Women in Business: Kiva’s Kristi Palmer on Building a Cannabis Empire

Episode 241

Show Notes

Talking Cannabis Edibles with Kiva's Kristi Palmer

Step into the world of groundbreaking women entrepreneurs who are shaping the landscape of the fast-growing cannabis industry. To kick off our new series, we’re sitting down with Kristi Palmer, president and co-founder of one of our favorite cannabis edible brands, Kiva Confections. Kristi sheds light on the personal and professional challenges she faces in the ever-changing weed industry and offers valuable insights into how she and her husband Scott built the brand from the ground up. Discover how her commitment to quality and consumer trust has propelled Kiva into a leading name in cannabis edibles.

“I’m a lightweight consumer, and if I consume too much, I’m mad. I can’t sleep. I’m like, who do I need to write a strongly worded letter to because it’s not cool, right? Being a sensitive consumer, that’s where I get mad. I don’t get mad very often, but if I overconsume because of somebody else’s doing… it’s not good.”

If you enjoyed this episode, we’d recommend episode 183, Women, Money, Power and Cannabis. And if you haven’t already, we hope you’ll give Kiva’s weed gummies and chocolate bars a try!

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[00:00:00] Ellen Scanlon: This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.

[00:00:12] Ellen Scanlon: Support for How to Do the Pot comes from Cann. Instead of a drink to relax, have you tried a cannabis beverage yet? Delicious, sparkling cannabis that’s as refreshing and sociable as your favorite cocktail, but without the alcohol. Use promo code DoThePot for 20 percent off when you visit drinkcann. com.

[00:00:33] Ellen Scanlon: That’s drink C A N N. Try a can today and stop worrying about a hangover.

[00:00:48] Kristi Palmer: When was the last time you went to a restaurant where the food wasn’t good? You don’t go back. You go once and then you move on because you have other choices. In an effort to gain and hold the trust of the consumer. We are really, really dedicated and wholly committed. It is in our DNA. It is our backbone to deliver the best service.

[00:01:14] Ellen Scanlon: Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast helping you feel confident about cannabis. I’m your host, Ellen Scanlon.

[00:01:28] Ellen Scanlon: You just heard from Christy Palmer, the California based president and co founder of cannabis edible brand Kiva Confections. I’m a very big fan of Kiva’s edibles. They have a whole suite of edible brands available in more and more states. You might recognize Kiva Chocolate Bars, TeraBytes, Petra Mints, Lost Farms Gummies and Chews, and my favorite, the Camino Gummies.

[00:01:57] Ellen Scanlon: Today’s conversation with Christy is part of our ongoing series about women, power, and money in the cannabis industry. Many of you know that I care deeply about the business side of things. I started my career working for an investment bank. I have an MBA and I spent the first 15 years of my career in the investment industry.

[00:02:20] Ellen Scanlon: I’m passionate about shining a light on, let’s call them opportunities for improvement. Like the fact that women raise only 2 percent of venture capital dollars, despite owning 40 percent of businesses in the U S. I want to share with you the challenges and successes of women in business and specifically in cannabis, one of the fastest growing industries in the U.

[00:02:47] Ellen Scanlon: S. Christie’s story has it all, co founding the business with her husband, struggling to make ends meet and adapting to evolving roles in the business as she and her husband grow their family. She’s a mom and is about to bring her third kiddo into the world. Christie shares how she holds it all together and what she’s learned from being a leader in the cannabis industry for more than a decade.

[00:03:15] Ellen Scanlon: I hope that talking with her gives you a window into how passionate cannabis leaders are and what it’s like to be a founder of a thriving business in this very hectic industry.

[00:03:35] Ellen Scanlon: Want to keep the conversation with us going? Sign up for our twice monthly newsletter and have a direct line into my inbox. The newsletter is full of resources that will help you feel confident about cannabis for health, wellbeing, and for fun. And you can hit reply and let me know what you’d like to hear more of on the show.

[00:03:58] Ellen Scanlon: To join the thousands of subscribers already receiving it, head to do the pot. com to sign up. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do this without you.

[00:04:17] Ellen Scanlon: Starting a business is notoriously difficult. Starting a business in cannabis means operating with a whole new level of challenges. It’s an industry that is still not fully legal. One thing Christy didn’t face was an inherited stigma around cannabis. Christy’s family has always been open to consumption, and that paved the way for her to comfortably bring it into her life and to start a cannabis business.

[00:04:45] Kristi Palmer: My family, my parents, they are total pot supporters. My dad famously was known for lighting up a joint In the hospital parking lot at Kaiser and Hayward, when my mom was laboring with my older sister, you know, he came right back in at the right time to see the baby be born. They’re total pop fans. You know, my parents have always been there.

[00:05:08] Kristi Palmer: They’re so supportive of what I do and being in the cannabis industry. They absolutely love it. Before we were making chocolate, before Kiva, we had a garden shed cultivation and you had to get in there and tend to the plants. And my mom is just a big time plant lady. She is the queen of the plants. And so, you know, we’d go in there for hours and water and prune and clone and fertilize and all that stuff.

[00:05:31] Kristi Palmer: And, you know, she’s got curly hair too. So we’d both come out with like, you know, this huge hair looking like we just came out of like the extreme humidity in the South. And my mom still works at the company to this day. So yeah, my family is like, they’re right there.

[00:05:48] Ellen Scanlon: Even with good vibes around cannabis when Christy was growing up, starting a cannabis business was a surprising career turn for her.

[00:05:56] Ellen Scanlon: She went to art school and wanted to be a photographer.

[00:06:00] Kristi Palmer: The idea to start a business around cannabis was definitely not my idea. That was Scott’s idea. We can, like, do this instead of what we were doing, which was photography at the time. I never thought of it as a business opportunity. I thought I’d be a photographer working in New York or something.

[00:06:18] Kristi Palmer: So I had a photography business, wedding photography business that Scott and I did together. It was called Alison Reed Photography, and we launched that probably 2007, 2008. We just graduated from photography school, and the economy was in a bad way. death spiral. And so we were trying to make that work and trying to get that off the ground, but it just wasn’t making ends meet.

[00:06:39] Kristi Palmer: And we had more time, more energy. And so we started growing weed.

[00:06:43] Ellen Scanlon: A bright spot during this time when the economy was tanking was that Christy and Scott were learning that working together, they had a lot of chemistry and compatibility.

[00:06:55] Kristi Palmer: We met at photography school. We found out quickly that we were just extremely compatible working together.

[00:07:03] Kristi Palmer: And we just kind of have this natural front of the house, back of the house sort of dynamic, where I prefer the front of the house activities. The people side, the greeting people out in the field, the conferences, the customer service is my jam. And he’s more of that back of the house, inventing things and tweaking things and making sure the business works and the resources are managed, all that kind of stuff.

[00:07:29] Kristi Palmer: What led to the, the like starting an edibles business, we were really hungry and really desperate. And we kept trying things to make money, photography, growing weed in our backyard. It just kind of wasn’t making things work. And so we were like, all right, you know, another, another place that we think we could stand out would be in edibles and edibles are, were so underserved, such a poor offering to the consumer, right?

[00:07:59] Kristi Palmer: They were Saran wrap. with a label that was partially peeling off and typos and they were labeled 10x, like what in the world is 10x? So there was just so much opportunity to make an edible appeal to someone who actually shopped at the dispensary. Like at Harborside is the best example. They attracted so many different folks.

[00:08:23] Kristi Palmer: It dressed in suits, you know, little grandmas, working professionals, people pop up to the dispensary. Their kids are in the car, like just normal people. And so those folks, they were carrying iPhones and shopping at Target. They were used to a consumer experience at a certain level and edibles were just not edible.

[00:08:44] Kristi Palmer: delivering that. So we thought, okay, you know, maybe that’s a good place for us to start. So the dynamic between us still is, is pretty great. Like I do the conferences, I do interviews and he runs the board meetings and that side of the business. So he’s a really gifted leader and I really like helping and people.

[00:09:04] Ellen Scanlon: Kiva’s success started from humble beginnings, the kitchen of Christy’s childhood home.

[00:09:11] Kristi Palmer: The olden days, it was a total hustle. It was like a fake it till you make it sort of operation. I’ll paint you a picture. It’s my childhood home. It’s our, it’s our kitchen. Like it’s an awesome mid nineties kitchen with Oh, cabinets and like recess for us, the lighting bullnose tile, super nineties.

[00:09:31] Kristi Palmer: And then we had seven people in total in the house. So Scott and I, and then five other roommates living there at the time, just family and friends, like my sister, his sister, his cousin, and just all trying to make it through like The recession times when nobody had enough money or enough work, we paid 300 bucks a month each in rent to my dad, which like we didn’t even pay for the first like six months because we didn’t have the money, but it was a really awesome group effort.

[00:09:58] Kristi Palmer: You know, my sister would help and we’d have like chocolate bar wrapping parties and we would just pull everybody in and try to get help wherever we could. free or, you know, volunteer helps. Yeah, those old days was like, I mean, fake it till you make it. We were like, Oh, we are this very professional chocolate cannabis company.

[00:10:16] Kristi Palmer: And we test all of our products and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. We just never mentioned where we made them or until later. Right. Then you get a manufacturing facility and you can talk about it a little more openly and everything we made was tested and safe. So we felt good about what we were making.

[00:10:33] Ellen Scanlon: Kiva grew from a small family business to a large business as states across the U.

[00:10:39] Ellen Scanlon: S. began legalizing adult use. I asked Christy to talk about those early years.

[00:10:45] Kristi Palmer: I feel extremely fortunate that Kiva started in 2010 because we had a very long runway of time where the industry was supposed to be small. There were no regulations. There was no playbook. You couldn’t get a license. You just kind of wanted to squeak by and not be noticed.

[00:11:08] Kristi Palmer: And during that time, we got to make a ton of mistakes and do all kinds of things wrong, but we were in our little. cocoon, right? We couldn’t do that much damage to our business because we couldn’t really grow that much anyway. We just had to stay small. And so now fast forward, we pull on in the day to day runnings of the business and setting the strategy for moving forward.

[00:11:32] Kristi Palmer: We are so fortunate to be able to pull on. All those years of experience and we do, man, we hire folks from outside of the industry. For sure. That’s one of our hiring strategies is let’s pull like superstars from other industries into cannabis. We can help you learn the cannabis side of the business. We got that part.

[00:11:52] Kristi Palmer: It’s infusing that level of professionalism and innovation and expertise into the business going forward. while pulling on experience from the past to just keep yourself on track and remind your new team members that this is cannabis. Like it’s not the other world that you’re used to. And it’s got those kind of gnarly nuances that we wish we could all wave our magic wand and they’d go away, but they’re here.

[00:12:16] Ellen Scanlon: Kiva has been a pioneer in bringing new consumers to edibles in part by using packaging that signals something familiar, like other treats you already know and love.

[00:12:28] Kristi Palmer: It should have some like ooh factor, right? And it should, when you take it out of your bag and you show it to someone, you should feel cool, right?

[00:12:37] Kristi Palmer: You should feel like, Oh, I know what I’m doing. You feel cool and you feel good about yourself when you share it with somebody because it is trustworthy and it’s professional and it’s beautiful. And it feels like quality and then it delivers on the promise of like just five milligrams, right? Like they felt good.

[00:12:54] Kristi Palmer: They slept great. And then they call you the next day and they’re like, where do I get these? Like, send me a case, right? It’s like, Oh, we did it. I feel like, Oh, I could die happy right then and there.

[00:13:16] Ellen Scanlon: My long time favorite Kiva product is the Camino Sparkling Pear Gummies. They have 2mg of THC and 6mg of CBD. A 3 to 1 ratio that I call a warm hug. Because that’s how they make me feel. I’m sure you’ve heard stories or maybe experienced eating what seemed like a very small edible and getting way too high.

[00:13:47] Ellen Scanlon: This is not what happens with Camino’s low dose edibles. The effects are very consistent and so once you try one, you’ll really know what to expect. They’re a great way in or way back to cannabis for so many people. In more and more states, you’ll find Kiva products prominently displayed in dispensaries.

[00:14:11] Ellen Scanlon: I asked Christy how they built a reputation as a consistent and trusted edible brand.

[00:14:17] Kristi Palmer: Consistency, it takes discipline. It takes diligence. And it costs more. So if you don’t do it and you put product out there that doesn’t taste good, and we did this one time, it was with taste rather than dosing, but like early, early, early, we sent some products to your dispensary and they tasted gross.

[00:14:39] Kristi Palmer: And we knew they tasted gross. You could tell making them that this was not right, but the customer was waiting. And so, you know, we sent them out to them the next day they call back and they go, Oh, Okay, come pick up your stuff. We want a refund. And I’m like, Oh, well, we, you know, why? Oh, well, we sold six chocolate bars and every single one of those chocolate bars came back and the customer didn’t want them.

[00:14:57] Kristi Palmer: They complained. They’re, you know, no. And so I’m like, well, we have a new batch. Uh, no, we don’t want to hear your pitch on your new batch. We want our money back. So it took us about five years to get that customer back. And it has underscored the importance of doing it right the first time. Don’t let anything out the door unless it’s perfect because you get like one chance with consumers, right?

[00:15:24] Kristi Palmer: When was the last time you went to a restaurant where the food wasn’t good? You don’t go back. You go once and then you move on because you have other choices. In an effort to gain and hold the trust of the consumer, we are really, really dedicated and wholly committed, it is in our DNA, it is our backbone, to deliver the best, products possible.

[00:15:47] Kristi Palmer: And you know what? At the end of the day, I am a lightweight consumer, and if I consume too much, I’m mad. I can’t sleep. I’m like, who do I need to write a strongly worded letter to? Because it’s not cool, right? I don’t get mad very often, but if I over consume because of somebody else’s doing, it’s not good.

[00:16:09] Ellen Scanlon: The recent news from the federal government that proposes rescheduling cannabis is very welcome news for an industry that has had a really challenging few years. Businesses have been struggling and it’s been hard to navigate complicated state by state regulations. I asked Christy how she approaches leading Kiva against these many headwinds.

[00:16:34] Kristi Palmer: There’s definitely a bit of, well, we’ve made it this far kind of mentality. And then I feel like demand isn’t going anywhere. I feel a really strong responsibility and accountability to the consumer for sure. Like if there’s no Kiva, what will they eat? Where will they go? You know, like poor things. And then I really feel a strong responsibility to the people that work at Kiva.

[00:16:58] Kristi Palmer: I’ve like always only ever been in cannabis, but people who come into the From outside are like, damn, I didn’t think it was going to be this hard. They work day in and day out and it’s super hard. At the end of the day, there is strong demand. Like people aren’t going to give up on cannabis. So that’s what pulls me through and gets me out of bed when I’m really like, kind of, ugh, this is never going to, what are we doing?

[00:17:22] Ellen Scanlon: With the incredibly complicated nature of the cannabis industry on top of being a mother of almost three How does Christie organize her time and keep everything moving in the right direction?

[00:17:35] Kristi Palmer: Well when I figure it out, I’ll totally let you know Right now I would say Scott and I are in like a major phase that we’ve never gone through of divide and conquer and So we used to have so much overlap.

[00:17:49] Kristi Palmer: We could go to the same meetings. We could show up at a lot of the same conferences. We could do a ton of stuff together. And now, nope, we do not have the luxury of that. I’ve been talking about this with my, with my best buds and that like just everybody’s kind of in the same boat. If you have a young family and you’re working.

[00:18:09] Kristi Palmer: You’re like, just try to get by, like you’re trying to survive and make it work. So I think the way we find balance now is Scott’s number one responsibility in life is the business. My number one responsibility in life is the home. We totally cross pollinate. And when we split it up that way, it makes a little bit more sense.

[00:18:31] Kristi Palmer: Like who does what becomes a little more clear.

[00:18:34] Ellen Scanlon: In our We Drink series, episodes 196 through 199, I talked about how hemp derived cannabis can be legally shipped all across the country. Kiva has entered this market and now has low dose edibles that can ship right to your door, even if the state where you live hasn’t legalized adult use cannabis.

[00:18:57] Ellen Scanlon: I know, it’s confusing, and the landscape is changing quickly. I asked Christy to help us understand what’s happening.

[00:19:06] Kristi Palmer: I think it’s important to start with like, what is hemp? What is cannabis? Okay, so they’re the same thing, but hemp has been bred over the years to have less THC, right? And THC is that active ingredient.

[00:19:16] Kristi Palmer: Then there’s, is the, is what gets you high, right? So THC is the thing that everybody wants to regulate. So you’ve got hemp, which is a cannabis plant bred with low THC. And then you’ve got hemp. cannabis, which is bred to have large amounts of THC. So then there’s the farm bill and the farm bill allowed cannabinoids from hemp to be legalized.

[00:19:36] Kristi Palmer: So what people do is they extract large amounts of say CBD from hemp. And then with a process, they extract all of the other cannabinoids and they create a high level of THC, or they convert cannabis. CBD in a chemical process into another cannabinoid, call it like Delta 8 is a big one that you hear about a lot now, but you can just grow a ton of hemp and with a very low amount of THC, and then just extract a lot of the THC and your large amount of hemp, which is harder to do on the cannabis industry side, because you’re constrained with cultivation sizes and things like that regulations.

[00:20:14] Kristi Palmer: And it’s a little bit more difficult. So that’s what we’re seeing now. is hemp derived THC and cannabis derived THC and the big question, how are they different? They’re not. It’s THC that is the exact same thing. It just came to be in a different way, right? It came from a different plant. So now there are states that don’t allow cannabis products, but they allow hemp.

[00:20:43] Kristi Palmer: And so hemp products are showing up with THC and they’re showing up in, I think my favorite example is in Texas at the liquor stores and there are beverages with THC on the end caps of the liquor, like of the big liquor stores, not the corner store, but like of the, you know, equivalent of the Bevmo. It’s a, incredible opportunity for sure for companies to access folks that normally don’t have access to THC, right?

[00:21:13] Kristi Palmer: Your Texans don’t have access to cannabis derived THC. Now they have access to hemp derived THC.

[00:21:22] Ellen Scanlon: Let me know if you’d like to learn more about this and we can work on an episode to share more about hemp derived intoxicating products. You can reach out at hi at DoThePot. com or DM us at DoThePot. Thank you to Christy for pulling the curtain back on the iconic brand she built and for sharing her struggles and successes.

[00:21:46] Ellen Scanlon: Our next Women in Business episode is about how unique it is to be a female CEO in general, and particularly in the cannabis world. Stay tuned for that. If you like this episode, please share it with a friend. We love new listeners and are here to help everyone feel confident about cannabis.

[00:22:11] Ellen Scanlon: Thank you for listening to How to Do the Pot. For lots more information and past episodes, visit DoThePot. com. Are you one of the thousands of people who love how to do the POTS newsletter? If you’re not getting it, please sign up@dothepot.com. And if you like how to do the pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts.

[00:22:34] Ellen Scanlon: It really helps people find the show. Thank you to writer Joanna Silver and producers Maddie Fair and Nick Petri. I’m Ellen Scanlan, and stay tuned for more of how to do the pot

[00:22:57] Ellen Scanlon: support for How to Do the Pot comes from can. Instead of a drink to relax, have you tried a cannabis beverage yet? Delicious sparkling cannabis that’s as refreshing and sociable as your favorite cocktail, but without the alcohol. Use promo code DOTHEPOT for 20 percent off when you visit drinkcan. com.

[00:23:17] Ellen Scanlon: That’s drink C A N N. Try a can today and stop worrying about a hangover.



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