These days you can find cool sculptural weed pipes, suped up vaporizers, even chic rose petal joints all over Instagram and in every other hipster design boutique, but (way back!) in January 2016, when April Pride launched Van der Pop, a female-focused cannabis lifestyle brand, the market for actually stylish marijuana-related products pretty much didn’t exist. A serial entrepreneur with a few businesses under her belt already, including an interior design service, a design product and a fashion line, Pride was pondering her next venture when a dinner date with a client-friend set her sights on weed. “She was the executive assistant to the CEO of a cannabis-focused VC firm so she sees all his emails, that’s her job, and she was like, ‘no one’s designing anything that looks good!’” says Pride. Things moved very quickly after that. A year after launching, Van der Pop was acquired by Toronto-based cannabis lifestyle brand Tokyo Smoke, and Pride is now chief creative officer for both brands. And now, barely a year after that, Van der Pop is elevating it’s offerings (in exactly the way you’re thinking) by launching it’s own strains of flower, designed specifically for women and available exclusively in Canada (for now) through WeedMD. We sat down with Pride to discuss why she ditched wine for weed, getting over the stoner stigma and how to have the best sex of your life.
Okay, so let’s go back to the beginning for a sec—I know that when Van der Pop first launched it wasn’t a specifically female-focused brand. What made you want to take it in that direction?
Yeah, so in the beginning the line was just about great looking products, period. There weren’t a lot of consumer products for cannabis users out there, and definitely nothing that looked good. I trained as an architect and I went to Parsons for grad school so design is really where I’m coming from. But it was my husband—about four or five months in, he got one of our emails and he was like, “Why are you marketing to me? All your messaging, all the pictures, everything—this is a female focused brand.” At first I was all, “But 50 percent of the people buying our products are men!” But the more I started paying attention to what our customers were saying, the more I noticed it was really women coming to me about their lives and issues, and men coming to me about their relationships with their wives—just based on things I had said about the plant and how it can enhance your sex life, or women being able to relax or postpartum. I realized that’s what people were connecting with me about. So then it was like, “why am I not doing that??”
Has focusing on the female market changed your vision or the overall goal for the company at all?
Yes! I mean, when I first launched the brand, I was squarely a rec user. And then when my husband clued me into the fact that I had a female focused brand, I decided that if I was going to take on this task of educating women and serving women in a space that’s highly controversial, I was going to have to learn everything I was trying to teach. And also get real honest about the role it played in my life. There’s a lot of weight that comes along with taking ownership of the female demographic—there’s a lot that you need to get right, and I wanted to make sure I did that. So definitely, I think my intention with the brand has changed tremendously as my knowledge about the plant, and how it can benefit a woman in particular, has increased. The more I learn the more I wonder what I was doing all those years when I thought that drinking was going to help me connect better with people, or somehow serve me the next day. Or even just dealing with inflammation, or period issues—there’s so much that this plant offers specific to women that it doesn’t for men. And then the really big thing that sent me off on this, “women hear me now!” mission was when I tried an infused sensual oil, and that sex was just MIND BLOWING!
Tell me everything!
Oh my god, so it’s a product out of California called Foria. After I found that I was like, “OKAY EVERYBODY!!!” Like ladies, you’re talking about not connecting with your partner, and you’re sleeping with this guy because that guy’s not serving you. There are a lot of complicated issues going on right now but maybe everyone should just tryyyyyy smokin’ some pot?? Because it would just, I mean I think you’d have more of a fighting chance. That’s what I found in my life. So yeah, I’m sort of taking the big sister approach.
Okay so tell me more—what are the main women’s issues that cannabis can help with?
Well, we actually just completed a survey of 1500 North American women about cannabis and the results were super interesting! So the top four reasons women use cannabis are all related to wellness. It’s pain management, relaxation, anxiety and stress. We also found that 97 percent of the people surveyed either are or would consume cannabis for medicinal purposes. Those are really big numbers. The issue of course is that there’s this huge stigma that we all face. 70 percent of women who consume cannabis feel like there’s a stigma. And that number doesn’t really change in rec legal states—it’s like 64 percent? So even where it’s legal, the number one thing is that women are worried about is people judging them. That’s really what’s driving the fear of people adopting cannabis as medicine.
Did you ever feel that stigma or judgement yourself being the founder of a cannabis focused brand?
So I live in Washington State, where it’s been rec legal since 2014, and yeah I think people, not to my face, but I do feel like people question or are confused by it. They assume I’m smoking pot from morning ’till night and partying all the time. Like no, I’m working my ass off. I have a company and consuming cannabis is helping me a LOT when it comes to dealing with the anxiety and stress that comes along with that. But you know what, I had all the same hang-ups. For a variety of reasons I stayed away from pot in high school and even in my 20s it was really sporadic. It wasn’t until I had children in my 30s and realized that drinking wasn’t serving me or them as a way to relieve stress or even just have a good time.
So you’re one of those people that had to get over the stigma?
Totally. There’s just this assumption that people who smoke pot are losers! That they can’t hold down jobs or are bad parents. It’s not that at all. Most of the people I know who consume pot are the most high-achieving, intelligent people I’ve ever met. The world’s almost too slow for them.
Do you think the pothead stereotype effects women differently than it does men?
Yes, I mean when I talk to men, their fears around cannabis tend to be more about legalization in general—they’re afraid they’ll go to jail. Maybe there’s drug testing at work or their insurance is testing for drugs. Those are the things men worry about. Women worry about all the things in-between. Being judged as a bad mom. Being judged at work. We have to work so much harder to be taken seriously so anything that’s a chink in our armour, people are really ready to focus on THAT. We’re just held to a higher level of scrutiny so I think we feel like we have so much more to lose.
That’s so true! Although I feel like design-forward brands like Van der Pop are helping to dispel that stigma now. Can you talk about why it was so important to have the line and the products look a certain way?
I think that design can change people’s minds. Especially when you’re talking about a controversial topic, and you’re hoping to get people’s attention—it really does matter. If you have products that look like they could fit into the rest of a person’s life, they’re not as skeptical and they’re less likely to just say, “well that’s just not for me.”
Are there certain products that are more popular than others?
What I’m finding our customers really want are ways to get rid of the smell. So we’re actually launching an odour-resistant bag made out of charcoal fabric that won’t smell at all. It’s super compact and can just be thrown in your bag if you’re going away for the weekend. Oh and we’re also launching our own cones, which I’m personally very excited about! I never learned how to role a joint.
I’m sure there’s a youtube video or something for that?
I’ve tried to learn and it’s just not gonna happen.
So speaking of exciting launches, let’s talk about Van der Pop branded cannabis!
This is the dream, right? To not only educate women about this plant but also provide them with flower from an LP like WeedMD, which I completely trust. I’ve been to their facility and I think they’re the absolute right partner. They really want to serve women. So we’re launching two strains with them. Cloudburst, which is about pain management—as I mentioned, that’s the number one reason women are interested in cannabis—and Eclipse, which is more about relaxation and sleep issues.
They sound so dreamy and amazing, congrats! It’s crazy how fast the industry is growing—what are you most excited about for the future?
I’ve been seeing lot of really smart people leaving their respectable nine-to-fives and either taking a role in established brands or starting their own brands—and I mean really top of their field people. I think we’re going to see a lot of change and innovation even in the next five years, right down to how we consume cannabis. Like, I won’t need to design jars for you to stash your flower anymore, I’ll need to design a pill case, or something else we haven’t even thought of! There is no established way of doing things so you can be creative in a way that no one has. Plus, it’s so much more playful, because at the end of the day, for all the reasons that people consume medicinally, it’s also really fun just to be high with your friends. So we should be designing and developing brands that allow us to have fun and not feel guilty about it.
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