Angela Pih knows how to market to consumers because she’s perceptive and sensitive to her audience’s unique needs. Coming from an advertising and fashion background, Pih understands that branding is all about understanding the consumer. She now works as the head of marketing for StateHouse Holdings, which may sound like the name of some sort of hedge fund but is actually one of California’s leading cannabis companies and home to such brands as Dime Bag, Kingpen, and Urbn Leaf. High Times sat down with Pih to talk about how she helped build some of The Golden State’s most recognizable brands.
So if you just want to talk about how you got into this field and how you got to where you are today.
My current trajectory came from two decades of being in the global advertising agency world, predominantly working on Fortune 500 tech brands. Brands have always been a part of my career in terms of what inspires me. I’m not sure if you are familiar with a woman by the name of Christina Wong of Fruit + Flower. She is a cannabis culinary writer and influencer. She and I were having breakfast one day before she was in cannabis, and she goes “There’s a job at Papa & Barkley and they’re looking for a CMO. Why don’t you go get that job and hire me because I really want to get into the cannabis industry?” And I remember saying to her, “What is it about this company that you really love and that you think that I should look at?” And she goes “Well, it’s one of the really well-respected companies. It’s education-first. And it creates and develops really wonderful products that have helped people.” And so that was my hook. I reached out directly and really fell in love with the brand story of helping those who you love the most with incredible products. Six weeks later, I was hired and then four weeks after that I hired Christina.
Being in the industry with a Chinese background and being a woman, do you feel accepted? Or do you feel like the industry still has a lot more work to do when it comes to treating people who just aren’t white men as equals in industry?
I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve not experienced any level of discrimination from being a woman or being Asian. I do notice that BIPOC [are] not as well represented within the cannabis industry. A seat at a table to be a decision maker, to be a leader within the industry, should not [be] tied to what you look like and what the color of your skin and your origin [is]. It should be tied into what you contribute to that conversation.
One of the things we’re starting to feel here in Colorado is the boom busting with cannabis. Which can be scary, but I also know it’s inevitable as more places legalize and there’s not necessarily the same type of market for tourists. So what advice are you giving brands currently that you’re working with when it comes to this unprecedented time in cannabis?
You need to understand who your core customers are. Continue to make sure that you’re taking care of them. And really be able to look for affinities with underserved consumers who you may not have had conversations with or invited into certain events. Be able to speak to their needs so that you have a wider, addressable market. [Cannabis is] very much a boots-on-the-ground type of business. [It requires] conversations, education, understanding consumer behavior.
I know another big thing that you advocate for is sustainability. So how do you work that in when you’re working with a brand and making sure that they’re successful, but also sustainable?
Here at StateHouse, since we’re fully vertical on our farms, we’ve switched over a lot of our power usage, working directly with PG&E in terms of using less electricity in our cultivation practices. Looking at packaging, which often is wasteful, how can we reduce that? And we’re looking at ways of being able to make sure that we are conscious in terms of how we’re making all of our products.
Do you have anything that you want to specifically make sure we highlight or talk about?
We have recently opened our West Hollywood Urbn Leaf dispensary right on the Sunset Strip. So someone was asking me, “Why are you so excited about having a cannabis store on the Sunset Strip?” It’s [a] prime location. First generation cannabis retailers have been in industrial areas and zoned in places [that are] hidden somewhere [and] kind of difficult to find and look a bit shady even though it’s a legal, properly licensed facility. Being right on the Sunset Strip, we’ve really come a long way. [The store has an] open shelf shopping experience, so you can just pick up a little basket and drop your products in and actually shop as if you were in a grocery store. I love the experience of self-select where you get guidance with a budtender and have one-on-one conversations, but more importantly, you can actually pick up a product, look at the label and not feel that you’re being rushed.