Suzanne Shpall, the Creative Director over at Flower Shop taught us a new word: potpreneur.
It’s exactly what it sounds like, someone who is paving the way in the marijuana industry. Which, is exactly what Shpall and Lorna Donohoe, Flower Shop’s Head of Marketing are doing. Shpall works on designing new looks for cannabis brands, where Donohoe focusing on mainstreaming said brands. The company itself is a branding, marketing and PR agency comprised of entertainment, advertising, social media and cannabis experts. One of their clients is Mr. 4/20 himself: Snoop Dogg.
Donohoe is the former SVP of Global Marketing for Playboy, so controversial topics don’t fall far from her apple tree, but the duo are putting forth amazing creative work for their clients. In many respects, it’s a dream job. A fluffy white cloud of weed smoke where they imagine and execute branding for many of the cannabis brands making their way to market. “Our clients have the dopest product out there,” Shpall says, with, possible pun intended. “With my expertise in compliant packaging and sourcing, FS is able to work with clients to develop innovative packaging options so each of our brands can have product on-shelf that is totally unique to them, and completely compliant.”
Color us green with envy about the job these two Green Queens are doing.
Read on to find out more and why Donohoe calls being named a Green Queen a double-honor.
How did you get involved with Flower Shop?
Suzanne Shpall: About 2 years ago I launched my own edibles brand, called Highland Pantry, and was looking for help with PR / Marketing when I was introduced to Flower Shop. Once I met the team there, I knew I wanted to be involved. Having run my own cannabis brand, I have gleaned a unique understanding of what it takes to build a business in cannabis. Before joining the wacky world of weed, I worked in fashion as a designer, product developer and buyer for a handful of high-end Los Angeles based brands, then moved on to the food industry where I successfully ran my own gourmet, gluten-free cookie business.
Lorna Donohoe: I was running my own consultancy, dipping my toe in the water on a few cannabis projects. I felt like this industry was on the precipice of exploding and this cultural and defining moment only comes along every few decades. I also really believe in the power of this plant from a medicinal and health and wellness perspective, so I basically decided to sell my wine bar and wind down my agency and focus only on cannabis. There weren’t a lot of agencies dedicated to cannabis branding and marketing and it is something the industry really needs. I thought Flower Shop was one of the few that was doing sophisticated work and had a seasoned team so I basically stalked them until they hired me.
What in your background prepared you to work in this industry?
SS: All of my experiences and past careers, from working as a designer to product development and running my own business, have helped me get to this point. On top of all the skills I have from past work, I’ve gleaned the ability to be insanely organized (Im a bit anal when it comes to workflow) and agile when the project takes unexpected turns.
LD: I was the former SVP of Global Marketing for Playboy (who have gaming interests-- casinos and online-- as well as a huge array of consumer products in the market). I also worked with a lot of liquor and beer brands so became very good at working in highly regulated environments as well as helping to mainstream sensitive or adult brands. Additionally, I work in the wine business (just sold my organic wine bar) and feel wine has a lot of parallels with cannabis - agriculture, terroir, tasting notes, clones, appellations, - so I have a perspective and understanding of marketing and branding that is perfect for the cannabis industry.
Was there ever any pushback from people in your life?
SS: The opposite, only constant requests for “samples.”
LD: I think my mom is a little cautious. It took her years to get used to Playboy and understand it was a legitimate and real business. Now I'm like,”Hey mom, I've left booze and now I’m in cannabis.”
”Hey mom, I've left booze and now I’m in cannabis.”
What are some of the exciting projects you’re working on?
SS: Most of my current projects are still forthcoming, so can’t say much. But I definitely have a current fave. I’ve been working with one of the largest distribution companies to develop a brand for them and I can’t wait to see it in market - think ‘90s house parties, DJ battles, and street art.
LD: Honestly, this sounds like such a cliché, but everything I work on is exciting. The whole industry is emerging and it’s chaotic and challenging and thrilling, all at the same time.
One of our clients Heally (getheally.com) is a tele-health company, (founded by women) that gives you on-demand personalized medical visits with a doctor from your phone/ home. It’s a game- changer in the way people see a doctor, but they’re also doing a lot of advocacy work with ex-athletes who have become addicted to opioids and lobbying for research programs as well as efficacy studies. That’s exciting that you can go see a cannabis doctor, the same way you see your GP- for headaches, pain, or whatever ails you.
And some of the brands that we work with like Dr. Robb Farms and Island Cannabis Company are really doing big and innovative work with clean cannabis.
What are the biggest concerns for clients?
SS: Our clients have the dopest product out there. With recreation there is so much opportunity but also so many additional requirements specifically around compliant packaging, which can feel totally daunting. And the stock options out there are super basic. With my expertise in compliant packaging and sourcing, FS is able to work with clients to develop innovative packaging options so each of our brands can have product on-shelf that is totally unique to them, and completely compliant. Banking of course is also an issue, due to cannabis still being federally illegal, so everyone has that cash money on the mind!
LD: It varies - some are concerned with getting socials shut down and the inability to effectively market their brand. Some, with their bank accounts getting closed and others about the cost of becoming legal and compliant, which means they have less money to spend on marketing and product development. Taxes are a big concern.
What are you most excited to see from the cannabis industry in 2018?
SS: Impeccably designed products and rad consumption spaces.
LD: Education and de-stigmatization of cannabis - more women learning about this powerful plant, more females executives and founders - I think the industry is a really great place for women and the future looks great. I also think we will start to see more wellness and medicinal applications of cannabis for seniors, those fighting addictions, chronic pain, and more, which will help with de-stigmatizing cannabis.
Is it cool to see social acceptance? You both live LA and there are shops and billboards about weed delivery programs. It’s a brand new day.
SS: Totally. It’s awesome to be part of an industry’s growth and maturity, to be building brands that will dictate the next generation of the industry. I think with this also comes acceptance of those industry and community members who have been doing this since before it was cool. Growers who have been harvesting since the ‘70s, dispensaries who have been running their businesses in ‘the grey area’ to service their patients for years, paving the way for the mainstream, and advocates who have been pushing for research and acknowledgment of the magic of this lady-plant.
LD: Yes, it’s great but as an industry, there is a responsibility that comes with that - education, inclusion and social justice. There are a lot of people that fought this fight to legitimize cannabis that have not been acknowledged or that have been shut out. There are whole communities that have been destroyed because of the war on drugs. So, we still have a lot of work to do.
“There are whole communities that have been destroyed because of the war on drugs. So, we still have a lot of work to do.”
What are some of the challenges you face as women in the weed biz?
SS: Overall, this industry is a rad place for women to innovate and occupy leadership roles. As this industry grows into itself, I am excited to see women at the forefront.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. I still find myself the only woman in the room at some meetings, and some stereotypical dynamics do still play out. I have been fortunate enough though to surround myself with people who are amazingly creative, supportive and respectful of one another, regardless of sex or race. My boss particularly, Evan Eneman the founder of Flower Shop, is so supportive and allows my team so much room for experimentation.
LD: Often, I'm the only woman in the room at a meeting, but I am used to that from working in my previous roles. I do think this industry is much more open and female-friendly than most though.
Who are some women in the biz that you admire?
SS: This is the toughest question! There are so many..but a quick list:
Ariel Clark - a kickass lawyer making serious moves and advocating for this industry as well as her clients
MissGrass - go read / shop it alllll
Anja Charbonneau - LOVE everything about Broccoli
April Pride - an epic lady-potrepreneur with a super fun brand
My mom, Sherry - the inspiration behind my brand, Highland Pantry, and perfect example of the next generation of this industry / community
LD: There are so many women in this business I admire. I have heard the cannabis industry has one of the highest percentage of female executives and founders. I really admire Ariel Clark and Nicole Neubert of Clark Neubert Law Firm. They’re not only kickass attorneys but they do some amazing pro-bono work.
And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand who is co-sponsoring The Marijuana Justice Act.
What does it mean to you to be named a Green Queen?
SS: My green-dreams come true.
LD: What an honor - and I'm from Ireland so that's a double honor.
Want more from the cannabis culture? Check back on our Green Queens series in partnership with MISSBISH. We'll be featuring a woman in weed per week!