Something I love most about the cannabis industry are the stories. Hearing everyone’s journey, regardless of personal or professional, it always strikes a chord. Cannabis is like parenting in that even if you’re from completely different sides of the track, you share this soulful passion towards a common interest and nothing else matters. Like when you give another mom “a look” at the park and you both immediately understand the weight and glory of the journey.
Cannabis is a similar journey. You don’t enter into this industry by “accident”. You get into it because you are deeply passionate about spreading the message, even if the journey that caused the motivation can vary greatly from person to person.
Andrea’s story is a story of heartbreak with a silver lining. Her own injury caused a necessity for her self, which in turn ignited her drive to create SAVA. Today, she gets to say she helps deliver natural medicine to others. And guess what? She’s doing it with style.
Ozzie Ozkay-Villa <3
Oov: What did you do before you got involved in the cannabis industry?
Andrea: Before SAVA I had a non-profit career that focused on strengthening human and social services agencies.
Oov: How did you get into cannabis? Where did it all start?
Andrea: My journey started with my own pain. I suffered a disabling injury that led doctors to tell me I would never work again. My frustration with the side effects of prescription pain medications led me to the cannabis world at a time when many small crafters were making high quality products, but information about and access to these products were extremely limited. Using cannabis and a wellness regimen, I recovered and was inspired to start a marketplace that showcases these products. I created SAVA, and it quickly grew into a business that allows patients access to high-quality products from brands both big and small.
Oov: What would you say has been the most difficult aspect of being in this industry? What are some roadblocks?
Andrea: The new regulations have been a real challenge for us as a small company, and I see them being hard to navigate for a lot of folks. We are beyond excited to be part of the industry during a shifting time when cannabis is coming out of the shadows of an ill-informed drug war and being recognized (again) as the medicinal plant that it is. Our commitment to being in compliance with new regulations reflects our desire to legitimize the industry and the plant. However, the amount of time and energy it takes to comply with the moving target of the new regulations really keeps us on our toes!
Oov: What motivates you to be a leader in your niche?
Andrea: I believe in the power of this plant! For me it was transformative, and I hear from customers on a daily basis about how it is transformative for them as well. When I get that kind of feedback, it keeps me going – no matter the apparent obstacles.
Oov: What advice would you give to a friend wanting to break into the industry?
Andrea: It’s all about the right partnerships. You’ll experience ups and downs, seemingly insurmountable obstacles in this industry as it has very unique challenges. Along the way we’ve had several key partners answer the phone and give us just the advice we needed to keep us going. We’ve reached out and supported others. This industry really does require working together to be successful.
Oov: Was there a “coming out of the cannabis closet” moment for you?
Andrea: As an observer of other people’s journeys coming out of the cannabis closet, I’ll note that even when I started SAVA two years ago there was more reluctance for people to share their cannabis use publicly. Part of our mission is to offer transparency into every product, to share the story of the makers with the customers. We believe people want to know where their cannabis comes from, the same way they want to know where their food comes from. As such, each brand on our marketplace has a page profiling the company. When we first launched the site we had a number of makers submit very vague descriptions, and photos where you couldn’t see their faces. Now the majority of people fully tell their stories, they attach their names, they send us headshots so our customers can know who they are. Things are really shifting, and cannabis stigma is going away.
Oov: Tell us about your first experience with cannabis.
Andrea: I had been a recreational user from a young age, but my first experience with cannabis as medicine was after my aforementioned injury. When I first realized I could take a CBD tincture to reduce my pain, and eat an edible to keep me sleeping through the night despite the discomfort in my body, and that I could ditch the pharmaceuticals that were making me feel out of it and depressed, that was a revelation.
Oov: Favorite strain/product on the market right now and why?
Andrea: Part of what I love about the revolution in cannabis right now is that we’re learning how targeted a product can be for a specific use. I have my own personal collection of products I use on a daily basis for my own reasons, so it’s hard to name just one thing. But one of my many go-to products is Oara Chocolate Thins! They help me sleep well.
Andrea Brooks, Founder & CEO