Ohai’s Emily Leung on building a cannabis-accessories brand with style

The Vancouver-based company makes products for the sophisticated, style-conscious, and aesthetically aware

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The business of cannabis tools and accessories has come a long way in the past decade, with designers and brands taking care to ensure that their products are not just functionally sound, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Let’s face it: a skull-shaped bong and a Trailer Park Boys rolling tray might have seemed pretty cool when you were in college, but presumably you—and your tastes—have grown up since then.

When Vancouver’s Emily Leung began to explore the cannabis world 10 years ago, she quickly became an enthusiastic proponent of the plant itself, but the design side of the industry left her cold.

“I was working at an ad agency in brand marketing so I understood the value of creating a brand—to curate a unique experience that would resonate with the consumer and to build a community of like-minded people,” Leung tells CannCentral. “The light bulb went off. I realized that cannabis brands at the time weren’t fulfilling this need, or it only showed up in a certain way and alienated others. This inspired me to create something that didn’t exist quite yet and that’s how the seed was planted.”

Emily Leung.

That seed grew into the idea for a new business venture, and in 2018, the budding entrepreneur launched Ohai, a lifestyle brand geared toward what Leung characterizes as the “modern day cannabis consumer; someone who is sophisticated, style-conscious, and aesthetically aware”.

Ohai’s offerings include crystal pipes, joint rings, and grinders that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Kinfolk, Monocle, or—dare we say it?—Dwell.

Leung describes herself as “the decision-maker and creative director of all things Ohai”, but notes that she has built a crew of top-notch freelancers who support the brand with design, photography, writing, and web development. The common thread among the team is that they are all women, which Leung says is entirely by design.

“Although Ohai the brand avoids gender specification, I wanted to share this opportunity with my female peers, something that represents equality and modern-day feminism,” she says. “I’ve been involved in the cannabis industry (and others) long enough to have seen and heard countless situations where women were being hushed or pushed aside by our male counterparts, regardless of their position. And like many other industries, men typically dominate the boardroom table and executive decision-making roles, so Ohai is a chance for us to have equal pay and play.

“However, this does not mean that I don’t value men and their role in business,” Leung clarifies. “I have just as many male mentors and supporters who give me a balance in perspective, which I think is critical for growth. Ultimately, it all comes down to being mindful and selective on who you choose to be a part of the team, because this becomes your lifeline and influences how you show up to your community.”

La Stella pipe by Ohai.

Earlier in April, Ohai launched an online-shopping portal. This is a must in our pandemic-lockdown times, of course, but Leung admits there were moments early on in the coronavirus crisis when she feared the worst for her company.

“Initially, I thought that this would be it, that Ohai would be over before it’s even really started,” she tells CannCentral. “I wasn’t sure how the community and government would consider cannabis consumption during the time of a pandemic, but when each province decided to rule cannabis retailers as an essential service I knew it was game time. In the first week of quarantine, I made it my goal to finally launch Ohai’s online shop and this downtime has allowed me to do just that, and in time for 4/20!

“I also realized that the Elevated Essentials collection is quite corona-friendly for consumption at home,” she continues. “For example, the thumb roller and joint ring prevents you from touching your joint too much, and the crystal pipes are also great for limiting contact during consumption. But most importantly, our quarantine situation has brought the cannabis community closer. The amount of love and support shared with me still blows me away.”

Ohai logo grinder in gold.

At the moment, Ohai’s products are available only online (at ohailife.com) and at retail locations in Vancouver. When things go back to normal (whatever the new normal looks like), Leung has big ambitions.

“The plan is to spread the Ohai love across Canada and eventually across international borders,” she says.

Discussion


  • JimJames May 8, 2020 12:47 PM

    I totally saw an influencer on instagram with one of those little joint holder ring things. I don’t mind touching the actual paper when I hold a joint though, they’re not super dirty.

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