Maggie Connors is the founder of the Los Angeles-based company getting in on the cannabis craze from an especially high place. Producing a small range of beautifully designed, carefully considered products that are infused with micro-doses of THC, Besito balances the psychoactive effects of the chemical and make it viable for creativity, concentration and recreation.
BESITO FOUNDER MAGGIE CONNORS
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Founding the company in 2017, Connors took years of working in brand management and product design for global companies and applied it to creating a values-driven brand with advocacy at its core. The hexagonal vape pen has a 2:1 THC to CBD ratio and is naturally free of harmful ingredients. The low-dosed product gives the user a “happy high” conducive to socializing or creativity.
While creating a good product is a priority, the company is also dedicated to advocate for LGBGTQ rights, criminal justice reform and scientific research in cannabis. In a recent partnership with the Equity First Alliance, Besito released a multi-media campaign featuring legalization advocates and formerly incarcerated individuals with their families to give a voice and a face to those harmed by cannabis prohibition. “A Record Shouldn’t Last A Lifetime” uses the real-life stories of people of color discriminated against because of historic convictions that limit employment and education as well as housing and healthcare. A whopping 46.9% of people arrested for drug law violations in the U.S are Black or Latino with 2,205,300 incarcerations taking place in 2016 alone.
„A Record o”A Record Shouldn’t Last a Lifetime”
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The Besito founder offered more insight on her professional trajectory, the booming cannabis industry and how her company aims to make legalization of the drug benefit everyone.
Montero: Tell me a bit about your background and professional trajectory.
Connors: I have spent my entire professional life working in consumer brands including Pepsi, Starbucks, and Apple—I joke I’ve been selling “drugs” my whole career, though obviously there are some truths in there. I am passionate about consumer behavior, design, and building dynamic beloved brands that stand for something. In particular my experience at PepsiCo is critical to where I am now. Understanding how to responsibly market, sell, and innovate products at scale gave me the skills to get into the ground floor of a new industry. Additionally, the incredible leadership at PepsiCo taught me about building a successful culture and developing others. I moved from New York to California in 2014 to get my MBA at Stanford, which ended up great timing for cannabis.
„A Record Shouldn’t Last a Lifetime”
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Montero: How did you become interested in the cannabis industry?
Connors: As soon as I realized it was an industry! I’ve loved this plant since I first tried it in high school, but growing up on the east coast in prohibition meant it wasn’t easily accessible. It was a rare appearance at parties in college and afterwards, following my nose away from the bar to a moment of relaxation and peace, often in a circle with some cool new people. However moving to California in 2014 immersed me into a whole new world: a billion dollar medical cannabis market that was trending towards consumer products. I got my medical card, spent time in dispensaries, and went to underground meetups with other women interested in the space. I researched the science of the plant, reading any studies that had been conducted across the world despite the legal constraints. I learned about all the activists before me who fought tirelessly for cannabis reform, paving the way for a fully legal market. And I was moved to action when I realized the extreme injustice of an exploding legal cannabis industry while so many people—especially communities of color—were ravaged by the War on Drugs.
Montero: You’ve created a beautiful and effective product that reimagines the way we think about cannabis consumption. Walk me through your inspiration for this.
Connors: Products and brands before California legalization were mostly focused on a very specific consumer and cannabis counter-culture that was born under prohibition. While I have always enjoyed those roots and the legacy, I also saw room for evolving the aesthetic and stories being told about cannabis. In my experience cannabis has always been a great way to unwind and connect with others, so we built a product and brand that brought this to life for others. Our 2:1 THC:CBD blends gave a nice little buzz without the feeling of being stuck to the couch or paranoid. Also the THC levels are lower, more like a sip of rose than a bottle of tequila. Our hexagonal shaped vaporizers are really cute, and the discretion is key for bringing on adventures with friends or to concerts.
Montero: I love this idea of using cannabis for productivity and focus. What was it like developing these products for this use?
Connors: We created and tested hundreds of blends before landing on our current formulations. There are two key factors when replicating cannabis strains in the concentrated oil that comes in a vaporizer: the cannabinoid profile and terpene blends (the flavor and scent notes found on cannabis and other plants). While many vaporizers had maximum THC, we wanted to harness the power of the “Entourage Effect,” or the idea that THC and CBD are better together. CBD balances out the psychoactive effect of THC, which allows for taking the edge off while keeping a clear head for creative inspiration. On the other hand, THC activates the anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, bringing more wellness and peace of mind to the experience. Lastly we modeled the terpenes off existing Sativa Hybrid strains, ultimately crafting three natural flavors with herbal undertones: Grapefruit, Mint, and Blackberry. Together it’s a perfect and delicious happy high built to fuel creativity.
Montero: Your company is also driven by bringing social justice to the use of cannabis. Can you talk to me about some of partnerships you’ve put in place for this cause?
Connors: At besito we believe it’s a privilege to partake in the cannabis industry, but also our responsibility to step up and work towards change. As a company we elevate people of color, womxn, and queer folks in our hiring, through marketing collaborations, and even in selecting our supply chain partners. Ultimately we wanted to build social equity into our business model and decided to partner with Equity First Alliance, a non-profit focused on repairing the harm caused by the War on Drugs and building an equitable cannabis industry. 1% of our profits go towards furthering this mission: advocating for automated expungement and providing access to legal, health, and employment resources for those in need of reparative services.
Montero: The “A Record Shouldn’t Last A Lifetime” campaign is a really powerful look at the communities most affected by the war on drugs. Tell me about this collaboration and how it came about.
Connors: One of the biggest challenges in cannabis is the misinformation propagated by decades of prohibition. In addition to educating on the effects of cannabis, we focus on sharing the history of cannabis and in particular the criminalization of this plant. We decided to amplify the voices of formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and advocates through a powerful campaign called “A Record Shouldn’t Last a Lifetime” in collaboration with Equity First Alliance. Led by besito’s Creative Director Ely Kim, we put an intimate, human face to those most harmed by the War on Drugs by telling their personal stories in their homes around Los Angeles, culminating in a short documentary. The campaign was created in collaboration with TreeFemme Collective, a womxn-owned creative agency and global community working on projects with purpose.
Montero: As someone in the cannabis industry, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on what the future looks like for this growing industry.
Connors: When it comes to the cannabis market, I think we’re just getting started! On the brand side, I expect to see more national brands and products focused on a wider variety of occasions and segments. I expect more conscious consumerism—buyers demanding transparency and supporting values-led companies with their wallets. On the medical side, regulatory changes and more capital are needed to drive robust research into all the benefits this plant can provide. Domestic hemp production will help heal the world by replacing plastics and other unsustainable materials. More jobs will be created and taxes will support state and eventually federal agendas. Part of the profits from cannabis must be reinvested to support our communities, especially those who have been most affected by this plants’ history.