Pure Beauty’s Imelda Walavalkar talks about connecting art, fashion, music and design through cannabis

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Where you grew up and where you live now.

I grew up in San Diego but I really “grew up” in New York. I currently live in Los Angeles. My two business partners also moved from New York to Los Angeles, and I think Pure Beauty reflects both Californian and New York culture.

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

I’m the CEO/co-founder of Pure Beauty. We are a flower and pre-roll brand that grows indoor flowers using sustainable growing practices such as on-site power generation, a closed-loop water system, and donating land to parks public. We also place great importance on art and culture, which we consider intrinsic to the plant.

Your first cannabis memory.

My earliest and most formative memory was smoking a giant bong (for the first time) when I was at UC Berkeley. It was the first time I experienced the true strength of cannabis, and not in a good way. I got so high I thought my life was over. Now I am completely comfortable with this strength. Looking back, I realize that I was at one of the centers of what was the genesis of this industry. I went to my first dispensary in Berkeley with friends, not realizing it was even possible to purchase formally. It was just a hallway with a small window that opened, like a liquor store in New York. This was years before Prop 19 failed in California, and recreational legalization wasn’t even a popular conversation, even though it was brewing in the Bay Area, especially when it came to social justice.

A story about the positive impact of cannabis on your life.

Cannabis has a positive impact on my everyday life, from just thinking about all the fun ways to use it for Pure Beauty, to how it affects me personally. Being stoned always helps me see and experience the world in a new way that I believe pushes me to grow as a human being and reminds me that all the big things I worry about are actually small things.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

I love our Terry T CBD flower. It contains less than 1% THC, so I was skeptical before trying it, but this is the first time I’ve fully realized the value of CBD. It’s very soothing, without being sleepy. In addition, it is a beautiful flower that smells of grapefruit.

Rose delights are my favorite edibles. From the chef-led flavor combinations, to the use of full-spectrum rosin, to the beautiful aesthetics, and the fact that they’re vegan, I could go on and on, but you just have to try them!

The biggest challenge facing cannabis marketers today.

Since the promotion of cannabis on most mainstream platforms is not permitted, we are quite limited in what we can do and therefore are unable to follow traditional marketing channels. It can be frustrating, but it also forces us to think creatively and untraditionally, which we do anyway. Our Instagram has been shut down multiple times, which is never fun, and also disheartening that such a guiding force in our culture is clearly not supportive of cannabis. Part of our mission at Pure Beauty is to break the stigma associated with cannabis and spark a conversation about why this stigma continues. There is still a lot of work to do, which is reinforced every time we encounter negative reactions from social media or platforms that most other industries can use to engage customers.

One thing you are passionate about right now in branding, partnerships or cannabis marketing.

One thing I love about cannabis is all the interesting and unpredictable ways we associate with people and other brands due to the nature of the plant. Cannabis lends itself to connecting art, fashion, music, and design, and so many weird and fun things that don’t exist in other industries. Pure Beauty sees itself at the intersection of these worlds, all connected through cannabis, allowing us to play and come up with fun and interesting new collaborations with partners. We recently launched a series of five artist packs with diverse creatives that we connect with on a core value. Sterling Ruby is a friend of the brand and collaborated on one design, and Purity Wine did another, which we recognize for their similar sustainability practices. We also launched a collection of one-of-a-kind bongs with Jochen Holz, who is an amazing London-based glassblower. Partnerships like this allow us to try new things and have fun creating something new that our customers will enjoy. It is also heartening to see so many dedicated to social equity and criminal justice reform in this space. It’s such an important part of what we all do that’s especially important in this industry.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

We have just partnered with Dream Corps and their federal campaign to close prisons, who are doing great work reforming the criminal justice system. This is a question that has been important to me since before my cannabis work; early in my career, I worked with post-incarceration and other “at risk” populations. I also really like Cannaclusive’s emphasis on inclusivity. This is another huge problem in the cannabis space, which is that most positions of power and leadership are held by white males. This is the case in most industries, but it is particularly glaring in the case of cannabis. We launched an apprenticeship program for this reason, with the aim of bringing more diverse talent to the industry. Minorities and women are both hugely underrepresented in cannabis, and we are actively trying to change that and using our voice and our network at Pure Beauty to include, promote and celebrate those who have historically been less seen and less supported.

A project you’ve been working on recently and are proud of.

We just launched a menthol cannabis cigarette. I’ve always found mint and cannabis to be a perfect match. Menthol is a compound organically derived from mint plants and is also a natural terpene in many cannabis strains. Although it’s a simple concept, we spent a lot of time and research to make it perfect. We now have a beautiful, fun to smoke, unique and refreshing product.

Someone else’s project you admired recently.

Not super recent, but I love and we support the Floret Coalition – an anti-racism collective of small businesses in the cannabis and cannabis-adjacent space supporting and funding equity-focused actions through monthly donations and social campaigns. Their mission is extremely important to me, and the people behind Broccoli Magazine are super passionate, thoughtful, and smart. I know that I don’t have to worry about where our donations go or how they are used.

Someone you look up to in cannabis who is doing great things.

Ophelia Chong. She founded Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, and among the spearheads of many other things, she’s just a smart, interesting person. She uses her platform to create impactful conversations and promote positive change and inclusion within the industry.

A movie, TV show, music, or food that you most enjoy pairing with cannabis.

Mint flavored tea. It’s amazing paired with a joint and the inspiration of our menthol cigarette.

What you would be doing if you weren’t in the cannabis industry.

Either I was doing something with food – I had a restaurant business before Pure Beauty – or I was doing something in social justice, which was my profession before restaurant.

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