After years of rolling their own personal joints with resins and hash, CEO and Co-Founder of Space Coyote, Libby Cooper, and her partner, Scott Sundvor, decided it was time for them to bring their infused-cannabis creations to market. One might say the flavorful combinations they cook up are “smokable” art, which makes sense given Libby’s lifelong artistic drive.
Born in London, Libby’s parents relocated to California, where she grew up in the Menlo Park area and developed her love for art as a very young girl.
“In Kindergarten, we had to write a letter to ourselves, and I wrote that when I grew up I wanted to be an artist,” Libby said. “But my parents wanted to make sure I could make a living and support myself.”
That led her to a career in design. Creating concepts that could be usable in the world offered an avenue towards making a salary—something her parents insisted upon—but being a true artist was always in the back of her mind. She has done everything from UX design at Silicon Valley startups to art direction on video production but felt stagnate in her positions. Libby joined the cannabis industry at the beginning of 2016, as the Creative Director for Eaze. Although she had a lot of creative control, she really wanted to venture out and start her own project.
“My partner, Scott, has many skills that complement my own,” Libby said. “I do the brand and creative vision, and he’s more the financial logistics side.”
Scott and Libby were each working for other companies at that time yet had this name “Space Coyote” from a mind-blowing experience in Joshua Tree (that you can read about on their website), but nothing else, not even a product category.
“We launched Space Coyote in November 2018,” Libby explained. “While we haven’t been around that long, we have seen huge success. Like many people, I came to the cannabis industry because I wanted to learn.”
Libby admits to being passionate about two things: rescue dogs and weed. One of them was going to make her money, and one was not. She had previously worked with local shelters as a foster parent for dogs and supported the animal community in many ways, but ultimately decided to join the cannabis industry in her next career move.
“I went to a Design in Cannabis lecture held by Yelp that was very informative and also extremely inspiring,” she recalled. “I recently spoke at one of their latest events, which was really fun and brought me full-circle.”
Stress & Cannabis Business Ownership at Space Coyote
The Space Coyote product is a one-gram infused cannabis joint only. Inside each joint is a blend of quality full bud mixed with delicious concentrates. The brand started with hash-infused joints, then moved on to THCa-infused joints, and then resin-infused joints. When asked about her biggest challenge in the beginning, she immediately recalled the stress of compliance testing.
“I was relatively new to taking responsibility over a product, and I remember being so terrified that very first time we put our product through testing,” she said. “Each new step had so much unknown. I was holding my breath a lot of the time, but everything ended up going smoothly.”
Smoothly might be an understatement, as the Space Coyote brand is now in 200 dispensaries.
“We make a product that resonates with the customer,” Libby explained. “We see our customer base as not only the end-user but also making a joint that the buyers and budtenders in the dispensaries would want to buy and take home at the end of the day. We wanted to make a product for stoners because we are stoners ourselves.”
Being a Woman in the Cannabis Industry
As a woman coming from Silicon Valley and UX design, Libby would like to say there is an extreme difference being in cannabis when, in fact, it feels very similar. While she finds it incredible to see more women in the cannabis industry than she worked with in Silicon Valley, there still aren’t enough women in leadership roles.
“I do see a lot of women starting businesses in this industry,” Libby said. “But when you’re talking about the companies that are really big, really successful, have raised a lot of money, they are all male-led. We need to spread the word that women can do this, don’t be afraid.”
Libby confided that she and Scott have frequent discussions about whether it will be an issue to go out and raise money with Libby as CEO.
“Will that hurt us if we decide to raise VC money? I don’t know,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t, which is why we must have these conversations now. Women have come so far, but we still have a long way to go.”
Libby says she definitely thinks differently about running a cannabis business. It bothers her when people enter this industry entirely for financial gain. As she puts it, this plant is female, and everyone needs to honor that feminine structure. It’s not always about women leading versus men leading. Instead, she believes we all need to tap into our male and female brain when each is necessary.
“All people are made up of masculine and feminine energy,” she said. “I typically look at myself as a balanced combination of the two, and it takes both to run a business successfully.”
She sees the desire to make money as more of a male-focused energy. Of course, businesses need to have specific goals and the drive to make a certain amount of money, but she finds it equally important that every employee at Space Coyote live a good and balanced life. She and Scott encourage people to go out and work remotely. In fact, she joined our interview call from a beach in Tasmania, where she and Scott were currently traveling. In addition, they have a permanent residence in Hawaii where they work from when not in Northern or Southern California.
“Our entire team works remotely,” Libby explained. “If someone wants to go out and work from a foreign country, we encourage that. We want people not to have work as the end-all-be-all of their lives. When people are happy, well-rounded, and satisfied, it makes them more efficient at their jobs. It makes their jobs their passion.”
The Women of Cannabis in Northern California
You probably don’t know, especially if you’re a male cannabis business leader, but there’s a fantastic cannabis community of women based in the Bay Area who formed a coalition of support. According to Libby, this group doesn’t have a name, but it’s an incredible support network that she has been part of since her time at Eaze.
“We’re a group of empowered women who are working at the top of different cannabis companies,” she said. “It’s just inspiring and supportive to have these women around. We get together and have cannabis sleepovers and book clubs. We’re always on text threads; there’s constant communication. Everyone is there to lend advice or give congratulations because we’re all so proud of each other. We’re here to build each other up.”
Supporting Artists Feeds Libby Cooper’s Inner-Artist
Despite how far Libby has come in her career, she never lost her passion for creating beautiful art for the world. She knows all too well that the decision to be an artist means it is nearly impossible to have a gallery show, run art-inspired events, or even pay rent at times. This is why they dedicate a portion of Space Coyote resources towards giving back to the art community through fostering new artists so they can truly focus on their craft.
“We like to support artists in whatever way they need,” she said. “We provide a monthly retainer to the artists we support and help them throw events, which allow them to focus on performances and being a community leader. We also will commission art pieces, anything to give back in any way we can.”
If you visit the Space Coyote website, you can view the artists they support, which are currently all women—but that’s not an intentional choice, Libby says. In her words, if a man or someone non-binary came along with the right vision, she would be stoked to get involved. The important part is that she will always be an entrepreneur who gives back.
“It’s a dream come true to be an artist and now a business owner who can go back and support other artists,” she said. “It’s everything I’ve wanted to be doing. I’m 28 and thrilled to have done so much in my career. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
No matter what those next ventures will be, the one thing Libby knows is that she will one day get back to starting that animal shelter she postponed to join the cannabis industry, but she’s pretty sure that’s still about ten years away.
All images from Confident Cannabis.
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