Spotlight Series: Heidi Fortes, Accoutrements Founder
One of my favourite things about the end of cannabis prohibition is the abundance of chic, interesting, and creatively designed lifestyle accessories for consumers from all walks of life. Never before have I had so many options for how and where to store my weed, what to roll it in, vaporize it with or use to grind it to a fine crumble. In fact, Heidi Fortes, the founder of Accoutrements and the subject of today's Spotlight interview made creating a chic premium product that grinds beautifully and looks even better one of her main goals when she set out to sell her pieces.
Accoutrements takes a sustainable approach to all of their products, ensuring nothing goes to waste. All elements of their grinders are meant to seamlessly integrate into your lifestyle - and look beautiful on your shelf.
1- Let’s start at the beginning. What is your background and how did Accoutrements come to be?
My professional background is in technology, it's actually where the majority of my professional experience still resides. I've been in tech sales for 7 years and have been successfully running my own sales performance firm for the last two years. Accoutrements is my passion project, so I guess you can say I'm a serial entrepreneur. Accoutrements came to be one afternoon early last year. I was sitting in my living room, on a Sunday, partaking in a little weekend sesh and looking at my smoking tools thinking, why are these so ugly? From there I really started thinking, researching and eventually ended up ordering samples. I took a break from product development, climbed Kilimanjaro, came back, put in my first order then started selling.
2- Tell me about the grinders. Did you design the artwork?
Yes! Two of the images are stock, but two are custom designed by my lovely boyfriend who has graphic design experience. The pineapple was a particularly difficult undertaking as it was designed from scratch and I was fairly particular about what I wanted it to look like. The colour of the grinders is also unique as I really wanted to choose a colour that a) isn't commonly seen and b) has an element of decor about it. I also wanted to make sure that the grinder I chose was actually very well built. I went through a lot of samples before settling on the one I sell.
3- I love that you say that accoutrements grinders are designed to blend into your lifestyle and space. There is a movement of sorts right now to take cannabis consumption out of the hidden. Was that a driving force for you?
Yes, it definitely was. Accoutrements is built on 3 principles and those are: beauty, function and discretion. Through my products, I aim to change the perception around cannabis and who consumes it. I'm a firm believer that in order to do that the experience must first become comfortable and palatable to an audience who has preconceived notions about the substance. This is why my products will always be designed in a way that blends in with anything else that would be commonly displayed in a modern home.
4- Your website features recipes for things like infused gravy and butternut squash, are these your own personal recipes?
No, unfortunately not. I personally have never tried cooking with oils, mostly because I'm not quite sure if eating a cannabis infused meal is something I'd really want to do. Don't get me wrong, I do eat edibles here and there but for me personally, when it comes to consuming cannabis in that way I'm still a little hesitant. However, there are plenty of people who enjoy it and I do find the number of recipes cannabis can be infused in fascinating.
5- Tell us about your very first experience with cannabis? Did you enjoy it?
I was in high school, in a friends basement and no it was not an enjoyable experience. We were all smoking street weed back then and typical of street weed it was a very spiny head high.
6- Because you have this beautiful line of grinders I’m assuming that you are a fan of flower or old school joints. Is that correct? If so do you have a favourite strain?
I can go either way actually. Lately, I've been smoking oils as I picked up a really nice oil pen that has made transport and smoking outside of my home very easy. But, there's nothing like a good joint. My favourite strain when I need something lively is Quantum Kush, and that's what I've been sippin' on as of late.
7- I’ve had a lot of conversations lately with women about “mindful consumption” and rituals around cannabis use. What do those terms mean to you? Do you have a ritual?
I've never heard of the term mindful consumption as it pertains to cannabis but I'm assuming it has the same application as being mindful in all areas of life. For me being mindful about where my cannabis comes from isn't a huge concern mostly because that information isn't easily available. However, I am becoming more mindful about what strains I smoke as my preferences and education about what the different strains actually do become more refined. I personally don't have a ritual. I am a very recreational smoker. I would say I smoke once or twice a week max, and only when I need to relax or have free time where I don't have to be responsible. I guess you could say my smoking ritual is I smoke when I'm truly able to unwind, let loose and have a good time.
8- Your products are designed to be functional with minimal waste. Was sustainability always very important to you?
Yes it very much was. My boyfriend and I are sticklers about recycling. We try to recycle everything we can and reuse where we can, so creating a product with minimal waste was fairly important.
9- How will you celebrate the end of prohibition in Canada this year?
I'm not sure. Depending on what the official rules are around consumption it would be great to light one up in public without repercussion, but if that's not allowed that's ok too. I think consuming cannabis is a personal choice and there are a lot of people out there who choose not to. I think it's great that prohibition is ending, especially on the medical front, but for me I'm also happy quietly celebrating at home with a few friends.
10- What advice do you have for other young women who might be interested in launching a product line in the cannabis space?
Do it! Don't be scared. Don't be intimidated. Don't feel that you're 'too late'. I've had the opportunity to mentor aspiring entrepreneurs in my career and the most common barriers are the ones they put on themselves. Yes, starting a business is risky, but risk comes with the territory. The cannabis space right now reminds me a lot of what the tech space was like 5 years ago, and it is a very exciting time with a lot of opportunity. I think there is a lot of room to do exciting things, especially for women. This space needs more brands like mine that cater to women. Women are a huge customer base with a ton of buying power. I'd love to see more brands like Accoutrements catering to a female consumer that's currently being underserved.
11- Where can readers find out more about you?
I'm a fairly accessible person. You can find out more about me via LinkedIn or the Accoutrements social channels on Facebook and Instagram. I'm also always open to grabbing a coffee and chatting, so reaching out via email and scheduling time is usually the best way to get me face-to-face.