Meeting Michael Garganese, founder of the Cannabis brand Lola Lola, reminded me of  Roy Choi, the Owner of Kogi Food Trucks. If you don’t know Kogi BBQ, their empire revolutionized the food truck industry. In an interview by Eddie Huang, Roy speaks about food in a way that transcends what’s on the plate. Good food isn’t solely created with superior skills and ingredients, it takes something more. Roy created Kogi with the influence of his upbringing: a connection with his local community, and a creative approach to combining two different cuisines. That’s where his flavor comes from; it comes from an appreciation, an emotion and a passion for the food.

Now replace food with Marijuana and that’s how I felt about Michael and his Lola Lola brand.

I first read about Lola Lola last year, in a High Times article, “21 Brands to Watch”.  Scrolling through the brands, Lola Lola was one that stood out. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, maybe it was the artwork, the interesting name, or clever packaging… it was just different. Many brands in the market follow a similar template: clean, modern and simple. To be fair, certain state regulations also play a factor in plain packaging choices.

It wasn’t until I found Lola Lola in another article by Business Insider that my interest really peaked. In the article, Michael explained: “We want to figure out a way to elevate and enhance the overall experience of buying and using cannabis. We want people to feel free to be who they want to be and do the things that they want to do.”

This really connected with me. A big reason why I created this blog was to find ways to look at marijuana differently. I wanted to explore how it can improve our lives, and how to remove the stigma and shame. Although there had been progress for a number of years, legalization has now created an era and aura of freedom. Sharing stories, like where you bought your marijuana, can be discussed openly.

So when I saw Michael’s name on the list of speakers at the High Times Business Summit, I was super excited. The seminar was titled “A Practical Approach to Building Top Cannabis Brands”. There were three speakers, and they each took turns to talk about how they built their brand. They were all excellent and I learned a lot from them, but again, Lola Lola managed to stand out.

What is this guy doing that’s so intriguing?

I broke down his presentation into 3 main parts:

  1. He took you on his journey
  2. Lola Lola’s values are clear and have emotion
  3. He educated through inspiration
  1. He took you on his journey

This wasn’t just an information session, Michael’s presentation started with his personal story. He shared how he grew up in a pretty conservative state that had a negative perception of weed. So when the idea of joining the cannabis industry was presented to him, he was hesitant. It wasn’t until Michael really learned about and understood the plant that he realized his preconceptions were misguided.

  1. Lola Lola’s values are clear and have emotion

“It starts with a feeling,” Michael said.  Creativity, inspiration, fun and magic are some of the things I picked up on. “The medical side is important and must be discussed, but let’s not forget about the fun aspect of cannabis” he added.  As the presentation continued, we learned more about their brand and understood its values. Everything became clearer. The decisions, the choices, their path to success now made a lot of sense. It was always guided by their values. It’s a concept that lot of people talk about, but doesn’t necessarily reflect in their brand. Now I saw it with Lola Lola. Listening and learning from the presentation was also fun and engaging. It sparked a feeling within me; it was inspiring. Everything just connected, from the story of its creation to the captive audience.

  1. He educated through inspiration

Michael showed how much fun it was building Lola Lola, rather than proving why his brand is great. Rather than producing a sales pitch, he inspired us. I didn’t just view this presentation as a lesson on branding. I saw it as why entrepreneurship is exciting, and how creativity can build amazing things when combined with passion. At times, I struggled to pay attention because I was becoming sidetracked by my own exciting ideas. The discussion was very relatable to my own goals and how I wanted to build my own brand.

However, the difference between me and Michael is that I have a vision in mind, but it hasn’t played out yet. So it was inspiring to learn how to develop a vision into a successful, complete brand.

I approached Michael after the seminar. I planned to ask him a couple questions at most, but amazingly enough, we ended up talking for a good while. I asked about a specific service that he had previously mentioned. I was potentially interested in using it, but he told me straight up, “No, in terms of business it’s not worth it”.

He explained to me why it wasn’t helpful and provided an alternative way to think about it.

I thought to myself, he doesn’t know me, this is the first time we met. He could have taken the safe route and said, “That service is not bad, it really depends on what you’re looking for” since he has a connection to the service. I truly appreciated the honesty.

From there, he continued to feed me knowledge; teaching me about building a network in California, about how he used the lean startup approach, and highlighting the importance of putting love into what you do. “The feeling and emotion into your product is so important, why else would I do it? This is what inspires me to get up every day”.

It clicked.

These core values, the feeling, the emotions, it didn’t start from Lola Lola, it came from Michael himself. The appreciation for the fun, the creativity, the ability to inspire and innovate. He’s preaching these values even when he’s not discussing Lola Lola. The brand is an extension of himself. I see it now, it all comes together. It was truly a “lightbulb” moment for me.

If you genuinely believe in what you do and you’re passionate, this emotion will spread into your brand, and through that, to the world. People can see it, they can feel it. Even through words, to a guy reading your article from a Starbucks in Toronto.

My mind was on a natural high; flying up and up. I thought about my work and what I’m trying to build. I realized that I haven’t looked deep enough. I set values of what I wanted to build because they aligned with my end-goal. But really, I should be looking at how I feel, my relationship with marijuana, my experiences with it, the joy it brings me, the bond it has brought when smoking with new friends. This is how I will build my brand. It starts with a feeling.

You can find out more about Lola Lola on their website or Instagram.