Expanding after launch: Q&A with Van der Pop’s April Pride

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April Pride originally wanted to sell “beautiful products” for storing and sharing marijuana.

She launched her Seattle-based company, Van der Pop, in January 2016 with the aim of putting together a cannabis paraphernalia business.

But she quickly pivoted to a female-focused lifestyle brand. Van der Pop’s website offers women:

  • Marijuana-related advice.
  • An online store selling products such as stash boxes and grinders.
  • Information about sex and cannabis.

“Men aren’t going to talk about getting high and having sex,” said Pride, Van der Pop’s founder.

Pride’s new venture soon struck green.

Less than 14 months after launching, Van der Pop was acquired for an undisclosed sum by a company that eventually morphed into a vertically integrated Canadian marijuana company, Hiku.

Today, Pride is in the enviable position of being bankrolled by a publicly traded company (HIKU.CN) that controls a solid distribution chain in Canada, while she’s still based in Seattle and peddling goods via her website.

Pride will speak on a panel at MJBizConNEXT May 9-11 in New Orleans, where she’ll share advice on how other companies can expand after their launch. Marijuana Business Daily spoke with Pride to get a preview of her talk.

To what do you attribute your rapid success and acquisition? 

One, as a female founder, if you look at the numbers in terms of raising capital, it’s very, very difficult. Two percent of all (venture capital) money is raised by women, and I was having a hell of a time trying to raise money.

So I needed to take a realistic look at how much capital we needed and how quickly I was able to close.

Secondly, once I got into the market and I realized what women really needed – it wasn’t products to stash cannabis – it was information about what to do with the plant.

This was a waiting game, and it was going to require more capital than I had originally projected in order to be able to serve that market when they were finally needing us.

Thirdly, Trump was elected, and that was going to scare away more investors.

So when a Canadian company began courting me, I didn’t really hesitate, because there were a lot of boxes that were checked by this opportunity for the brand.

It allowed us to hedge our bets and survive to the point where we’re now the only female-focused brand in Canada.

How did you identify your niche of focusing on women, and how have you used it to your company’s advantage?

In the beginning, I wasn’t targeting women specifically. Fifty percent of our sales in the first year were men.

But we launched in January, and I’d say by March it was pretty clear … nobody was speaking to women in a way that was making them feel OK about the decision to consume cannabis.

There was so much wrapped up in stigma, and frankly, if we didn’t do something about making women feel OK about this decision, we were never going to sell (any products).

So I would say I took a realistic look at the market and the consumer we were trying to speak to, and I realized we had to really speak to her very directly, and we couldn’t include her husband in the conversation.

What was your original business idea, and how fast did you pivot?

It was always about beautiful products to store, smoke and share cannabis.

I’m a designer … (and) I realized very quickly that this was still a shadow movement.

And a real brand, the right brand, had the opportunity to usher in what I like to call the “second phase of normalization,” the first being legalization and the second being addressing stigma.

I feel like that’s where Van der Pop’s sweet spot is: recognizing that stigma still plays a huge role around people’s decisions surrounding this plant.

I was fully focused on women within six weeks of launching.

It was too obvious that we were missing a chance to talk to a demographic that everyone was either overlooking or thinking that they really knew what women cared about when it came to the plant.

Men aren’t going to talk about getting high and having sex.

I’m a 43-year-old woman who’s been with my husband for 20 years, and my friends are confiding in me, or we’re confiding in each other, about what’s going on in the bedroom.

And I know that cannabis is great for connecting with your partner, but a lot of women don’t.

So there wasn’t really another brand that could talk about this, and it’s coming from a place of, “Hey girl, I get you.”

What about strategies for company growth, post-launch, that you’d recommend to new companies trying to find their legs?

I would say it’s all about partnerships. Strength in numbers, for sure.

There are definitely other companies that have a similar distribution model that you may be looking at, or they’re reaching a segment of the market that you’re having trouble identifying or reaching, but you have a product that that company needs, because they already have the attention of that demographic.

Whatever it is, do not run this as a solo game. This is a team sport.

Did you start Van der Pop with the intent of being acquired as quickly as you were?

No. This is the fourth company I’ve launched and the second I’ve sold, and I had a real heart-to-heart talk with myself, because this brand is so much who I am.

So I had to definitely separate myself, because I knew I also needed a win really early on in this industry in order to continue to do what I love at a level that allowed me to be my most creative, and not dealing with administrative stuff, frankly.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

John Schroyer can be reached at johns@mjbizdaily.com