She Doesn't Think Your Weed Should Be Stored In a Shoebox
Whitney Beatty had a thriving 15-year career in development for TV in Los Angeles, but the hours were long and the pressure high. In 2007, the job pushed her to the breaking point. “I was sitting at my desk, and all of a sudden, I am short of breath, my heart is beating out of control, and I’m sweating profusely. I thought I was going to die,” she recalls.
After driving herself to the hospital, Beatty was so anxious to get inside that she parked in the ambulance zone and left her keys in the ignition. Inside, they told her she’d experienced a panic attack. Her doctor prescribed a cocktail of drugs, all with side effects. Eventually, someone suggested that she give cannabis a shot, and she soon found a CBD-THC protocol that allowed her to manage her symptoms.
As she began to delve more into the world of medicinal marijuana, Beatty became passionate about wanting to shake the industry stigmas. “I started reading that there was so much opportunity in the cannabis space,” she says.
Pulling from her own experiences, Beatty noticed there was a need within the market: an effective and secure place to store cannabis. “I kept wine in a wine fridge, liquor in a bar, but I was still keeping my cannabis in a shoebox under my bed, which wasn’t safe, especially with a dog and a child in the home,” she says.
Related: Starting a Business: The Idea Phase
She began chatting with fellow consumers and found out others were having the same storage issue. They were using plastic baggies and non-airtight dispensary jars that often left them with damaged goods.
Beatty began brainstorming. In 2015, she walked away from her job and starting working on Apothecarry, a line of high-end cannabis boxes. “I felt there was a hole in the market for luxury goods and wanted to offer an upscale smoking experience, which I think diminishes stigma and adds to the mindfulness of the ritual of cannabis consumption,” she explains. It was not an easy transition. “I have an undergrad degree in theater and a master’s in film production. So the knowledge gap was real,” Beatty admits.
She began developing prototypes and set out to raise money. “I figured investors were just going to throw money at my head and quickly realized, It’s definitely not going to be so easy,” she says, noting that she frequently heard, “Nobody will want a luxury cannabis box” and “People smoking cannabis are college-aged boys behind the gym.” Still, she soldiered on.
Beatty raised $30,000 from friends and family to promote the business on a crowdfunding site. Fourteen days later, her campaign was taken down “for being paraphernalia,” according to the site. “There were no words for how devastating that was,” Beatty says. She gathered every penny to her name, purchased 100 of her cases from overseas manufacturers she had designed them with, and listed them on her new website. “I don’t know how people found them -- since I had no money for advertising -- but they sold out, and at my price point [$259]!” she says.
To go all in, Beatty sold her home to fund the company. “I went to the Small Business Administration for help and was told they don’t support cannabis,” she says. But after maintaining that she wasn’t investing in the plant itself, the organization offered her access to a mentor to assist with her financial projections. With that support, Beatty beefed up her business blueprints and pitched Arcview Group, a network of more than 600 cannabis investors. They passed, so she sought out a cannabis accelerator, Canopy San Diego, which accepted her into its program. For 16 weeks, she commuted between L.A. and San Diego, while parenting a two-year-old in the process.
Determined to get up and running, she launched in December 2016 and the following year went back to Arcview and won its quick-pitch prize of $50,000. She continued raising a seed round of $250,000, attracting the attention of 1998 Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams, who became an early investor.
Since the company went live, according to Beatty, “sales have doubled year over year,” powered in part by her fund-raising hustle. Back then, Apothecarry’s initial offering was her classic hardwood, double-lock case -- a sleek and sexy storage and humidor system designed to safely keep cannabis at its freshest. Inside, there were humidity-controlled containers, dab jars, a grinder, a rolling tray, and more. Now Beatty offers 14 SKUs, including travel cannabis cases, golden chopsticks, and storage jars. The company is working on a deluxe case with Bluetooth locks and humidity sensors as well as an LED extract case so people can see the quality of their product.
As the ever-changing cannabis market evolves, Beatty plans to be one step ahead. “We’ve proven our price,” she says. “We’ve proven our space. And now it’s time to grow and scale.”