*This interview was brought to you as part of Torrey Holistics’s month-long educational series on cannabis and women’s wellness. Transcript has been edited for clarity and readability.
SHELBY: Hi everybody! It’s me, Shelby, Torrey Holistics’ Lead Cannabis Educator and I’m here today with Allison and Laura, founders of Her Highness. Hello ladies!
LAURA: Thanks for having us.
SHELBY: Absolutely, it’s a pleasure to have you. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about Her Highness and the mission behind the brand?
ALLISON: Sure, I can start. Laura and I founded Her Highness about almost five years ago now. The purpose of the brand was to create a whole suite of products designed to increase joy in women’s lives through cannabis, and to show women how cannabis fits into their lives instead of women trying to fit themselves into cannabis. All of our products are designed to create the type of high and the type of experience women are looking for. Sometimes there’s not even a high—sometimes it’s just pain relief or sexual pleasure without getting high. Our whole product line is designed to meet women where they are in their cannabis journey—either sophisticated users or [the] canna-curious walking into a dispensary for the first time—and also to create sort of an anchor for other women’s brands.
Our brand is all women’s products, but we also have products that address women in cannabis, like [with] our charitable mission. But we always point out when we open up a new store that because we’re not just a pleasure oil, an edible, or a pre-roll, we have an entire collection—other women’s brands with just one product can then come in and find a space in a dispensary.
SHELBY: I see. So what are your backgrounds and what led you into the cannabis space? What was your inspiration behind this women-focused brand?
LAURA: I think I’ll get into my background. I come from the fashion industry—I was one of the early internet pioneers. I launched a company called Girlshop, which was the first women’s shopping website online. In doing that, I really saw that there was this kind of white space—this potential to use this new medium in a new way. My mindset was in creating something that women didn’t quite know that they needed, but they did need it. So it kind of opened the door for women to go online and for there to be a reason for women to be online, and to give them that experience that fit into their lives.
That really led me into our mission in cannabis because I felt very similar, if I’m talking about why I chose to go into cannabis. I felt like this industry was really underserving women. Women are a big part of utilizing plant[s], but they weren’t quite connecting to it. I thought this needs to be done and women need to have kind of a ramp or a hand or a girlfriend that takes them through their journey of cannabis. Again, it was creating something that wasn’t there, but that Allison and I both knew needed to be there.
So, in creating this brand, it’s removing the stigma. We’re welcoming women into the industry and into a product assortment that a lot of them maybe are too shy to come into right away; maybe they need it to be around a while. But because of Her Highness, they actually do feel comfortable, and they’re jumping in right now. We’re taking them from stepping their toes into their journey, and [we’re] also recognizing women that are already comfortable and savvy [with cannabis] and creating amazing quality products for them.
SHELBY: Yeah, and Her Highness does that so well—making it really approachable. And you have your Pleasure Oil which doesn’t even have a high, is that right?
LAURA: Mhm, no high. The other thing that we wanted to do with our packaging was create something called the Highness Meter, which was another way to quickly communicate with women on expectations—how high am I going to get? And with the Pleasure Oil having a Highness Meter of zero, it really gets the point across that not all THC is about getting high, that you can have amazing experiences without that. We just want to put it all out there for women. Obviously there’s a lot of education that needs to happen, but with our packaging and with the relatability of it looking more like beauty packaging, having these words and messages that speak to them immediately is getting the point across to them in a quick, easy-to-digest way.
ALLISON: My background is interior design; I had a company that made interior design products and home accessories. What I was hoping [for] and what I love about Her Highness and bringing to the cannabis community is a higher level of design in cannabis. For people who love design in their lives and other aspects of their lives, there really wasn’t a lot in cannabis to choose from. So we created a suite of products—for example, I can show you some of our beautiful smoking accessories [like] marble rolling trays and beautiful grinders—to remove the stigma of cannabis. Because when we create products that we want to have out in the open and leave out in public, we’re normalizing cannabis and removing it from behind the curtain, which is the other important mission of the company—removing the stigma of female pleasure, from cannabis to sexual pleasure. Having women take ownership of their pleasure.
SHELBY: Absolutely. Torrey Holistics right now has launched a full month of women’s education—we call it our Women of Weed campaign—showing all the benefits that cannabis can offer to women in particular. Sexual pleasure, intimacy, PMS, endometriosis. So, you touched upon this, but what need does Her Highness fill in terms of women’s health and wellness?
ALLISON: I mean, literally every product in the line touches on women’s pleasure, health, and wellness. From our standpoint, one differentiator about Her Highness is [that] so many other women’s brands focus on female pain and trauma and anxiety, and we really focus on female pleasure. Because increasing your joy and your euphoria is a great way to address your pain, anxiety, and trauma as well. [It’s] just taking a different approach. So, for example, our cones that we use have a 40 millimeter crutch so you don’t burn your eyelashes and melt your gel manicure, and the smoke stays cool so you’re not hacking up your lungs.
From the beginning, whatever we put in our cone and all of our strains are very female-friendly. We go for euphoria, pain relief, and joy without munchies and dry mouth. We stay away from strains that lean there and try to encapsulate this memorable high experience. And most of our pre-rolls come in our beautiful box and include a lighter. We’re trying to say let’s make it a beautiful experience, make it really easy. But specifically I would say our Pleasure Oil really targets the female issue of not having great orgasms or wanting better orgasms. It has THC, CBD and the extract of a South American flower that when used in cooking makes your tongue pulse and salivate, so as a sexual topical—especially on your G Spot—it gives you this explosive orgasm.
All of our packaging is very female-friendly. We want women to be able to walk into the store and say, oh, that’s probably for me. I think it’s hard a lot of times for newcomers to ask for what they want in a dispensary setting, so it helps for the packaging to call out.
Then our formulas. All of our vape formulas are female-driven in the way we’ve made them. Our Giggle is Perma-Smile with Energy—how you want to feel when you’re out with your girlfriends. Easy on-ramp and off-ramp, no headband. And we increase the humulene so no munchies.
Then our High Priestess is just pure euphoria. It’s very high THC so we sort of go in your head; it’s more stonery. And that’s based on Trainwreck.
SHELBY: So you kind of have something for everyone.
ALLISON: Exactly, yep, all of them. Our mints—I could go through our whole collection. And, I don’t know if you’ve seen these, the Last Prisoner Project pre-rolls. Each package tells the story of a non-violent cannabis prisoner and 50% of our proceeds are split between the woman featured on the packaging and a fund for other female prisoners who are still awaiting release.
SHELBY: Yeah, that’s so important. Especially as we are celebrating Black History Month, given the racially-drawn harms of the War on Drugs. It’s important to be able to give back as cannabis industry members.
ALLISON: Yeah, and also to shine a light on women as female cannabis industry members. Because so often the money raised for cannabis prisoners goes to men— they’re the most vocal and they’re the most out there. But when a woman goes to prison for cannabis the family falls apart, the kids sometimes go to foster care or get broken apart. We really don’t talk about that when we talk about equity in cannabis. We just sort of group men and women together, but actually women need and deserve a higher call-out because when a woman goes to prison it affects more than just that one person.
SHELBY: That’s so interesting. I never really thought about that before but that is what you tend to see.
LAURA: Yeah, only 10% of prisoners are women so when all these efforts to help prisoners happen, women get lost in the whole effort. The other thing that’s really special about our mission is to literally give the money to the women. On the packaging you see their face and you read their story so there’s more of a connection, and that’s sort of how women roll and understand things. We really wanted to put the faces there and tell the stories, and wanted to give these women that we’re featuring the money. And we will go on to learn of other women who need the funds and we’ll continue our efforts with different women as recipients of the money that we’re raising. That was really important to us—we don’t want the money to get lost. So that was our way of doing that.
I did want to touch on the Pleasure Oil because you asked about women’s wellness. I think for us, and Allison spoke a lot about this too, we don’t consider ourselves a wellness brand per se, but our overarching mission is to make women feel good—whether it comes in the form of pleasure and enjoyment or conquering some pain. But what I found with the Pleasure Oil is that it wound up being this very empowering product that I don’t know we saw coming as much as it has surfaced. There are so many products for men that increase sexual feelings and for women, it’s almost embarrassing—the attention to that hasn’t been there. With the Pleasure Oil, it’s in a beautiful box, it’s a beautiful product, and women can put it on their vanity and not be embarrassed about it. It’s not a lube, it’s not pushed into this category that’s for men and for women—this is specifically for women. It just makes it different. Women are embracing it like crazy, like we couldn’t even have imagined because it truly works and it makes them feel good. And men as well are obviously interested in their women feeling well, so it’s opened the door to discussions and great feelings. It’s this empowering moment for women to take charge of their sexuality.
SHELBY: Well one could argue—intentional or not—elevating women’s pleasure is a form of health and wellness.
LAURA: Absolutely. We’re doing it in our way, this is our way of women’s wellness. Making them feel good.
SHELBY: So speaking from a broader perspective, how do you feel the cannabis industry is in terms of women’s ability to grow and succeed? Do you have any insights in comparison to other industries?
LAURA: First of all, it’s a difficult industry all around. And us, we’ve come from other industries that certainly have been easier. It’s interesting because cannabis was pegged as an opportunity for women early on and that didn’t really happen. Maybe that happened for a moment, but it was kind of taken away. It’s a friendly industry but by banding together with other women, I feel like it makes us strong. I think that we have a lot of potential to be huge players in the industry but I don’t think it’s naturally coming; I don’t think that we’ve had those open opportunities yet. It’s been hard. Definitely in the funding world, it’s a man’s world. I find that that’s difficult.
SHELBY: That’s very interesting. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that either, in terms of how it’s progressed—like it was maybe a little bit easier but now it’s fallen into the same routines of other industries. Allison, what were you going to say?
ALLISON: I was going to say that once Wall Street comes in, the landscape changes. So that caused a shift. But, like in all industries the cream does rise to the top, and what I’ve noticed about our company in this environment is that so many people in cannabis make whatever they make and then they look for a customer for it. Like, they either are growing their artisanal seeds or they make this particular bubble hash or they do whatever they’ve been doing, and then they look for a customer. But we identified our customer and then built a suite of products around Her. Just in any business in any industry that’s an easier way to enter a market and start a business.
I think that for cannabis and—take Business 101 when you look to start a business in any industry—people in cannabis already started on the backfoot because regulations are intense and evolving. There’s this whole haze of gray market/black market/legacy market moving into this other market on different levels. But I think it’s not really so much male/female. It’s a tough environment. As women who built our company from a very traditional standpoint in cannabis we’ve been able to do okay. I think we’ve been able to survive better than most companies because of our traditional framework.
SHELBY: Especially given the circumstances right now with COVID. The cannabis industry hasn’t quite taken as big of a hit as other industries.
ALLISON: Totally. And for us as a women’s product, more stores came out with delivery that weren’t rushing to deliver. For women, it’s hard to walk into a dispensary with a baby. You can’t. For women, delivery makes it easier to get cannabis. So to have more stores jumping on the delivery bandwagon makes it easier for women to have access in a more private way without worrying about childcare. To that end, we’ve gotten better visibility than we would have had just hoping someone sees us in a store.
LAURA: The delivery is important, but even more so is that stores have gone online, so their menus are online. And women like to research product. So now we’re online and women can read about us and then make a decision, then maybe go into a dispensary or do curbside pickup or delivery. I think that aspect—that dispensaries were forced to put menus online—was really helpful for women but also evolved the whole retail part of cannabis, just putting it online.
I wanted to jump back a little bit more—you asked the question about women, and although most of our investors (and certainly our main investor) are men, I think it’s truly recognized now that the women’s market is very underserved. So the men that have supported us support women completely. It’s really nice, even though we’ve talked about there being a lot more men in the industry now, the support for women is truly there. For us, being unapologetic, completely out there for women—which you can’t say about a lot of brands—we’ve gotten a lot of attention for being that bold and [we’ve gotten] support from men, which is really nice.
SHELBY: There are a lot of women who may be interested in cannabis but are a little bit scared or hesitant to visit a dispensary their first time. Is there anything you’d like to share with someone like that?
LAURA: I would say brands like Her Highness are key in that scenario because really what you need is a trusted brand and a company that you believe in. You know where they’re coming from, you know the fact that we’re women behind the brand, two women—just like these women who are trying cannabis for the first time. We open up our arms, they can email us—we get emails all the time from women. You need to find your people, as we always do. We have women who start with CBD as a first education on cannabis and then they try a low-dose THC product. But my number one advice is to find the brand. Because once you find the brand, then you’re comfortable trying the product. I think the problem walking into a dispensary is that it’s really overwhelming. There are so many brands to choose from, there are so many products, and products that you wouldn’t even know existed. Who would know that there’s a Pleasure Oil? Who would know to walk into a dispensary and ask for that? I feel like there’s a lot of research. For me, having access to legal cannabis for the first time, I would just do a ton of research and find my brand.
SHELBY: Right, and going back to what you were saying about the shift towards this online menu and ability to shop online for your cannabis products, it definitely allows you to have the space to do more research. Which, if you’re like me, you appreciate.
LAURA: I think also women don’t know what their dose is. And that’s a huge problem because you’re buying a product and you don’t know how it’s going to affect you. You really just have to try, but you have to trust first.
ALLISON: To Laura’s point, a product like our mints, which are 2.5 milligrams, are a great way for women to go into a dispensary and try for the first time. Because 2.5 milligrams, even if you’re having a glass of wine and you try one—you’ll be okay. You’re not going to be super wasted, but you can tell. And it’s a great way to layer and wade into cannabis. Especially women now who are making the transition from Xanax and alcohol to cannabis, because so many more women are trying it now, low-dose edibles are a great way to come in.
SHELBY: We have quite a few women who work in our offices and we like to throw around the term “mommy mints.” They’ve got to have their mommy mints.
LAURA: [Laughs] That’s why we made these. They’re our mommy mints. And they’re so discreet. You can just pop one in. We always put a little descriptor on all our products, and this one we call Highly Me, But Better. I’ve found that if I’m a little anxious or stressed and I just do 2.5, I don’t feel high—I just feel like myself, but I can deal. And that’s important for mothers, absolutely. We have so much going on.
SHELBY: If someone wanted to learn more about Her Highness, where could they go to do that?
LAURA: Our website, HerHighness.com. It’s chock full of information about all of our products and all of the COAs are accessible there. You can research, you can learn about Allison and I and what our mission is. And then our social media—
SHELBY: —Yes, I love your Instagram—
LAURA: —which is HerHighnessNYC. Our Instagram and our Twitter are super active. You can find us there.
SHELBY: Well thank you both so much for taking the time to talk about Her Highness and your backgrounds, very interesting. It’s great to see two living examples of strong women in cannabis who are really benefiting from cannabis themselves. So I appreciate that.
LAURA: Thank you. And we truly appreciate Torrey Holistics. We talk about support and Torrey has supported us and decided to bring the line to the store and we’re truly appreciative, so thank you.
SHELBY: Well thank you so much. I’m Shelby from Torrey Holistics, and we’ll see you next time.
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