Interview with Michael Zaytsev, Author of "The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis"

09/13/2016 11:19 am ET

Michael Zaytsev, or Mike Z, is a pioneer of the emerging Cannabis industry. He took the skills he developed at Google helping Fortune 100 clients with brand marketing and used them to build one of the largest communities of Cannabis activists and entrepreneurs in the world. And he did it without any financial backing or resources. As a leadership coach who helps socially conscious entrepreneurs create world changing impact, Mike Z was driven to empower others to apply their passion and talents to ending Cannabis prohibition.

In just 2 years of being an activist and community organizer, Mike was able to build relationships with some of the Cannabis industry’s most elite and influential members. The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Cannabis is a primer for any newcomer who wants to enter the Cannabis business. In the book, Mike Z shares the advice he received interviewing 25 of the movement’s top executives, investors, and activists.

Tell us how you decided to get involved in the Cannabis world. What inspired you?

Originally, I was interested by the economic opportunity. The re-legalization of Cannabis reminded me of the birth of the Internet --a massive opportunity for entrepreneurship and global paradigm shifts. Once I became educated about the history of Cannabis prohibition and the science behind this powerful plant, my motivation shifted completely. I realized that this is about human rights, public health, social justice, and sustainability. It’s much bigger than business. The Cannabis revolution will be a gateway revolution!

Cannabis was an important part of my life for many years. It facilitated many of my closest friendships and also helped me manage pain while recovering from a major surgery. Once I began my activism work, I knew I had found my passion. I found an outlet to give back to the plant that significantly contributed to my quality of life. I’m grateful that I can build a career around something I love while changing the world.

How did you decide to write this book?

The book was born out of necessity. When I entered the Cannabis world, there was no resource like this to help me get started. I had to immerse myself in all things Cannabis and worked hard to build relationships so I could learn from top industry leaders. Once aspiring investors and entrepreneurs began coming to me for help, I noticed I was having very similar conversations with them. It occurred to me that this was an opportunity for me to create value at scale. And also to pay forward all the goodwill I received from those who made time to help me.

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

There’s no better time than now to get involved in the Cannabis industry! We’re still in the early stages and the industry will never be this small again. If you’re passionate about this plant then please contribute your skills to the movement. Surely, someone in the community can benefit from your help. There can never be enough activists!

If you intend to profit off this industry, you must also be prepared to participate in activism. This is an industry born out of a social movement. Without decades of activism from guys like Dana Beal, Ethan Nadelmann and countless others, there wouldn’t be a legal Cannabis industry today. Pay your respects and do your part.

What’s the most common mistake you’ve seen people make entering this industry?

Not doing enough homework. You wouldn’t enter the coffee business if you didn’t know a lot about coffee. So don’t enter Cannabis, unless you’ve learned about the plant. The more you study it, the more you will realize that there’s so much more to learn.

What’s one thing you wish those unfamiliar with Cannabis understood about it?

This plant is a powerful technology. It is a multifaceted tool --food, medicine, textiles, building materials, and more. Humanity has utilized it for thousands of years. We’re living through a global paradigm shift right now. By remaining uninformed, uninterested or uninvolved you’re allowing evil forces to triumph and doing a great disservice to future generations.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I just finished The Untethered Soul which was absolutely brilliant. Now I’m reading #AskGaryVee. If you have any interest in Cannabis history or culture, Steve DeAngelo’s Cannabis Manifesto is a must read.

Which authors and/or entrepreneurs inspire you?

Funny enough all the entrepreneurs on my list have written books. As a Brooklyn native, I’ve always been inspired by Jay Z, a poetic genius turned mogul. Gary Vaynerchuck is a role model. His book The Thank You Economy shaped my business philosophy. And of course, Tony Robbins, one of the greatest coaches of all time. I consistently re-read Tony’s books and watch his YouTube videos.

Even though they’re not business people, my parents and grandparents constantly inspire me. They immigrated to this country with nothing, no money, no knowledge of English and worked insanely hard to provide a great childhood for me and my brother. Their journey makes everything I undertake seem relatively easy.

What is your best piece of business and/or life advice?

Hey hey hey hey, smoke weed everyday. Just kidding! Life is short and can be taken from you at any time. It is a precious gift, so to spend your time being anything but grateful is insane. Cultivate self awareness and gratitude daily.

For more information on Mike Z, visit his website HiMikeZ.com Follow him @HiMikeZ

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