MP recently sat down with Angela Cheng, Vice President of Marketing of Raw Garden and Central Coast Agriculture, to discuss Raw Garden, leadership, and more. Cheng currently leads the brand marketing for the number one concentrate and vape brand in California. Central Coast Agriculture is the largest vertically integrated breeding, cultivation, and production operation in the United States.
With over two decades of experience in spirits, cannabis, and fashion industries, Cheng’s work creates emotional connections, inspires consumer advocacy, and drives revenue performance for growing and established brands. She’s launched award-winning experiential campaigns, consumer initiatives, and trade advocacy programs for some of the most revered brands in the world, including Bacardi, Design Miami, Diageo, Moet Hennessy, and Lowell Herb Co. The branded entertainment partnerships she led with well-known artists including Jay Z and John Legend successfully drove new trials, consideration, and revenue growth.
MP: What’s Raw Garden and how’s it unique?
AC: Simply, our commitment to quality. Raw Garden is unique from other products offered in the market in that ours are grown from our own seeds and we use only the highest quality cannabis flowers as the source for these seeds. We have an incredible team of Ph.D. and MSc scientists to guide the organization’s plant breeding, genomics, biotechnology, and data science programs. Tens of thousands of plants are evaluated each year with only the top 1% being selected, a nod to Raw Garden’s commitment to quality and innovation. We house more than 2,000 distinct cultivars of cannabis and more than 25 million seeds in its bank, making it one of the largest cannabis seed programs in the world.
What brought you to Raw Garden?
I came to Central Coast Agriculture and Raw Garden for the opportunity to learn and to work with people who share the same passion I do for this category and who have a shared vision to lead this young industry. I previously spent two decades creating and executing some of the largest and most impactful national consumer and trade programs for the largest liquor brands in the world. My marketing chops were earned working on brands and programs like Baileys Get Together with John Legend, Johnnie Walker’s House of Walker, and Cuervoton with Pitbull. I later launched Jay-Z’s brand, D’USSE Cognac, for Bacardi. I knew my experience would make an impact in cannabis marketing, but I wanted a new challenge and to be a part of what is still a nascent industry. I first moved out to California from Miami and was brought on as a marketing leader at Lowell Smokes. That’s when I realized liquor marketing isn’t exactly like cannabis marketing. There are similar principles but different applications. I wouldn’t be at Raw Garden today without the experience at Lowell Smokes.
You seem like a high-performance individual. How do you manage your time in a way that enables you to achieve more?
Like Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Simply put, I love what I do. That said, the word “performance” in this question is key. All successful people and professions require preparation to excel, whether you are a master chef prepping ingredients, an actor rehearsing lines, or a professional athlete reviewing game footage, taking the time to prepare is critical. I place a premium on planning, which, I feel, ultimately enables me to get more done. Regardless of whether it’s the quarter before, the night before, or the hour before, I try to plan as much as I can knowing that something will inevitably change. When that something does change, I can pivot as needed.
What’s your typical day look like?
There is no typical day, as we are a young business in an emerging category, so the only constant is knowing one must remain open-minded and flexible. However, I try to plan as much as.
So here goes:
6:30 am: 10 minutes of meditation. No, that’s not a euphemism for the snooze button on my alarm. I usually do this to clear my mind, practice gratefulness, and allow that we can plan but then we must live.
7:00 am: 20-30 minutes of exercise. This is usually a short run or my peloton. If I’m on my bike, I’ll look at Yahoo Finance, my Coinbase account, and read Google News.
8:00 am: Monday-Thursday we have a standing call amongst all department heads.
9:00 am-5:00 pm: Anything from strategy and brand planning to experiential, creative ideation, and approvals for retail, social, and point of sale, press, finance, and HR meetings. I also have standing calls with each member of my team individually.
6:00 pm: Early dinner.
8:00 pm: I’m a consummate media hound. I’ll often watch the latest show on Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV, or Amazon Prime Video while reading the news on my phone and often responding to emails for the next day. However, if I’m watching something in another language and need to focus on subtitles, I’ll skip the multitasking.
What’s your greatest fear, and how do you manage that fear?
The inability to truly control anything. Energy flows where the mind goes. Being mindful of being positive and realizing there is only so much you can control.
I’ve always liked great heights, literally, and enjoy rock climbing. In this case, the metaphorical “mountain,” be that my life or career.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m behind and compare myself, I fear that I won’t scale the next summit fast enough.
I’ve consciously tried to manage this by stopping, taking a deep breath, and turning around here and there to enjoy the view from where I’m at.
What are three pieces of advice you can share with people looking to become leaders in the cannabis industry?
Be Adaptable: This is a new category with so much growth ahead of it. Embrace change and learn as much as you can while being flexible.
Be Collaborative: No one person can do this alone. With so many challenges, you’ll need to be hyper-aware of ideas and solutions when they present themselves. They could come from anyone and anywhere.
Be Consumer-Centric: It’s a long race. With so many brands jockeying for positions, consumers will ultimately determine which ones succeed. Those that can out-execute the others will win.
Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful leader?
Be Visionary: Great leaders have a vision, and they get everyone around them to believe in it. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing and your product, why should anyone else?
Be Humble: Know that you can’t do it alone and respond by building a strong team with perspectives you can learn from. Recognize your team members regularly and give them credit for the work they do.
Be Resilient: Do what’s best for the greater good from a business perspective. Don’t take anything personally and keep pushing forward.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Courage truly is a three-letter word. Say “YES” when the opportunity presents itself. Get out and do life. You never know where it will lead you.
Cover photo courtesy of Angela Cheng.