Getting to know Keith Allen, CEO of Round Meadow Holdings, G4 Live, and Budtender Awards.
What is your role at G4 Live / Budtender Awards?
How did they come about? What’s their story and the influence behind them?
I was working on marketing for another company in the cannabis space, and one of my philosophies in business is to always identify what problem we are trying to solve. I quickly realized there was so much going on in this industry that we needed to take a pause and figure it out. During that process, I identified that with all the regulations in cannabis, you don’t have many opportunities as a marketer. It’s minimal.
The one group of people representing the front line in cannabis and are the connection directly to consumers is the Budtenders. Unfortunately for them, they were not being looked at or taken seriously, which I considered a great mistake because they make serious recommendations about mind-altering substances. New consumers who are going into a dispensary for the first time need to be educated to find relief with a cannabis product. We found that some Budtenders took it to the next level.
I’ll never forget, we met this girl whose brother had epilepsy. She had seen this CNN special called “Weed,” and she was so inspired by that story that she went to medical school and is now a budtender. Some of these budtenders have amazing stories and are doing amazing things in their communities. We created the Budtender Awards to celebrate these people similarly as “CNN Heroes.” We are honoring people who are doing good for the industry and community.
I was impressed with this front-line industry and said these people need to be celebrated for doing a good job and push cannabis into mainstream consumers’ hands. We are trying to professionalize the space, and to do that, you need professionals making professional recommendations, and that’s how the Budtender Awards was born.
In addition to the awards ceremony, we included an expo to allow companies to speak to Budtenders on a neutral platform outside of their work and enable Budtenders to see what’s happening in the industry as a whole. The expo took off. We realized for the next year that we should alter the name of it all to be more inclusive of the whole industry, so I came up with this idea for G4 Live.
How does your event differ from other events?
What we’re doing differently than a lot of other people in the space is that we’re inclusive. We’re not just an expo, an award show, and some after parties. G4 Live was created because the G stands for global, 4 is the four corners of the cannabis universe, which covers everything from regulations, legislation, and everything happening in the legal side of cannabis, all the way through seed to sale. It’s fully inclusive to the entire industry. Even if you’re not in the industry, you’re more than welcome to come! Part of that inclusivity is that we added lifestyle elements that attract the consumers, and that’s where education, music, and entertainment come into play.
We’ve partnered with Cloverleaf University, the first cannabis and hemp University approved by the Department of Higher Education. Chloe Villano and her team will be teaching multiple education courses to learn how to further your career in this industry.
We have Brand Certification programs where we allow brands the opportunity to certify Budtenders to represent their brand and products. We’re giving the Budtenders the tools they need to professionalize their side of the industry, and I don’t think anyone else has taken that approach.
We’re also working with some major media partners to bring live music, art, and film screenings. We’re giving creativity awards and brand ambassador awards at the fall event, allowing Budtenders to nominate their favorite reps.
What are you most proud of regarding G4 / Budtender Awards?
There are so many things! I knew that if we were going to be taken seriously in this space, we had to have very reputable partners, and that started with where we would want to host this event. I noticed many “cups” and things that were going on in cannabis that were just all about weed, and I knew that if this thing was going to be taken seriously, it had to be professionalized, and that’s why we focused on Las Vegas.
What I’m most proud of is that as an industry, being so scrutinized by professional corporations, we were able to be granted access to MGM properties. These properties are federally regulated by the gaming commission that monitors everything from compliance to AML. They could lose their gaming license in a heartbeat if they did anything to mess that up. So, here comes cannabis, which is not federally legal, and they allowed us to do it because they trusted us. We assured them this was a professional event focused on education, information, best practices, and raising the bar for professionalism in the space. I’m very honored to say we were the first-ever cannabis event that any Las Vegas casino had allowed on the strip and the first on any MGM property.
What was one of the most challenging decisions you had to make for G4 / Budtender Awards?
To still have our event during covid. Resilience doesn’t live in a silo. You have to be able to look into the future and make some sort of prognostication when you’re going to do something, go for it, and you can’t hold back because if you do, it won’t have the same results as if you put all your passion energy into it.
What is the one thing you would change about G4 Live / Budtender Awards?
The one thing I strive for every day is to continue changing peoples’ minds about what cannabis is. We have been in an industry that has a flawed narrative. What’s the story of cannabis? Unfortunately, you have Reefer Madness; you’ve got Spicoli. When you say cannabis, people hear stoner or weed or other negative connotations because that’s how most people in the world most people were raised.
However, what we have been able to do with our event is crack open the narrative, and we want to continue to do that. Look at the alcohol industry. We need to change that narrative because the truth is what we have is children with epilepsy that with cannabis, all seizures are being removed because they’ve taken the proper dosage of CBD. We have too many people that are focused on knocking down the cannabis industry.
What do you expect from your employees?
I like to answer that question both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. I expect my employees to be accountable for their assigned work and that they’ve given to themselves. I don’t want people to work on things that they’re not passionate about or don’t have a great understanding of because they won’t produce the results that make them feel good or deliver the product we wished they would.
From a qualitative perspective, I expect my employees to work on things they love and are passionate about where they feel like it connects with their personalities. That produces the best results. I want to empower my employees to be the best that they can be at what they do, so they feel good about their jobs, and it’s not just them showing up for a paycheck. If you look at our employees’ culture and people who work here, we have done a great job of having that culture built here where people love what they do.
What do you do on a typical day at the office?
My mornings start very early with checking emails and organizing my day based on the schedule I built the day before. I always get a morning workout in and a good meal, and then I hit the ground running. I divide my day in the office between the two main entities we have operating for us. One is Cannapaid, our merchant services platform, and the other is G4 Live/Budtender Awards.
I look at what fires we have to put out because there’s always a fire. I start off getting all the metric stuff out of the way, and then in the afternoon, I move to creative. I am often creative in the morning because I can’t help it, I wake up with ideas, but I always jot them down and then come back to them in the afternoon because I find in the afternoon my brain is not wired to handle numbers, contracts, and negotiations. There’s a great tip: people should never try to negotiate their end of a deal in the afternoon, but if you want to press someone else to win a negotiation, you take them on in the afternoon.
How long have you been involved with events?
I’ve been involved with various events over the past two decades by working in artist management, musical artists, festivals, and touring. I also had a pretty long run working in television as a producer, which I kind of see as one big event job. However, this is the first event that I’ve ever thrown at this scale.
What do you do for fun when you’re outside the office?
My second cousin, who was like a dad to me, was a doctor who spent tons of time in the operating room, and he used to say to me all the time, ”I love to find wide-open spaces,” because that’s how he cleared his head to be better when he was in that tight space. So, for me, I seek wide open spaces.
I’m very active, and I love to go on adventures. I’ve gone diving with great white sharks off Guadalupe Island in Mexico. I go snow biking up in Canada to ice caves and on glaciers. I’ve flown into exotic locations by helicopter to go salmon fishing in places you can’t even travel to by car, and we’ve even made an off-road trip to Vegas in the dirt. Outside of that, I love spending time with my family, spending time with my kids and my wife. We go on our boat almost every weekend during the summer, and we wake, surf, and wakeboard.
What is your company’s greatest success/achievements?
Making it through all of this. When you’re counting on making money, and you don’t, it’s tough for a startup or any company to make it through those challenges. I attribute our success to a couple of things, but most importantly, having great support from partners, investors, and people that believe in the vision of what we’re doing. I think many of our shareholders and stakeholders, my partners Randy Vanberg and Ryan Bridges, our Director of Operations Julie Porter, and everybody involved in this company, have signed up for something they are genuinely committed to making it successful.
We have always found the silver lining in things, and we’ve been able to maintain that support, which got us through some tough times. We’re coming out the other side of it now, and we realize revenues, and we’re growing.
What’s in store for the future of G4 Live / Budtender Awards?
We see the future of this event following in the footsteps of SXSW, where it’s an all-inclusive event that covers technology, innovation, films, music, lifestyle, culture, and the pioneers who are growing the industry from the inside. We’re trying to get everyone involved who is pioneering the space.
There’s a saying in the industry right now that the people that make it through the next 2 or 3 years are going to be the Cola Cola’s or the long-lasting American icon brands in this space. Whether they realize it in real-time or not, those people are pioneers that will go down in history, and I’d like to think we are one of those pioneers.
What is your favorite social media outlet? Why?
As of late, it’s been Clubhouse. I just love listening to this collaboration of everyone sharing their ideas in this open forum. There’s not a lot of pressure of being on video or anything. It’s like listening in on a group chat. Join me in a room, you can find me @keith.allen
What are some of your current goals?
My current goal for 2021 is to have both of our events this year and knock them out of the park and build on for 2022 and 2023.
What advice would you like to give people entering the industry? Don’t quit.
What inspires your company today?
The vision of the future and the possibility of what can be can be a very powerful thing when you get people who are passionate about something together.
What can you expect if you attend G4 Live and the Budtender Awards? What can you expect?
If somebody goes to G4 Live, don’t expect to know what you’re going to see. Go there expecting to be surprised because there are so many different rabbit holes in this tunnel that you can go down, and you can enjoy. You can keep it professional and educational-focused. You can hybrid it and go to that during the day and then attend one of our off-property consumption parties to try the newest products directly with their brand representatives. You can participate in whatever aspects you want to join in. You can get certifications, see films, enjoy live music, listen to one of our excellent speakers, and get inspired, and you never know what kind of lifelong friend you could make.
Learn more at http://G4Live.com
Contact@G4Live.com for sponsorship & exhibitor info.