If you’ve been a part of California’s cannabis industry since the Prop 215 days, you know that Secret Sesh is the original sesh. They’ve been the home for industry members to gather for educational, professional, and recreational reasons since the beginning of legal weed in California. They’ve since grown alongside the industry into a full-blown festival with cannabis at the epicenter. Secret Sesh brings together an elite community of cannabis enthusiasts while also emphasizing on art, music, education, and communal games.
Secret Sesh grew organically along with its young CEO, Tim Brown, over the last seven years. From his days working at a lounge to managing a hash bar, he’s always been hustling to give cannabis lovers a place to gather and call home. They’ve since become a fully licensed, BCC compliant, and legal event. Despite having thrown only two festivals since cannabis Prop 64 became a daily reality, they’ve been able to comfortably seat themselves in California’s recreational cannabis culture.
Since gaining their license, Secret Sesh threw their first legal event at Adelanto Stadium last year on June 1st. Over 5,000 cannabis enthusiasts came out to partake in the festivities, with the second garnering an audience of well over 8,000. The fact that this party has grown (with zero outside investors) from operating out of mansions and apartments to a literal stadium is worth noting. This is the kind of event that has built a loyal, and powerful following that respects its contribution to the industry and culture of cannabis.
Secret Sesh 2019 SoCal Recap
This year they plan to bring the same energy to Adelanto Stadium on June 6th, but on a massively bigger level. California’s industry leaders in cannabis cultivation, extraction, retail, marketing, media, fashion, law, and more will all be under one roof. This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Secret Sesh though because it has so many other unique facets. In the past, this could range anywhere from brand launches to B-Real filming his music video during the event.
Tim sat down to tell the story of how he came to create one of the most notorious staples of California’s cannabis culture. He also went into detail on Secret Sesh’s success, its failures, and where they plan to take the company in the new decade.
Secret Sesh Is Born
The story begins with Tim finding his way into working at a hash lounge in high school, already sick with his love for Mary Jane. When he was getting close to leaving his teen years, the hash bar closed as well as the Headroom Gallery, so the regulars needed somewhere to go. “I took it upon myself to provide that space,” Tim said. “The first place was a friend’s glassblowing studio…it was a disaster,” Tim said with a laugh. “Only ten people came, but those are some of my closest friends in the industry today.”
Tim then had his first iteration of secret sessions every Sunday. And after not long “that was the new hangout, and then it grew by word of mouth,” he said. After a while, it began getting out of hand at the glassblowing studio, “so we started renting Airbnb’s, but then the surrounding community was getting upset with 250+ cars parked on the street.” So naturally, they began looking into bigger event spaces like mansions, and by then, it was a completely exclusive event.
Building Hype Through Exclusivity
When Secret Sesh got to the point of throwing exclusive mansion parties, Tim took to building hype by making people jump through various hoops for a chance to potentially end up on the guest list. The invite-only came after following Tim’s personal Instagram and watching his story daily for his once-a-week post with the email to holler at. “The list would fill up in 3-5 minutes,” Tim said, “that’s when sponsors really came in thinking they could make some money.”
At first, Tim was only selling booth space at his mansion seshes for nominal fees. “I don’t know where the celebrities started coming from, but they just started showing up.” Tim said that the mansion parties are where the vibe really blew up. “We had Action Bronson just show up one night at Frank Sinatra’s mansion and he started cooking for everyone,” he said with a grin.
There have been countless other celebrity appearances at Secret Sesh events since. Notable past attendees include Xzibit, Ray Sremmurd, and Little Debby. Not to mention Fortune Young, TM 88/SouthSide, Dizzy Wright, Famous Dex, Lil Xan, DJ Stellar, Araabmuzik, and Arius. Tim and his team knew that if they could curate an experience that even attracted celebrities, they had to take it to the next level.
The Golden Years
When steam was really picking up with the mansion parties, Tim and his team took up residence at 333 S Boylston Street in LA, which was Prince’s old nightclub. The young CEO was in his early 20’s and loving life during this three year period starting in late 2016. “When we got the club we got a lawyer, an accountant, and basically a dispensary under Prop 215. We formed a collective,” Tim said.
“I tried to treat it like a real business,” he said, “we paid taxes on each event, and I’m very proud that we’ve run it by the books.” On opening night at the club, “we shot B-Real’s music video for ‘Dabs’ with Dizzy Wright.” Dizzy has gone on to perform four or five times at Tim’s seshes since then. The community began to realize that Tim’s model for seshes was a good idea, and then a bunch of knock-off seshes began popping up. “I was 24 at the time and it pissed me off initially. That lasted a year or two and then I got over it.” Tim said it feels like a pat on the back now.
The Costly Transition Into Legal
When they began hearing rumblings of legalization and Prop 64 Tim said it really shook him. It was a serious threat to his well-oiled machine. By this time he was throwing 50+ events a year with no intention of slowing down. Things were going incredibly well for him, so it’s only natural he felt threatened by the imminent legalization.
“We rode it out until the end,” he said, “we knew we were going to shut it down and wait a year to throw a new one in the legal market.” Their last event under the reign of Prop 215 was December 29th, 2018. “The transition was the scariest thing,” Tim said. During this whole transitional period, he was seeing his imitators continue to throw non-legal events and profit.
Despite complications and imitators, Tim and his team have been able to keep Secret Sesh forging ahead in the legal market. With his first event bringing in 4,500, and the second essentially doubling that number proves they’re growing considerably. The upcoming June 6th event will undoubtedly break 10k in attendance.
Diversifying The Experience
Secret Sesh isn’t just a cannabis marketplace, it’s also a fully interactive experience in the form of a stoner’s playground of dreams. Cannabis brands and entities largely make up the booths, but you’ll also find a lot of interactive opportunities. Tim said they include “free carnival games with prizes” as well as “a smoke and paint class with a teacher,” and even a wandering magician (@thecannabisconjuror.) Tim simply said, “I like stuff like that.”
At their previous sesh there was a giant obstacle course with a cash prize. They even had a “spa lounge for women and men with mani-pedis, and a cannabis spa,” to truly curate a one-of-a-kind paradise for cannabis enthusiasts. There have also been infused cooking demonstrations. Live performances from and DJs along with ample giveaways throughout the day make up other typical Secret Sesh fodder. “I want it to be like the big big music festivals,” Tim said.
Plans For The Future
The most important aspect Tim highlighted is that Secret Sesh isn’t just about cannabis, it’s a festival celebrating the culture itself. Currently, they’re looking outside of cannabis to bring other relevant entities into the festivities. “We need more sponsors. We haven’t gone after anyone besides cannabis sponsors,” Tim said.
When asking about financial backing to scale the brand quicker, he said: “I think we’d only take funding from someone that’s really a part of the culture.” More than anything, Tim is willing to sacrifice whatever he needs to in order to grow the company. “As long as I can feed myself, I’m fine,” he said. “We were the first to get on the road with this idea. Now it’s about who we connect with.”
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