By Tait Manning
Lo Friesen is the founder and CEO of Heylo Cannabis Extracts, a cannabis extracts processor based in Seattle, Washington. When this entrepreneur from Northeast Ohio started her business at age 25, it was among the very few woman-owned extraction brands in the cannabis industry – making her among the youngest business owners in cannabis at the time. Now at 30, her company continues to grow strong. She will be among panelists in the “Women in Cannabis” panel at the Ohio Cannabis Health & Business Summit in Cleveland at the IX Center, Oct. 1 & 2.
Friesen is an environmental chemist that has channeled her passion for science into the cannabis industry, using chemistry to curate consumers’ experiences. Grounded in the company’s core values of education and transparency, Heylo works to fulfill a need for quality cannabis products and teach people about the diverse effects and experiences of the plant. The Heylo brand offers 100 percent full-bud, terpene-rich, sustainable full-spectrum cannabis oils, vapes and topicals.
Can you briefly describe your journey that led to starting an extraction business?
I started working in a hospital after studying chemistry in college, with the intention of going into medicine. It was a stars align situation where I unfortunately did not get into med school; but I got into cannabis, learning about its medical benefits through patients. I thought about going into the business, and found extraction, which totally opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities. It combined my love of chemistry and passion for caring for people through medicine.
Why did you start your business in the Seattle area?
When I first got the idea for Heylo, I started researching places where cannabis was legal, and decided to move to Seattle. Washington seemed like a perfect fit – it was well established as a medical cannabis industry, but had just gone recreational two years prior.
What are you most proud of so far in building your business?
I’m most proud of our mission. I started Heylo because of a lack of quality vape products in Washington. There was very little research or education around cannabis. I wanted to satisfy the need for quality cannabis products and education around cannabis. My background in chemistry helped me understand how the chemicals of products could be used to curate people’s experiences with cannabis. Cannabis doesn’t have to be recreational or medical, it’s all about balance. We know more than ever about the different compounds in cannabis. This allows us to give detailed descriptions of the experiences you can expect when taking a product.
What’s your biggest mistake?
Mistakes, to me, means I’ve regretted something I’ve done. If I look back, I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done because we’ve learned from it, and been able to turn mistakes into successes. My only mistake is not doing this sooner.
I read that you connect with customers through experiences, communication, and education. Can you expound on that?
Some of our core values are education and transparency. We want people to get more out of life with cannabis, and use it to get more out of each day – which takes effective communication. We educate primarily through our blog and YouTube channel, and we also host tours to help people understand what it takes to make products like this. We’re connected with communities all over the state.
We started in Seattle, and have now expanded both throughout other parts of Washington as well as outside of the state. We host a lot of community events to show people that there’s a diverse set of people that use cannabis, rather than just one demographic. We do a lot of fundraising for LGBTQ+ groups, lead community cleanups, and create outdoor adventures for underserved youth. In any business, we need to be using our voices and our funds to support our community – it feels good and it’s important work. Giving back to communities is a way that we can continue to move the industry forward and include everyone.
Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share about encouraging more young adults to pursue careers in the cannabis industry?
There’s so many different careers out there that we just don’t know about because we’re not exposed to them. Because cannabis is not federally legal yet, we have an opportunity to influence what the future of the industry looks like. The cannabis industry is the first new industry since, I’d say, tech. We have the opportunity to build things from the ground up. There’s so much room for people to come in – there’s the science side, product innovation, the data side, automation. If you can find a solution to a problem, that’s a business. I would encourage young people to get involved now.
What are you most looking forward to in the cannabis industry in the next two years?
I’m looking forward to more products. More states are legalizing cannabis, which means there are more opportunities in different states. I’m so excited for this industry to reach its potential.
What about participating in the Ohio Cannabis Health and Business Summit are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to the “women in cannabis” panel, and getting my feet on the ground in the cannabis scene in Ohio. I’m excited to be there and network with people in business there and consumers there, and I’m excited to experience community.