What happens when three best friends launch an online boutique for smoking accessories and adult novelties? Meli Jein is the brainchild of Nina Fabicon, Jennifer Ko, and Christine Yu. Friends for over ten years, they met working in the service industry in Chicago. Like any hardworking lady knows, two of best ways to unwind after a long day is to smoke and enjoy yourself. But Nina, Jennifer, and Christine quickly found that most head shops don’t offer unique go-to pieces for smoke and pleasure. Surely they weren't the only women who needed a little peace, quiet, and pampering to keep themselves sane. It didn't take long for them to realize there was a huge opportunity. From the very beginning, Nina, Jennifer, and Christine wanted to be inclusive of all women with different tastes and backgrounds. They also wanted to differentiate themselves from the average head shop by bringing a style, whimsical and elegance to the experience. Combining two of life's greatest joys – cannabis and pleasure, Meli Jein was born.
What inspired the concept of your store?
No matter what her occupation or lifestyle is, every woman needs a moment for decompression at the end of a long day.
We’re in our thirties and we have full-time jobs in the service industry. The last thing we want to do is sit in a bar after work. We'd rather go home, smoke, take a bath or a hot shower, and just chill. And sometimes this moment includes a little self-love because we all know that sex and weed can go great together!
Whether you’re Stilleto Stoner, a stay-at-home Mom, or a single lady, we know we’re not the only women who need a little peace, quiet and pampering to keep ourselves sane. And we realized there’s a definite market for this.
Why not sell these specific wares in a discreet, welcoming, and comfortable environment?
Tell us more about launching your business
Our business is entirely self-funded and that required us taking the DIY approach to the ultimate.
We’ve built everything from the ground up. Aside from custom coding for our website and our logo design, we’ve done just about everything ourselves, from product photos, to styling, and marketing. We don’t have a professional camera, we use our iPhones.
For editing, we’ve become somewhat proficient in photoshop with an honorary degree from YouTube University.
Who is your target audience?
Our store has a strong feminine vibe. From the very beginning, we’ve wanted to be inclusive to all women with different tastes and backgrounds.
We appeal to the lady who wants a piece that she considers as art; something that she can showcase on her coffee table. And we also appeal to the practical gal who wants a more affordable, functional piece. We also appeal to men who want to buy a gift for their girl, or themselves too! We carry big brands like PURR and Grav Labs in addition to artisanal pieces made by Miwak Junior and Carley Gil.
We want to differentiate ourselves from the average headshop by bringing a style, whimsy, and elegance that’s more appealing to women. As for our adult toys, our collection was chosen with the same idea in mind, we want to offer women a beautiful toy in a beautiful place.
What have been your biggest hurdles operating in the cannabis industry?
As anyone in the cannabis industry knows, there’s always a lot of problems associated with marketing your business and trying to find a bank to work with.
Imagine throwing sex toys into the mix! Trying to build the store on top of working full-time jobs is really tough.
Aside from that, we’ve been friends for over ten years. We all met as servers working at the same restaurant, so even though we know how to work well together, we hope it stays that way.
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
Have multiple backup plans. We’re on Plan C. We’re still fleshing out our marketing strategy. It’s a work in progress. We’re in the process of shooting videos for our YouTube channel. Check out the Mellow Ladies on YouTube and our website for blog posts and newsletters!
What’s been your most positive experience so far?
Product testing has been a major bonus. We take our product testing really seriously because we want to offer our customers the absolute best. It’s a win-win! Our personal collections have become quite enviable. There really is a pipe for every occasion!
We carry these beautiful pipes from Hawaii, called Celebration Pipes. They have a gold plated bowl and the handle’s made of a lava stone composite. When we tested them, it was sunset and we were sitting with a bunch of friends around a fire near a lake. It was such a clean, natural smoke and it made that moment even more perfect.
We were lucky enough to go to the Champs tradeshow where we met people involved in all aspects of the trade from small handblown glass companies to large-scale production houses.
The industry is just as welcoming to individual sellers like DaPiper from Celebration Pipes and newbies to the industry like us, as they are to the major distributors with their sales and marketing teams. Because this industry is still in its infancy, we feel that everyone involved genuinely wants to help each other out cause it’s the quickest way to legitimizing our businesses.
Ultimately, this will help us all grow.
What do you see in the future for your business and the cannabis industry as a whole?
There’s a real noticeable female presence in the cannabis industry and the camaraderie motivates and inspires us to establish ourselves as women in this frontier.
We’ve seen male-run glass companies make pipes that they never have before, just to appeal to the ladies. Some of our most feminine pieces, a pink hammer bubbler and illuminati sherlock, were a custom collaboration with the dudes of Ohio Valley Glass. Even in the male-dominated industry of glassblowing, the female market is getting more attention. And we hope to showcase more female talent in our store soon.
One of our goals behind our online store is to raise capital for a brick and mortar location.
We’re from Chicago. For a major city, the options for a good smoke shop are scarce. There’s definitely not a single shop geared towards women. Illinois is an MMJ state, however, our laws make it difficult to obtain a medical card. We hope that prohibition will end in Illinois soon. We want to be the first place in Chicago where women can talk to other women about smoking and sex in a welcoming, comfortable environment.
We would also love to be able to host seminars and workshops about these topics.