Lo Friesen always wanted to be a doctor. But after graduating from Northwestern University with a chemistry degree and spending two years working in a gastrointestinal lab at a hospital, she was guided down a different path, by her parents.
Friesen’s father and sister are both physicians, and as more cannabis markets began to open, discussions “around the dinner table” in late 2014 would often include the latest research on the effects of cannabis, particularly as an alternative for opioids, which heavily affected Cleveland, where her family is from. They saw it as a potential “wonder plant” with few side effects if it could in fact help curb the dependence on pharmaceuticals.
“So the opportunity is huge,” Friesen says.
In 2015, Friesen attended the spring MJBizCon in Chicago to see if she could find her spot in the industry. It was there she met Eden Labs founder Fritz Chess and CEO AC Braddock.
“I knew that with my background, extraction would be my place,” she says.
After that, Friesen booked a one-way trip to Seattle to start her new life. She landed a job at Eden where she learned about botanical extraction and helped the company develop new systems. And while in Seattle, she began to explore the city’s new recreational market and discovered the inconsistency in the experiences she had from brand to brand (even if it was the same cultivar) and from product to product.
“That was really the catalyst for me taking it on my own shoulders to understand the chemistry of the product,” she says.
In 2017, Friesen got a license of her own and founded Heylo, a Seattle-based processor that manufactures vaporizer cartridges (including the new Treehouse line) and topicals made from sustainably grown flower, with the mission of not only providing customers with clean products, but the resources, education and transparency they need to find the right products and experience. The company now has nine employees and is available in about 100 retail stores throughout Washington with plans to expand the brand into other states in the next year.
“Heylo exists to help people get the most out of life,” she says, adding that the packaging of every item uses data collected from users on how it made them feel, as well as suggested activities to pair it with.
Heylo has also made a name for itself as a pioneer in products featuring the non-THC and non-CBD cannabinoids like its “CBG Blend” with 16% CBG and multiple offerings with more than 3% THCV.
“We love the minor cannabinoids,” Friesen says.
Each product also comes with a Spotify playlist to help consumers get in the mood.
As a woman in an industry still dominated by men, Friesen says she hopes cannabis can set a model for diversity going forward and says the diversity at Heylo, both in gender and ethnicity, helps give the company a distinct advantage.
“That helps us speak differently,” she says. “We view what we’re doing as more than just a cannabis company.”