You don’t have to wait for legalization to come to you. Living in the South I hear this all the time. “When it’s legal here then I’ll get into the industry” I’ve been successfully building an International business from a prohibition state and I’m not the only one. You don’t have to wait, follow your passion and then travel to your markets.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Doreen Sullivan, the Founder and CEO of My Bud Vase, is an artisanal innovator. She creates high quality, luxury bongs that can be mindfully integrated into daily life. My Bud Vase™ products include, one-of-a-kind repurposed vintage artisan pieces and beautifully designed signature collections. Each vase is meticulously crafted to bring art, expression, and discretion to your Cannabis lifestyle.
Ms. Sullivan has over three decades of entrepreneurial success behind her. In 1987, Doreen launched her premiere company, Post No Bills, Inc. A creative agency that focuses on marketing, merchandising, and product development for the entertainment industry. My Bud Vase will continue its work to normalize consumption. Doreen will continue to work hard and strive for a more accepting and uninhibited future in cannabis. Please visit www.mybudvase.com for more information.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
My love for Cannabis began at an early age of 14. Most often my preference for consumption was a bong or water pipe, however, I always felt a disconnect when smoking out of such a device. It was either too heady or too phallic and left a lot to be desired from a woman’s point of view. One summer day back in 2015 I had just seshed, was all happy and high, and an unexpected neighbor stops by. I did the classic “oh shit hide the bong dance” that I’ve done my whole life. I hid my bong amongst all of my flower vases in my home. When my neighbor left, I sat there, heart pounding staring at my bong right next to a vase that was actually in the condo I recently bought. The two pieces we so similar in shape and yet so different in style. That was my Ah Ha moment and I will keep that vase forever! The very next day I called a friend and started a 6-month frenzy of repurposing vases into bongs. We busted through every size, every shape and every material imaginable. So many of them broke but the ones that didn’t were just magical. In the beginning, it was worth it to really flush out the challenging craftsmanship ahead of time. I didn’t set out to specifically work in the cannabis industry, my passion is in product development. The stars aligned and I had created My Bud Vase™ which allowed me to discover just how wonderful the Cannabis industry & community is; and I haven’t looked back.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I still will always remember this moment as a turning point for me on my Cannabis Journey. I was vending in the VIP tent at a HighTimes Cannabis Cup, feeling like I made it to the winners circle of consumption and showing off my pretty vase bongs to everyone. All of a sudden two women in their 70’s approached my booth. They were pensive and exhausted from venturing through a sea of dab rigs and heady bongs to try. They came to the event to see if there was a possibility that Cannabis could heal their lives. They were open and hopeful when they arrived but after hours of walking through the festival they felt discouraged and like they did not belong to this culture. One of the ladies spotted an antique vase we had repurposed on our table that matched an item her mother had owned. They pulled me aside and asked me if I could teach them how to consume cannabis. I was honored but also humbled to really internalize that some of the people who could benefit the most from this plant are perhaps the least likely to know how and where to be able to try it. I also realized that My Bud Vase™ can bridge this gap for so many new to cannabis people. That just adds to the normalization and helps those who are uncomfortable with the current styles and consumption choices on the market. Those ladies made my day and I made theirs.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We were selected to vend at Art Basel’s Basel House in Miami last year. I spent months making the most artistic pieces I could create, but I didn’t spend enough time creating new signage that conveyed “These are not your average Vases, these are Bongs” so what happened was customers walked right by us and had no idea that we were consumption devices and not just vases. I literally went running after people for 3 long days of vending trying to get them back into our booth, people thought I was bat shit crazy saying come back, look closer, IT”S NOT JUST A VASE!
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
My Daughter called me up one day after I posted an IG story of @koalapufffs teaching me how to dab asking me if she can expect me to be smoking on IG for the rest of her life… she just wanted to be prepared if that was the case. I replied…pretty safe to say yes.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It has not been an easy transition to start a cannabis business while running a creative agency out of South Carolina, a prohibition state, but I could see the big picture and knew that this whole industry was about to open up and I was ready to be in it to win it. I had tried unsuccessfully to get my creative team on board but they could not see my vision and had reservations about working in this industry creating Cannabis consumption products and home décor. Fortunately, I met Toni Stone who is my right hand, she believed in my dream and she helped me get through the difficult transition from a service business to a product business. It’s amazing how many people are torn down by the employees they pay to help them build their companies, but when you find the right people that support your vision and are committed to helping you get there, that is half the battle…Toni has been the game changer for me and my businesses and she just had her first child and we welcome this sweet baby to work with her every morning. My new Team is a female dream team and it’s making a huge difference in our attitude and output.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Always! We just finished our new video, we partnered with @highherstory to produce the first My Bud Vase™ commercial. High Herstory and My Bud Vase™ created this video together, possibly the first musical commercial for a cannabis product, because we believe that female cannabis consumers are empowered women. Today’s cannabis user is more than just a banal, antiquated stoner punchline. Cannabis users are real people, whether they be mothers who responsibly use cannabis, or millennials who use cannabis instead of alcohol. There are a myriad of reasons why people add cannabis into their lives, yet media stereotypes around the plant have not caught up to the changing culture. Together, we created art as well as an informative musical piece that showcases the idea that smoking can be made beautiful. Our video represents how women think, what women like, and where we hope women can go in this industry. Both of our companies are invested and we are fearlessly collaborating to show the world the creative, feminine side of consumption.
We also have 8 new Signature Collection pieces added to our line www.mybudvase.com and we also are launching My Bud Life™ which is going to be our parent company that will feature expanded cannabis product lines and be a portal for Media services and Vlogs featuring content from me about product development, advertising and marketing.
According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?
Pop Culture, Social Media and Advertising. It is imperative for companies and society to put a spotlight on the strength of women and the women who are working day in and day out to put their mark on the industry. Advertisers can help lead a much-needed pop cultural shift within the cannabis industry. We need them to support all the creative women and showcase their businesses, products and skill sets. Through creative collaborations, advertising campaigns and capitalizing on the social media reach together we can increase that 25%.
You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.
1. Cannabis Connects to Everything. You can start with what your passionate about and then connect to a Cannabis Career. For example if your into Pets, or Sports, or Fashion…start with that passion and then find the connection to Cannabis to find the sector of this industry that you will be most successful in.
2. You don’t have to wait for Legalization to come to you. Living in the South I hear this all the time. “When it’s legal here then I’ll get into the industry” I’ve been successfully building an International business from a prohibition state and I’m not the only one. You don’t have to wait, follow your passion and then travel to your markets.
3. Watch out there are snakes in the grass! Don’t get Bit! BE VERY AWARE of snakes hiding in the grass who look so polished on the outside but will prey on your hopes and dreams. Not everyone is working hard to honor this plant and move #cannabisculture forward. Make sure you align with people that want to earn your business and contribute to your growth rather than just take your money. My biggest obstacles to date have come from trusting and paying the wrong people and companies. They depleted my very limited resources, slowed my roll, and solicited my network.
Be careful of new people to this industry with successful backgrounds and presentations from other industries. Before you get in bed with these poisonous personalities please get at least 3 references from people IN THE INDUSTRY that you trust and respect. We know who is real and who is smoke and mirrors and we are here to protect one another. It’s a jungle out there so keep your eyes wide open.
4. You may be better in the long run if you self fund. I had this fantasy that I would be able to show my well-developed product and brand to find an investor and strategic partner. I wasted 12 months soliciting my top notch prospects and trying to prove that my product could scale and that my brand was valuable. It was exhausting and depressing. I switched gears to self funding, which meant I had to work harder to earn money outside of this industry but in the long run I can do what I want without anyone telling me what to do.
5. Lead with your heart. I’ve never met a better group of people than those working in this industry, and the best part of this industry is the heart of this industry. Whenever I get stressed, I step back and connect to someone I love in this space. We FT sesh and the day gets better quickly~
Can you share 3 things that most excites you about the cannabis industry?
1. The Female Sector.
2. The ongoing normalization of Cannabis Consumption in the home.
3. The emerging Pop Culture of Cannabis to the mainstream.
I’m all over all these three areas and they excite and motivate me daily.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- Corporate Greed and Deception. I come from advertising and marketing. So I see the beginnings of early deception around “we are the government and we are here to protect you and make sure Cannabis is safe”. What they are really saying is Cannabis is cutting into many other industry and special interest groups profits, so wait for us to figure out how we can profit the most under the guise of consumer protection. You want to help and protect consumers? Then give them access to this miracle plant and study its benefits and not it’s harms.
- Changing Laws and Regulations that will destroy many new businesses. Along the same lines as above greed and deception these new laws and regulations make it very hard for small businesses to operate within the Cannabis industry. Whether it is finding a credit card processing company who will work with cannabis related products to marketing your services or products on various platforms there are additional hoops we have to jump on top of all the other aspects of running a small business. Is it worth it? You bet! But, limiting laws and regulations can make it very difficult for new businesses to thrive and grow or even get off the ground.
- The steady decline of Craft Cannabis. Nothing is better that artisans who take time to create a product; they don’t rush to market to make a few extra dollars; they care about their product and their consumers. A few years ago we were hearing about small businesses and independent farmers and feeling that the craft side of Cannabis was going to thrive and bring success to entrepreneurs & farmers all over the world. Now we hear of small businesses and farmers being victims of corporate take over and greed. As it gets more and more obvious that profit over plant is eating away at the industry. It scares me daily.
What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?
I’m so frustrated with the entire political process, but if any politician would listen and actually DO something I would remind them, It’s a plant from GOD, It’s our right and I would push towards Criminal justice reform. Everyone should support the Last Prisoner Project!
Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?
Smoking Kills and Cannabis Cures so I don’t think they should be viewed as similar at all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Go as far as you can see and when you get there you can see further. I live by that quote everyday in everyway.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
It would be a movement to support women creating in the cannabis industry. Women are divine creators, capable of making the world more beautiful. Women are also healers on a mission to help those in need. Think about that for a second, why not support the creative females that are inventive and imaginative. The end results go far beyond typical business. This is where my passion for this industry is leading me and why I’m thrilled to be able to create new avenues for consumption and normalization around Cannabis.