Joline Rivera changed the trajectory of the male-dominated, fast-growing $10 billion cannabis industry in 2017 as the only minority woman to launch a media brand, beginning with the launch of Kitchen Toke, a visually driven print and digital property reporting on culinary cannabis for health and wellness. Kitchen Toke is the definitive source on cooking with cannabis and teaching individuals how to use the plant as part of a regular health and wellness regimen.
Laurel Mintz, founder and CEO of award-winning marketing agency Elevate My Brand, explores some of the most exciting new and growing brands in Los Angeles and the US at large. Each week, the Elevate Your Brand podcast features an entrepreneurial special guest to discuss the past, present and future of their brand.
You're listening to the Elevate Your Brand podcast, where we talk to some of the smartest entrepreneurs and fastest growing brands in the market, today. I'm your host, Laurel Mintz, a reformed corporate MAA attorney who founded award winning LA based marketing agency Elevate My Brand. We've elevated some of the world's biggest brands from Facebook, Paw Patrol and Verizon to innovative startups you haven't even heard of yet. Are you ready to elevate your brand? Keep listening.
Hi, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Elevate Your Brand. I, of course, I'm your host, Laurel Mintz. I'm joined today by Joline Rivera, who is the CEO and founder of Rebel Bee, Honey Gummies and Kitchen Tok and Eat Your Green. So it's like a whole bunch of different companies, and we're going to get to talk to all of them today. Jolene, thank you for joining us.
Hi. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
So take us through all of these companies one by one. Let's start with Kitchen Toke
Kitchen Toke. Founded in 2017, Kitchen Toe is a culinary cannabis media company. We report on culinary cannabis for health and wellness. So it's more than just being high, it's about being healthy. So we produce education and information for people who are just thinking about getting into cannabis as an alternative to smoking. Interesting. So it's more about the consumable side of that world. It's more about, to be honest, I'm not a smoker and never have been, but I wanted all the benefits from cannabis if I could get them. And also I wanted them without being high. I don't function well, like in my work day being high. So I figured if there are more people like me out there who wanted to eat their Greens, so to speak, which I'll get into that later, they would be interested in cooking with cannabis.
And it's really kind of exploded across the country. Obviously, different States have different regulations around it, but it's definitely still a hot conversation, a hot topic, and still a lot of growth happening in this world. Where did you come from that you decided this was the direction you were going to head in?
Well, I spent 20 years as an art director in the food space, so I always say I grew up at Narrative publishing, creating media magazines. I got involved in cookbooks. I'm a creative director graphic designer. That's how I got my started. So art directing food sheets put me in Food Network, art directing food sheets for Cookbooks there. I did cookbooks for Haunt and Mifflin. I'm trying to think of Ten Speed Press, Stuart To, Boring Tang. And then I also went into art directing shoots for Craft Foods, the top 20 food shoots for Chicago magazine here. And then I've been reporting on food trends and as the creative director for Food Fanatics, which is the US food's second largest food distributor in the country for their food program. So when I'm involved in food and working with chefs. I know what's going on in food.
I love that. Well, I'm a huge foodie myself, although there's such a negative. I feel like for people who are actually in the food industry, the word foodie has such a to it, don't you think? Now it's like so overplayed. It's like the word authentic. Right. I feel like we should have some new word for people that really do understand the nuances around the food and beverage industry.
Yeah. I mean, if you're a food lover, food lovers come in many forms. And right now I'm learning all about a new form, which is in the natural product food space as a consumer package goods. So you could be in the chef world. And I think we saw all of the chefs, a lot of chefs transition into consumer package goods during the pandemic because they were bottling up cocktails and drinks and things to go where you could go into a restaurant and get ready to go stuff. Yeah. I love that you brought that up because it accelerated so many different categories.
The pandemic in CPG. But to your point, food and beverage was a category that suffered so dramatically, especially the restaurant side. And chefs had to get really innovative. I wish. And my hope is that this continues, that the regulation doesn't step in and say you can't do RTD to go anymore, but who knows what will happen there? But I thought it was pretty fantastic how they were able to pivot so quickly and be so innovative in a space that was really hurting. Where in the world are you located?
I'm in Chicago. So this weekend, speaking of food, is the James Beard Awards. Oh, God, that is like a dream to go to the James Beard Awards. Have you been? I've been a couple of times, but the reason they're here and moved from New York is because Chicago became a Mecca for the food space in the food industry. So I'm really proud of Chicago. And personally, I think the James Beard Award should migrate through the country and end up in La.
I think La has got some of the best restaurants and things going on right now. We do have some exciting stuff happening here. We actually just got a well known Chicago restaurant called Girl in the Goat. They just showed up about a year ago here in La. What a fantastic restaurant. I mean, just so innovative and fun. And what they've done really uniquely is a really heavy push towards vegetable and vegan menu, like, they have a whole separate vegan menu. I don't know if they have that in Chicago, but we're getting aside from the fact in terms of talking about the product. So. All right, let's take it back for you. That's okay. I can talk about food all day. Stephanie is very creative. She's earned her way in the space, and it makes sense that she would be paying attention to the California way of life and bring that to you guys. That makes sense 100%. We're real happy to have her, and we're always happy to focus on female founders, female led restaurants, et cetera. Which brings us back to Kitchen Toke. Kitchen Tok is only one of the brands that you represent. You've also got Eat Your Greens. Tell us about that one.
So Eat Your Greens is the umbrella company for the natural product food space for us in reporting on food and the importance of food as medicine, which I'm a firm believer of.
In 2014, I was training for a Triathlon with intense training for them, as you can imagine. And the more fit I got, the worse I felt, which is really the opposite of what you would think would happen. I gained weight. My body was inflamed. Yeah, I gained weight. My body was inflamed, and I felt ill. I saw four doctors who accuse me of not being honest about what I was eating and how much I was exercising. And then I met Dr. Paul Savage here in Chicago. He's a 25 year MD and integrated medicine specialist who said, hey, I believe you. Let's figure it out.
Wow, that's intense. I mean, to go to specialists and say, have them look you in the eye and say, that makes absolutely no sense to me how frustrating that journey must have been. But it seems like it has inspired you now to create better for you products in this category. So talk us through going from running the Triathlon to now creating a line of better for you products.
Well, it all boils down to, I wanted my sweets, okay? My blood test showed chronic inflammation and insulin resistance. And as a Hispanic or minority woman, it's a popular thing for us to have. A lot of my large Hispanic family suffers from type two diabetes, and I was on my way towards it. Even though I was training for a Triathlon. I'm running 5 miles, 6 miles a day, sometimes swimming, biking, and running in the same day to prepare for the triathlon. I was getting fatter. I was literally gaining body fat. And I could not understand how or why this is happening to me until I learned that I had insulin resistance and what it was. So that's when Dr. Savage said, I'm not going to give you an OTC or a pharmaceutical. I'm going to write you a food list. He wrote me a food prescription, which blew my mind. I was like, wait a minute. What he's like, these are the foods you can eat. These are food you cannot eat. And I was like, okay, so that was the day I learned that food is medicine.
I want to know, did he do all these sensitivity tests and all the allergy tests as well, or did he just kind of know what was happening based on your insulin levels?
He knew it was happening as a result of my blood test. So my blood test showed your blood shows inflammation in your blood. It shows your sugar levels, your insulin levels. It shows your hormone levels, everything. It shows your markers. It showed me markers for congestive heart disease, Parkinson's, diabetes. And he's like, just because you have markers for it, because it's in your bloodline, doesn't mean you're going to get it. And I can help you eat the right foods to stay away from these things. And so that's the mind blowing part that most physicians, MDS doctors, if you will, whatever name you open to them, they don't study nutrition. Nutrition is not part of the program. And so when you meet with an integrated medicine specialist who turns to food first, that to me, that is not something I learned growing up. Still, I mean, ask people to just stay off sweet, period, 100%. It's really hard to do. There was a time that I did have to do that, but when I wanted sweets, I turned to honey because it's a functional food. Honey all by itself is antiinflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial. So that's really incredible all by itself. And then in 2019, I learned about a process where bees could add the CBD compounds from hemp to the honey themselves.
Wow. And that also doubles the antiinflammatory benefits. Oh, my gosh, there's so much to unpack here. But we need to take a really quick break. We'll be right back. Today's episode is brought to you by Mexicraft Tequila Seltzer. It is a top shelf tequila seltzer made with craft tequila from Jalisco, Mexico, real juice and sparkling water. Each can contains a shot and a half of premium Blanco tequila, which you all know is my favorite and no more than 3 grams of sugar. For those of you watching that, you can get it in Whole Foods in Southern California or order it online at www.mexiseltzer.com, follow them on IG @mexiseltzer and use podcast20 for 20% off your first order. Thanks for sticking with us. And if you're just tuning in, I am chatting with Joliene Rivera, who is the CEO and founder of Kitchen Token. Eat your Greens. We talked about kitchen Tok a little bit, and we were just getting into the food as medicine conversation. You shared with us that we're having all these issues after having training for Triathlon, which I think is crazy to begin with. You're a rock star. That's just unbelievable. Those people that can do those kinds of activities. I don't even know. I can barely do an hour on Peloton. But you were having all these issues and your doctor was a functional medicine specialist. And I want to lean into that for 1 second because I think it's so important for our audience to understand the difference between Eastern and Western medicine philosophy. So can you share a little bit about what actually is functional medicine and why it's so valuable and important to how we live our daily life well integrated.
He's an integrative medicine specialist. So he's an MD who also then looks at alternative medicines. Right. So meaning food, meaning vitamins, meaning anything that has to do with other than Pharmaceuticals and medication. So I'm a believer in everything. Right. I believe that I'm never going to say to somebody, give up your medications or your Pharmaceuticals. I would never say that one because I believe that for every individual, there's a perfect blend and whatever that is, you have to find it. So for me, instead of really going to medication, he's like, we just have to alter your food. He knew how restrictive I was already being making sure that I was healthy. So he's like, here's a person who can handle a food list. So I do chiropractic care, I run and exercise, of course, and I do Pilates. And then I pay attention to food. And then if I need medication, so I will go get it. It's a little bit of everything.
And so integrative medicine is really just about the individual. And is it hormones, is it your blood level, your sugar? What is it?
So they really look at everything, which is an important conversation. It really is because I think people assume that their doctors are always going to have their best interest at heart. I think you clearly had a different experience where people were telling you that you were not being Truthful to them, which is just that shit crazy in my mind, although I guess it happens. But more than anything, for our audience and the world to understand that, like the pharmaceutical industry has a vested interest in you leaning in on that side and doctors do as well.
So I think that it's really important to understand that there needs to be a balance between an Eastern and Western holistic approach to health and wellness. Right. Which is exactly what you're leaning into.
Yeah. Look, I'm going to be really straight up. I don't trust the FDA. I don't trust the FDA and their pharmaceutical the profit machine. I don't trust that we should have X amount of glasses of milk and X amount of whatever their food pyramid is. I think it's all backwards. And I say that because not everything works for the same thing. Works for every person. And I think that's where I'll say to you, find the blend of things that work for you, because what works for me won't work for you. So it's really a matter of having the knowledge reading about it. I didn't even know that it was available to me, that kind of information. So I'll be honest with you, when he said, I'm going to help you and this is what we're going to do, I started to cry. I was so relieved that somebody said, I got you. Don't worry about it. Yeah, well, that's exactly why you're on the podcast today, to make sure that people understand what is possible out there who may be having similar health issues and need to understand what is possible for them in terms of types of wellness programs that can help them be better and feel better. So speaking of being better and feeling better, take us through the development of these product lines and what they do and how people can get them and all the amazing benefits. I'm a huge proponent of CBD and honey, to be totally transparent. I was so excited when you reached out because I was like, oh, this is a no brainer. This is a product that I would use in my daily life. I take CD every single day and it's really been a game changer for me.
So, first of all, thank you for creating such a fantastic product that tastes so great and it's like a no brainer, but it's also so very unique. So tell us a little bit about the product.
And I also want to say to proof of concept, I reversed my insulin resistance, by the way, with this food. Wow. I also dropped £20 of body fat. And then when I was talking before that, I learned about this process. Beefiest technology are my business partners. They're based in Israel. I connected with them. They came to California, they started the process of getting the Apiaries going. I met with them and that's when we work together to bring this to market. So Red Belly Honey was then born. It's the only consumer packaged food or natural product food on the planet that's infused with CBD from hemp by honeybees. So I always say, I know there's CBD in our honey, but I didn't put it there. The bees did. And that's pretty incredible. Food and Wine gave us Food Pick of 2020, so it tastes incredible. You're not asking someone to take a supplement like an oil or a pill or I'm just saying, this is food. Eat it. However you would normal honey. And it's already better because it's honey. Honey is better than sugar. It's sweeter than sugar, so you need less of it. It's a functional food. It's the only sweetener on the planet that's anti inflammatory. So when you think about it just from that perspective, and as somebody who has insulin resistance, I just need my sweets to do more. For me, that satisfies me craving. It's that simple. I'm never going to give up my sweets. I want to indulge and I want to feel good about it. I'm so tired of feeling guilty. Yeah, I think so many people feel that way. That's the root of all development of new products. Is there's a problem? I need to create a solution. And usually it's because you yourself have had an issue like the one you shared with us today. But tell us how the bees they pollinate with CBD. I have no idea how this process works. I'm just fascinated by it. So we extract the oil from the hemp plant. So it's a full spectrum oil. It's offered to the bees in what we call a proprietary hemp nectar, meaning the oil is mixed together with some organic juices, and it's offered to the bees. The bees are free to roam. So they gather nectar from flowers and plants like they always do. But they also have this drink available to them. So they drink that. They're drinking the full spectrum oil. So they basically predigest it for us. They turn it from oil into something that's water soluble and express the cannabinoids from the hemp extract into the honeycomb cell for us. And what's really cool, if you know anything about honeybees, they have a honeymaking stomach, and then they have a stomach where they eat for themselves. They eat food, and they also have the ability to make the wax from their honey making stomach and the nectar they gather. Right. So the CBD compounds also show up in their beeswax, and there's a limited run of it. But we have what we call a B ball that's a topical that you can put on sore muscles and aches, pains, inflammation, things like that. So bees are incredible. They're incredible. They really are.
They really are. I had no idea that they had two stomachs and that they could process things like this to make them more digestible for humans. These are so fascinating and such an integral part of our ecosystem to begin with. And now you're just opening up a whole new ball of wax, no pun intended, about what they're capable of. It's so fascinating. And how did you discover this? Well, I mean, I discovered Beefus, and they're in Israel, and they're based in science and research. They're scientists and researchers and inventors. And so I was like, why I want this? How do I work with you guys? Where is this? It really wasn't on the market yet, so we fell in love with each other. We say that all the time when we first talked, and I know food and they know science. And so when we got together, Red Pellet honey tastes really incredible, which all by itself is kind of mind blowing, if you think about it, because any CBD product out there right now, I can't say that it tastes incredible. I mean, CBD is CBD, and full spectrum oil tastes a little grassy. Sure. It's not for everybody. And because I'm in the food space, I really wanted something that chefs could Cook with. And now where we are now, we've been given an innovation award by luxury meets Cannabis. We've been invited to showcase the food at Aspen Food and Wine Classic, where that's the most prestigious food event. It really is.
Girl, I feel like you and I need to be friends. You are naming all the places I want to go in my life. Like, this is all I've ever wanted to do. I've done the Lexus one in Northern California, the Lexus tasting at Pebble Beach. That's amazing. I've been there multiple years, but these are my absolute favorite events to go to because you just get to see innovation like this and just be surrounded by such fascinating characters in the food space. And now you are amongst that crew.
Oh, I'll tell you, this has been really fun. As a creative director, graphic designer, I'm like, so now I have this food product. I've got recognition from Food and Wine Media. They endorsed us. They called us a food pick. And then they actually came out and called us the real deal. I mean, you can find the article on Food and Wine platform, but then being at Aspen, then being in the luxury meets cannabis, it's a cannabis event. And having them say, you guys are innovative. And then just recently, Bevnett Nash will be at Nash this weekend. We've been at Expo West. They called us the most innovative products they've ever seen. So we're going into grocery stores now as sort of a cannabis product, but not really a natural product food. And we're creating a new food space. So I'm really sort of like, this is everything I wanted. And we actually just also kicked off the summer with Lululemon. We're part of their we're going to be at every event they have in their summer series, which is really incredible, to be invited to have our products there. And then because this honey is so incredible, I was like, well, wait a minute. It's an ingredient, right? So you can use it in your teas, your food, whatever. We're looking for a beverage partner. And I feel like that will come in time. We'll execute that as we keep going. But we just launched Rebel Bee Gummies. So Rebel Bee Gummies. It's candy. I wanted my candy. I wanted as a person who suffers from insulin resistance and has been told, even when you're little, don't eat that much candy. Women. I don't know, maybe it's just women, but we always feel guilty. I'm so tired. You know what I mean? When we eat something and we're like, you shouldn't have had that. Shouldn't have done that forever. On the hips, whatever that is. You've been talking to my mother. Got it. Oh, my God. So tired of that. I'm like, I want my freaking candy. As a creative director, I spent 20 years on photo shoots. There's always an arts and crafts table full of all of the things that you sort of look at and you have or you feel like, I shouldn't have that today.
Yeah. Is real. Before we continue, we need to take another really quick break. We'll be right back. Hey, it's me again, Laurel Mintz, host of Elevate Your Brand podcast and the CEO of Elevate My Brand. In these wild times, social media is really having its moment. According to the Harris Poll, upwards of 51% of us adults are using social media now more than ever. In other words, your brand better step up at social media game ASAP. Good thing we're pros at social media marketing here at EMV. If you're ready to elevate your brand, slide into our DMs or give us a call after this episode. All right. Chatting with Joline Rivera, who's the CEO and founder of Ear Greens and Red Belly and Kitchen Toke. Before the break, you were telling us about how you wanted something sweet. You wanted something that was a candy, frankly, and didn't want to have to feel guilty about it, nor should you have to. So you were just telling us a little bit about that story and creating the gummies.
Yeah. So Rebel Bee is my answer to I'm always saying it's not zero and it's not 6ft. Isn't there an in between? Can it be two things can be true at the same time. Can I have candy? Can it taste great? Can it be healthy? Can I actually make candy that's healthy? So Rebel Bee gummies is my answer to that. So it's sweetened with honey. No refined sugar, no corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors. You can see that the color of our gummies is exactly the color of our honey. And so we also then added other functional foods like CBD and honey. Of course, we'll actually make some gummies with no CBD as well, but we have passion fruit, citrus berries. We even have a little Cayenne in our first gummy. So all of these foods are functional foods, and they make you healthier just by eating them.
I love it, and I love a gummy bear. I'm such a big fan. I was really into Andy's when they first came out because it was better for you gummy with a little less sugar. And this is like the next generation and so much better for you with the functional food piece of it. It's like a no brainer to me. I love it and I love the packaging. So obviously, our day job is that we're a marketing agency, and so we've got to talk about the packaging, which is your creative background. So share with us how you came up with the names of all these products and services and platforms, and then let's talk about the packaging, which is so fun and vibrant and just innovative, I think, in its category.
Well, I'll start with Kitchen Toke, because it's a fun story being in the media business already and talking about cooking with cannabis. Obviously, we're in the kitchen, but I saw a video. My boyfriend shared a video of Action Bronson. He was in the kitchen, and he's got a joint hanging out of his mouth, and he was cooking food. I was like, gross. I loved him. But I was like, why are you smoking in the kitchen? I'm like, why don't you know? And he said something like, I'm choking up in the kitchen. And I was like, why don't you just put cannabis in your food and accomplish two things. Much healthier than inhaling smoke. That's what I thought at the time. I knew nothing about cannabis, to be honest. Kitchen Toke was born. So that's how I came up with that. And then Red Belly Honey, when you watch the bees drink or eat this nectar that I talked about earlier, this hemp nectar, I didn't know this, but their Bee bellies are transparent. So when they eat it, their bellies turn red. If you look at our Instagram page and scroll down, you can see the bees eating this nectar and their bellies are red. So it sort of named itself. And then if you take the letters of Red Belly, you come up with the name Rebel. We have the honey. So we just made the Rebel Be, because believing that you can have good for you or healthy candy is sort of I'm kind of a Rebel link. When somebody tells me you can't do something, I think you can. And I'll figure out a way to do it. So I don't take no for an answer either. So Rebel Be is born.
I love it. So fun. And then tell us about the packaging. What was your vision creatively for that? What was your inspiration? Which one? Packaging? Red Belly for Red Belly. And then for the gummy packaging as well, because just the graphic nature of that is so fun and playful.
Well, thanks. So Red Belly is a higher end product. It's really about for me as a graphic designer, you have a message, right? And the message is, who am I talking to? It's about communication. And my audience for Red Belly Honey is someone who has a holistic view of what it means to be healthy. They take the strides to be healthier and especially given the state of the world. And they love trying new things, and they don't mind paying more for a better quality product. I actually love the branding at Red Belly. And it's also a take off or derivative, if you will, or an actual example of Kitchen Toke. So they sort of play off each other if you look at the two logos. Interesting fun. I mean, Red Belly Honey is exactly what we talked about for Kitchen Toke, how to be healthy without being high. Let me show you how. Right. And then Red Belly Honey is born. And we're saying, hey, this is a great for you ingredient to add to anything that you're eating or just straight. And then as a proof of concept of that, that's when the gummies come into play. So they all sort of go together.
Well, as should a good designer know that if you're creating lines of products, they should be kind of derivative of each other so that there's a connectivity there, which I think you nailed.
Thank you. And then Rebelby, we wanted to have some fun with that. And the logo itself is a play off of all of the things that I loved in the 80s, like Blondie and Joan Jet, and basically all the rebels that we surrounded ourselves by in the wanted to have a little more fun with that. The price point is going to be a little bit lower. And so I thought it would be more fun to change things up. And that was what you're probably seeing on the website or whatever. It's just a prototype. It's what we call our pilot run. So we're actually having some fun right now with some illustrators when we launch our next flavor lines of the gummies.
Can't wait to see it. Well, a few minutes we have left. I want to ask some quick buyer questions about you and your entrepreneurial journey. So these are just top of mind answers. What is the biggest takeaway and lesson that you've learned throughout this journey of creating all of these product lines and platforms?
Never give up. It takes grit. It doesn't matter how much you know, how much you don't know if there's a will, there's a way. I mean, honestly, this is the hardest thing I've ever done, and that's saying a lot, considering that I was financially independent by the age of 18. So this takes grit and perseverance. So if you have that, you can figure it out.
Totally. I was going to ask you what your vice of choice is, but it's clearly your own product. The gummies. Right. Since you aren't a big sugar person, do you drink? And if you drink, what's your cocktail of choice?
I don't drink very often, but when I do have a cocktail, Rebel Bee Gummies is actually created based off of one of my favorite cocktails. It's a Mescal citrusy sweet drink with a little bit of jalapeno rim. So if you taste Rebel Bee Gummies, the ones we have now with a little Cayenne in it, you'll understand exactly what my cocktail choices. Just add a little mezcal to that and you've got it.
You can just muddle the gummies into some masculine and there you go. You actually could actually I love it. Last question is, what is your favorite word and why? This could be something that's had real meaning to you over time or something that just pops into your head for this conversation.
It's actually two words, to be honest. It's the first thing I always think about, and it's follow through. Sorry, I don't have one word, but it's follow through. I actually on the back of my running shoes. My boyfriend got custom Nike made for me, and the back shoe of each shoe says follow through. I think it's rare when you meet people who actually do what they say they're going to do, and it's a key indicator for me about people I surround myself with. If you have follow through, you can be part of my, I guess, circle. And if you don't, I generally don't have time for people who don't I'm totally the person on follow through.
Yeah, it's everything. It's how you show up in the world 100%. Finally before we wrap things up, how can people find you find these different platforms and find your amazing products?
Yeah, Redbellyhoney.com, you can find both of the products. There kitchentoke.com, you can read up. We still have some back issues you can order and then also on our social handles @Redbellyhoney or at @Rebelbeesweet or at @JolineRivera.
I love it, Jolene thank you, sir, so much for spending some time with us today. I love your story and I think it really will resonate with so much of our audience. I really appreciate your time. Thank you, Laura. It was fun. I appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who tuned in. Stay tuned for more from elevate your brand coming up next.