Optimizing Celebrity Collaborations in Cannabis: Q&A with GFive Cultivation’s Larry Smith
Photo courtesy of GFive Cultivation

Optimizing Celebrity Collaborations in Cannabis: Q&A with GFive Cultivation’s Larry Smith

The company’s founder and CEO discusses the Las Vegas-based cultivator’s newest partnership with Cam’ron, as well as overall best practices for these collaborations.

June 30, 2020

GFive Cultivation, a minority- and family-owned and operated cannabis cultivation operation based in Las Vegas, has a history of not only collaborating with celebrities in its marketing efforts, but also going one step further to integrate those celebrity influencers into its business operations.

GFive produces Big Baby Bud in partnership with actor/comedian Darren Brand, and recently launched a new signature product line, Pynk Mynk, in collaboration with Cam’ron, a hip hop artist, fashion aficionado, entrepreneur and actor.

Here, GFive founder and CEO Larry Smith discusses this newest collaboration, best practices for cannabis companies when entering celebrity partnerships, and how these collaborations can help businesses advance their brands and connect with consumers.

Melissa Schiller: Why was Cam’ron a good partner to launch GFive’s Pynk Mynk product line?

Photo courtesy of GFive Cultivation
Pynk Mynk, backed by hip hop artist, fashion aficionado, entrepreneur and actor Cam'ron, is a sativa hybrid that boasts a sweet citrusy flavor and spicy woody aroma.

Larry Smith: Cam’ron has a very unique approach to business. We function in the same way. He has an iconic photo of him with a big pink mink back in the ‘90s during Fashion Week, and that was a very bold statement to make, especially for a hip-hop rapper. He’s just an overall great human being, a very honorable, hard-working, dedicated businessman. I know people know him from the rap side, but I was more intrigued by the other things he’s done business-wise that many people don’t know about, that he doesn’t really discuss. That’s why he was a really good fit for me overall.

Cam’ron is not a spokesman for GFive; he’s a part of GFive. He’s looking at getting into the space. Whereas some just want to be spokesman, he’s a little different. He wants to be an actual owner and build the brands and go from there. That’s what made it a good partnership for us to launch Pynk Mynk.

MS: What other celebrity collaborations has GFive been a part of over the years?

LS: We [launched] Big Baby Bud with Big Baby, which is Darren Brand. I actually saw Darren Brand on Instagram. The more I started looking at his page, I could tell he’s a part of the culture. He understands what this plant is really about, [so] I reached out to him.

Another one is Nokio from the R&B group Dru Hill. Knowing him as a friend, I knew he was going through some issues with depression. We ended up having pretty good conversations and talking about how cannabis can help.

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I don’t want it to just be a face and they come in and go, “Hey, smoke this.” There has to be some kind of connection there. Big Baby really does love cannabis—he lives by it. And the depression is something that we’re going to highlight with Nokio, talking about how cannabis helped him get through his day. For me, it’s not just about putting a big name or a big face on there. There has to be a real connection to the plant. I think it brings people together a lot more than we think.

MS: What are some other qualities that GFive looks for in potential partners when seeking celebrity collaborations?

LS: A lot of that has to do with positive energy and good vibes. At the end of the day, I don’t care how famous you are. We’ve had opportunities to do business with some really famous people and we decided not to.

For me, it’s about being a good person all across the board. We want to make sure they’re good people. We want the brands to represent what we are and what we represent. If you look at the people I have, Cam is a really good guy. Big Baby is a really good guy. He’s a funny guy. It’s fun to be around him. Nokio’s a really good person. He’s been in the industry for years. I want to be around good people who are respected and bring something else, not just their celebrity. A person’s character means a lot to us. We represent a lot of positivity and being honorable, and we want to make sure that we are around those types of people, as well.

MS: What are some best practices for cannabis companies when collaborating with celebrities? What has worked well for GFive when entering into these partnerships?

LS: Obviously, they have to enjoy cannabis—that’s the No. 1 thing. We’re not here to sell you. This is a real lifestyle for us. Cam and Big Baby and Nokio, they literally come into the cultivation [facility] and they cut down plants. If people aren’t willing to really be a part of the process, then there’s probably not a good fit for us. Cam has come to the grow, and Big Baby, and they’ve cut clones. They’ve sat there for hours and did 1,000 clones. They didn’t just do it for a photo op and get up and leave. We’ve got [Nokio] out in the hot sun doing work, cleaning out buckets. They’re going to be a part of the process—we want them to be. Cam has done everything from cut clones to actually meeting with buyers to sell product. He wants to learn the process. These guys aren’t spokesmen with us. They’re people who are invested in GFive. They do everything, from packaging to decision making on the strains. We’re not just saying, “Hey, we have this for you, try this and smoke this.” We want them to understand what it is and how it helps.

The gratification for me is knowing that we’re able to help someone’s day who could be going through it. We’re not claiming that we can cure cancer, but I know that we can help give somebody a better quality of life, and that’s a huge win for me at the end of the day.

MS: Why is it beneficial for cannabis companies to collaborate with celebrities in their marketing efforts? How does it help them advance their brands and connect with consumers?

LS: Hip hop, music [is] a real part of our culture. The rappers help bring awareness to what’s going on, and we need the attention. In Las Vegas, we’re one of 100 cultivations, [and you need to] maneuver the right way [and] market the right way. People need to know what your brand is, what you represent and what you stand for. [Celebrity partnerships are] a really easy way for us to get our marketing out there and be effective. It’s a win-win for us. We get to [work with] people with two million [social media] followers who we really enjoy and like being around and we do good business with. It helps get the brand out there really fast.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for style, length and clarity.