Upon meeting entrepreneur sisters Krystal and Chelsea Kitahara, and their fellow Yummi Karma founder Alysia Sofios, one is overwhelmed with the passion that this all-female team has for helping people of all ages find the perfect healing remedies for both mind and body. Handcrafting each of their products with a loved one or fellow friend in mind is the key to the success of their cannabis business.
The young and driven trio began their cannabis business journey at the height of a male-dominated time in the industry. Early in their cannabis careers, they attended conferences or events only to be met with eye rolls and mistaken “promo girl” shout-outs from fellow industry members.
To the dismay of their rivals, the unwelcomed discouragement only propelled the Yummi Karma team forward to solidify their place in the cannabis industry. “We had something to prove. We have a voice, and we are going to do it the right way,” Sofios says. The Yummi Karma team has come a long way since those early days, making a name for themselves in a burgeoning field.
Like so many women in the industry, the women of Yummi Karma were underestimated by their industry peers.
After years of waiting for legalization, the Kitahara sisters and Sofios passed numerous tests, making Yummi Karma among the first licensed cannabis companies in Orange County, California. The privately funded, start-up company now boasts hundreds of safe products that have been developed with top quality ingredients. “Everyone in the cannabis game has the same goal,” Sofios says. “To create safe and effective products.”
Yummi Karma is run by a group of women who believe in the products they produce. They are all hands-on—pumping, mixing, and testing the products themselves. While recognizing the accomplishments of companies who have gone corporate, Yummi Karma wants to stay small, more in the spirit of cannabis. “There is something about products that are made in small batches that sets them above the rest,” Chelsea says.
Devoted to being a positive presence in the space, Yummi Karma has set out to custom develop products that tell a story and target a wide range of cannabis needs. The company currently sells “drops” (tinctures with no alcohol), cremes, and other topicals designed with women in mind. The beautiful packaging may look feminine, but many men have also found the company’s products to be beneficial.
“When starting out, we would go to collectives and look at the shelves and find nothing for women. Only Ziploc bags or paper bags with twist ties. We did not want that,” Sofios says.
The client base at Yummi Karma falls into five categories motivating their purchase patterns: abnormal sleep, PMS symptoms, anxiety, pain, or lifestyle. Lifestyle refers primarily to recreational use, which many are finding to be a good alternative to alcohol.
Cannabis products are heavily tested before being authorized to sell, and Yummi Karma passes all the tests with flying colors. The approval process for cannabis products is much more critical than that of food or beauty lines. “In fact, many products in the beauty industry, such as clay masks would not pass the cannabis product test due to the copious amounts of lead and other minerals found in the clay,” Sofios says. “Cannabis products are heavily vetted to ensure they are clean and safe for all to use.”
The company’s most popular product, Drift Away, was originally developed with the Kitahara sisters’ mom in mind. Their mom had been having issues sleeping for many years and was prescribed medication, but she was less than happy with the next-day groggy hangover-like effects. After working with an herbalist, the Yummi Karma team created a drop blend of herbs with varying levels of THC. Now, the Drift Away blend has replaced their mom’s sleep prescription medicine allowing her to enjoy a far better night’s sleep and giving her reason to enjoy the days.
The team recently worked with a group of veterans who experience PTSD. Their product, High Spirits is high in CBD, low in THC, and taps into the entourage effect (the interactive synergy between cannabis compounds). The company is looking to launch a line of “entourage” products soon. Another popular product for daytime use is Stay Lifted, which is used primarily for anxiety, pain, or inflammation. The product is ideal for people with low THC tolerance levels because it includes additional energizing ingredients such as B12 and green tea. This combination creates an awake, uplifted feeling and has a hybrid cannabis stream that helps create calmness.
Being mindful that everyone responds to THC differently, the Yummi Karma team has developed products for those who are canna-curious as well as experts. Yummi Karma develops products based on people the founders have met or were introduced to who needed something specific for their symptoms. They continue to update and refresh their product lines based on customer feedback. They read and discuss every email that comes in because they want their customers to feel like this is their personal brand of cannabis. “We listen and that’s effective,” Sofios says.
Yummy Karma is proud to be in 200 licensed stores across the state of California. That said, the team at Yummi Karma urges patrons to always make sure they are heading to fully licensed and legal dispensaries and cannabis retail locations. “What some don’t understand is that by not doing their due diligence, if a customer unknowingly enters an illegally operated dispensary or cannabis retail store, they run the risk of getting arrested in the event of a raid. Always look for their cannabis retail license,” Sofios says. “Illegal shops are a major problem right now. Their products are not tested, they are unsafe, and shops are being shut down every day as a result.”
“Our mission still brings us to work each day. What keeps us going are the emails and calls we get every day from our customers. The rewarding feedback makes everything worth it,” Sofios says. “[It] keeps us going.”
As founders of a start-up, they’re doing things the way they want and wouldn’t have it any other way. While other companies are looking to grow fast, Yummi Karma is growing slow and steady and in a smart way. They have an entrepreneurial vibe and plan to stay true to their roots because that’s what made them who they are.