"I don’t know if we need more cannabis start-ups I think we have a lot, but for sure on the consumer packaged goods side of things, we need more of that, just so there’s more variety, and then also more communities so people can share and learn because I think that’s a missing piece. Even going into psychedelics, that’s one piece where a lot of people don’t have information or education. If you think of your average housewife who is all of a sudden hearing about how great micro dosing is for anxiety, that’s exciting for her but then the buck stops there, where does she get it. I think building communities and teaching people more about products and how to access them is something that’s needed.” – Natasha Raey
As a serial entrepreneur and philanthropist, Natasha Raey has been one of Canada’s leading pioneers for the weed and wellness movement. A background in primary health care, together with a continuous stream of start-ups across the spectrum of industries and interests, Natasha is a champion for enterprise, promotion, and well-being. Equally vying for her attention is the elimination of cannabis stigmas; even her pastor is riding the nay-say train! Elegant advocacy, credible data capture and reliable resources are the way forward (a government blunder or two does not hurt either), and Natasha is committed to its momentum.
The increasing interest in cannabis and psychedelics is giving rise to an entrepreneurial surge, but it is not for the faint of heart. Insight, advice, pitfalls and wins; there is no need to reinvent the wheel when the innovators are lighting the way.
[0:43] Jason and Joel welcome their next guest to the Extraction Insider studio, Natasha Raey.
[1:05] Stumbling toward cannabis. How Natasha got started in the cannabis industry 10 years ago.
[2:03] As one of the creators of Lift & Co, Natasha has instant recall of sore feet and hard work, reminiscing about the Lift & Co Expo in Toronto and Vancouver. A ton of work with a huge payoff both in personal reward and forward movement in the industry. What started from an online resource and review site evolved into an internationally recognized tradeshow.
[4:45] Natasha talks about some of her new adventures: one in West Kelowna, a newly opened, beautiful, cannabis retail store with her brother, another in the wellness industry and the third, raising capital for a tech company she co-founded.
[5:54] Natasha expands on her new tech venture that is bridging the gap for the fashion industry, particularly in Canada, in addition to wellness. Weed, fashion & wellness.
[6:50] So what IS in fashion at Skye Cannabis Co.?
[7:48] The addressable market change. Natasha describes the diversity of their retail customers, from fresh 19-year old customers buying their first joints to the 70 & 80-year old customers purchasing products for sleep and pain and everyone in between. The stigma is shifting but there is still lingering apprehension.
[9:58] Natasha walks through the experience of helping people navigate their product choice as it relates to their needs.
[11:29] Sex and cannabis. With no shortage of entrepreneurial endeavours, Natasha is also part of a company called Bast that sells cannabis-infused sex products and is now being sold to help bring the products to a different market.
[12:15] Natasha outlines the vetting processes for their inventory and store shelves at Skye Cannabis Co. With one of the largest product varieties in the area, they look at what is selling, online ratings through Lift and Leafly as well as customer feedback and recommendations.
[15:17] Research and education is an important component of what Natasha does within the cannabis community: shifting stereotypes, more education and research, writing articles, and a focus on wellness and verifiable information.
[17:47] Fortuity in a time of unpredictability. As familiar constructs erode, it is an ideal opportunity for entrepreneurs to identify what is lacking in any market and how they can step in to fill the need.
[20:43] Natasha talks about her experience both as a consumer and retailer in the space of retail and e-tail. Cannabis product sales are still widely done in-store, partly due to tight shipping regulations, unlike many other industries. Natasha feels overregulation around cannabis was intentional with the idea of loosening rules over time. Easier to peel off the onion layers than put them on!
[24:42] Advice from an industry pioneer. Blowhards with placards will not constructively keep the ball rolling. Organized, elegant advocacy is the way to continue moving the industry forward in a positive direction.
[26:15] Cannabis vs. alcohol – will it ever surpass? And is it the same consumer or are they targeting a different crowd? In a similar vein, with big pharma/big beauty/food & beverage folding cannabis into their product lines, Natasha talks about where that could land for the smaller players and repurposing marketing messages.
[30:18] Understanding and accessibility is a real gap Natasha sees the need to bridge. As an example, take an average person who hears about micro-dosing with psychedelics to relieve anxiety. They get excited about it but with limited information out there, where can they go? Build more communities to teach, learn and share credible information about the product to connect those dots.
[31:13] Learning from the cannabis industry, what are some of the pitfalls learned, that the psychedelic start-up market can skip? The psilocybin industry is remarkably different than cannabis – there is no space for a collaboration! The current legal mushroom market is more like a mafia than a community.
[34:59] Natasha offers her perspective and advice for a start-up or new product launch. Research, ask, listen, absorb, and self-fund as much as you can. Profit is the challenge, as with any new business, but consider the added layers of stigma and regulatory barriers, and overnight success is unlikely. The sex trade for self-fund – oops that went right off the rails!
[39:45] They have been in the trenches! Speaking as well-versed entrepreneurs, Natasha and Joel share their view of their biggest failures in business with some sage advice sprinkled in.
[42:29] In a new industry like cannabis or psychedelics, who are those people Natasha can reach out to for business advice and mentorship? At the end of the day, cannabis is a business and talking with people who have found success in other areas is equally as valuable because learnings are learnings.
[44:34] The future of cannabis: crystal ball, preach! More consumer-packaged goods, collaboration and culling, eradicating stigmas through education and conversation. Natasha shares the rewards and the challenges that come with being a pioneer and champion of the cannabis culture.
[48:24] The downstream of patient data capture and furthering plant science will continue to inform industries from medicine to extraction, to retail. Ideally, it will soften the resistance to prescribing cannabis in the medical community while it also informs the extraction arena, equipment innovation and end-user needs and demand.
[51:10] Almost everyone comes into the cannabis and hemp space with a story. What is Natasha’s?
[53:29] An endnote in India. It will be an interesting place to watch when cannabis regulations start to loosen. Who knows when that will be? But given the country’s history of natural medicine and beauty obsession, the fit seems natural.
Hosted by Joel Sherlock & Jason Laronde, Vitalis brings you wise, humorous and sometimes shocking conversations with entrepreneurs and extraction industry innovators on 'The Extraction Insiders'.