Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Based in San Francisco Bay Area, Ozzie Ozkay-Villa is founder of Oov Lifestyle, a media company and lifestyle brand that integrates cannabis into the concepts of health and wellness. As a professional doula (someone who provides support during the prenatal, birth, and postpartum periods), she is seasoned in providing guidance to those looking for alternatives to traditional healthcare. Ozzie founded Alternative Mothers Group and sat on the board of advisors for Marin County’s first free-standing birth center. She is a natural community builder who believes that by creating safe spaces and fostering positive dialogue, we can overcome the stigma surrounding non-conventional health and lifestyle decisions.
What is the idea behind OovLifestyle and how did you come up with it?
Oov Lifestyle is a media company and lifestyle brand at the intersection of cannabis and health and wellness. We curate relatable content and experiential events for the new or returning cannabis consumer. When I started exploring the industry and asking questions in my community, I realized what is really needed in this space right now is mass education and destigmatization.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
As a two-time homebirther and doula, I’ve always been quite open about my non-conventional health and wellness choices. A few years ago I started talking really publicly and honestly about my cannabis consumption on social media, and I was met with such love, support and curiosity by my community. I started hosting intimate parties in my home where I would go over basic information about the plant, the flower and products currently available on the market.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I started Oov Lifestyle about 2 years ago with not much direction or clarity, just a passion for plant medicine and a love of community building. My business skills have also grown immensely over this period of time as well, I would say we’ve seen the most traction over the past 6 months.
What was the biggest obstacle?
The biggest obstacle has been navigating an ever evolving and young industry. With regulations changing constantly, it is extremely difficult to have a clear business model or plan out your year.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
Biggest achievement to date was probably interviewing Ricki Lake at our magazine launch event in November. She was such a huge inspiration to me when she produced “The Business of Being Born” several years ago (which ultimately changed my entire life by opening our eyes to holistic health and wellness). Last year, she produced another incredible documentary called “Weed the People” which follows families dealing with childhood cancer. Having Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein on the cover of our first magazine and at our event was such a full circle moment for me.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is hard. Being a cannabis entrepreneur is 10x harder. As I said above, nothing is ever certain. I know of brands that have spent tens of thousands of dollars on packaging, only to have to re-do everything after a new regulation passes. Banking is an issue, even collecting online payments is a hurdle. We’ve had our Paypal account shut down more than once with absolutely no warning, no explanation and no chance of re-opening the account. Mind you, we don’t even touch the plant. Marketing? Forget it. You can not run a paid ad on social media nor will your posts get as much reach as other industries just due to algorithm restrictions. So you better be super tough, creative and adaptable in this industry or you simply will not make it.
Luckily, the cannabis industry has one of the highest percentage of female executives, clocking in at about 27% right now. Last year it was closer to 36%, so we are desperately trying to hold onto those numbers. I feel really lucky to be in an industry that is so supportive of all minorities, not just women. That said, funding is an issue here as well.
What are your projects you are currently working on?
Currently we are working on our next experiential event and starting to make preparations for Volume II of our magazine.
Is #WomenInTech and #WomenInBusiness movement important to you and if yes, why?
Yes, #womeninbusiness is extremely important to me. When I entered this industry, I had close to no business skills, I taught myself everything I know today. Oov Lifestyle started from my honesty and willingness to share my experiences about cannabis. Although the plant is my inspiration and quite literally the fuel that keeps me motivated, I’ve developed a serious love affair with all things entrepreneurship and building a business from the ground up. I believe women can accomplish absolutely anything they set their minds to!
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
My number one piece of advice is NEVER GIVE UP. I know I know, it sounds so cliche, but it is SO true. You just never know where this path will take you, perhaps it has absolutely nothing to do with the original idea. But if you don’t stick with it, you may never make it to that “big break” or meet that incredible person that can help you take things to the next level.
What will be the key trends in the healthcare industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
Key trends? Cannabis, cannabis and more cannabis. We are just now beginning to scratch the surface with research. My mind goes on overdrive when I think of the possibilities!
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.