Natasha Irizarry has managed to launch a business that brings surprise packages of pleasure into peoples' lives, just as she's going through a personally trying time herself.
Love surprises? Presents? High-end smoking gear? You're going to want to check out Stashbox, a monthly subscription box of cannabis-related products as unique as the individual recipient.
"We use data to personalize each box," says Natasha Irizarry, 29, who founded Boulder-based Stashbox last May with co-founder DJ Shott. "Each person fills out a profile that filters out how they consume, whether water pipes, joints, vapes, edibles, topicals - it's endless."
Earlier this year, the company was accepted into Canopy Boulder's seed-stage business accelerator, which focuses on ancillary products and services in the legal cannabis industry. It provides up to $70,000 in capital, a 16-week mentor-driven bootcamp, and industry knowledge - all in return for a 6-9.5% equity stake. Two weeks ago, she took part in CanopyBoulder's Demo Day in Boulder.
Irizarry loses mother, but finds strength to press on
It's a demanding program, which was made more difficult because of a personal tragedy for Irizarry.
"I come from a tech background so I am fully aware of how hard an accelerator can be, but I actually faced a few hardships getting out here," she said. "I applied to canopy in November: in January, my mom died unexpectedly."
Her father encouraged her to go through the program, despite the challenges of running a new business while coping with her grief and raising a young family.
"When you have a company that's just you and one other person, it's terrifying anyway," she said. "Two days after she passed, Canopy let us know we got in. I have three kids, and I'm 29, and they're three, five and seven, and my dad was like, 'you have to do this, there's no other way.' So a couple weeks later, we packed up and moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boulder, Colorado in a little white Prius."
"We haven't left the office since," she said with a laugh. "We're here all day and all night, because we believe we're the team to do it right."
CanopyBoulder provides support she needs
Irizarry says the CanopyBoulder team has been a huge source of support at difficult time for her.
"At times, especially with my mom passing, it was really hard to get up in front of 10 companies and pitch," she said. "But the whole group really embraced each other and [CanopyBoulder Co-Founder & CEO] Patrick Rea and [Managing Director] Micah Tapman were always there when I needed to talk. They make themselves there for you; you have to take advantage of it. It's helped me figure out the hard stuff, like logistics, and shipping, and fulfillment. That stuff is hard, and when you're trying to do it right and not mess up you need those people behind you."
"The number one thing was a sense of validation. It felt amazing that my hard work was paying off."
Stashbox currently has over 150 subscribers, and a waitlist of 2,000. So far they're only shipping within the United States, although Irizarry says they're looking at expanding into Canada.
"It's a passion, a labour of love," said Irizarry, "and you have to put all of yourself into it."