Barbari Shop: Creating Quality Herbs that Enlighten and Promoting Women-Led Businesses in the Cannabis Community
Valarie Šakota alongside her business partner and friend, Meryl Montgomery, are the founders of Barbari Shop.
It is their intention to enhance the cannabis experience by giving the consumer access to a variety of products and herbal blends. Each collection is an eclectic variety of quality herbal blends, adornments and home goods carefully selected by Valarie and Meryl.
Once their collections have sold out, a new one is created, ensuring consumers will always find products to enrich their cannabis experience.
In addition to the collections, Barbari supports charitable causes by donating five percent of their sales. The charities vary and change with each collection, providing several different organizations the opportunity to be on the receiving end of this generous endeavor.
We had the opportunity to speak to Valarie about her shop, the company vision and their future. Read on for an exciting look into this unique brand!
Viride: How do you choose the products available for purchase through your shop?
Valarie Šakota: It starts with a theme idea. We really wanted to come out with collections instead of just a traditional retail site with random items. We wanted to be intentional about what we put out there. We meditated on the idea and it felt appropriate to focus on themed collections and when they are gone they’re gone. The first was a new beginning theme and we pulled items that supported a well-rounded smoking experience. A smoking apparatus, matches and a candle for ambiance. The new collection is growth or new beginnings and focusing on yourself, which drove the decisions for the pieces in this collection.
Beyond that, it is about finding artists for small line productions and brands that are putting their hand in the piece. A step beyond that is prioritizing women and fem-identifying and women of color. We are making a network of people that help each other and propel each other’s brands and vision.
V: How many collections have you shared on your site thus far?
Valarie: This is our second collection. The first was the Commencement Collection, which launched in October of 2017. We worked on the brand for about two years before we put it into production.
V: How did the first collection go?
Valarie: It went well. We launched it as a way to start talking to people and to legitimize our brand, mission and what we are going for. We knew it would be a slow start and it was more of an opportunity to get an Instagram following so we could reach out to larger partners that we are looking at later down the pipeline. A lot of times if you don’t already have a presence, it is difficult to partner with those larger brands. We sold out of the full collection, but still had individual pieces that are selling as well. It got us into the minds of our close network and legitimized us beyond the people that we knew. We got super excited when we got our first customer that wasn’t a friend of ours.
V: What is your mission and vision?
Valarie: What we want to do is prioritize women of color, LGBTQ and just women in general so that this industry can be led by all the people who have struggled getting into other booming industries like finance, tech or the creative industry.
V: How do your herbal blends heighten the cannabis consumer’s experience?
Valarie: It does two things. On one hand it is a way to dilute the cannabis herb so that the consumer can roll it as a spliff. It is a cleaner experience and it is a way to moderate your intake, which is something that my co-founder Meryl and I have done for years. We looked at a joint like a glass of wine, more of a way to relax and not lose the rest of our day. It was a way to relax, wind down and open our mind. The intention of these blends was to mix them with cannabis to whatever the consumer liking is.
It is also an opportunity to sit and be quiet and meditate. Each of the herbs in the blend have their own properties. They are their most potent when sipped with tea. However, when smoked they have some of the same features outside of the obvious like taste and smell. They are also great for digestion.
We have the relaxing properties of lavender, raspberry leaf, and sage which is good for menstrual pain and regulating your digestive tract. They have medicinal or remedial properties that have been used by cultures for thousands of years. It is basically just taking the wisdom that already exists and curating it into a tasteful blend. The pursuit of this is about consuming cannabis in moderation and being able to have whatever experience you want and not feel like you must go light up a bong and get totally blitzed, especially if you are new to cannabis.
V: Barbari supports charities by donating five percent of sales to a designated organization. What is the process of choosing an organization for charity?
Valarie: We change our partnerships with every collection we roll out. The first collection was Planned Parenthood and the current is Fierce NYC. The process for that collection goes back to our core mission and finding nonprofits or charities that align with our mission of helping propel the voices of the femme or fem-identifying or women in America and beyond.
It has been intuitive up to this point. We have a couple in the pipeline for future collections. It is about finding organizations that we can identify with. Planned Parenthood gets a lot of fire and heat in the media and it felt like a very easy point of entry and it is a well-known brand. We unabashedly stand by Planned Parenthood. Hopefully our small alliance will show people it is okay that even in the light of controversy to stand with organizations like Planned Parenthood. For all the negative attention, they also get good attention. We weren’t the one shining light on them by any means. We just wanted to show solidarity.
The same goes with Fierce. Meryl is from Oregon, but she lived in NYC for ten years. It is a second home for us and our brand. Fierce NYC is an opportunity to help propel the voices of the youth of color in the LGBTQ community. Statistically, they are more likely to commit suicide, especially youth in the LGBTQ community. This organization helps to start young and build their confidence and build their own space in the world. We wanted to take this opportunity to help shed some light on them.
V: Does each collection have a read section with blogs by the community you are supporting?
Valarie: The read section isn’t necessarily geared toward the collection mission, but it is geared toward the brand mission. At any given point we can talk about these communities and help lift these voices as much as we can.
V: Do you have anything exciting coming up in the near future?
Valarie: I will say this. We are looking to grow our herbal line. Our focus from here on out is on the actual flower and you will see a lot more of our brand prioritizing the flower, both herbal and cannabis over the ancillary collections.