it, there is a sense of calmness that you will feel, even in the tough times. It goes back to knowing that you want to do this - and that you’ve chosen correctly.
What is the best advice you've received recently?
“Get out and meet people more”
Meeting people in the industry is really fun and can help build that sense of community. Most often when you are trying to build a business you go heads down and you leave out that really important part. It’s critical to understand we’re part of a growing, awesome community and we should acknowledge that by actually getting out into it a bit more.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
We actually need to do a much better job of this. We’re trying, but we also care a lot, so we work and work and...work. The good news is that we find it enjoyable. So that helps. But we really do need to get out of the office more and do some serious self care. We love the people we work with so sometimes it's difficult not to talk to each other all the time.
What are your favorite resources/tools for your business and why?
We used to use Slack for constant communication but we just switched to Microsoft Teams and we love it. Everyone is on the go constantly so that one communication tool saves us countless hours of emails and texting.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Do what you love. It’s a cliche but it’s so true. We love working with startups and we love working in cannabis. That makes every single day worthwhile and we wouldn’t trade it for anything.