Heidi Keyes, Puff, Pass & Paint
“Reach out, question things, don’t be afraid to be bold and loud…”
Describe yourself and what you do.
I started Puff, Pass & Paint in January of 2014. I was working as an artist, and had been a cannabis user (and therefore very passionate about legalization), for nearly half of my life at that point. On the cusp of legalization in Colorado, a friend jokingly suggested that I should “do one of those wine and painting classes… but with weed instead”.
I thought it might be fun, and knowing that cannabis had been beneficial to me when I was feeling stuck with a creative endeavor, I started holding very small classes around my dining room table. We laughed, we smoked, we celebrated legal cannabis, and we made heartfelt art. The classes quickly filled up with wait lists for months, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one to enjoy the collaboration of both cannabis and painting… thus, Puff, Pass & Paint was born.
In 2015, I joined forces with an industry friend and business associate, Michael Eymer of Colorado Cannabis Tours. Together, Puff, Pass & Paint and CCT formed CannabisTours.com, which offers Puff, Pass & Paint classes, cannabis cooking classes, tours, 4:20-friendly lodging, and other specialty cannabis classes and events around the country, including Denver, Portland, Las Vegas, Washington DC, San Francisco, Oakland, and shortly Massachusetts, Maine, and southern California.
What is your origin story for your canna business?
I started using cannabis at age 15, both recreationally, and also because I immediately recognized it as something that helped temper my social anxiety while boosting my creativity. As soon as I started holding Puff, Pass & Paint classes, I realized not only how fun and enjoyable it made painting for my students, but also how it inspired them to get creative and move beyond their borders of what a piece of art should look like, to simply enjoying making art– sometimes for the first time in decades.
The concept of Puff, Pass & Paint, and all of our other classes, is that creativity should be enjoyable, warm, full of laughter and love, chatting with friends and making new ones, passing joints, laughing some more– instead of focusing on making a “perfect piece of art”. Cannabis is so beneficial to creating this kind of environment.
I grew up on a petting farm (yes, a petting farm!) in rural Wisconsin, with parents who had always been entrepreneurs. I had seen their struggles and their successes, and I knew that setting off on one’s own path is extremely difficult and frustrating, but can also be very rewarding if you love what you’re doing. Working as an artist had only helped to prepare me for the difficulties of navigating the cannabis industry, as someone who was constantly underestimated (at first, I was just viewed as the pleasant, friendly, happy-go-lucky, always-had-a-smile-on-my-face Puff, Pass & Paint girl) and also as a woman in an industry, like any other, that is typically dominated by males.
Creativity should be enjoyable, warm, full of laughter and love, chatting with friends and making new ones, passing joints, laughing some more…
I absolutely LOVE, love, love what I do… and that, I believe, has shined through from the very first Puff, Pass & Paint class that I taught. I hope it continues to show as we expand, with the people we select to be on our team, and how much of a commitment we have to continuing to push for cannabis normalization and legalization.
Often, when I’m teaching a class, someone will randomly ask me how much I love what I do… and I start to tear up. I truly have my dream career, and have built a successful business out of it, and I could not consider myself more blessed.
What is your Superpower?
I think my superpower is a raw sense of humor, which allows me to typically make the best of any situation, even if it’s stressful or wasn’t planned for. I also love finding the good in every person– and every piece of art– that comes through our classes, and I thoroughly enjoy seeing everyone’s creativity blossoms in our sessions as they begin to find their inspiration through cannabis.
What has been your greatest obstacle in this industry or with your business to date – and how have you overcome it?
Although I have lived in Denver for seven years, I’m originally from Wisconsin, and I have that Midwestern sentiment about me. My biggest obstacle has been learning when to say no when I feel like I’m overwhelmed, and recognizing that I need silent alone time in the dark to re-charge my batteries. I find my most creative self when I’m flying solo, and I think it’s important to keep nurturing that.
What is your vision for women in this industry?
Reach out, question things, don’t be afraid to be bold and loud and also to ask questions. THIS IS AN INDUSTRY THAT WAS MADE FOR YOU, and we’re already breaking gender norms by being a part of this space, and having the largest amount of female CEOs and high-powered positions of any other industry.
It’s not about following the “the rules” (although you should research cannabis legislation and regulations in your area and respect them!). It’s about coming up with ideas and providing much-needed services for a developing market, that exists because we are all extremely passionate about cannabis legalization. Get into this for the right reasons. Be daring and empowered. You may succeed, and you may fail, but the ride will always be worth it… and failure isn’t ever permanent.
Connect with Heidi
LOCATION: Denver, Portland, Washington DC, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Oakland and based in Denver, CO