The big idea
We’ve all had that big idea that we knew would be super successful if we could only get off our asses to execute it. But how many of us actually make it happen?
Kushkards, one of the most fun and creative ancillary brands in cannabis, had its beginnings in just that scenario. Founder Lauren Miele was struck by inspiration at while trying to find the perfect holiday gift for a guy she was seeing: “It was Christmastime in 2013. I was on the 1 Train, going to work. And, since we both appreciated cannabis, I just had the idea that I would make a card for him and attach a blunt to it.” Miele already had the design know-how; she’d graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology. So she started ducking into restaurants around New York, taking matchbooks to cut off the strike strip and construct her first cards.
But there was a problem with the concept: Miele couldn’t roll.
The perfect team
Luckily, she remembered someone from college who might fit the bill. At FIT, Chelsea Buttner had studied marketing, but as half of the original Kushkards team, Chelsea rolled blunts. Before long it became apparent that the two were the perfect team to create this brand.
What began as the ultimate DIY gift evolved quickly into a side business as people coveted the cards they made for holidays and friend’s birthdays. Both women would work at their corporate 9-to-5 jobs and then meet up and work together on Kushkards until 9 or 10 o’clock at night, putting in long hours to build a cannabis brand from the East Coast. “We’re making strides here, but it’s still a disadvantage. If we were out there [in legal states] doing pop-up shops, showing our faces more, it’d be easier. Being in a market where it’s not recreationally legal, one of our biggest goals is to normalize cannabis use,” Miele shares.
Steady growth for Kushkards
They took the brand to Denver for their official launch, on 4/20/2015 at the High Times Cannabis Cup. Since then, it’s been steady growth for Kushkards. Widespread popularity and fruitful collaborations, including wedding invitations for Love and Marij and dinner menus for Mason Jar Events, have kept them busy. Their Kushkards have led to freelance work and other opportunities. “In our first year we went crazy with sponsorships, gift bags, and giveaways, but it worked out really well. It’s all about Share The Moment.”
Top sellers from the launch collection:
Process and inspiration
Their process has always been a collaborative one. “I studied copywriting and advertising in college,” Chelsea tells us. “We talk about ideas, we come up with the concept. Then I’ll do the copy for the cards and Lauren will come up with a design that fits that content.” Their cards are printed in Manhattan, but they still assemble them by hand, sticking on the match strip and connecting the wire so customers can insert their joints. Friends and family help out, and the team continues to streamline processes. When each latest batch of cards is complete, it’s time for the photo shoot, their “favorite part,” the duo confides. “We hire a photographer, make and use cool backgrounds. It’s a lot of fun, and we use those photos for everything from our website to Instagram to our press kit.”
Lauren and Chelsea seem to have an endless supply of cleverness, and they love to collaborate and share ideas. “When your family starts texting you with ideas for cards, you know you’re onto something!” Miele laughs. They also work with Butter’s brother, another designer who illustrates all cards with faces, to bring in fresh perspectives. “Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places,” Chelsea notes.
Both Miele and Buttner recently took the leap, at age 25, to leave their corporate jobs and devote all their attention to the Kushkards brand. “Once you leave the 40 hour job, it’s an 80 hour job,” they joke. They travel extensively to states with legal markets and have broadened their line to include holiday company cards. These custom projects provide four pages of promotional material, with space inside to put any individualized company information.
Forecasted top sellers from the new collection:
Now that they’re developing their brand full time, Buttner and Miele are confident that the future holds big things for Kushkards. “We want to make this more than just the stoner greeting card in the marijuana industry. We want this in CVS, Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters. When it’s legal we want CVS asking for us. We want everyone to see that we are really fun greeting cards.”
Photos courtesy of Kushkards