As the cannabis industry grows and more product is being produced than ever, packaging waste is one of the second-order consequences that a few companies are tackling including Stori.
If you need help with your cannabis business, then please reach out to us today at: https://greengrowthcpas.com/get-started/ or call 800-674-9050.
In this interview, we chat with Karina Karassev about her team’s journey to reduce waste and improve product shelf life at home.
Here are some helpful points to hop to in the interview:
- What is Stori?
- What was the genesis of this product?
- How Product Hunt helped with Feedback
- An app to track your cannabis
- Biggest challenges of developing a product in the cannabis industry
- Why choose to innovate in the cannabis industry with little experience?
- Issues with Canadian Regulations (Province by Province Laws)
- Preserving your values and creating products
- Think BEYOND pretty packaging
All right. So with us today is Karina COO of Stori. Welcome to the show Karina. Thanks for having us good deal. So Karina for people that don’t know you, your business, your product, can you kind of give us the 30,000 foot look at Stori, and then we’ll go ahead and dive in after that.
Sure. A Stori is part of RCU, responsible cannabis news, and we’re a cannabis education company. We believe in fighting cannabis stigma through education and conversation. Uh, so we have three different products that are, um, for the public, for the employers and the most exciting one for home for the consumers, which is storing the canvas storage products.
Gotcha. And so focusing on education, tell me a little bit about the education side of things real quick before we get into the whole Stori. Cause I’m really excited to jump into Stori. I see you guys are popping off on product hunt and doing great things. So this will sit on the other two sides of RCU, which are sous stands for responsible cannabis use. I’m assuming. Yeah. Correct. Cool. So let’s talk about the education side.
Yeah. We started back in 2018 because we saw a gap in the marketplace that real education about, um, the laws and what’s okay. And what’s not okay. Is missing out of the equation. Everybody’s talking about turpenes, which is relevant information, but nobody’s talking about what we call the unsexy information of cannabis. So we created a site called Ken I know.com, which led all the recreational and medical cannabis laws in Canada and us. And what we did is, uh, rants and things and ask people questions without any awards about cannabis and cannabis, uh, cannabis on work cannabis on the road. And we expected to get 10,000 participants. We ended up getting over 70,000 participants and surveys. Uh, one of our most popular one was cannabis work. This is why, what led us to create. We got a lot of about 15,000 people to participate in that survey. And 80% of people said that they’d want kids, some work education, which led us to our next product. I’ll call Ken ads, which we created for employers and employees, really to address people. Managers, employees don’t know how to deal with cannabis at work cause it’s new to everybody. So this is the idea of get that conversation again, started and had to pay people to reduce the stigma.
That’s great. Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of stigma in the industry. It’s hard to find talent people that, Hey, you’re in the cannabis industry, you kind of have like this, you know, black X on the back, you know, you can’t get a job anywhere else or, you know, employers won’t hire you even though it’s legal. So that’s a great way to kind of start that conversation, facilitate that conversation and give a framework for people to discuss again, this taboo, where to kind of stigmatic product out there. Good deal. So then, all right, let’s jump into Stori here. So tell us a little bit about Stori and what this actually is. So the viewers can understand what we’re gonna be talking about over the next.
So start inside cannabis storage products. That’s a far home. This is nice. So what it comes with is, um, six color-coded pods and tubes. So the pods are meant to store seven grams of cannabis inside and the tubes are made to really color match and color code, the product that you have in here. So the idea is you’re no longer just buying weed or cannabis, you’re buying different varieties. So it’s the same as why you’re buying a lawyer. You’re buying this harass and you want to make sure you remember which product you actually have and this one you enjoy. Um, and it’s happened to most consumers is they have a joint leftover and they forget what’s one. It is, or they are rolling to go. Uh, that’s why the color coding system works well. It’s a color-coded system. Uh, that’s smart. Um, what we made, um, is the tubes and the pods. We didn’t want to make another plastic product that’s out there. That’s what we’re actually trying to avoid. Uh, we make them huddles food, grade aluminum for the pods and the tubes. And this is obviously we just want it to make it sturdy. It is made out of plastic. This serves as a rolling tray.
This comes with, uh, this room for your accessories. It will come with a whites, um, dry erase marker to really label your, to really label your products. Because I don’t know if I’m sure you’ve seen the actual legal products that you don’t really know what’s happening. These are the ones that are, so this really helps you put the information on here. And, uh, most smart part of it is it comes with a companion, uh, on your phone, which you can download on your Stori.com, which helps you record again, your inventory tracker preferences, um, and really discover regional products. As you know, different products are available in different regions. If you find in Detroit versus us in Toronto, it’s completely different LPs. So this helps you discover different products that are available.
Oh, that’s, that’s super slick. That’s like kind of the, uh, the Apple-esque product of storage out there. You see like very cheap stuff out there, but this is kind of the super ultra premium for essentially the kind of sewer of cannabis, or even subpar from the kind of sewer, someone who just has a, uh, well, it’s a fanatic weed kind of person that just has lots of different things. You know, you go to the store, you don’t buy just one thing you usually buy and walk with a couple. So it seems like a really smart idea.
And the idea is it’s meant to not only store the dry flour, it’s meant to store your edibles in there. We really want it to move away from plastic. So it’s iPod edibles that are bought in one of the plastic containers and you can taste it on the actual product. So the idea is we really want to work with LPs in the long run to, for them to reduce the amounts of packaging that they’re doing. And it really simplify their packaging. So one consumers bring it at home, they can just pack it up into their Stori. And that’s where it’s stored. And again, food safe, aluminum, that’s not leading plastic in your system.
Super smart, super smart. So kind of what’s the Genesis of this idea. I mean, there’s lost opportunities. We know that we need new types of packaging and storage, but you know, specifically for Stori, what was the Genesis of bringing this product to market or trying to bring this product to market, which is now successfully getting its legs under it? I think it’s coming out and we said, December 20th, it’s shipping. I think
So, uh, main idea is we really stand behind again, fighting stigma. So we wanted to give people a conversation starter at home, similar to the wine that I mentioned, but how it all started. It’s a simple Stori. Um, when we started, when cannabis was legalized, we were buying different products and one of our counters just ended up being taken over by all the different packaging. And it’s us, anybody who’s dealt with cannabis it’s and you have a bunch of accessories and you have papers. So you needed a place in your house for this now. Um, so that’s where the pods really came over. Uh, came with idea. Then, uh, I had a Stori. I, I went to an event with my girlfriends who don’t live in downtown Toronto and are not up to speed. And cannabis was legalized. Uh, we smoked a joint before we went on to theater.
They were very concerned. Um, if this is okay, this is not okay in Ontario, it’s allowed. Uh, so we were fine with it. And then I had, we didn’t finish it and I had a Roach leftover and I looked at it and I didn’t want to throw it on the streets. I didn’t want to put it in my first. Uh, so that was kind of the, where we understood the problem and what I ended up moving and is putting it in my first, which Avery, my first I walked theater and it smelled. So that’s why we created the tubes to be air tight as well, to really eliminate that smell and not ruin people’s purses. And so you can have your hands
Super smart, yay. It’s best to solve. I think the best businesses are those such that you are the target customer and you solve your own problem because you know that you’re solving a real problem and not just making something up that, Hey, this could be something big. You know, this is actually a true pain. I totally understand and feel the empathy of, you know, looking at a countertop full of plastic, you know, containers, you know, and you’re like, man, I feel like so wasteful that I have all these, you wish you could bring it back to the store and recycle it. It’s not a real thing. You can’t, at least in the state side, you can’t do that. So I think Stori’s a great solution to one of the biggest problems is yet, what do you do when you don’t finish everything? Or if you want to keep,
And the same idea, like a week, continue to reader re iterate on the problem, uh, speaking to different consumers. So a lot of my friends are moms. A lot of my friends do consume characters and they’re hiding it in the most random places in their houses to make sure that their toddlers don’t get to it. So that’s why we’ve made everything to be child safe, to make sure that they can’t get at it. And you feel comfortable. It’s beautiful not to leave it in your living room, but you know, like your topper is not going to go with students on campus, which is, would be the problem.
Yeah. That would be a big problem that for sure. So let’s then kind of switch gears and talk about the people behind Stori. Are there designers this all done? In-house have you hired people out? Tell us about the team behind Stori, if you could.
Sure. Uh, it’s a small but mighty team. So there’s three co-founders it’s myself, um, Ashton and Eylea date. Um, I come from a financial services background, so I’m a CPA by trade, um, and spend my entire career there. But when, um, cannabis was legalized in Canada, he does an opportunity to do something different. And I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Um, Aliyah and Ashton come from a tech. So they were at an agency before and then they were a Shopify. Uh, so they really bring all of that, um, into stories. So that’s why there’s the app. That’s why it’s designed well. So that’s really convenient for us to have that on the team. Um, our industrial designer that we work with, he’s also actually now at Shopify he’s, um, he’s originally from Ottawa. He won a bunch of awards and we were lucky to have him design Stori. Um, and then we have, um, uh, three other team members who are more doing, uh, either development or marketing for us.
Gotcha, great. So it sounds like a super powerhouse team, small, nimble, but able to really get the job and get the product over the finish line. So fantastic on that. And then let’s talk a little bit about product time. How, how did that go? I saw you guys were like the number two product of the week, number five of the month. That’s a pretty exciting, but also I’ve launched some stuff on product hunt. It can be a really nerve wracking too, when you get yourself out in front of everybody. So tell us a little bit how product hunt went.
It went really well. We were, um, we were surprised ourselves on how well it went. It was a really good day of, I don’t know if you’ve heard the Shopify rain that they do every time you have on the sale. Uh, so it was a great day when we launched, um, we got a lot of sales from it, but the best piece that we got from that is a lot of feedback from the community. So if you look through the comments, people are super supportive. They’re like big, got somebody who’s thinking about removing the plastic out of the environment. Uh, what we also received is you wouldn’t believe the something developers actually spend us. Uh, they probably spend probably four or five hours developing, uh, just the layout of how the option work. You guys should think about this super engaged, really trying to support us. So that one really well. And we continue to get a lot of traction from there
Deal. So that kind of brings us to the next start. Let’s talk about the app with somewhat the functionality, the features, the benefits. I saw a lot of cool stuff. I’ll let you kind of hit on a few things and I have some questions as well to dig in on that. So tell us something about the app here. So the main piece of
That is really discovering the products. You don’t really understand. It just says sativa and this percentage on the box, when you actually put, and you track it into your inventory, we will have product information that gives you more about the product and more information about it. And then you can track that preference as well. Hey, I liked this thing. I didn’t like this. And again, time of the day. Um, so right now it’s functionality is for inventory and discovery of different products. Our longterm goal is when we’re talking to the retailers on a reseller program is to be able to offer offers through the app if, uh, if that, if that consumer bought it from the retailer. So that’s really our longterm game about us having really one app for product discovery, product purchasing, um, and inventory. So you don’t want to be looking at three different apps when you’re using your cannabis. Uh, so that’s really the ideal,
Super smart. I saw one of the, um, the things was like a recommendation engine. Is that something you guys have on this as well?
Yes. And we’re still working on that piece. Uh, cause I don’t think anybody’s have figured out the recommendation. You can get super unique, but yeah, that’s the idea. Um, I truly believe that it’s, and also served the medical community, not the rec community because medical community has been really overlooked. And I think that’s more of a global because that’s what happens in any of the legalization medical goals first, then it’s decriminalized, then it repres legalized. So I think tracking preferences in your experiences and recommendations is, would be key for the medical community. So we are working towards that.
Awesome. That’s great. Yeah. The medical community does seem to kind of catch the tail end of the stick here. Once rec goes, it’s like everybody, all the producers pretty much just shift their Purdue production over to rec and yeah, you could see supplies for us squeezes with th with the medical market. So it’s good that you’re looking at both of these markets and making sure that everybody gets their, their day that they can actually have in use this product. So really good on that. Let’s talk about product development here and building a business, you know, in cannabis, you need to talk about the unsexy parts of the industry. You know, you being a CPA, you can only guide guests that, Hey, we’re dealing with the unsexy parts of GreenGrowth CPAs. No one wants to talk about taxes. People don’t want to talk about education things to the, to a certain extent, they’d love to learn how to build this business. So let’s kinda talk about, you know, it’s not sunshine and rainbows and cannabis all the time. There are challenges, there are significant challenges and friction and building a business. So let’s talk about maybe one of the biggest challenges in developing a product or a service or a business in the cannabis industry and how you guys have overcome that challenge.
Yeah. Very good question. Uh, tons of challenges when you figure out which one we want to focus on. Um, so I think for our candidates course, um, we had a challenge that I think a lot of it is really COVID related at this point. Uh, the product was built. I, we talked to a bunch of employers, uh, the product was ready to launch. It was ready in February, and then COVID happened. And guess who our target audience is for all the four courses for employers. It’s the HR professionals who are now dealing with how to like put, put people to work on home. What do I do? So cannabis kind of went, um, on the back, back-burner from them, but we’re seeing it pick up and people, in my opinion, people just want to talk about something else other than COVID at this point. So we’re more of a pickup.
Um, then on Stori, what is challenging is, uh, the regulations and marketing regulations. So we are not a cannabis friends. We are not an LP. We’re not a retailer. We are just an accessory to, uh, to cannabis. Uh, as much as cannabis is legalized at a national level in Canada, it Facebook and Google still restricts us in many ways. And the way we’re able to advertise, which is obviously a challenge to the entire industry, it’s we can’t, none of the companies can connect with their consumers in a meaningful way, which is really the challenge that we are trying to solve with Stori is this is a not only a physical device that you have in front of you, that has function. That’s what we’re trying to build. Some of the app to have licensed producers and retailers have that real strong connection with their customers, because that is a huge challenge.
You can do billboards, you can do Facebook ads. What can companies do in this, in this environment? So this is what we’re trying to solve. Our latest one is the challenges with stories. So, uh, building a new product, uh, is always difficult from design to manufacturing, layer that on top with the pandemics. No, traveli, um, I was supposed to spend some time overseas for a couple of months in the summertime, just ensure our production goes smoothly for psych would not do that. Um, so we did have a delay. We were expected to launch in August and ship it out to customers. We are now, uh, early December. Um, what do we actually did? This was a tough call for us to make as a startup. What we decided to do is in September. So whoever purchased the products before we are giving them $10 back a month for every month that we are delayed because we want to make sure that customers trust us.
And we’re just, uh, we are reputable brands. So we were super surprised by some of the comments, again, that we received in the feedback that we received. When, when you send out that email to our customers, a lot of them said, don’t worry about it. I know where you guys are going through. We don’t want your $10 box, just keep working on Stori and bring it home to us as soon as you can, which was, again, it was a super stressful time for us, uh, trying to bring it home. And again, it’s just that the customers that we have and the patient that we have with seeing those emails as super awesome,
A hundred percent, it’s great to get that positive reaction back from the community. And I think it’s a very upstanding move. You see a lot of new products launch, or you see them on, you know, Indiegogo or any other kind of labels, crowdsourcing platforms, and it’s delay after delay and they never mostly tracks, never get across the finish line. It’s great that you’re actually putting kind of the fire under your team. Like, you know, look, we’re losing money every day, not just on missed out sales, but we’re giving to giving money back. So I think that’s a great way to build that credibility with your, with your user base and kind of creating that aligned effort with the team to, Hey, we really need to put this over the finish line. So super smart idea. I love that. So, uh, let’s talk, I mean, what’s pricing like for this product here. I mean, it’s super beautiful, super, super nice looking. What does it run for someone, uh, to get a Stori
In Canada? The MSRP is two 50 in the us, on our Shopify store. It’s two 20.
Nice. Hey, that’s pretty affordable. It’s seems like the pilot lifetime product too. You know, I’ve had those little, these like trays from Ikea for like 10 years. They’ve lasted forever by the best ROI I’ve had, but I would love to have something more beautiful. Again, you can keep it on at your house if less having kids, if you don’t have kids, it’s actually seems like a nice piece to be, keep out. And it actually a cover site conversation starting piece if you’ve got it on the, in the middle of there. So I like that. That’s really good. Um, let’s talk about, you know, why the cannabis industry from talking about the team. It seems like no one has a specific, um, background in cannabis or like an extended background in cannabis, shall I say? So with RCU and Stori, why jump into the cannabis industry aside from, Hey, it’s legal and there’s an opportunity. Is there an affinity or a passion behind the cannabis movement from your team?
Um, so I, my background, I was at sunlight finance, where we were the first insurance company in Canada who allows medical cannabis coverage through your benefits. So when lights did that, it was a big deal internally for us to be able to offer that. Um, and I got really curious more about the plans and more about how the industry really works. And that’s why from the employer perspective, I’m super keen in getting it into every employers educational curriculum because it needs to be addressed. So, um, medical cannabis is there. Patients are taking medical cannabis. It’s okay if I’m taking other drugs and showing up to work, but medical cannabis really has that stigma. So that idea of breaking that was really interesting to me that it’s okay, that this is happening and we need to, and again, it’s not about, um, fear-mongering, if you smoke cannabis, you’re gonna, uh, you’re gonna have an accident.
It’s more of an inclusivity conversation. So your policies would, a lot of employers did, was they just put a comma behind alcohol and their substance, uh, mental policies to include cannabis, but that’s not the point nobody’s taking all the hall for medicinal purposes. People are taking cannabis for medicinal purposes. They just don’t talk about it because they feel like their manager, okay. Their manager might have a stigma on them. They may get all the awesome projects now, but if you’re a manager, find this out, you might not get the awesome projects later or worse get fire. So I think that for not for me, was the passion of this is more of an exclusivity. And I think this needs to be more out there, um, from my whole founders, I think a lot of it was, we saw a lot of tech missing and a lot of, um, yeah, a lot of tech missing industry. So I don’t think anybody has full experience in cannabis, but I think bringing, uh, e-commerce into this and bringing design that’s, uh, actually easily understood the information, making information easy to understand for, uh, consumers is what drove them to. Um, but yeah, I think that’s, yeah,
That makes sense. And yeah, the Stori about, um, you know, there’s not a lot of tech in cannabis, so there’s, you know, it’s, we’re like in the 2002, three, four, five of the, kind of the tech, you know, upswing in the cannabis industry right now. And yeah, there’s so many great products being, being made and there’s so much great frameworks out there to build these pro these tech products on. So I’m excited to see how this all opens up, uh, for the tech side of things. And it’s great that you’re a pioneer you and your team are a pioneers in that specific aspect. And not just going after the easy low-hanging fruit and it’s not easy, shall I say, but low-hanging fruit POS tracking trays, you know, actually going after a consumer product that, Hey, it may take a little bit more to get going, but once it grabs is going to be a highly desired product.
And I think that it’s very indicative by using your product time did pretty well and everything, all the pre-sales so kudos to the team on that and being very thoughtful. And forward-thinking on that. So let’s talk about maybe like, what is one of the things that you wish you would have known about the cannabis industry when you get before you got started? You know, there’s so much to learn, but there’s probably like a few nuggets that when you look at, you know, the industry and you get into it, you go through some friction and it’s like, man, I wish I would’ve known as would have saved me so much pain and heartache and frustration. What are some of those kind of early things that you wish you would’ve known that you now know?
Yeah. Um, I think the most challenging one that we go through is the different regulations, even province by province, um, which are challenging to us. So Canada is, you would think it’s legalized on a national level. So the rules should be the same across the board. They’re not. So for example, um, in BC you need a marketing license in order to market any cannabis products we live in Ontario, we did a no that piece of it and Ontario, you don’t need a license to do this. So it’s, um, I think just the regulations by state, um, province by province and dealing with different stakeholders and on the government side, um, was the challenge because we naively thought that if we are a legalized on a legal, uh, on a national level, that everybody should have the same goals in mind. And we found that their goals are though they’re aligned at the higher level, they have a different agenda or the way working through them. So I think that was the biggest challenge that we had to figure out how to navigate, um, in the beginning.
Yeah. The red tape, it’s easy to get tripped up on. I was talking to a, um, someone in BC about the craft farmers co-op up there and just, yeah, how, yeah, there’s a, there’s a national kind of movement forward, but it’s so it’s interpreted very differently at each province. And even each city has their own types of, um, things there as well. So you’re not, you’re not alone in the, in the fight against the regulations or dealing with regulations and dancing around them and making sure you’re not running a ride with them. It’s kind of probably the, one of the scariest things for everybody in the industry is like, we just don’t want to get in trouble by some kind of, you know, didn’t dot the, I didn’t cross the T type of thing. So, you know, I echo your sentiment on that.
So I think the way we dealt with it successfully now is we are a part of the Ontario chamber of commerce on their cannabis, uh, board. So that gives us a lot of insight into the industry locally. We’re also part of the national cannabis council. So there, we get to hear the voices from across the country of what’s happening. So that’s how we really decided that we need to stay in tune to what’s happening in the industry in order to support the industry through the, through the work that we do. So we found that actually meaningful and actually super rewarding for us. We should have done that in the beginning. We did that a year into it.
That’s good. Yeah. Getting involved in the policy and yeah. Seeing what look there’s two different or four different or eight different conversations happening. You have consumers, you have LPs, you have people that are product dev and then you have physical product dev and tech, product dev, and every other conversation, local leaders, state leaders, province leaders, and national leaders. They all have their own thing they’re trying to preserve or create. And, you know, getting in those conversations early is super helpful. And it’s good that you guys did that, especially, you’re not, I will call you in not a cannabis company, but you are, but you’re not a plant touching company essentially. Right. So this is good. That you’re part of that. And it’s kind of, one of the things I’m hearing through more of these interviews is like get involved in the conversation. If you’re not happy with how things are, spend the time, talk with the people and then let your voice be heard. If not, then, you know, you’re kind of, you know, not making your own sunshine good deal. So, you know, if you could step into my shoes, what have I not asked you about what have we not talked about that you’d like to either share with the viewers or talk about your product? What else have we not talked about? You’d love to cover today.
Um, good question. Um, I think it’s more of, um, awareness of, um, the product and really that issue that, that the problem that we’re trying to solve is really that we don’t wanna, we don’t want cannabis to be the next plastic bottle problem. So I think that’s the piece that we do really want to focus on is the environmental problem. I know Terra cycle is putting things into dispensary’s, uh, or into retailers for, to recycle. So that’s the piece that I want people to really walk away with. It’s nobody needs to Belle LPs don’t need to be doing everything great. They need to focus on growing great product. They don’t need to be awesome at packaging. They don’t need to distinguish themselves packaging. I think we can find different ways that they can distinguish themselves and connect to their consumers. I can get the only way people are going to remember them right now is they walk into a store and there’s pretty packaging.
And that’s the one I’m going to keep buying that doesn’t need to be the, we don’t need to ruin the environment in order for, um, in order for, um, cannabis to survive. So that’s the idea that’s, uh, we really want to push through is a concentration on the environment. And I think the other piece that, um, we should chat about is we’ve created after speaking to a bunch of retailers, uh, we understand that accessories are probably up to only 6% of their sales, which makes sense. So they don’t want to spend a huge upfront payments on accessories. So we’ve heard them, we again, talked to a bunch of them. So we created a reseller model that has no minimum orders, no inventory requirements. It’s just the upside of revenue. So if we send them one display case to display in the store, and then somebody buys it from them, they get a rough share, but a customer gets a discount and then they get the product to them a few days. But I think we’ve really tried to, again, listen to the retailers and the problems and not having inventory on hand for accessories. So that’s our solution.
That’s super smart. Yeah. And you know, I just want people to walk out with that as well that, Hey, this is an eco-friendly product. We don’t want the plastic bottle problem. You don’t want a Coke can in the bottom of the Mariana trench kind of thing. We don’t want cannabis bottles at the bottom of the ocean. So this is a great thing to have. I think it’s an, a, an amazing, you know, feat to overcome getting into dispensary’s and talking to them, you know, it’s great. All the stuff you’ve talked about today. So last thing here, where can people find the product? Where’s, what’s the website, Instagram tell us where we can find this amazing product.
You are Stori.com. So that’s available on there and that’s our Instagram handle as well. Cool.
But the links, some of you’ll see those over here and we can get to that, you know, make sure that you guys look into this product here. It could be a great Christmas gift. It’ll ship right around that time. Hey, you buy that and you get it and you fill it up and you give it to your friend or your family. It could be a great Christmas gift or a great new year’s celebration gift, or you know, anything else. So again, thank you very much for your time crane.