Hello! Tell us a bit about yourselves and what business did you start?
The backstory to the creation of Choast came from a long time of smoking weed with friends and being around people you can be yourself with. This is a very important aspect to us because being able to be yourself and not have the stress of being judged by your peers or friends really allows that person to be who they truly are.
We created the brand to welcome all, we want every customer to have the experience we would love to have walking into a store or entering an online site. Given Joseph’s and Gianfranco’s friendship being very strong and them having full-time jobs, the 2 young entrepreneurs kicked off “Choast”.
It was about a year or so of subconscious preparation into creating the word “Choast”. Not even knowing that it could turn into a business, Gianfranco diligently kept repeating and repeating the word and as weeks and months went on, more and more people in the York Region area started using this word. It was spreading like wildfire through high schools and colleges throughout the Ontario province.
About 1 year after the creation of the word, Joseph approached Gianfranco with the idea to start a cannabis brand. Having come from an Italian background, both of the young men’s parents were extremely strict regarding anything to do with weed. Creating this brand really allowed them to find their passion and create a business around a niche they loved and felt was going to propel them later on in life.
Once the idea was live Joseph and Gianfranco spent countless hours designing, searching, and creating “Choast”. The character that represents the brand is a piece of toast with some human characteristics, colored lightly tanned with black outlining that brings the figure to life. We wanted a logo that was catchy but not too much over the top, something that easy to work with and very versatile.
After about 3 months of creating our logo, our toughest obstacle stood before us. Finding the right product. Fast forward another year of testing products over and over again, from hoodies to stickers, every single detail was taken into account. It was for sure not an easy process trying to find suppliers and only coming to a dead-end for most of the experiences we had. Never giving up and having consistency was what moved our brand to be where it is today.
Choast has become one of the most well known upcoming brands within the Toronto community and also within the cannabis niche suiting stoners all around. Having products ranging from hoodies to stickers, Choast has made an impact on the stereotype surrounding cannabis with the younger generation, creating a new way of thinking around cannabis. Choast is making $5,000 per month.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
When we first started we would go to the mall and we would walk around looking for blank clothing store outlets like American Apparel. It was a learning experience grabbing different samples at a time testing different blends and quality. It was troubling at first to find a supplier that could help us because a lot of them required a large MOQ to start. After persistence, we found a great supplier that was able to deliver on the quality that we needed for our brand Choast.
We spent years taking our time finding the right suppliers that we’re able to deliver the quality products that we dreamed about bringing to the market. Choast was becoming a catchy word among the “stoner community” so we thought why not build a brand around it. The culture of Choast started building quickly around Toronto and now we are focusing on bringing it to the rest of Canada and the world.
A few moments where we knew we were on the right track is when random people at the local store or walking by will point out something on my hat or shirts recognizing the Choast brand as well as large Instagram accounts such as WorldStar taking notice of our account.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When we first launched Choast we really used social media to help us take off. We built a quick following of 15K in a matter of three months because we had large brands like high times magazine, weed humor, and dabbing granny shouting us out. We always had the vision to build our clothing brand and the only way I knew to build a massive following was by creating funny memes that helped the account and posts go viral. We never intended to be a meme page but it just started happening that the pictures with the most engagement were the pictures of memes so we stuck with it.
Now we're building our Choast Rolls and Choast Gaming page using a similar strategy and making the hoast page what it intended to be all along. Sales started converting from day one due to the insane amount of love our logo received. We built the brand around this piece of toast and people just seemed to love it.
We financed Choast ourselves 100% working full-time jobs and working many different angles and trying unique opportunities. The biggest lesson since starting is never to pay yourself. Bills and fees will constantly keep coming out of nowhere and you need to be well prepared to handle every bill and obstacle as it comes. Save your money.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Since launching, our meme scheme to build followers started working against us once we started changing the page back to what we intended it to be original. Slowly some of the followers that followed us for our memes have fallen off or followed our new Choast Rolls page.
Luckily we have been building different resources that help our followers stay connected and gained a large email list. We have begun email marketing and have a special marketing team helping us with our website and SEO for the near future. This is something we are in the middle of.
Instagram, of course, has been a major source of traffic but we have utilized everything from Amazon and Etsy, all the way down to apps like Reddit.
Instagram marketing worked really well to help us blast off. It’s been an uphill battle ever since but it’s been working out really well so far.
A huge set back we faced this year was with our rolling papers. It literally took me years to perfect and make our Choast Rolls products perfect for Amazon so we wouldn’t have any trouble. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after we had set everything up that we found out that we aren’t allowed to create any ads around “tobacco related products” this is for Facebook and Instagram as well. Only Etsy allows ads so we put that to good use. I wish we could’ve known before going through all the steps that we aren’t allowed to promote. This is something we are still figuring out. It makes us have to be really creative with the way we market everything.
We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If anyone for whatever reason has any issue we are happy to offer a full refund to avoid any negative online feedback. We focus on quality and customer service and take it very seriously if one of our Choaster's has an issue.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Today Choast is in the middle of a massive overhaul as we speak. We are currently building and organizing our social media channels and website. Taking Choast to a professional level with teams helping us become a massive brand.
We have run into trouble with the ads section in some of the marketplaces such as amazon but we are working solutions out every day to assure we are making our sales.
We have become popular in the Toronto area and are now working on building a large audience across all of North America. We have a large team of people helping us with all the moving pieces of Choast that we are super grateful for. Build good teams and work with good people.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Networking in the industry, which has led us to many opportunities.
We started by creating an audience by making memes that would go semi-viral online. Once we built a following we built the brand around the page and slowly started transitioning our niche market to the clothing and accessories market. We are also exploring and using the new Instagram marketplace which is looking promising.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use every computer tool known to man and are trying to spread ourselves across all the platforms. It’s important to know how to use tools like Photoshop and know how to use social media properly. Right now we are focusing on Youtube and Instagram for social media and Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon for sales.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Must listen to all of these
Amazing books I’ve read this year:
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Never give up (remember why you started). Trust your guts. Work hard. StayChoasty.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are currently working with family and a strong marketing team right now. Usually, the people that get added somehow started doing something for Choast and accidentally get involved which is how we like it and want to keep it. We are a close-knit family at Choast inc.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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