This week we sat down with K, the brilliant creator of coffeeshop, a new type of marketplace and creative community dedicated to shaking the shame of cannabis by elevating marijuana for modern life.
Let’s be blunt: Coffeeshop is not a “coffee shop” like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, but a sophisticated community for the modern day cannasseur committed to making the new cannabis culture open and accessible.
K and his team are dedicated to growing a deep rooted community of cannabis enthusiasts and no matter how you choose to define yourself, (hipster, hippie, eclectic, fashionista, or no label at all), if you are looking to elevate your cannabis lifestyle, or kick-start it in the most stylish way possible, you’ve got to check out coffeeshop.
Tell us about yourself, how did you come up with the idea for coffeeshop? How did you come up with the name?
In the Netherlands, coffeeshops* are establishments where the public can buy and consume cannabis without judgement or fear. Now we, at coffeeshop, want to bring that freedom to the post-prohibition era.
The funny thing about locking down the coffeeshop domain and all related artifacts proved to be quite the pricey endeavor (as you can imagine). The domain was parked for numerous years, waiting for someone to purchase it (at an astronomical price). Well, we weren’t going to let them win!
So, we rolled a J, and a spark of genius led to the tagline, “not a coffee shop”. Get it? We are coffeeshop, not a coffee shop?!
*Not to be confused with coffee shops (space in between the two words), which are places you can grab your morning vanilla latte.
What attracted you to starting a business in the cannabis industry?
I come from a corporate background of management consulting, focused on strategy. During my time at various firms, I was part of the group that was always at the cutting edge of emerging industries – blockchains, robotic process automation, AI, you name it. I’m always fascinated by the new and get excited navigating uncharted territories.
Since the announcement of the federal legalization of adult-use cannabis in Canada a few years ago, I had it in my mind to do something in this space and bridge my personal passion for cannabis with what I do for a living. Just over a year ago, I tossed some ideas with a friend and former co-worker, and the “coffeeshop” brand was born. Initially just an idea, but as legalization drew closer I just couldn’t shake my inner calling to make this idea come to life. So about three months ago, I took the big leap, quit my job and started working on coffeeshop full-time! Sometimes… you just have to jump in head first into the deep end of the pool and see what happens. Still waiting for that friend to quit their job!
Who is your ideal audience?
Hipsters, preppies, hippies, eclectics, farshionistas. They are none of the above and all the above. A working professional and weekend warrior, they aren’t defined by a particular style and can’t be easily categorized. But, they have a shared mindset of knowing what they want and commanding life to get to their best selves.
As people, we place a high importance on beautiful design, meticulous craftsmanship, and thoughtful functionality. We all do this in our everyday lives and our relationship with cannabis shouldn’t be any different.
Your mission is to shape and define cannabis culture. How are you helping the industry change the stigma of “being a pot smoker?”
We’ve spent countless evenings, curating the best of the best: finding brands and designers who share our values of elevated design and quality craftsmanship. But most importantly, we purposely choose to work with people who have a grounded appreciation for the long history and diverse culture of cannabis, and are on a mission to elevate the plant for modern life. We believe the input and influences into their works of art are just as important as the final outcome.
Through this lens, we’ve identified products such as “the Moleskines of cannabis”, journals specifically created to help guide your cannabis discovery journey, ceramic pipes hand-made with exotic Moroccan sand, and petrol lighters crafted exclusively in Tokyo since 1952.
Imagine someone coming over to your place and seeing that the center piece of your coffee table is this beautifully designed modern vase, and they make a positive comment, then you let them know that it is actually a bong! That is going to start a conversation – one that is going to inspire curiosity and nudge the dial closer to normalization. But past normalization, we want you to be proud of and showcase what makes you happy! No shame.
What were some of the things that you learned unexpectedly since starting coffeeshop? Have there been any challenges that you’ve had to overcome?
Mike Tyson summed it up the best – “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. With constantly changing and evolving regulations (globally and locally), you kind of get a lot of punches thrown at you often in this industry – from financial services not processing your payments to products getting held up during shipping, even though cannabis smoke ware is just made from ceramics.
We’ve learned to adapt our process to dodge those punches. We now focus on shorter-term goals, against a big vision! By being adaptive and nimble we’ve been able to achieve a lot more milestones and accept the occasional pivot 😊
What’s been the reaction among your peers?
Everyone has been very supportive. What is more interesting is that, when I left my corporate job and shared what I’d be doing – many of my peers came out of the closet and shared that they too consumed cannabis or previously did. The common theme I heard was that everyone was worried about the stigma and being associated with the ‘stoner’ ‘unrefined’ ‘lazy’ ‘basement burnout’ stereotypes. This to me was validation that we are doing the right thing.
What’s next for the coffeeshop brand?
We recently launched our “secret shop” (the only way to get in is by subscribing to our newsletter). This was our way of rewarding those who have been inquisitive, curious, and with us from the start. We wanted to give our amazing early supporters an exclusive invite to our launch store before everyone else. This was met with amazing feedback and support! We’re now looking to scale this up and open our e-commerce platform to the public.
Crazy that when you decide to do these things, you can never predict what will happen. We’ve been really blessed to have an engaged community and audience so early on.
We’ve got a lot of really cool things planned! We’re currently working on launching a limited run apparel series called the “Anti Stoner Stoner Club” collection. We strongly believe that the story of modern cannabis needs to start by taking a stance and fighting the stereotypes, then slowly building on that into our vision of the future. Our short-term focus will be on that, and we couldn’t think of a better tagline.
We are also looking at expanding our footprint beyond e-commerce by collaborating with both cannabis stores (dispensaries) and cannabis cultivators to create experiences, rather than just products. So, if you are into design, arts, & culture + enjoy meeting high-minded people, let’s collab!
Where are you located and what is the weed scene like there?
We are located in Calgary, Alberta CANADA! We are living in an unprecedented time, where on October 17, 2018 Canada will become the first G20 country to have both medical and recreational cannabis legalized. In Canada alone, it is estimated that the medical and adult-use cannabis markets will combine for approximately $9B. This is as big as the tobacco and beer industry, and bigger than wine, spirits, and coffee!!! Isn’t that crazy?
We could not be prouder to be Canadian and can’t imagine living in a different time line. There is so much more work to do, and this is just the beginning!
How can you be reached?
You can hit us up on:
Our website: 👉notacoffeeshop.com
Our Instagram: 👉@notacoffeeshop
Our secret shop: 👉notacoffeeshop.com/secretshop
Or direct, via email 👉firstname.lastname@example.org