This article by Hernan Panessi originally appeared on El Planteo and appears here with his permission.
“Circuses are always attractive,” warns Federico Budasoff (Fede), boss of Lion Rolling Circus, a brand dedicated to the marketing of articles for smokers.
As a child, Fede had a very strong fascination with circuses. Every Sunday Fede and his grandfather dressed and looked forward to it: it was their special event. Today, in its own way, this memory is imprinted in its brand. And he made it grow, expanding a referential universe, giving a new form to the imagination.
According to legend, after a backpacking trip through Europe, Asia and Africa, Fede returned home with the idea of ââselling paper to make cigarettes. “In Holland, I used king-size papers that didn’t even exist here in Argentina.”
It was 1993 and while working as a delivery man he started sending faxes all over the world. He wasn’t expecting anything, but someone on the other side of the planet was interested in his proposal. He heard from Rizla, one of the leading companies in the sector. Right away he sold his bass and, along with a friend, burned some savings and started importing papers into the country.
âHe even sold his motorcycle. The old ladies in the neighborhood thought I was selling drugs, âhe recalls.
The wonderful years
Later, during 1998, after a trip to the United States, he brought back with him a line of breathtaking papers, wired, with flavors, it was an innovation. “One thing led to another and I started to transform myself into an entrepreneur.”
After years of rowing in the market, Fede bought a new bike and started making product deliveries with it, and his team grew to include more people.
âSubconsciously I realized that I was involved in creating cannabis cultivation. I didn’t want to compete with the brands that were here, I wanted people to smoke better.â
As consumer paradigms shifted across the country (goodbye brick-w33d, hello flowers!), Its audience began to refine their palates and joined in this conceptual improvement.
So Fede, who launched his brand under the name ‘FumanchÃº’, created Lion. He knew it was possible to become one of the leading brands in the industry. But it wasn’t going to be quick or easy.
Every time it rained it would stop
âThe first two products were delivered without glue. It was impossible for me to change that, âhe says.
Until 2006, when, by a twist of fate, the first official batch of Lion Paper ended up in the hands of a Canadian.
This Canadian took the cargo to New York and right there right there in a random store, one of the highest OCB officials saw the papers and said no, it couldn’t be that Lion. Paper copied them.
After being loosely inspired by the very famous black OCB, Fede was prosecuted in an international lawsuit.
After mediation, OCB offered to lower the level of the conflict if, in return, Fede destroyed all the product he had already made. The story goes that he didn’t destroy it and all of the cargo ended up in the Brazilian Amazon, but that doesn’t matter so much now.
What matters is that, in order to grow, the project had to have a twist.
“Let’s put together something different,” Fede thought. It was then that with his friend MartÃn Donato, who at the time worked in a Deli and started in the world of advertising, decided to push everything further.
Lion Rolling Circus was officially born: keeping the original “Lion” and adding “Rolling”, for the Stones, and “Circus”, for its historic devotion to the circus.
“We are going to change everything,” he said.
In 2008, he registered the brand and established links with a factory in the Dominican Republic from which he bought the wipes in bulk. In the garage of his house, Fede collected the packages. One by one. One by one. One by one.
“Something impossible to imagine now,” he slips.
Life is a circus
In 2010, Lion Rolling Circus added to its imagination a series of characters who were to become part of the brand’s permanent visual staff: freaks, circus characters who transformed a brand of smoking articles into a supercharged magnet.
“It was a business decision that, while not intended as a marketing strategy, worked well for me.”
Today, the Lion Rolling Circus universe has fans all over the world.
It all started with the design of the characters and, over time, these “phenomena” have gained in entity, complexity and history. Without knowing it, as happened to Marvel or DC Comics, Fede created the lionrollingcircusverse, a universe of fictitious characters who represent the brand.
Soon the pom-pom dolls (if you see them, you want them), merchandising, clothing, towelsâ¦ all character-based, arrived at consumers.
âThey became a crew, a kind of rock band,â adds Fede.
In 2013, the owner of Blunt Wrap came to the country on his private plane to meet Fede and, from there, establish a relationship based in the Dominican Republic. âThis is where our product began to industrialize, because he had the idea of ââsetting up a paper factory there.
With the growth in volumes, the brand had to establish itself even more in the market. To do this, Fede realized that the best way to do it would be to visit cannabis conferences here, there and everywhere.
Independent and global
In 2015, Fede traveled to Denver, Colorado, with his cousin (no, Fede didn’t know a single word of English and she was the one who acted as a translator) and although he lost some money, he knew he was finding the way: relationships, international profile, target audience.
âI sold my house so I could pay for all these things,â he says without blushing.
There was a risk, yes, but the move worked perfectly for him.
Fede has participated in Expo Weed in Chile, Espannabis in Barcelona and many other events.
âI realized that the product generated a lot of fanaticism. In fact, there are over 100 people who have character tattoos. It’s amazing what the brand has generated,â he says.
In the meantime, in a guerrilla spirit, the brand has made its way into the stands of all the conferences and, suddenly, it has entered the collective imagination. Lion Rolling Circus, Lion Rolling Circus, Lion Rolling Circus, Lion Rolling Circus, he’s everywhere.
It has exploded in Brazil, has exploded in Mexico and is already entering the United States.
Among its upcoming projects, the brand is preparing to publish a book with the full story of all the characters in the circus. “We have made a first-class object-book.”
In addition, they have just released an exclusive line with the Argentinian artist Duki, consisting of papers, filters, trays and an exquisite silhouette.
-With nearly 25 years of work in the field, how is this adventure continuing?
– âWe are in 35 countries around the world. Just think that before we were fired from Delis and today I’m about to get my producer license. Everything has changed a lot. We are entering the United States and the brand is becoming very popular. Everything that happens there has repercussions in many places. And then there is a kind of contagion effect. “
-And what is your ultimate goal with Lion Rolling Circus?
– “I want to make it the sixth global brand behind OCB, Smoking, Rizla, Gizeh and Raw. I am striving to achieve this goal. I want my brand and my Argentinian team to enter this league. To be an independent brand, without investors or partners, we entered the cannabis world overseas. And the brand got out of here man !. I don’t know where it’s going to go because everything is so ridiculous sometimes. We’re the first to putting art on a mark of paper. I’ve become a fan of what I do. We don’t look for the money, we look for the idea. And the idea makes money. “
Photos courtesy of Fede Budasoff
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