Stay Boutique Live 2019 welcomed the growing and evolving cannabis community to its annual Trifecta conference held at Magic Box@The Reef in downtown Los Angeles on February 11-13th. Members and guests were invited to immerse themselves in the cannabis world at the Stoned Fox Pop-Up created by its founder Lola Langusta. From medicinal hemp derived tinctures and topicals to high-end bongs and pipes, the luxury lounge was the first of its kind catered to the global hotelier community.
Frances Kiradjian and Ariela Kiradjian the mother-daughter team who founded Stay Boutique Live after Frances launched its parent company BLLA, Boutique & Lifestyle Leadership Association in 2009, both agree that the emerging cannabis industry has a promising future in the boutique world with women at the helm. "Now more than ever, women are at the forefront of the cannabis sector of the boutique industry, and we as a community embrace and support them," says the Kiradjian team.
"We want to get people more comfortable and familiar with cannabis. I think getting hotels and other hospitality industries involved with cannabis can lead to endless opportunities. I am excited to see what the future holds," says Langusta who created Stoned Fox as a marketing and branding platform for all cannabis related needs.
The Female Empowerment Edition of Stay Boutique Live included a thought-provoking and educational discussion hosted by Stoned Fox and The Femme Fatale. The panel featured some of the leading ladies of boutique cannabis who shared their experience, challenges and achievements in the emerging industry. Brittany Carbone, Founder & CEO, TONIC, Rachel Hazlett, CEO, Lucky 420, Angela Mou, Founder, Elevate Jane, and Lola Langusta of Stoned Fox were among the speakers who were interviewed by Bianca Monica, Founder of Limone Creative.
"I was a cannabis user for a very long time and I needed something that could help me like cannabis did without getting high, so I could still function throughout the day, and that's when I learned about CBD a couple years back," says Brittany Carbone who created TONIC after seeking a natural solution to help combat her depression and anxiety. "It was amazing how it was able to help me. I saw that I could make cannabis accessible for a broader population. That I could change the branding around it, so it could be seen as a wellness supplement rather than just for stoners...I experienced the healing myself and I just wanted to share that with the world. Being able to help people has always been my passion. Being able to blend those two passions, cannabis and helping people heal was something that I always wanted to do, but I never really thought it was possible until CBD came along."
Carbone says there are still obstacles in the hemp CBD world around advertising and banking because it was not federally legal until the State Farm Bill passed in 2018. A lot of retailers are hesitant to put it on their shelves because of legal grey areas. Something still needs to be determined by the FDA before things are completely cleared up for CBD, but there have been huge openings since the legalization of cannabis.
"In addition to having our CBD brand, we also have a hemp farm in upstate New York. It's a small farm, family run. It's really a passion project. We want to be able to grow our own hemp to be able to put in our products and really be able to control the quality from beginning to end," says Carbone. "The risk of corporate takeovers threatens small farmers and thus the quality which is vital for the boutique market. Making sure small farms survive is of the utmost importance."
Lola Langusta agrees and says Stoned Fox is very particular about who they work with. "As far as being a boutique company, the quality is a huge thing to go off on. When you get into these corporate brands, you start to lose your message and your values. We don't want huge corporations washing out what the cannabis plant means and represents. To me personally, what the cannabis plant is it's no bias, it's love, it's compassion. You lose that when you get into corporate spaces, but with boutique, it is very personal and you want people to feel good and feel comfortable. I feel like Stoned Fox is a community and a family and we hope to grow that way."
"Being boutique is knowing the people behind the brand, behind the product," adds Langusta. "Who owns the company, who is the parent company, who is making a profit off this product? These are questions the consumer has to ask themselves. This is something you can ask your dispensary."
The panel speakers all agree that having a woman owned business has inspired other women to reach out to them. "More and more women have been contacting me and asking business related questions. I welcome these emails and encourage women in positions of power to help other women navigate their way thru this business," says Carbone.
"I feel like Elevate Jane, which is an online smoke shop, is a culmination of my tech background and e-commerce background. I used to work in food and beverage on the hotel side," says its founder Angela Mou. "Thinking of it less than just a smoke shop, but a shop that creates experiences for people. When someone in Tennessee gets a package, I imagine that they open the box and the first thing they see are some matches that say 'You Light Me Up'. I hope that puts a smile on their faces. Really taking everything as an experience as opposed to just a product, that's not what I want to sell. I want to build a lifestyle brand."
"I feel like right now, as women have the spotlight, we have this really unique opportunity to use our voices and I think we have the potential to absolutely make a huge impact," Mou adds. "The most rewarding thing for me entering this endeavor is really shaking up the status quo of how we do business, how we view our customers and what impact we leave on the world."
And shaking up the status quo is what boutique is all about, says Ariela Kiradjian. "Gone are the days of cookie cutter, insincerity, restriction and boredom. Stay Boutique™ is where deviation is welcome and encouraged. We will continue to cultivate an inclusive community of true pioneers that are willing to stand for their convictions."