We recently caught up with Lo for an interview that covers the state of Washington’s cannabis industry, her entrepreneurial journey since the launch of 2017 Heylo, what it takes to find success as an extracts brand in a sophisticated cannabis marketplace, and more.
Check out the written Q&A below!
Ganjapreneur: When did you launch Heylo, and what inspired you to dedicate your life to the project?
Laurel “Lo” Friesen: Heylo launched in August of 2017. I moved to Seattle in 2015 with the intention to enter the cannabis industry. My father is a physician and both of my parents are entrepreneurs, so they actually planted the seed that grew into the idea to enter the cannabis industry. After working in medicine for 2 years and reading countless white papers about the medical benefits of cannabis, my passion for cannabis, chemistry, and medicine turned into the pursuit of a career. Being a consumer in Seattle helped me understand that there were huge gaps in the marketplace. Heylo was born to fill these gaps with high-quality products built around the values of education and transparency.
What makes Heylo unique as a cannabis extraction brand?
Our goal is to help customers get more out of life with cannabis concentrates. This means we optimize every part of our product for experience and safety. The best possible experiences with cannabis come from the flower (bud), not a lab, so we work strenuously to make oil that is as close to the plant as possible. We take great care in our CO2 extraction process to ensure we are able to maintain the chemical profile and experience of the source flower. We work with a flower that looks like it belongs on the retail shelf. If you want to feel the effects of the plant you need to start with the plant – and nothing else. We explain our process in two simple steps – start with the same high-quality flower you would buy for yourself and respect it at every stage of processing.
Heylo is built on education and transparency in an industry that has been forced to operate in hiding for decades. We share everywhere we can – all over the packaging, on our blog, at our events, through Spotify playlists, coloring sheets, and budtender education. The ultimate goal is for anyone to find the perfect product and experience suited to their personal chemistry and needs. This is how cannabis improves lives.
How has the recent news about vape-related lung disease impacted your business? Has it presented any unexpected challenges?
As reported by Headset, Washington State vape sales collapsed about 20% following the vape-related lung illnesses gaining national attention. Every company operating in this space has felt the effects.
That said, we have seen growth through this trying time. While it is a tragedy that any illnesses have occurred, an important message is finally being heard by consumers – pay attention to what you put in your lungs!
This message, that people should be cautious with anything they inhale, is one we have been shouting since we launched.
Anytime you inhale anything that does not air you are introducing risk to your body. It is our responsibility to produce products that minimize the risk to the consumer. We are sourcing clean products, we pesticide test every batch of extract, our quality assurance, and control methods are rigorous, we vet our suppliers, and we have always relied solely on the cannabis flower to produce our cannabis extracts.
The vape crisis has shifted consumer preferences in our favor. We’ve increased our market share by three times since the beginning of “vape gate”, but this is not a satisfactory ending. We’d like to see stricter regulations in place around pesticides, heavy metals, and QA testing.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently announced a ban on flavored vape products: how has this impacted Heylo?
Heylo has never produced flavored vape products or additives and never will. Our products are compliant in the strictest interpretation of the ban. We personally called each of our retail partners after the ban took effect to be available for any questions the retailers may have regarding our products. We received calls from stores that had to remove 50-100% of their vapes from shelves after the ban. We were ready to fill those gaps and continue to serve stores with our product and educate their team and consumers about our products.
In the wake of the flavor ban on vape products, what kind of response would you like to see from other vape manufacturers?
I would like to see vape producers respond by ceasing the use of any and all additives in their products.
Have you ever faced challenges due to being a brand that never uses any additives?
The challenge has been to educate and stay true to our principals while we wait for the market to mature and align with our products. Early on we realized that we needed retail partners that understood our vision in order to succeed. A consumer isn’t going to buy a product with lower THC and a higher price on their own – they need to know that it will provide a better experience and is worthy of their dollars. Our full-spectrum extract delivers on quality and experience, no additives necessary. Good stores understand that.
Can you tell us a bit about Heylo’s brand new VOLUME series?
VOLUME is all about cannabis, art, and community. It is a limited release, single batch series where only one VOLUME will be released at a time. A single VOLUME is released at a time, we partner with an incredible craft grower and we tell their story with the help of a local artist. We rely on them to put their best product forward, whether it’s strain-specific or a perfect blend, and we produce the best extract we can from that product. The artist is tasked with creating a design to convey the experience of the product to the consumer, which will then become the packaging. The product’s name will be the number within the series, VOLUME 1 is out now and VOLUME 2 will launch after the new year. We provide the information about the product on the back of the package, but the consumer is encouraged to use the art on the package as inspiration for the product. Beyond that, the website has a forum to encourage community engagement about the product’s experience, taste, the grower’s story, the art, etc. We’re treating cannabis like fine wine. It’s been an amazing project and I can’t wait to see how it grows!
What advice do you have for someone looking to pursue a career in cannabis?
The cannabis industry is not just another business industry, it is a movement. It is not for the faint of heart. It is full of unresolved issues that are desperate for a solution. If you’re passionate and ready to be part of this incredibly rewarding uphill journey, then join us! Figure out what you’re good at and apply it to this industry, we need all the help we can get.
Thanks, Lo, for chatting with us and answering our questions! If you want to learn more about Lo and/or the Heylo brand, check out the company website at HeyloCannabis.com.