Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Amber Mayo of WYD.
Meet Amber Mayo
With 15+ years of client and agency experience, Amber has been at the forefront of digital, local and innovative marketing. Best known for the “Ellen Selfie” at the 2013 Oscars, Amber has a deep breadth of experience across both offline and online platforms. Amber has run campaigns from $200 to $1 billion and has stewarded the strategy, social, monetization, and execution of both traditional and digital campaigns.
In 2017, she founded WYD, a marketing accelerator for trailblazers interested in rapid growth and branding. The agency was created for the growing cannabis industry as well as all entrepreneurs who want to spend money wisely. Amber is the co-founder of Every Little Bit Project and volunteers at the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition.
In our interview with Amber, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about WYD, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Amber, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for WYD?
Amber Mayo: WYD Agency is a marketing accelerator for trailblazers interested in rapid growth and branding. The agency was created for the growing cannabis industry and entrepreneurs who want to spend money wisely. WYD applies a strategic marketing approach from big brands to the cannabis space.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Amber Mayo: I was coming off career-defining marketing as head of media and partnerships for Samsung and was truly at a crossroads. After a series of short stints at startup companies including LeBron James’ Uninterrupted, I began reading and researching the legal cannabis industry and the opportunities in marketing.
After experiencing firsthand the struggles that startups go through, a return to corporate life wasn’t in the cards. I wanted to help small businesses spend budgets wisely and had the desire to bring 360-degree marketing to the cannabis industry.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Amber Mayo: My middle name is Raspberry – I grew up with very hippie parents! The world of cannabis in my family was not unknown. I’m probably the most conservative member of my family. My friends were very encouraging and thought it was cool. And wanted me to tell them what to buy.
DCN: How is your organization/business positively helping the cannabis industry?
Amber Mayo: We customize marketing programs based on need. Understanding how quickly the space is growing – watching it go from mom and pop to huge corporations, seeing that corporate clash and being part of it is essential for the future of the industry. We want businesses in cannabis to have access to sophisticated marketing for budgets of all sizes.
DCN: As we near the end of 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Amber Mayo: We started the agency from scratch with no clients in July 2017. We joined NCIA and began working to get in at the ground level with stores to learn the industry. By the end of 2017, we had six clients, and have continued to expand this year. I’m proud that we help businesses grow and spend money wisely. And that we’ve done it without taking on any debt.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Amber Mayo: We were initially worried about the laws and rules in the cannabis space. Then we realized based on our experience with alcohol brands and M-rated video games; it really was a false challenge. You adapt to what you know and get creative. That’s the fun of marketing.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Amber Mayo: We hustled and got clients. We didn’t raise capital or take on any debt. We didn’t pay ourselves for the first four months. We paid freelancers first then ourselves.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Amber Mayo: I guess you could say I gave up a relatively cushy corporate job (that I was being offered). But I don’t consider it much of sacrifice because it was the same thing I’d already done. I also gave up a consistent paycheck and sleep.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Amber Mayo: Don’t assume that industry is filled with dollars coming from the sky. It’s a lot of hard-working and dedicated businesses – recognize and respect that rather than the easy money coming in. Also, listen to budtenders. They are the gateway to sales and customers.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Amber Mayo: Sleep. You are either worried you should be doing something or wake up and realize you forgot something. I don’t worry so much about failing – I worry about making people happy. Because of some other experiences with small companies, I want to make sure our payroll, taxes and other things are buttoned up.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Amber Mayo: It surprised me how fast huge corporations are coming into this space. Coming from video games and tech – those companies move so fast. Cannabis is like a combination of tech companies, finance, and agriculture – moving at the speed of light. What attracted me to this space was that I read women started 35-40% of cannabis businesses. But when I looked at true leadership, they seemed to be what I was used to in the tech industry and run by men.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Amber Mayo:1. Deep calming breaths 2. Maintaining a sense of optimism 3. Trust in other people – your team is working hard too, and other people are doing their part
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Amber Mayo: Interestingly, I realized over the past few months that I let that part slip. I was spending 15 hours working and behind my desk. I wasn’t getting up and moving. I put on my FitBit and started tracking my steps daily. My team is actively engaged in challenges (on Fitbit), so we are all moving. I am going to try to run a half marathon again soon.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Amber Mayo: Brave New Weed gave me a great perspective on the politicizing of cannabis as a plant. The background on the pharmaceutical industry and tobacco industry and how it has impacted the perception of the cannabis industry was insightful. I used to feel apologetic about positioning myself in the cannabis industry. After reading the book, I now feel liberated to own it.
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Amber Mayo: Oprah. She has created an empire based off her face and owning her mistakes as well as her successes.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Amber Mayo: We have to be dedicated to giving back and making a positive difference in our communities. Our client, Avitas, recently executed a gay pride campaign. Seeing the increase in sales by doing right in communities is rewarding whether its LGBTQ rights, veterans, cancer, homelessness, etc. We are lucky to have clients who don’t just talk about it but actively give back.
DCN: Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers! Any final comments you would like to share with the DCN community?
Amber Mayo: I want to encourage people to join the national organizations and to be active in them. We are setting the stage and laying the groundwork for what this industry is and what it will be in the future. The local and national cannabis organizations are where people come together to set the industry standards, so it’s important to have active participation.
For those looking to learn more about WYD, please check out wyd.agency, social-Instagram @thewydagency