“In many ways, WeedFeed is my baby,” shares Ben Kraim, the creative mind behind some of today’s most popular Instagram accounts, both in and beyond the cannabis world.
WeedFeed alone has amassed more than 240K followers on Instagram, sitting at the forefront of content trends within the cannabis industry. Starting as a clever idea in 2018, today WeedFeed isn’t just another weed page: it’s a full-blown lifestyle brand with consumer products, video series’, events, an interactive website, and more.
Let’s put it this way: If you are at all into cannabis, you’ve most likely seen some of WeedFeed’s work or one of the hundreds of pieces directly inspired by it. WeedFeed is, in many senses, the aesthetic reference point for cannabis and hemp brands across the globe.
“I’ve always been passionate about the benefits of cannabis and honestly, I saw an opportunity to build something that didn’t exist. The plant has been stigmatized for so long that info, content and resources are scattered in the farthest corners of the web, and are constantly shadowbanned and removed from highly visible areas,” adds Ben. “Try typing weed or cannabis into YouTube’s search bar. These terms are entirely excluded from autofill, even if you write out the entire word. It’s f*ckin 2021, why are we still playing make-believe?”
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While his conservative Syrian family was strongly anti-cannabis, Benjamin valued weed from a very young age. By middle school, Ben was on a cocktail of ADHD and OCD medications.
“There was a lot going on at the time, I was testing different medicines and therapies up until high school with more sh*tty side effects than noticeable benefits” Ben shared. “Finding cannabis was a pivotal moment, and looking back now it was very much the catalyst to my entrepreneurial mindset, the portal to my greatest ideas, deepest friendships — and now my career.”
With his family’s anti-cannabis vibes lurking and his undeniable New York hustle, Ben became enthralled with proving a point: you can be a successful stoner, there’s nothing wrong with consumption, and cannabis can actually be a catalyst for mental health and personal growth.
And so, the pressure grew. He wanted to show everyone he could be that mythological “successful stoner” he often referenced.
“There was always this thing in my head where I was trying to prove that I could be successful despite my cannabis use and that all these achievements of mine were not stunted by the use of weed; in fact, weed probably helped me make them happen.
“That was a huge driver for me. I guess it all started during my childhood,” he reflects.
Today, every person in his immediate family who previously frowned upon cannabis use can be found sporting WeedFeed apparel on a regular basis.
“I think I proved my point to the naysayers in my immediate network, but there is still an entire world full of people who equate smoking weed to shooting up heroin and I plan to change that.”
Content Is King
Before starting WeedFeed, Ben was working as a creative director. Luckily, the company that employed him recognized his sizable creativity boosts post-consumption.
“They would roll me joints and we’d go out on the roof and we’d smoke. And then they’d just pick my brain to come up with clever things,” he laughs.
This way, Benjamin came up with a lot of products from apparel to toys and electronic accessories. Many of them actually ended up being successful sellers at retailers like Game Stop, Sams Club, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters and more.
One day he decided to risk it all, quit his job, and start his own creative media studio. He called it Dumpling House.
“What I noticed is that I kept talking about how content is king,” he says. “I have a bunch of Instagram pages and websites, and they’re all pretty successful. But there were always other strategies in place to expedite growth. And so, I’d never genuinely tested the power of just content.
“If content is powerful, then shouldn’t it be able to succeed on its own?”
Seeking to test out the hypothesis, the Dumpling House team launched three pilot media brands: one threw out clever, unknown facts about nature; the other pinpointed crazy things to do in New York, and the last one was focused on marijuana. Whichever one became more successful would become the company’s focus.
“With weed, I knew what I didn’t want to do. I definitely didn’t want to go full Cheech and Chong, Grateful Dead vibes and I surely wasn’t about to go all Goop Wellness Roze Quartz Self-Love theme either – there had to be something in the middle.”
“I wanted to represent how me and everyone that I know engage with weed. We look at it as the perfect pairing to other non-weed related things: delicious food, good music, nice views, and deep thought and conversation.”
So, Ben and his team began working on “Taste Buds,” a show hosted by Jorden Lutzky, where they taught people how to cook with cannabis. Little by little, experimenting with different types and styles of content, the page took off and got recognition from publishers, celebrity followers, and other people who love pairing weed with food.
Later on, Ben developed a new cartoon series with Cliff Benfield called “Cannimals.” The series was followed by a daily original art post on Instagra. This would ultimately become WeedFeed’s trademark, its presentation card, its piece de resistance.
The Long Game
Very often, brands get a lot of pressure to monetize their content. But Ben is his own boss; and he’s playing the long game with WeedFeed.
“We’re more focused on building a community and letting things happen naturally. I’m not being aggressive on WeedFeed; I’m aggressive on my other projects. I’m kind of treating WeedFeed a little bit more emotionally and just waiting for something that feels right,” he explicates.
The Brooklyn-based entrepreneur elaborates: “That’s not our forever goal. We do want to make money, but we’re not dead set on hyper-monetization just yet. So many brands sacrifice their longevity by going after any dollar that’s swung over their head.”
In the meantime, Dumpling House, his creative media agency, allows him to follow this wise approach by funding WeedFeed, which, in turn, acts as a funnel for new clients for Dumpling House’s creative and advertising divisions.
“The landscape is evolving. And I think that our business model, as it relates to Dumpling House, is unique and sustainable. I know that if I build WeedFeed slowly and steadily, and I say ‘no’ more than I say ‘yes,’ it’ll be such a valuable asset, that’s going to be my retirement plan,” Ben concludes.
Franca Quarneti contributed to this report.