Tea time at high noon? Madame Munchie creates delicious, elegant and low-dose French style macarons certain to elevate your next tea party. Okay but seriously, all bad puns aside, remember when edible options were just the standard brownies and cookies? Normally rich with chocolate to cover up the taste of Cannabis. I am so glad we are past those days. I hope you are too.
Xochi: What was it that initially drew you to the Cannabis industry?
Ashley: After the first time I tried it, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't see the danger in it, and I knew working with Cannabis was something I always wanted to do. And this was back in high school, so I that was definitely my inspiration. Just really loving it and finding it so therapeutic. My family has been cultivating Cannabis in Mendocino for generations, so I wanted to be able to bring something to the table as well.
Kim: A lot of the same, I've always enjoyed it and never saw a problem with Cannabis. It always lead me to ask 'Why isn't this legal?' so it may have been, not so much that I enjoyed, but that I was so bothered by the fact that something so harmless wasn't legal. Those were my reasons for getting involved. I had been to Amsterdam when I was 13 with my dad, because that's where he worked, and he stopped into a coffee shop to ask for change or directions or something and when he came out he just smelled so good. And I wanted to know, 'What's in there? What is that smell?' He told me about the way coffee shops in Amsterdam work and I said 'that's so cool! can we go?' He told me I was too young, but when I was 18 if I still wanted to go, we could go together Which is actually a promise he kept and when I was 18 I experienced legal Cannabis for the first time.
Xochi: So you grew up in Europe, what's the difference?
Kim: It's pretty in restricted in France, where I grew up. Amsterdam just gave me a different view of Cannabis, although I still think it could be a little more professional. But it makes you think that you're not crazy to believe it should be legal in other places too. It was actually an American experience that really showed me that Cannabis could have medicinal properties and values. The other side of the story is; I had previously been prescribed Ritalin for ADHD which I took for about a year or two, as well as another medication I can't remember that was used to treat depression which I was on for about 6 months. I didn't see much of a difference. And Ritalin was banned in France at the time, so it wasn't like I could talk to my peers about it or anything. So I had my American doctor and my French experience. And I told my American doctor, when I saw him the next summer that I had tried Cannabis and that I really enjoyed it and that I was the first thing to bring me that sense of bliss and serenity. And that was the end goal with all these medications I was trying. So he told me that if it worked for me, and I kept my grades in check and made sure I was living a normal social life, he had no problem with my use of Cannabis as a way to self-medicate. So it was nice to have this sort of 'stamp of approval' from my doctor at such a young age. And that was another thing that really drove me to find out why Cannabis wasn't legal, and why it took my own self- discovery to come across this product that helped me, and I planned on continuing to use as medecine. And I never took Ritalin, or any other pills again since then.
Xochi: Wow, that's amazing. Well let me just say, these macarons are so tasty! Who's the baker?
Kim: Both of us.
Ashley: Yeah, we both do it.
Xochi: So how do you collaborate in the baking process?
Ashley: We work together a lot. Sometimes one of us will have to go out and meet a client or something, so one person will stay behind in the kitchen. And we just switch off, to keep things balanced.
Kim: We actually learned how to make macarons together.
Xochi: So you learned how to make macarons just for this endeavor?
Kim: Yeah! Well, and to satisfy my sweet tooth. We actually hosted a little party when we had all the some of the flavors developed to help us narrow things down. People would come and try them out and write down which ones were their favorites and any comments they had. I still have those notes, they are great.
Xochi: Well I think your flavors are really inventive, I love the grilled PB&J. Did you have any difficulty finding a baking space?
Kim: A lot of our initial baking and testing happened in our home kitchen. After gaining some momentum from winning 1st place for best edible at the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup, we felt more confident when looking for a space. And when we found one, we were very direct and upfront about what we do. Since our flower is all processed in Mendocino, we only deal with Cannabutter in our kitchen. So it's very low key.
Ashley: It doesn't smell that much. If at all.
Kim: And as far as liability goes, there isn't much to steal.
Ashley: Can you imagine someone trying to steal a bunch of Cannabutter?
Kim: It's not even a concentrate. It would just melt as you were driving away.
Kim: So the owner liked that, but I think we still got really lucky, we are really grateful.
Xochi: Were there any other hurdles you met along the way?
Ashley: I'm trying to think of something specific, but there are a lot of general things you overlook when starting a business. An overall hurdle is all the random things that come up that you'd never expect. Like oh, an employee is sick, now you have to readjust for that. A driver can't make a delivery, now you have to figure out how you're gonna make it happen.
Xochi: The daily in's and out's of the business.
Kim: I definitely agree that those can be some of the hardest things to deal with. Taking a step back and envisioning the future for yourself and the company can be really fun. But when you're trying to run a business and you have a day planned and something goes wrong, you don't get those hours you needed back because someone didn't show up or wasn't answering their phone. So going back to work everyday knowing there are always issues like these, that always seem to happen at the worst time, can definitely by one of the most challenging things to deal with. Big picture struggles would be things like banking, and existing in this grey area between medically legal in California and federally illegal. Most of what I learned in business school doesn't really apply here. But that's also what makes is so interesting, building it as it goes.
Xochi: Being in the middle of it all while it's happening.
Xochi: What are your favorite strains?
Ashley: I really like Trainwreck for the sweet floral taste. Another near and dear to my heart is Sour Diesel, it's been around forever.
Kim: I don't think I have a favorite strain but certain ones do surprise me and I remember them, like this green crack once just had the best high. But I know people change names all the time, so it's hard to know exactly what you're smoking. We cook with a hybrid blend, and I find it works really well for me. It's a well-rounded high I can feel everywhere.
Xochi: Yeah, I think hybrids are best for edibles too.
Kim: Yeah, a little bit of everything. And hopefully one day research on a Cannabis will be advanced enough that we can pinpoint Cannabinoids, but until then, I like this mix.
Ashley: I've seen a quiz or something online that helps you find personalized strains, which is cool but who knows how accurate it is.
Kim: In a way I kind of like not knowing, but if that research can potentially help people with more serious ailments, then it's definitely worth it.
Xochi: What is your professional history before you got into this industry?
Ashley: I've been in the Cannabis industry for a long time, and originally went to school for horticulture because I was so interested in cultivation. But as I went on I realized that it wasn't for me, so I got into fashion design. So I studied that and eventually got a corporate fashion design job. But as a designer, I really didn't like giving someone else all the credit for my work, so that job really wasn't for me either. So after that I really took another look at my options in the Cannabis industry and just dove deeper into that and tried to take my family's business to the next level.
Kim: I studied finance in school in France, and eventually moved to New York to work for a big Wall Street Bank. Sometimes I think I ended up there on mistake, because people would ask why I was studying finance. It wasn't something people could picture me doing. But I took this one class and it was really interesting, and I wanted to learn more and try and understand these people who were sto different than me. So I dove head first into it, But when I finally got to the end of it, I was like why did I do this again? I really wanted to see it from the inside, but understood why there was so much concern because the job wasn't for me. So my new plan was to get a job in San Francisco, move there and meet people and try and start and edible business. So that's when I met Ashley, and she told me about her family farm and I told her about my ideas to revolutionize the face of edibles, and yeah. It just worked out.
Ashley: Yeah, it's actually a pretty funny story. We met on OKCupid, and in my profile I mentioned that I worked in the Cannabis industry. And she messaged me like, 'oh tell me more!' So we planned to meet at Hippie Hill at Golden Gate Park, and we smoked a joint.
Kim: She needed to make sure I could handle my weed.
Ashley: Yeah, so our first business meeting was a few months after that.
Xochi: So you two went into this romantically involved and wanted to proceed as business partners?
Kim: My secret plan was: if she's my business partner, she's going to have to spend time with me, and I'll be able to show her how awesome I am. I'm a planner, what can I say?
Xochi: Long con, I get it. That's great. You don't think working together hinders your relationship, in business and in romance?
Kim: I definitely think it makes it tough sometimes. It can be really hard to take a break. Usually couples can go home and complain about their boss or co-workers to their significant other. But in this case it's like, 'you're complaining about me?!' But we've learned a lot about how to deal with it, and we are still learning.
Ashley: I think we're definitely both workaholics, so it's hard to turn off work and just have 'girlfriend time' because we get so excited about new ideas, sometimes it's all we want to talk about. We're both just really passionate about Madame Munchie.
Kim: The definitely keeps it going because even when it gets tough, it's so exciting!
Xochi: So you say you want to change the face of business in Cannabis, and Cannabis in general. Can you tell me more about that?
Kim: I feel the main way we can help end stigmas is simply but initiating the conversation. I find that our products help people talk about Cannabis to family members or professional colleagues that you otherwise wouldn't. When someone brings up Cannabis to an individual who doesn't know much about it, they can sometimes expect a negative reaction. But when someone presents that person with our product, there's always a little bit of surprise. They help loosen up the dialogue with parents or grandparents, and because they are low dose people are much more open to trying them. This is a great product for novice Cannabis users, especially for our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Ashley: And people come back to the product because of the dosage, because it's easy. But I think people like that the Cannabis we source is single origin, and we try and source as many local ingredients as possible. For example, we personally know our almond farmers personally, and we frequent their just to make sure everything is going well. And accurately dosing our product is super important to us, and we make sure each cookie is 20mg. Consistency is crucial.
Kim: It's really hard.
Xochi: But it's medicine at the end of the day, so I can see why it's super important to you.
Kim: And that goes back to the image on Cannabis, if you can have a safe and reliable product that people can trust, it's much safer and much more enjoyable. But if someone doesn't know exactly what they're consuming, that's where edible horror stories come from and it hinders our movement. So that's why it's so important to us that people have clear and proper dosage to prevent negative experiences with our product. But seeing my grandma use this product and enjoy it, it really made me happy.
Xochi: What do you hope to see as Cannabis legalization looms right around the corner?
Ashley: I'm just so excited. I know there's a lot of controversy over the what the ballot says, but I just want everyone to have access to this medicine. Even if only a few people benefit financially, everyone benefits from legal Cannabis. That's my stand, but I hope it's just a start to more fair and inclusive reform.
Xochi: Right, it's important to break that barrier. Do you hope that even with the idea of recreational Cannabis, it will still be viewed as a wellness product with therapeutic aspects?
Kim: That an interesting question. Honestly, I think Cannabis should be seen as just a product. Maybe a dietary one. Maybe somewhere between tea and tobacco. There's a psychoactive component to it that we think we don't get other products, but I'm not even sure if that's true. The way we are affected by what we eat or drink is so unknown to us. But I do think there is a lot of wellness in Cannabis and that's why I chose to smoke and not drink. But I also don't judge people who chose to drink. In the end people chose to live their own lives and as much as it may differ from mine, I'm not here to judge other people or say what they should or shouldn't use.
Ashley: I wanna say that I get high because I want to get high sometimes, but I also do see a lot of medicinal value in it, so I'm kind of torn.
Xochi: Well I think there's a healthy grey area where Cannabis can live. It's a great alternative to alcohol but can also be used to replace so many medications, over the counter as well as prescription.
Kim: I just hope legalization helps send a message to the rest of the world. Being from France, I know there were always eyes on California as the pioneers of this movement and if it could happen there it could happen anywhere. So I think it's a crucial decision for this state.
Xochi: To wrap up, any final thoughts?
Ashley: I'm just super excited to see where the industry goes and I'm excited to meet more people like you guys, like minded individuals. And I'm just so excited for Cannabis.
Kim: Quality is a focus for us, but I'm so excited to see more professionalism in the industry and being able to be open about it, and just learning more.
Xochi: Even just tonight, I think we've learned a lot from each other. Thanks for your time.