Nidhi Lucky Handa of LEUNE: “Strive for balance but don’t punish yourself when things get out of sync”
Strive for balance but don’t punish yourself when things get out of sync. We all know by this point that the key to fulfillment and happiness has a lot to do with balance — but here’s the thing: when you’re growing your business there are bound to be times when there is no balance. 18 hour work days, 7 days a week are a reality — the best you can do is lean in and remind yourself that it’s a moment. Beating yourself up in those moments will only further.
For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nidhi Lucky Handa. After attending Columbia University, Nidhi began her career in Luxury Brand Communications and eventually ended up in Los Angeles working in Celebrity Talent Management. Throughout her time in LA, Nidhi was looking for a newer, cleaner consumption paradigm other than alcohol and didn’t see anything that appealed. Her professional experience in talent management and learning to navigate the digital and social landscape gave her an insider’s perspective on brand building. She learnt how to build a brand in very crowded spaces and how digital marketing and its mechanics can be used as an extraordinary tool in building real, compelling narratives. Leveraging these expertise coupled with her personal experience of being unsatisfied with existing cannabis products on the market, she co-conceived LEUNE; a cannabis lifestyle brand that champions smart, responsible, recreational use.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
THANK YOU! Sure thing. After recreational legalization in CA I was so excited to go into dispensaries and be able to shop for cannabis products without stigma…or a doctor’s note. I remember the first dispensary I went into all wide eyed and eager to explore. Very quickly I found myself a) completely intimidated — dab rigs and shatter and all kinds of accessories…where do I start?!? b) confused by the lack of information to help me navigate through the shop and c) like I didn’t belong. Here I was excited to find my new favorite LEGAL products and all I could see were brands that either catered to an uber male consumer (hello bikinis and booty shorts) or conversely a ton of wellness products that promised to help me sleep better or calm my anxiety. I was baffled — here all I wanted to do was responsibly consume and nothing seemed to speak to me. That was the first moment the seeds of LEUNE was incepted in my mind.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I absolutely love this industry and am still completely floored that I get to wake up everyday and work on this brand. It’s not to say that it doesn’t come with its challenges but for the most part I’m surrounded by the most dynamic, interesting and passionate people. It’s hard to choose just one anecdote, but of late, the most awesome thing that’s happened is hearing from LEUNE fans through social media. We get so many amazing messages everyday from people who are fans of the product. Because of the new-ness of the industry I feel like there’s such a tremendous sense of community and support pouring in. Just yesterday I got a DM from a fan self describing herself as a ‘LEUNE-atic’ (GAHHH!!!) and gushing over a billboard she saw for the brand. It was the most lovely heart warming endorsement to receive that kind of support and acknowledgement from a customer. Her entire message was about how proud she was that she was able to consume safe products from a trusted brand and how excited she was that we’re growing and doing things differently. I’ve never felt S-O S-E-E-N — lol.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Hmm- most mistakes don’t feel funny in the moment when you have a startup (ie: stress levels are HIGH) but I will say working 7 days a week comes with a constant reminder to remember to laugh when things don’t go as planned. The cannabis industry is moving so fast and with that comes a fair share of growing pains. It feels like upside down land a lot of the time in the sense that there has been such a phenomenal demand for the product and the friction points in growing have been less about getting people to want to try the products and more about keeping it on the shelf. The week all of our first billboards went up we also experienced a massive surge in demand and suddenly I was getting inundated with messages from eager customers who couldn’t find the product. That was a fast learning curve about making more realistic manufacturing projections.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
In cannabis there are a lot of amazing brands emerging — it’s a super cool time to be in the space. Having said that the majority of brands are hinged on single product verticals — ie: ’that vape brand’ or ’that edible brand’ — at LEUNE we’re setting out to create ’that cannabis brand.’ We want to be able to listen and learn from our customers and build better, smarter products in product verticals as they emerge. For example, we consistently hear from our customers that they’re interested in micro-dosing so we’re about to launch products that delivered measured doses. While we want to be flexible, we’ll always hold ourselves to the highest standards — that will always be the through line of the brand. LEUNE is not just about celebrating consumption but also the culture and lifestyle surrounding cannabis. We have partnerships with LUX-EROS (cannabis ceramic accessories) and Bliss & Mischief (the rad-est vintage t-shirts in all the land)- both female-founded brands that I sought out because I’m a personal fan of their products. gone are the days of hiding your cannabis in a drawer or box — the ceramics are a chic way to show off your stash on your coffee table the way we show off our gorgeous spirits on a bar cart.
We’re launching both collaborations this summer!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We’re actively working toward forming an alliance on social equity/responsibility — more to come soon. I’ll just say that this is an area I’m incredibly passionate about.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Know when to NOT compromise. A wise woman once told me that in life no one will ever create your standards for you, that’s something you have to do for yourself. I’ve found this to be true countless times in my personal life and consistently true in my professional one. An inevitable part of business is pivoting and being flexible — but I believe that malleability should never be at the expense of your goals and core value system. Always gut check your decisions.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I’m learning about this everyday as my team is rapidly growing. The best piece of advice I would give is to always consider the culture you’re looking to foster in the way you manage and communicate with your team. For me, it’s paramount to cultivate and maintain a culture within my company that is honest, ethical, centered and above all, one that is HAPPY! I like seeing smiling faces and that means I have to always check in with my own happiness meter.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Still working on the success part — but thank you for the confidence:) But seriously, I’m excited to use LEUNE as a platform for good in as many ways as possible. I’m interested in getting back to the basics of business fundamentals — customer service, pride in products, focus on collaboration vs competition — I’m hoping these focuses shed some goodness:)
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Work smart. Don’t get bogged down in logging hours or busy work — ie: know when to delegate.
2) Take time every week to pull the focus out to the macro and make sure that all of your micro focuses are in alignment with the bigger picture
3) Take advice from people you respect and also…don’t. There’s a fine line between being an eager learner and getting paralyzed by conflicting perspectives. At a certain point as a leader, YOU have to be the one to make the decisions and own them.
4) Trust your gut. Seriously — this is not something they teach in a classroom but it’s a never fail. Instincts need to be exercised like any other muscle. I’ve never been guided wrong by my intuition but can think of many times I’ve gone against it and had regret.
5) Strive for balance but don’t punish yourself when things get out of sync. We all know by this point that the key to fulfillment and happiness has a lot to do with balance — but here’s the thing: when you’re growing your business there are bound to be times when there is no balance. 18 hour work days, 7 days a week are a reality — the best you can do is lean in and remind yourself that it’s a moment. Beating yourself up in those moments will only further
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
It would be a kindness revolution! I think we could use a lot more kindness in our personal and collective lives — it sounds basic, but it goes so far in my opinion!