April Pride is a serial creative entrepreneur who spent time in the worlds of architecture, fashion, and design before finding her way to cannabis. In 2016, she launched Van der Pop, a woman focused brand offering stylish accessories to store, smoke, and share cannabis. April soon realized the need for education and quickly added an education division to Van der Pop. The company quickly became one of North America’s most recognized cannabis brands for women and was acquired in 2018, by Canopy Growth Corporation, the world’s largest cannabis company. In March 2019, April co-founded Of Like Minds (OLM) with Ellen Scanlon. With OLM, April continues her work educating women on the potential of cannabis for their personal health and happiness.
April is a graduate of the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and earned her M.A. at Parsons School of Design.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
Over the course of a decade, I’ve worked on my own to launch 4 businesses. My first two businesses combined and became Van der Pop, a women’s cannabis lifestyle company, which I successfully sold to CanopyGrowth, North America’s largest cannabis company. A client of my third business was the executive assistant to the CEO of cannabis private equity firm Privateer Holdings. She relayed, “I see all of the decks. I see all the deals. Nobody is doing anything for women or anything with design-forward thinking.” Well, we were at dinner and the owner of the restaurant – who is a friend – asked us what we were so intensely speaking about over our meal. To which my client immediately replied, “I’m trying to convince her to launch a luxury cannabis accessories brand!” Said restaurant owner offered to provide seed capital on the spot. Voila! I entered the cannabis industry. Now, here we are at my 5th business- Of Like Minds.
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?
With Of Like Minds, out of the gate, we began working on our first podcast. I’ve never worked in Audio and, really, Audio as an industry is in its start-up phase. So is cannabis. So we have a start-up that straddles two start-up industries. As a result we limit the amount of start-ups we work with at one time. Too many people still figuring it all out!
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?
I launched my first cannabis company to cater to consumers who would describe themselves as design forward – not gender specific. However, all of the brand’s messaging was really speaking to women – as noted by my husband about 6 weeks after we launched. Thanks to his, ahem, honest feedback we quickly moved beyond the aesthetics and the high. We made a quick yet vital pivot to serve women as a community of cannabis consumers who are curious but have little information.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
Basically, it went like this: If you’re in weed, why aren’t you more relaxed?
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are, honestly, too many to name and I hope I’ve adequately expressed my sincere appreciation as I – thanks to their help – was able to continue moving forward.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Of Like Minds (OLM) is the company I co-founded in March 2019, after departing Canopy Growth’s post-acquisition of Van der Pop. Given my design background, I knew cannabis needed an education solution. OLM is a cannabis education platform for women I founded with my college friend Ellen Scanlon. Its mission is to provide women with the information they need to understand the legal cannabis market and the plant’s potential. We want every woman to feel confident in her choices around cannabis.
We want to help women learn How to Do the Pot, so on November 19th, our new seasonal narrative podcast named exactly that debuts for the first time. I’m hosting How to Do the Pot,and we will aim to answer some of the most common questions women secretly Google about cannabis. The show will inform, educate and demystify cannabis. The first season will focus on topics relevant to the health and happiness of women such as pregnancy, sleep and auto-immune conditions. Listeners will hear from a diverse array of industry experts and professionals.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. 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: Support women’s choice to work in the industry.
b)Companies: Appoint a minimum of one woman on corporate boards.
c) Society: Normalize cannabis.
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.
- Prior CPG marketing works for the procedural, yet that type of marketing remains ineffective in speaking to women who consume or may consume cannabis. Many women don’t want anyone to know they consume cannabis which fundamentally changes the relationship between the customer and product.
- There are marketing strategies & campaigns from other industries that work really well in cannabis – if you understand the consumer to leverage the right blueprint.
- The industry – especially among female professionals – is rooted in and works best w/ collaboration. For example, my company is leveraging a network of women-led cannabis brands to raise awareness for our podcast, How to Do the Pot. We’re leaning on G2G- girlfriend to girlfriend-marketing to let our listeners in on the brands we think have amazing products and people. And these brands are telling their loyal customers about the podcast through their channels. We all win!
- Consumers are still lacing up and brands are in a full-out sprint to the finish. Consumer acceptance is happening quickly, but the state by state restrictions make it difficult for brands to gain traction in traditional ways.
- Be a consumer. If you don’t understand the benefits and challenges re: consumption, you cannot effectively serve your consumer.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- Cannabis as an industry touches every part of our culture – there is no more exciting place to be working in 2019.
- The best stories in cannabis aren’t being told, and we’re really excited to share them and change hearts & minds about the plant.
- Women are uniquely positioned to benefit physically, mentally and emotionally from learning to consume cannabis in very customized way. We want to help them figure it out and share all that we’ve learned.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry?
- Racial & gender inequity in license holders, business ownership & capital sources.
- Brand promises related to product efficacy w/o adequate research to substantiate claims.
- A lack of product testing & research prior to mass distribution directly to consumers.
If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Pay attention to how we got here, be a student of the industry.
- Learn from watching Canada and each U.S. state legalize. We’re on a path to federal legalization that may not be linear or particularly smooth.
- Aim for gender parity; it’s a new industry, let’s make it 50/50.
In expanding on point 2, here’s how the industry could work with governments in furthering legalization: Similar to Canada, I’d recommend industry leaders work with state or local governments and form a task force. These task forces would talk to countries or other states where cannabis is legal and ask pragmatic questions about their implementation and challenges. Additionally, the task force would assess public opinion on what that particular population is ready for in terms of how much or how little regulation is desired. Canada learned it had to start with tight regulations and build trust with consumers. Doing legalization right takes time
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? Normalization and Safety.
Legitimacy breeds normalization. A key factor in normalization is legalization. Once in the industry, I was struck by how little regulatory oversight came to be until after markets transitioned from medical into Adult Use. Regulation produces a safer, more quality product for consumers,
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?
Of course not. Cigarettes and cannabis are not the same product. Cannabis has shown enormous potential to solve chronic health care-related issues.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
This quote I feel is relevant in this second half of my life as I start to recognize the ways in which power can have a positive impact. From the beginning, the immense responsibility of participating in a controversial emerging market was clear. And from the beginning, my professional and personal communities have empowered me to help shape the messaging around responsible cannabis use. I’m not an inexperienced, naïve adult but I was an inexperienced, naïve young adult. The stripes earned along the way give me credibility and confidence as a person who only wants to help others consume cannabis with the best possible results.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Support a person’s choice to consume cannabis without exception.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!