After 20 years producing food magazines, cookbooks and reporting on the food industry, I learned that the father of my co-designer, Nellie Williams, had lung cancer.
I've worked with Nellie for nearly a decade and consider her to be something of a little sister. Her family lives in the small town of Washington, Missouri (just outside St. Louis), which at the time, did not have access to medical marijuana. Her dad, Fred, spent several years enduring one grueling treatment after another, with no real results. In 2016, I put a call out for edibles to my cannabis-using friends in Chicago—chocolate edibles, specifically. The lymph nodes in Fred's neck were severely swollen, making it painful to swallow. I knew chocolate would melt on his tongue.
Fred downed three chocolates in about 20 minutes. I warned him to slow down but was relieved and excited to see this very sick man finally experience some relief—relief that came from a plant rather than opioids. It was life-changing for everyone in the room; his wife and six daughters were so grateful to see their husband and father finally—after all these terrible months—eat a full meal and get some real sleep. That day was the last time I saw Fred. He died in June 2016.
My experience with Fred was the catalyst for Kitchen Toke, a quarterly magazine devoted to the culinary, health and wellness benefits of cannabis. Aside from watching my parents smoke pot when I was very young, (and trying it myself in high school), I knew nothing of marijuana. And as I looked for entry-level information on the subject, I realized there wasn't much available. It occurred to me that there was a white space to be filled for people who don't want to smoke marijuana, but might be willing to try it in food—for nutrition, health and wellness. Kitchen Toke was born.
Food as medicine
Why would a person introduce cannabis into their diet? For the same reasons people choose organic foods over non-organic foods. For the same reason people use healthy oils and other healthy fats: Cannabis takes health and wellness to the next level. Add to that the option to use cannabis without getting high, and the reasons grow.
When I say cannabis, by the way, I'm referring to the whole plant. I'm a huge proponent of eating foods in their "whole" entirety—just yesterday I had a conversation about eating the outer-skin of garlic. Garlic skin is loaded with heart-healthy, anti-aging properties, like phenylpropanoid antioxidants. As a matter of fact, most "skins" are good for you, whether it be from fruit, fish or vegetables. Cannabis is no different.
How to start
For people lucky enough to live in a state where you can grow or buy cannabis leaves, I suggest eating them raw. Cannabis leaves are packed with tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), the non-psychoactive acid form of THC known to ease symptoms of epilepsy, chronic pain, digestive disorders and more.
For those with medical cards, I recommend buying a cannabis flower with higher CBD content than THC, (approximately 4-to-1). Add it to a high-quality good coconut or olive oil and use it throughout the day. Hemp-derived CBD, which is federally legal and available nation-wide, contains 0.3% or less of THC and is great for hesitant first-timers. The product options are wide, with new CBD-infused honeys and olive oils and even salts showing up on the shelves every day.
Personally, I love starting my day with cannabis. By the time my stress kicks in, I feel like I've already beat it the punch. Stress, as we know, is a silent killer. But do we know why? From the hectic morning commute to the call from the kids' school to working on deadline, the compilation of individual daily stresses triggers a release of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. In more permanent states of stress, the amount of cortisol in the body can lead to weight gain, anxiety and insomnia. Weight gain has been linked to heart disease. Lack of sleep triggers a vicious cycle of further cortisol production—and thus more weight gain and less sleep!
Break the cycle
In 2011, while training for a triathlon, I discovered I had an insulin-resistance problem. I practiced "brick-training"—running, biking and swimming in a single day—several days a week, and to prepare for those days, I would fuel up on carbs the day before. I was trying to do some good for my body but ended up gaining more weight than ever. I knew something was wrong. I felt awful. My clothes didn't fit, and I was in a constant state of inflammation.
My doctor ordered a blood test. The results revealed that all those carbs weren't being properly broken down and as a result, insulin was flooding my body. I decided then and there to take control of my own health. I finished the triathlon and began an 8-week eating program of healthy fats, low-carbs and no dairy. My insulin returned to normal levels, and my weight dropped by 20 pounds. I succeeded at hitting the "reset button," and I looked and felt better than ever.
My discovery of cannabis took my eating and health and wellness program to a whole new level. I was already fit, but with the integration of cannabis into my diet, my overall inflammation dropped, my sleeping improved dramatically, and my post-workout muscle recovery is significantly quicker. I hope my story inspires you to do some research, look into what CBD can do for you. Starting with CBD is a great entry point and accessible for everyone.
Here's my favorite salad recipe with torn cannabis leaves
When their frustration with current fabric care options had fashionistas Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd worn out, the two entrepreneurs made it their mission to start a new niche and launch their very own at-home, eco-friendly laundry detergent line.
With a mission of turning an everyday domestic chore into a luxurious experience, these entrepreneurs not only conjured up an idea for an unconventional product line, but they successfully built their business while turning down the offer of every venture capitalist to knock on their door.
Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd co-founded The Laundress in 2004 after dealing with their own personal frustrations with limited clothing care options. Whiting, having worked at Ralph Lauren in design and Boyd having worked at Chanel in corporate sales, soon accumulated a stylish wardrobe of designer pieces as perks of their jobs in the fashion industry. However, the duo quickly realized that the maintenance required for upkeeping these items were far from adequate. Laundry products on the market at the time did not cater to delicate textures and fabrics such as tweed blazers, cable-knit cashmere and silk blouses. Taking their clothing to the dry cleaners also proved hopeless as their clothing would often come back with stains or even be ruined despite the overload of chemicals used to clean them. With nowhere left to turn, Whiting and Boyd were determined to create their own laundry solutions designed for specific fabrics.
Not only did the entrepreneurs develop the business expertise needed to finally begin their own company, but they also shared the same educational background that equipped them to pursue their unconventional business venture. Whiting and Boyd met in college as students at Cornell University majoring in Fiber Science, Textile, and Apparel Management and Design. The pair was introduced by a mutual friend and instantly knew they would become business partners. "It was inevitable that we were going to have a business together. We are both extremely entrepreneurial by nature, and it was one of the connections that we instantly shared" said Whiting. After focusing on pursuing their own individual careers for a while, Whiting and Boyd quickly discovered a void in the fabric care marketplace when their clients would continuously inquire about the upkeep of their designer pieces.
The entrepreneurial duo was committed to researching and developing their own eco-friendly laundry products and soon launched their own at-home solutions for specific fabrics like silk, wool and denim, which ultimately eliminated the need for dry cleaning for those particular items. Despite their products filling a necessary void in the market, it quickly became challenging for the founders to persuade people to shift their focus away from traditional laundry care options in order to try their products. However, Whiting and Boyd believed in their mission for the Laundress and bootstrapped from the very beginning, refusing all venture capital funding with the goal of growing organically. In order to be successful, they had to get creative in fundraising. "In the very early days, we funded business development by hosting a 'for profit' party at a New York City restaurant and inviting friends, family, co-workers, etc. to support our new venture. That was pre-Kickstarter and an inventive way to make everyone feel a big part of our decision to be entrepreneurs," said Whiting.
While turning down VC funding as new entrepreneurs seems unimaginable, it is as equally unfathomable to consider how these women gained national traction without social media, all the while hustling to fund their business. For Whiting and Boyd, who started their business before social media existed, it was imperative that they promote their brand by leveraging the resources they had available to them. The CEO's were one of the first to sell consumer goods, let alone detergent, online with the goal of reaching a national audience. Despite having limited retail distribution, they leveraged the power of their website and became featured in publications on both a national and international scale. "Before social media platforms existed, we nurtured our own Laundress community with engaging content on our website, step-by-step tutorials on our blog, and one-on-one communication through our Ask The Laundress email," Whiting explained. With technology evolving and the birth of social media platforms, the founders expanded the conversation about their products from website, blog and email to platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
As female entrepreneurs, Whiting and Boyd faced additional hardships as misconceptions about their mission ultimately proved to disappoint more than it encouraged them. As women selling luxury detergent, there existed a preconceived notion that funding would be more easily attainable based upon their gender.
"Everyone thought it was easy to access capital as female entrepreneurs, but it was actually very challenging. We had this unique and disruptive idea within a very traditional space and it was hard to get people on board at first. It's been a continuous journey to educate people in fabric care and home cleaning," said Boyd.
Reflecting on their journey as entrepreneurs, the founders express no regrets about refusing to accept venture capital throughout the process. "Over the years, we could never quantify the cost benefit of VC funding so we continued to grow organically and remain independent by funding ourselves with credit cards and loans," explained Boyd. While their decision proved fruitful, the duo expressed their consideration towards other entrepreneurs who may not be able to fully fund their business as they grow. Because funding is a situational experience, entrepreneurs must ultimately do what is best for their business as no one path is optimal for every entrepreneur or every business.
With an increasing amount of women entering entrepreneurship with their own unique set of products or services, the CEO's offer up one piece of advice on how female entrepreneurs can be successful in their endeavors.
Whiting: "Our advice to anyone looking to build their brands: Have a strong business plan and vision. If you are not disciplined to write a business plan first then you are not disciplined to start a business. Get your ideas down so you ask yourself the right questions; it helps you get organized and plan next steps."
Boyd: "Create quality products without sacrificing the ingredients—no cutting corners. What you create should be the most important piece. Stay passionate, and trust your instincts and follow your gut—something woman are awesome at!"