An All-Women Cannabis Company Just Won a Manufacturing License in California—And Is Now Taking Advocacy Efforts to the Federal Level

An All-Women Cannabis Company Just Won a Manufacturing License in California—And Is Now Taking Advocacy Efforts to the Federal Level

The women behind Yummi Karma LLC reflect on their success in marketing to women, as well as their policy reform efforts.

October 11, 2018

A cannabis-infused lotion from Yummi Karma's High Gorgeous line.

Yummi Karma LLC became the first cannabis manufacturer to get a state license in Orange County, Calif., last week. Now, the women-led company plans to keep doing what it does best—create cannabis products for women, by women—while taking its advocacy efforts all the way to the federal level.

Launched in 2014, Yummi Karma produces a full line of tinctures, as well as an award-winning beauty line called High Gorgeous. The company has been active in its local community, showing residents in Costa Mesa that cannabis businesses can be good neighbors. It has also been working to prove that the legal cannabis community is taking steps to produce safe and consistent products, and the owners hope to discuss cannabis policy reform with lawmakers on every level—and eventually with President Trump.

Here, the women behind Yummi Karma—Communications Director Alysia Sofios, CEO Krystal Kitahara and COO Chelsea Kitahara—detail the company’s journey in California’s market, its advocacy efforts and more.

Cannabis Business Times: Can you provide some background on the company and briefly describe its journey to becoming the first state-licensed cannabis manufacturer in Orange County?

Communications Director Alysia Sofios

Alysia Sofios: Yummi Karma LLC launched in 2014, operating under SB 420, Section 11362.7, as a women-run cannabis company targeting female consumers. Since then, it has become an industry leading manufacturer in California. In 2017, YK launched the first mainstream cannabis beauty line, High Gorgeous, which continues to win awards and garner national media attention.

As of Oct. 4, 2018, the all-female team became the first state-licensed manufacturer in Orange County. The company has always been, and remains, self-funded.

CBT: What kinds of products will the company produce?

Alysia: Yummi Karma makes a full line of tinctures, including California’s best-selling sleep tincture, Drift Away. The beauty line, High Gorgeous, produces the award-winning infused body butter, Pina-Co-Canna, as well as several other THC, THCA and CBD topicals. Seasonal products include bubble bath and body polish.

CBT: How has the company differentiated itself in California’s market?

CEO Krystal Kitahara

Krystal Kitahara: We started by making products for women like us. From the beginning, we have been a leader in compliant packaging and operated like a legal business. This helped our company streamline into compliance without skipping a beat this year.

CBT: How is the company approaching branding and marketing in California’s competitive marketplace?

Alysia: We have always targeted women with our branding and marketing efforts. At first, everyone thought we were crazy, and that there weren’t enough female customers to keep us in business. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Currently, women are the fastest growing cannabis consumer [demographic] and make most of the health and wellness decisions for their families. Women have embraced our products and our success is the result.

CBT: Has anything been particularly challenging for the company as it has become licensed and operational? Do you have any advice for other companies when it comes to overcoming these challenges?

Krystal: We approached licensing like we have approached everything else—one step at a time. It is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. Or, actually, more like an uphill triathlon. It feels great to be on the other side of it, so we can concentrate on what we do best—make great cannabis products that help people. At the end of the day, that is what this is all about.

CBT: How is Yummi Karma active in its community? Has the community been accepting of the business?

Krystal: We moved from Central California to Orange County so that we could be a part of this community. The city of Costa Mesa has been great to work with, and we both learned a lot together. It’s the first time these cities are doing this too, so it’s a learning curve. We are pleasantly surprised every day at how many people embrace our business.

Alysia: It’s the little things, too. For example, joining the Chamber of Commerce, or even hanging a sign on the entrance with our logo, was a huge deal. It’s so nice to be able to say, “Yes, we are here, we make cannabis products, and we’re good neighbors.” That’s important to us. Being able to have an honest dialogue with the community is refreshing.

CBT: Can you describe Yummi Karma’s political advocacy efforts on the federal level? How is the company approaching cannabis policy reform?

Alysia: We believe that if the government could see the efforts the legal cannabis community is taking to produce safe and consistent products, it would help them with regulations. 

Communication is key, and up until now, we haven’t been allowed to do much of it. Since we all operated in gray areas for so long, we didn’t do as much advocating as we would have liked. It’s time to change that. We want to discuss reforming and improving drug policy with lawmakers on every level, and eventually we’d like to end up in the White House having a real discussion with the president.

COO Chelsea Kitahara
CBT: What are some of the company’s shorter- and longer-term goals?

Chelsea Kitahara: For the rest of the year and into 2019, we are focused on building more brand awareness and looking into opening aflagship store and expanding nationally. Our store would be the first boutique-style cannabis retailer targeting women in Southern California. We look forward to seeing our brand in every state in the future. It’s an exciting time!

Photos courtesy of Yummi Karma LLC