The Entrepreneurial Spirit is Universal: Changing Perceptions on Cannabis, One Stash Bag at a Time
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Member Spotlight: Marc Littlejohn
“Yes, we make beautiful products that are fashionable and work well,” says designer Marc Littlejohn of Littlejohn New York, “But this is a vehicle to other things, in terms of reaching out, giving back, and bringing other people with us.”
The Brooklyn-based designer has taken what cannabis users have called “The Stash Bag” for decades and reimagined it while adding a luxurious refinement to the concept.
Gone are the zip seal bags that turn heads in public as soon as the skunky waft of cannabis hits the air. Littlejohn New York offers The STOW Collection with luxurious bags, caddies, and totes, made with a proven 5-layer odor-proof technology, combined with supple, soft grain leather that keeps the contents of your stash completely discreet.
Once responsible for curating the tabletop, bags, and office essentials departments of some of the world’s most noted store brands, Littlejohn has now turned his talents to the cannabis industry, where he’s playing in active role in social equity and justice for those disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.
A 23-Year Career in Design Leads to Cannabis
If there’s anything you notice upon meeting Marc Littlejohn, it’s that he is a man of exquisite and refined tastes. He has a natural knack for pairing functionality with aesthetics, making him a sought-after designer and product developer.
Littlejohn spent 23 years flexing his penchant for design, product development, and product curation within some of the world’s most recognizable companies. He worked within tabletop giftware and houseware for AVON, traveling the world and seeing all the ins and outs of design and manufacturing.
An opportunity to work for the national bookstore Barnes & Noble offered Littlejohn a platform to explore the marriage of design and functionality. While running the Bags and Office Essentials department at Barnes & Noble, Littlejohn discovered where his focus was to lie: “I fell in love with things that you use,” says Littlejohn of his path to finding his passion for functional items that carry style and fashion.
Recognizing that there was an opportunity to take all he’d learned in his professional career into his own design ventures, Littlejohn turned his eye to entrepreneurship, and Littlejohn New York was born.
Pairing Functionality & Aesthetic
“I reassessed all the opportunities and where they’d lie,” said Littlejohn, initially thinking of a move to the home entertainment industry, “I realized there were a ton of other larger competitors, so I began to look at the cannabis industry.”
Littlejohn reimagined his business model and realized that he had found a niche within the cannabis industry that had not yet been filled: “No one had been producing upscale, stylized, luxury products to hold cannabis,” says Littlejohn, spurring him to imagine, design, and build what became Littlejohn New York’s signature pieces.
Within Littlejohn New York’s collection is The STOW Collection, a series of “stash bags” that combine luxury, discreet technology, and design for the everyday cannabis user. The Odor-Proof STOW Caddy offers a series of compartments and pockets for the cannabis user to hold their cannabis and accessories under lock and key – without having to worry about the waft of fresh cannabis or the odor of used smoking accessories making it into judgmental or stigma-holding noses.
Designed to slip into a pocket or a bag, the Odor-Proof STOW Long Case can hold cannabis, most vape kits, and accessories, while maintaining its odor-free technology via a rubber-lined zipper. All of the STOW Collection products are made with proven 5-layer odor-proof technology and soft grain leather, truly representing the intersection of where function meets luxury.
“The 23 years of experience I had in these areas was the catalyst that allowed me to do this, and to have my idea made,” says Littlejohn, “The connections from my past career and the knowledge I’d acquired was huge, and thus, my business grew very fast.”
Inspiring Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs
While Littlejohn worked hard to make his dreams of entrepreneurship come to fruition, he realized that he could inspire others, particularly black and brown youth. Littlejohn began working with Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs as a “Teaching Artist”, where he works alongside a dedicated group of young people determined to save the planet.
“My work involves instilling an entrepreneurial mindset,” says Littlejohn of his work with Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs, comprised of BIPOC students in Brooklyn. “My role is to instill that there is an opportunity for each person to use their skill sets and natural talents,” says Littlejohn, “I give them the understanding that they can do this and build long-term generational wealth.”
“The entrepreneurial spirit is universal,” Littlejohn adds.
A Passionate Advocate for Cannabis Justice
Littlejohn’s community contributions certainly don’t stop with his work with young entrepreneurs. “Littlejohn New York is built on the foundation of facilitating social justice and criminal justice relating to the cannabis industry,” he says, recognizing the disproportionate representation of BIPOC in the cannabis industry and the lasting criminalization of cannabis that weighs heavily on those affected by the War on Drugs.
Littlejohn New York is an avid supporter of the Last Prisoner Project, with Littlejohn using his social media platforms to urge more people to get involved. “Our constituents, many over 60 and many with underlying health conditions are imprisoned because of a plant which has now been deemed an ‘essential’ service by jurisdictions across the country during this time of crisis,” he writes.
Littlejohn is also the co-founder of Freedom Unshackled, a grassroots organization focused on addressing challenges of racial discrimination and gender inequity within the criminal justice system. The group focuses on seeking pardons, record expungements, and other issues that stem from the systematic inequities of the criminal justice system.
Littlejohn also advocates alongside VOCAL-NY, a statewide grassroots membership organization that builds power among low-income people directly impacted by HIV/AIDS, the drug war, mass incarceration, and homelessness. “The work of this organization is becoming nationally known,” Littlejohn notes.
Advice for Emerging Cannabis Entrepreneurs
“Find what your passion is”, said Marc Littlejohn when we asked his advice for BIPOC entrepreneurs considering entering the cannabis industry, “What do you want to do? What do you like to do? What do you do well?” he invites those inspired by cannabis to ponder.
“Look at that first and then step back and look at the broader picture,” advises Littlejohn, “Think of what it is you love and who’s going to need it and want it. Whose problem are you going to solve with your passions? Look for that need and that problem you can solve – it’s often about solving a problem.”
Littlejohn notes that creating his reimagined and redesigned cannabis stash bags was a solution to a problem. People were tired of the same old methods they’d been using to store their cannabis, and they needed something upscale, grown-up, functional, and most importantly, safe. “Whatever point of life you’re in,” says Littlejohn, “or if you have children, this is a much safer way to consume,” noting that many of his products come with a lock, with aesthetics pleasing to the refined eye, but uninteresting to children.
Hopes for the Future
While a fervent advocate for righting the wrongs of the criminal justice system when it comes to cannabis, Littlejohn is not optimistic that the country will see the federal legalization of the plant anytime soon. “The country now is way too polarized for cannabis to become legal,” he says, “I do have hope that we will get there, but until we’re there, we will need education and normalization. They go hand and hand.”
Littlejohn notes that stigma around cannabis still exists within the black community, with old myths like cannabis being a gateway drug still lingering. “We need a lot of education, with people really getting to understand the benefits,” he says. For Marc, it’s all about “the connections we make with people”.
“Normalization will happen so slowly that we won’t realize it’s happened,” he says with a glimmer of hope, “people will wake up one day and have a different perception.”
It’s fair to say that Marc Littlejohn and Littlejohn New York are considerable contributors to changing those perceptions, one luxury stash bag at a time.
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