Cannabis Business Times spoke with 4Front Ventures Chief of Staff Tera Martin, who is a breast cancer survivor and founder and executive director of the Pink Gene Foundation, which provides education, resources, and supporting research to young women to help them become proactive in their fight against breast cancer, to discuss 4Front's efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and how cannabis businesses can implement impactful campaigns.
For October, 4Front will be donating $1 of every Pink-Gene marked product sold at its Mission Dispensary retail locations in Illinois and Massachusetts to the Pink Gene Foundation. The company is also running the campaign on the wholesale side in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington.
The campaign features products from select 4Front vape, edible and flower lines, Martin says. The organization's Pink Gene Campaign's proceeds will be used to support breast cancer research and awareness.
This year the Pink Gene Foundation is striving to complete fundraising efforts that it's been working on for the past two years, which will be used to support the Cyrus Ghajar’s Laboratory project conducted by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Martin says.
"The project focuses on preventing metastases from arising. … Basically, it identifies breast cancer cells that are sleeping that remain in the body, and it identifies them before they wake up and become tumors. And those tumors would be called what's a breast cancer recurrence," she says. "So, it's a really exciting ... project that we've been supporting for years. … It's been a while in the running, but it's exciting, and if we can make this screen happen, it's going to save a lot of lives."
"Moving this campaign to a national scale is very exciting because breast cancer just doesn't live in Washington; it lives everywhere," Martin says. "So, growing this to a national scale is probably one of the most exciting things that I can speak on because I'm able to touch more women. And the more women I touch, the more lives we save."
Making an Impact
Martin founded the Pink Gene Foundation in 2013, when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. The day she was diagnosed was her first day of training with a cannabis company in Washington to join its sales team.
"The owner of the company's… mother [was] a survivor of breast cancer. So, we originally kicked off a campaign in Washington for Breast Cancer Awareness Month back in the medical days," she says. "That was 10 years ago, and here we are today, running a different platform.
"It was a unique journey because I had just turned 28. I was entering the cannabis space, coming from hospitality. … It was crazy how the universe just put me into this industry at that time because of how helpful cannabis and cancer can be together."
Martin says she founded the Pink Gene Foundation to "fight against a disease that had touched her family," as her mother, grandmother, grandmother's three sisters, and her great-grandmother all were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Another primary reason she founded the Pink Gene Foundation was to support young women like herself, who was 28 at the time, who are either survivors, previvors or are recently diagnosed.
"Most organizations were focused on supporting women in their late 40s, 50s, and above, and finding an organization that supported someone in my age bracket was hard to come by," she says. "Having the opportunity to share my story and journey with others hit home, and I felt like I was filling a big gap in the support for breast cancer."
And now, Martin is spreading breast cancer awareness not only through the Pink Gene Foundation but also through 4Front Ventures. Here, she shares critical factors for cannabis companies to create an effective and impactful campaign:
Align Core Values
Ensure your core values align with the company you are partnering with.
"Aligning core values with a foundation like the Pink Gene Foundation will only make the campaigns more successful and exciting," Martin says. "One of the things about breast cancer is that it touches one in eight women. So everyone in some shape or form, whether it's an employee, friend, sister, mother, or even men that are being diagnosed, you [may] have some type of personal connection to breast cancer. When you have that personal connection, there is so much more meaning behind the partnership, and the more meaningfulness you have, the more successful the campaign can be."
Engage With The Community
An essential factor for running campaigns is boosting your community engagement efforts, Martin says.
"It's important to have community engagement, especially in any industry, but in the cannabis industry," she says. "Building that community and unity within your organization are going to [help] build a successful campaign. When you give back, your employees, your team members, they see that, and it makes [them] feel like [they're] a part of a united community.”
Identify the primary purpose of the campaign and set goals.
Establishing goals can help make the campaign more exciting and engaging for those donating to it and for individuals involved in creating the campaign, Martin says.
A well-crafted communications plan will be a crucial factor in the success of your campaign.
"[You want to] communicate what the campaign is, where the funds are going, and how the campaign performance ended up at the end of the month. [Those] are all key communication factors, and that follow-up is very important," Martin says.
Tailor marketing and advertising efforts to promote breast cancer awareness, which can include creating custom promotional items.
"I've found that my personal story and my relationship with 4Front, I've been able to really open up about my story, and they've been able to help me do that through all of the marketing we've done," she says. "That goes from the stickers on the boxes, to the social media, to the digital assets we give to wholesale partners and the in-store displays we have at our retail stores."
Supporting The Cause Beyond October
Although October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, cannabis companies can do actions to show support outside of October, such as offering a specific breast cancer awareness product for sale year-round, hosting a fundraiser, engaging in community outreach and education efforts, and more.
"There are so many different things that you can do that are so small and take a limited amount of time to do just to touch someone that's a survivor, a previvor, or someone that's just been diagnosed," Martin says. "Those things happen all year round, not just in October. People aren't just diagnosed in October; they're diagnosed [on average] every two minutes in the United States."
<aside class="clearfix"><h3>Cannabis Companies Breast Cancer Awareness Efforts:</h3> <p>Verano, a multistate cannabis company, is conducting its second annual fundraising campaign this October across its flagship retail brands, Zen Leaf and MÜV dispensaries, located in Connecticut, Illinois, Florida, Maryland, Michigan and New Jersey, to support the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation. The dispensary-led punch card campaign includes various medical and adult-use cannabis products. Verano is facilitating donations to the “Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation upon each customer’s punch card being completed, and customers [are receiving] exclusive rewards with each purchase,” CBT reported. </p> <p>Throughout October, nuEra Cannabis, an Illinois-based cannabis company, is donating $1 per unit sold of special cannabis flower prerolls and “Dubble Joint” infused prerolls at all six of its dispensary locations to three local breast cancer organizations: Gilda’s Club, Pink Heals Peoria and Pink Heals Central Illinois Chapter. “The work of these organizations directly impacts women in Illinois through several different initiatives related to this cause, including education, research, financial assistance, providing access to patient services, community support, and other prevention and recovery programs,” CBT reported.</p> <p>Custom Cones USA, a Washington-based preroll company, is partnering with the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Custom Cones USA is donating 10% of its profits on its Pink Ribbon prerolled cones to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation to support breast cancer research, resources, and community education, CBT reported.</aside>