A recent Pew Research Center study reveals that 62% of American adults support cannabis legalization, marking a dramatic increase from the 31% of adults who supported it in 2000. But where cannabis prohibition persisted thanks largely to the spread of misinformation, one unintended outcome of legalization is that there is a proliferation of false and misleading messaging about what cannabis can actually do. In fact, the American public reportedly views weed as having more health benefits than risks despite the lack of scientific evidence supporting this belief.
Ozzie-Ozkay Villa launched her company OOV.life because she understood that in order for people to make conscious decisions about whether cannabis had a place in their lives, they first need reliable information. We spoke with Ozzie to learn about her business and find out what’s it’s like to balance life as a CEO and married mother of two in one of the fastest growing industries in the nation.
THE OOV.LIFE MISSION
“OOV is a digital publication and lifestyle brand at the intersection of cannabis, and health and wellness,” Ozzie explained during our phone interview. “We’re very focused on creating relatable, quality, accessible content for the mainstream population.”
In a world where content sites like PROHBTD and Civilized are all working diligently to demystify weed for the masses, OOV’s approach is to use its platform to focus less on industry news, product reviews and pop culture, and more on education. From covering the basics like what weed’s Schedule 1 status means, to a recurring advice column in which registered nurses break down topics like the health benefits of the terpene myrcene, the site is positively bursting with substantive information. But as important as education is to OOV’s mission to normalize cannabis, Ozzie believes it’s crucial to also place the spotlight on lifestyle.
“We put out health and wellness related content, but also lifestyle content so that our readers can really feel like this can become a part of their daily life in a positive way,” she said. From healthy cannabis-infused recipes to a listing of local weed-themed events, including the upcoming Day of Wellness celebrating OOV’s launch – featuring yoga, lunch, and a discussion with Weed the People documentary filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein – the idea is to make sure people have access to trustworthy information before anything else.
“We have so much unlearning to do,” Ozzie said. “There are just so many stigmas attached to this industry and a lot of misinformation. That’s why I really feel like educating is the way to penetrate [the mainstream] demographic before bombarding them with products.”
THE ORIGINS OF OOV
Ozzie’s entry into the cannabis space ended up being a fairly organic transition from the career she’d built years’ prior. “My background is that I’m a doula: somebody that supports people as they enter new parenthood – so prenatal, birth and post-partum support,” she explained. “A lot of these people just like to approach healthcare very consciously, to make decisions for themselves and feel empowered by the decisions that they’re making.”
After building a successful practice guiding parents all over the Bay Area, Ozzie started hosting a mother’s group out of her Marin home. Inevitably cannabis became a topic of discussion but instead of shying away from it, she saw it as an educational moment. “I’ve never been afraid to talk about my choices as a woman and as a mother,” Ozzie said of her decision to come out of the green closet a few years ago.
“I started to talk very publicly about my cannabis consumption and I was met with love, support and curiosity,” she said. “My community wanted to know more: how do I use it, what works best for me, where do I get it, all these very basic questions.” Before she knew it, Ozzie’s small house parties evolved into sponsored events… and a serious awakening.
“I realized that what really needed to happen was mass education,” she said, “so I pivoted into a media company so I could reach people everywhere, not just in my community.”
LIFE AS A CANNABIS CEO
When asked about her day-to-day life as a wife, mother of two young children, and CEO of a growing cannabis lifestyle brand, Ozzie can’t help but laugh. “A couple of my friends always joke that somebody could make a reality show out of my life,” she said. “One minute I’m touring grow operations and having conference calls with people in the industry, and the next I’m driving to school to pick up my kids and take them to art class.”
When it comes to defining the most challenging aspects of being a CEO in cannabis, Ozzie acknowledges that it’s the same core issue plaguing everyone else trying to navigate California’s volatile market. “You never know what new regulations are going to come out and how it’s going to affect you,” she said, reminding us that growers and manufacturers aren’t the only ones impacted by an industry whose regulatory landscape is still being defined.
“It’s a domino effect,” she explained. “If a brand doesn’t have the funds to pursue marketing, that affects me. We produce events and if they don’t have the budget to sponsor, that affects me. I can’t run ads as a cannabis company even though I don’t have my hands on the plant. So you have to be able to change and adapt and find ways around things.”
But reflecting upon her journey over the last few years, Ozzie is refreshingly honest about the paradox of choosing a path that is equal parts difficult and fulfilling. “It’s like parenting – if you knew how hard it was going to be before you jumped in, you probably wouldn’t do it,” she said with a chuckle before adding, “but at the same time I love a challenge and I love what I do. I’m so passionate about cannabis I can’t stop thinking about it, I’m almost obsessed.”
For Ozzie, the reward comes from “knowing that we’re making change in people’s lives” and that OOV is “this relatable brand, somewhere they can turn to and feel like they can trust what’s coming at them.” A huge part of this is being open and authentic about her personal experiences. “I put a lot of myself into the brand because I think people need that right now – they need somebody to look at, see, and relate to.”
As a busy mother running her own business and living a full life that happens to include cannabis, her story is proof that old stigmas have no place in a legalized world. “You can be a productive part of society and be a cannabis consumer,” she said.
ADVICE TO BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS
To anyone looking to build their own cannabis company, Ozzie’s advice follows a similar line of thinking to other professionals we’ve spoken with. “Number one is don’t try to veer too far off of your path,” she advised. “Know what you’re good at and put that into the industry. Also, surround yourself with super supportive people that are going to cheer you on and have your back.”
As far as we can tell, Ozzie’s foundation seems to be firmly set in those regards. So what’s the future looking like for OOV? “I really want OOV to be the hub for new and returning cannabis consumers. I want it to be a full-fledged media company hosting events, creating community in-person and digitally. Our main focus right now is to be just a really solid cannabis media company.”
Thanks to Ozzie Ozkay-Villa for giving us a glimpse into her life as a CEO killing it in the cannabis industry!
Weedguide loves speaking to industry CEOs changing the game by doing things a little differently with their cannabis businesses. Do you know someone we should talk to? Tell us all about them on Instagram and if chosen, we’ll interview them for a future profile!