Skymint's Laurie Gregory on the Fascinating and Infuriating World of Cannabis
Laurie Gregory is chief brand and product officer of Skymint Brands, Michigan's leading vertically integrated cannabis company and the state's largest medical and recreational license holder. Laurie is passionate about cannabis and her mission is to share high-quality cannabis as a means to enhance health and well-being through innovative products and brand experiences.
Laurie has held top brand and marketing roles at a number of companies in her career. She was a founding member of the executive team at Bath & Body Works, creating the original brand vision, positioning and brand DNA still in use today.
We spoke with Laurie for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.
Laurie, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents met and fell in love in San Diego and decided to move back to Ohio to raise their children with Midwest values. Little did they know, I would be experimenting with cannabis in high school. 😉
I moved to Columbus, Ohio, to launch my retail career with L Brands—considered the "Harvard" of retail companies. As a surprise to many, Columbus is a breeding ground of creativity and boasts the highest number of fashion designers per capita, trailing only New York City and Los Angeles. Columbus is the birthplace of many entrepreneurial startups, which means the food and art scene is plentiful.
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
I am currently serving as the chief brand and product officer for Skymint Brands, and I divide my time between my home in Ohio and a mid-century modern Airbnb rental near Lansing, Michigan, where I stay during the workweek.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
Cannabis has helped to give me the best sleep of my life. I had no idea! Taking an edible an hour before I want to be asleep has proven to be a life-changer for me. I'm never looking back.
A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.
Well, I'm biased of course, but I truly do love the taste of our Jolly x Short's infused gummies. Short's is a much beloved Michigan brewery with whom we have partnered to recreate the remarkable taste of their beer flavors into the cannabis edible space. We've recently launched a new Mule-flavored gummy that has all of the gingery and lime zing and sparkle of that cocktail—without any of the alcohol. All the taste, none of the hangover? I'm a fan!
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
I come from a traditional marketing background, having grown up in the beauty industry with L Brands including the Limited, the Express, Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, which I helped to found. I invented the idea of the "giftable" item, that $10 scented candle or special soap you buy just for yourself, which helped to put Bath & Body Works on the map. So I'm used to big gestures and national launches and helping to build a brand to which customers across the U.S. can feel connected. In cannabis as it currently stands, there are of course many challenges given the Schedule 1 status, so we can't advertise in many of the traditional platforms as I'm used to doing and can't market on social media like other industries. That said, what we can do is fascinating, as we are forced to market very creatively and personally. We have to understand our customer and meet them where they already are in order to connect with them. I find that I love that personalization.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
Skymint partnered with DNA Genetics, a founding cannabis brand that originated in Amsterdam and has the most awarded cannabis flower in the U.S., and we're extremely proud to have exclusively launched nine of their proprietary flower strains in the Michigan market. They sold out their first week. The Skymint x DNA collab launch has set new industry standards for elevated launch marketing and I'm excited because the stunning product packaging will look amazing when we're once again able to pull it out at an intimate dinner party. Moreover, we have just launched the first concentrate collection that DNA has ever collaborated on in the world. The Michigan market, where we are, is exploding, and being able to set ourselves apart by the dint of sheer excellence is so important to us.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.
Cannabis has the power to be a driver for change, and we're all very excited that our industry can directly impact people through criminal expungement, prison release and other life-changing measures. That's why we established our Two Joints brand of premium pre-rolls to benefit the Last Prisoner Project. We've also been proud to directly support unfairly detained prisoner Michael Thompson and help others forge an easier path as they transition from incarceration to "normal" life. Outside the cannabis realm, we are big boosters of Feeding America and initiatives around mental health. After all, our motto is "Happy People, Happy Plants." It only makes sense!
A recent project you're proud of.
We opened 11 stores across Michigan during the pandemic last year, and I'm extremely proud of the work that we've done to provide essential services and products safely to neighborhoods throughout the state during one of the most difficult times any of us has ever experienced. Our stores and brand experience are intentionally welcoming, light and airy, and filled with beautiful objects that we hope will inspire. We don't just provision cannabis; we also sell whimsical items, artist-made objects, books, buttons, apparel, kitchen accoutrements and other items that make your life more pleasurable—particularly when you're spending so much extra time at home. I hope we've added something bright to our customers' daily lives during an incredibly difficult time.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
The pop-up legal clinics that Jason White at Curaleaf organized exemplify what is needed to heal and support our communities, particularly for those people of color who have been unfairly impacted by the war on drugs. Learning how to expunge your record of activities that are no longer criminal can make a huge difference in your ability to rent an apartment, get a job, buy a car and more. It is increasingly incumbent upon cannabis companies to align themselves strongly with a cause. Our own efforts are laser-focused on supporting mental health and feeding our communities. Doing good, feeling good. That's the formula!
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
Cannaclusive founder Mary Pryor, who happens to be a native Detroiter and is a proud Michigan State University grad, is someone I watch with appreciation. She's used her deep knowledge of and experience in digital marketing to make a defining impact on our industry, helping to forward the discussion around race and equity. She's really pushed the conversation around social equity in cannabis forward in a serious and thoughtful manner that I respect hugely.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry.
I was a consultant in the beauty and wellness industry when Skymint tapped me to come on to lead their branding and products line—and I'm grateful that they did. My passion in life is to create beauty and well-being rituals that make people feel good, and cannabis is a powerful and healing plant to have in your wellness toolbox. The cannabis industry is a thrilling, fast-moving roller coaster. It's fascinating and infuriating and exhilarating to be a part of a new post-Prohibition industry that is truly poised to reinvigorate the middle class and change the definition of self-care in the U.S. and beyond. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
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.