2020 Like a Boss Innovators: Christine Yi & Felicity Chen
It started, as so many things do, with Mom: Felicity Chen created a hemp-infused honey, harvested straight from her dad's backyard beehives in the Bay Area, to help her mother battle asthma. Even after expanding to other CBD-infused pantry staples (EVOO, chili oil), Chen and her business partner, Christine Yi, still keep Mom in mind when developing products at Potli (potlishop.com), their cannabis-focused cooking and lifestyle brand. "The inspiration behind Potli was our conservative Asian immigrant mothers, who are familiar with plant-based medicine yet would never think cannabis was for them," says Yi.
The California natives—who met in 2010 as freshman roommates at Boston University—worked in full-time jobs to self-fund the brand: Yi was a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Chen was in business development at start-ups like Gilt and Uber Eats. "We didn't come from the cannabis industry—we were outsiders who loved the plant and wanted to make products that we would use ourselves," says Yi. "We were eager to add value to the industry and not just take from it."
Through their condiments—the team launched a THC-infused sriracha in January—Potli is taking cannabis and its no-high-here cousin CBD out of the "weed world" and into the wellness sphere. "We're often someone's first foray into the cannabis space," says Yi. "By creating high-quality ingredients that easily integrate into your life, we hope to change the dialogue to be more accepting and normalized."
The Potli pair are part of a wave of women active in the CBD space. "The cannabis industry actually has a healthier gender balance in upper management than most traditional industries," says Yi. According a 2019 report by Marijuana Business Daily, the percentage of women in executive positions in the cannabis industry was 37 percent, higher than the 29-percent global average across other businesses. And on the consumer end, women make up 38 percent of cannabis users in the U.S. "It's important to charge forward and represent females and minorities in the space because we're the best people to create products for those like us," says Yi. "We won't grow as an industry and into the mainstream without the right representation."
This article originally appeared in our Summer 2020 issue. Get the magazine here.