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'Chef for Higher' Founder Hawaii Mike Talks Bud Brand Building + Cannabis Culture's Evolution [Interview]

Photo of Hawaii Mike taken by Nashish Scott (@Nash1sh).

Brand building and curating editorial is not for the faint of heart, especially on 4/20, but Hawaii Mike knows his stuff.

This New York City-based entrepreneur is the co-founder, alongside his wife Stephanie, of Chef for Higher, which hosts meticulously curated cannabis-infused dinners for enthusiasts and their curious friends. But before leaping into the industry, Mike was a music industry fixture with humble beginnings. Whether he was sneaking into a music convention, The Gavin, where he intended to sell weed or working as a road manager for Mobb Deep — Hawaii Mike was always meant for life in the fast lane. He would go on to have stints at The Source and later to become the founding editor-in-chief of Inked Magazine before taking his talents to cannabis.

Mike has cultivated his talents to become a marketing wizard, shaping the culture we know-and-love, and during that rise, he saw a need to fill a sector within the booming cannabis industry.

We got Hawaii Mike to sit down with us to talk about brand building, marketing for marijuana amongst aged stigma, and how cannabis can be easily integrated into one’s lifestyle for a multitude of uses.

Okayplayer: You went from being a tour manager to working at The Source. What was the transition like?

Hawaii Mike: Yes, going from promotions to editorial changed a lot for me. I am looking at the culture now from a consumer-engagement standpoint. We were influencers before online and social media. We worked in print. I was there from 1999-2002, right before the online publications like Hypebeast started popping up. You saw things in The Source or VIBE first! I went from engaging through music to engaging through products. In fact, myself and DJ Clark Kent had a management group. Together, we managed pro-BMX athlete Nigel Sylvester and photographer Jonathan Mannion. I co-managed Clark as well. I also managed Mr. Flawless and producers Sean C & LV. All of those things: events, tour productions and more allowed me to be well-rounded.

OKP: With everyone celebrating 4/20, can you tell those who might not be familiar about “Chef For Higher”?

HM: Our idea was born from looking at the landscape in cannabis. The companies that were popping up — they were going to be tough to compete with. So, I started researching history and how cannabis has really participated in the culture. It was always around. It was never a problem for my house. My friends came to my house to smoke. I’ve never looked at it as anything but normal. We want to show people how you can use this, how you can put it into your life and we use food to show that.

We wanted to build a brand. At the end of prohibition in New York, there were over 200 speakeasy spots. We said, ‘Let’s take this risk,’ and take it to another level. We weren’t doing anything crazy, we were doing dinner parties. At the same time, how do we develop this into a movement? We hit up our network that spans the gamut — fashion, music and media — and leveraged our relationships to fuel this “something different.”

With our blinders on, we created a vibe that we could recreate in California, anywhere.

OKP: Weed and hip-hop go together like a warm summer breeze and a beach. Where does the rap industry fit into the evolving cannabis industry?

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