How HØJ Became the New High

How HØJ Became the New High

Table of Contents (Headings)

  • What is HØJ?
  • Starting the business: How HØJ was born
  • Challenges: Getting banned from crowdfunding and not being able to advertise 
  • Opportunities: Giving in to the new high
  • Advice: Think (and act) like an entrepreneur

What exactly is HØJ?

In the native tongue of its founder, HØJ signifies ‘high,’ a fitting moniker for a company that crafts premium cannabis accessories, melding Danish design aesthetics with cutting-edge technology. Helmed by CEO Simon Villum Folmann since 2020, HØJ aims to revolutionize the cannabis experience for both medical and recreational users. Today, HØJ delivers a suite of products globally, enhancing the cannabis experience with offerings such as elegant smoking pipes, inventive grinders, and an array of rolling papers.

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The Genesis of HØJ: A Danish Tale with a Corporate Twist

Simon V. Folmann’s journey to founding HØJ began in the cozy town of Middelfart, Denmark, where he and his friends enjoyed the occasional treat of smoking hash – a choice made more out of necessity than preference given the scarcity of ‘grass’ in their cold, northern country. Their method was unorthodox but effective, involving scissors and shot glasses, and a careful approach to preserving the trichomes and limiting contact with the herb. Unbeknownst to them, this ritual would become the genesis of HØJ’s flagship product, the KLIP.

While exploring the highs of cannabis with his friends, Simon was simultaneously navigating the corporate world. Despite his stellar performance and exceptional results, he couldn’t openly share his cannabis passion due to the entrenched stigma surrounding its use in Denmark. The misconception was glaring – cannabis users were perceived as underachievers, stereotyped as loungers spending their days watching South Park, engrossed in video games, and munching on chips, all while clad in worn-out sweatpants.

Simon, however, was living proof of the contrary. Even as he enjoyed South Park episodes and indulged in gaming sessions, he was operating on a high professional level (pun intended), proving that success and cannabis use could coexist. This realization fueled his desire to shift the perspective on cannabis use, leading him to conceive the idea of HØJ.

HØJ, envisioned as a company that would create aesthetically pleasing and conversation-starting cannabis accessories, became Simon’s new mission. This goal was so compelling that he left his home in Denmark and moved to London, UK, a location offering numerous advantages for product development. There, he assembled a stellar team to bring his vision to life.

Before embarking on product development, Simon immersed himself in extensive research. He educated himself on everything from product development principles to patent journals, technological creation methods, consumer reports, and industry trends. A significant challenge he identified early on was the advertising process, a virtually non-existent factor in the cannabis industry. However, this realization didn’t deter him; instead, it became another reason to push forward in rewriting the narrative about cannabis use.

​​Obstacles: Overcoming Ad Bans and Crowdfunding Barriers

The conception of HØJ took place between December 2017 and January 2018, with an ambitious blueprint of nine products. KLIP and KØL, both designed to be effortlessly compatible, were the pioneers. Throughout 2018, the team crafted a prototype, formulated their company strategy, and created captivating videos and images. However, they faced a significant setback – their ban from crowdfunding platforms Kickstarter and IndieGogo.

This obstacle was frustrating but, as Simon puts it, “every problem is a solution in disguise.” Despite tailoring their narrative to fit the crowdfunding landscape, the team was banned eight months into crafting the HØJ ecosystem. With the December holidays looming, Simon found himself preoccupied with finding a way to turn the situation around.

Fortunately, they were able to pivot by seeking private funding. A sprinkling of angel capital helped them introduce their product to the market and facilitated their growth. However, this necessitated a complete restructuring of their strategy to suit the new reality of building a business without crowdfunding exposure. Further complicating things was another challenge in the cannabis industry – the prohibition of advertising.

In a world where advertising isn’t an option, what do you do?

For context, Google Ads doesn’t permit the advertisement of cannabis and other recreational substances. This ban extends to services, products, or information related to these substances, irrespective of whether the cannabis is for medicinal or recreational use.

With this shift in strategy, the team realized they needed a fundamental approach: building a brand identity that would be its own advertisement. The name “HØJ” was a strategic choice – its unfamiliar pronunciation (“hoy”, not “hodge”) could spark conversations and generate word-of-mouth interest.

Secondly, Simon focused on crafting products with appealing designs that would encourage people to share them. The third strategy involved reaching out to reputable companies like Forbes for features, which could boost their brand’s credibility. Fourthly, they aimed to create shareable content, ideas, and products.

Their final strategy was search engine optimization (SEO), a key component that involved producing a plethora of blog content to drive web traffic. The subsequent challenge was to convert these readers into potential customers through a marketing funnel. Simon acknowledged that not all website visitors were there to make a purchase. Some were looking for cannabis-related information, ideas, or recipes.

As Simon put it, “We want to give, and if people allow for it, have us give them the opportunity of trying a new experience with the new high.” Nurturing and education became essential elements of their content strategy.

All these elements combined to shape their branding approach. The clean style, carefully chosen words, engaging narrative, adept copywriting, and product aesthetics collectively made their brand and products share-worthy. Simon, who initially was more product-focused, learned the importance of branding from inspirational individuals he encountered. “The brand is not what you tell people it is; it’s what people tell each other it is,” he explained. “But you have the responsibility to be the conductor of what message goes out.”

Despite the initial challenges, Simon firmly believes in learning more from failures than successes. This conviction powered them through their early struggles, leading to the successful launch of HØJ in April 2020.

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Opportunities: Embracing the Elevated Experience

HØJ stands apart by developing unique technology specifically tailored to the medicinal and recreational sectors of the cannabis industry. Simon identified a significant opportunity in the market: modernizing antiquated technology.

Take, for example, the grinder, a tool designed to shred and crumble the herb. Traditional methods disperse the cannabis’s natural oils, or trichomes, into a slicing chamber, rather than preserving them on the herb itself. This leads to the CBD and THC residues sticking to the grinder, causing the leaf to lose its potency.

Do you remember how young Simon used scissors to cut his weed back in Denmark? That nostalgic practice served as the inspiration for the creation of the ultimate grinder – KLIP, which means “slice” in Danish. It does precisely what its name implies: it slices the plant material to maintain the trichomes’ integrity, preserving 200 to 300 percent more oils compared to a traditional grinder.

Another opportunity presented itself in providing a more enjoyable, cough-free experience. Were you aware that 25% of regular smokers suffer from a chronic cough? However, this unpleasant symptom doesn’t have to be part of the experience. KØL, which translates to “cool the smoke” in Danish, is a pipe designed with a microchannel cooling system. As the smoke travels through the pipe, it gradually cools down, resulting in reduced coughing.

“When you smoke, the goal is to reach an elevated state of mind, to laugh, to explore a creative space, and to enjoy it with your friends and family. I wanted to eliminate the negative experience with KØL,” explains Simon. He talks about his fondness for pipe smoking but acknowledges the challenge of sharing that experience because many smokers aren’t keen on this method. However, this very challenge became an opportunity to share Simon’s passion with friends while mitigating the negative side effects.

Moreover, KØL’s magnetic design makes cleaning a breeze. Instead of struggling with a pipe cleaner, water, alcohol, or other cleaning methods, KØL’s design allows you to simply snap and wipe the product clean, ready for the next session.

And finally, there’s the influence of Danish design – a philosophy where form follows function. Each shape must serve a specific purpose, and minimalism and synergy play pivotal roles. Growing up with this philosophy, Simon decided to incorporate it into all of HØJ’s products.

“Dinner parties were a significant experiment for me,” he recollects. As the night progressed, he would introduce cannabis to his friends amidst the food and drink. He noticed something intriguing: if he presented a garishly colored grinder or a slightly dirty glass spoon, people would perceive them as “drug tools”. However, with KLIP and KØL, people felt more at ease and trusted the devices, making them even more receptive to discussions about the health benefits of cannabis. Ultimately, the design of both products contributed to a seamless experience that blended well with good food and wine, attractive glasses, and a less intimidating means of introducing cannabis.

Guidance: Embrace the Entrepreneurial Spirit

Achieving success as an entrepreneur entails not only hard work and sacrifice but also the ability to make informed decisions and take command. Simon imparts some wisdom he has gathered on his journey with HØJ, which has brought him to his current standing.

Embrace the tasks others shy away from

Persistence and consistency can elevate you to unprecedented heights.

Cultivate a robust company culture

Having a competent team is crucial, but fostering a healthy culture is the key to the company’s prosperity. “You’re essentially asking people to invest in your dream, so ensure it aligns with theirs as well by empowering them to make a difference and providing opportunities for them to shape your business in their unique way.”

Engage individuals who challenge you

“Ensure your team pushes you and hire those who are more knowledgeable than you. A CEO should aim not to instruct their employees, but rather to learn from them.”

Recruit those who could be your friends

“It’s vital to collaborate with people you enjoy being around, as it simplifies every aspect. Skills can always be acquired, but inherent kindness is a precious attribute.”

Trust your intuition more

“I don’t believe in harboring regrets, but I do think if I could advise my younger self a decade ago, I would definitely tell him that.”

Foster a broad community around you and your enterprise

“You need diverse voices, not mere echoes.”

Recognize when to seek assistance

“Deep down, you know you can’t do it all by yourself. Surround yourself with supportive individuals who bring joy to your life.”

Author: Mariana D. aka Mary Jane

Author’s Bio:

Mariana Diaz Rueda (she/her) is a communications & sciences grad since 2018, but she recalls creating stories from a very young age. Her first body of work as a serious writer was a 100-page fanfiction about something very embarrassing, but she’s gotten over it now because she was about 11 years old at the time.

Mariana is 27 years old now, currently working a full-time Public Relations job and writing content as part-time freelancer; she hopes to become a book editor, a comic creator, a novel author, a screenplay writer, or a poet. Perhaps all of the above.

Marie Salbuvik

MS, Lund University, Sweden

Nutrition plays an important role in human life. Eating habits are one of the factors that affect our health. There is often a misconception among people that nutritionists force a very restrictive diet, but that is not true. In fact, I don't ban any products, but I point out dietary mistakes and help change them by giving tips and new recipes that I've tried myself. I advise my patients not to resist change and to be purposeful. Only with willpower and determination can a good result be achieved in any area of life, including changing eating habits. When I don't work, I love to go climbing. On a Friday evening, you are most likely to find me on my couch, cuddling with my dog and watching some Netflix.

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