Imagine if the process of oil infusion was automated and mess free. You could easily enjoy homemade edibles and wellness products any time you wanted with minimal fuss and without having the steep learning curve traditionally associated with perfecting an infusion.
This week's Spotlight Series interviewee is Chrissy Bellman who turned her after hours dream project into a full time dream career and left the finance world behind in favour of a life focused on health and wellness. The Levo is her baby and she spent years perfecting the design resulting in a beautiful appliance that would look at home in any kitchen.
Your background is in finance, what inspired you to make such a bold career change and how did it come about?
Even though there were quite a few years where LEVO was my “moonlight project,” once it came to mind I could never let it go. My passion continued to snowball, in a very spontaneous way! Usually, once I’m set on a challenge or goal, I put blinders on; corporate life couldn’t keep me from dreaming about bringing this brand to life. I was truly compelled! Very grateful that my eyes were open enough to see the opportunity and that, in time, I was able to muster the courage to take the leap!
How did you get interested in infusions?
I've always been passionate about natural foods and remedies, as avoiding chemicals and gaining control over the processed ingredients I ingest has helped me control severe migraines that I've had since I was a teenager. Our bodies are incredible, with the proper fuel! I continue to be fascinated with and inspired by those who have even more serious conditions and are able to heal naturally.
At what point did you decide to design your own kitchen appliance?
I was living in a shared house abroad in college, where 20+ students were sharing a kitchen. A group of about 5 very smart young men decided to make infused brownies for an American Super Bowl party and proceeded to wreck the kitchen! You could smell herb down the block, in an area that was not supportive of consumption. Not to mention, the group was arguing over best practices the whole time. I couldn’t stop eaves dropping and wondering how such a seemingly simple task could be so complex. Then, I took to the internet and discovered that millions of people were equally confused as to how to infuse. I also learned about essential oils, homeopathy, aromatherapy, and culinary infused oils (e.g., basil infused EVOO), and saw a massive opportunity to bridge a lot of gaps to create a brand around herbal infusion more broadly. Here we are!
Are you a cannabis consumer and if so, how has cannabis impacted your life?
My personal consumption is not what really drove my interest in this. It’s been more about the potential to impact a huge population that is currently underserved, and a deep-seated belief that I can make it happen. Interactions with our customers is by far the most rewarding aspect of my role with LEVO!
Tell us a little more about LEVO. How does it work? What can people make with it?
LEVO is a first of a kind appliance that infuses fats with herbs, at the touch of a button. LEVO uses a simple steeping method and very specific controls to take the mystery out of home infusion. Just input your ingredients, set the time and temperature, and hit start! When the cycle ends (in just a few minutes or up to 10 hours later), the reservoir and parts are easily removed and tossed in your dishwasher. Our ventilation system also minimizes odors, a big plus for discrete users! It’s meant to be simple enough for anyone to use, no matter what age or experience level.
LEVO is an incredibly beautiful appliance, how much does design matter? Did you pay special attention to making sure it would be a beautiful addition to kitchens?
The design was iterated over the course of several years, so absolutely! We really wanted something that was unique compared to other appliances, but still could be identified immediately as such. The first prototype looked like a mini space ship, so we’ve come a long way! High design is a priority of the brand- we want customers to leave LEVO on their countertops in between infusions, not to hide it away when not in use!
How important is it that users are able to control the strength of their cannabis infusions?
This is the other missing piece to the puzzle that I witnessed, in 2011. After you would make a huge mess for the better part of your day infusing, you’re still wondering how strong your creation is! This is a major barrier to entry for many people out there that we hope to take down. By having more specific time and temperature controls, you’re able to get a much better idea of your potency. You can even optimize the TCHA instead of THC using low temperature, as an example. We also sell a discounted bundle on our site with tCheck, a cannabinoid potency reader, for convenience.
What advice would you give to a novice cannabis user who is interested in making their own infusions?
Get creative! You don’t know until you try and there is so much more potential when you have time and temperature control. Also, mix non-cannabis herbs into your creation for better taste and added nutrition. Our team made cannabis and fresh ginger infused coconut oil for an event recently; it was a hit!
What’s your favourite thing to make with LEVO?
I’m very excited about homemade topicals and natural beauty, as well as non-psychoactive or microdose edibles.
What challenges have you come up against since launching LEVO and how did you handle them?
I was warned that hardware is hard, but you really have to live it to understand! I’d say our greatest challenges have all been logistics, which means where there’s a will, there’s a way! I feel so grateful every day that the idea was not an illusion and there is - in fact - the demand we believed in. We are truly the Little Engine That Could, in many ways, but we’re proud of our scrappy beginnings and the challenges we have overcome.
What advice would you offer to a woman interested in joining the cannabis industry?
I’d start by welcoming her to a uniquely merit-based industry! Everything is so new that there’s not too much bureaucracy to navigate or embedded culture to have to work around. My experience has shown me that most folks in the industry are incredible welcoming, helpful, and hard working. So, my best advice is to be as thoughtful as possible about whatever problem you want to solve and, then, get after it!