Why the creator of a quirky product smells a bright future in the cannabis industry.
“I guess I can’t really get kicked out of Hill for smoking weed at this point,” Noah Kotlove W’13 says by way of introduction. If anything, his pot-smoking days in his dorm room could be recognized as the genesis for his recent venture: a bottled marijuana odor eliminator spray called Veil.
The actual story of Veil, however, began on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. While sampling local dispensaries, Kotlove began to realize how few usable odor eliminators existed. Many were ineffective, or so toxic that you couldn’t stay in the room when used. Or, as Kotlove puts it, “a lot of them just pandered to outdated, lame, Cheech and Chong stoner stereotypes. It felt incongruent with the modern cannabis consumer.” So, he sat down with his friend and collaborator Spencer Joynt (real name) and began to work on an alternative.
Soon, Kotlove’s apartment was filled with essential oils to sample in search of the perfect scent. Not only did they have to figure out how to remove the smell of weed, but they also needed something pleasant—and eco-friendly—to replace it. They hired a fragrance consultant and worked with chemists before settling on what they refer to as “OG”—a combination of sweet orange, black pepper, and Virginia cedar. Only a few spritzes from an eight-ounce bottle (which costs $19.99 and is available for purchase online) are needed to eliminate, not mask or obscure, the smell of marijuana, he says.
For Kotlove, who as a young professional—and recreational cannabis user—had become more conscious about the smell that would linger in his apartment or on his clothes after smoking, it’s the perfect solution to a problem he wishes didn’t exist. “While I’m all for destigmatization, I’m also a realist,” he says. “And the drug still carries with it a lot of stigma.” Besides, who wants to smell like weed all day? Kotlove and Joynt hope to convey that Veil is for the modern cannabis user, with a cleaner design that feels at place in any home. Joynt says it was important not to “lean on stoner stereotypes or tropes.”
While Kotlove came up with the idea for Veil, he relied on Joynt, a graphic designer, to come up with the product’s visual components. “I think we’re the perfect left-brain right-brain combination,” Joynt says of their partnership, adding that Kotlove is “really good at grounding me” when he has a “wacky” idea. Together, the two completely fund Veil, which has yet to seek out any outside investors.
Kotlove and Joynt ran into some roadblocks in getting their business off the ground. “You come up with the idea, ‘Hey, I want to make a nontoxic, eco-friendly, super-effective spray to eliminate weed odor,’” Kotlove says. “Going from that idea to the product is kind of an insane endeavor.” He notes that some manufacturers shied away from working in the marijuana space, as did some potential advertisers. Instead, they’ve relied on a more organic approach, utilizing strategic placement of their product in stores and events. They’re currently featured in Pop Up Grocer in Los Angeles, a traveling grocery store that highlights up-and-coming brands. Veil is also carried by big retailers like Urban Outfitters and Bespoke Post.
The option has always been there to rebrand as a simple odor eliminator (the product also works for cigarette smoke and body odor), but that went against their vision. They both want to be a part of an industry they believe will continue to grow. “I think that is a wider trend in my generation,” Kotlove says, “As cannabis becomes more widely accepted, people are starting to turn toward that more than alcohol. It’s less impactful on your body and [has] less potential to be impairing.”
Kotlove’s enthusiasm for his current project comes after a few early stumbles coming out of college. “I was sort of flailing in my career,” he admits, as he worked for several start-ups while trying to find the right fit. When he finally launched Veil last summer, he says he learned more in that first week than he did in his time studying entrepreneurship at Wharton.
Now, he plans to continue to learn new lessons while consumers continue to learn about his product. While Kotlove declined to reveal sales numbers, he believes Veil can become a “seven-figure revenue company” in the next two or three years due in large part to the “explosive growth” of the cannabis accessories market. “We’re just hoping to help people enjoy their own experience using marijuana,” he says, “without worrying what impression they’re giving to the outside world.”
—Sam Kesler C’20