The irony seems to be lost when cannabis is looked down upon, but there are open, loud headshops all along the street adorned with tempting glass pieces, eccentric smoking paraphernalia, and a host of ‘legal’ high that gets people rolling.
You’d think that a headshop must be a rare sight in a society that does not appreciate or accept cannabis, however, the reality is far from the thought. The Cannabis Industry in the UK alone is expected to be approximately 1.3 billion U.S dollars. Astonishing, isn’t it?
Despite the growing industry, headshops, the purveyors of smoking accessories, CBD products, and vape dealers stand at the edge of the cliff, a single push away from falling. They have never enjoyed a cast-iron reputation and yet those who appreciate them know their worth. With no official description of smoking/drug paraphernalia by the Home Office, there is blur understanding in every headshop owner on what to stock.
You’d think the surviving headshops are the ones that have been here for a century since the current controversial status of the green herbs puts them all within the law radar. However, new headshops are sprouting in the UK to cater to the large, expansive market base.
We are focusing on Olivastu, an up and coming headshop that has spread its wings far and wide despite the restrictions and societal look down. Conceived from the experiences and observations of two young cannasseurs, the company is based in the heart of London.
The growing number of the cannabis industry is not a true reflection of how difficult it is to survive in the business. Not only is it appreciated by a very small percentage of the population, but there are also endless roadblocks that one faces even after setting up the entire business.
“It’s been a hard and enriching journey, we have learned so much in the process, but nothing ever comes easy in this business,” says the owners of Olivastu.com.
The idea for Olivastu sprouted from the desire to curate a one-stop shop for all the people looking for authentic smoking accessories. “The amount of fakes you can find on other websites is shocking. We wanted to have a safe place for all the potheads where they don’t have to worry about the authenticity of the product”, the owners reveal.
Every product listed on the Olivastu website is sourced either directly from the distributor or authorised supplier. Furthermore, each product goes through a quality check to ensure only the best reaches the customers.
The only way you make your business known in the industry, and potential customers are through promotion and targeted ads. But what happens when your products are on the banned or prohibited list on major social media websites? “We started from scratch, but the most challenging aspect of the business was adopting a non-traditional marketing plan and making it work”, the duo admits.
The social media ads ban makes it very difficult for an online business to flourish in an industry that is already very customer-specific. You can curate the most user-friendly website with an ever-expanding inventory, but if no one can find a way to the website, the whole hard work washes down the drain. In the cannabis business, this challenge stands between a high, commendable profit as marketing is the first step towards a successful venture. Even if you offer the products for ‘tobacco-use only’, your ads won’t still be up and running.
So, how did Olivastu fight through all these challenges to emerge as one of the leading headshops in the UK with a whopping 1600% increase in traffic in a year?
“Sheer diligence, stubborn nature, and of course, lots of trial and error. But we also focused on the non-traditional ways, market research, looking at the gaps, filling them in with careful thought, and a very secure customer service. The real challenge was navigating without paid ads, and also being very careful on social media, with the Instagram shadowban, limited reach, and posts being deleted. It was a very steep learning curve!”, the owners of Olivastu.com confessed.
If you’re worried about the challenges of promoting a business without social media ads, wait till you hear about the Credit Card and Payment Gateway companies. ‘They HATE us’, the lads told us.
If you’re setting up an online business, there is obviously a dire need for a payment gateway. However, the cannabis industry struggles with this essential aspect given to the unnecessary scandalous nature of legal paraphernalia. ‘Our first choice was PayPal since it is easily integrated and is a trusted name for most of the customers. However, we were heartbroken to see paraphernalia in their list of prohibited items’, remarked the folks at Olivastu.com.
Finding a payment gateway for a headshop is like looking for a needle in the haystack. A lot of things prick, but it is rarely what you’re looking for. A high-risk merchant account is needed that supports the business, but the catch is a higher fee.
‘We struggled with Payment Gateway even after establishing the business and getting orders. While one payment gateway supported bongs, vaporizers, and other things, it did not approve our CBD products. If we found a payment gateway that was okay with CBD products, they had an issue with the rest of our paraphernalia’, the folks at Olivastu shared.
As you struggle with payment gateway, you lose potential customers that could have been long-lasting buyers. Moreover, having an unrecognized payment gateway makes customers perceive the business with sceptical eyes.
‘We have arrived at a payment gateway that works, but the struggle is far from being over. Just recently, we saw multiple orders going as cancelled due to an issue in the gateway, and there was nothing we could do’, the partners added to the long list of troubles.
Despite the constant struggles, Olivastu emerged as one of the leading headshops in the UK and currently has the largest bong inventory. The ever-expansive collection also stocks dab rigs, rolling papers, vaporizers, hookahs, CBD and Hemp products, and even an apparel category along with many other smoking accessories. The idea is to bring everything to a single place, so the customer never has to go anywhere looking for what they want.
Olivastu also offers competitive prices that are never seen before in the industry. Both the owners have mentioned their objective to provide robust customer service that adds to the overall experience. They also provide discreet delivery for anyone looking to hide their accessory from prying neighbours, parents, or a partner.
Apart from the slashed prices, ever-expanding inventory, smartly curated Olibox and quick and prompt customer service, Olivastu also offers free shipping above 30 pounds with the option of same day or next day delivery. They cater to the UK, USA, USA, Germany and France.
As headshops are penalised for selling lawfully produced bongs, papers and other accessories, there is a need for better understanding and implementation of the product. People need to register that headshops are not illegitimate shops that sell drugs and illegal accessories, but are completely legally registered businesses.