I met Andrea Brooks, Founder of the newly launched Sava, at Chow a popular eatery in San Francisco’s Castro District. She was busy towards the back of the restaurant on her Apple Workbook, tapping away, adding some finishing touches to her newly released online retail site. Sava is a new player in the world of cannabis and is a breath of fresh air in a marketplace awash in bud, oh and more bud.
In Andrea’s words Sava is “like Etsy, only more curatorial in its approach. We find best of breed in smaller, artisanal brands and help bring them to the fore. Our brands highlight the best and the brightest in lesser-known harder to find cannabis brands. When we select products, we choose them based on what we would use ourselves, products we could really get behind and are excited about. Like Etsy, we allow our producers to set up a shop and highlight their products in a way that best suits their style.”
I was happy to spend time with Andrea to better understand Sava and her business model as I am often stumped as to what to purchase in a traditional dispensary. After looking at the initial line up of shops within Sava, I became even more excited by her concept. Storefront dispensaries often carry the same brands and products and most, across the board, are very high in THC. Also, many will only exclusively carry flowers (bud, weed, the green stuff) and not even venture into other product types, such as tinctures and topicals. Andrea’s curatorial approach has the potential for a home run. It certainly hit the sweet spot for me; an active Mom who is not looking to smoke a big joint, but would rather soak in some CBD Epsom salts or take it down a notch with some flavorful THC laced jam on toast. Oh, yum!
You compare Sava to Etsy, how is Sava like Etsy and how does it differ?
One of the aspects I love about Etsy is that you can learn about who is making your product - it’s a lovely personal touch. Even more so than something like jewelry or a furnishing, I want to know where my medicine comes from. Why has the provider chosen to pursue this path? What inspired them? What is their method of making their product? Sava is like Etsy in that we showcase our providers and make them accessible to patients. It helps to de-stigmatize the products and cannabis in general. When I was injured and turned to medical cannabis for help, I was lucky enough to have someone guide me. I would now like to guide others in a transparent and informative way.
However, we do differ from Etsy. At Sava, we carefully curate providers we showcase and allow on the site. We do significant research to learn about their sourcing and process. We want high quality products, produced by people that are passionate about building their brands and helping others. In addition, we are also launching new producers and providing them access into the industry.
What are the types of products and brands you highlight within your Sava shops and how do you curate the selection?
I’m a fan of the whole plant and all its uses, but I’m a particularly fond of topicals, tinctures and edibles. It’s important to us to highlight the ways these types of products can have medicinal benefit. When I reach out to new folks to discuss Sava, and I show them the types of products that I am offering, more often than not I hear “I’ve never seen that before!” or “ I didn’t know that existed!” This feedback comes from people who regularly shop at dispensaries and they haven’t been exposed to artisanal 'cannabis makers' and this needs to change. There are so many amazing medicinal uses to discover, from medicated epsom salts to expertly crafted high CBD tinctures to THC-rich shea butter creams to small-batch infused jam. I use topicals, tinctures and edibles to help with my own pain and inflammation. A significant group of our sellers provide products that address common ailments, as well as a beautiful end product.
What challenges do artisanal product manufacturers face in the cannabis world today?
Artisanal producers in this industry face many of the same challenges they do in other industries - it can be very expensive and time-consuming to produce a high-quality product. Assuming one can manage the ups and downs of product development, the next step is getting the product to market. It can be a long journey. If you don’t have the right connections, especially in the cannabis industry, the journey gets longer. I’ve spoken with many women within the industry about the challenges of getting into a dispensary; it was one of the inspirations for Sava. The whims of a dispensary owner can keep an amazing product off a shelf. As such, new channels need to be created.
However, it’s all about finding the right partnerships. I’m active in the Bay Area Women Grow chapter and have met so many incredible women through that group, many of whom I developed a working relationship with. I feel very lucky to have these resources available to help create a primary goal of Sava: to create a space that is dedicated to providing products to women.
I imagine that smaller product manufacturers are excited to gain exposure on your site. What has the response been like?
Yes! I find that as excited I am to have them, they are equally excited to be showcased in a new environment. I want to support them as much as possible, from periodically highlighting different shops to helping owners write blog pieces on their areas of expertise. I’ve found that everyone has a special story that lead them to enter this industry. For example, team Strictly Topical , which makes Sweet Releaf - a trichome infused body butter. The daughter in the mother-and-daughter team suffered a car accident which left her with severe chronic pain. It’s a moving story - and Sweet Releaf is amazing! Additionally, some of the smaller producers will be able to scale over time. We are happy to help them along the way and provide necessary support as they expand.
What products are you most excited to use yourself?
Oh wow - that is hard to choose! So many exciting options! I am also a fan of both THC and CBD, so I’m making sure I have products that are rich in both.
I’ve had a few friends recently that have pulled me aside and said “What’s this new CBD strain I keep hearing about?” Well, as we know, it’s not new and it’s not a strain. But with the creative products Sava is offering, there will be many new experiences to be had.
Along the lines of CBD, I can’t wait to try the CBD Raw Sipping Cacao from Om Edibles. Not only does it have all the antioxidants of this superfood, all the benefits of CBD as well. I’m anticipating this beverage being my constant companion as we move into the winter. And Flour Child, which makes amazing THC-rich edibles, has a Lavender-Mint scented CBD-rich relief balm. I’ll probably be using that on my hands when I’m done sipping the cacao!
Today's cannabis user is no longer seen as the stoner who cannot get off the couch. Who do you see as your target market and what demographic do you most hope to reach?
That is so true re: the stereotypical stoner! There is still a stigma to overcome - and I’m happy to be part of dismantling it. De-stigmatization is incredibly important as it helps connect patients with medicine that can help them. Doing this work, I meet so many people. The more I get out and talk with people, the more I’m amazed at how many people are turning to cannabis as a new, viable remedy for what ails them. The same way I did.
I see my target market as women over 30 who have already explored alternative health and wellness options. They have likely tried medical cannabis - or maybe they’ve been thinking about it and they are ready to take the plunge. These are women that want to continue to explore new alternatives to pain management, auto-immune challenges and dealing with PMS. This is who we are here to help. In my previous life I worked in animal welfare and senior care - so those two populations are incredibly important to me as well.
What inspired you to start Sava?
My inspiration to start Sava is very personal. A few years ago, I suffered a disabling injury that left me with systemic nerve damage. I went from serving on a SF city commission, the board of a local animal rescue group and working as a program director & case manager in the field of fair housing to becoming completely disabled within a very short period of time. The pain was unbearable and I lost my independence, becoming bed-bound for nearly a year. My doctors gave me drugs and more drugs - some of which helped with the pain, but none of which had a healing effect. And then came the side-effects. It felt as if I was watching my life take a long, slow spiral downward, punctuated by doctors telling me different things I would never be able to do or regain, such as the full usage of my right side. One day, a friend brought me a strain he thought would help and also made me a tincture. It was a dramatic turning point in my recovery. I was able to manage my pain without the side effects and my mood improved dramatically. I was able to wean off all the prescription drugs, move and stretch, do the physical exercise I needed to help heal myself.
As I continued in my healing journey, I tried more uses of medical cannabis. But I couldn’t find everything that I wanted in one place, and I often needed to have my medicine delivered as it was hard for me to get around. I also couldn’t find out the level of information I desired. So, with Sava I’m creating what I wished existed for me: a comfortable, safe shopping experience with the female customer in mind.
Can anyone order from your site? How do people receive their orders?
Yes, you need to have a California medical card, and you need to be the legal age to purchase - just like purchasing any other medical cannabis products. For many that shop at Sava, this will likely be the first time that they want to get a card. As such, we’ve kept it as smooth and simple as a shopping experience as possible. There are shop information pages where you can read about the collective, their methods and background - or you can also go straight to where all the products are listed and search by what you are looking for or what condition you want help with. Every product states the full ingredients and guidance on use. Once you select what you want and proceed through checkout, your items will arrive safely the next day!