All Green Podcast Ep.8- Interview with Lauren Miele; CEO/Founder of KushKards
Michael: Alright, alright, alright. It’s Michael Ghazal here from Eco Four Twenty. I am super excited because today I get to talk to one of my friends and one of the people that I admire in the industry a lot, Lauren from Kush Kards. She is the CEO of Kush Kards and has been doing this for many years so, I’m really excited to sit down with her and just talk about the whole industry. Things have been going crazy the last couple of years. Lauren, thank you for being on.
Lauren: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. Super excited to be here to chat a little bit about Kush Kards.
Michael: Yeah and it’s cool that we’re actually here in the U.S. This is the first time in 2 years that I’ve been at Champs, so it’s really cool and exciting that through Covid we’re still making it. It’s really cool that you’ve been able to not only thrive, but you’ve gone so high in the last couple of years. I think it’s an honour to see you go from some of these booths to even bigger booths and everyone is coming to see you here, it’s amazing.
Lauren: Thank you so much. It’s all about adapting, right? That’s why we’re still here, which is great. So it’s good to be here too.
Michael: And one thing is, even before I met Lauren, I was just admired by her TikTok and her social media, you’ve had to adapt through a lot of that, too, over the last couple of years? Even TikTok! When I first met you it didn’t even exist, isn’t that crazy to see that in such a short time, this whole thing has been going crazy.
Lauren: A platform came, right? It came, it just completely changed everything, in addition, we usually use Instagram and things but, unfortunately my 3 accounts have been taken down, so right now I’ve been taking a break and really focusing more on some other platforms that I’ve been seeing the return, but slow growth, is great.
Michael: Did you find that even as you are growing, people are discovering you for the first time. Every one follower is just a new person checking out your website.
Lauren: Always. It’s amazing, yeah. It’s like, even when someone gives a card to someone, that’s another person who’s going to see it. So the return on one is great. And, you know, when people ask “What are you giving someone?”, or when the person gets it, who they’re showing. I feel like it’s such an effect that keeps going and going and going.
Michael: That’s free marketing, I’ve never thought of that. Genius!
Lauren: It’s free marketing, and again, it’s just a great, genuine product, like the messaging about it, I’ve heard some great stories. It’s definitely, especially this show too, has been inspirational to be here. I’ve really figured out like, “Wow, this is my life. This is what we’re doing!”, but it’s great!
Michael: Did you ever think that would happen like 10 years ago? With how the industry was? There was no industry!
Lauren: Well before Kush Kards no way, I never thought I would work for myself. I always was like, “no way, no way”. ‘Cause I wanted to be corporate, you know? And I was doing somethings like that but, Kush Kards just happened.
Michael: And honestly, I’m super excited to hear about before Kush Kards, so you know. I’ll just introduce Kush Kards a bit for people who might now have heard about her and the company. Kush Kards makes amazingly high-grade greeting cards. They’re very unique, think of Halmark but 10 times better, 10 times funnier and now is not only in dispensaries, but stores across the world, across the U.S., across Canada. I’ve seen it in pharmacies, gas stations. It’s cool how you’ve been able to transcend stores. People get cards everywhere, especially last minute cards. It’s cool to see how you’ve been able to take an idea, if I can say, already existed, but you tweaked it in such an amazing way. I guess my first question is, what made you think of it? What made you start it? And what was your idea behind it first, like what was your background to be like, “You know what? This is a good vision.”
Lauren: Okay so, the creation of the card, correct? So I wanted to give a Christmas present to a friend, and we had weed in common. I just wanted to gift weed in a fun way. I usually would just go get regular cards, put little dime bags in them, because that’s how they sold weed, but you put it in the card and it’s not flat, you open it and it falls out, you have to roll it. It wasn’t an instant high, basically. So I just felt like I was tired of doing that and there was always this one clip in a Seth Rogan movie, it’s called This Is The End, and he rolled his James Franco’s name in blunts, when he arrived to his house. I swear that always just resonated with me, I was just like “Wow, could you imagine if you saw your name spelled out in blunts?” So, that moment and just thinking of, I love cards, I love stationary anyways and just had that thought to roll blunts and sew them to greeting cards, in the form of people’s initials. So I did all different types. Ones where the blunt was the stem of the flower, just getting really creative with it. After work I’m like, “Oh my god, let’s go make a random card.”
Michael: If I got that I think I would keep it, I would never use it.
Lauren: Right? It was needle and thread, too, it was card stock. I was like, “How else do you attach it?”. I wasn’t going to do it with tape. So, it just happened and my girlfriend reached out and I showed her and she said, “That looks like a Kush Kard, with a K”, and I said, “What?!” We were on the phone and I’m like, “Ain’t that right!”
Michael: You’re like, checking out the dot com.
Lauren: Alright, right? I was like, “Mom!”. My mom trademarked it, ‘cause it was like $800 but right after college, first job.
Michael: That’s a big investment. You don’t even know if it will catch on.
Lauren: Right. And I was lucky that I did it then because I think sometimes there’s issues with cannabis names being trademarked now.
Lauren: But in 2013, that’s when this was all happening, then it really wasn’t.
Michael: You were able to take advantage of a good timeline too.
Lauren: It was under the radar so we just trademarked the name asap. Then, I was just thinking, “Oh, I have a friend’s birthday let me go after work, print a card, and leave a little space for the blunts to be sewn to. Then friends started ordering from me, like, “Well you gave this to me, I’m trying to give this to somebody else.”
Michael: The free marketing, again.
Lauren: Yeah, so I really did sell it with the weed when they first started. I was charging like $40 a card, cause I had all the weed on it. It was, you know, hand made.
Michael: I love the uniqueness and the passion. It’s like, “Im gonna sell this,” and I just love it. Nothing is going to stop you from doing these unique things and, it’s just the wow factor. I’ve gotten a hundred gifts that I don’t remember, but when somebody gives a unique card that they hand made. Even just writing a little greeting on it, I keep hundreds of them. I think it’s really cool.
Lauren: Memorable. Yeah, I think it’s those moments- I’ve heard some crazy stories about what this card has done for people, and that’s really special to me. I use that when I design cards too, I’m like, “Okay, what is the best type of card? Like, why would someone gift a greeting card? And then lately, it’s me just doing one that I want to do, so, I try and balance it out.
Michael: One of my favourite cards was just the, “High Love You”, and “I’m so stoned over you.”
Lauren: Oh, I love those two.
Michael: I think it’s really cool that you’re able to make all of these unique ones and I guess my question would be, like do you have a thought process for it? Let’s sit down and brainstorm with some team members? Or you just kind’ve light one up and think of creative ideas on your own. How does it spark? Where is that lightbulb moment where you’re like “This is a card, this is going to be from thought to paper,” Where is that moment?
Lauren: Well I think that’s actually the both of them combined, I think it’s the people I’m around and then also while we’re smoking. So, I obviously have a few concepts in mind, something that I’m looking for the click. Whether it’s a new birthday, a thank you, whatnot. You know, we’ll talk about it, my sister’s really good too, she’s super helpful and we say, “KK Brainstorm Sessions”, and we just kind’ve spitball, sayings and what rhymes with “weed”, “stoned” then it honestly becomes natural with the people we work with. You’ll say something and be like, “Oh, that’s a card!” And then you write it down and the ones that really stick with me- I even have cards that I’ve thought of for so long that I’ll make one day when the time is right. I keep all my notebooks so everytime I’m starting a new card I’ll glance back through them and be like, “Oh, that was a good one, I totally forgot about that saying”.
Michael: It takes a creative entrepreneur to also think about creative card ideas so I think, you’re an amazing entrepreneur in that sense.
Lauren: Thank you.
Michael: Yeah like not to be a one-hit wonder, you know you could have one card that went really well but, you don’t, you have hundreds.
Lauren: And the pressure. Even when I make one card I send it to a lot of people to get their reaction, or I also like to drop the saying in a conversation, and if they laugh I know we’re good to go.
Michael: But not everybody would think about ways to test their card before launching it, that’s really cool.
Lauren: “Cause the thing is, when I have to launch now I have to investigate them- probably the biggest pressure would be that; making sure the card rhymes, making sure it’s right and making sure it has that Kush Kard feel.
Michael: I’d be so stressed about having a typo or an error on it-
Lauren: Oh! I’ve had typos. Listen, I’ve made stickers and put it over the typo, we made it work.
Michael: That’s even a creative solution to be able to solve the typo error.
Lauren: We had to.
Michael: I’ve seen a couple of our distributors just repackaging ten thousands boxes. Sometimes regulations and rules, like if the UPC code is different, if this is not working. It’s really cool to see how intricate you have to be with some of these products. I’ve never seen any of the errors so that’s good. You’ve done so many amazing partnerships; Tommy Chong’s, I think there was one with Friendly Stranger, a couple in Canada as well. What’s been one of your favourite partnerships you’ve done and why was it one of your favourite?
Lauren: So definitely the Tommy Chong has been number one. I mean, great people to work with, just the company and himself, you know. We’d gotten the chance to go up to his house and shoot the pictures that are on the cards. He made time for it and they’re really just an overall great license to work with. That and also, by far, Toker Poker has been one of my favorite collaborations. We make the matching sets, we both do the giveaways, we put in the work to make the design right, we do samples. There’s a lot that goes into it, I do like that as well and they’re also from Colorado too so.
Michael: It’s easier to collab on these projects.
Lauren: Yeah, it’s just a fun partnership and we all go to the same trade shows so it’s really a team effort and I like that.
Michael: Actually, you two companies, Toker Poker and Kush Kards are companies I admire on social media. I think you guys are killing it on TikTok and Instagram. Just through all of these creative ideas, everyday you have to think of a new creative post.
Lauren: Every day.
Michael: It’s stressful isn’t it?
Lauren: Yeah, lately- I think around trade shows it’s difficult if you don’t have them planned like I usually do. But that’s why I try and get ones in the moment like us at the trade show. I also look at Instagram like, one day I’ll look back and be like “What was I doing then?”
Michael: It’s a good memory book sometimes.
Lauren: Yeah, exactly. So, that’s why I like to show the journey because this is what I’m doing.
Michael: Do you use any social media posters like Buffer or Hootsuite that can help you schedule? Do you do that or do you just post directly to fans.
Lauren: No. I have a 2-3 day I idea in my head, but I kind’ve just go off- well it’s because of what’s trending at the moment. Things change so quickly so, I kind’ve research what’s going on and plan to do all in one day or something.
Michael: The trends have been crazy, how they can go from over the weekend, now everybody is doing a certain dance, and those dances are getting 10 million views on these pages.
Lauren: It’s interesting.
Michael: Has there been any trends where you thought, “This is a crazy trend, why are people doing it?” Or, one you’ve loved?
Lauren: I don’t know, there’s so many.
Michael: The milk crate challenge was one for me where I’m like, first off that came out of nowhere and then it died out of nowhere, people aren’t even doing it as much.
Lauren: Yeah, that’s so bad. It was so bad. I just like the dance ones, the nail ones. But it’s hard to be on that platform, so. Honestly, I’m focusing on Pinterest a little bit more and I’m seeing the return.
Michael: That’s awesome!
Lauren: And the gradual growth. Like any platform, like we all started on Instagram at once.
Michael: We’ve been doing Pinterest a lot too and honestly if you have visually appealing images of products, that’s all you need.
Lauren: So I saw a post that’s like, “You post on Instagram, then you put in on TikTok, then you make the content a tweet on Twitter, I post on LinkedIn too, and then make a blog post about it.” Like how can you repurpose all one reel, and I do that now. All I have to do is copy and paste.
Michael: It makes it a lot easier.
Lauren: Copy and paste the caption and just upload the video, and then you start to see the research
Michael:- Different places.
Lauren: Yeah, even if- some of my posts get like 10 views and I’m like, “Alright, well let’s try and build this.”
Michael: And that’s 10 other people that might not have seen it.
Michael: I love sometimes I get to see, these are 100 people that liked our page that never would have heard about us if it were not for technology and they’re from completely other countries or completely other states, it’s so interesting. 50 years ago we’d never be able to do marketing how we’re doing it now, and we do eMail marketing now where people 100 years ago would’ve been like, “What is this?” It’s so interesting that we’re lucky to experience it.
Lauren: And it’s probably going to change again so.
Michael: The instant emails eventually.
Michael: The metaverse emails. You know there are companies like Halmark, there are other companies out there, but I do think Kush Kards has been able to stand above the rest and really differentiate your products. Is there something you think that you do? I noticed you said family a lot in the interview so far, and that’s awesome. Is that something that helps differentiate you or is there other things that really help Kush Kards stand out?
Lauren: I guess it just has to be, really me, to be honest. Like, how I see the vision of the cards. I have a standard, not every card ends up in the collection. Or even if I try, it kind’ve makes it into the full, year-round collection, let’s say. I feel like I really just stay true to the saying, the rhyme, the flow of the card and I really just make them all cohesive. At the same time, all different too. ‘Cause I never know who’s buying the card. There’s different cards when I have to make it broad, but not super broad at the same time. Having different options for people and just really keep the designs simple. Honestly, I’ve really looked to putting the pot leaf on the card less. So making it classy, but also having the touch of cannabis in it. It’s just kind’ve the perfect marriage of the two. I just love design, I always have loved it and the transformation of the cards has been amazing. Honestly, our top seller is the High Wishes card and I’ve never changed the file. Like that’s talking about how I tell brands to do everything they can to come out so strong that you don’t have to change anything.
Michael: When did that card come out?
Lauren: That was the first card ever!
Michael: Oh, amazing!
Lauren: Kush Kards on the bottom. Everything. So, from then I just kept trying cards, seeing what worked, until I found a rhythm of the style of cards. I really just take similar icons that are out there and just make them the cannabis way. With a little pun, and a little fun.
Michael: And it’s just a funny giggle, you know? You get that wow factor when a friend opens it.
Lauren: Yeah, like you’ll know it’s a card when you say it. You’re thinking of a new one and it just rhymes and feels right and you definitely have to laugh, and it’s just relatable to everyone. I love to see all the different types of people who buy them, or buyers who buy them, men, women. I’ve been having some conversations with some officials at the show, as you are too, and you know you have to rep your product. When someone comes up to you, you have 3 seconds to get it together.
Michael: Yeah there’s so many distractions for them too as well. How many booths do you think there were at this show? They sold out too, I think it’s crazy still through Covid they were able to sell out. The uncertainty of everything.
Lauren: I feel like it’s back. Yeah I feel like Champs, you know, we’re back on track now.
Michael: People were excited to be buying again, I think as well.
Michael: For Champs, it’s been 23 years. How many years has it been for you and what’s been your first experience at Champs, and then now. I’d love to hear if there’s some lessons for people, even going to shows. What’s your Champs experience been like?
Lauren: So this is my forth year, which has been so fun. To think that just, four years of trucking it, luggage, leaving things behind, things breaking, all the trade show things that can happen have definitely happened. But it’s also just been a huge growth, learning experience. First time going to Champs, let’s just say, the booth fell over.
Michael: It fell over? *laughs*
Lauren: It just fell over.
Michael: During the show?
Lauren: No before the set-up. It just fell over. That’s how I made a name for myself because I made a big scene, and so all the people at Champs knew me- But i was upset because it was the first Champs show, someone else just kind’ve nudged it and it fell. There’s so many factors but, they hooked us up they put us right by the glass games. It’s kind’ve like where I am now, which is kind’ve funny because it’s full circle a little bit. That happened, and now the people at the front desk totally have a memory of me. From then to where I am now, it’s going from sharing booths. I shared booths 420 Expressions, the bud necklaces.
Michael: Yeah! I remember the necklace company.
Lauren: Yeah, so I shared a booth with him for maybe 2 years. I would just get a little table and I put up cards on poster boards and started doing the wall with him, and we go to Champs. It was nice to share a booth with someone who has probably been doing this for 23 years.
Michael: I didn’t realize it but I think that’s when I met you then, because I remember you split the booth when we met so that must’ve been at the first show. Very cool.
Lauren: Yeah so that’s been the growth right there, from splitting a booth, to figuring out how to display the cards. Because I kept growing the collection so I literally had easels. I had to figure out how do I get this big wall with all the SKUs on there. So it went from foam core boards on tables to being like, “Okay I need my own 10x10 now”. And I can even see it getting bigger and getting my own 10x20 because I just feel like by then, with new products I’m developing on the way, it’s just gonna have to have a more open presence. It might take 5-6 years to get there but, Champs isn’t going anywhere, right?
Michael: And have you changed your booth layout as you go?
Lauren: Yeah, well the wall has been like a constant for, I would say, maybe two years now. I try to switch up the colour of the wall, and we just figured out having the two tables where it’s a U-shape experience. Honestly, I haven’t changed it up too much, I just try to change up the decor on the table. ‘Cause it works, you know? People come in, they like to see all the cards really displayed nicely. I check all the bags, it’s great. It’s an easy booth.
Michael: We do get a lot of listeners who are small businesses and people who might be considering their own first trade show. Is there any advice you would give one of these small businesses? Like how would you get going?
Lauren: So much advice. Definitely have a budget. Consider shipping in mind when you’re trying to do certain setups. Really try and DIY it but also not make that too hard too, because it can go there. Everyone has that first trade show. I did a lot of research on Youtube and just experiences at trade shows, which you should expect. I would say, cause there’s a very laborious side. There’s two components, there’s the labour side- getting set up, and there’s also the work, the selling, the doing the follow-up. And on that side, I saw follow-up is key. So get all those business cards, type them all out, keep all the contacts. reuse those contacts, and that can be your sales list and newsletter list and whatnot. Really I would say, the labour part get it planned out, do it super simple maybe at first. Like I said, I brought walls that fell. I went in for it. You just kind’ve have to start and you’ll figure it out from there.
Michael: You always can improve from there.
Lauren: Yeah, we’re all gonna have those crazy stories.
Michael: And it’s exciting. You get to shake hands with 500 people, you get to meet so many people at these events. It can’t be replaced with emails and phonecalls.
Lauren: Yeah, the in-person sales is great. You know they see you and I’m sure you hear this too, they like to see the owner of the company because it shows your dedication.
Michael: We’re really a small business. We’re really here to help you.
Lauren: Right, we’re here and I’m so honest with people if the cards are not selling as quickly, I’ll say “Well, how can we sell them quicker? Where are they?” Take the time to address the situation and how can we help you.
Michael: You’re not a faceless corp that will turn away if they’re not getting the sale.
Lauren: Right, cause the cards are just meant to make your shop better. Just better.
Michael: It brightens people’s day.
Lauren: Right, exactly.
Michael: Do you have a Kush Kard that is your favourite? Is the Kush Kard that’s your favourite also the best selling one or do you have a card that is your favourite?
Lauren: Ugh, that’s so hard! ‘Cause some of the new ones coming out are like a new favourite. Honestly, my “Let’s Burn” card, I have a card that has a campfire one.
Michael: That’s the first one that I gave to my friends actually, I think you gave me one of those for free.
Lauren: Yeah! ‘Cause I remember I was just sitting in New York thinking about what Colorado would be like. I’ve never been there, and I’m targeting starting there and I just felt like hiking, maybe campfire, and that’s when the log came about and then, it’s just been a great seller. I love to see that card getting sold all the time.
Michael: That’s really cool. If you could give a card to anyone in the world, who would it be?
Lauren: Oh man.
Michael: Knowing that they would keep it forever and put it above their fireplace. Dead or alive is okay too. Anybody. And I’ll try to answer too, I’m trying to think too like who would I give it to.
Michael: I think Barack Obama would just be cool. Thanks for being my best friend, or something.
Lauren: Which is funny, I was just talking about this but. I don’t know if you know who Tim Gunn is, but he’s on this show called Project Runway and he’s so inspirational in the fashion world. Going back to my career kind’ve, and if I could sit and tell the story of how I went to, where he’s now in New York, went to FIT. Moved to Colorado, did the damn thing, came back and share my story with him while giving him a card, it would be everything.
Michael: We’re gonna get him on and let him know. That’s so cool. Tim Gunn?
Lauren: His name’s Tim Gunn, yeah.
Michael: Okay, very cool. If you were the leader of the world for a day, what is something that you would change?
Lauren: Legalizing weed! Let’s go!
Michael: That’s a good answer.
Lauren: For the one day, like we have to make sure all the legal states already have weed there so.
Michael: There’s been so many different leaders around the world that have changed and rotated and it’s slowly but surely coming around. Isn’t it interesting that honestly when I was still in university, or college, I never would’ve thought that we would get to where we are now. Where states are legalizing, there’s hundreds of booths here, ten thousand jobs maybe? Here alone. People who are making it their full time job.
Lauren: They’ll see it soon. It’ll happen, eventually. Hopefully in our lifetime.
Michael: It’s small businesses like us that are making it happen and just making it seem like it’s a normal, modern thing. It’s just like any other businesses selling any other thing, any other card.
Lauren: We go through a lot more things, but no it’s been a really fun experience.
Michael: Is there any advice you would give to entrepreneurs? People who are starting their own business. I know you’ve been doing this since 2013, is it?
Lauren: That’s when I first through of the idea. It officially started in 2015. Yeah, so 6 years now. My advice is always the pre-launch, kind’ve like what I was touching on before. How are you different? What is your niche? Where can you really hone in and make yourself stand out? Because I think that’s so important today, because people will pay you more attention, people will look at you differently, have that conversation differently when you just are so firm about your product and your brand that you are the brand, right? ‘Cause initially the owner should be a reflection of the product. I just always say make it you, make sure you love what you’re doing too, because it will show, people can tell I’m the owner right away before asking. In my head I’m like, “Yeah, because I put so much into it”, but I also love what I do and that shows, and I think most entrepreneurs do, so just make sure that they stay thinking that way. You’ll always be really close to your product and always develop it and make it to what it should be. Always just stay true to yourself because you’re the one who started it.
Michael: I think it’s a beautiful answer, you really are the face of it and your passion shines through.
Lauren: And you can tell, same with you, you can tell. That even answers another question; that’s what makes you different. Sets you apart from other people. They remember you, they buy your stuff and be like, “Yeah you did a great job!” And you’re like, “Thank you!” You know? It’s nice to be recognized.
Michael: And you get to talk about something you thought about that then you manufactured and you worked on, and then you get to give to somebody who gives to another person is just, down the chain happiness.
Lauren: Yeah, like back in New York and the joint cards, I did not think I’d be sitting here today, so I’ve just been super grateful and humble. Just going through the experiences and enjoying them, celebrating them, and then moving on. Kind’ve keep going and growing and tradeshows and just making sure you’re always on that right path.
Michael: I can’t wait to see where you guys go. Honestly, it’s going to be amazing.
Lauren: Same, for you too. It’s been fun to watch your growth as well.
Michael: Thank you so much. I never would’ve thought, you know, I made Eco Four Twenty just to solve a problem I had.
Lauren: Best products! Because of convenience.
Michael: I’m gonna put that as a quote, just so you know.
Lauren: The best products are all about convenience so.
Michael: And we’re able to just add value to them. I think if they opened an Eco Four Twenty filter, if they opened a Kush Kard, it bring them a short bit of joy, especially if it’s a gift. I never would’ve thought I can make a product that people give for a Christmas gift. That’s my dream come true.
Lauren: Oh Christmas, I’m a mess. When thousands of people are opening cards or giving them, or having that moment. It is overwhelming because there’s cards everywhere. We’re shipping to all different places. I’m just glad people can have a card option to give where the present is on the front, and also on the inside.
Michael: That’s smooth, that’s a good tagline.
Lauren: Right? Always thinking of new ones. See that was the first time I said that. So when I come to trade shows, everytime I talk about it differently and I think about new ways to say it, or talk about it so that’s why it’s nice to get out, too. To talk to people, because you are always on your toes. You always need a new way of selling it or talking to customers about news ways to sell it and stuff like that.
Michael: Thank you so much for being on the podcast, it’s been really inspirational and you’ve given so much advice to entrepreneurs and small businesses so I really do appreciate it. Where is the best way that people can connect with you and find out more about Kush Kards?
Lauren: For sure, so KushKards.com, is the website, feel free to check out all of our fun products. And also on Instagram @KushKards, and that’s totally where you can watch our journey.
Michael: And we’ll definitely tag you guys in the description as well so, thank you so much Lauren.
Lauren: Awesome, thanks for having us. Thank you.
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