From Coupon Queen to Cannabis Industry CEO
Mae Bereal is the Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based, LAV8 (pronounced elevate), a vertically integrated cannabis operation launched in 2019. Initially founding High End Society, an edible and topical company, she was the first license holder to produce up to 10, four-day cannabis events per year in California.
Aside from the cannabis companies, Bereal also created her own charity program, 2 Buds, 1 Stone, donating one product to a cannabis patient in need for every product her company sells.
In 2018 she was named in Marijuana Venture’s list of 40 Under 40, and stated, “My account executive says I have too much of a giving heart, but for me, that’s where all this comes from—I’m a mom, and I naturally want to nurture and take care of people. They need these meds, and they are really expensive.”
Bereal knows a thing or two about social equity, not just in the cannabis space, but in real time. Raised in low-income housing in Long Beach, California—a suburb of Los Angeles, as a person of color, Bereal felt she didn’t fit in.
“My mother was an immigrant from the Philippines, and I’m a mixed bag of some Black, some Mexican and a little Caucasion,” Bereal shared. “My grandmother made us learn Tagalog, the language of the Philippines, because my siblings and I presented as Black, and she didn’t want us to be fooled—which happened often. The Filipinos thought because I’m Black, I didn’t know anything.”
In fact, Bereal is no fool when it comes to knowing who she is, even though her Filipino counterparts tested her with language.
Bereal became a mother at a young age. As a stay-at-home mom of four for 10 years, she learned to make do and worked the coupons, often leaving a store with groceries, goods and money in her pocket.
“I learned from other coupon users how to get the most out of the savings,” Bereal said. “Let’s say shampoo is on sale that day, two bottles for five dollars, and the store says buy three, and they’ll give you a five-dollar gift card, and the coupon says buy two and take five dollars off—do the math, and you don’t pay for anything.”
Stores like Target and online shops like LivingSocial began sending her cease and desist letters, and she had to learn the laws, saving her from confrontations with store managers, which happened often. She ended up being dubbed the Queen of Coupons, interviewed by U.S. News and Yahoo Finance as a “money-saving expert.”
Mae Bereal: Disruptive Innovator
Growing up in the projects didn’t break her; it made her resilient.
“When you gain knowledge and educate yourself, it’s enlightening and opens doors,” she added. “I learned to be a savvy coupon counter out of necessity, but the research and work it took gave me a wide skill set to tackle other projects—like entering into the cannabis industry.”
Called a disruptive innovator, Bereal helped to change the limited multi-use facility rule in the City of Long Beach for cannabis companies, then fought a daunting battle and won, in obtaining and keeping her cultivation, manufacturing and distribution licenses in the City of Los Angeles.
“The powers that be seem to put obstacles up, keeping a majority of people out of the game,” she said. “People with their heart in the right place can get discouraged because the playing field is so narrow. You have to have the wherewithal to believe that what you desire will come to pass. You may scrape your knees climbing, but if you have faith, there really ain’t no mountain high enough when you believe in what you are doing.”
Unwavering faith, she said, is what her first company High End Society was founded on. It’s aso what led to her being instrumental in a groundbreaking decision by a church in Los Angeles to open its doors via a pop-up CBD event, allowing members to learn about the benefits of CBD and the cannabis plant itself.
Bereal said she first tried cannabis in high school and knew it helped, but she didn’t understand why or how—she only knew she felt better.
“It wasn’t easy growing up as a biracial kid in the projects,” she said. “Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts plagued me until I tried cannabis, while others around me were self-medicating with opioids and worse. At that time, I didn’t know what cannabinoids were, or what the endocannabinoid system was. Doctors wanted to give me anti-anxiety and antidepressant meds, but I had a talk with God and told him I’d use His plant instead.”
Even though she chose cannabis at a young age, seemingly with God’s blessing, she said she still wasn’t fully on board with her faith. It took a seizure and a bump on the head to turn her around.
“It happened just before the 40 Under 40 photo shoot,” she explained. “I was doing well in business, but was under a lot of stress and had a seizure, falling and hitting my head on a countertop. I went ahead with the shoot, then went to the ER the next morning.”
Bereal said she felt she hadn’t fully trusted in God, hadn’t been fully obeying His word.
“I was still practicing free-will,” she concluded. “Now, when I pray, I surrender my will.”
God Created, Women Crafted
Under the LAV8 brand, Bereal said they make a Vegan, organic, full spectrum multivitamin CBD gummy (25mg, with 25mg Vitamin C, 10mg zinc) that she consumes daily, with 8.5mg of THC in the form of a vitamin shot, with 60mg CBD.
Her products have actual flowers in the balms and essential oils, and arrive in a 100 percent sustainable and compostable envelope, with benefits written on seeded paper.
“If you plant the paper, wildflowers grow from it,” she shared. “Even if it’s thrown in a landfill, flowers may come from it. It costs more to use these materials for packaging, but I don’t mind paying more to help heal the earth that we’ve damaged so badly. It’s the least we can do.”
She also uses her own lavender-rose CBD candles, which purify the air. The hot wax, she said, also works on sore spots topically, as well as using her own Rose Gold Body Balm and Rose Body Oil. But, she no longer smokes the flower.
“When I first began self-medicating with cannabis, I was just smoking the flower, because there wasn’t any education out there yet about ingesting and all that it can do,” she said. “So, a big part of the work we do with LAV8 is in educating our consumers about all the benefits of the plant and of the many ways to consume it.”
Speaking out at conferences, cannabis events and podcasts, Bereal said she considers it part of the job to get the good word out on God’s plant, giving a percentage of her profits to her own church, the Hillside Tabernacle in Altadena, in Los Angeles County, California, where she makes her home.
“My church gives a lot back to the community,” she said. “They feed the poor and shelter them when they have no place to stay. Some of the funding we’ve been able to give have been used to build computer centers, and I’ve been able to see, firsthand, how much their outreach helps others.”
Another cause near and dear to her heart is helping Veterans suffering from PTSD through the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance (SCVA), founded by veterans Jason Sweatt and Aaron Newsom with now partner, Seth Smith—whom Bereal has since befriended.
Sweatt said he began cultivating and using cannabis, finding that the cultivation itself was therapy, as quoted in CULTURE Magazine.
“Planting something and watching it from start to finish—taking care of it, nurturing it. You know, after watching a lot of death and destruction—you know, mayhem—it was a very calming and rewarding aspect. The whole process.”
After dating a veteran, Bereal said she had a soft spot in her heart for them. “All I want to do is help people and make them feel good.”
Bereal said there have been many challenges faced since entering into the cannabis industry as a woman of color—often the only woman, let alone Black woman, in the room.
“When I first began this journey, I felt intimidated,” she explained. “Eventually, I was able to fill the shoes set before me. Once I understood the steps and knew I rightfully had a seat at the table, I learned to hold my head up high—while still remaining humble. Using my womanly charm and applying a mother’s love, I was able to warm rooms, win hearts and essentially close business deals. But I give it all up to God because this is HIs plant. I’m just a cog in His wheel of education and healing.”