Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Masha Kupets Navarre of PLASTIC PALMTREE.
Meet Masha Kupets
Masha began her journey at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as a fine artist and graphic designer. After RISD she found herself in the east coast corporate world designing branded campaigns and packaging for iRobot. Soon enough, the palm trees of Los Angeles pulled her west to join the entertainment industry where she designed award-winning television and theatrical print campaigns and painted in her free time.
Today, she heads up PLASTIC PALMTREE, a Los Angeles-based boutique creative agency.
Masha has collaborated with legions of clients across multiple entertainment and industrial brands including FX, Spike, Papa & Barkley, mozen, NBC, Pure Bloom, NatGeo, Paramount and more. PLASTIC PALMTREE clients range from cannabis, corporate, & medical to film & television.
In our interview with Masha, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about PLASTIC PALMTREE, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Masha, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for PLASTIC PALMTREE?
Masha Kupets Navarre: For years we’ve been a trusted partner for entertainment and corporate brands, working on projects for established clients like Viacom, Sundance Channel, Nat Geo and Madison Square Garden. As we continue to work in entertainment, we have also spent years investing in the emerging cannabis market in California. Today, PLASTIC PALMTREE collaborates with inspired growers, investors and entrepreneurs that want to tap into our modern vision for cannabis.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Masha Kupets Navarre: After years working for others, the dream of combining my expertise and passion for art, marketing & design in a targeted way became a reality and in 2009, I started my own creative studio. PLASTIC PALMTREE was officially born.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends? Were they supportive?
Masha Kupets Navarre: It was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone was supportive and encouraging. It was the organic next step for my business.
DCN: How is your organization/business helping the cannabis industry in a positive way?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Branding, product positioning and design plays a huge part in how people perceive & consume cannabis. With every brand that we launch, our goal is to normalize cannabis as a healthy lifestyle, a medicine, a healing + elevated experience. Eradicating the stigma is always the goal, as we encourage all brands to offer education and clear usage guidelines to their customers.
DCN: As we near the fall months of 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved with the last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Masha Kupets Navarre: We helped launch some amazing new brands this year, and are continuing to push creative boundaries with our existing clients.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Some challenges were definitely making child resistant packaging as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Our goal is to help brands remain compliant but still look accessible and beautiful to the consumer. CR packaging can have a pharma look to it, so we aim to change that by working on custom designs or concealing them in creative ways.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Masha Kupets Navarre: We never had to raise capital. We have been operating on our own since 2009.
DCN: What did you give up to get where you are today?
Masha Kupets Navarre:I would say, personal time. Running a business requires 24/7 attention, and you live and breathe that business every day. It’s important to have a work/life balance, so I try to silence my phone after business hours and on weekends.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Be supportive of your fellow entrepreneurs, listen to each other, elevate each other. Be highly professional, responsive, loyal and exceptional at delivering stunning work on time, every time. Constantly learn and stay current on policy. Stay focused. Do your research. Go above and beyond to get to know your industry and the people. Forge lasting relationships and help one another. Attend educational events and learn, learn, learn.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Life/work balance is a big one that comes to mind, as well as many sleepless nights at the beginning stages when you are burning the midnight oil.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Masha Kupets Navarre: How friendly and how supportive everyone has been. It has been the most nurturing industry I have experienced yet.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Not being afraid to take risks. Following ideas that may seem crazy to others, but that you know in your gut are winners.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Masha Kupets Navarre: I have a 3 year old, so there isn’t much time for hobbies :). I make sure to spend time with my family as much as possible, and always look forward to my yoga practice to destress.
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Masha Kupets Navarre: The Brain That Changes Itself
DCN: Excluding yours, what company or business do you admire the most?
Masha Kupets Navarre: I have recently been admiring Quilt and everything the company stands for. When women get together to discuss what matters to them, they can change the world.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Masha Kupets Navarre: Keep normalizing cannabis. Stay away from advertising “stoner culture”. As states enter adult use, brands need to focus on simple dosage instructions, and accessible information that is easy to understand.
We have to keep newbies in mind as well as seniors who are becoming a bigger part of the market. We must also encourage cannabis brands to donate to research as well as their favorite charitable organizations.
DCN: Thank you, Masha, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!