Maison Bloom's Jake Wall on Growth in Cannabis Through Collaboration
Jake Wall is the chief innovation officer and leading design thinker at Maison Bloom, a LGBTQIA+ majority owned and operated company pushing the boundaries of what's possible in cannabis beverages with a whole-plant, strain-specific, single-barrel approach alongside a bold approach to brand already making waves on the direct-to-consumer front.
Jake is a veteran brand builder and growth marketing leader with experience across consumer brands, luxury fashion, digital and e-commerce, consumer packaged goods, and food and beverage/hospitality industries. He has shepherded a number of brands through their high growth and adoption phases, including eHOW, LIVESTRONG, JAKE Clothing, Haute Couture French Bubbles, Ayesha Curry's International Smoke, and chef Michael Mina's empire of restaurants.
We spoke with Jake for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Jake, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up a total latchkey kid in the heart of California's Central Coast. I would spend most of the year in San Luis Obispo and then jump around spending summers either visiting my grandparents in San Francisco or my sister—she's a generation older than me—in Hawaii. It's the former that probably had the greatest impression on me and is why I currently split time between San Francisco and Los Angeles. San Francisco has a familiarity to me—a big city that is still rather small and one that is filled with more lifetimes than just my own of memories. It's this mix of nostalgia alongside the openness and acceptance of the city that has woven itself deeply into my DNA.
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
I wear a few different hats in the crazy cannabis world. I jumped into the industry as part of the trio of founders behind California-based Maison Bloom, an LGBTQIA+ majority owned and operated beverage company where I also serve as chief innovation officer. As time has passed, I've added a few side hustles to my day-to-day as special guest editor, lifestyle and business, for Honeysuckle Magazine as well as DEI advisory board member and board coordinator for Trailblazers. At Maison Bloom, I have the unique privilege of spending my time elevating the every day through our perfectly dosed premium cannabis-infused beverages. I fuel my long-standing passion for prose through featurettes and industry profiles with Honeysuckle Magazine balanced with delivering true impact and progress through my volunteer work with Trailblazers focused on diversity, equity, equality and inclusion in all its forms in this industry. This mix of projects keeps me largely bi-coastal with my trio of focus opportunities based in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
Cannabis has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The Central Coast with its slow down vibes and mix of surf and sun vibes always lent itself—and still does to this day—to a more open mind when it comes to the power of the flower. One of my earliest positive experiences with cannabis was through the medicinal side of things as family members endured significant battles with cancer and other chronic or debilitating illness. Cannabis helped as a pain management tool as well as an appetite stimulate to counter the very real impact of the chemicals being used to kill cancer that oft would kill appetite along with it. I've had a front row seat to the battles that are waged inside one's own body and how cannabis can be a very powerful and positive tool to shift the balance towards hope, positivity and healthy cell growth and development.
In the past decade, I have found cannabis to aide my own personal journey towards Total Mental Health (TMH). As an individual who lives with Bi-Polar Disorder II, I have lived a large portion of my life with internal struggles and "quiet wars" inside my own head. I am grateful to have been supported in my evolution by truly wonderful people who have journeyed with me and provided me great tools and tricks to help manage my own mental affliction, but I had never had the greatest success with the prescription route. In 2017, I really doubled down on my positive past with cannabis and have, through a tremendous amount of trial and error, found a balance of products that—thanks to the power of the flower—allow me to better manage my own "ups" and "downs." Now I can share that mania is a thing of the past in favor of a true sense of balance that had escaped me for so many years. By leaning into the power of the flower myself, I have been able to achieve a level of Total Mental Health that feels like it has been 30+ years in the making.
A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.
If absinthe and cannabis had a love child, it would be Maison Bloom's "Lemon Cucumber + Sweet Basil" Elevated Seltzer. It's cannabis's "Little Green Fairy" and a true favorite of mine—but, I have to be honest—it feels like I am cheating and a bit of a "cop out" by naming my own product as one of my favorites. Visiting my own curated at-home pharmacy, I am never without Sonoma Hills Farm and BIKO Flower. I am a big fan of all things Sonoma Hills Farm and especially their "Pink Jesus" strain. Although not always a big flower consumer, the "Pink Jesus" is an amazing strain that supports my creativity and flow of innovation—I think the industry likes to call this a "cerebral effect"—while also empowering me with a sense of uplifting energy. When I want to let my hair down and unwind, I like to mix it up with Timeka Drew's BIKO JUSEYO DIAMONDS pre-roll which is a higher potency smokeable with a dash of THC that is as delicious as it is euphoric and uplifting.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
Simply put … the biggest challenge I think we face is playing well with others. We are a small industry and one that often approaches our world as though success is a finite resource. This idea that there is only so much success to go around and so we must guard it closely like Frodo with "The One Ring to Rule Them All" and never share it is the most counterproductive idea that has quietly taken hold in our industry. We are a young industry where roughly 82%+ of the companies and offerings in our space would, by any other industry's standards, meet the definition of a "start-up" level business. To build a better industry and see greater success for all, collaboration is the key. We must get more comfortable in these early years that we are writing the playbook for those that come after us and, at least for now, that more can be achieved through respecting one another as competition while also finding as many ways as possible to collaborate and combine our efforts, our budgets, and our reach so that we all lift as we climb together. Dynamic partnership and collaboration creates strength in numbers and the more we work together, the more we will raise the profile of our individual companies and products as well as further mainstream opportunities for the industry.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships, or marketing.
I have the pleasure of being a part of the Trailblazers community and serving on the DEI Advisory Board alongside some of the most progressive thinkers and doers in our industry with a goal of ensuring that Trailblazers continues to grow into the most pluralistic community in cannabis. As a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I have had the pleasure of spearheading Trailblazers' initiatives in support of PRIDE. This has led to the inaugural Trailblazers presents AUTHENTIC VOICES: PRIDE '22 'Sweet Sixteen profile series dedicated to shining a bright light on some of the best and brightest LGBTQIA+ leaders in cannabis. Kicking off with this PRIDE focus on LGBTQIA+ leaders and representation, Trailblazers presents AUTHENTIC VOICES is the first in a series of ongoing celebratory features we will engage in as part of Trailblazers continued efforts to fuel the lift as we climb mentality across our industry. This partnership is a perfect example of dynamic collaboration and how this industry leans into things together as the team at Honeysuckle Magazine and Media have come to the table to further amplify the reach of this series as an on-going partner. Cannabis is filled with great stories and although diversity, inclusion, equity, equality, and visibility are things where we must stay vigilant—like all industries—it is a real pleasure to be helming such a great project supported by great people highlighting the best and the brightest of queer talent in across the national cannabis space.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.
I really love the work being done by Kelly Perez, Courtney Mathis, Demi Ford and the entire team at Cannabis Doing Good. I have had the great pleasure of crossing paths with them through my work with Trailblazers DEI Advisory Board and am energized by the vision and action that is the Cannabis Impact Fund. The vision they champion of to promote racial justice and supporting communities in need by empowering and supporting a truly "conscious cannabis" mindset deserves all the spotlight we can give to it and them. One of the best parts of this vision in action is the "1% Pledge Partner" program. Through the Cannabis Impact Fund, business of all sizes pledge 1% of their equity, shares, sales, or products to solely support racial justice organizations at present. As the Cannabis Impact Fund grows and more players move to join the "1% Pledge Partner" program, this reach will continue to expand include support and funding for sustainability, environmental justice, and community engagement initiatives. A bold vision to say the least—it is energizing to see the real impact this organization delivers, and it doesn't hurt that it is led and facilitated by some of the most wonderfully selfless women who highlight the exceptional talent that is truly driving our industry forward.
A recent project you're proud of.
In helming innovation at Maison Bloom and with our dedication to Human Centered Design, I get up and go to work every day with the understanding that we are very much forging our own path in cannabis. This means that in many ways, we must build the future we see every day. This is the true story behind our partnership with leading nanoemulsion visionaries Vertosa. Two years ago, when we first met with the team at Vertosa, we explained our vision for what we saw missing from cannabis beverage and what we wanted to achieve in the functional beverage category. They said, "Yes. Absolutely. We love it. It's simply not possible." After two years of hard work, collaboration, evolution, trial and—let's face it—some errors too, our combined efforts in across science as well as flavor and function have made it possible for Maison Bloom to deliver cannabis's first true strain specific, whole plant, single barrel beverage that guarantees rapid onset and delivers craveable flavor complexity more in line with fine wines and the full portfolio of mixology that fueled the craft cocktail craze of the last generation. Tom Freston, the co-founder of MTV, once said, "Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way." And Tom Ford lives by the mantra, "I am not a person who is about reality. I am about enhanced reality." Both apply to the work we have done together, and I get to head into our in-house INNOVATION Lab every day and create in a full spectrum of flavor thanks to the power of the flower made possible by this bold leap forward we've made together. Together we are giving thirsty consumers what they never knew they always wanted, and it gives me life.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
Kristina Lopez Adduci and the team at House of Puff's collaboration with visual artist and social justice warrior Chris Wilson. Chris was tapped by the dynamic duo of House of Puff to increase awareness about solitary confinement through a collaboration that features his painting, Positive Delusions, on the second edition of the brand's popular artist series rolling papers. Chris' first New York solo exhibition, I Can Show You the Way Out, features two artworks that focus specifically on the detriments of solitary confinement. The first is Positive Delusions, an abstract painting that memorializes the positive thoughts he focused on to get himself through months of this torment. The second is his critically acclaimed short film, The Box, which brings the effects of solitary confinement into sharp relief through personal interviews with others who've suffered it. Not only will a percentage of proceeds from this collaboration go to support the artist, but House of Puff is upping the ante as they will also donate an additional percentage to Solitary Watch—a nonprofit working to fully inform policymakers and the U.S. public about the harms of solitary confinement. It is a beautiful partnership that is also incredibly authentic drawing in Kristina's own background in the art world and drawing an amazing spotlight on a less talked about part of social justice. I love authenticity, I love progressive stance, I love collaborations that deliver real meaning and impact—this has all three, so what's not to love.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
For me, the highest of bars that we all should be reaching for has been set by Peter Kadens and the vision in action that is HOPE Chicago and his greater vision for HOPE across America with other city specific initiatives for economic advancement and community development through dedication to education. I didn't grow up well off. I grew up in a double wide mobile home park that was, specifically, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks in the town I called home. Education has served as gateway after gateway for me to succeed beyond my humble roots and it was, on more than one occasion, made possible by the "lift" of others. What Kadens and the team have done with HOPE Chicago is truly breathtaking—for those who don't know, the organization will cover the cost of in-state college tuition for thousands of underprivileged students and their parents in the state of Illinois. Peter doesn't stop there, however, he envisions HOPE as something that can spring up in other cities nationwide (and one could argue worldwide). The vision and course he has charted is one we must support. Because everything worth doing is on the other side of hard and this is a shining example of how cannabis leadership is putting the money earned from this industry to work for the betterment of people and communities in need. Peter Kadens and his team have showed us the way. They've given us a roadmap. This is a call to action, and I am ready to serve.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
One would think I might return to fashion, but I've been there, done that and had a successful exit. So, I would have to say that I would be the chief of staff for the chief commercial officer of the L.A. Rams. But I've never been great at sports and what can I say… I like it here so I think I will stay a while.
Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, 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 get in touch.