How We Created a
Smart Cannabis Storage System
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Karina Karassev and I am one of the co-founders of RCU – Responsible Cannabis Use who is behind the cannabis storage product, Stori. RCU is a cannabis education company that offers the following educational products:
- Canniknow.com, a free educational resource for consumers around the world
- CannEd, a cannabis education e-learning course for employers and;
- RCU’s cannabis storage product, Stori.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
I am a CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) and for the past 10 years led the strategic sourcing and corporate travel team at Sun Life Financial, one of Canada’s largest financial institutions.
Sun Life was the first Canadian insurer to provide coverage for medical cannabis under their group benefits plans which inspired me to learn more about the plant and the industry. Understanding that federal cannabis legalization in Canada was a once in a lifetime opportunity propelled me to leave my current career and embark in the world of entrepreneurship to start RCU.
We saw a gap in cannabis education. There was a significant amount of misinformation available and not one source of truth – we embarked on a journey to create that. I am fortunate not to have embarked on the journey alone but with my 2 co-founders Afshin Mousavian and Ilia Larionov who have previously launched a number of other businesses.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
There are many challenges when it comes to the cannabis industry. For instance, every cannabis company has to navigate through cannabis stigma, advertising limitations, or lack of product familiarity by consumers.
We took all those challenges with a mission to make functional and beautiful cannabis storage – not just another plastic box! We had to be mindful of consumer new purchasing patterns, sustainability concerns and functionality.
Stori was built by cannabis consumers to help normalize cannabis and remove the stigma that comes with it. Gone are the days where we should be hiding our cannabis away. At Stori, we’re proud of our cannabis and wanted to be just as proud of the way we store it.
Using our experience in design and business development, we set out to build a cannabis storage system geared towards the modern user. We wanted something that looked beautiful beside our favourite espresso machines, Bluetooth speakers, and home automation devices. Something we’d be proud to display.
Who is your target market?
Anyone consuming cannabis products. Recreational consumers and medical cannabis patients across the globe can now enjoy a design-forward and practical cannabis storage for home and on the go.
When it comes to bringing cannabis storage into the next generation, we wanted to focus on safety and responsibility. Stori is child-resistant, odour proof, and colour coded so that you can proudly and safely display your cannabis at home, just like you would your wine cart.
We also wanted to do our part to reduce waste. Right now the cannabis industry produces a lot of plastic that’s meant for short term use. The amount of plastic being used could become astronomical if more companies don’t pivot to using environmentally friendly packaging. We think that giving consumers a long term storage solution that they’re proud to own will take on some of that responsibility and allow producers to make effective short-term packaging.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We launched the product in pre-order in April 2020 and have received a significant amount of pre-orders to date from Canada, US and Europe.
Our biggest marketing success so far has been on Product Hunt. We won 2nd product of the day, 2nd product of the week, and 5th product of the month in May 2020 which helped us drive pre-orders from the U.S and Europe
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
We are really lucky to have really engaged customers with our products. We listened to our customers’ feedback and have implemented a number of their suggestions in production. This is a tremendous advantage in launching with pre-orders while the product is in production. This allowed us to pivot and deliver on consumer needs and wants.
We are following the same process when it comes to our app development. We are engaging with our pre-order customers to get feedback and input into the Stori app. After all, we are making the product for the consumer and are very fortunate to have such engaging customers.
Our goal is to continue to build a community around the product and ensure we keep up the personal touch within our community.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
Our team is small but mighty! We all thrive in our ability to problem solve and come up with creative solutions to get to the desired outcomes.
Due to COVID-19 we are back to working remotely, but we are able to do this effectively because of our monthly planning sessions, daily stand-ups and Slack.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
Two of the co-founders and a number of our investors come from Shopify – hence the natural fit for our e-commerce platform was Shopify. Our payment processing is with one of our educational partners – Mercco.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Legal and accounting fees to set up a business can be high. It may not seem important and intimidating upfront, but picking a lawyer and an accountant that has worked with start-ups is critical.
You want them to have your best interest in mind and understand your businesses and the stage you are in to ensure they can provide pragmatic and practical guidance.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The speed at which we are able to pivot to grow the business. This is a complete change coming from a large organization where decision making can be rigid and slow.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The small yet important stuff that needs to be done.
The book keeping, the payroll, payment processing, taxes. There is not a department that handles that at a startup. All the accountabilities and tasks still fall on the founders.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
Start with Why by Simon Senik is a great book for every entrepreneur.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
We built RCU and Stori to be global. As Canadians, we have been given a once in a lifetime head start in a new industry and we hope to continue to grow as cannabis legalization continues to grow across the globe.
Our vision for Stori is to be in every house.