Digital marketing agency 420MEDIA and the Marijuana Business Association (MJBA) have joined forces to create a series highlighting entrepreneurs trailblazing the cannabis scene. Each week, we profile a noteworthy business pioneer, and ask each 5 questions. This week’s featured trailblazers are Cici and Adam Dunn, Owners and Founders of HOODLAB Store & HoodLamb Colorado, a family owned and operated hemp concept store & world wholesale agent for Amsterdam clothing label HoodLamb hemp tailors.
After 25+ years of “hempin’ it” together, we have an extensive portfolio of hemp brands and companies that we have helped establish, build and operate. Some of these brands we helped create and run together with our original Amsterdam team, including HEMP WORKS, Hemp HoodLamb and T.H.Seeds, Adam co-founded in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
In 2010, we decided to start our life together as a couple after having been good colleagues for 10 years. It was the evolution of a friendship that unexpectedly resulted in true love. We left Amsterdam for Colorado, which seemed to be the new hot spot for hemp. Our new endeavor HoodLAB was established in Denver, Colorado, in 2011 as the world’s first brick n’ mortar ‘HoodLamb Concept Store, Art Gallery & Wholesale Agent.’ At HoodLAB we promote all things hemp and embrace a sustainable, conscious and holistic lifestyle with hemp at the core. The latest creation coming out of HoodLAB is Doggylamb, an all-weather hemp coat for dogs, because dogs need good hemp gear too.
Being an active and authentic voice in the industry is important to us and ‘The Adam Dunn Show’ is our weekly cannabis podcast focussed on science, culture and industry knowledge. Adam propels the show with a cast of colorful guests and unbelievable anecdotes from his 25 years in the cannabis industry.
Our hemp journey started …
Adam: In 1989 I found myself in Amsterdam as a 19 year-old fresh off the boat, literally. I just got off a TransAtlantic sailing trip that brought me to a ferry in the North of England when I looked at the ferry destination it said ‘Rotterdam’ in that moment I knew I had to go. The Netherlands had always fascinated me and being it was in the pre-internet days I wasn’t even sure if the stories of cannabis shops and hash bars were true.
With an ‘Emperor Wears No Clothes’ in my backpack, I headed off to the land of hemp and honey well at least hemp, right? On that first trip I found a shop called ‘Homegrown Fantasy.’ It was a great place that grew all its own cannabis. I noticed there weren’t many English things to read and I was really into the EWNC at that moment, so I photocopied some key pages and made something like a ‘look book’ for the shop. This caught the attention of Henk van Dalen, the owner of homegrown fantasy and now Dutch Passion seeds. Henk told me his friend Ben owned ‘Sensi Seeds’ and the hash museum and that he would put in a good word for me.
Over the next couple of years working for both Sensi Seeds and the Hash Museum a definite need for a serious hemp store arose. Then in July of 1993, along with Doug Mignola and another American activist, we opened the first hemp shop in Europe called Cannabis in Amsterdam or CIA for short.
CIA quickly became the go-to spot for genetics and hemp products, putting us close to the movers and the shakers of the Hemp and Cannabis world. It gave us the chance to try to do the things that Jack Herer was talking about and put those words into action. CIA was an important time and place in the cannabis world, and it taught us tenacity every day, year in and year out. From that point, we preached the gospel of hemp. CIA was a short blip on the radar, lasting only 2 years, but it evolved into the most exclusive and innovative hemp shop: HEMP WORKS.
Cici: I had always been an “all-plants” kind of person and my Green Path began with my first job as a 14-year-old at Stockholm’s first and oldest, and still-running vegetarian restaurant — a renowned place located in the ‘House of Health’, with one of the most beautiful views over the city and the water. I had set my mind on beginning a conscious plant-based lifestyle and now nearly 3 decades later this is still my Green Philosophy, one that I’ve expanded into the ‘Healing Arts’ where hemp has its place as superfood and herbal medicine.
In 1997, eager to see more of Europe, I decided to leave my motherland Sweden and randomly set my sails to Amsterdam. I can’t say I knew much about cannabis back then and I’m not even sure if I knew what hemp was, but that was soon going to change when I met Adam and Doug, two young American hemp entrepreneurs, the co-founders of HEMP WORKS, “Europe’s First & Finest Hemp Store”. We became friends and they introduced me to hemp and all its versatile uses. In 1999 I joined the team at HEMP WORKS that quickly became my new international family of friends in Amsterdam.
HEMP WORKS was truly an exclusive place in Amsterdam. On one hand it was a spot buzzing with counterculture and creativity for people that identified with more non-conventional ideas. On the other hand, it was an international and welcoming lifestyle store selling all things made from hemp. If it was made from hemp, we probably sold it. We carried crafts and handmade accessories from our Nepalese vendors, chic dresses from French surfer brand Kanabeach, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps next to handmade hemp oil soaps from a small family farm in Ohio, and so much more.
Our staff came from all over the world, everywhere from Kazakhstan to France, Israel, Italy, Great Britain, Scandinavia, Surinam and Poland. The two things that connected us was our HEMP WORKS family and the hemp plant. In those times, most people that walked into the store didn’t really know what hemp was so our crew became 24/7 guerilla marketers educating Amsterdam locals and tourists from around the globe about hemp and how it can be utilized and made into consumer products.
Why did you choose the cannabis/hemp business?
Adam: I feel that I did not find hemp, hemp found me, all these things happened organically. We never separated hemp and cannabis as they are one and the same and this gave us a wider sampling of products and services to be involved in such as breeding seeds, making hempcrete, making glass pipes, brand development and the list goes on and on. Hemp has so many avenues to explore and roads to walk. Clothing became a piece of a larger puzzle that we tried to complete, only to realize that hemp can go on infinitely: you just had to put your mind to the goal at hand and hemp could fill it. If I had any idea what world impacts these choices would make, it would have only motivated me more.
Cici: The hemp plant always spoke to me as an environmental superstar with massive healing qualities for our planet and its people. So, you can say that my career choice evolved, organically guided by my green heart. Your job is so much more gratifying when you believe in what you are promoting. At the same time, parallel with my job at HEMP WORKS as store manager/stylist/marketeer (we all wore so many hats!), I was doing many other things during those Amsterdam years. I obtained a master’s degree in science & psychology, worked for a San Francisco advertising agency and their social justice branch, and even got a year and some in at MTV Networks, in their Broadcasting Department where I quickly realized that television was NOT a passion of mine. So as soon as I could I returned full time to the hemp industry and my counterculture tribe.
Our Hemp Journey Continues…
In 2010, we started a new chapter together as a boyfriend and girlfriend and left Amsterdam for Colorado. With us we brought our in-house brands and Amsterdam influences and opened up HoodLAB Store & Art Gallery. The idea was to bring all the things that we love under one roof: HoodLamb clothing, art, music, hemp education, events, movie nights and anything else radically creative we could think of. In those early days Colorado cannabis pioneer Derek Cumings joined our team and helped us shape HoodLAB’s creative space. In this crazy transition and flow of life events, we also got married and had the best Rock N’ Roll wedding with minimal planning in Las Vegas at the ‘Little White Chappell’. Exactly 9 months after the newest member of our hemp family, Nyc Orion, was born.
What has been the reaction to the Hemp brands you represent? Does it address an unmet need?
Humbling and thrilling to say the least. People in the Colorado movement understood what we were about and during those first years (before hemp was legalized), HoodLAB quickly became a catalyst for hemp/cannabis culture in Denver. We had most of the intellectual movers and shakers and hemp enthusiasts coming through our place — skillfully documented for years by Denver photographer Kim Sidwell from Cannabis Camera. HoodLAB definitely filled a need for a fun and safe space to keep the conversation and culture going.
HoodLamb the clothing line was created to meet the need for well-tailored and sustainable hemp apparel. In the outerwear department, HoodLamb is still one of the few hemp brands out there with such attention to detail, thanks to our experienced design department in Amsterdam.
What change will your firm address in the industry?
We will keep echoing, “Be the Change you want to see in this world”. It’s not over yet. We need to keep fighting for a more sustainable future in every way we can. To keep pushing in the right direction, we can vote with our dollars and support sustainable brands and businesses. We often talk about the importance of staying authentic in this new digital era, so keep telling the truth, fight for this planet and opt for more renewable regenerative solutions.
Are there any upcoming milestones for your company?
Last year was our 25th Anniversary for HoodLamb and T.H.Seeds. A quarter of a century in this industry is quite the milestone.
Where can readers learn more?