Review By Andrew Shaw – Publisher of Treating Yourself
CCBE Expo Post Mortem – The Weed Show That ‘Almost’ Didn’t Happen
A fiasco is a soft disaster right?
That’s a fair way to describe what happened at the recent CCBE Expo in Toronto created by an upstart event producer apparently based in Atlanta, Georgia.
The show called The Cannabis Consumer and Business Expo (CCBE Expo) was hosted at the Queen Elizabeth Building, Exhibition place in Toronto Canada, November 22-24 2019.
As a top sponsor of the event, we were along for what turned out to be rather a bumpy ride.
Here’s the story for those who follow such things, or are wondering what happened, and how TY got involved.
The CCBE Expo producer is a fellow named Jerry Cummings who first announced the event back in September via a reliable news wire service, promising an event with hundreds of booths expecting up to 20,000 people through the doors.
Booths were reasonably priced at $1100 for a 10’x10’ and the show had a fairly basic but functional website at https://cannabistradeexpo.com/ and was actively marketing for both local vendors and patrons to participate in a first year event.
As a website publisher we monitor all the shows and industry activity, and CCBE Expo crossed our radar for a number of reasons, most importantly because they didn’t have a well established footprint and it was clearly a grass roots organizer behind it.
So I called the guy.
He answered the phone, “Thank your for calling the CCBE Expo. This is Jerry. How can I help you today?”
Jerry was a very personable guy… and he had some admirable hustle.
I could tell he also had American roots because of his distinct accent, and that he was also a church raised kid based on some of his euphemisms, and a few anecdotal comments he made.
He was straight with me that it was a first-year bootstrapped effort, and I could also tell he was an aspiring entrepreneur trying to level up his small event planning company by attempting to jump into the crowded cannabis trade show space.
After my first-touch phone call, I did some further digging.
I called the venue manager at Exhibition place and indeed they verified a hall booked by Jerry for the show dates as planned, and it was paid in full.
Next, I called the Freeman company which does all the major tradeshow events in Toronto. They handle all the booth rigging and set-ups for power and internet. Yep, also booked and paid in full.
Finally, I did a WHOIS lookup on the website domain name and checked the registration for the website owner and it attributed the Ownership to Jerry Cummings of Innovative Events Concept Corp. 3080 Yonge St. Suite 6060 Toronto, Ontario – which all matched the booking information of both other suppliers.
It all checked out.
For those familiar with the Treating Yourself brand, we used to operate a massive set of trade shows in Toronto in the days before legalization, and we know the business well.
Our focus has always been promoting cannabis as alternative medicine and we are a publication for patients, by patients – advocating for the responsible use of medicinal marijuana.
The CCBE Expo format appealed to us for three key reasons;
#1 – The show would only cost $20 for people to check out, good for our community especially those on fixed incomes, seniors and people suffering from expensive medical conditions that could afford to easily attend this local show.
#2 – The booth price for vendors was comparatively cheap – and the venue was cavernous, so I figured I could get a good deal for exhibition space.
#3 – It’s a lightly guarded secret that we’ve got ambitions to restart our own TY Expo trade shows again and I thought this guy might be a good future operator to cooperate with – if he could pull off a fairly ambitious first year event.
So I called him back.
We struck a deal to help promote the show and sell some booths, in exchange for a major sponsorship and space to promote our brand re-launch in a contra-barter arrangement. All pretty standard fare in the media marketing business.
That’s the best way I can describe our take-away experience.
THE SHOW OPENS 10 HOURS LATE FOR EXHIBITOR LOAD-IN
So after arriving at the venue on load-in day scheduled for 8am and speaking to the folks that control the doors, they confirmed the Organizer was a no-show.
“Jerry had sent us a message he’s had to rush to the hospital for a situation with his mother, and that he wouldn’t be there to open the show. ” said the venue management representative.
The venue folks re-confirmed everything was paid in full, but without a representative from CCBE’s management group they were not going to allow vendors to begin loading in and setting up.
We got Jerry on a speaker phone… “I’ve got someone arriving from Atlanta at 6pm. He will sign for the show and we can begin load-in..” said Jerry. “It’s the best I can do. His name is Jarome, and he will be able to get this handled.” Said Jerry.
This ‘no-show’ by the organizer then set-off a chain reaction.
There was a high degree of speculation that a scam was at play, and TY quickly posted a notification that the organizer was unable to open the show and that we were pulling our sponsorship if it wasn’t rectified.
Many trade show vendors do these types of events on a regular basis and are serious professionals and like us, they were on-time, and ready-to-go.
All the piping and drapes were set-up, tables, chairs and booths designated and waiting behind locked doors – but once the story got around that “Some guy from Atlanta is flying in to deal with it…” many pissed off exhibitors just lost faith, bailed and went home.
Similarly in disbelief – I called Jerry to confirm the arrangement and collected Jarome’s contact information, then waited without any confidence to see what transpired.
Jerry, Jarome? Sounds a bit fishy right?
So… what happened next?
The doors remain locked for a full 10 hours, but Jarome actually showed up!
And no, it wasn’t Jerry – as I was well familiar with the sound of his voice.
Jarome to the rescue! He was a cool cat with a Coca Cola and IBM pedigree, and took total responsibility as the event manager, and kept it operating despite being handed a very hot potato.
Finallly at 6:30pm – Exhibitors were quickly notified that the expo was now open for load-in with extended hours until midnight.
Around 8pm Deborah, one of our friends from the Massage Lady called me to say she just finished her booth set-up and said there were about 35 vendors loading in while she was there, and she said “…they seemed largely relieved – mostly happy, and generally optimistic.”
After the massive missed expectations the hopes of the vendors were not completely dashed – So we updated our social media channels and sent out emails blasts to our lists, to confirm the show was actually going to open to the public on time – Then we also went down to set-up our booth to participate in support of the vendors – in an effort to have a good show; despite a very bumpy start.
So, the show opened with about 50 vendors, and the public showed up too. I’m not sure how many exhibitors bailed, but it would have been a decent size group of booths if the show had opened on-time for load-in.
It was nowhere near the 200+ booths and 20,000 attendees that the organizer was hoping for but the several hundred folks who came through the show seemed to have a decent time.
At TY’s booth we handed out hundreds of free magazine back issues to patrons, and spoke to each one of them personally throughout the entire weekend.
Interestingly as far as patrons go, there were a lot of seniors in the mix seeking information about cannabis as alternative medicine for a variety of conditions, and others seeking more information as beginner cannabis consumers – plus lots of entrepreneurs doing research on starting-up their own cannabis related business.
When is was all over, the vendors had bonded over the trauma of a show that almost didn’t happen.
In summary; It was a poorly organized show that was massively impacted by the organizers personal emergency. In all cases there were some clearly missed expectations, but the Exhibitors networked and connected anyway – And because of Jarome’s arrival the Expo was saved!
In the end Jarome the stand-in show manager got many hugs, fist bumps and big props for stepping up to rescue the event. We haven’t gotten an update yet on Jerry’s mom’s condition – but we wish her a speedy recovery.
CCBE EXPO PHOTO GALLERY