Washington weed edibles reinvented
Jody Hall went from moonlighting as a barista at Starbucks to helping the company expand from 30 to 3,000 stores as a market specialist. In 2003, the Seattle resident launched a successful cupcake bakery/cafe called Cupcake Royale, which now has multiple locations throughout the city. So perhaps it’s not surprising that Hall was one of the first legal edible producers in Washington State after voters passed I-502, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2012.
The Goodship Company, founded in 2014, reflects Hall’s background in baked goods and focus on using as many whole, organic ingredients as possible. Her products include snickerdoodles, chocolate bars, cookies, brownies, and pastilles. With its stylish packaging and high-quality ingredients, Goodship aims to shatter stereotypes and rebrand cannabis as a classy experience. As part of this effort, she also launched Higher Education, a “heady lecture series under heady influence” that turns the traditional stoner narrative of snacks and screens on its head. Launched in 2015, the series has included such speakers as Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at SETI who gave a lecture on the search for alien life, and Alison Holcomb, the ACLU lawyer who wrote Washington's cannabis legalization initiative and spoke on criminal justice reform and the War on Drugs.
We caught up with Hall to ask about her journey from coffee to cannabis, what it’s like to bake with weed, and how she’s using Higher Education to dispel the “stoners are stupid” myth.
How did you go from owning a cupcake shop to being one of the first legal cannabis entrepreneurs in the country?
I wanted to be a pioneer. Goodship is such a great opportunity to be a pioneer and have a seat at the table and change the narrative — or influence the narrative — around how pot can help us find our better selves and help us connect. Inspiring connection, that's what we did at Starbucks at the end of the day. And Cupcake Royale, part of the reason we did cupcakes is because they're very communal. You celebrate with cake, you share it with people.
Like when you bring cupcakes to class on your birthday?
Exactly! This nostalgic, beautiful memory of bringing cupcakes to class or making cupcakes with your grandparents or mom or dad or whatever. I love inspiring connection and I think pot is profoundly connecting. I think it allows us to erase the clutter in our brain and be right where we are. Listen more presently, ask more questions, learn more, hear more.
You're perhaps most well-known in Seattle for your lecture series, Higher Education. People are getting high and attending a lecture that’s intelligent and interesting. Why did you think that was important?
It was about how we create an emotional connection to Goodship. How do we take our ideas and bring them to life in front of an audience? It's not about how to roll a joint at Higher Ed, it's about big lofty ideas and problems that we wonder how you could solve or interesting ideas we’ve never thought about. The notion of being stoned and listening to an interesting conversation—you can be present in the conversation. Nowadays, we don’t even know how to make eye contact walking down the street, riding an elevator, waiting for the bus. I feel like we’re kind of starved for social connection.
Was your goal to make cannabis more prestigious? Or was it just something that sounded fun to do when you were high?
The goal was really to invite people to come out. People talk about how pot makes them paranoid. Really, I think what makes us paranoid is that we’re stoned and nobody else is and we can’t acknowledge the fact that we’re high. I feel like we feel this paranoia because of that. I think part of legalization is coming out, right? To say, “Come pre-boarded on the Goodship and enjoy a lecture. It’s legal!”
What’s the biggest difference between regular baking and baking with cannabis?
It’s really not that different. The hardest part about baking with cannabis in the legal industry is that you have to build a product that can withstand three to four days to get a test back on it. It can’t be a fresh cupcake from Cupcake Royale. We sell those every day and we don’t sell day-olds.
It’s got to have a shelf life?
It’s got to have a shelf life and you have to package it in a certain style that doesn’t let light or oxygen permeate. You might have to nitrogen flush it. You have to consider this more like a consumer packaged good. But how do you do that and make it all natural?
Our mission is to have ingredients that Whole Foods would accept into their grocery store, meaning that it’s clean, it’s green, it’s not fake. Real foods. We are really stringent about that, even though the market doesn’t necessarily demand it now.
Do you mean people just want to get high and don’t care about the quality of the thing that gets them high?
What I mean by that is that, in my opinion, if you had a pizza and you had one slice out of ten, I feel like that is who is going into the marijuana shops now. Ten percent. I feel like the other nine slices are intimidated. I think there’s a lot of sophistication to be had in the retail industry. We’re not going into Nordstrom, we’re going into NAPA Auto Parts. And there’s 28 spark plugs and we have no idea what spark plug to get and we’re in basically a cattle queue. I feel like most of our customers haven't even set foot in a store yet.
But you've also done well with that 10 percent.
We have. But at the end of the day you want to be able to prove a brand that's 20 times bigger than your business, that speaks to the hearts and minds. That's what I'd love to do. It's not just yummy products with a pretty package, but what does it stand for? Why do you love that brand? Because they care about the things you care about, they make a difference. The ability to build that brand is tricky, and the window is short. Some people are just throwing stuff out there to get sales. We're trying to take the high road and stick to it.
What’s next? Do you sell out to Marlboro, do you expand to all 50 states, does Jeff Sessions shut you down?
I think eventually we’ll see legalization not just across the United States, but in Canada, Mexico, Germany, and other countries. We’ll see this be a very normal thing and it’s really exciting to be on the forefront. If we can build a brand that really changes the narrative, that’s a great starting place. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but also the most exciting thing!