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Do you have an innovative new idea you’d like to get off the ground? Maybe you’ve thought of looking for an investor or partner but don’t know where to turn. Or maybe you’ve become discouraged with the responses of business people who don’t understand what cannabis is all about.

Golan Vaknin, executive director and founder of ESEV R&D, is working with medical marijuana researchers in Israel and the U.S. and understands the vicious cycle of finding investors willing to invest in an industry that has only just begun to prove itself. Vaknin said, “When I tell people I’m doing research for cannabis, part of them knows it’s a really hot issue right now and there’s a lot of money in it, but a lot of people say they won’t associate with that. I think the struggle for entrepreneurs trying to get into this game is to present themselves as a legit business.”

For an industry that has historically existed outside legal boundaries, presenting itself as a legitimate business poses unique problems. A lot of people may have good ideas, but simply don’t know how to present themselves. And while investors might be curious, they are also wary about funding something as controversial as cannabis. As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to convince investors that you’re grounded and responsible enough to handle a business.

Vaknin offers three tips, based on his own experiences with both cannabis and other business ventures:

  1. Have a solid business plan with a clear structure from beginning to end showing what product or service you plan to offer. Vaknin says one mistake he made when first approaching investors was he didn’t have a business plan solidly in place. “Before approaching investors you really need to know what you want,” he says. “Investors want to know they are putting their money in the hands of someone who has a vision and a plan to carry it out.”
  2. Think of your cannabis business just like any other business. This means facing up to marijuana’s stoner image and working to change it. Many Americans still associate marijuana with the flakey loser smoking a bong in front of the TV with a bag of Doritos and chocolate cake. And the truth is, a lot of hopeful entrepreneurs perpetuate that image. “Being in the cannabis business doesn’t mean you can come to a meeting wearing a Jim Morrison T-shirt and smelling like pot. You should respect yourself and the business and the people who might be investing in you.”
  3. Choose your partners carefully. A lot of people think getting into the cannabis industry is cool, so you find a lot of people with half-baked ideas and pipe dreams. You don’t want to waste your time with people who are flakey and possibly dishonest. Golan says the key to finding the right partners is “to know what you want to do and that will attract the relevant people. When you’re lost and all over, that’s the kind of people you attract.”

Clarity is probably the single most important factor in approaching investors. Know your niche in the marijuana market and what sets you apart from the competition. Be able to articulate your objectives and how you will meet them. Believe in what you are doing and trust that you’ll find the right partners to make your dream a reality.

Photo Credit: Simon Blackley

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