Double Barrel's Ann Skalski on Finding Healing and Fighting Injustice in Cannabis
Ann Skalski is chief brand officer at Double Barrel, the world's first dual-oil chamber vaporizing system, and first must-have cannabis accessory for connoisseurs and influencers. She has been responsible for developing the device into an aspirational cannabis lifestyle brand. She oversees all creative and strategic integrated marketing campaigns, PR and key brand partnerships.
She is also brand director at 14th Round, a designer and manufacturer of vaporizers.
Skalski has deep experience launching luxury brands and consumer products in a corporate retail and designer fashion environment, notably at Saks Fifth Avenue, where she served as vice president of creative services.
We spoke to Ann for our new interview series Higher Calling, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Ann, tell us ...
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
I have double titles: chief brand officer at Double Barrel and brand director at 14th Round.
Double Barrel (DB) Dual Chamber Vaporizer is designed for one thing only—to deliver you the best vaporizing experience in the world. With two intelligent chambers and one mighty air flow, you can enjoy your favorite flavors in a potent double hit, or mix and match to create your own custom blend.
14th Round is an electronic consumer goods firm/agency that designs and manufactures vaporizers. We make devices for dosist, select, 710 Labs, Double Barrel, MedMen, Pac Stone, Napalm, Connected/Alien Labs, Ace Valley, Auxly, Kolab, Besito, Sherbinskis & many more. We also wholly own Uneka, which is a packaging design company located in San Francisco.
The Double Barrel brand sits inside the 14th Round office, which is located in Playa Vista, California. Hence my dual roles. The DB brand represents a differentiated and functional example of 14th Round capabilities. I have worked on a lot of brands thought out my career. Hands down DB has nine-plus lives. Consumers, men and women alike, love it. I have a genuine fan base. Nothing phony about our community.
The founders of 14th Round are electrical engineers by trade and live in L.A.—all the hardware design work is done locally, 24 hours around the clock. We own facilities in Shenzhen, China, where we control the sourcing and build-out of all components/devices. It is an intense business and requires extreme attention to detail on a good day—and during a global pandemic, where overseas travel is limited, controlling manufacturing is key to success.
We also have an in-house design team in Playa Vista that concepts voice, look, logo design, POS, digital messaging, photography and more.
Simply said, we operate lean and mean but can launch a cannabis brand from scratch in three weeks if needed. Sounds crazy nuts, but we have done it!
Your earliest cannabis memory.
My first experience is rather generic. I was in 8th grade. My best friend was the youngest of three girls. We "borrowed" a joint from the eldest sister and smoked it—or tried to smoke it—on the roof of her house. It was very Cameron Crowe meets Sean Penn Spicoi! Needless to say, I felt nothing. I say with confidence it was NOT ocean grown!
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
When I first started working in advertising, I fell ill with chronic stomach pain. Absolutely nothing helped me. I would wake up in the middle of the night suffering. I met with doctors and healers countless times for the issue, with no resolution. I started using cannabis in a more medicinal way, and within a month I was better. At that moment I discovered the plant's true healing properties, beyond stress relief and appetite stimulant.
A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.
Flower: Sherbinskis. The genetics are trademarked. It is delicious in all the right ways. Never disappoints. Guzman has the FIRE.
Oil: Evolvd Living Resin. Marley Bankoff of Evolvd is young and a super genius when it comes to extraction. Prodigy, in my opinion. Out of Oregon.
Brand: I am partial to DB and dosist. Opposite ends of the brand spectrum, but I use both for different reasons. I also love Old Pal. Their agency does a great job for them.
Edible: Kiva Camino Chill.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
Red tape and black market together create the biggest hurdle to success for legacy brands as well as new players. Inventory supply chain management is a huge hurdle. Operational excellence is key to success in today's marketplace. High taxation at legal retail is fueling the black market. In-store education is limited due to Covid-19. These challenging times will slim the marketplace. Brands that are quality, priced right and available on delivery platforms have an advantage. 4Q may be very difficult for new brands to enter the California marketplace. But without seamless ops, a brand won't make it in the legal cannabis space.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
It is impressive to see brands bring product to market that is 100 percent dedicated to charitable initiatives. Purebeauty is doing a great job right now. Actions speak louder than words.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization you support.
Last Prisoner Project. Injustice must be stopped. No one should be imprisoned for non-violent crimes related to growing, selling, stockpiling, hiding, trading of cannabis. Period. Bottom line is (mostly) Black men are rotting behind bars for doing exactly what I am doing now. It must stop NOW. Their convictions are no longer valid. The crime is no longer considered a crime. We must do better. We must take action each day to right this massive wrong.
A recent project you're proud of.
Weeks into the pandemic, my wonderful DB photographer at large Pip Cowley approached me with a short film treatment. We collaborate on all things Double so it was natural she reached out to me about a creative project dedicated to culture, expression, cinematography and higher values. She wasn't sure at the time if we should risk it and shoot. She and I were planning on shooting dancers for DB so she knew I would be down to support and consult. The pandemic was raging on the East Coast and we were scared, to be honest. We were like, "Is this cool enough of an idea to risk our well-being?"
But then George Floyd was murdered, sparking global protests and unrest. The pre-production of the film project was already in motion, so we dove in and adjusted pending shoots and post-production to reflect real-time events. It was surreal shooting on the deserted streets and then shooting again during the protests. For me, this was a project I will be forever proud of. We created an outlet for the dancers while also producing a peaceful protest on film. We had a limited budget but a whole lotta love. Also made friends forever with the talent and crew. I love when projects give me goosebumps. This one does. Pip is a real talent—formerly of Anomaly.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
I am really interested in how emerging artists interpret cannabis accessories. One of my favs right now is Sibelle Yuksek. It is important the space is diverse. Women of color, men of color, people without big bank accounts deserve an opportunity to make a mark. When I see someone concept an idea and beautifully execute it, I know it's from the heart. And I truly believe authenticity will continue to be a dynamic factor in the future of cannabis. I like to know what I am buying. I want a piece of their soul, not just a generic, mundane accessory. This type of product/project gets me going. It is unique and beautiful.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
I am fascinated with Roze Volca, Nadir Pearson, Aaliyah Ei … all content creators in the space dedicated to preserving the authentic culture of cannabis. They are hungry, passionate and driven to do right by the plant and also normalize the space. They are young and wildly passionate about cannabis for all the right reasons. They have integrity and also smarts! Truly special, talented people.
A movie, TV show, music or food you enjoy pairing with cannabis.
When it comes to entertainment (TV), I really love watching basketball and hitting my DB filled with Gelato and L'Orange. My rescue dog is named Melo after Carmelo Anthony. (Dad went to Syracuse.) I sobbed when Kobe passed and love the new LeBron Lakers, but I am a forever a New York Knicks fan! And I still might detest John Starks and J.R. Smith for being dumb on the court!
Music: J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Juice WRLD, DaBaby, Fugees, Post Malone or T. Swift. I love the fun, drama and fantasy that music creates. Cannabis only enhances this experience.
But what I really enjoy is running or doing light yoga with cannabis. Especially during this stressful time. I use a different formula for exercise—less THC, more CBD for a mental and physical workout. Plus the cannabinoids aid in muscle recovery.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
I would be working for a nonprofit or foundation. My actions have to have impact. My energy must be part of a larger movement. One that is larger than making and selling a brand outside of cannabis and/or hemp.
Higher Calling is our new interview series where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, please contact Michael Kauffman.