High Spirits

#002 - Navigating Seasonal Products, Pride and Identity Politics w/ Kristi Palmer & Jake Bullock

June 22, 2023 AnnaRae Grabstein, Ben Larson, Kristi Palmer, Jake Bullock Episode 2
High Spirits
#002 - Navigating Seasonal Products, Pride and Identity Politics w/ Kristi Palmer & Jake Bullock
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Join us on a lively journey as we unravel the intriguing world of seasonal cannabis products with Kristi Palmer, co-founder of Kiva, and Jake Bullock, co-founder and CEO of CANN. What if your business could create a buzz while supporting important social causes? This episode promises to provide fascinating insights into the strategic planning, benefits, and potential pitfalls of launching seasonal products in the cannabis industry.

Seasonal products can inject a dose of excitement into the industry, but only if done right. Learn from our guests' experiences about the need to plan far in advance, manage expectations, and exercise discipline to avoid overproducing. We dig deep into how these companies mark Pride Month, and how it has become an integral part of their brand identity. Kristi and Jake share how they navigate the balancing act of incorporating pro-LGBTQ support into their brand story and advertising, all while keeping a close eye on supply chain management.

We don't stop at the product. The political climate, social justice issues, and the role of businesses are all in the mix. We discuss how companies, like Kiva and Cann, respond to the call for political stances, while still maintaining an approachable and friendly product. Also on the table is the topic of inclusivity and social responsibility within the business environment. Hear from Kristi how Kiva fosters positive culture within the company and how products can serve as a bridge, rather than a boundary, between people of diverse political beliefs. Wrapping up, we hear our guests' parting thoughts and their advice on making the world a better place. Tune in and spark up your knowledge on launching seasonal cannabis products.

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Remember to always stay curious, stay informed, and most importantly, keep your spirits high.



Speaker 1:

You, you.

Speaker 2:

You All right, hi, everybody, everybody, I'm Ben and I'm Anna Ray, and Welcome to high spirits live, where we're serving up unfiltered insights, revealing our insiders perspectives and illuminating transformative strategies for people. Well, you who are trying to make sense of the cannabis industry.

Speaker 1:

And we're super happy you're here, so let's go.

Speaker 2:

Alright, anna Ray, we are here. This is very exciting, and we'll get into why it's so exciting in a little bit. But how are you doing on this beautiful Thursday morning Is it is another pouring week in the cannabis industry.

Speaker 1:

Oh my gosh, this was not a boring week in cannabis. I've been working on all kinds of super exciting projects and deals and big hard problems, but also just the news, and cannabis has been crazy. We've seen everything from the downfall of herbal in California, which is really just creating a lot of heartache for a lot of folks, and we're seeing coming together of companies, the M&A deal that's happening with Goldflora and the parent company all kinds of crazy stuff. So keeping me on my toes for sure.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, absolutely. I've been trying to like put my head in the sand. We got enough going on with our own company and just Well, we we're closing a little bit of a fundraising round and you know, in the current climate that's taken a lot longer than than anticipated. But a lot of my focus emotionally has been getting this show off the ground this week and and making sure we had all the ducks and Routes. You know, linkedin is great. It seems to be the, the town hall of where everyone in cannabis likes to spend their day. But yeah, it's not super, super straightforward about how to host these events, but we're excited to be here. We we hope you, the audience, engages. Leave comments below. We'll make sure that we try to incorporate them into into the conversation, but we do have an exciting show for everyone today. So this month Really brings a particular excitement within the cannabis community, as, as many of us Embrace the spirit of pride and we won't really dive into the history lesson all wrapped up in there, but there's really good reason for this connection. But what a really really highlights, especially for me, is an opportunity for brands to flex their creativity and launching some of these limited-time offerings, really celebrating the month and and, and we're about to dive into Not only the, the why, but like really just the nuts and bolts of getting these products to market. And then we'll go a little bit into the, the wider context of pride, engagement and just the, the political climate that's out there. It's a. It's a little little touch-and-go for for some of these bigger companies.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. I was excited to talk about this because you know the role of corporations and business and socio-cultural and political issues has just continued to be a hot button topic over the past few years and I've seen more and more companies start to engage In a loud and proud kind of way, which has been really exciting and and interesting both as a consumer and as a business strategist. But at the same time, recent headlines during pride this month have have dominated and they haven't been positive. There's been a really big backlash on a few major corporations like Target, bud Light, north Face and others over different types of pride activations that they engaged in products, marketing things, and so a lot of these companies then pulled back and when they did that, there was some negative pushback there as well. So we saw we saw Target pull back their pride products and move them to less prominent places and their stores and then, when that happened, lgbtq friendly groups actually said bomb threats to Target and so there was backlash coming from all directions which was pretty wild. But light also was dethroned as one of the major or of the the most popular beer.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's now a Madeleine special or something like that, right something and because of transgender spokesperson, and so it was.

Speaker 1:

it was a big deal and so, but my mind always goes to cannabis. That's where I spend my day and how I think about all of these issues with with my lens. So I kept thinking about cannabis and all the pride products that I'm seeing and started wondering how cannabis companies are feeling about some of this pushback that's happening in the broader corporate landscape and our cannabis companies having some fear as a result of these issues coming up. And also, how do these products even come to be in the world, which, as someone that's always thinking about how to be efficient, the question is how do we bring products into the world at just the right moment, right? So, anyway, I'm super excited because, while Ben and I know a lot about this stuff, we also have two really exceptional folks that we're going to bring into the conversation today that have even more experience than us in this area.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and these two really require no formal introductions. They're incredibly well known. So, cutting straight to the chase, we're thrilled to be welcoming Kristi Palmer, co-founder of Kiva Today, and Jake Bullock, co-founder and CEO of CAN, and we've been working alongside these folks in the industry for at least the last five years, if not longer. And, ray, you've been in the industry longer than me as well as Kristi. How long have you guys known each other?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, kristi and I met. It was either 2009 or 2010. She would know it was right when she and Scott were starting Kiva and I had started the first lab in Oakland and Kristi and Scott, from the first minute that they started their company, wanted to know how to make quality products and they came to the only people that were testing weed at the time. And, yeah, we had a crazy makeshift lab going on, but Kristi and Scott were there with us the first couple months days. I don't know what it was, so we've known each other a while.

Speaker 3:

Yes, we have. Oh, my gosh, I'm so happy to be here today. So thank you guys for having me. And yeah, anna Ray, that story is so. Yeah, it's heartwarming and it's crazy to think that we've been, we've known each other for a long time. We've been both in the long ways since then, for sure.

Speaker 1:

Yes, my gosh, the industry has made leaps and bounds, thankfully, so yeah, and I think we can both feel like some of the work that we both did back then has set the trail for where we all are today.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 2:

Awesome. Well, we're so excited to have you, Kristi. We're also excited to have Jake Jake Bullocks on the line from Cannes. I remember meeting Jake. We were starting our companies around the same time about five years ago and I remember meeting Jake I don't know if you remember this, but we're sitting in a sweet tomatoes in Silicon Valley and just talking about what they were working on. I just remember I was so excited. We both had stars in our eyes about building this new beverage category together, and Jake has just been incredible watching you and Luke grow such a transformative brand in this kind of emerging market all at once.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, definitely. Thank you for having me. I think it was in the East Bay, if I remember correctly, is that right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was somewhere. I remember this was it might have. Even before we had an office, harold and I would drive around a lot. Black Bear diners were popular offices, as well as sweet tomatoes because of the buffet. Start up lights.

Speaker 4:

They were great and, interestingly, it was actually Kristi and Kiva that gave us the conviction that we could at launch Cannes, because they sold their sparkling pear Prosecco Camino gummies, which were two milligrams of THC for the same prices as all the other gummies that they were selling, and I was like if people are buying this, then that means there's microdose consumers in the dispensary, so at least we have a foothold, we can get started.

Speaker 1:

So fun and it's great because we know that Jake and Kristi, you guys have worked together. When we were doing a little research prep for today, we even found an example of a collaboration between your two companies on seasonal products. So it was a pleasure coming together for this conversation and let's just jump right in. I think first, what we want to talk about is how seasonal products come to be. We'll layer in the pride element after, but I think that for all the folks in the cannabis industry, especially people running brands, it's really hard just to launch your base products and the idea of dropping products at just the right moment whether it be for Pride Month or for Halloween or any of these other reasons that you choose the holidays 420. I'd love to hear a little bit about how you decided that your company was ready to be able to pull off seasonal products and how does the planning begin. How do you coordinate it all so that it drops right at the right moment? How do you approach it?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I guess I'll kick us off. Yeah, we did our first seasonal product back in I think it was like 2013. We did the Kiva peppermint bark and we just like this is all pre-regulation, so we put it in tins. It was 360 milligrams per tin and we started planning for it on probably like December 15th. Like, hey, let's do peppermint bark for the holidays, right? Like back when we did the Well, the good old days. Yeah, no planning, no nothing. No packaging was just like ordered from wherever and like it was beautiful, people love it and they remember it. But yeah, now we start about a year and a half, I would say, in advance, and then the process really kicks off about 10 months in advance. So that's when, like, the plan is put in motion. But yeah, I mean now we have an entire team assembled for the packaging, for the flavor sourcing, and it is so much more of a heavy lift than it ever has been in the past. But you know, I think to the point about why seasonals, you know they're, I think, number one. They're fun, like they're fun for us, they're fun for the consumer, they're fun for the dispensary, the bud tenders gives us something to talk about and it really just like lifts everybody up and puts a ton of energy into the whole industry, I feel. So we just they're really fun. They're hard, but they're really fun.

Speaker 1:

So you're saying that you have basically all of 2023 and 2024 plans at this point, with with what limited products you're going to be releasing? Special flavors, holidays, things like that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah, and if there's so there might be like okay, next year, next Christmas, we may be doing like a peppermint bark. There might be some wiggle room for strain or package design. For sure, like package design hasn't been put underway, but yeah, we basically know what we're going to do that far out in advance and that like that hasn't always been happening. That is a recent phenomenon.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's yeah. Do you have a sound to you? Is it similar?

Speaker 4:

I really hope nobody from our operations team is listening to this right now, because I'm sure they would love those planning cycles. You know, we sort of pride ourselves a little bit on being able to turn around these things quickly In part. Beverage has this unique element where the really the hardest thing we do is figuring out how to put a liquid into a can. The liquid is sort of, even though it's the most important, it's actually the easiest part of the product development cycle. And so we did our first season, maybe eight months after launching our core products, and we were largely forced into doing this by accounts that didn't really want microdose beverages, or at least they didn't want to talk to us. So we needed something to come to our dispensary accounts with and say, hey, we have this new flavor which are you interested in buying it? Can I add it to your order? And it gave us ammunition to go into those conversations with something new and fresh, which in the early days was a really important part of how we even had those conversations, because so much of this industry was oh yeah, we'll just look at your trail and sales and place some orders based on that and we'd be pulling our hair out because we'd be out of stock for half the week and maybe be using that data to make purchasing decisions for the next week, and it was just really challenging. So by having more information, exciting flavor news to bring to accounts, it helped and then it also engaged consumers. Right, like Chrissy was saying, there's something fun about it. Like Luke and I are really product innovators at heart, we care a lot about branding and the liquid, so we have hundreds of formulations that are just sitting on the sidelines and most of them are really good. Some of them are probably need like a few extra hours of work, but like there's probably 10 that we would ship to the market right now. Obviously, part of what we're doing and scaling a brand and being a startup is focused, and so you can't do it all, but we love doing. We love coming with more flavor, innovation, thinking about what we've learned from new markets that we've opened up, how those consumers are a little bit different than maybe our core California consumer and what opportunities those might provide for limited time only products.

Speaker 2:

That's super interesting because, like I, was wrestling with the philosophy of like launching a limited time offering product versus like a stable product, right, and to hear that that that limitedness is actually a feature that can help you leverage your way into different retailers or different relationships Super interesting.

Speaker 4:

It's almost like a process of managing expectations right With both the consumer and the account. And if you could do that well like limited, provides a great opportunity for you to sort of test for free. No one's going to hold it against you when it sells out in two weeks and that's an amazing outcome. And you have to be a little disciplined because we've gotten into the reverse trap where it does amazing in the first two weeks and you're like make more of it, and then you make way too much and you're stuck by the bunch of inventory when the sort of season is over.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I was thinking about that too, like what happens when you make a Halloween gummy and then it's after Halloween. What happens to those products and what? What do you do to predict how many of those products are you're going to need to overproduce, so that you, you don't overproduce?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think looking at your historicals, for sure, and then tweaking. So, yeah, like I cringe when I see Christmas products or, like you know, seasonals six months past their season on the shelf is like, oh my God, that's not what we're trying to do. So I think the sense of urgency is super important and you want that. You want that limited, like keyword, limited time offering. So I think less is what we've learned, like less is more. You want to sell out, you don't want a bunch of stuff kind of just floating around out there. So I think it's trial and error, like we've. We've made too too little, too much, and so it's just kind of tweaking it and and figuring out what that sweet spot is.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I imagine there's like kind of like buying thresholds as well, right, like there's a certain number of units, especially like beverage. Jake, like do you get like a limited number of cases that you're going to sell into a retailer because, I don't know, it hasn't become that sophisticated yet, or we? Still go in case by case.

Speaker 4:

I mean it varies, I'll put it that way, I think. I think you're right, though, that there are real margin sort of implications as it relates to these products, and one of the challenges when you are disciplined about these products, as as one should be, that often means you're ordering smaller quantities of all the input ingredients, which means the margins are worse on your products, and so when you look at these products across the system, they tend to be the worst performing, and so then you know it's a little bit unnerving because you're kind of like Well, why are we doing these seasonal products If they don't make us as much money as the core right? And there is cannibalization in a perfect world, you'd like to see this lift everything up, and it should, but you know there are other constraints right, especially in the country landscape, right where we have stock rooms, base constraints and purchasing constraints just from, sort of the working capital of our account. So I think you have to be a little bit careful and understanding the strategy and understanding like Okay, are we doing this because it's fine? Are we doing this because it's helping us get into a, get reinvigorated a series of accounts that maybe needs some love? Are we doing this because the end consumers are demanding it and will sort of label it as a seasonal. And then the last thing I think is it gives you an opportunity to test. So you may find. Our first seasonal product was a ginger lemon grass flavor. It is wildly popular. We've continued to keep it as a seasonal. But like there's real conversations internally of does this become the fourth core flavor, right? Yeah, if we were allowed to do variety packs with metric, we would be more aggressively pursuing that path. But because we can't do that right now, it doesn't make as much sense. But but you get an opportunity to almost test for free as well, which is is an exciting benefit to doing these limited time offerings as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, how do you see and I guess this is for both of you the difference between a limited time flavor, that just a special special flavor you can sell till it runs out, versus something that's just for a holiday? When you're doing planning for how much you need and and and discounts and margin issues and things like that, do you think that it's safer just to release a limited time flavor because that can just sell till it goes, whereas with the holiday it definitely expires in a more obvious way?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think the the like the holiday products, there's no, there's a lot less room for delays, right, like if you don't have your end of the year product in the market by like October 31 or you know, like November 1 launch date, that can, if that slips by two months, like, okay, your toast right now. You know you're still trying to stick to a schedule because you've got all this stuff kind of pending on that, but there you, the the LTOs, are a bit more forgiving for sure.

Speaker 2:

I think we're all realizing just how sophisticated Kiva is, because they're talking about October and November launches for the end of the year. I'm like we need more. We need more customers like that.

Speaker 3:

I know well and remember like we're on year 13.

Speaker 2:

So it's you've earned it. You've earned it.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, we don't. We're not known for our planning. I'm telling you like yeah, we're we are now maybe. I guess now we are, but it has not always been that way.

Speaker 1:

I think I remember Christy maybe it was during COVID seeing on Instagram that there was a seasonal product that Kiva didn't get the packaging on time and you guys released it later and did some friendly kind of cute marketing around it. What was that?

Speaker 3:

We did our supply chain like our supply chain interruption skew. So yeah, it was a holiday item that was? I can't even remember exactly the holiday it was. It must have been. Yeah, it was like the middle of COVID.

Speaker 1:

So when all the like shipping containers, you know, or something like that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah. And so, yeah, we just ended up printing a label that was just throw it like, really leaning into the fact that it was like four months late, and so, yeah, put that label on the tin and we had our supply chain interruption skew that helped us get rid of you know a few thousand units, rather than sitting on it and having some fun. So, yeah, you know, you can spin it If you can, if you can like be authentic and you can tell a fun story. I think people are, like you know, kind of into it and, yeah, it can still do.

Speaker 1:

Well, that was memorable for me. I remember thinking, oh, how clever they're just being transparent, that it took a long time.

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, cool. This would be a good time to talk about actually some of the pride products and pride marketing that you guys have both been doing, and also maybe to take a little look at some of the products we put together. Some slides yeah, ben's got those up. So this is the the Kiva Camino that you put out this year. Christie, do you want to tell us a little bit about the, the pride products you guys?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, this is our fifth year doing our pride skew. Originally, the pride skew came to be. An employee that worked at Kiva in the kind of R&D and QA quality assurance department was like, oh, we should come up with a pride skew and let's do a collaboration with some of the more widely known drag queens in San Francisco. And so they collaborated on like all this, all the flavors and the packaging. And so we've since kind of taken that skew and continued to put that skew out in the market every year, and this year we are doing so. The pack is really really kind of a special pack this year in that it goes from protest to parade, so each kind of color in the rainbow represents a different location, a different kind of major event or landmark in history. And so the pack is this year, I felt, like just more exciting and more kind of inclusive than it ever has been before. And then also we launched that across the US and our different markets this year. So pride has been mostly in California, but this year opening it up, opening up that pack and including as many different communities as possible, was really important. So, yeah, super excited about that, and we're giving a charity too by the end of this season I believe it is we will have given $200,000 to different charities throughout the US, so it's something we can also feel really good about.

Speaker 2:

Great and Jake, you guys have very much interwoven pro LGBTQ support throughout the entire brand narrative. The music videos are incredible. You guys have just gone so confidently into that and making a part of the brand At the same time as driving towards the mainstream consumer and really being that first entry product. How did you come up with that strategy for Can? Knowing that you were also trying to create something that attracted the everyday consumer, it seems like a very bold decision.

Speaker 4:

Yeah in some ways it was a merchant. It wasn't really a decision that. It wasn't like Luke and I sitting on a table being like how gay are we going to be as a company or in our marketing? Because we just are. It was already in the room when we started the company in some ways like our queerness and we talk a lot about how particularly starting Can was related to toxicity that we had experienced in our lives at different stages, from alcohol Starting first in the way in which alcohol allowed us to mask and ignore or avoid the heavy lifting that we needed to do around our sexual identities, and that was a really big challenge we had in our early, late teens, early 20s, and the way in which alcohol intersected with that made it even worse. And then, having gone through that whole process of coming out and being comfortable as who we are, we were met with a community in sort of the particularly gay men that have a lot of issues with alcohol as well, and it was sort of like this experience of being like no one can escape it. It's not something we can just blame on this issue that we had in our individual identities. It's something that affects society at large, and so it was really important part of our story as we created an alcohol alternative that leveraged the power of Indigenous plant medicine using the THC and the CBD and these creative ways that we wanted to appeal to the mainstream because we wanted it to be approachable. That was really important to us. We were trying to design a product that defines a category that didn't exist before we launched, so that's an important feature, but we couldn't really escape the origin of the product, and we don't want to escape the origin of it either, right, which is, you know, it's Luca and myself in a room trying to figure out how to be better versions of ourselves, and I think one of the amazing things about cannabis and particularly about it in a beverage and the way that integrates socially is it helps people be more themselves. Alcohol in some ways changes you into a worse version of yourself. For many it definitely did. For me, the ways that it lowers your inhibitions and impairs you. Cannabis is different, right, it sort of heightens your capabilities in some ways. It doesn't have that same effect of sort of lowering your inhibitions, and so I think there's a lot of really positive things that we found in just our own lives, and so for us it's about how do you impute that in a brand in a way that's authentic, that celebrates pride, you know, in Pride Month, but doesn't let that define the month or the year, right? Like we continue to do this type of marketing and from our perspective, you know there's a lot of flashy celebrity stuff going on, in part because we needed to cut through the noise. Like it's really hard to build a brand in this space, and especially in beverage, where you're dealing with all these channel mismatch dispensaries don't really want us. It doesn't move that well in a dispensary because people are going in there to get high and this is not a product to get high, and so we're trying to navigate that by using a lot of star power and celebrity power. But we also, you know, work with drag queens. We work with trans talent. That's really important. Many of them are investors in the company, not just because of you know, equity deals we did with them, but because they actually sent us checks to invest in part of the story, and so for us, it isn't really contained to just the month of June and it's really about how do we extend that through the brand in a way that tells that story and reaches as many people as we can.

Speaker 2:

Interesting. Yeah, I was about to ask about the investor aspect. We run companies, many of us, that have many different stakeholders and perspectives and I see all the headlines that Anna Ray was referencing earlier about, you know, Bud Light, you know, losing a ton of market share because they decided to promote a transgender spokesperson and yeah, it's concerning that. I see this from corporates in particular and you know we're all small companies in the cannabis industry. I think we can all admit that now, so we're not quite to that exposure level yet, but to see them kind of be loosey-goosey with, like, how they're supporting communities and, you know, pulling back, it's disconcerting to like see it so, see it seem so frivolous at times to those big corporate entities.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, I agree I think it really exposed kind of the lack of strategy, I guess, and sort of the weakness of the approach that some of these companies have. But I also think it's, you know, brands say things about us when we buy them. That's sort of what a brand is if you really think about it, and I think what some of these companies are realizing is what their brand said about people before they did this market. And that might be the issue, right, and some of these things have to pick on Bud Light, but there was something going on there that they didn't fully understand. And I think as brands get really really big, you know, they want to sort of move with the culture and they had no, really they didn't really have a role in driving that culture change, right, if anything, they were. They're sort of on the front lines of the resistance, not intentionally, but just by the by the way that they've marketed in the past. And so you know, I think I think folks, like particularly some of these alcohol companies that are waiting into the hot, sexy issues of the day, maybe you should spend a little bit of time with their own history, right, and how they've approached marketing 30 years ago and 20 years ago and 10 years ago and understand and appreciate what that's built into their brand, and I kind of share your frustration. At the same time, I think that, like it's an opportunity, it's an opportunity for these brands to get better at how they do it, which is exciting and it seems like they want to, even if it's going to be a little bit messy.

Speaker 1:

I love what you said, jake, that that Bud Light is learning something about its brand that didn't understand before. And as I hear both of you talk about what I consider to be a lot of fearlessness about, about promoting gayness so loudly and proudly and and believing that that is is going to only benefit your company and not hurt it, I wonder I wonder how you see some of these kind of cancel culture political issues bubbling up in cannabis. Do you think that that that will happen, or it's just that your brands are the right ones to carry forward these messages and if a different brand was to put out a pride product, that it might create an issue for them? You're not the only brands in cannabis that have pride products out right now or that have included pride positioning in what they're doing, but I'm curious, christy, to hear from you as as a company that has used pride as a as a product focus, what do you think? What does it say about your audience?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think I think it's super important to, when doing pride products or products with any kind of political angle, that it really has to come like from deep down inside and it has to be something that you like, really the company really believes in. Otherwise it can be kind of like if things go wrong, if you get a ton of flak or you get this kind of cancel culture, it makes it makes you want to go, oh my gosh, and take that all back. But if that's what you truly believe in, then there really is no, you know, like you can't go back because that would be just hypocritical and kind of against your, your core beliefs. So, yeah, I think those, those products, have to, you have to be authentic and confident and bold. But, of course, as as product companies, I feel like we haven't always had to have to take in a political stance, like that's something relatively new in our culture and but now people really expect it right, like your consumer, no matter where they sit on the political spectrum, they pretty much Expect that you're going to take a position, and so I think we're all kind of learning where, what, what the ramifications of that can be and really like, like Kiva I was. I was say that we want people to fall in love with our products. We never want to exclude anyone and we want to create a product that is like the most approachable, the most friendly, so that people can have cannabis like in their lives, you know kind of we all have stuff going on in our lives and you know we all need to relax and take a chill and just, you know, be put well in the forefront, and cannabis is an amazing way to do that. So I see this kind of all this drama going on around pride and it's it's sad that you know we really have to. We can't focus solely on the mission of getting amazing cannabis products out to people who need them. People really do expect that the companies take a stance and stand behind that fully. So it's just kind of an interesting place to be in.

Speaker 2:

It does make me think of what is all this pressure driving towards right? Is it? Is it trying to get companies to remove themselves from the conversation or is it, you know, is the backlash against pride a political stance of in itself, in of its own, and they want those brands to stand against it? Right, like I am, I'm because I have heard that it has become big, especially during the pandemic and, you know, ever since, even like George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, and it's just become a really big consideration, especially in the cannabis industry. But I do wonder is like is this an attempt for corporates to now decouple themselves from political issues and go back to like I don't know when it was invoked, to not be involved, but we'll just call it the 90s, right? I don't know if that's accurate. I was a child, so, yeah, I don't know. I don't know what my point here is.

Speaker 1:

It'll be interesting to see how the call is politically are a more divisive than ever, unfortunately, and and there's there's people very loudly all over the country that are making moves to limit rights for, for transgender children and families and individuals, and so I think you're right, ben, that in some ways, pushing back on these products is just escalating this, this very divisive narrative that's happening that I think I think some political groups are clinging on to as something that might benefit them, and so what I'm excited to see with both, with both can and Kiva, is that you guys are sticking to your guns here and and continuing to be fearless. Have you thought, have you had second thoughts? Jake has has can thought about, like toning it down?

Speaker 4:

You know it's interesting. We haven't, like I said, you know it's embedded in the organization in so many ways. You know, if anything, what we've we've sort of been thinking about is how do we engage now that it feels like the conversation has shifted to some degree, right, because of the backlash, right, I think, like you know, seeing something like modelo out self of light for the first time and however long, you know that's really interesting to us because we sort of so say we need to say something here. Like we as a brand, we generally, you know, we agree with with the sentiments that Christie shared. Like you know, we're trying to just take a little bit of a break from all of this with cannabis. In some ways, right, like we know the world is falling apart in so many ways and and sort of the way that can the brand thinks about that is, we tend to meet it with a little bit of a reference and quirkiness. Right, like we can't take ourselves too seriously. We're selling drugs here, although you know only a tiny, tiny little bit of them. And like, because of that, right, that the approach we tend to like to take as a company is really to be is to be a little bit off the beat, right, and play in that space because, you know, again, we don't want to take ourselves too seriously. That said, these moments present them, present serious sort of questions, right, and we don't want to miss the opportunity to weigh in in a serious way because we're, you know, we're trying to have fun with it. So it's a balance internally, more about like, how do, when do we use that other voice that we have, right, and how do we use that other voice that we've used to speak up on on social justice issues in the past and continue to? It's different, it's not, it's not the can voice, it's it's. It's, you know, we're going to have a serious conversation voice and so we think a little bit about that. Like, how much do we engage there? Like Ben said, we're small. We can. Some ways we benefit from the fact that most people don't even know that can't exist. Right, we forget that. Like you know, maybe in the West side of Los Angeles everyone knows us, but but most across, most of the country, no one knows us, and that's part of what creates opportunity in the business and excitement and keeps me excited every day about introducing this product to new people, but it also, I think, is protecting us. So so, in some ways, this is an opportunity for us to really, you know, refine our approach and how we, how we engage in this. But we're definitely not backing away, if anything we want to lean in, which is trying to figure out how to do it the right way.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, that is such a big difference between cannabis companies like ours and and target and Bud Light, right like they reach everybody everywhere, they're in every community and cannabis is very far from it. So we're, like you know, apples and oranges and we're, like you know, we're not going to be in comparison. On the, the size of the, the size of the reach, the kind of weight of our voices, yeah, it's, it's. It's two different ball games, for sure.

Speaker 1:

So I just, I just, defined their, their strategy, by being very all in on certain issues. You know, Patagonia decided to be very loud and proud about bears ears National Park and wanting to support it and any way that it could, and that was a really divisive issue and for some people, but I think in the end it has. It defines who they are and wondering if you see your companies as as In that ballpark of the Patagonia and Ben and Jerry's, like you are going to take a social issue and turn it into a reason for people to be loyal to your company, or if this is just one element of a more diversified strategy related to your brand.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, go ahead. I was gonna say for I think, for Kiva, social issues are extremely important to us, but is that the only reason that people are buying our brand? I don't think so I think I think maybe the social issue that we attach ourselves to is like cannabis can be a good thing for you in your life. Like that's the cause that we are like all right, let's fix, let's, let's fix unpredictable cannabis edible so that people can improve their lives. Like that is more of what we hang our hat on and, you know, like climate change in the way that Patagonia or somebody like that has.

Speaker 4:

Yeah, and I think you know, from Ken's perspective, we think about it a little bit differently, right, which is the we talk a lot about how divisive the political culture is, and it definitely isn't. Many of these issues intersect with with that divisiveness and create these, these kind of like Supercharged, inflamed moments. But the reality is like, like these core, universal things we're talking about extend across all folks, like everyone experiences these things like feelings of inclusivity, right, thinking about wanting to be a little bit more authentic or true to your own preferences. That's a bit that's like a big idea, but it's one that everyone shares, regardless of where they fall in sort of this political game, and it's almost as if the political game is being waged on us. I sometimes feel personally that that, you know, we're kind of in agreement, a lot of us maybe you know, 6570% of us and yet we're being we're being tortured by by the tail ends, and and so I kind of want us to think about how we bring those, those ideas together. Right. What? What is inclusivity mean? It's it's not about a specific piece of legislation that's being passed in a certain state house, although that stuff is very important. It's about giving consumers the option to be a little bit better. That may be a little bit healthier, drink a little bit less booze, show up to a party a little bit more themselves. Those are the kind of the things we're fighting for. Those ideas mean that we should also be fighting for trans people, right. They mean they also mean we should be. We should be celebrating pride during Pride month, but also throughout the entire year. It means we should be hiring diverse teams, right. Those are all really important parts of how it affects our business every day. That are, you know, separate from the from product, right, and I think, equally important, as we think about how to kind of use these ideas to bring people together instead of, you know, say, well, if you, if you're like this politically or if you believe this issue, then you should buy our product. If you don't, you should buy this other product. That's not really, I think, the world that we want to live in, right, and in some ways cannabis is new and early, and so we can create the world. We can at least pretend, and maybe it will be true if we try hard enough to create that world that we believe should exist.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think, jake, if some of those groups on the fringe were forced to take our products, that it probably would be a better world, most definitely.

Speaker 2:

No, that's. You brought up some interesting points, jake, and it's it's. What can we be doing from the inside, not just being on the brand focus, in the product focus, but what? How can we be building our companies? And this address is one of the questions from Lita was just like how do we Be strong allies year round and really create a foundation that that's supportive of this community? And I think hiring is like a super important one, right, making sure that we're out there and and and attract in the right pools of teams and valuing those that are not just on the brand. Appreciate that insight.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, so it's. It's 1045, so we're going to start our rap at the end for the end of the show, and so we are going to start a section that we're hoping to carry forward, called last call, where we ask you guys to share a plural of Winston, a negative advice or a plug for an upcoming project that's close to your hearts. Really, the floor is yours. It's your one last chance to inspire and lighten or simply share. So we'll start with Christie and then we'll go to Jake. What's your last call for our listeners today? Amazing.

Speaker 3:

I'm going to keep on with that theme around hiring and diversity, promoting positive culture within the company. It's so, it's so incredibly important. It's something that we've been working really hard on at Kiva, trying to like. For example, we're creating a career laddering program, so to show people where, if you start here in this certain job, what other opportunities exist for you, so you can kind of understand what skills are required and and where you can go in your growth at the company. That's something we're super excited about, and just a big kind of thank you to the Kiva team. We have an amazing group of individuals that are so passionate and so dedicated that it is just really inspiring to to work with such an amazing collection of people, and so I just like to give a little, a little shout out and a little thank you to the Kiva team. Awesome, yeah great.

Speaker 4:

So many things. I've really enjoyed this conversation. I think you know kudos to both of you and Ben for for hosting this and engaging with these issues in Pride Month, and I think one of the things that I'll share is we're lucky in some ways, luke and I, being being gay and starting a queer founded company, that we can attract folks you know with, with similar identities to the company. I think there's there's a really important note there for us broadly, and it extends beyond just Pride Month right which is, you know, folks are looking up organizations and they're looking for people that they can relate to, that that share identities with them or or personal histories or backgrounds, and so it's so, so important even if you're the size of Kiva or or much smaller it can that we think about the folks that we have up in our organizations and what the message that that sends to others, and so I think it's you know, it's again it's jumping on the point of hiring and how his companies. We can be very active in our approaches, but it has to start early and it has to really show itself. I think it's the top of organizations, because that's what folks are looking for when they think about joining a company, and so I think conversations like this are a great opportunity for us to share a little bit more and go a little bit more deep into detail and to you know some of these features behind the brand and the identity and and how that shows themselves. So thank you for for allowing us to share.

Speaker 1:

Thank you for being here.

Speaker 2:

All right, and there we have, folks, our first real episode of high spirits live. And thank you to our team guests and thank you guys so much for joining us. Your insights are incredibly valuable and I know the audience is going to love them. I know we have a lot of brands on here trying to figure it out, trying to get that place where they might want to launch their own seasonal products, not just to get their first few skews on on the shelves. As we wrap up, remember that this is a dialogue. It doesn't have to end here. We invite you to continue these conversations in the comments below and we'd love to hear your thoughts and reflections. Who would you like to see on the show? What topics would you like to have us cover? We have a couple more exciting shows to it up. We're going to be talking about vets and medical cannabis going into July. We're going to be talking about rescheduling and what might be happening up on the hill. So stay tuned. We'll get those events loaded up shortly. We are immensely grateful to have you in our audience. Your support will encourage us to keep bringing these conversations to you Eventually, hopefully every week. If you've enjoyed this episode, we encourage you to like, subscribe and share high spirits. Live with your friends and family. As we send you off, remember to always stay curious, stay informed and, most importantly, keep your spirits high until next time. That's the show. Yeah, all right, guys, I'm going to pull us off here and we're going to let it go out with the music.

Creating and Launching Seasonal Cannabis Products
Planning and Benefits of Seasonal Products
Supply Chain Interruption and Pride Marketing
Political Stances in the Cannabis Industry
Inclusivity and Social Responsibility in Business