We are stoked to introduce to you another badass babe looking to reshape the way women use cannabis; meet the very rad Olivia June. As the creator of an incredible app, Hey! VINA, that is uniting women across the globe, Olivia has decided to also give female stoners a way to connect and enjoy our favorite magical plant together. While we’d love to go on and on about our experiences with Hey! VINA, but this spotlight is about the creator, and her place in our community, so we will let her take it from here…
Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hey hey! I’m the founder and CEO of a VINA, tech startup based in Los Angeles. I focus my time on making the Hey! VINA app, a social discovery tool for women to meet more friends, that I launched in 2016—we have over 1 million downloads in 158 countries and we’ve helped connect 5 million girl gangs (and growing)! So as you can imagine, I spend all my time thinking about how women can feel more connected and supported wherever we are in our lives, and around the world. I grew up in Southern California, majored in Communication Studies at Chapman University, and moved to San Francisco in 2009 where I suddenly realized how desperately hard is to be the new (lonely) girl in town. Now, nearly 10 years later, I’m going through the “new girl in town” experience again in LA, but now with the power of Hey! VINA to meet new friends.
What are some things in your life that inspire you?
I’m super inspired by listening to stories from the women I meet–all of the good and the bad, and the amazing resilience we develop throughout our lives. I can’t get enough of Hey! VINA success stories and the incredible adventures our members go on, thanks to the friends they met on Hey! VINA–whether it’s traveling miles and miles away together on a trip to Morocco or meeting their future bridesmaid after a few vina dates. Reading the real VINA success stories on VINAZINE always makes me feel inspired. On the day-to-day, I’m inspired by natural ecosystems, architecture, and the little boring beautiful moments seen in the minutiae.
What was your main drive and inspiration behind VINA?
When I moved to San Francisco, I went from the stark difference of being super well connected and social in my hometown, to being the lonely new girl in town. It wasn’t necessarily challenging to meet people, but it was challenging to meet the right people, my people. I first tried using online dating to just get out of the house, and then I noticed a feature called “women like me,” and saw these girls were so funny and awesome and were JUST LIKE ME! But it was super awkward because I was messaging them for friendship on a dating site. I went on to co-found a women’s happy hour group called Ladies Who Vino where we would host women-only happy hours every month to network. Ultimately, I combined these two experiences to create Hey! VINA and help women everywhere.
What prompted you to create the Mary Janes community?
I’ve seen a big shift happening in the world over the last few years, dinner parties that used to be fueled by lots of wine, were transforming into nights fueled by cannabis instead. Everyone would wake up feeling so much better (hehe). Also, a huge rise in friends who use cannabis for their anxiety amongst other reasons… including just for fun! A stoner babe community was one of our most requested groups by our VINA members, which I was completely supportive of. As a woman who is all about women empowerment, I’m really amazed by all of the Green Queens ruling the weed space. I think it’s a community that’s full of fostering creativity and strong friendships in a safe, fun environment.
How do you use VINA to help women connect?
VINA is all about connecting women, helping them find their tribe, and best of all, we make it as easy and fun as possible. First, women can create a VINA profile by signing in through their Facebook or Instagram account. Once you sign up, you’re prompted to answer a few personality questions: What stage of your life you’re in, what activities you enjoy, are you more of a “meet up for coffee” or a “meet up for wine” person. We also have 30 communities that users can join, including Mary Janes, Gamer Girls, Jetsetters, and more. Then, you can swipe through and find women with similar interests and meet up—just like a date.
In August, we unveiled our Plans feature, where Vinas create public or private plans (puff and pass art class, canna-babes?). Members can invite their friends to the plan, discuss it within Hey! VINA and keep track of the RSVPs. So there’s never a reason to have FOMO–Hey! VINA gives everyone an open invite to awesome plans happening right now in their backyard. Hey! VINA is all about building those connections and creating that community atmosphere.
Have you met any influential people in your life from VINA?
I have met so many influential people in my life from Hey! VINA that I’ve lost track! From divorcees who are starting over, or expats who are traveling the world solo; meeting badass Vinas reminds me of my dreams in my life and why nothing can hold me back.
Tell us the biggest challenge you’ve faced thus far?
Is it any surprise that my answer would be the patriarchy? While it’s been a challenge to get the mostly male venture capital community to care about women’s social health, it’s been something we’ve been able to overcome. We still need all the help we can get through!!
What helped you overcome that challenge?
I learned how to really educate would-be investors on what we’re doing, why it matters, and how it ultimately benefits the world. Also, I got really good at figuring out, within about five minutes, who I should even spend time trying to teach or who will just never get it.
What advice do you have for women trying to put themselves out there – whether it be to make friends or in their careers?
In terms of making friends, you just have to challenge yourself to get out there and say hi. Maybe a one-on-one VINA date seems too nerve-wracking for you, so you’ll instead try a VINA hiking crew next weekend. It only takes one VINA date—and one new friend—to make all of the difference. If you’re trying to make waves in your career, my best advice is to leverage your network and invest in your friendships! Make friends with people who are just as ambitious as you are. Analyze where your strengths and weaknesses are and then find people through your network to fill in the weak spots. Next, ask questions, be helpful to others, get feedback early, often and on everything. It’s okay not to be an expert at everything!
We’re so proud of this talented Lady giving back to the community, and connecting is on the deepest levels. Be sure to download Hey! VINA today, and see what’s happening in your neighborhood!