I had the pleasure of interviewing Megan Villa of Svn Space. Megan did Global Sports Marketing for the surfwear brand Billabong for nearly 14 years. During that time she also co-founded the now defunct cult children’s apparel label Mini & Maximus. Megan then went on to be Editor in Chief of surf/lifestyle magazine Herewith, and has a long history in the surfing world and with marketing in general.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
Afriend of mine had casually brought up the idea of a hemp media platform when I was working at Herewith and I told her if she ever does it let me know as I have a love affair with textiles and always loved Hemp fabrics (I was looking at them for use in our Mini & Maximus kids line, but at the time it just wasn’t cost effective). About a year later she hit me up and said she had found some awesome partners that were interested in this project. And so it began. After doing a lot of research in the cannabis space, we knew were on to something when we realized there just wasn’t a lot of info on hemp products that really spoke to us. And most of the info that was out there was on the marijuana platforms like Leafly and High Times (don’t get me wrong, they have some great articles on there). But as a 40 something, liberal female, that is not where I wanted to get my info. I didn’t want to have to sift through articles like “Best Spring Break spots to get stoned” while I was looking for a CBD product that could help me sleep better. So the idea and the direction were born.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
This isn’t really a story, but after landing on our name-Svn Space-we realized that some people were not pronouncing it correctly (it is pronounced Seven Space). When people would say it out loud they would say “sven” or “sun” or kind of mumble it because they didn’t know how to say it. So it’s kind of funny, but when we correct them it opens up a conversation about the name. FYI: It is for 7 leaves on the cannabis plant (even though they can also have 5 leaves, 9 leaves…).
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There really isn’t anyone like us out there which is really exciting. There are a lot of amazing female focused marijuana platforms/magazines out there like Broccoli and MJ Lifestyle, but there aren’t any media platforms that are just focusing on hemp. We are targeting a much broader audience. We want to help educate about everything hemp and elevate the plant in a modern, fresh way. It’s kind of like the Wild Wild West right now and there are not a ton of hemp brands out there, but you would be surprised to know that a lot of beauty products are made with hemp oil and hemp can be fashionable (Mara Hoffman), and the wellness side is mind-blowing when you look at the benefits of CBD and even hemp protein. It’s really fun to search for like-minded brands that are making cool hemp products, even though hemp has been around for eons, it’s still technically classified as a Schedule 1 drug, so we are a bit behind here in the US, but it’s so exciting to see all the new brands pop up-especially the ones that are eco-minded and take great care in creating all natural products.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
We are really lucky in that all of the partners come from unique backgrounds. I come from the surf industry (marketing in particular), Monica Campana (the one who had the original idea) was the publisher and then General Manager at Transworld Skateboarding Magazine, so she comes from media and from a pretty male dominated industry. Grace Saari comes from more of a brand building/marketing leader background, having launched partnerships for the likes of the Pioneer Woman, Calvin Klein Home & Thomas O’Brien. I believe that with all of our collective backgrounds, we will be able to reach a lot of people and really help raise more awareness on all things Hemp.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We just launched the website on Earth Day so that was exciting. Right now we are working on organizing our first event which will be the beginning of August in San Diego (where we are based). We eventually want to do events around the country to educate on all the benefits of hemp and to create a sense of community. And we will be putting out a really beautiful print issue in the fall which is really exciting as well.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
3 things that most excite me are: 1. It is a whole new world and we are learning more and more about all of the benefits of cannabis, as we are able to do more medical research I believe that more and more benefits will be found with the plant which I believe will help a lot of people in many different ways 2. I think that a lot of really creative businesses are going to come into this space-they already are and it will create a lot of jobs along with tax revenue going to some really great causes 3. Seeing so many women jumping into this space, from CBD brands, beauty brands, gourmet edibles, media platforms…-especially because it is still a risky business to be in with ever-changing regulations
3 things that most concern me are: 1. The lack of regulation. I just read an article about 50 some odd people getting poisoned from fake CBD products. There are no FDA guidelines for labeling right now, so people can claim whatever they want with no repercussions and no transparency which is scary 2. A little nervous about the over-glamorizing of recreational use marijuana to minors-I just don’t want us to go down the same path as tobacco where it becomes sexy and cool, and makes young kids want to try it, also scary is edibles and kids and them not knowing that “cookie” has THC in it. 3. It’s like this Gold Rush right now where everyone sees opportunity and with that comes a lot of scammers and slimey business dealings, but on a positive note, I think the good people will always rise to the top.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Do you research and always be up on the new regulations. They are ever-changing. So the labels you made for your products yesterday, may need to change tomorrow to keep up with proper guidelines (I was talking to the founder of a CBD/THC Beauty brand and she was frustrated because she had just gotten all new labels made for her products and then the rules changed and in order to be compliant, she had to re-print which can be a big deal for a startup family business, but you have to or you could risk being shut down)
2. Be unique-come up with an idea that no one has done in this space and do it really really well
3. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Decide who your target market is and stick with this (we are constantly having to check ourselves-should we do an article on micro-dosing, best ceramic bongs… no-we have chosen to focus on hemp for now, so we need to stick with that path otherwise we will be like a lot of other media platforms out there)
4. Transparency is key. We are in a day and age where we want to know who made our products, where were they made, how were they made? Are they natural? If you start your business with this in mind and you let your consumer know from the beginning, that will establish trust and in turn will turn into a repeat customer. Questions like-where was the hemp grown, is it organic? Did you use 3rd party testing? All of these things are important to the customer.
5. Branding is very important. Not only do you have to have an awesome and/or unique product. Your branding, storytelling, social media, website need to be spot on. Eye catching packaging, nice imagery on your social feeds, getting feedback from customers and creating that sense of community with your brand-all very important. There are so many brands that I have come across that may be excellent products, but they just don’t have that Svn Space aesthetic. We look for quality products but also for that whole presentation.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does you cannabis passion come from?
As I said previously, I have always loved textiles, especially fabrics like linen. And to come across a plant that is so much more than just a fabric, is so beyond exciting. When you think about it Hemp can: Feed you, clothe you, house you and heal you. When you look at the plant, it kind of looks like a weed but to know that it can help with epilepsy, anxiety, sleep, inflammation, chronic pain… It can build you a home (hempcrete), it can nourish you (hemp protein and hemp seed hearts are high in omega 3’s and 6’s), it can remove toxins from the soil-making it a great rotation crop, you can wear it and decorate your home with it. You can make cars from it as it is one of the strongest fibers in the world. I can go on and on-it is mind-blowing how many uses this one plant has. How could you not be excited? And so many people have no idea of this.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
I see Svn Space growing into a multimedia space. Posting regular content, selling a curated selection of hemp items on our e shop, creating beautiful video content, educational/inspirational events and really creating a sense of community. We really want to share this amazing plant and its benefits with the world and encourage people to start using hemp products so they can really reap all of the benefits they provide not only for them but for the planet as well.
I see the cannabis industry exploding over the next few years. As more and more states legalize medical and recreational use marijuana it will create a lot of jobs and tax revenue. When Hemp is finally legalized federally it will create so many jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. We won’t have to import everything from Canada and overseas and we can stop paying farmers to not grow corn and hopefully subsidize farmers to grow hemp.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
One brand that really stands out right now is Lord Jones. They have the PR thing down pat and they really get it. They know how to get in front of people ie. celebrities using their products. They have a deal with the Standard hotels. They are the new wave of cannabis brands and it has been exciting watching them grow and kind of getting rid of the typical stereotype that goes along with cannabis-they have done an excellent job with their messaging, branding, partnerships, PR. So they are a good one to watch.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
All eyes are on CBD right now, I swear it’s being added to everything. But there are so many more cannabinoids that are still being researched. I think that full spectrum hemp products are the ones to watch as they provide not only a full spectrum of phytocompounds, but also other valuable nutrients such as omega fatty acids and terpenes. One such brand that is doing this is Hemp Fusion. They make all natural, full spectrum capsules for sleep, stress, digestion.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I would love to sit down for breakfast with Gwyneth Paltrow. I love what she has created for Goop. It is a place you can get the latest in beauty, food, and wellness trends. And she’s not scared to talk about weird new trends-nothing is off limits for her. I also love the whole concept of her In Goop Health Wellness Summit (which sadly I cannot attend next month). What she is doing for the beauty and wellness space is what we would love to accomplish in Hemp (Cannabis space). And even if you can’t afford all the fancy products on the site, there are so many interesting articles, and I have learned so many new things just from reading it. Gwyneth, you can call me up any time for brekky :) Can we add a Hemp panel to your Summit next year :)