It’s an exciting time for Omni Botanicals. The local, all-natural line of cannabis-based pain relief products and THC-infused coconut butter has been out for a year now, and with Canada’s legalization of marijuana only months away, it’s the right time to chat with the entrepreneur behind it, Vancouverite Steph, who is at the forefront of a New Wave of cannabis culture.
What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? Mount Pleasant is where I live and work. The majority of my friends are littered within a 10 block radius and the strong sense of familiarity this neighbourhood holds is irreplaceable.
What is your neighbourhood haunt? The Federal Store. It’s down the street from my house and sometimes I’m there twice a day. They carry our Palo Santo bundles so technically some visits are work-based…
What is your background/education? Honours Sociology with double major in Media & Communications and Contemporary Studies from Bishops University; Professional Culinary Arts from Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver; “Essential Oils Ninja Freak”.
What is your favourite smell? Palo Santo, Bergamot, Rose.
What is your least favourite smell? Old tomato sauce.
A trend that you’d like to see take off? Equal opportunity for small businesses.
The last argument you had? It was about my favourite hat. His name is Byrd and he ate it… He’s a puppy and he won the argument.
Your most valuable tool? My ability to stay calm in most situations. My experience in high stress kitchens has conditioned me to keep my cool and focus on the task at hand.
Your personal motto? I try to do my best to respond instead of react.
Who has been your greatest mentor? My partner, who also runs a business, is my biggest cheerleader. They’re constantly letting me bounce ideas around while reminding me to stand my ground, speak my truth and kick ass. My voice of reason when this whirlwind can seem overwhelming (sorry for the cheese).
Where do you go for quiet? Beach, bath, BED.
What do you do to blow off steam? Cook.
What was the last dream you remember? I think it had to do with a little lizard. I was trying to help it put a band-aid on.
A bad habit? I’ll fold my laundry right away but it usually takes a day or two to then find its way back into my closet.
A ritual that you have? Handwritten grocery lists, every time.
The last purchase that you invested in? Vacation. I am a total sun seeker and they are an essential form of self-care for me.
A current curiosity? Morocco, land of wonders.
“Being able to create a non-invasive, all natural and a truly effective line of products is something I am really proud of.”
A valuable piece of advice that you wish you would have taken? “Ask for help.”
A piece of advice that you wish you hadn’t heeded? “Get products out as quickly as possible.”
If you could make absolutely anything what would it be? Teleporter to take me on adventures, particularly somewhere with some sun.
Your 3 favourite things about Vancouver? The proximity to the beach, the abundance of excellent coffee and the wild wonderful weirdos that make up my group of friends who live here.
Something that you’d like to see change in Vancouver? Is it too obvious to say something about the cost of housing?
Your three favourite dishes in Vancouver? Acorn: Kale; Chau Veggie Express: Golden Temple Bowl; Umaluma: The Love flavour (does that count?)
Your go-to dish when you’re cooking for yourself at home? I’m so boring when I’m alone. Usually I’ll play around with a mixed roasted veg situation, add greens and avocado with a couple side olives or pickles and I’m happy.
The dish you cook when you want to impress? Moroccan tacos for the win.
Your first memory? Launching Cheerio grenades at my infant brother from underneath the dining room table, using our dog as my trusted Lieutenant.
Your most memorable experience as a private chef? Cooking for the Girlvana Retreats at Bodega Ridge and connecting with the girls/mentors. Founder Alex Mazerolle is a force to be reckoned with and she is a huge inspiration.
Tell me about the transition from cheffing to botanicals? My culinary career was focused on healthy eating so it was a natural segway into making my own skin care products after a long personal search for safe, natural products to use for my skin. Making the transition professionally was easy in some ways while being so much more difficult than I could have ever anticipated. I still get to create, just in a different way. I do get cravings for menu development and meal experimentation but that now falls on my partner and friends to appease my indulgences. They don’t seem to mind.
What is your role at OMNI Botanicals? Founder and office mom.
How does your background relate to OMNI? Experience creating recipes, whether they are for food or essential oil based have a very similar trial and error method of development. Standardizing a recipe, understanding production and execution were such valuable tools to have, especially at the beginning when I was making and packaging all the products myself.
What has been your biggest learning curve? Not everything will roll out as planned. Learning to ride the wave and work towards the solution instead of dwelling on the issue. Also, asking for help. For so long when I first started I tried to do everything myself which lead to a serious burn out. Support from the team I have now has been life changing.
Tell me about the moment of inspiration that put OMNI into motion? My true moments of inspiration have come after Omni was put into motion. It comes from feedback we get from customers, referring particularly to our Pain Cream. The stories we get will literally bring me to tears at my desk. It is so easy to get caught up in the logistics of running a company and forget that the products we make really help people and their quality of life. Being able to create a non-invasive, all natural and a truly effective line of products is something I am really proud of.
Why THC? THC has a massive variety of avenues for improving health. There are endless applications while being a naturally sourced product, safe to use and seriously powerful.
Tell me about the first time you cooked with THC? It was fuzzy.
What has been the biggest challenge launching Omni? Breaking the stigma surrounding cannabis products. Education and openness are key.
What is the biggest misconception about your product? That using our topical products will alter your state of mind.
What has been the biggest reward? It may sound predictable but helping people.
Who is the Omni client? Forward thinking people with an open mind and interest in healthy alternatives.
With dispensaries catering to so many niches and demographics, where does Omni fit in? How does it stand out? Omni is a brand that steps outside of the stereotypical cannabis culture box. We are not only targeting people who are currently cannabis users but expanding to non users as well. Topicals are a gentle gateway into the healing power of cannabis.
Where do you see yourself and Omni in a year? Five? Ok, this is a big one… In a year we will be settling into what our new industry looks like as changes in the legal realm start to take place. In five years hopefully the stigma surrounding cannabis will have diminished and people are open to not only trying our products but recognise us as a trusted brand. With more and more research taking place surrounding cannabis and its effects the possibilities are endless for new products and alternative methods of healing.
A surprising encounter that Omni has facilitated? Omni recently partnered with a plant-based, monthly dinner series based out of Toronto called ‘Dirt’ and they used our Pure Coco THC (coconut oil) to infuse the meal. It was one of the most glamorous, well curated pop-up dinners I have attended. The meal was partially infused with THC and the dosage was low. I felt as though I had been transported 10 years into the future.
The question you are asked about OMNI most frequently? “Does it really work?”
The question you wish was asked instead? I wish people would just ask more questions. There are a lot of misconceptions about this industry and talking about it is the first step.