Communications Powerhouse Finds a Home in Cannabis Industry
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Meet Ellen Bollinger. This communications, marketing, PR and events powerhouse has made life her adventure, and the latest stop is in the cannabis industry.
We're fascinated by her unique journey and perspective on the space and look forward to the WEEDY awards, which she's organizing with Weed Week at the end of February.
1. You have quite the background in communications and marketing. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background?
Although I grew up in the 60s, I was a serious nerd in high school, competitive, yearbook editor, most likely to succeed, etc. Not content with my life in those NY suburbs and hating the winters, I took a road less taken, and went to New College in Sarasota, Florida. My first week at this ‘hippie college,' I realized that everyone was smoking weed, drinking booze and ‘dancing in the dark.' A quick learner (and still competitive), I adapted rapidly. From her college bong to the upcoming WEEDY Awards, Ellen Bollinger shares her unique cannabis journey with us.
Aside from creating and pursuing a degree Psychological Anthropology, I minored in theater (acted professionally with the Asolo State Repertory Company) and spent most of my senior year in Nice, France.
Moving to NYC upon graduating it became clear that there wasn’t a vibrant job market in my chosen field, duh! Too averse to personal rejection to commit to acting, I was drawn to advertising, marketing and public relations. I loved to write and am always happy to grab the mic and speak up. My path literally led me from Sardi’s to The New York Times, where I spent a decade learning the science and magic of marketing services and selling ads in the newspaper and Sunday magazine. The Times was competitive but lots of fun too. My peers worked and played hard, helped each other succeed, survived the disco and coke scene and maintained lifelong respect for the institution and the ‘Tegrity’ for which is stands.
I left there for a financial advertising sales directorship in London and traveled all over Europe (bucket list checked) meeting with bankers, mostly in English but not always!
Short stints followed at The New York Post (when Rupert Murdoch was not the owner) and consulting for The New York Yankees (after George Steinbrenner had been banned for lack of Tegrity), and I independently produced their First Annual NY Yankees Fan Festival. For a glorious weekend at Madison Square Garden I was in charge of some of the heroes of my past and present. Catch me for some good stories offline!
This was followed by marketing management roles during the launch of NY1 News and then at a family-run news organization in Central New Jersey. Did the marry, buy a house, have a kid thing as, hey, we were living in the suburbs anyway! I tried being a stay-at-home Mom when we co-created a glossy monthly magazine for ferry commuters. But I was 43 when Wes was born and just didn’t have much in common with the Moms of his local peer group. I was a fish out of water, smoked pot on the weekends just to feel ‘like myself again’ and yearned for the competition and adrenalin rush of Manhattan. My husband stepped up, stayed home and I jumped back into the fray. A decade and a half running advertising sales for The Nation (our oldest news weekly) introduced me to some incredible people in politics and culture. I spearheaded their own ad campaign and got to meet Paul Newman, Gloria Steinem, Larry David, Russell Simmons, Janeane Garofalo, Rick Steves, etc. Anyway, enough name dropping (or go to my site for pix for more!)
2. How did you get into the cannabis industry?
While consulting in sales and marketing for Mother Jones (another fearless media organization) I was recommended to the Editor/Publisher of WeedWeek, Alex Halperin. He was looking to monetize his great journalism (newsletters and podcasts) and create stellar events where top Canna Execs could get together in a casual atmosphere to share knowledge, network and have some fun. We had three Recharge LA events last year where hundreds of attendees mingled with each other and incredible sponsors, doubled the revenue and am meeting incredible people and learning a ton about our endocannabinoid system and the effects of the plant upon us. We have a kick-ass database of C-Suite people and Influencers who subscribe to the newsletters (U.S., California and Canada) and who open our damn emails. We inform, not overwhelm.
3. Can you tell us about some of your current cannabis work?
WeedWeek is expanding with a dynamic new website, White Paper reports from U.S. States and our first annual WEEDY awards -- to recognize top companies in the grow, distribution, social, racial and gender equity and environmental stewardship fields. Our Judges are Steve DeAngelo, Amber Senter, Jason Beck, Olivia Chong, Bryant Mitchell, Alicia Rose, Rocco Loebel, Brad Bogus and Dale Sky Jones! The judges were presented with the top five vote getters in each category and the winners will be announced at The London in West Hollywood on February 28. Reach out for sponsorship and ticket info.
4. What most inspires you about the potential in the cannabis industry?
Where else does one play a role in remaking the fabric of society, healthcare and business? This is the most significant opportunity to redress many lifetimes of greed, discrimination and ignorance. Defeating prohibition is progressing but we have to be mindful not to replicate the avarice and environmental degradation that capitalism has wrought. We need to reflect our communities (skin colors, religious beliefs or lack thereof, gender identities or lack thereof, ages encompassing 21 to infinity). These life-altering matters do not get retrofit. They must be foundational. We should be ingesting the plant, slathering on topicals, wearing hemp fabrics, using hempcrete in sustainable building, making lots of money and sharing the bounty.
5. Where do you see yourselves in five years?
Mentoring, doing Tai Chi and enjoying the fruits of my labor with financial security, an ever-widening circle of friends, enjoying an open Rec marketplace of fair-trade practices and prideful of my having helped get us there. If grandmotherhood is in the cards too, way cool but do NOT rush on my account, Wes!