Alison Simard does public relations for KIND Financial, which makes financial and tracking software for cannabis businesses. (Hans Gutknecht, Orange County Register)

Working with weed: Meet a public relations specialist for KIND Financial

SANTA ANA, Calif. — Alison Simard has done public relations for 20 years, representing technology and finance clients as West Coast president for Stern & Co.

Three years ago, the Los Angeles resident was having dinner with David Dinenberg, a real estate broker and entrepreneur whose kids had become friends with her kids. Unsure how Simard would react, Dinenberg cautiously brought up his latest venture: KIND Financial, a company that would offer online payment systems for cannabis businesses and technology to track marijuana from seed to sale.

Simard had never worked with the marijuana industry, and she doesn’t personally partake. But she saw the need for helping businesses comply with federal banking regulations without ever touching the plant.

“I told him, ‘You’re brilliant,'” Simard, 45, recalled. “He was about to get the tiger by the tail.”

Initially, Simard offered Dinenberg marketing advice as a friend. He’d hired a PR specialist focused on getting word about KIND Financial products to industry publications such as High Times magazine. Simard encouraged him to target The New York Times and CNBC as he sought to build a professional, legitimate company.

Now she spends time each week at KIND Financial’s L.A. headquarters crafting story pitches and a strategy aimed at making Dinenberg a thought leader in the industry. In the past few months, as pot has become what she terms a “sexy” media topic, it’s become an easier sell.

She sleeps well at night, she said, with none of the qualms she’d have in representing a predatory lender or – as an animal rights activist – Sea World. Her firm’s other clients have also been receptive, she said, even asking how they can invest in the company that now counts TV personality Montel Williams among its board members.

“Almost all of our clients are finance and business people, and they follow the money,” Simard said. “At the end of the day, it’s business.”

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