Founders Libby Cooper and Scott Sundvor tell us how they built a life and a business together.
When they first got together many years ago, Libby Cooper and Scott Sundvor were working full-time jobs at startups. But right away, they knew they'd want to do something creative together. Since then, they've quit those jobs and now work exclusively on Space Coyote, a concentrate-infused
How did you guys meet?
Scott: Libby and I are engaged now, but long before that, we had wanted to work together. We'd done small projects together before but hadn't had the right fit for something larger than that. I had founded a company before this, which I left due to a combination of health reasons and just wanting to start thinking about the next thing. And the timing just aligned really well that Libby and I could get started on doing something together. And we knew that we wanted it to be a cannabis company.
“That was me at the other end of the ad.”
Libby: I had been working in the cannabis industry previously. And Scott was trying to decide whether he was going to leave Nima, which is actually how we met. I have celiac disease and his company made food allergy sensors so that people with celiac disease and peanut allergies can test their food to make sure it's safe for them to eat. And I was a consumer researcher for it at the very beginning. I actually answered a Facebook ad in 2013 that said, "Do you have celiac disease? Do you want free lunch?" I was like, why yes, this is oddly specific.
Scott: That was me at the other end of the ad.
Libby: So, when we actually met up for that lunch, it was completely recorded. He was showing me the prototype and asking different use cases and I felt like it was a first date. I was like, he's the one. I went home and I told my parents that I had met the one. I told all of my cousins, my friends, and my family. It was pretty ridiculous but here we are.
How did the relationship evolve up to the creation of Space Coyote?
Scott: Yeah, so Libby had this great experience from the cannabis industry. I had a lot of experience with physical goods, with the manufacturing side of things and operations, and it just really felt like the perfect fit for us to work together. Literally, there's almost zero overlap in our skill sets, so we're very complementary to each other.
Libby: That lack of overlap in skills makes it really easy. So if there's anything to do with financial modeling, supply chain, product development, Scott is in charge and I completely trust his judgment. And when it comes to anything outward focused, for the brand for example, it's all thumbs up for me.
Scott: We should probably tell you the origin story of the name Space Coyote. That was kind of the jumping-off point for us, for actually starting the company. So, we were in Joshua Tree for my birthday toward the end of 2017. We had a big group of our friends there. It was a new moon and a meteor shower. There may have been some mushroom tea involved. And we just had this incredibly beautiful evening. It was November, so we were bundled up outside and climbing on top of these Joshua Tree boulders. Libby and I talk about this a lot, but we had never felt like we were so just close to space and so unprotected because it literally felt like we were on this boulder flying through outer space thanks to these meteors flying through the sky. And then we started hearing coyotes yipping.
“Being a stoner is something to be celebrated.”
Libby: Yeah, we were space coyotes. So we had the name for Space Coyote, but we both hadn't left our respective jobs yet. And we didn't have a product. It was pretty incredible to have a name before anything else.
Scott: Then the product just made a lot of sense for us, too, because we had been rolling our own infused joints, and that was one of our favorite things to do—to combine different hash, different extracts with different flower pairings, and just create that experience that we were looking for in every joint. Once we had this amazing name Space Coyote, we were like, "Wow, that would go really well with our favorite product: infused joints."
Libby: I had had a lot of insights while working at Eaze. Mostly that the price-to-THC ratio is king and that heritage market stoners were not really getting new products built for them. There were a lot of legacy products that were on shelves, but all of these new companies coming out were low-dose and/or CBD-focused. A lot of things, which I actually disagree with, were directed at women and then that was inherently low-dose. We believe that women can be stoners, too. And being a stoner is something to be celebrated.
The other flip side of it was health reasons. When you actually consume very potent, high-THC products, it helps a lot of autoimmune diseases. And we wanted to make a product that was beneficial in the medicinal sense but had no medicinal branding. We want this to be a fun experience. So if someone is using Space Coyote for chronic pain, we still want it to be this fun, psychedelic, celebratory experience.
I'd love to know a little bit more about how you guys source the flower and the concentrates in Space Coyote pre-rolls and how you went about crafting each pre-roll.
Scott: This is really important to us because when we were looking at the market and thinking about making these products, we were thinking about making products for people like ourselves, and that meant something that was high-quality. I mean, Libby's alluded to this a little bit, but we care very much about the health side of things. For us, it’s not just about the weed that we're smoking, but it's the food we eat, whether it's organic and sourced sustainably. And we're taking that and applying it to the products we're building, too. So we're working with cultivators throughout the state, always with people and practices that we respect. We are doing as much as we can to source the most environmentally sustainable product that we can. We're building a product that we want to smoke and that we're excited to smoke.
“We are actually developing our own sustainable, lowest-impact-possible joint tube.”
Libby: Just to elaborate on what Scott means, we're trying to source flower that is not just sun-grown but from dry-farmed as well. So using as little water as possible and no water if possible. If we're sourcing from a cultivator that does have an indoor grow, we want them to either be offsetting their carbon emissions or using regenerative practices. We're not at a point where we're 100% sourcing sun-grown, but that is definitely a goal of ours.
We actually did an environmental impact study on packaging because we are very much focused on how we're addicted to these plastic joint tubes. Our findings from that study were really interesting. Basically, plastic isn't the greatest evil. At a high level, compostable plastics are really bad for the environment and we're in a time right now when there's a lot of greenwashing. Due to the confusing state of material science at the moment, you might think cardboard is great, but if it's not rainforest certified, then that's actually way worse for the environment.
After doing all this research, we realized our packaging is one piece of the puzzle and it's a small piece. The bigger piece is where we source material from. That’s why we are actually developing our own sustainable, lowest-impact-possible joint tube that we're then going to make open source to the entire industry. Because we don't want other people to face the same issue that we've experienced with this confusing landscape of not knowing where to buy packaging from. So we just want to make that hurdle as short as possible for everybody.
I’m curious, what do you plan on putting in that lower-impact packaging?
Scott: Recycled aluminum.
Libby: Yeah, recycled aluminum tubes because virgin aluminum is a top soil mined product, which is extremely toxic and harmful to the environment—people and animals alike. But once aluminum is made, it can be infinitely recycled. So there's aluminum that's still in circulation from the ‘70s and ‘80s today. The issue is figuring out what is the highest content of recycled aluminum we can have.
Scott: It's shockingly difficult to find both recycled aluminum and recycled plastic, and really just sustainable materials in general are not easy to come by.
Libby: We really wanted to use 100% recycled ocean plastic. But the providers of ocean plastic actually turned us down because they didn't want to be creating a single-use plastic item from that recycled plastic. Even though just reusing the plastic that's already been created would make a new economy and it would help alleviate the American recycling crisis.
Scott: We're still working on that.
Libby: Yeah we're still definitely in a rock and a hard place but we think we've found a really good solution. But all of these things do take time. So we're really just encouraging everybody in the industry to look at where they're sourcing their raw materials because that actually has a much greater impact than the packaging itself.
Scott: As soon as we find or develop something sustainable, we're going to share it with everyone that we can. Because we're just one tiny portion of the market and we can make our own impact, but if everyone can start making an impact, that is when it's really going to matter.
Libby: Going back to your original question, we always do a collaboration when it comes to sourcing concentrates. That's a big pillar of ours at Space Coyote. We want to showcase extract artists, because that's truly what they are. These producers are creating something incredible out of the plant and we want to make sure that we're giving them the praise that they're due. So you'll always see a collaborating logo on our packaging and we've worked with Nasha Extracts for the hash. He's an amazing producer up in Humboldt County and he sources a lot of his material from trichomes, which is pretty incredible. And we've done our
Scott: We can source cheap extract, and that would make our margins better and be easier and faster to put into our product. But we don't do that because we want to work with brands and extractors that we know are producing really high-quality material. And like Libby said, we really respect the artistry in it. We also respect the science in it. And that's part of the reason why we always showcase those collaborations.
On a somewhat related note, what are your plans or what have you already done to address the social inequalities that are very much tied to the cannabis industry?
Libby: It’s been a big discussion with everybody and certainly at Space Coyote. We want to make sure that we're employing people of color and giving back to nonprofits. Recently we did an initiative with a dispensary down in Ojai where, for every Space Coyote that was purchased, a certain percent of the proceeds went to help people who had previously been convicted of cannabis crimes.
Scott: This is a really difficult problem that doesn't have a perfect solution, but we’re being very conscious of every role that we're hiring. How can we make sure to really push ourselves to make the opportunity available to everyone, especially to people of color. And how can we make sure to always include them. I don't think this is anything that can be answered with just one plan of action, but it's a conversation that we're always having. And I think by having a couple of folks on the team who are people of color, we're able to get their perspective directly.
Libby: We're a team of seven, about to be eight. So everybody on the team is family.
Scott: Everyone has a voice.
Libby: And we really want to make sure that we keep that ethos as the company grows.
Anything else you’d like people to know about Space Coyote?
Scott: Space Coyote isn't just a brand. Space Coyote is a lifestyle.
Libby: Yeah, that sounds a little cliche, but it's true.
Check out all of Space Coyote's pre-rolls below and our full catalog of pre-rolls here.
Photos by Emily Berkey.