Last month, an unseasonable cold swept through the Kenai Peninsula. Temperatures dropped well into the negatives, cracking car windshields that were thawed too quickly by drivers struggling to find warmth. Underfoot, crystalized snow let out loud cracks and squeaks that were tempered only by the joyful prancing of a large Bernese Mountain puppy named Max. The source of his exuberant personality became clear as Tasha Grossl swung her front door open.
Wearing a black and white polka dot dress with purple-tipped hair, Grossl is the personification of her Lady Gray Medibles brand – effervescent, polished and delightful.
Licensed in 2018, Lady Gray Medibles has become the gold standard of Alaskan edibles, in large part because of Grossl’s determination to succeed.
“In the beginning, there were a lot of tears and frustration. You know, you’re working with not just yourself, but with the lab and all of the legal parameters. Even some of the tiniest details can throw things off, and mistakes in this space are always expensive,” said Grossl.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and that was the case with Grossl’s initial launch of seven products.
“We were definitely too small to do that! Looking back, it’s probably good that we didn’t realize it at the time, because it forced us to dive in headfirst,” said Grossl.
Childhood friend and one of Grossl’s first employees, Autumn Newby, recalls working 20 hours a day to help get Lady Gray off the ground.
“I remember leaving the bakery at like 3:30 in the morning, only to be back at 6:00 in the morning for pickup. Everything was really grassroots, and it was hard dialing everything in. But at the same time, it was just the most exciting thing to be a part of. It’s amazing what a lot of coffee and excitement can do to keep you moving,” said Newby.
“The goal has always been consistency, but that can be a really hard benchmark to hit. In this business, every single decision you have to make is a big one,” said Grossl.
Stringent regulations from AMCO mixed with lab discrepancies and the potential for human error make producing edibles a harrowing endeavor. Add in an unprecedented global pandemic, and the stakes become even higher.
“We didn’t have access to the same suppliers and ingredients we were used to, and we found out the hard way that even changing the brand of flour we use could negatively affect our bakes. We had cookies that fell flat and couldn’t be sold, which is a huge financial loss when you factor in ingredients, manpower and overhead,” said Grossl.
Now heading into what Grossl calls the “busy season,” the potential for error is once again amplified.
“We all end up working on not enough sleep, so this time of year, it is so important that we prioritize staying focused and following our protocols,” said Grossl.
Part of Lady Gray’s protocols includes having every step double and triple-checked for accuracy to ensure maximum yield. Grossl said it is a lot of math to get things just right, but it’s worth it when she sees the reactions customers have to her products.
“We want people to be able to trust us and our brand. So, when something new comes out, your customers will be more willing to try it because of the positive experiences they’ve had with our other products. Having repeat business is a really good feeling,” said Grossl.
Although consistency and premium ingredients are pillars of Lady Gray, empowering women and promoting the wellness aspects of Cannabis are equally important.
“My mom, the original Lady Gray, was a nurse for more than 40 years. I think seeing her uplift other women and help care for others had a profound effect on me and how I view my business,” said Grossl.
Originally attracted to Cannabis after being diagnosed with endometriosis in her 20s, Grossl has spent over 20 years researching the plant in hopes of furthering the discussion about Cannabis as medicine.
“I wasn’t content to rely on conventional medicine that included heavy painkillers and synthetic drugs. My desire for natural remedies has definitely stuck with me. I don’t want to put things into my body without knowing exactly what is in it, and I think there are a lot of people who feel the same way,” said Grossl.
Her commitment to health and transparency has gained Grossl two lifelong fans: her parents.
“They were nervous when I first told them about my plans, because there aren’t a lot of women in the Cannabis space. But they are just tickled to death to see me following my passion in such an ethical way. Both my mom and dad even got their handler cards so they can help in the kitchen when they visit,” said Grossl.