In this Cannabis Creative Blog, I sit down with Caron Cooper, co-founder of CannaSiteCo., a Washington-based digital marketing agency for cannabuisnesses. We talk about the importance of having a website, releasing people convicted of non-violent cannabis charges, and how CannaSiteCo is investing in the industry as a whole.
What ultimately drives change in the cannabis industry is not flashy headlines, overpaid politicians, or government initiatives.
It’s everyday people stepping up to the plate and putting their money where their mouth is to make changes in the community and their industry. It’s people like Caron Cooper.
Cooper is the co-founder of CannaSiteCo, a Washington-based digital marketing company that helps cannabis businesses with websites, SEO, and email marketing.
Cooper came to the cannabis industry when she moved to Washington state in 2017. She wanted to live somewhere people could freely enjoy cannabis and by that point recreational weed had been legal for 5 years. But once she arrived, Cooper quickly realized that local farmers were struggling to find shelf space in the (comparatively) mature market.
She saw a need to step in and help these lifelong cannabis farmers tell their story and market themselves, and that was right up her alley. But Cooper had tried the soloprenuer life and wasn’t eager to do it again, so she called up a college friend and CannaSiteCo. was born.
But CannaSiteCo. is more than a company, it’s also the vehicle through which Cooper and her team invest in the cannabis industry as a whole. CannaSiteCo. is involved with a number of organizations promoting diversity and inclusion, including Women Empowered in Cannabis, the Lady Jane Society, Women of Cannabis Conference, and the Washington State Cannabis Alliance.
Cooper donates her time, money, and her company’s services to these organizations. They offer websites as silent auction prizes, sponsor events, and fund research studies on women’s leadership in cannabis. But Cooper’s commitment to giving back extends beyond the cannabis industry to organizations like Family Promise and Room Redux too.
This investment stems from Cooper’s firm belief that it’s the duty of responsible cannabis business owners to invest back in the industry. Business owners in every industry would do well to take a page from her book!
What’s something you’re excited to see in the cannabis industry right now?
CC: For me, it’s women empowerment, women in ownership, and executive roles.
Though there aren’t nearly enough, there are more women in leadership roles in cannabis than in most other industries that I can think of. I think it’s a friendlier and more supportive industry for women than most. We are proud to be an all-female owned and operated company. We support other women-owned businesses and women organizations. And we appreciate the support we receive from our male partners as well.
We’re proud to participate in a lot of organizations that are really focusing on that. I would like to see more and more of it.
What’s something you’re not excited to see right now?
CC: We need to get people convicted of non-violent cannabis charges out of jail, and we need to get the convictions expunged or sealed depending on the state laws.
I read quite a bit of cannabis news, and so it’s great to see that a lot of states like California or Illinois, or New Jersey are expunging thousands of records. I know New York and a number of states are automatically expunging records which is awesome, but we need to do more and faster. And we need to communicate it to the thousands of people who are affected.
We need to do more to help people get that the possibility is there. I know some states require you to petition to get it expunged. And I would like to see the industry help lead those efforts, the more responsible cannabis businesses contribute to efforts to free the unjustly incarcerated and expunged records.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
CC: Washington State was hit hard with COVID in the beginning. At the same time Reagan [business partner] and I, we were only in year two of our business. So we were trying to keep our families safe, we were trying to keep our clients happy, and keep our company running, and employees employed.
Clients were forced to scale back their marketing, which affected us, of course. And our company was facing issues like making payroll. We were able to tap into the payroll protection, like a lot of companies were, which was awesome. We took that downtime, if you will, to refine our services and our systems, which is always beneficial. We were able to keep our team employed throughout, and I think we’re a better company now than we were two years ago.
Interestingly for us being a digital marketing agency, while we quickly went downhill, we very quickly also went back uphill because businesses needed to be online. We were all quarantined, so how were businesses going to operate? A lot more people had to get online quickly – which we believe you should be online anyway. As people had to pivot to keep their businesses running, we were glad to have the ability to support them.
Your website is your digital headquarters because everything you’re doing comes back to your website, whether you’re sharing on social or you’re sending out an email and those social platforms you don’t own. As we saw recently could shut down at any point and if you’re 100% in Facebook or 100% in Instagram or something else that can hurt your business. It’s great to invest in your own space online. Your little house online, if you will. And so that way you’re always available and if things go wrong elsewhere, you’re covered.
What are you most proud of in your business?
CC: We sponsor a number of really great nonprofits. We have donated websites to a number of wonderful causes.
We’re very involved with the Women Empowered in Cannabis and Lady Jane Society. We support and sponsor the Cannabis Alliance here in Washington State. We sponsored a Women in Cannabis study; I think it was a year or so ago now. We donated a website to the Women of Cannabis Conference Scholarship Recipient, who has been really awesome to work with. We have supported Family Promise and Room Redux. And we donate websites to different organizations’ silent auctions to help them raise funds.
We’re trying to give back in as many ways as we can by helping people get their message out and tell their stories.
What do you want people to take away from an experience with you and your team?
CC: We are a no BS team! We are straight shooters and we want to have a fun experience when you work with us. We want you to get online and tell your story. And we are responsive; both in the speed at which we build websites and in our customer service with our client’s communication.
We are transparent with our pricing. When we entered the market, we came in with a $500 website that we’re going to build you in a week. We really wanted to connect with startups and entrepreneurs, which the space is filled with and they don’t all have marketing budgets and they don’t all have six months to wait. And so (without upsetting my other digital agency friends) we wanted to show that it didn’t have to cost you tens of thousands of dollars and take months to have a website.
What’s next for you and your team?
CC: Well, we are in a growing phase. We just hired a new employee, which is always exciting. We are such a small team that it’s a big impact when you have a new team member.
We also recently refined our build process and we’re launching that. In fact, we just essentially launched that. So that’s very exciting. And then we’re going to go through each of our other services and, and refine them and improve them and keep growing.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
CC: That’s funny, because I’m like, what are fun facts? Doesn’t everybody know everything about cannabis?
I came across this- rumor has it that the first thing that was bought and sold on the internet was a bag of cannabis between college students. I think it was it was Stanford and MIT, sold one way or the other, which I thought was so funny in our line of work.