Amanda Jones by Claudia Goetzelmann
Kikoko co-founders Amanda Jones and Jennifer Chapin are two of the unlikeliest candidates to be sitting atop a California cannabis empire.
Jones was a globe-trotting, Kiwi-travel-writing mother of two who spent more than two decades living out of a suitcase – 10 of those dedicated to photographing tribes. Chapin was a business consultant and certified life coach. Both were 50-something women with little experience with weed and plenty on their plates, both professionally and personally.
And then their friend, Jan, got terminal ovarian cancer, and their lives took a heartbreaking, life-changing, career-bending turn.
Jan (they prefer to keep her last name private) was using cannabis to increase her appetite and to alleviate her pain and insomnia. But she didn’t like being too stoned to function.
Taking on the stoner culture
So Jones and Chapin searched for an alternative. And they were thrust into a tie-dyed, pot-leaf-decorated, Cheech-and-Chong stoner cannabis culture that didn’t meet the unique needs of women.
They also discovered there are a lot of women who can benefit from the anxiety-relieving, sleep-inducing, pain-fighting qualities of cannabis – from stressed out 30 year old’s to menopausal women dealing with the aches and pains of growing older.
“We spoke to hundreds of women, and most of them didn’t want to get ravingly high,” she says. “They wanted help with different medical conditions, and their needs weren’t being met.”
In 2015, they launched Kikoko – their women-run, women-centric luxury cannabis tea company – in Emeryville, across the bay from San Francisco.
“We wanted to break the stigma and make cannabis a more upscale offering,” says Jones, who studied neurophysiology at the University of Auckland. “We wanted to create products designed for women, dosed for women, titrated for women, with more information than what was out there at the time.”
A little THC goes a long way
Jones believes that a little THC goes a long way, and there weren’t many cannabis products available at lower doses (Kikoko’s products range from 1 mg to 10 mg of THC.) But naysayers told them there wasn’t a market for these types of products.
“We looked at each other and said ‘Nah, that’s a very male perspective,'” Jones recalls. “We were the only tea on the market, our timing was good, our packaging was the strongest on the market and we offered low doses for women. When we launched, we very smugly had a waiting list of dispensaries who wanted our products.”
Their hunch has paid off in a big way. Since launching four and a half years ago, and a product launch two and a half years ago, Kikoko is now sold in more than 300 dispensaries around California, with revenues in the millions and annual growth rate of more than 100 percent this year. “Kikoko – with revenues doubling over the past year – is now the 11th largest edibles brand in the state,” says Jones.
They currently sell four different teas and four New Zealand Manuka & Kanuka Honeyshots, with different ratios of THC and CBD as well as other ingredients – such as ginger, chamomile, and melatonin to address different needs.
Riding the cannabis wave
Kikoko is a part of a booming market, with U.S. cannabis sales estimated at $12 billion in 2018, a growth projected to soar to $32 billion globally by 2022, according to “The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, Sixth Edition” Arcview Group. Edibles and concentrates are the fastest growing segments of the market.
Kikoko has raised $14 million to fuel its meteoric growth. For now, the focus is on expanding within California – the largest cannabis market in the world – before expanding into other states and countries.
Later this year, Kikoko will launch a line of tinctures as well as a line of mints called Little Helpers, with CBD, THC and other “adaptogenic herbs” in the products such as GABA, melatonin and L-Theanine.