Welcome to Kikoko’s “Spill the Tea” blog. We’ve titled it Spill the Tea not only because we launched our company with a line of herbal teas, but because we want a place for us all to come together and dish. This will be home to a smorgasbord of invaluable insights about cannabis science, recipes, wellness wisdom, plant facts, real people’s tales, life-hacks, and the occasional rant. If you have ideas or requests for topics, please give us a shout at email@example.com.
I thought it would be appropriate to begin with the story of how my wonderful business partner, Jennifer Chapin, and I decided, at age 51 and 52, that it would be a fabulous idea to get into a federally illegal industry for which people were still being sent to prison. (Ridiculous as it is, cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug in the U.S., right up there with heroin and cocaine, and 40,000 people still languish in U.S. prisons on nonviolent cannabis charges.)
What loser eats just a mouse-sized bite of a brownie?
Back in 2015, I was happy traveling the world as a journalist and Jen was happy founding her fourth company. Then, one day, a girlfriend with terminal cancer told us that she was having a hard time finding properly dosed cannabis products to help her with the sleeplessness, lack of appetite, nausea and anxiety she was feeling as she underwent chemotherapy. In those pre-regulation days, no one really knew what was in the products that were being sold as medical marijuana. A single brownie could contain anything from pesticides to mold to 500mg of THC (the legal dose today is 10mg per serving). If some poor unsuspecting soul ate more than a mouse-sized nibble of that (and what loser eats just a mouse-sized bite of a brownie?) they would likely be blown off their rocker and put off cannabis for life. That was what happened to our friend. It was her idea to create a different kind of cannabis brand, but, like too many people, the cancer took her before she could see it through.
In her honor, Jen and I decided we needed to create uncontaminated, organic, low-dose products that women could trust. It would be easy, right?
Wrong. Founding this company was about as far from “easy” as it gets. Six years in, we have a licensed factory, we pay taxes, and our products sell all over California. But it has been like playing an expensive, never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole. One seemingly insurmountable problem pops up, you smack it down and wait for the next one to rear its ugly head. You just keep whacking away and then one day you sell your first product.
Back in what is now referred to as the Wild West of Weed, making those products meant rendezvous with dudes parked in panel vans in dodgy lots, handing over brown baggies of cash and getting a Mason jar of cannabis oil in return. It also meant climbing ladders into ceilings to visit marijuana grow operations suspended above fake businesses below. Picture us rocking up in our hybrid cars and mom jeans. It was, for lack of a better word, hilarious.
At the time, I was the mother of two teenagers who were attending a Silicon Valley high school. I was already considered boho among the Vuitton moms, so they were likely shocked (but not totally surprised) when they learned what I was doing. When it became apparent that Kikoko, our fledgling company, was a real thing, I broke the news to my daughters. It was met with incredulity, sniggering and finally, “That’s cool.” It didn’t take long before the Vuitton crowd were sidling up to me on the quad asking, sotto voce, where they could buy our products.
Jen, on the other hand, comes from a conservative family and was terrified to state the industry of her latest venture. When Oprah’s O Magazine covered us, she realized she had to come clean. Amazingly, the news was met with offers of investment. You never can tell.
There have been many days we’ve thought we were nutjobs. . .
There have been many days we’ve thought we were nutjobs to have embarked on this voyage. But then we get the messages from customers telling us how Kikoko’s teas, mints, tinctures and honey have helped them sleep for the first time in years, assisted them through chemo, eased their pain or anxiety, relieved their Crohn’s disease or arthritis, and improved their sex lives and relationships. It is these stories that keep us going.
Admittedly, it’s also thrilling to be part of something that has never been done before—a wellness revolution (although hats off to the real pioneers who were at this since 1996 and long before that too, many of whom went to prison). We’re filled with gratitude when we think of Kikoko’s loyal following of cannabis aficionados, mothers, grandmas, professionals, Millennials, CEOs and a surprising number of men. We’re proud of our absolutely stellar team, 85% of whom are women and 50% are BIPOC. And sometimes we simply have to stop and marvel at how we’ve continued to smack down those moles in order to create one of the first cannabis wellness brands in the world.
If you made it this far, congratulations and extreme gratitude.
Pinkies Up, People!