By Brett Konen on July 8th, 2020
Interview: John Manlove of Apex Trading on Bringing Digital Ads to Cannabis Wholesalers
(Photo by Add Weed on Unsplash)
Ed. note: Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of our new partnership with Apex Trading, a business management platform for wholesale cannabis brands. This strategic partnership, which is the first of its kind in the industry, will provide cutting-edge digital advertising and campaign management solutions to the nearly 2,000 cannabis brands on the Apex Trading platform. To download the press release, click here.
We sat down with John Manlove, co-founder and CEO of Apex Trading, to chat about the company’s backstory, its sister platform Bushel44, and what the team is most excited for in partnering with PrograMetrix.
Brett Konen: How did Apex Trading get started, and how has it evolved since you launched?
John Manlove: The founders originally met while working for Tradiv, an online wholesale marketplace and one of the early startups in the software cannabis space. Tradiv was poorly managed and we found that while the open marketplace concept can help get your product in front of buyer eyes, it did very little in building and fostering relationships.
With Apex Trading, we created the tools a wholesale business needs to streamline operations and increase efficiency across departments while staying true to the idea that businesses in the space need to own their brand and give buyers an easy-to-use online purchasing experience.
BK: What drew you to partner with PrograMetrix over other options in the industry?
JM: In the cannabis industry, it’s quite easy to become distracted and try to be everything to everybody, because there’s so much opportunity to help customers. We quickly recognized the needed advertising power, especially in the current time, that PrograMetrix can bring to our clients. Partnering ensures we don’t take our focus away from creating and refining our business management tools.
PrograMetrix's strong history of working with more mainstream industries and Fortune 500 companies was the pedigree we were looking for, and now that you offer a cannabis and hemp focused solution we felt it was the right time to solidify this partnership, allowing us to deliver a best-in-class digital advertising solution right alongside our software tools.
BK: How do you think the clients on your platform can benefit from digital advertising?
JM: As more and more producers bring cannabis products to market, it becomes increasingly important to establish your brand. PrograMetrix can really help emerging companies break through the clutter and established companies earn more market share.
Compared to other industries, cannabis companies have historically been extremely limited on where and how they can market or advertise their company and products. This has resulted in few advertising channels, mostly in print and cannabis-specific platforms, which haven’t necessarily allowed a company to build enough awareness about their business or products.
Even more so, in today’s climate where there is less in-person interaction for the foreseeable future, we felt that clients could leverage the PrograMetrix service to attract new customers in an ever-increasing competitive market.
BK: Is there any advice you’d give cannabis businesses generally about building and scaling their brands?
JM: In emerging markets, it can feel like simply offering a cannabis product is enough. However, the luxury of being the only widget available quickly ends as more producers enter the space. You need to have a compelling story, recognizable logos, memorable taglines, and so on when the space starts getting crowded.
In established markets, you need to have something about your brand that is more meaningful than your price point. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a race to the bottom or competing with a luxury brand that can out-spend you.
BK: Tell us a bit about your new CBD and hemp platform, Bushel44. How will it build on what you’ve learned and seen through the Apex platform?
JM: We’re really excited about the launch of Bushel44. Since the inception of Apex Trading in 2018 we were continually being approached by hemp companies looking for a solution similar to what we built for cannabis. This ultimately led to the decision to create Bushel44. Anyone who knows both industries will tell you that while there are similarities, the differences between the two markets and the issues within them are distinct and unique. Bushel44, at its core, provides the same solutions as Apex Trading, but they have been tailored to specifically address a globally traded product that will become a commodity much quicker than cannabis.
BK: What do you love about the cannabis industry as it is today, and what do you most wish you could change?
JM: There are so many things to love! At the root of every cannabis company is entrepreneurship and a passion for the plant, which is why we created both Apex Trading and Bushel44. We take pride in not being characterized as “suits” or a team that comes from Wall Street or Silicon Valley. We share our clients’ passion for the plant and like to say we are “Cannabis First and Software Second.”
In our space, change doesn’t come easy. One specific area we would like to see change is the access to fair banking and payment solutions. While the industry has been able to shift away from cash more and more each year, it still lacks what so many industries take for granted.
BK: What do you hope to see come out of our partnership in the next three to five years?
JM: We want to see our clients be successful in everything they do. Through this partnership, if a client is able to build their brand and become more profitable, that’s a win!