AACE Interview: Lianzi Liu of Elevate

I met Lianzi at Blunt Talks/SF, a "ted talk" series of talks about the cannabis industry. I was so impressed by Lianzi's passion for not only the industry but for the right for everyone to have a seat at the table. - Ophelia Chong

Why are you entering the cannabis business now? Can you tell us what Elevate Herbs is? How did you get the idea?

It started a few months ago, my husband and I, along with a couple of other friends were talking about what a booming industry we are going to witness with the legalization of adult use cannabis in California, and we started brainstorming ideas together for a business.  We knew nothing about the industry back then, so as we researched we would pivot to different ideas along the way, to see what would make a plausible and viable business.  At the same time, I was suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, which sounds like a bad SNL sketch but it is miserable when you have it!  I’ve had a medical cannabis card before for Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but I had let it expire as my anxiety got under control.  The Restless Leg Syndrome, as well as feeling my anxiety level rise again from being a new mother, led me to renew my medical cannabis recommendation once again.  

I don’t think it was a coincidence that my interest in cannabis as a business coincided with me becoming a mother.  We’ve had an incredibly challenging year because my daughter was born with a heart defect that required immediate open heart surgery after birth, and had to be tube fed via a nasogastric tube for the first four months of her life.  It was the biggest obstacle we’ve ever faced as a couple, and as adults individually.  As she was weaned off of the feeding tube and our lives started to adjust to the normal routines of being parents, I felt like I had dug myself out of this dark hole and that I could see light again.  This was around the same time that I renewed my recommendation, so I started to do a lot of soul searching with the help of cannabis and really thought about what do I want to do with the rest of my life, and my new identity as a mother.  I want to build a life that my daughter can look up to and say, “my mom worked hard and made this happen; I can work hard and accomplish my goals too.”  I would talk with my husband, and my dear friend (now business partner) Ginny, a mother of two boys under three, about what to do with our careers, do we go back to work?  Find nine to five jobs?  Or should we go in on a business together?  As we learned more and more about the history, community, and activism of cannabis, we just fell in love with this plant - it’s natural properties and variations, as well as the people in this community who speak and advocate for it, and we knew that this is it.            

Through a few brainstorming sessions and pivots, we came up with Elevate.  Elevate pairs cannabis products with gourmet (non-cannabis) food items, as well as other wellness products and accessories.  These products would be packed and sold together in boxes, so we call ourselves the Cannabis Pairing Box company.  We are currently working on two different boxes, the Flagship Box and the Edition Box.  Our Flagship box packs together all kinds of delicious and appealing goodies, that will be sold first as gift boxes (for someone else, or for yourself), then, with enough interest, as a subscription box.  Our Edition Box is the gem.  I don’t want to divulge too much, but I promise it is like nothing else on the market right now.  We hope to be on the shelves of dispensaries by late spring.  

Our mission is to promote cannabis as a wellness item, because that’s what it is for us.  From our Facebook page, we had said “we want to highlight what [cannabis] does for your emotional well being. People have this image of, maybe back in college you smoked, got intoxicated, ate an entire bag of spicy chicken wings, and didn’t feel so good afterwards, but it doesn’t have to be like that. It’s not about gluttony. It is about finesse, and the good stuff. It is fine and gourmet, and you get to appreciate the artisanal qualities, the details. Which in turn helps you become centered and present, and brings more awareness, and wholeness to your life. So that’s how we see it. It’s a movement, and a cultural shift.”                

How does your family feel about your new venture in cannabis?

My mom is reluctant about the business, but is incredibly supportive when it comes to helping us out with our baby.  She has a lot of questions about cannabis, and I try my best to answer them.  She grew up in China during the Cultural Revolution, when anti-drug attitudes were incredibly high, likely due to the great devastation caused by the Opium War.  And although she is more open-minded than the average Asian American parent, she is an accomplished musician and knows that some of her American musician friends use cannabis, she still has a lot of reservations about the business; I’m not even sure if she’s told my stepdad yet.  I believe it takes time for her to shift her mindset about cannabis as something to be used for your wellness, and not as an intoxicant.  My dad, on the other hand, I think will be very chill about it.  I actually haven’t talked to him yet, but that’s only because I need to look up some of these vocabularies in Chinese so we can have a full conversation about it.  My Chinese is a little rusty! 

How do you use your experience in fashion, fine arts, photography and design in cannabis?

There’s a ton of creativity involved in being an entrepreneur, and I use a lot of the same process for design to come up with our product and execution.  We are also saving money because I am able to do the logo design, packaging design, website concept, and etc myself instead of having to hire someone else to do them.  There’s a beauty standard I uphold for our company, because it’s very important to me.  I believe a product has to add beauty into the consumer’s life - Internally or outwardly.  We hope our product does both.

What is your favorite strain?

I gravitate towards sativa dominant strains because they help me focus on my creativity and flow so I can get things done.  My favorite strain for when I’m in a block is fire OG.  I vape flower in my PAX 2 when I’m in need of a creative kick, otherwise I vape oil for its convenience.         


Ophelia ChongComment