Lisa Harun is co-founder and CMO of Vapium Inc. She is a serial entrepreneur who has worn many hats in her career: editor, marketer, publicist/journalist, international development consultant, startup advisor, and co-producer of a Sundance movie.
She’s worked at the UNHCR, edited a fashion magazine for the Middle East, and made a men’s suit out of toilet paper to help fight breast cancer. Before creating Vapium with her partner Michael, they co-founded a toy robotics company.
Her journey allowed her to see her love for creating quality products and sleuthing out better solutions. Lisa believes great technology exists to make our lives better; the best products are the ones that are adapted into our routines without question and work so well that we hardly notice them.
With marijuana legalization on the horizon, Lisa realized she had the opportunity to combine her love of technology with her passion for Cannabis as a medicine. Enter her new company, Vapium.
Improving lives through research and technology—whether it be the reliable products she creates or her belief in harnessing the power of Cannabis—is Lisa’s passion, as well as the legacy she hopes to leave behind.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
To build my own dream, on my own terms. I was raised in an entrepreneurial family and was encouraged from a young age to think creatively about problems in order to find better solutions.
I started my career in journalism during the .com boom. I parlayed that comms and digital experience into international development, fashion, product development, and toys (there is no correlation, only a faith and excitement in taking risks).
This industry combines two things that excite me:
- It exceeds the power of the .com boom (which has staying power)
- It helps people
Vapium is a labor of love, one born from a need for better medicines and their delivery systems. I did not have the stomach to study medicine, but I have the heart to help people.
Tell us about your business.
We are a medtech company focused on the Cannabis industry. We have been developing technology in this space for over five years, and to that end we have developed three distinct brands: Vapium, HYER, and most recently Vapium Medical.
Vapium uses medical-grade materials, rugged technology, and smart design to create products that work in any condition, temperature, or climate. We designed our flagship product, SUMMIT®, with outdoor enthusiasts in mind—people who require durable, portable devices that can perform wherever the trail may lead and beyond. These devices are engineered with world-class technology and streamlined interfaces, crafted specially to perform on-the-go. They can travel anywhere, in any conditions, and require no special maintenance.
HYER’s goal is to reinvent conventional vaporization through utility-focused, innovative design. Geeky, yes. But very powerful. We aim to be the company that is recommended to friends and asked for by name. We’ve engineered our hardware to be functional-yet-elegant lifestyle pieces that are as comfortable with you in the kitchen as they are in your TV room—we move with you.
Vapium Medical champions a patient-focused approach and seeks to empower patients, practitioners, and licensed producers to utilize cannabis safely and effectively with the ability to monitor its effects on symptoms and conditions.
Vapium Medical’s proprietary Smartflow™ system combines specialized hardware along with a HIPPA-compliant cloud-based platform and patient app that connects all key facets of a patient’s treatment protocol. With more than five years of research and development, Vapium Medical is poised to be the leading provider of a dose-controlled medical system.
We’ve combined innovative technology with ergonomic design to push the state of the art regarding vaporization. Our products enable users to use their devices anywhere and to know they will never be let down. We’re also actively working to break down the stigma surrounding Cannabis use. We’re proud of that.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Alongside one of our Canadian idols, we are running a host of contests for HYER. Keep an eye on Vapium, as we will be doing a giveaway for 4/20.
2018 is set to be a big year for Vapium. HYER, the concentrate-focused brand, recently launched a new product, Big-E, in North America. On the other side of the business, their medtech platform, Vapium Medical, will be launched in Q4.
- Participant in the Cashmere Campaign for breast cancer, where we hand-crafted a suit out of toilet paper!
- Executive Producer of Mother of George (premiered at Sundance 2013 and won African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA))
- Advanced diver, published photographer, activist
Where is your business based?
Toronto and Hong Kong.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
Research, research, research, and then I called my banker to liquidate my RRSPs so that I would have capital to invest.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Communication, boots on the ground, and finding our tribe—like minded individuals who are health-conscious consumers.
What have been your biggest challenges so far? How did you overcome these challenges?
The challenges we have met are really the stigmas surrounding our industry: the deferment of legalization, application, and lack of education. This is what we are doing to overcome them.
Cannabis has a turbulent past based on subjective views with skewed information. This continues to propagate the deferment of legalization and keeps it in the hands of criminals with money freely flowing into the black market.
We are fortunate to live in Canada and work to see the country as fully legal, so that Cannabis works for the people who need it. Globally, we still have an uphill battle, so it’s encouraging to see more countries turn to a medical program, as we believe that cannabis is the future of medicine.
Application—by this, I mean you don’t need to smoke it to use it. To this end, we have, and are, developing technology that is harm-reductive, meaning you won’t combust and can freely use CBD with our devices. This means you can enjoy the benefits of cannabis without the high. CBD, aka cannabidiol, is entirely nonpsychoactive. Businesses are predicting CBD products to be the next million dollar market, and there are plenty of websites like CTFOCBDOnline that stock a wide variety of them. I’m very excited to see how this market will develop!
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
Knowing that our vision is clear and that we are helping people.
We will continue to innovate and work with people who share a common vision—global validation of Cannabis as both efficacious and safe.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
We approached the industry with two goals in mind:
- Provide the best quality, patient-focused products.
- Ensure these products are available to the people who need them.
We designed our flagship product with a UX and UI that considers the conditions for which people need medical cannabis—Glaucoma (macular degeneration), arthritis, cancer, etc.—and how technology can seamlessly fit into their lives.
With regards to access, we offer compassionate pricing on a case by case basis and encourage people to reach out to us if price is an issue.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Always ask yourself, “Can I be thinking bigger?”
And take a break as everyone needs time to recharge (especially around the holidays). Women are terrible at turning off, myself included.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
- Work like someone is going to steal it from you.
- Become an expert.
- It’s the process, not the product—Innovation is king (or Queen).
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
iPhone and laptop (my fitbit that shocks me into action—I love that it reminds me to keep to my wellness goals).
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—k by Mark Manson, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris, and anything by Tim Ferris; I love his podcasts too.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
Further engageing the community, effectively disseminating education, and building authentic partnerships.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
New brand launch(es), connecting to our consumers, engaging health practitioners and policy in Canada, to speak more, and scale all brands. We will achieve this with focus, tireless dedication, and growing the team.
On a personal note, I will couple this with hiking, running, and yoga to maintain sanity with an end goal for 2018 to be eating pizza in Italy with my new family, and a dive trip if I’m lucky.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @vapiuminc, @letsgethyer, @vapiummedical
Twitter @vapium, @letsgethyer, @vapiummedical
Facebook @vapium, @letsgethyer
Website www.vapium.com, www.gethyer.com www.vapiummedical.com