An Advertising Creative Gone Rogue
Talks Cannabis, Food, & Tech
Working Not Working
WNW Member #2726 Monica Lo is a New York City advertising creative gone rogue. For starters, she relocated to San Francisco.
"I paid off all my student loans, quit my cushy ad job, and took two months to check-off my NYC bucket list and moved to SF to dabble in the food and tech industry. This was also the time where I rediscovered my passion for cannabis. "
It's clear that Monica has found her niche. She's the creator of Sous Weed (high-end, sous vide cannabis cuisine made simple), co-founder of Weedhorn, co-creator of Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, and a photo contributor to Stock Pot Images.
In our interview below, Monica talks about the misconceptions of cannabis, and how each of the above projects shifts the conversation and sheds light on the plant's many benefits. "There are new startups popping up everyday in this budding cannabis industry who are struggling to brand, market, and legitimize their companies. As we strive to gain mainstream acceptance, the stereotypical stoner visuals like boobs, buds, and butts just won’t cut it anymore. We need to break stereotypes and elevate our image to reflect the true cannabis user’s lifestyle. Older people are starting to turn to cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals, more women are using cannabis for menstrual pains, and lots of beginners are starting to get curious—these are people we need to appeal to."
P.S. Tonight (Tuesday), we'll be hosting a Drinking Not Drinking happy hour in San Francisco. You'll have the chance to hang out with Monica, as well as some other badass WNW Members and their slightly less badass friends. Check your inboxes for the link.
Tell us a little bit about your creative background. Who is Monica & how did she get here?
Hi! I’m Monica. I graduated from Pratt Institute and built my career as an art director at agencies like Publicis, TBWA\Chiat\Day, OgilvyOne, and kbs+. But my heart has always been in food and photography.
After eight years in New York, I was at a point where I needed a change. I had an opportunity to move to San Francisco for some freelance work. I paid off all my student loans, quit my cushy ad job, and took two months to check-off my NYC bucket list and moved to SF to dabble in the food and tech industry. This was also the time where I rediscovered my passion for cannabis.
You’re involved with several cannabis-based companies and projects, like Weedhorn, Stock Pot Images, and have created your own, like Sous Weed. How’d you find this niche?
I learned a lot about the industry from my roommate who is a cannabis attorney. I was also using edibles as an aid to sleep through the night and relieve my back pain. I had discovered a whole new world of tasty, effective, and non-habit forming treats but the packaging needed a lot of help--the information hierarchy was a mess. There are new startups popping up everyday in this budding cannabis industry who are struggling to brand, market, and legitimize their companies. As we strive to gain mainstream acceptance, the stereotypical stoner visuals like boobs, buds, and butts just won’t cut it anymore.
At the same time, I connected with Ophelia Chong, the founder of Stock Pot Images, via Twitter. We started chatting about the obvious need for accurate representation of the industry and all you can find on any stock image site are images that convey a negative message. It was a market that needed to be filled. There are people in need and living a lesser quality of life because we haven't yet legalized this miraculous plant. To me, cannabis isn't about getting high, it's about getting people the care they deserve and safe access to it. I joined Ophelia at Stock Pot Images as a contributing photographer to educate and de-stigmatize through my photography work.
How did you get involved with Weedhorn? How does the platform and your background in photography, art direction, and design help build Weedhorn for success?
Fast forward a couple months, I had a passion project blog called Sous Weed which marries my love for food, technology, and cannabis. I make low-dose edibles that are perfect for the beginner that uses a discreet, efficient, and scentless method called sous vide. Rick Bakas from WeedHorn found me (yet again) on Twitter and we started chatting about a partnership with WeedHorn.
Rick also came from a marketing and design background. He spent eight years at NIKE developing the brand, he was the lead designer on the NFL’s Denver Bronco’s identity, as well as the creator of the Oregon Ducks identity. He started WeedHorn as a mainstream cannabis media brand focusing on education and entertainment around all the good things cannabis can provide. We hit it off and Rick pulled me in as a co-founder.
Over the next few years, cannabis could be legalized by the federal government. Our goal is to serve up the most interesting cannabis stories from around the web for every kind of weed enthusiast. From the anti-pot parent who wants to treat their child suffering from seizures to people who've never tried cannabis, but want to live a healthier life in a state where it's now legal.
We want our readers to be entertained, empowered, and educated as legalized cannabis is the fastest growing industry in America. Fast Company has called WeedHorn the 'BuzzFeed of Weed' and Branding Magazine featured WeedHorn as one of the companies successfully rebranding cannabis. When the state of Oregon began selling legal recreational marijuana, Portland's NBC news turned to WeedHorn for coverage.
Together, our marketing, design, and art direction chops makes us a powerhouse team as we enter this movement.
Do you think cannabis is still a taboo subject? What steps do you take to change public perception of cannabis users?
Cannabis is definitely still a taboo subject but we are working hard to change that. Many medical benefits are starting to come to light with more and more research. Cannabis is saving the lives of children with debilitating epilepsy, it can be used as a preventative treatment for diabetes, it’s also an effective way to manage pain if you don’t want to be on harsh opiates… these are just a few conditions in which cannabis can aid but since we haven’t yet legalized this benign plant, people are dying. We need to educate ourselves and others on the health and therapeutic benefits of cannabis and we need to strive to end all prohibitions associated with such use.
What are some of the challenges of breaking cannabis culture into the mainstream?
As the cannabis industry shifts gears to prepare for legalization, companies are scrambling to differentiate themselves in the market with a more mainstream and accessible creative direction. Perceptions are changing and depictions of sexy nurses, boobs, buds, and lazy stoner kids just won't cut it anymore. We need to break stereotypes and elevate our image to reflect the true cannabis user’s lifestyle. Older people are starting to turn to cannabis instead of pharmaceuticals, more women are using cannabis for menstrual pains, and lots of beginners are starting to get curious—these are people we need to appeal to. Edibles are the easiest point of entry but you can’t give an entire 120mg brownie to a beginner, that’s just going to turn them off for good. We need to start seeing better packages, lower beginner doses, and not to sound like a broken record… more education!
You’re the creator of Sous Weed, a high-end cannabis cuisine blog. What’s one of your favorite Sous Weed recipes?
I created Sous Weed while I was at Nomiku, a company creating the smallest sous vide device for precise cooking. I found that the sous vide method lends itself perfectly to cannabis cooking because of the temperature control and since the cannabis is sealed in a jar underwater, there’s no smell. I make lightly medicated meals to enhance my day, manage my chronic lower back pain, and reduce stress. I figured, I should just document it! I love this simple infused olive oil recipe. You can then use the oil in your recipes or salad dressings. And if you’re hosting a brunch, I will definitely be bringing my Bloody Mary Jane mix.
What do you do when not working?
I’m usually at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market every Saturday morning, then cooking and testing out recipes on my friends.
Sativa, Indica, or Hybrid?
I micro-dose sativa throughout the day! That’s how I’m so effective!
Who are some WNW Members whose work you admire and why?
Romain Laurent is my favorite photographer and director to work with. We worked together on a Hilton HHonors photo shoot with Michael Phelps for the London Olympics. He became a great and supportive friend and I admire his work so much!