Interview with Eric Michael: Creative Director, Tastemaker, and Accidental "Cannapreneur"
I’m delighted to interview my friend, fellow entrepreneur/cannapreneur, and strategic partner , Eric Michael.
B: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background.
E: I don't like to spend too much time looking in the rearview, but: I'm a Philly boy - born and raised in the northeast in a lower-middle-class working family. I was pretty much independent and self sufficient at 17. I pursued degrees in communication, business, and eventually marketing with a focus on luxury brands.
What was your first job ever?
Real job? I worked for my dad's HVAC company when I was 13 and 14. I was basically a "gopher." I'd "go for" this and "go for" that and assist on service calls. I think I worked with my dad on like two or three calls, which was probably for the best. It was actually really fun though. I loved spending my summers with my dad's guys.
What was your first job out of college?
I started my freelance career right out of high school and it followed me through my college career, so that. But, I also worked in a bank to supplement income when needed. Banking was most definitely not for me. I hated the unwavering structure, having to "sell" to people who didn't need to be sold anything, and having to wear a tie. (I hate ties!)
What made you want to venture into branding, marketing, PR & entrepreneurship?
I grew up around entrepreneurs and I'm pretty determined and stubborn (read: defiant), so entrepreneurship seemed like the only route. And still does. Working in branding and marketing allows me to leverage my ADHD into something good: I get to work on different projects everyday (literally!) and nothing is ever the same. I get to flex my curiosity and creativity every single day while helping people pursue their purpose in the world. There's nothing better than that.
Describe your ideal client.
Thirsty for innovation, disruption, and change with an open-minded administration and willingness to learn and grow—as an organization and the people within it. I like to work with brands that share my "vibe."
What advice would you give to companies and business owners looking to host a branded event?
Get focused and serious. Figure out the return and exactly what you want to get out of the activation—and make damn sure it isn't a contrived notion. I'm big on community impact and work as hard as necessary to get my clients on the same page; almost all of my activations have a community tie-in of some kind.
What do you wish your clients knew about what you do?
That I do it because I genuinely love it and I've invested in them because I genuinely love their mission, focus, and values. Not because I have to.
You've coined yourself an "accidental cannapreneur". What about the cannabis industry intrigued you?
The effects of the plant. (Haha!) I have struggled with anxiety and depression my entire life, since I was twelve years-old, and when a friend stepped in to combat a panic attack with cannabis it changed my life forever. I was twenty-three the first time I smoked and it took me half a decade to get to a place where I could really "lean in" and accept the medicinal benefits—and share my story. There really is an unjust stigma and I'm really committed to reversing it.
Favorite project you've worked on so far this year.
Myself—as contrived as that sounds. This past year has been all about straightening things up; setting clear expectations and goals and boundaries and keeping them. It's been an awesome learning experience.
What's next for you?
World domination. (Haha.) The team and I are working on a refresh of the digital property. It'll bring with it new content production methods - more video, more original photos, etc. - and a new podcast series we're calling 'Unpacking It.' Plus new educational content via webinars, courses, and the like. The easiest way to keep up is through my newsletter, The List.