Lauren Miele  0:00
I came back from California let’s just say and I started putting these in the cards and then a month later it was the second largest show of the year and I went sales past 10,000 like here I am on like, like figuring out how to print on this before going there maybe got into 50 plus stores distributors getting seen by like Jay and Silent Bob people Tommy Chong like it literally changed my business and I’ll give them credit 100% all day because me then going to that show every few months is how my name and how my store count which is probably like at 1000 plus now got out so quickly because you know one person they own 10 stores now you’re into 10 stores. I got into Spencer’s because I could have missed them because I almost picked up my phone but I just was talking to everyone. Hey, have you heard of KushKards?

Announcer  1:01
You’re listening to To be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers. Where your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here’s your host Shayda Torabi

Shayda Torabi  1:20
you have literally no idea how fucking excited I am for this conversation. Sorry, I had to cuss I just had to this is to be blunt. We’re gonna be blunt. Welcome back. This is a new episode. I’m your host Shayda Torabi, we are living in the year 2021 I believe will be beginning of February when you get to hear these wonderful words that are about to be blasted through your headphones or speakers wherever you’re listening. But honest to god super super energized and excited to share this week’s guest. Lauren Meili is the founder and creator of KushKards. Now, if you’ve ever been to a dispensary in Colorado, there’s a very high likely chance that you’ve seen a KushKard. And pretty much now they’ve gone into over 1000 stores. I mean, she’s literally the card that has a little holder in it for your joint. And now of course, she has other products, you can shop directly on her site But Lauren is one of the most high energy bad ass true to herself smart, super, super smart woman, business owner, entrepreneur, and she’s in cannabis. And she’s just got a really cool story. And I’m really grateful to get to capture it and share it with y’all. Because these are some of the you know, I have obviously a lot of really great guests. But I really appreciate these conversations, because Lauren literally does not hold back, she just fucking goes for it. And I think that that is the type of energy that we all need to have, especially as entrepreneurs. And so as a result, you will see how excited we were to be having a conversation together. And so I’m just gonna shut up and basically let Lauren introduce herself. So let’s get into the episode.

Lauren Miele  3:18
Hi, my name is Lauren mealy, and I’m the owner of KushKards, which is a cannabis greeting card where you can Strike a match and like the pre roll, you attach. I thought as idea back in 2013. I’m from New York. And that’s where I was when the idea struck. I actually was I recently graduated the Fashion Institute of Technology. So it was a really exciting time in my life. I was you know, fresh out of college first job living in New York City getting a salary living on my own. It was the most exciting time I have to say I’m leaving fit, I went for visual presentation and exhibition design. And then I ended with home products development. So I had the opportunity to learn how to basically sell or how to do visual merchandise packaging, just graphic design, how to really represent a product and show it and then my last few years was how to make the product. So it was really great, you know, branding, packaging, I learned everything there and took everything with me into my first job which was I’m a fashion bath accessory designer. So I worked for a company that was a small vendor who sells a bed bath and beyond and targeting coal. So here I then was thrown into a situation where I was product development and basically creating products and pitching them to Bed Bath and Beyond target Kohl’s, I was just thrown right in there. And then to see like my products on the shelf was a whole experience from then. Then one day I’m just heading to work. You know, I live a million blocks from where I’m working right in front of the Empire State Building, because it was the cheapest at the time and I just, I literally was I literally remember just Like standing on the one train headed to work and I really wanted to get my friend a gift. It was a guy. We had common interests of cannabis. I didn’t want too much again over the top, but I just wanted to get in the right thing. But I just didn’t know there was like nothing out there just to like gift. I always would go to CVS and get Hallmark cards and put little dime bags in them. And I put them in the car. But what happens is you open it, they fall out. It’s awkward, you got to roll it. I don’t know how to roll, you got to find a lighter, it was like everything was an issue with gifting me. So literally just an idea. I was like, Why don’t his name was an initial. So I was like, why don’t I just roll blunts and then cut them up and sew them to a card in the shape of his initials. So I like went to work. And I was like, oh my god. So I was like, This is and I honestly I had a flashback to I think the movie was this is the end with Seth Rogen. And he like spelled out his I forgot his name, who came in joins. And I was like, and I was always like, you know, I really wish somebody would do that for me one day. And I think maybe I had that in the back of mine, like I never left it. And I don’t know, just the combination of the two, it kind of just hit. So I went to my job, I literally made a card and every card back then said a special treat for a special person. Because my pens were not up to par then. And I was like, you know, I’m just gonna leave a little space in the middle. And then that’s what I then I printed it out went home called my dad rolled it up, sewed it and I called my girlfriend and she’s like, that’s a KushKard. Okay, I almost cry, almost dropped to the floor. Literally from that moment, I knew I had something I was like, I don’t know what this is yet. But it’s literally a KushKard. And that’s how like the whole idea and like first card started. And then you know, within the week I called my mom and I’m like Bonnie to trademark KushKards because I got the Instagram, you know, I got the website, I’m like, this is gonna be something so she sent me the $800 and the you know, and back then was very, there was no really regulations to trademark a cannabis name. So I was very, very beneficial. Did that right away, you know, took me a whole year to kind of just keep honestly keep selling them joints like then I started giving them out for free, right. I’m like a creative drug dealer, right. And I’m like giving people weed cars, taking it on the train and a little bag that I also hand designed. And then they’re like, well, I want to give this to my friend and I’m like, Okay, well you can order it with obviously, it has to come with the weed at first, I did anything everywhere from fro yo cards, St. Patrick’s Day cards, a card that had a balloon and the string had a joint on it, I should bring that back. I just thought of them now, a bingo card. I’m a mimosa card, just like random themes. The Father’s Day, I did one more pictures spin like I was just literally, the creativity was just kept mind blowing, like after work, I’d go to the sticker store down the street. And I would look for inspiration, little stickers to put on them, and then walk around New York City and look for like really fun matchsticks because at first actually basically how to go get matchsticks from restaurants and glue them on the car, because the whole thought was like, Okay, I want to give you this car, but I also want you to have the resources to use it right? Like right away, like not even like let me look for my lighter, because that can take forever. So that’s where the match checker on the bottom came from and I actually glued the match on. So I would literally cut the match striker off of match books and glue them to it. And then where the card has come today is amazing. But that’s a general story of like me in New York City running around 2013 2014 like town people don’t post it don’t post it is gonna be something it’s gonna, you just can’t. And that’s how that’s how the whole idea was thought of and how it came to kind of fruition.

Shayda Torabi  8:55
One your puns are like next level I literally like I don’t know if I can compete. It’s like literally your business, your job. But what a dope entrepreneurial story and thank you so much for walking us through that because my listeners hopefully know when they’re listening to these episodes, it’s meant to be transparent, right? There’s so much secrecy I think that this industry is cloaked in for better or worse, obviously, regulation. Every state operates differently, but, but really, I love getting at the heart of what makes a brand a brand. And you’ve literally I mean, I stand girl to you offline, but I’ll fangirl to you now online. I’ve been familiar with KushKards for many years. And so this is really an exciting conversation for me to have because one obviously like dope brand, but like I love learning that it’s like a woman entrepreneurial story and just to then get to hear it from your perspective of like your passion and your background. But also just like your creativity and your desire to want to just marry the two and deliver something that is so, like, so ingenuous. It’s just like duh like why like I would love that. To be the recipient of this card, so like, why not create it?

Lauren Miele  10:04
I think it’s fun to be the giver too, because then you have the option to choose. And like, if I was on my website and had to choose, I wouldn’t even know honestly, that’s why I do like some sales cuz I’m like, you know, we should just get a little bit more. But honestly, I’m so glad I’m happy that I’m talking to you now in my journey, just gone through a pandemic haven’t been able to get through that which we can get to a little later. But um, if you want me to keep going kind of talk about how I got to Denver,

Shayda Torabi  10:28
if you ask girl, keep going, I want the full download from you.

Lauren Miele  10:32
Oh, so then Okay, so then it was like April of 2015. Right? So here we’ve got a whole because a whole year, say 2014 of working on them. And then when 2015 and I’m like, okay, it’s been a whole year, I had to figure out how to make this so people can buy it on Show. I’m not there explaining it. Now you have to think about it. It is a brand new idea. Okay, so it’s one about in the cannabis industry. And I have a whole thing here about how to market a new a whole new product, right? So I was like, you know, I’m gonna make a collection of 10 cards. I’ll print 10 of each, I’ll get the website up, have a photo shoot, and go to Colorado for for 20. It was the last High Times Cannabis Cup. So a group of girls and I went are came out here. And I had already known like a few people from high school actually, who lived out here and one of them I was close with, and they were in the cannabis industry. And so he had kind of been like, planting some seeds in his dispensary. Like, hey, like, This girl is coming out here with the cards and he was like, totally cool to come by. And I wasn’t like banking on anything but just put it on my list. I literally we stay downtown. I asked him for a map at the front and I circle where I was gonna walk around to and I still say the same pitch I walked up in their hair tied up red lipstick on looking right from New York off to play. And I’m like, hey, Strike a match. Like, you attach what I say when I started. And they were like, what, you know, but it was for 20 like, I didn’t know that was busiest weekend out here because in New York for Tony’s like, hey, let’s take it alright. Or let’s you know, that’s it. There were no events or no, it was just like a secret holiday. So I mean, if you know for 20 or 20 but but so you know, so I literally used to say that and so sad filled my backpack full of dreams. And I fucking took that shit on by my back and I walked around by myself and Uber around and just kept leaving samples and business cards and stuff like that. And then towards the end of my trip, I went to that dispensary which is actually in the area I live in today, AMC Ah, and he bought a counteract $250 50 cards. I was like and it’s so funny because he was like, Oh, your KushKards? And I’m like, Yeah, yeah, KushKards. The first time someone called me KushKards, and I’m like, you know, you’re so right. That’s me. Love. We love stationery. It’s like the it was the perfect perfect to so went back to New York, thank God, my boss, Courtney. She was like my best friend and she if it wasn’t for her, because, you know, in corporate, you really can’t start your own thing. And like, it’s it’s tricky, but she let me move my moonlight. So I would work from like, five after work, you know. And it was great, because there was a time difference. So five o’clock, there was three o’clock here. And I’m like, great people are selling their jobs, I can make sales calls. So I did that for like, also like another year. And then our company was being bought and things were coming to it. And I knew I couldn’t take it almost came to the point where she knew I was on my way out, you know, because you could just, you know, see what I had. And she saw me develop it and create it helped me with pricing and stuff like that. So in May of 2016 I guess a year later of going, you know, traveling, going to women girl meetings in New York. I finally left and then was like alright, well we leave in corporate America, you know, and then I was just again, I went on a three week trip so that summer and I was like it was illegal state trip. That’s what I call it. So I went to Portland, I went to Seattle and I went to Denver. So I actually went to Seattle first and it was for the Seattle hemp fest which is like weird time which I did timing around that but it was perfect. That’s actually where I met Zoey, I went to her house when we went to Portland. So it’s kind of funny how long ago that was. She really sees has seen the growth of what it’s become now. So and then when I hit Denver, it was home. It was home. I knew it. I literally made made a downpayment in two dispensary sales, just a floor rack in two of them. I went and found a studio. I was like, Nah, these are checks. They’re not gonna deposit she sent me the money and I sent her it gave her the checks. And then October of that year, I moved and I have never left since and I feel like when I moved to Denver, you knew like you knew I was here, the presence and but back then and networking events that were going on. I went to everything. I said tables everywhere. I still did the same thing. I went walked around all that stuff. So I had to be, you know, of course, I had to get a job because Mike coming out here with my business, like, I mean think about it, I was maybe had a couple stores and stuff like that. So I worked at a gym and it was the best thing ever. But got something came to Denver. And then obviously, there’s a whole other part but I’ll stop there and take a hit of this joint.

Shayda Torabi  15:24
take a hit with a joint No, I think your energy is just so infectious. And it’s like, oh, like that’s what I I live for I I exist in the same energy that you’re emitting. But like, that’s what I want listeners to gather. It’s not you know, I think sometimes people glamorize entrepreneurship. It’s like, oh, you’re successful now. I mean, really, y’all if you could see before we started recording, Lauren sent me a picture of a pallet of stuff that got delivered to her house downstairs. Like that is that’s the reality. It’s like I think people they do I love it and I appreciate it’s like you work hard, you want to be appreciated you get to a certain level, it’s like great you made it but like you and I know like that you haven’t made it yet. Like take a victory lap but like keep going

Lauren Miele  16:08
five years in. You’re like I’m really just getting discovered now which is crazy to even think but I mean, that that shipment was supposed to come tomorrow, right? And I was like, Okay, I’m working with a new employee today. I was like, Hey, we’re gonna clean the house. My house because it’s a two bedroom and I was we’re gonna get everything ready and then tomorrow we ready for this easy move. I wake up I went to see bet three last night you know doing orders because I knew I had no time in the morning. Post Office picks up for free as well. I don’t have a car I’m on foot. So other story. Getting around here and buying packages to the post office before before I even knew you USPS picked up for free Mind blown. I know I get a text at 8am Hey, you know FedEx your delivery changed today I just said to myself I literally had a moment and I’m like a non glamorous moment either. It was like panic moment like get up and like let’s just say I got up and for like three hours All I did was clean clean, clean and get everything ready. And then it worked out FedEx pulled right to the back. It’s right downstairs. I’m sure it’s okay. I don’t think anyone would touch that. But I’ve done this for so long. So

Shayda Torabi  17:15
after our call thank God I have helped coming because I’ve done that by myself. Amen. But you just still it’s just it shows it adds to that narrative of like you’re fucking hustling. Like you’re digging you’re hungry. Yeah, I mean, you talked about like showing up to grow meetings Women Grow in New York City like you’re beating on these dispensary doors, you’re knocking on doors I think people sometimes you know they think or they’re listening. Yeah, I want to get in the cannabis industry What does that look like? And I really hope that they’re like tuned in to everything you’re saying because you’re putting that work in and you’re still putting that work in it’s it doesn’t ever end right it’s just continues to evolve and so I’m excited for you because you are building a brand that like obviously I’m recognizing I’m a fan of I’ve known about it for a few years but to get to watch the continued growth and so yeah, I’ll kind of plug in a little connection piece I too love stationery. I love handwriting cards. Like I love sending them I love receiving them I think it’s just like a lost art and so I am kind of curious you know maybe if you have a story or just like any insight into because I talked about a little bit abstractly to like as a marijuana consumer when I shop at dispensaries it is a much different experience than like as a hemp consumer who might be shopping at a dispensary. I’m using air quotes in like a non legal state. You go to a dispensary you go in, you go out you go in and get your drugs you leave like what was that like for you to think you know, maybe people would want to buy a card where these dispensary owners like yeah, cuz like I see now maybe people who are selling t shirts, other kind of accessories. But I mean, obviously you put the joint in the car that has a function, but was there any like buddy who has this doesn’t belong in a dispensary? Or who’s gonna do that? Or was it pretty supportive?

Lauren Miele  19:06
I think it was a little bit of both. So think about it. Here I am pitching to basically male or male buyers or owners to put greeting cards in a dispensary. Now that’s five years ago, right? Even though Denver has been legal and stuff like that, where no one even thought to find greeting cards, or the buyer didn’t even think oh, hey, let’s get let’s say greeting cards in here this year or something like that, because there was nothing out there like it. So here I am, again pitching this new idea and had to market it so much that says this is the upsell. Let me help you sell your wheat because all they wanted to do was sell wheat because that was their biggest return but they didn’t see that my car can help them sell the wheat times to you sell the car then you sell the pre roll together and it’s like the perfect match. So when they got that they thought it was genius right? When I bought the problem is they would get them put them on the store and then stop. No like Hey look at these weak cards you know are you know let me show you how to you know put one and one together and show us an example and then say oh hey here’s our selection and here’s our selection and then you know it’s the perfect gift but the left I always always said that it was just literally like the perfect description of what a KushKard is then I hit the woman buyer fell in love instantly got it was amazed like mousetrap moment and I was like yes I love you but it was very little of you come You know that I was coming in interaction with so when I found a woman buyer was like woman power they got it I would constantly send PDFs of like how to market it display it mind you from New York to right so I wasn’t there I was you know again having to describe this over the phone and while always like oh my god this is a great idea. You know, it was something new to bring into the shop you know, even smoke shops it was something new so it was like alright, well let’s give this a try. Right But how many people were willing to give it a try and so I think with time just with time of constantly putting out there constantly switching up my display signage, the card even came with the little clear straw first in the in the slot because I wanted to show that you could actually fit something in there because there is no way like I was like that was the hardest thing how do I just put a card in a display and put it aside and people were like okay with no one hearing about it before like at all so it took a lot of thought a lot of marketing you know a lot of marketing packaging help the packaging you know with the matchbook, the lighting here to take a match then became instructions like on the card so I was like and honestly it hasn’t changed since so just a little bit so on top of this it used to say take a match and right there is so says light here and it came with a matchbook and then insert pre roll here, you’re like, Okay, now have you like put the two together you can then you still have everything you need. Right? Um, and so it just it just really took you know took time for dispensary’s and tech to catch on. And then when I came to Colorado, I started hearing about trade shows and I’m like people and everyone I met was like you need to go to champs it’s called champs trade show you need to go you need to go you need to go and I’m like I just wasn’t ready to go I wasn’t ready for the 12 $100 booth costs I wasn’t ready just for that like that they were like look go only when you’re ready because you know you’re gonna go in there and get distributors stores chains all that so I had luckily had a few people who I still talk to today who gave me that little space on the table before I was ready. That’s why I always give somebody a space at my table because I know what it was like being from New York and the cards were out there like I have chills right now even just I just got chills speaking even just thinking thinking about it because just to have the opportunity to again finally popped up in one of them and that’s the game change the game changed because I didn’t know like it was so many people looking for stuff for their small shop. But then I ran into another problem with knowing that maybe for a few shows and then I realized that the same you see the same buyers I usually go to that show and place reorders you know you see them it becomes like a whole community but the small shops are like yeah, people are asking me about the pre rolls and non legal states and we don’t know what to tell them so it’s kind of on line for us if we want to carry these and I’m like oh my god you’re so right. It was before CBD and hemp pre rolls were really a thing were just in the market at all so then a great friend of mine Paige satin at names because they deserve it she was just selling these like little little like cigarette one hitter price. And she’s like, you should totally put these on your cards and I’m like sure sure nice. So I came back from an interesting experience came back from California let’s just say and I started putting these in the cards and then a month later it was this second largest show of the year and I went sales past 10,000 like here I am on like like figuring out how to print on this before going there maybe got into 50 plus stores distributors getting seen by like Jay and Silent Bob people Tommy Chong like it literally changed my business and I’ll give them credit 100% all day because me then going to that show every few months is how my name and how my store count which is probably like at 1000 plus now got out so quickly because you didn’t know one person. They could own 10 stores now you’re into 10 stores. I got an dispensers because I could have missed them because I almost picked up my phone but I just was talking to everyone. Hey, have you heard of KushKards? Have you heard of KushKards? No no no no no and then hit it with a tagline won’t lie striking match it works every time marketing I swear it’s that one line like literally Spencer’s was walking past me and right as I got into the middle, I was like shaking that might be you attached and they turned around.

Unknown Speaker  24:53
I didn’t even know it was them

Lauren Miele  24:54
and it was just like boom like KushKard has such a natural journey and like I just I have now finally trust the process and was my god but it has taken me so long to be able to get there and do it. So fucking kudos to you though,

Shayda Torabi  25:09
like literally, kudos to you for not only putting the work in but showing up. And like literally showing up. And one thing that I want to call out I have a question for you is, I kind of mentioned it, you know, when we were interacting on social media, I didn’t know I was talking to you, the founder, right? And, and so for you to still be, you know, I think some people again, entrepreneurship, they think, okay, I’m just gonna make a product, I’m going to hire some people, I’m going to have a team and I’m gonna sit in my office, I’m gonna, you know, go go enjoy my time on a beach somewhere. I’m not gonna pretend that as an entrepreneur, I haven’t had that thought or that dream or aspiration. But I fucking love, love to see and love to promote and love to support women, especially, who show up and they advocate and their, their brand. And so when I got to learn that you’re operating your social media, I’m hearing your story for this is the first time I’m hearing this version of the story. You know what I mean? Like, like, listeners, like, this isn’t something that I’m like, Oh, I knew this from Lauren. Like, no, I’m literally when you said that you got chills, I got chills, because I’m, I’m feeling that journey that you’ve been on that you sense organic. It’s like, I fucking believe it. I believe it because you’re showing up for it. And so my question kind of is a little bit, you know, how big is your team now? And what does that look like? And just kind of also observing, like, you’re obviously very present in your business. And so it’s just a really cool thing to see.

Unknown Speaker  26:35
Thank you.

Lauren Miele  26:36
Well, it’s so funny, because, you know, it’s so like, okay, so it’s like a two person team, I would say, and the boyfriend partner, he’s just my assistant by associate golfer.

Shayda Torabi  26:47
And that’s

Lauren Miele  26:48
it, you know what it is, but it’s really just been me and one person who makes the card, someone had to help me because at first it was all hand made punches, like, and then something had to change. And where I finally like, worked up, saved up enough money, figured it out, use my experience for my first job working overseas. And I found a factory. So what you saw was 1000s of cards, handmade bags, tissues, pencil pouches that are so new. And so I always had like one person who was like, my right hand to always help me make cards and stuff like that. But of course, like it’s a startup and working for a startup is very difficult, I think. And I’m learning that as I go, being a manager myself. Um, so it was like rotating, you know, I was like, Oh, hey, you know, whenever you know, whenever you need, whenever you have time, and kind of basing it more around them when it was like not really like this was totally a job, you come in, clock in and out too. But it was so hard for me to do that, like realize that. So I’ve always had kind of girls circulating in and out, but it’s really always been me. Like I have to say, of course, like my family, I have to say they’re on the team, like my sister is my Dana’s and my cmo. She’s in marketing to and fundraising and has a really great background and just like our conversations of how to, you know, what we know from the past to bring it to the fore. Like, she helps me a lot with card ideas, campaigns and stuff like that. So I’m really but really just like, employee employee, just this one.

Shayda Torabi  28:11
It’s incredible. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer, right? It’s not like oh, surprise, you know, I’m a team of 20 secretly or not secretly, I just think, again, in an in an effort to tell a transparent journey for people to paint this picture. It’s like I’ll kind of flip it a little bit people assume that I have a huge marketing team doing all the content that we create for my brand. And I i pleasantly laugh because i i don’t i No, I don’t and I’m like you it’s me and my sisters. Luckily, I do have a very supportive family as well. And we are have backgrounds similar to you. It’s like, Look, I lucked out that I’m passionate about these things. So I can kind of lean into them a little bit more I will be the first to say you know hire for the things that you’re not great at. But also roll your sleeves up and get in the dirt. Like a shake up

Lauren Miele  28:59
do it or throw yourself in the trenches. Okay, that’s it. Many good advisor had told me and learned is just like and I’m still in the trenches is five years I’m so people think I made it and I’m like, you made it. Yep.

Shayda Torabi  29:13
Well, Megan, thank you.

Lauren Miele  29:14
Because I like every time I go to a trade show, I’m like, wow, I have so much work to do. Or Wow, there’s so much opportunity or potential and you know, like living where I live right now this two bedroom house I’m getting ready to move in a house was it’s very difficult to have people to work here because you don’t have designated spots. Like I know where everything is and stuff like that. You know what I mean? But a lot of Bismillah Yeah, the same like that’s why I’m like, you know what, I can just get things quicker than myself. But I’ve always had like that production help is which was the main main key. Even with social media, I struggled like just it became so personal like it became so personal for me and like if posts weren’t doing well or like it affecting me Personally and mentally and it was like just became like an unhealthy balance so I had hired someone to come on for like actually the end of last year not too long ago for like two months just to give myself a break in a recharge and to learn from like someone else and how they would kind of see everything. I kind of took what I learned from her and now I do it 100% but like took it and like went with it and boom like I lit it and we can talk about like different apps if you want in my experience on them. But so I just think like with the help of certain people here and they’re freelancers contractors, again hiring for what I don’t know and people who are smarter than me hiring younger people who are who are up to date on social media apps in that generation which which with my social media, that’s kind of what I did so but honestly I do believe like what what I had to do I couldn’t just wait for people to come I am waiting now but the initial setup of everything I had to I had to do that I have to you know make the sales calls I have to manage people I do the packaging and owners like literally wear all the hats but I wouldn’t want any way else. Why? Because when my company becomes even larger if I get bought one day, who knows what’s gonna happen I know how to run this. I know what it’s like you know, so I am the brand you’re right like I literally know everything and I’m so thankful that I have a supportive family that I didn’t need to go out and hire you know this that and third or I knew my skills I knew how to work with China I didn’t have to do that mess up order. Of course everyone has that one mess up order at first but I knew how to product develop I knew how to package I knew how to so I came out with the product so strong I never change it but just took the show away. I never changed it. The bottom is the same the branding on the bottom so many people were like why is pushcarts so big on the bottom and I’m like want to know why because I was walking through a trade show and Huffington Post was walking by and there and I had cards and I used to wear the cards on my lanyard so you could see before because you know everybody looks at your name look at the card and then you realize what it is and then I pulled it out and they took a picture put it in an article but it had never said pushcarts in the front you would have never really made that association with it you know because all the you know names are on the back and then it worked out with the little matches and stuff like that and I never changed it I’m like you know what it’s gonna be on there if you think it’s too much and too loud and you don’t want to work with me then that’s you but it’s now become a staple to where you see the card you instantly know it’s a KushKard. I’m so happy like I say that I mean if Tommy Tang is like you know leave that on the bottom I’ll leave it on the bottom you know

Shayda Torabi  32:44
quick break to say thank you to restart CBD for sponsoring this podcast. Restart CBD is a brand my sisters and I founded in our hometown in Austin, Texas. We operate a retail location as well as an e commerce store and you can browse our wide range of CBD products at restart CBD calm. Again, thank you to restart for allowing me the time and resources to put on to be blunt. I hope you’ll check them out for your CBD needs. Let’s go back to the episode. I want to dig into that point. But you have to two comments I want to ask and I’m gonna start with the more formal and before I get into the Tommy Chong one, what do you see happening in terms of like one you kind of mentioned that you were able to get a trademark for KushKards, which is something now in an industry that is super saturated and very difficult because the government for those of you who don’t know, I heard you can get a trademark if you are in a legal state, but it only applies to that state. But if you want to federal USPTO trademark that is like not possible in today’s day and age. That’s not necessarily my question. We’re just a point. But competition. How do you protect against competition? Have you observed competition? Do you do anything to prevent it? Is there anything that you can do to prevent it and it’s more kind of a broad stroke perspective of we exist in an industry that unfortunately does not give us a lot of protection. And so while your product is in cannabis, you actually are more in the stationary side. So I’m wondering if you have a little bit more protection against designs and things like that, or if you’re kind of in the same boat, as most of us is cannabis associated brands,

Lauren Miele  34:28
same boat. So back in 2014 when I was getting ready for I went off to Colorado, my dad had a lawyer friend again shout out to the family because that’s like literally I would have to pay for his advice. And I went in I showed the product and he was like great job, great job. But this won’t get this phone get a patent. You know and he was like I don’t think you spell our I don’t think you should spend your money. He didn’t say no off the bat that you could spend five grand at the time I had five grand I’m like oh my goodness. I was so eager to I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait. And he told me the best advice. He’s like, just be first to market you are the first to market just be first to market. That’s why I always tell brands don’t come Don’t come half assed, don’t start and then figure things out while you start. Because I took the time to figure out how the car was made. I had the displays I had the website, I might top selling card literally is the first card I ever designed. It’s still my top seller. I can’t it’s like both of them. So I was like, No, I’m just going to start I was like, um, came to Colorado that April’s like, and then things took off. And I kept working on I kept working on it. But I’m like, like, I just kind of kept brushing it off. Because, you know, I had KushKards trademarked and, you know, there was like a, they kept saying they’re like, it’s because you’re tying a joint to it, you know that they’re like this. So marijuana related, even though it’s just a card, so I never applied. And I kind of just took the risk of going for it. And I saw some people pop up along the way. Like on Etsy, there’s a lot of cannabis cards, nothing with attaching the pre roll. I think a lot more cannabis cards popped up. But again, not real, because I would attack you. If you did, won’t, why

Shayda Torabi  36:10
would you come for some?

Lauren Miele  36:15
Good times. So believe it? Yeah, so there’s just one brand. And I think there’s authors today won’t name any names. They literally like took the dotted line took away pre roll insert, join here, hired hired designers, and told them to go copy me and I have like, like, they would reach out and be like, Hey, this is what this person did this company. And when they said no, they like zeroed out their like PayPal and stuff like that, like it was a guy to who’s running a greeting card business. So it just shows you that people want to get in the cannabis industry found a good idea that they could do it better tried to partner with big brands, like, you know, just larger brands. And I saw that I freaked out, you know, I was like, This is not cool. Like, literally like, you know, it just the fact that it was a guide to he like opened my newsletter like it was it was discussing reaching out. Sneaky, shady shit, and but more than anything, it affected me more than anything, you know, because here I am knee deep. And it was only like three years. But so, you know, I really had to work on that and just say like, you know, obviously people are like, oh, flattery, flattery. And I’m like, Yeah, whatever. That’s great to hear. But as your small business owner, that’s the last thing you want to hear. And honestly, I just, I just kept moving, I just put my head down, I blacked out whatever people were trying to come up or, you know, and I feel like I went out so strong that I’m still number one, still number one person doing and I hope I stay like that I do hope I answered that inspire other people. But I mean, this is a brand that’s been so thought out curated, I mean, been through so much. I make cards on trains, planes, airplane airplanes, like have brought the whole setup in a little bag to people’s friends houses and just the whole thing, like the whole thing. So I think what has helped me and I say this about social media is that you can’t fake authenticity, you just can’t fake it. You know, you can’t, and you can’t fake it. Excuse me, you can’t copy authenticity. can’t copy it. Sorry about that. Take that back. Because, yeah, someone else can start a brand. But do they have a story where they roll and join some subways. So enjoying the cards, you know what I mean? So it’s like, I’ve really owned into that as I and I say this now so comfortably because it’s you know, now but asked me two years ago, I’ve been crying out have been like, you know, figuring out, I have friends who try to copy me like, there, there’s all those small business stories. So I say, Make a plan and come out so strong that nobody can or wants to or is going to try to, they just want to partner with you. Um, I think also I did have a very niche idea, which is very helped me a lot because it wasn’t out there. So I had the advantage. So my also advice to small business owner is really positioning yourself where even if it’s something that’s already out there, how can you make a difference to a whole new consumer of people so amen to that.

Shayda Torabi  39:23
No, no, you like literally that is the best advice and it totally resonates with me, because every time I talk with a microphone or without a microphone, I’m always like, you can listen to me. And you can try to copy me but you’re not me. So good luck, which is why I openly share the way I do because I know that someone is not me. And so it’s kind of liberating in the sense of like, I really want people who listen to this conversation to think not Wow, what can I do to imitate those women but where is my lane? What are my skill sets? What can I do? Do that’s of value for this industry. And then start there. Listen to the hustle though listen to the grind listen to the you know cold calling, showing up, you know, traveling, extending yourself long nights, sleepless nights, like take that away, but then apply it’s like your own business and brand because yeah, otherwise everything else is just a copy, but kind of in in to pick up what you were saying I do want to talk about Tommy Chong, because that’s the one that I recently observed. But as part of your marketing, you’ve been able to now partner you said partnership to you know, partner with leading other brands in the space. So I saw you did a collab with Tommy Chong. Is that something that you’ve always kind of done with the brand? What was the first one? You know, I personally love partnerships. I think partnerships and collaboration is huge to extend your brand into other areas, but we obviously not something that everybody’s comfortable doing. So, you know, how did you start collabing and how do you end up with a collaboration with Tommy Chong? Right?

Lauren Miele  41:05
Well, I mean, just happened that just happened last summer. So I would say um, I talked about collaboration it’s kind of where I started with that when I moved to Colorado I didn’t even know about giveaway I had no idea you believe in dead giveaways you know, so I think my first collaboration started with like other small businesses and doing giveaways and collabing. And then just you know, I’m the greeting cards, I feel like I should be the you know, like I am the topping, the icing on the cake, the icing on the cake for gifts, so why not paired with other gifts and kind of work together as one and from then I would say like my first before the finger guys I’m so big poker poker, I don’t know if you

Unknown Speaker  41:47

Lauren Miele  41:47
Yes, or Colorado company. So we are really teaming up and partnering with my designs on their October pokers. And it’s a I really see like a long partnership with them. And it’s a great like social media, we do great things together there. But then from the trade shows and just being seen, and companies looking for something different danza. And Bob was actually my first huge collaboration with you know, their icons as well. So that was amazing. Again, met them at champs and we foster from the brand from there. They came here at a rental car drive an hour and a half, late at night by myself to go to their viewing. I set up a table, nobody bought cards, it was fine. I met them got a picture, drove all the way back home, like literally like this. stories like that on the regular but amazing. And then to have Tommy Chong again. Same thing. I was at champs, the people who work for his company, lovely, lovely people. They, they saw me a chance again, because I showed up, I started noticing the change when people started seeing me now for the third year at the trade show. A second year at the trade show look like okay, I saw people come back. And then this guy was like, okay, we gotta do these tongue tongue. And I like, you know, me, I was I mean, I, you know, me, but you know, me. I was like, No, I was crazy. I’m very, very easy, very smooth. Unfortunately, we launched them during, you know, April quarantine, you know, I had no idea how to even design a card for him with images they gave me and I just, you know, watch all the movies again, same thing I did for James Allen, but I really had to research them. And now I’ve just created this wonderful partnership. And that’s when the photoshoot happened because COVID. And they were like, We want to make a Christmas card, but we have no one to come film him. And the process of that was amazing. Just kind of like thinking like, Okay, what am I going to put on Tommy john, like, this is insane. Um, and then just a lot of thought, you know, because then you take the pictures, but then you have to make it into a car. Like, it’s a whole other process. And that’s also intimidating too. Because you want obviously to make good cards for them, you know, so a lot of back and forth, you know, you know, working on designs and stuff, and how much like they are helping me on their social media is like, I’m so thankful, like, I set up the story size graphics for them, I send them swipe up links, I make them do no work, but if they want to posts it, then they can, but they also know that that’s also helping drive sales, but they’re not responsible for that. But I think the time I take the take the picture, make the car, you know, I send them samples. Um, you know, I really, really, really put myself out there to make that collaboration work because it is a license. So you’re like, it is way extra, like you saw those boxes down there. None of that is Tommy Chong cards that is extra. So here I have all this inventory. And this is something that I’m personally investing in, but I’m like 100% you know what I mean? But you have to do it right? Like you have to make it profitable, you have to raise the prices on them. And you have to work with distributors and wholesalers, um, you know how to incorporate that in a display rack. I just came into that problem yesterday because they want to tell me town cards but since it More expensive, they don’t come in my display package. So now they bought a display just with his cards and like, that’s good idea great. I start offering displays just for him so that that collaboration can happen so naturally, so naturally now that let me do my thing. I send them ideas, and they just know that I’m gonna bring it and they are grateful. And just I think they were literally looking for a new product to put for the Tommy Chong brand. And now we got timecards

Shayda Torabi  45:29
the fucking coolest story because it’s just like, honestly, like, you can’t make that up. Like it’s just true. It’s like, Hey, I just literally was showing up like you said, I’m there. You’re one I’m there. year two, I’m there. Your three I’m there. Your four Oh, wait, it was your three that like did that thing for me like, Okay, great, super glad I showed up. And I love that you said that you kind of go above and beyond to kind of create that extra content for the brand. I’ll kind of share a little quick story. You know, when I’m publishing podcast episodes, obviously, I don’t expect the podcast guests to necessarily go promote the shows. But yes, like anything that I can do to make that connection beneficial, like you want to put that work in. And so it’s like, whether it’s graphics, whether it’s like connecting with the guests before to kind of tee it up. Like, I just feel like I put so much work in before and after these episodes that obviously like the listeners don’t necessarily see. But hopefully that’s what ultimately is helping tell that story for the consumer. That’s that’s like enabling those people to further expand on the conversation, the content that was created and it’s such a to me, a smart marketer does the basic things real fucking well. So it’s like, don’t just take a picture and think like, oh, the pictures done it’s like maybe take a step further do the picture, maybe make a folder make them edited in different sizes, like give the person that you’re delivering the content to options and again, like close the gap for them I was just talking to somebody about a press kit. And they were like, Oh, I always you know i don’t i don’t ever have a press kit I just I just send them you know my bio on my headshot. I’m like, you like feed them the links you want them to include feed them the exact photos feed them the titles you want? Yes, like everything that you want. Don’t just expect someone to tell your story. But can you tell your story and you tell them what story you want them to tell? So you’re doing it and I’m fucking lit on it because I do the same thing and it’s nice to hear someone else doing it

Lauren Miele  47:33
It’s so crazy because like yes yes yes but there’s so many apps that block you literally okay so started Women Grow networking word of mouth, right? What’s the best thing for me because then I then I started the Instagram, Instagram, they disabled my ad account so I can’t promote ads. So I’m organically trying to find people okay, Facebook app which comes from the ad account so that was disabled so I couldn’t put things up to my shop finally figured out how to put things on my shop one hitters, like I can’t post those anywhere. My website got shut down, PayPal got shut down. But they were started to become my number one most profitable thing and I’m like, Oh my god, how do you figure out a way to make it work? Pinterest again, the same thing they won’t connect my pins to my website because it’s cannabis so here I am again trying extra extra hard SC shut down my vape pen cards number one top seller my mystery boxes like literally what got me through just quarantine or whatever um, but I really wanted to focus on Tick Tock because I really want to drop drop it like it’s hot. Let’s just say it took me five years to get 45,000 followers on Instagram. It took me less than a year to get 42,000 followers on Tiktok like I’m I have chills because it’s amazing at what the community on if you look at Tick Tock in the way of a small business owner, again removing the personal I’ve quit Tick Tock multiple times. I’ve tried to hire people to help me like I started it. You know, I take him down for days until I realized what I could do on that platform. What I could do on Instagram what I can post on Pinterest, you had like what I can put on Etsy, it all has to be different it all has to be different. So Tick Tock Now, like I learned that the vape pen cards do the best on there. I mean I’ll post something and get over 100,000 views on a video and you don’t even know what that does for small business but it took me so much trial and error and that’s what I want to say is like trial and error try everything like and tick tock I realized that okay, can’t post the one hitters Okay, I know that. But even when I downloaded it in April is when stores officially closed down. And if you can hear my story, you can kind of tie I’ve talked nothing about retail sales. Because I was all wholesale. I was all distributors. I was all trade shows, all that. And then I’m like, wow, like my retail was cute but not cute. Like people who just do retail. I’m like kudos for you, right So I was like, Alright, I’m gonna download tik tok seems like people are I’m gonna start these mystery boxes because my mom had like, sent me I had bought these like five by seven greeting card boxes years ago and she’s like, you want she’s like, No, I was excited. I was like, I like the mystery box, like, make it fun. Make it fun. So in the month of April, I made $10,000 on Tick Tock from mystery boxes. And I’m throwing that number out there only because I said to myself, if I if I had to set a goal of what I can do in one month, and I hustled like, I’ve never hustled before, and then you know, and then that started getting old. So then I had to fit. And then I had to kind of like, keep going, and I was getting so burnt out because of the two different apps, it’s like two different worlds. And I was just taking it so personally on personal and personal. Until I took that two months, I stepped back, I rethought about it, I came back and like this is my job. This is how I’m getting my product out to millions of people to seen, I just need to be seen. That’s really what it is. And then, you know, from there, I just, you know, learn like for me what works is that finding really funny audios like, my favorite one is, if you’re following my for you page time, smokeable bit, my favorite one, I put down a video with the card, and the like the funny sound with the card you’ve never seen before and the graphics and the animation. Like it all works. But it took so long to realize like how that how it works and what people want. And then there’s a whole cannabis community on that app. That’s way different from Instagram, because you have Instagram people who are like, oh, tic tocs for younger people, all the dances, but I took the trends that are happening. And I just take them and I put them to make it work with my product. And it is not easy. I

Unknown Speaker  51:49
have to say that, you know, I

Shayda Torabi  51:51
mean, you just expressing all that, like my heart went out to you because I spend a lot of time on the social media platforms. I mean, for me, I’ve built my following on Instagram, I listened to a lot of Gary Vaynerchuk. And he says the same thing. He’s like, be on these new platforms create, create, create, create, you shared a very real function of that though. It’s like you found success with it. So it’s obviously motivating, but it doesn’t come without some losses to some frustrations, you’re getting your content pulled down. You’re like why is this work today? And that doesn’t work tomorrow. And so it does speak to this the nature of the game. It’s like, this is how you succeed though you’re the proof of you don’t get discouraged because something gets shut down or you can’t you know, go through that door. It’s like okay, you show me as an entrepreneur that ingenuity of like a fucking try this door. Okay, that doesn’t work. I’m gonna go through that door. Okay, well, we like this door. Well, how do we now maximise on that? And so I just think it’s such a good story for listeners to be hearing because they want the quick fix. They go Shayda How do you post smoking content and I go, I don’t know how I get away with it. I don’t I’ve had all my content every other piece for the most part, get flagged Instagram saying you this is inappropriate. This is promoting drug use, and I go, Okay, I’m gonna try it again. This way. I’m going to try using these words. I’m gonna maybe put it on this platform and I just don’t think people listen, are you listening? Y’all you got to keep trying and evolve and adapt. Adapt ation is critical.

Lauren Miele  53:27
That was the year of 2020. I made it through the pandemic because I started getting the retail customers I started showing more behind the scenes behind the scenes people I like I try to keep it not too much, but showing what’s going on like people want to see the person behind the brand. I started seeing me more and I and I just you know, I was like, you know what I was like I’m gonna post one time a day, I post 123 times a day I don’t even think about it and I don’t listen to what time to post

Shayda Torabi  53:54
right I agree with you. There’s everybody’s different and you but that’s the point you need to figure out what works for you and your brand, what products you’re selling and what because because selling greeting cards with an attachment for a pre roll or a joint or a vape is different than somebody selling smoke bubbles is different than somebody selling pet CBD. Like we’re all in cannabis but they’re all different applications and there are different nuances to these platforms like I heard you can obviously smoke posting content but I said that right post smoking content,

Unknown Speaker  54:24
smoke Listen, I

Lauren Miele  54:25
say I say the second word before the first one I twisted my words

Shayda Torabi  54:27
up right now and I haven’t even started smoking yet but if you’re like me No actually inhaling showing the act of smoking. I hear like Instagram Facebook doesn’t like that. So you kind of have to you know, yeah, literally

Lauren Miele  54:39
like look you’ll have to like on Tick Tock they literally have like that there was this trend where they were like, like doing the grinding up to the song and like you but there was nothing there. They literally did the grinder. They broke it. They rolled it and then they it was just like yes.

Shayda Torabi  54:54
actually doing this. Yeah. Like,

Lauren Miele  54:57
why so cannabis content. It is like, you know Even for me, like I do a lot of gift guides to on the social media because I love just like again being that kind of greeting card. holiday themed, I feel like I should be that one person do that. Just the authenticity, just like finding your voice staying in your lane. And just like like I was like, I’m gonna make water bottles and why I was like no

Shayda Torabi  55:20
paper products. Only solid advice girl. This is like been such a gem of a conversation. I literally everybody listening, please go follow KushKards on Instagram, go shop on their website, I’m sure on your website, you have what retailers you’re in, right? If people want to find you locally. But girl, you’re, I’m gonna say you’re killing it. But I know that that comes with like you are, but there’s always more work to do. But so from one female founder to another, I just I appreciate your grind. Really,

Lauren Miele  55:55
thank you, I appreciate that. You too. It’s really fun to like, hear someone who’s like not in like the manufacturing side of like having a product and like really putting yourself out there and your services because I see how like, it’s very, very a whole different side of, you know, starting your own business, though, to hear your story and hear you kicking ass and taking names and interviewing people with names. I think that’s just amazing. And I’m so happy, like, we have this connection, I hope I can bring more woman owned business businesses to you and really just keeps your sample boxes on the way you’re gonna love it. And I’m glad I waited because now that I like had this face to face is gonna be different. And I just am and I’m literally about to go bring up. So

Shayda Torabi  56:40
I literally just like I’m obsessed with you. I really think this is I mean, sorry, other guests. I love all my guests. I think they’re all great. But I just really want to say thank you for your transparency. Again, I think when I invite people to come on this podcast and speak bluntly, I want to respect to what degree someone wants to share, I never want them to feel forced into a gotcha moment. And fire to my blood that’s

Unknown Speaker  57:06
your back is

Shayda Torabi  57:07
like it just is it’s just I’m I’m blessed to get to sit in a position to learn from people like yourself, and just to be a part of an industry that is literally trailblazing forward. So

Lauren Miele  57:20
you have to stay with it. So you just have to keep moving with it. I think that’s your greatest success. you adapt and learn how to get with it. And I’d love to talk to you in two, three years from now and see, I won’t be sitting here. I’ll tell you that. I know. Or this chair won’t be the same at least

Shayda Torabi  57:35
girl. Yeah, that’s right. You’ve got to keep going up and up. But yeah, I’ve definitely take the highs for the highs, learn through the lows, and just keep showing up. Okay, but legitimately, I really hope that y’all appreciated that as much as I appreciate it. I think that Lauren is building obviously a really cool brand. And she’s hustling. She’s literally the epitome of a true female hustler, putting her feet on the pavement every day, kicking ass literally investing in her business with every ounce that she has. And I just hope that this is a real wake up call. For anybody out there who’s, you know, one is an entrepreneur, maybe you’re not working as hard as you could be. Maybe you wish you were further along than you are. I think that that’s a real conversation that we should all be having absolutely with ourselves at every moment. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have, you know, slumps or hard moments or, you know, shit gets thrown in the way but it’s like, how do you navigate around it? And I think that Lauren again, just really, really beautifully helped share that story for her experience with us. So thanks, Lauren. Really appreciate it listeners. Thanks for tuning in to another episode. I have another new episode coming out for you next Monday. But a plug to go check out all my other episodes if you’re new here and you are enjoying what you’re listening to. I have a lot of really awesome guests who share a lot of really great testimonials of their journeys through building cannabis brands and businesses. So thanks for listening to To be blunt. I appreciate you. We will catch you next Monday. Thanks Bye.

Announcer  59:22
Love this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda slash to be loved for more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi

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