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Lo Friesen embodies many qualities of a good leader. Authentic, strategic, and focused on a vision, she has guided the Heylo team from the creation of their very first extract to where they are now: a successful brand that’s growing 15 percent in market share annually. 

And she didn’t plan on it. 

“My dreams were shattered,” she remembers from the day she didn’t get into medical school after years of study. But she’s not someone to take a loss without trying to turn it into something positive. 

“I took it as an opportunity to say, where can I go from here?” she recalls. “What can I do to still fulfill myself and my dreams of helping people and discovering new things?”

Lo has a BA in chemistry from Northwestern University and had worked for two years as a technician and clinical researcher at a hospital. As she considered her next move, her parents encouraged her to enter the newly-blossoming cannabis industry. It was 2014.

“I think they just saw opportunity, knowing it was a matter of when, not if, it would be legal someday,” she remembers. “They were like, you know, with your chemistry background, it could be something interesting.”

A road trip led Friesen to Colorado, where she purchased her first legal cannabis product. Dispensary shelves lined with extracts caught her attention. Fascinated by the unknown process behind the concentrates, her parents’ suggestion slowly began shifting from an idea into a plan. “There was so much opportunity there to not only learn something new, but also to make a legitimate impact on an industry that’s so new. It was a colliding of many moments, and I decided to explore cannabis extraction.”

With a suitcase and one-way ticket in hand, she headed for Washington, where she quickly got a job with Eden Labs and immersed herself in the extraction process. “My chemistry brain was totally overjoyed,” she says.

The shift from texting a local Chicago dealer for a delivery to walking into a store jam-packed with products was big for Friesen. Shelves lined with different edibles and vape cartridges presented a fun opportunity to try a bunch of new things and learn at the same time. And that’s when she began to realize that there wasn’t enough available information and that products weren’t consistent.

“If I bought a blue dream vape cartridge from this supplier and then bought another blue dream from this other supplier, they would make me feel different. And I’d be like, but it says they’re the same thing?” she recalls. She started to look at what could be different chemically, and that’s when she discovered terpenes and cannabinoids. “My mind was blown,” she says. 

The idea that she could have more control over her high and really tap into different effects fascinated Lo and kept her chemistry mind in motion. 

After a few years in the industry, she decided it was time to fly solo. “There was a huge gap in the market, not only for high-quality CO2 extracted vape cartridges, but also the education that goes along with the product to help people understand what to expect.” 

In 2017, she founded Heylo. She was just twenty-five. The extraction processing site sits tucked in an unassuming building in Seattle’s SODO district, where the team cooks up saucy dabbable jams, vape products, and topicals, with a unifying goal of making products that help people get more out of life.

As the team has grown, Lo finds herself spending far less time in extraction, and most of her time managing the day-to-day operations. Her data-focused brain remains activated in this role.

“I’m a very curious person, so I ask a lot of questions. We collect data on everything and we review that on a weekly basis as a team,” she explains. “We have two people that are actively doing the extractions and product development every day. And then there’s two of us, myself and the head of operations, who just really dig into the data.”

It’s been five years since Heylo launched, and their impact is clear. You’d be hard pressed to find an extract enthusiast in the i502 market who doesn’t know Heylo, and moreso, who doesn’t put Heylo in their list of favorites. The company has never strayed from its commitment to clean, consistent quality under Friesen’s leadership. Lo even landed a spot on Marijuana Venture’s 40 Under 40 list

Lo seems to live Heylo’s mission of helping people get more out of life every day. When she tells me that they highly value community, I don’t doubt her. After all, I’ve seen the company host community street cleanups, educational events, and of course, Heylo Sessions, where musical artists perform live sets paired with specific strains for a “one-of-a-kind vibe.” In fact, the company is taking the community out on a boat for their next session, rounding out summer with sunset views over Seattle’s Lake Union. 

Speaking of creative engagement, Heylo also has adult coloring pages to help stoned consumers tap into their creative side, and the team curates strain-specific playlists to encourage people to take their experience to new levels. Heck, they even got Hannibal Buress to curate a playlist for their CBG blend. (If that piques your interest as a Broad City fan, you might be interested to know that Heylo also sponsored a digital disco event last year with special guest Ilana Glazer.)

While talking about curating cannabis events and experiences, Friesen says it feels good to offer a safe space where people can choose to be high, or not. “How many times have we gone to an event high and been like, oh my God am I the only high person here?” she says with a chuckle. “That does not feel good. So I’m just creating a safe space and destigmatizing what a cannabis event looks like.”

And when it comes to the products, Heylo is discerning from start to finish. Their partners must have aligned core values, which include a deep respect for the plant and sustainable growing practices. They’ve worked with trusted farms like Emerald Twist, Washington Bud Co., Trailblazin, Primo Boss, Eagle Trees, Crescent Valley, and Hygge. All partners must sign a disclosure form to make sure the terms and expectations are clear. 

“It’s all about transparency. That’s one of our core values,” Lo explains. “If you’re not ready to sign up for that, then we’re not ready to work together.”

These careful steps help create a product that is as close to the plant as possible. Their extracts taste rich and maintain the complexities of true cannabis flavor, with consistent effects meant to help users get more out of life. “We always ask ourselves, does this align with our mission, does this answer our mission? That’s how we do things,” she says. And like a true scientist, she adds, “We always start with why.”

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