A Job Recruiting Platform Specifically For The Cannabis Industry | The National Cannabis Industry Association
A Job Recruiting Platform Specifically For The Cannabis Industry
By Bethany Moore
August 12, 2019
/ Community
/ Education

A Job Recruiting Platform Specifically For The Cannabis Industry

In this episode, learn more about a job recruiting platform specifically for the cannabis industry with Justinian Mason, Business Development Manager at Vangst Talent Network. VTN is a job recruiting platform specifically for the cannabis industry. Vangst is one of a handful of staffing and recruiting firms that focus on the cannabis industry. Another important topic in the cannabis industry is opening up business opportunities for those who have been most impacted by the war on drugs, so equity and diversity issues are on our minds as we’re building this new industry together.

We’ve seen programs in certain cities and states like Massachusetts and Oakland, CA that set aside a certain number of direct to plant licenses for people of color, but that is more at the ownership level. Vangst believes that having an exceptional internal team allows them to serve their clients best. That’s why VTN prides itself on hiring the most talented internal staff for every aspect of their business. As well as their constant growth is a testament to their devotion to being ahead of the game in the rapidly growing cannabis space. We talk about the advice Justinian has for someone who wants to get a job in the cannabis industry but has no real experience yet and much more.




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Hello, thank you for tuning into another episode of NCIA’s cannabis industry voice on cannabis Radio, I’m your host Bethany Moore, the communications Project Manager at the National Cannabis Industry Association. Today I’m happy to introduce my guest Justinian Mason he’s the business development manager, at Vangst Talent Network which is a job recruiting platform specifically for the cannabis industry. Nice to have you on the show today, Justinian …

Thank you happy to be on here.

Yes, yes, absolutely. I got to meet you in person at our Cannabis Business Summit and expo this summer in San Jose, so it’s a pleasure to be talking to you some more today on the podcast, let’s start by getting to know a little bit more about you, your background, what kind of work or what kind of things you were doing before you got involved in the cannabis industry, and the cannabis movement?

Yeah, so I guess you can say I am from a non-traditional cannabis state I’m really from Cincinnati, Ohio, born and raised. I got a chance to actually go to upstate New York and I receive my degree and play football in college, but I received my degree I actually moved back home and got into the staffing and recruiting industry, I’ve been doing staffing and recruiting for about six years now. In all industries, pretty much from manufacturing aerospace logistics, all the way to healthcare attack and of course now cannabis so impacting of recruiting and staffing world and industry, but I’ve primarily been on a sales or account management side and really dealing more with clients and companies how in them really understand what’s going on and what’s needed versus dealing heavily with the candidates. But if you work with staff in recruiting by all means you are a recruiter. No matter what your role is, so obviously having a lot of great conversations with great big people throughout the board.

Yeah, it’s people across all industries. We are still human beings no matter what industry we work in, I suppose, yeah, when I… A percent and everyone needs to hire no matter what the industry is, yes, and I think, as a lot of people know our industry is creating jobs at lightning speed, so it’s nice to be a job creating industry this despite being federally illegal.

Yeah, yeah, and it’s exciting to see because all of the creation happening now, you can only imagine what’s going to happen once it is fully regulated in legal is the sky’s the limit.

Absolutely great, so is there a reason that you decided to go work for Vangst and serve the cannabis industry? Is there an inspirational reason why you decided… Cannabis would be a good shift from other industries to work in?

So I got introduced to cannabis through athletics have a successful career in college but unfortunately, and due to injury and even before that happened, actually had a couple of rough concussions that really made her for Focus made it hard for me to sleep, I was having some headaches. And migraines and a teammate. I recommend the campus. That was a game changer so I always saw it from good for you perspective for a medical perspective. Of course, I have my fun with it as well, but that’s how I got introduced and as I transitioned back home from college as I got in the staffing, recruiting, some conversations had already started happening. I visited California and seeing what was going on out here, but it was actually conversations with my then boss and president of the company, about cannabis Cincinnati, back in 2015 was actually voting to possibly decriminalize it, which we recently did this year, but funny that we were voting back in 2015. so conversations like that led to me thinking when this industry starts to grow and build their the needs some sort of staffing and recruiting.

So I eventually moved out to California to try and get in the industry. It took a while and I definitely got the trapped by so much that’s going on within the industry.

I would work retail thought I would sell for a brand for a while, but what ultimately led me to tanks was the fact that it was really what I had done in the past staffing, recruiting, sales just in the cannabis industry, and then thinking back to my background, being from a non-traditional cannabis state and then on deeper level, first-generation with Caribbean parents.

It was a much comfortable conversation saying, “Hey I work for a staffing recruiting company that happens to impact cannabis versus saying, “Hey I work for a natural cannabis brand.” So those are some of the main reasons.

Got it. And it must feel really nice to be able to combine your professional skill set with something you’re actually super passionate about. Maybe you are passionate about healthcare and manufacturing, but you actually have a personal story about how cannabis helped you, which a you… Makes you an activist and advocate with a personal story. And in fact, anybody even if they don’t have a personal story, once you start working in the industry you get your activist card in the mail right away. It’s part of one of the obligations and responsibilities I think, of being in the industry. So, it must feel really, really good to be able to combine all those skills with your passion.

It really does. I had mentor coach used to say, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work you never work, a day in your life. And how I feel like I’ve been in that mode where I, I, I do, I work hard, but I’m not actually working since I stepped into the industry so it’s really cool. And then staffing and recruiting literally what we do is get people jobs or helping grow the economy grow businesses grow people’s lives personally, professionally, financially, so that’s a crazy satisfying experience in itself.

Absolutely, and it’s definitely a lot of hard work. Everyone I know in the industry is hustling and putting in long hours, but when you go home for the day, it feels really good and you feel like you got a lot done rather than feeling dreamed. I think, at least that’s how I feel.

Cool, so you’re working with Vangst and you’re getting to combine your skills with your passion and your role. There is the business development manager. So yeah, let’s talk more about that day-to-day grind, about your role there and just what’s going on with the company in general and how you’re serving the industry. You guys are getting pretty big now.

Yeah, yeah, it’s crazy. I think when I joined less than two years ago, I was around employee 25-ish, and now we’re getting close to 75 as were primarily based out of Denver. I sit in LA and we’ve got a smaller team, on the West Coast, so as Westin development manager, I mentioned earlier I’m focused mainly on clients on the businesses and helping them and really our team internally… Understand how, why, where they’re growing, what’s the timeline like I mentioned, all companies in this industry are growing all companies in the industry or start-ups in some way, shape or form, so everyone’s growing in a different pace. So, I kinda see myself as a consultant, despite my job title is less of a… It’s more of a… Yes, Miramar. I understand you need to grow. Let’s work and talk about the best way to do that.

So it’s a very consultative role and I love it because I… At Vangst, we get to touch all aspects of the industry, real cultivation distribution, we even work with ancillary businesses as well.

So kind of going back to my manufacturing days, when I was walking around plants and checking out cool machines, I get to do that as well. In Canada, I get to go on rotors, and checkout facilities, not just to really understand more of what the business is doing, but also to learn a little bit more about the environment, the culture, so then we can better recruit and better find people to fit that when it comes down to recruiting job descriptions, and a lot of roles and jobs these days were getting pretty black and white where you can either do something or can and a lot of companies are looking for the same things. So understanding the culture, the feel of a business, whether they have an on-site break room or not, that will matter to some people to be able to uncover a lot of those things up. We can better support candidates companies and the whole industry is a big part of what I do. So that’s a lot of going the businesses in person, a lot of talking to people over the phone and discovering what’s going on a lot of events, so many events in cannabis that’s the best way to really get to know people and get to really see things first hand in an efficient way.

So all over the map got it. Yeah, that’s fantastic. So yeah, I guess these companies are finding themselves growing quickly and do most companies know what they need or is that part of that consulting element you are mentioning where you’re helping suss out? Okay, exactly what do you need and when…

So yeah, it’s a combination. A lot of people will come to us, we’ll say, “Hey I have X, Y, Z position, that need to hire, I need to hire sales reps and some brand ambassadors. Great, we can help you with that. But a lot of what I do is a lot of what we do is we’d love to help you with a… We’re looking to be long-term partners we wanna grow with companies to help them get to 1000 employees and we wanna be that long from partner, so it’s great. That will definitely help you with those sales and brand ambassadors, but how can we really help you grow on your manufacturing front, how can we maybe help you get a manager in place who can help you manage that staff, maybe get a couple of internal HR partners who can really partner with us internally to help drive things forward. So a lot of people will come to us with that immediate need. That thing is right there in front of us but we do try and work proactively and a lot of it is where it’s a candidate-driven market no matter what industry you work in, candidates have what I’ll call the power-and employments. Pretty low great, people are out there, a lot of smart intelligent degrees individuals. So a lot of what we’re doing is say, “Hey I understand you need to hire these people, but there’s a lot of great people out there that are ready to get an industry now. Is there a space for them in helping people see that larger picture is a big thing, but to that point, what companies that come to us and say, “Hey here’s a hiring plan for the next year, how do we make this happen?

Nice, some people know what they want.

Yeah, gotcha.

Before we jumped to commercial, I’m sure there’s a lot of executives out there that will relate to what I’m about to say. They’ve been wearing 15 hats for the last couple of years and their team is probably begging them to just hire an assistant finally right?

That, like I said, is a start-up industry. I wear three different hats on in a given day myself, so I can only imagine what some of these owners and operators are going through and that’s exactly what we’re here for. We’re a partner we’re a resource, we are here to really be there when you need us. But also were that everyday partner as well. And we’re flexible. You mentioned executives. I feel like we just naturally a lot of people think those salaried roles, those full-time roles, and that’s a big part of our business that’s our direct Higher function, but that platform aspect of us what we call banks gig is we’re actually helping a lot of companies grow with their hourly staff with those production needs. With those temporary needs, as they’re building and expanding, and sometimes decreasing their staff as a lot of startups will do camp. So, it’s helping companies grow in a lot of ways, but also it’s helping a lot of candidates step into the industry because you can start a short-term assignment get some great experience and then be on your way.

Awesome, awesome, cool. We’re gonna take that quick commercial break and be right back, stay tuned.

Alright, we’re back on NCIA’s cannabis industry voice on cannabis radio, talking with Justinian Mason from Vangst Talent Network. So Vangst is one of a handful of staffing and recruiting firms that focus on the cannabis industry and there’s a lot of people out there who are excited that they can actually go get a job in the cannabis industry and get a real paycheck and perhaps even benefits in some cases. It’s like mind-blowing from where we were 10 years ago. Yeah, but for all those people, and I know plenty of my old friends and schoolmates, that are curious and hit me up on Facebook. So what’s that basic advice you would give to someone who really wants to get a job in the cannabis industry at this point and hasn’t yet done so, maybe they’re making a career change.

Yeah, and I had a clear answer, and I thought of something before my answer as you’re going through that question, but the first thing I’ll say, is find out what you are passionate about, find out what your personal specialized knowledge is. I mentioned my story I moved out here again in the industry was looking at retail as a cat brands, and it wasn’t until I tripped and fell and applied for a role through banks that I went back and saw a weight. There’s a staffing company for Canada, and it was… What I love to do is what I’m passionate about, is when I’m skilled at… And it was a great transition. So I think the first step is before you step into the industry really figure out if cannabis didn’t exist, what would my five-year plan be what would I want to do with my career then bring cannabis back into it. And now number two, do your research, do your homework. Like I mentioned, I didn’t know there was a staffing recruiting company specifically for cannabis, but had I did, I probably would have applied to Vangst first.

That was light bulb moment, I’m sure.

And once I stepped into the industry within my first I argued at my first year in cannabis, I learned more nights have in the past five. But you learn so much going through it. So once you really lock in, “Okay this is what I’m about, “This is what I wanna do with card-less and loop cannabis back into it, and then start doing the research. My searches back then, probably would have been Canada staffing companies rather than the just candidates sales jobs.

So find your passion, find your specialized knowledge start doing the research. I love Google, so google thinks Google camps branding agencies cannabis production jobs if you’re an entire cannabis engineering and you’d be surprised what pops up, but definitely doing your research, and going in knowledgeable it’s hard to really understand unless you’re actually in it but when you can do a little bit more, it definitely helps that makes sense. Yeah, that’s good advice. As with any industry, you’d like to work in, do the research, meet people ask questions, right, so I… So as you’re going along here and comparing the cannabis industry and the kinds of professional needs that these companies have, I’m curious if there is a bucket of skills or core competencies that would be necessary that are maybe even unique to the cannabis industry, that candidates should have. Is there anything like that, or is it just all over the place?

The unique cannabis core competencies, they really only come into play when the product is involved. If you’re a direct and… Yeah, and you’re in the cut if you’re a cultivator, is one of those things where you either have cultivation experience or you do not have cultivation experience. I do, and now when no one’s coming from left field and hobby and being a cultivator, right?

In those cases, there are those core competencies, but I’d send an overall going back to what we said earlier, it’s a start-up industry, it’s a brand new industry, it’s a federally-illegal industry still, so I think the main core commences are based on that. We talked about one, which is that passion in the advocacy. You can be in this industry if you are not a support supporter of candidates that it just doesn’t make sense but once you get in it you’ll find that whether it’s not for the whole industry, whatever your brand, whatever your product is, whatever company are part of you have to be an advocate, you have to be a rep you have to be a cheerleader for it, it doesn’t matter who you are. So, I’d say that’s one. But going back to that start up that new industry, you have to be flexible, you have to be adaptable, you can’t come in and expect a nine to five and expect to have clear job duties. Obviously you have your responsibilities, but you’re going to have to go above and beyond because that’s what a lot of these companies need. So I get to that next level.

Ability to work in a fast-paced environment is… And the thing is fast-paced. I wouldn’t even… I don’t even think that does it justice. In an industry where every year feels like dog years.

And you might be doing something one year, in a certain way, and the next way next year, it’s a little different totally. So I wanna bring up another really important topic that the cannabis industry is really focused on particularly this last year or two especially, and that’s opening up business opportunities and employment opportunities for those who have been most impacted by the war on drugs. So this is equity and diversity issues that are on our minds as we’re building this new industry together, and as we see other states come online, like Massachusetts and… Oh, the city of Oakland, California, their programs are setting aside a certain number of direct plant licenses for people of color, but that’s more of the ownership level. So when we’re talking about hiring a team, a staff, how does social equity, come into play at that level of staffing and recruiting?

Yeah, and I think, Massachusetts and Oakland or two great examples, Oakland. I can speak a little bit more to with me being in California, but the same way that there are no rules and mandates for ownership there’s also rules like that, for candidates as well, where you are essentially required to hire a certain amount of your staff within that equity land. So things like that are huge when it just comes down to clear diversity, not just physical diversity, but that diversity of thought that’s huge. In any company, but especially cannabis. I know there’s statistics have research outside of the industry where the more diverse companies are often times the more successful, so I think that company should be encouraged and they should feel encouraged and be real proud of hiring on that group of individuals.

Just playing a pure numbers game. There are way more opportunities to impact the industry internally and through your work, then there are as an owner, I think recently LA just went through their rounds of applications for the social equity and I wanna say we have close to 2000 applicants for around 200 licenses so is there… What are those 1800 people who don’t get it, what are they gonna do naturally? The route is how do you get internal? I kinda see it as being an entrepreneur, I consider myself that. How do you get within a company, how do you gain great experience, how you still have that business owner mentality? And then in five, 10 years, if you still have that passion that need that want to start a business, a Mentos. But at that point, you’ll have knowledge, you’ll have experience, you’ll have resources as a network. So I think companies should definitely feel incurs to really drive that forward. And how do you create avenues? They do exist in other industries, avenues as far as getting former offenders into the workforce and manufacturing and things like that, how do we recreate some of those avenues? I’m all about taking something that works in a line is something different.

Totally, yeah that makes perfect sense. Thanks for sharing that.

So we have about a minute before our next commercial break and it’s a little bit of a change of subject, but to think about the future. Also NCIA’s ten year anniversary is coming up next year, in 2020, and we’re already really excited thinking about that. It’s just so impactful. So we’ve been asking people to not only think on all the progress we’ve made in the last 10 years, but also where are we going to be in 10 years or what would you like to see in 10 years in our industry?

I couldn’t even tell you what’s gonna happen in 30 days, let alone 10 years. But what I love to see without a doubt, I really, I know we will be federally legalized. I’d be disappointed if it’s not what I would really love to see. And I think this is directly impacting that is the destination, the stigmatization of the plant of the product. I think that comes with research. I’d really love to see that specifically in sports, in the military in definitely within healthcare being from the Midwest, being from Cincinnati, a place has been heavily impacted by the God crisis. I would love to see some things rectified in that lane, directly from cannabis from HMRC all of that kinda going off of our social equity conversation, I would love equity first to be a mandate no matter what to say is if you were looking to operate on a cannabis business, or even have it in your regulations at the state? Equity has to be first.

I couldn’t agree more. Alright, we’re gonna take that last commercial break and be right back to wrap up our chat with Justinian Mason of Vangst Talent Network stay tuned.

All right, we’re back and we’re wrapping up our chat with Justinian Mason of Vangst Talent Network today.

Thanks for the really good talk. And I think the advice that you gave in the last segment will be really helpful, not just for those that are actually looking for a job in the industry but also the owners and those trying to grow their team. So thanks for that.

It makes me think about NCIA’s growth too. I’ve mentioned this on other episodes. I started working here in 2014, so five and a half, six years ago almost, and I think I was employee number five.

And we are almost at 30 employees also today, so it’s a scale up and it’s so rapid, and it’s so exciting though, in an our membership rosters. I think we’re in the hundreds at that time, and now we have nearly 2000 companies across the country and beyond as NCIA members and Vangst has been a member for several years now, as well.

I know you were at our Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in San Jose, that’s our biggest conference of the year.

Let’s just talk about Vangst Talent Networks membership and how you interact with NCIA and why being part of a national association that’s doing this advocacy work at the federal level is important for your company.

Yeah, it’s huge for our company because we’re a national company in some ways, we’re international company we work with companies at the Canada but because we are ancillary ourselves because we do support all verticals of the industry. Being a part of NCIA is a great opportunity for us to get in front of a lot of ancillary a lot of supportive businesses like us that we don’t normally get to talk to. I kinda see it is almost like that verified check mark on Instagram or Twitter, you see when I’m going through a company prospecting and I see that on their website. It’s almost like I relieve okay. And they represent at the right things, they’re going about it the right way, but also focusing back on fans.

I’m messed earlier. We’re impacting lives, we’re impacting the economy. I personally got a chance with a couple of team members to go out to the NCIA, lobby days in DC and have conversations with policy or policy makers and regulation makers about how what we’re doing staffing and recruiting is impacting the global economy and the industry. So that level of conversation, I don’t think that would have happened in the other capacity. So to be able to have that network in that reach through a is insanely valuable.

And I do wanna mention, there’s somebody on your team who is a member of our newly formed Diversity and Equity Committee, we have these member-driven committees like the marketing and advertising committee, the banking and finance committee, all that stuff, and we’ve added four new committees for this 2019 to 2020 term and one of those is the Diversity and Equity Committee. So shout out to the Vangst team member who is on our committee. And I look forward to working with them on some blogs and some podcasts.

Oh yeah, yeah, I wanna say That’s my partner Brett in Oakland or impact manager and as a talent resource as a recruiting resource, we wanna be that bridge that helps everyone have a fair shot absolutely appreciate that. So yes, lobby days love lobby days.

We’re already excited about next year’s lobby days. Of course, everybody start planning to go to DC next April or May, please.

I know it’s a long ways off, but it’s a big trip. But next month, actually, this month in August, and next month in September, we’ve got several smaller events going on. These are the nice evening networking receptions. It is free for NCIA members to register and attend and with the industry socials non-members can attend for a ticket fee but the cannabis caucus events are intended to be members only with an exception made, for a few people, maybe some guests here and there if you’re looking to join NCIA. So if you want to come meet NCIA staff and some local NCIA members please check out our website, the cannabis industry dot org and navigate to our events section. we are going to have our Heartland tour of our industry socials, we’re going to be there in Austin, we’ll be there in Minneapolis, Chicago, Saint Louis, Oklahoma City and Austin throughout the month of August, so registered today, if you’d like. To attend those. And we will also be doing our long running evening networking receptions called the cannabis Caucus, which is a little bit more policy focused with guest speakers, getting federal policy update in the presentation that is in September, and we will be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Ann Arbor and Boston.

So mark your calendars head over to events section and start making your plans to join us there. And then of course our California focused conference which is the California cannabis business conference is coming up in October, so people are still trying to navigate what’s going on in California. This conference is focused on navigating that market. We’ll have 200 plus exhibitors and over 100 speakers, chatting so there’s some early bird discounts going on through August 31, pretty much half price half the door price. And now is a good time to grab those tickets.

Yeah, just any… And thank you again for being really active in NCIA and participating in this podcast, as well and I look forward to seeing you and your team, at some of our future events. So for those that are interested in learning more about Vangst where should they go on the inter-webs?

Yeah, you can check us out online at a Vangst dot com vangst dot com we’re on LinkedIn as well and then our Instagram is Vangst talent and Vangst talent on Instagram. But I’d say our website and have a lot of really great information and then I’m on a Instagram and LinkedIn as well. I’m likely the only Justinian you’ll find there. So, pretty easy to go look up.

I like it, I like it.

I just thought of this question before we wrap. Does Vangst mean anything? It does it stand for anything.

Yes, the correct pronunciation is Vangst, a Dutch word that means to catch, both for its a cash for capturing candidates and bring the industry. Yeah, I resolve a thank you for that.

There it for those who didn’t know our logo is a fish, I love it. Oh God, it all makes sense now, thank you for that.

Okay, well, thanks again for being on the show and thanks everyone for tuning into another episode of NCIA’s cannabis industry voice until next time.

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