John Shute of PufCreativ is an established Colorado cannabis marketer whose Jersey roots have led him back to the Garden State.
He believes strongly in the fight in New Jersey for the creation of a just industry.
“Cannabis is such a sacred plant,” Shute said. “I just, you know, have always been a consumer, and my relationship with the plant has just evolved drastically over the years.”
While working in nightlife in Florida, Shute became the Marketing Director for a California-based cannabis contract facility there with little experience in the cannabis industry.
“I dove right into everything you can learn in cannabis from start to finish and seed to sale,” Shute said.
After a few years, when an expected promotion fell through while he was living in Colorado, he opened his cannabis marketing firm PufCreativ in 2017.
“We kind of took that negative and turned it into a positive,” Shute explained. “Shitty situations happen in cannabis all the time. You always have to learn to adopt and turn it into a positive like we did with this company.”
PufCreativ’s expertise includes logo design, packaging, branding, website design and development, social media, and creating newsletters. They currently work with Business 2 Business (B2B) and Business 2 Consumer (B2C) companies in the hemp and cannabis industries, helping them navigate marketing from start to finish. PufCreative currently has 20-30 clients in 15 to 20 states. While in the industry Shute has since met many people at conferences and marketed the firm well to build its client base. Via Search Engine Optimization (SEO), PufCreativ ranks on the first page of Google for “cannabis marketing,” which helps them secure clients. In addition, their social media and Shute’s efforts at promoting the firm by speaking on panels have added up.
Since being established, PufCreativ has won several industry awards.
However, “it’s definitely not a walk in the park every day,” he said, noting he usually works 12-hour days.
Shute said mainstream ad agencies are now getting into cannabis which is forcing PufCreativ to compete against larger, established companies.
Reconnecting to his Jersey Roots
Shute is actually from Sweetwater, NJ, near Hammonton and Atlantic City in Atlantic County. He initially went to St. Augustine’s Prep school for high school, where he got into some trouble due to cannabis.
“Which is quite an experience. I feel like that was a big motivating factor for me too, getting into trouble for something that, you know, you soon realize that helps people,” Shute noted.
He is a graduate of Rutgers University at New Brunswick. After college, he left New Jersey with his now-wife whom he met in high school.
PufCreativ is interested in breaking into New Jersey’s growing cannabis market. They are actively looking for Jersey clients, among other ventures.
“Any newer state, any state who has the stigma, we’d like to be part of that to help influence people to do the right thing and market themselves the right way and be involved in the community in the right way,” Shute said.
The Social Justice Efforts of PufCreativ
Shute believes strongly in social justice and only works with those who do as well.
“A big mission of mine is to make sure that all these really important facets of the industry don’t get swept under the rug,” Shute noted.
“Let’s get prisoners out of prison, let’s make sure the quality of the plant still there, let’s make sure we’re sustainable, let’s make sure social equity is a factor, make sure justice is a factor,” he said.
Before COVID, PufCreativ raised had $200,000 for different non-profits. Among the groups they have worked with is the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), which seeks to free all cannabis-related convicted prisoners.
“It’s like our obligation to make sure we influence other individuals to do good and show that we can do good as well,” Shute said.
They recently spearheaded the “Cannabis Creative Movement,” which will develop and distribute guidebooks to increase awareness of social issues while raising money to address them.
Each pamphlet will feature information from a specific nonprofit working to address the issue, helping to raise awareness on ways people can get involved. The first was “The CannaCurious Woman’s Guide” published in March.
“Women often face increased stigmas where cannabis use is concerned, even as legalization grows in acceptance,” Shute said.
Produced in collaboration with CannaCurious Magazine, “the CannaCurious Women’s Guide” is being co-sponsored by the Lupus Howse Foundation, a nonprofit that helps women with lupus.
Cannabis use has been found to help lupus symptoms such as chronic pain, anxiety, exercise recovery, stress relief, fatigue, inflammation, insomnia, and more.
“Many women in our community have found that cannabis treatment can be very beneficial,” said Lupus Howse Foundation founder Kimberly Howse.
“People are reluctant to ask about or discuss these issues. Our hope is that these guidebooks can provide an introduction on these important topics in a way that is not intrusive while generating awareness of organizations,” Shute said.
Guidebooks will include:
- Sexual Assault Support Guide (published in April, to benefit the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault)
- Anti-Racism Guide (recently published, to benefit the Cannabis Impact Fund)
- Opioid Awareness Guide (being published in June, to benefit Leaf 411)
- Stoner Survival Guide (being published in July, to benefit Wilderness On Wheels)
- Suicide Support Guide (being released in August, to benefit The Wake Up Project)