Recently, TEDx Speaker and Entrepreninja Christina Aldan from LGDesigns.co sat down with fellow entrepreneur Krista Whitley to talk about her boutique social media business and her newest venture in the fastest growing industry in the U.S.
C.A. Tell us a little bit about Social Media Unicorn. You are rocking social media for luxury boutiques, and I know you represented the Grammys…tell us how you and your team are spreading their unicorn magic across the globe.
K.W. Essentially, Social Media Unicorn was started by one passionate unicorn and her laptop. I was really determined to create custom social media solutions for brands. I was passionate that we could do it better. I really love luxury brands and restaurant brands. I consider myself a professional part-time eater so it is really fun to be able to pair those experiences. For me I found that the biggest disconnect in social media from a leadership standpoint is that most CEOs and board members of large brands don’t understand that it’s not just about social media as a tool. It’s really about creating social experiences, so that’s how we’ve grown. Today we’ve got a team of thirty people. We’re on the ground in Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, L.A., and the Bay Area. So we’re certainly servicing everything from dispensaries to large brands to cannabis celebrities.
My story with cannabis started when I got rear-ended in a car accident. I was diagnosed with tremendous back pain and got some great opioids and muscle relaxants and figured out pretty quickly, after one day of taking those, that I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I just felt toxic. A friend of mine asked me if I had thought about smoking a joint. I was thirty-plus years old. I was an “old lady” with two kids and I thought, “OMG!” I just was not a frequent cannabis user. I grew up in a small town and my dad was a teacher and my mom was a nurse. We were the most square people you ever did meet. I bought in hook, line, and sinker – I am from the DARE generation – that cannabis was a gateway drug, if I smoke that wacky tobacky I was going to end up a terrible human being and bad things would happen; I’d lose all ambition. And you know what was interesting? When I was in pain the strains that I discovered and some of the medication I discovered just helped me to feel better. I really started to view it as truly medication. The further I delved into my own experience and the research, the more I realized I was a victim, like so many people are, of seventy years of prohibition and stigma and, frankly a load of misinformation. As I dove in, I went into the deep end and I don’t have any desire to get out.
C.A. Yeah, that’s great. I always love hearing the positive experiences with it. I also work in the industry, as you know, and I have actually been helped in so many ways with cannabis for anxiety, insomnia, appetite, chronic pain (which I’ve had for half of my life), as well as my carpal tunnel pain because I spend so much time at my computer. It’s helped me so much that these days I’m using it less and less because my anxiety has decreased and because my carpal tunnel pain has decreased…my quality of life has significantly improved. It’s really fantastic. I like what you said about being a victim of seventy years of prohibition because, in my experience it’s not a gateway drug at all. It’s allowed me to lead a more functional life. As far as ambition goes… well, they call me entrepreninja for a reason.
K.W. One of the things I’ve taken to calling myself is the “unstoner.” It’s so funny because when I do a lot of interviews or speak at cannabis events, people are like, “Wait, who is the suit? Is she a Fed?” In a lot of circles they’re like, “Hold up. Hold up. You work with weed?” I probably look like more of a banker than anything, which is great because it’s really about getting out there and challenging the stigma about cannabis use.
C.A. I agree. We’ve created a lot of really cool educational programs just for that. In fact we’re launching our Starmark1 cannabis programs for free in Ohio just to get the information out there. I want to talk more about your newest company that you’ve created. I want to hear about all of the really cool products that are coming out because again, this is near and dear to my heart. I have chronic pain and I have suffered with it for well over twenty years. Tell me a little bit about GOOD Las Vegas?
K.W. This has been a passion project of mine for the past year. You know as I was going through my own experience with cannabis use and medicating for pain relief, what I found was that a lot of the topicals just didn’t medicate my pain well enough. What I wanted is what I feel like woman at a certain age wants. I no longer want prince charming. I no longer want to feel like I did when I was twenty-one. But I absolutely want to feel good.
So with GOOD what we did is research around the byproducts of most topical medications. We wanted to know what was causing the THC to not affect the skin as well and not get that deep muscle penetration that I was looking for. So we created GOOD and GOOD is a line of pain relief oils. We have unscented – which really comes from me – I am crazy allergic to everything. I have one line of makeup I can even tolerate and by the end of the day I still want to scratch at my face. I have crazy sensitive skin. For me that was tremendously important and found that I didn’t want anything that smelled. I didn’t want that horrible stink. I wanted pain relief and I really wanted something that was going to give me lasting pain relief.
We have unscented and then two other scents: Mint Unwind, which is a bergamot peppermint and also Desert Rose. The reason for desert rose is I like fancy pants French perfume. I want it to smell great. So with desert rose we actually have this Turkish damascena rose and it does legitimately smell like this awesome rose. But most importantly all three of them are tried and tested on my own lower back and they absolutely work. The products are great for for sciatic pain, for example. My own feet after I’ve been wearing heels for twelve hours have blisters, I medicate the crap out of those ladies. It was really about creating an amazing product and that’s what we’ve done with GOOD. We are launching in two markets this fall – Nevada and Colorado – and hopefully California shortly thereafter.
C.A. I saw some of the packaging and it is absolutely gorgeous. Talk to us about your designer.
K.W. Thanks. When I went into a dispensary for the first time I remember asking if they had a pink grinder because I couldn’t find a pink grinder to save my soul. Everything was red, green, black, it was very masculine and I couldn’t find a women’s section so that’s why for GOOD we’ve created a brand that’s all around gray and rose gold. So it’s really beautiful with lots of foil and stunning packaging. It’s going to feel a lot like something you’d get at Nordstrom’s or in the perfume aisle. It’s not going to feel like something somebody whipped up in a plastic Tupperware bowl in their house. It has that same kind of finish and polish so you can have it sitting next to your bedside stand because it’s beautiful and it’s going to add to your life.
C.A. We’ve been friends for several years and there is this saying “how you do anything is how you do everything” so I would expect nothing less from you, darling. I’ve seen the bottles and they are absolutely gorgeous.
K.W. People can go check it out at GOODCANNALV.com. We have a newsletter and social media. We have been active on social media just by being advocates as we’ve been doing this research essentially for a year. It’s really been about getting information directly from the user about what’s working and what’s not working. I’ve literally purchased every topical I could get my hands on.
C.A. I’m really looking forward to it. You know what else I love about this industry is that when you think about manufacturing, when you think about oil, when you think about the healthcare industry, so much of it was founded initially by men. Now with all of this cannabis stuff coming out, especially with all the ancillary jobs and products, we see a lot of women getting in at the ground level and it is such a good opportunity for female entrepreneurs. A study came out with Marijuana Business Daily where they were talking about how 65% of women are in leadership positions for research and development, how 36% are in leadership positions for the investment and management level. I really like that because women are leading the way in this industry. My experience has been really positive with all the women I’ve met in the cannabis industry. Even on social media it seems like every single day another woman is connecting with me, another female entrepreneur in the industry going “Hey Christina what are you guys doing? I’m so excited. How can we collaborate? How can we cross-promote?” Has your experience been similar?
K.W. Yeah, hands down it has. In my opinion one of the largest struggles facing the cannabis as an industry as a whole, is that we have a lack of talent. I find that from a marketing standpoint, but I also see it at the cultivation level, I see it at the dispensary level, and I certainly see it at the production level as well. What I mean by that is there are some amazing, crazy-talented chemists and talented sales people that just, frankly again, due to seventy years of prohibition, are just not willing to take the risk. It’s too far out there for them. They don’t see the stability that we all see in, essentially, America’s fastest growing industry.
I think that is the greatest opportunit in paying it forward. I certainly have found I am batting a thousand. I have yet to run into any mean girls, thank heaven, and at every level. From Women Grow conferences to speaking events, even journalists within the cannabis industry… I feel are overwhelmingly supportive. I think part of the reason for that is we are all so grateful that there are people like us, that there’s a village out there and certainly that village is growing every day.
I’d love to see that village explode with amazing, crazy-talented people and I think that’s only going to help to serve the entire industry as a whole. It raises us all up. I think that is key. A big part of what we do at Social Media Unicorn is give back to those brands. And GOOD has been hearing back from patients but also, we give them the opportunity to tell their story, which women do better than anybody else.
C.A. What do you think is the next big thing in the cannabis industry?
K.W. I think the overwhelming trend is that we are going to see a lot of conglomerates, a lot of brands that are partnering for expansion. No longer is one state or two states going to be enough. There are some really exciting groups out there. For example, Indus Holdings in California does a phenomenal job of quality control and consistency in packaging and sales and distribution – I’m really a big fan of theirs. I love M Hardeen and what they’re doing behind cultivations and consulting. I feel like those guys are in every legal market. They’re everywhere and are experts in their field. I feel like we’re going to start to see the same expectations that we would have for any brand coming to market. We’ll start to see that level of consistency in cannabis brands and products. Certainly, that is an overwhelming trend that I am seeing.
Gone are the days where – or I feel like gone are the days – of home baking concoctions where you just have a lot of unregulated, frankly unsafe, circumstances for production. As a mom and as a patient, I love that we’re leaning toward more regulation and more consistency. I certainly want to continue to have really amazing products produced but I want to make sure that’s done in a very safe way so that I know I can consume it and not have to worry about some of the things that were happening in a lot of the black markets or unregulated markets. I think we’re going to continue to see that, especially as legalization expands throughout the United States. I feel like no matter who you talk to, even though it is the most conservative folks, they too agree it is not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
I do think that advocating the fight and continuing to share our personal stories and getting more unstoners out there talking about this to de-stigmatize cannabis use is tremendously important. I think that is what I am overwhelmingly seeing as a trend, particularly coming into 2017.
C.A. Thank you so much for sharing your story, Krista. We look forward to seeing more great things from you.
Meet Christina Aldan for the first time and you will feel as if you have known her all your life. she is proof that you can Create Your Luck with perseverance and a desire to learn.