Higher Profile: Robert Jungmann, Founder, Jungmaven

Better living with hemp.
Higher Profile: Robert Jungmann, Founder, Jungmaven
Courtesy of Robert Jungmann

The Mission Statement for Jungmaven, the hemp clothing company founded by Robert Jungmann, begins with the credo, “We believe the earth belongs to everyone.” 

Caring about the earth is a common refrain within the hemp and cannabis communities. After caring comes advocacy and action, with renewed interest in hemp education growing, as it’s planted once again across the country.

Education is everything when you are talking about a sustainable plant that was literally prohibited from being grown,” he said. “Education is the only way to stop making the same mistakes over and over again.”

Jungmann grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. In the summer of 1984 he and family traveled to California for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. They then headed north, relocating to Seattle, Washington, as his father had gotten a promotion. 

“I fell in love with the trees, the mountains and the water,” he shared. “I climbed a tree and found a glass pipe with a fully loaded bowl of weed. It’s as if the universe said, ‘Welcome to Washington, here’s a loaded bowl, my friend.”

Jungmann, who was 15 at the time, brought the bowl back to his house, inviting friends over for a football game, stating, “We had a chest full of beer, I got everyone high, and we are all still friends to this day.”

Schooled in Hemp

After graduating high school in 1988, Jungmann attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg, studying environmental studies and journalism, with a minor in business.

“There was a professor who taught environmental studies who would rip your heart out every day,” he shared. “He would spell out facts of how humans went from living sustainably to being detached from our environment. His course changed my life.”

The Pacific Northwest is known for its logging and ranching, with many students taking sides. Jungmann said the professor helped everyone listen to each other to find common ground.

“The professor talked about the history and politics of hemp, and how we didn’t need to tear our forests down for lumber, because hemp was enough,” he added. “Studying journalism helped shape my voice and enabled me to decipher and discern between misinformation and truth. That’s a skill set I’m glad I have in today’s world of alternative facts.”

The experience caused Jungmann to take a deep dive into hemp, reading Jack Herer’s page-turner, The Emperor Wears no Clothes—a whistleblowing account of the politics of the demise of hemp, the rise of petroleum byproducts, and subsequent ruination of the environment.

“I met Jack in 1994 at the first Hemp Industries Association conference in Arizona,” he shared. “We discussed integrity, and using legitimate hemp, keeping people in check. We talked about the need to find balance if we want to continue to thrive sustainably. I couldn’t look at the country the same way, let alone the planet, after this newfound knowledge. I knew I wanted to be a part of the positive change to get back to living sustainably on the earth.”

When Vivian McPeak and his team began the first Seattle Hempfest in 1993, Jungmann said he and friends were afraid to go in.

“We hung out above the park on the perimeter, afraid we’d get busted smoking weed in the park,” he laughed. “No one knew what to expect. Huge thank you and great respect for everything Viv and his team have done for the hemp industry. He’s up there on the top ten list for people who have made a huge contribution to the changes in the industry that spread across the country.”

Jungmann said that by 1996 there was a hemp shop opening up in just about every other week across the country, and Viv played a big role in inspiring the sustainable trend.

The Business of Hemp

Jungmann began his first company, Manastash, named after his favorite mountain bike ride, Manastash Ridge, while in college. He later learned the name is derived from a Native American word, meaning “new beginning” or “new growth.”

He had been working as a real-estate appraiser, but said the gig was “sucking the life out of his soul.” The first purchases made were a computer and a stack of hemp fabric. 

By that time the American Hemp Mercantile opened up on the fifth floor of a warehouse in Seattle, filled with hemp products.

“There was just about everything that could be found there,” he said. “Hemp shoes by Adidas were a huge development and really pushed the conversation forward in the mainstream market.”

Manastash made mountain bike and rock climbing clothing, because that’s what they were into.

“We made things we liked to wear,” he explained. “We shopped exclusively at second hand stores – because that’s all we could afford in college. We’d buy favorite pieces and wear them out, then recreate them in hemp. One of our friend’s mom’s would make us shorts out of hemp.”

In 1995 Jungmann set up a booth at an outdoor retailer show in Reno, and witnessed, first hand, the impact hemp would have in the world of business. He also realized the only people in the world that seemed interested in hemp was the Japanese market.

“Everyone at this trade show was in suits and ties, and there we were—these 20-somethings—in a bamboo hut we’d made ourselves,” he explained. “But, they were all over us. Our first substantial order for twenty-thousand dollars of goods came in during a Christmas party over a carbon fax machine that sat next to my couch that also doubled as my bed. It was an awesome gift of opportunity.”

At the time there were only a handful of hemp stories, and Jungmann and team opened one on the Avenue in Seattle—a popular shopping district near the university.

By 2005, Jungmann said 80 percent of his business was from Japan, and ended up selling the business to a Japanese entity, starting Jungmaven in the same year.

Jungmaven is a play on words, using the first part of his last name, and the combination of his first company, Manastash, and it’s logo, a raven.

The Jungmaven brand today hosts a line of simply designed hemp clothing, with a 70 percent knitwear line of shirts and sweatshirts; a 30 percent woven line of jackets, pants, dresses, shorts, jumpers, hats, wallets; and a 100 percent hemp home line that includes bedding. 

The challenges in keeping a hemp manufacturing business going in the states, he said, is the fact that the country has just begun to plant hemp again, and the equipment needed to process the stalks isn’t fully available everywhere just yet.

“It will take some time to ready the infrastructure—mainly degumming and decortication machines, that separate the fiber from the stalk,” he informed.

Higher Profile: Robert Jungmann, Founder, Jungmaven
Katie O’Neil

Hemp for the Planet

Aside from the manufacturing materials hemp provides, Jungmann expounded on the fact that the plant itself can clean the environment.

“Trees take decades to grow back, hemp regenerates in a few months,” he said. “Hemp also produces oxygen, aerates the soil, and consumes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Hemp is our one hope to mitigate climate change.”

Hemp, he said, requires no irrigation, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and it doesn’t come in a GMO seed, making it a perfectly clean and beneficial plant for supplements and remedies.

Within the Jungmaven website is an Apothecary page, with hemp-derived personal care and supplemental products. Its Everyday Oil is a multi-purposes cleaning, healing, and moisturizing hemp oil made with a combination of beneficial plants.

Signature unisex perfume, Maven, was developed by alchemist, Andrea Shanti of Holistic Body Therapy. It’s a woodsy blend of 24 extracts, including agarwood, myrhh, sandalwood, spikenard, frankincense, and cardamom—referred to as “sex in a bottle.”

Intriguing is its line of beneficial plant powders labeled, Transformational Foods, that include superfoods such as Moringa, Ashwagandha, Lion’s Mane, Prash; and He Shou Wu Rejuvenation tonic, a Chinese herb said to enhance immune function.

Currently, he and his girlfriend are on lockdown in Washington State as the world deals with the pandemic of the coronavirus. He said the situation has given him time to think about how his actions affect others and making the world a better place—which is the core of the hemp community’s philosophy. 

“Seems like the lockdown is a giant restart for the planet,” he surmised. “Like a three month surf trip in Central America with no internet. It’s definitely needed right now. The world needs to slow down and take a look around at what we are doing, think about what we value in life, and realize what we need to do next. The basics for me are healthy air, water, land and communities we can thrive in—and hemp is a big part of that.”

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