Warren Bobrow- WB: Please tell me about Trailblazers. How did it start? What is your overarching mission?
Trailblazers=T: Trailblazers is a curated community of cannabis business and cultural leaders who work to advance the industry, unified by a shared ethos and vision of the future. We believe cannabis is on the precipice of transforming the human experience. Whether it’s disrupting the $50 billion pain management industry, addressing the injustices faced by millions of people who have been wrongly incarcerated, or bringing hope to those who suffer from anxiety, depression, and other ailments, the federal legalization of cannabis has the ability to touch everyone’s life in a meaningful way. It’s not a question of if this impact will occur but how, and whether the cannabis industry will put profit before purpose and blaze a new trail with conscious capitalism in mind.
We started Trailblazers to elevate this conversation among the industry’s top leaders, recognizing the value of collaboration instead of competition in order to push the cannabis industry to lead on the broader challenges that face our economy and planet.
WB: Trailblazers is an invite-only inclusive event series that has turned into a powerful community for cannabis and hemp executives to gather and trade ideas that will have a lasting impact worldwide.
T: We learned a lot from our experience at Summit Series, producing events for multi-disciplinary leaders and curating unique learning environments infused with adventure. We love helping people connect with their peers and grow personally, professionally and spiritually. We get joy out of creating value for our members, whether that is helping them raise money, think about ways to reduce their carbon footprint, meeting their next co-founder or building the partnership that launches their brand to market.
We believe in the power of cannabis as a tool to drive positive social change in our society. Trailblazers’ mission is to shape the future of the industry and support the growth of new markets and opportunities.
WB: What makes Trailblazers different from other industry events?
T: In relation to other industry events, there are three factors that make Trailblazers truly unique: our social impact, non-transactional environment and immersion in nature.
Social Impact: We are committed to creating a lasting impact and make sure that every conversation that is sparked at our events has an action plan. Our community is rooted in conscious capitalism and our fellowship program brings attendees from diverse backgrounds and practice areas. We believe that diversity drives innovation, and we pride ourselves on fostering a community of emerging leaders that thrives on inclusion to drive positive social and environmental change.
Non-transactional Environment: Our events are intentionally designed for people to create real relationships by having fun and being active together, not just meet new contacts or walk away with a handful of business cards. We thoughtfully connect with every person who is interested in attending to better understand if they’re a good professional and cultural fit. We help attendees build strong personal relationships and if we’re able to do that in a highly curated environment, the business figures itself out pretty easily.
Immersion in Nature: We will never produce an event in a hotel lobby. We create events that allow people to get into their bodies and connect with the beautiful outdoors. Our event in the winter is filled with endless powder skiing and snow activities atop Powder Mountain’s 10,000 acre resort in Eden, UT. In the summer, we facilitate programming infused with mountain biking, hiking and lake activities like paddle boarding, wake surfing and swimming.
WB: I was reading about your partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation. How did that come about?
T: We started Trailblazers to mobilize leaders around the most important issues of the emerging cannabis and hemp industry: science and research, environmental stewardship and equality. A key takeaway from our inaugural event in March 2019 – where Dr. Jeff Chen, the founder and executive director of UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative raised $50K on the spot after his talk – was the need to support clinical research and evidence based education in medical cannabis. It was clear that the community viewed it as a missing link to establishing trust and credibility in the industry. Initially we considered starting our own Foundation, and then we met Pelin Thorogood and her team at Wholistic.
With a mission to explore how and why cannabis delivers its diverse health benefits, the Wholistic Foundation had already funded more than $6 million to drive some of the most innovative medical and scientific research we’d heard of. They had attracted some world-renowned doctors and researchers to their Medical Advisory Committee, and perhaps most important to us, they had a Venture Philanthropy approach that took a deep, long-term view into what it means to invest in cutting-edge cannabis research and education to improve public health and safety. It was a natural fit for us to establish a meaningful partnership with this trailblazing public non-profit given all the synergies.
In addition to Wholistic, we are in the process of building an environmental stewardship and sustainability initiative that we will be workshopping in March 2020, working on a political advocacy campaign with a new brand called Union Electric and partnering with several organizations on criminal justice and expungement initiatives.
WB: What can people expect at the upcoming Trailblazers III in Powder Mountain?
T: Guests can expect a weekend getaway at Powder Mountain’s 10,000 acre resort in Eden, UT. It’s three days and nights of curated programming including over ten workshops/content sessions led by our Trailblazers. We’ll have wellness activities, powder skiing with pro skier Lexi Dupont, one-of-kind dining experiences with Michelin-trained Chef Haru Kishi and live music performances. As event producers, we are good at creating a container and designing space, but the real magic is in the people who show up and who make up this community. Every person who comes to Trailblazers is attending for a different reason and we do our best to create an ecosystem to meet all those needs. Someone once said, “water seeks its own level,” and we think that’s the easiest way to describe it.
At every event, we hone in on 5-7 key pillars that we’ve identified as the most relevant current and future-looking topics in the cannabis industry. This year, those pillars are Policy & Regulation, Science & Medical Research, Consumer Product Innovation, Social Justice, Investments, Environmental Sustainability and International Markets.
WB: Thinking about the future, what are your 6 and 12 months goals?
T: Like any nascent industry, it’s hard to imagine what the landscape will look like six to twelve months from now. One thing is certain: our mission won’t change with the ebbs and flows of the industry. We are committed to being in service for the executives and leaders who truly believe in the power of the cannabis plant. Our goal over the next year is to really scale the community with new events, expand our global footprint and broaden our audience to include a more diverse group of business leaders.