Fireside chat with Ashley and Tijen, Founders of Earth Kisses Sky
Ashley Short and Tijen Yalchin are the two entrepreneurs who founded Earth Kisses Sky. Tijen has had a long career in holistic health practices, is a Registered Massage Therapist and an Acupuncturist who additionally is certified in a number of other approaches to wellness such as Reflexology and Reiki. Ashley, the other half of the duo, is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist & Clinical Herbalist. And above all, these two Alpha Women are entrepreneurs. They have recently made the decision to pause their clinical practice to focus on their EKS product line. Alpha Woman had the chance to sit down with to learn more about what’s next for this dynamic duo.
AW: You’ve both been entrepreneurs for a long time in the wellness and cannabis industries, and you’re now pivoting Earth Kisses Sky away from clinical practice. Can you tell us why?
We wouldn’t exactly call this a pivot, but more like an intentional pause to create space for focus. Our clinical practice helped thousands of people, yet our two decades of business experiences helped us recognize that we could extend ourselves further and help more people by focusing on our product line. Through EKS we are able to reach all Canadians who now have access to legal cannabis oil, inviting them to use our products while we build our platform to share our story, experience, and wellness advice.
AW: What’s next on the horizon for EKS?
“Legalization 2.0” is just around the corner, which will finally allow topical products to be entered into the legal cannabis market. Since the launch of our product line, we’ve been able to provide an option for people to make their own cannabis infused salves, but now, legalization is pushing forward with topical products, and so are we.
AW: What are the top 3 things you have learned as entrepreneurs in your journey with EKS?
First, learn from all your setbacks. It’s easy to lose that “spark” after a few setbacks, and setbacks in a new business are inevitable. Believe in yourself, your intuition, and your vision and do everything you can to ignite that spark again. Every time you get up after a setback and push forward, you reprogram your brain towards a mindset of success. Learn, and move forward.
Second, surround yourself with a team that inspires you. Artists, creatives, business minds, visionaries, pioneers, and go-getters are the types of people that push forward instead of hold you back. Pay attention to the energies that people bring to the table.
Third, we all deal with some kind of pain, whether it be emotional, physical, or spiritual. When you embrace pain; its lessons, its darkness, and its hardships, is when you begin to personally rise, and find pleasure in the journey.
AW: Being in business with your life partner must also have its own benefits and drawbacks. Can you give us any insights into the good, the bad and the ugly?
When you go into business with your life partner, be prepared to spend a lot of time together! That being said, it’s important for us to create separation between our work, and even each other at times! We both have separate interests that allow us to foster that which makes us unique in our partnership.
Here are some tips for anyone going into business with their life partner:
- Figure out how your skills compliment each other. We each offer a different skill set, and we take time to acknowledge and honor each other’s perspectives before choosing the best approach with any business decision.
- Trust and respect each other. As life partners, you also have your own future to look out for as a couple. Use each business opportunity as a chance to learn and grow together, while taking time to recognize, and appreciate the growth in one another.
- Set aside free time away from business. It’s so important as life partners that we take time to spend with each other, away from business. We love spending time with friends, exploring, and really taking time to take breathers, together. It’s in those times we intentionally realign with each other, so that when we reunite again for business purposes, we’re that much stronger and effective together.
AW: What are you most proud of with regards to what you’ve built at Earth Kisses Sky?
We have been able to witness people moving from pain to acceptance, to living a fuller and more productive and happy life by embracing cannabis into their lifestyles. By helping to break down stigmas, we have introduced people to what is possible with cannabis while inviting them to shed the perceptions they’d previously had of it.
We’ve been able to share our story in a way that engages people and shows people that cannabis isn’t something to be afraid of, rather, it’s something that can enhance one’s quality of life when used with intention.
We are proud that our salves have been a way to show people that they can be in control of their cannabis experience. Through JustAddOil.ca, we’ve been able to help people introduce legal cannabis into their lifestyle and have taken the fear of judgement out of using cannabis infused products.
AW: Cannabis can be a tough industry for women yet paradoxically it can also be a tremendous opportunity. What do you think women entrepreneurs can take action on in the space succeed? What are our biggest challenges and opportunities?
The cannabis industry is no different than any other male-dominated industry out there, unfortunately, and we hear all the time about women getting paid less than men for the same work within some cannabis companies.
However, it’s up to us women, and also men, to be able to recognize that both male and female characteristics have strengths and weaknesses that can be brought to the table. Both men and women need to work together to be on a similar page on their approach to gender equity in their company.
Instead of competing for the “CEO” or so-called “power position”, men, women, and all genders and identities need to come together as a union. There is a tendency to “genderize” every position, job title, or task, based on gender and sexual orientation, and this is wrong, and irrelevant on so many levels.
Progress starts with a few individuals who are courageous enough to lead the way towards a more equal workplace and vision. For women (and anyone entering the industry), find team members with similar beliefs, goals, and build an array of different strengths with your team so that your team fits together harmoniously. Where someone is weak, someone will have strengths, and vice versa. As a collective team in unity we can grow and learn, mentally, physically, and spiritually, and work together to break gender stigmas to shape the industry into the equitable industry we want it to be. The beauty of it is all yet to come.
AW: What are your biggest pain points with regards to building your business – what keeps you awake at night?
Finding the right partnership with brands and companies that will help elevate our brand is probably the most challenging part and what keeps us awake at night. Our bags are packed and we’re ready to go, but it’s finding the right partner that we align to, who shares our values, and is ready to stay authentic to our brand, story, and products that is pretty difficult. We want our partners to share our vision of creating high-quality products with a purpose, while building a community around what we bring to the table.
AW: You’ve done a fair amount of fundraising for the topicals arm of your business. What advice would you give other women in the cannabis industry (or beyond) who are trying to raise funds?
Be active and proactive in your pursuits to find funding. You never know when anyone you meet may be your next investor, so be prepared to be able to articulate what you need, what your product or company can help solve in a “30-second elevator pitch”. Know your numbers, create a clear structure for your potential investors, and stand by what you create by showing your passion. Be genuine while showing your strengths as a businessperson.
There are also a lot of great programs out there that help leverage women in the cannabis industry. We applied to an accelerator program last year called Leaf Forward, a company that helps startups grow and expand their business.
One of our greatest opportunities was pitching to Dragon’s from CBC’s Dragons Den last year! It took us weeks of preparation, and a lot of courage, to stand in front of them.
AW: Have you seen a shift in attitude towards cannabis since legalization? When do you think stigmas will really begin to break down, and why?
We have seen a tremendous shift in attitudes since legalization, and we’re going to continue to see more acceptance as people gain access to more methods of consumption and recognize how powerful cannabis actually is.
People are recognizing that cannabis is a purposeful and strong component of health. People who were once against cannabis are now taking steps to educate themselves and their loved ones. Families are now growing plants and are more open to cannabis now that the community has been able to promote its benefits a bit more freely since legalization.
We have met so many people who have acquired our “Ready to be Mixed” salves and have mixed it with legal cannabis oil. These were the people in the 40+ age range who had never tried cannabis and were skeptical. Now they’re replacing their prescription salves with ours!
We still have a stigma to overcome and we’re not finished our jobs of educating and helping people “unlearn” the bad stuff about cannabis they’ve been hearing all these years. We need to join together against stigma, and never give up. The journey of learning about cannabis, and how it affects your body, is never ending.
We are committed to a different future for cannabis – different than when we grew up – where children see cannabis in a whole different light than they did in the past. We want the new generations to know the world without stigma around cannabis.
AW: With the next wave of cannabis products formats soon to be released what do you feel will be the formats that will appeal most to women and why?
The products that we feel will most appeal to women will be health and beauty products. Look out for the following products to become available as “Legalization 2.0” unfolds:
Pain Topicals can help soothe the premenstrual (PMS) discomfort nearly every woman experiences on a monthly basis. Topicals can be applied to the pelvis, chest and lower back region, all of which may be affected. We envision a future of more research, when women will begin to add cannabis infused topicals to their pregnancy regime. Not only will it help manage discomfort throughout the body during pregnancy, but can also be used to help prevent scarring with no intoxicating effects.
Beauty Topicals include anti-aging products, skin creams, toners, masks, cleansers, soaps, and bath salts, and just about any beauty product that can be infused with the healing benefits of cannabis. Beauty topicals work to increase circulation, reduce inflammation, tone, and stimulate new collagen production while at the same time helping to support troubled skin (e.g. acne, eczema, psoriasis, redness of the skin). We also believe you will start to see hair products like hair masks, and shampoos and conditioners that include cannabis and CBD.
Tampon/Suppositories will be a gift from the heavens for women. These can be inserted vaginally to not only help with pre-menstrual symptoms but for women in a perimenopausal/menopausal stages to help increase circulation, reduce pain tension, and even help with vaginal dryness.
Tinctures/Teas/Other Infused Edibles will gain more popularity to help manage anxiety, stress, sleep, depression and post-partum depression.
AW: What excites you most about the next 10 years of the cannabis industry?
We are excited to see how cannabis can help change our health care system for the better.
We want to see a reconnection between what mother nature provided us, and to see communities, hospitals and the medical community reconnect to plant medicine, bringing us back to our roots as humans. Legalization has made it possible that we can now access the plant we have been denied for so many years. People can now use cannabis to improve their health and find empowerment in their personal health journey without judgement attached to it.
We also see a big future for jobs in cannabis that will help leverage communities and infuse economic potential into areas around the country.
Most of all, we want to see all the individuals who were criminalized for cannabis set free, clear of all the charges that were wrongfully placed on them because of cannabis. We want them to finally be respected, honoured, and appreciated for their passion and hard work in paving this path to cannabis legalization that we now enjoy and experience.
Interview by Leslie Andrachuk from Alpha Woman