Ryan Wileman: Abscent Design
Regardless of the current politics surrounding the legalization of cannabis, there are countless testimonials from medical patients who are using the plant and its compounds to treat their various conditions. Some are even replacing their pharmaceuticals with cannabis, and this is the revolution that’s changing minds across the globe. Unfortunately, the complete transformation of social perception has yet to come and the plant itself is often very… pungent, which meant patients could neither safely nor discreetly carry their medicine with them. This was the problem that Ryan Wileman, founder and CEO of Abscent Design, sought to solve with his incredibly cool line of odor-absorbing products that patients could carry with them while sporting timeless design. Lucky for us, he’s as captivating and innovative as his products, so we took it upon ourselves to land an interview with the man himself.
What was the deciding factor for you to join this particular industry?
I live in California, where cannabis is legal for medical patients, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a ‘walk in the park’ for them. These patients are people that need cannabis to treat their various illnesses and conditions, but were often too ashamed or afraid to carry their medicine with them because of its pungent odor. These were people who were friends, friends of friends, and family. As an entrepreneur, I immediately saw a need for an odor-proof line of products for the everyday consumer. The demand was high but the supply was lacking, so my products were designed to capture that niche and not only deliver on acute detail to function, but also on a design that patients would proudly take out in public.
As an entrepreneur, I immediately saw a need for an odor-proof line of products for the everyday consumer.
What were you doing before?
I owned an apparel business based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Tell me about the point in the time you realized the coming of the ‘green rush’?
I remember in 2008 when dispensaries started opening all over San Diego and Orange County. Seemingly, overnight, the cannabis industry went from being this quiet counterculture to an inconspicuous movement. For me, this was the dawn of the green rush.
Right now, where are you guiding your passion and energy towards?
Currently, I am focused on merging the gap between street wear and function. The first two products I introduced to the market were very effective at absorbing odor, but they really lacked in distinctive style. I wanted consumers to pick up my products and say, “Wow! This is a dope bag that I would rock whether I need an odor-absorbing capability or not.” I think this inspired me to create the new Abscent collection, which I think offers the best of both worlds, function and design.
Describe your work ethic to me in one word.
Tell me about a time in your career that didn’t go as planned and what you did about that? How did you handle it?
In my late twenties I ventured into the clothing industry. I think everyone that steps foot into the cut & sew industry has dreams of grandeur and I, like so many before, fell for this attractive façade. After a few years of investing heavily into the business without seeing any substantial return on my investment, I decided I needed to reevaluate my career path. I decided to focus my attention on developing an innovative product that would appeal to a niche market. During the gold rush, supplying picks and shovels was a very lucrative business; these tools were a necessity for gold prospecting. For me, the Abscent bag is an essential tool for the modern day gold rush, otherwise know as the green rush.
What book have you read that you’ve been inspired by? Any particular read we should put on our list?
Let My People Go Surfing by the founder and owner of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. Patagonia is an example of how a company run by a person with strong beliefs can use its products and its market to spread those beliefs among the public. Their focus is on hard work, clean design, and quality, while assuring the best customer experience possible. There are plenty of lessons for would-be entrepreneurs in how following your instincts and believing in what you are doing can create a niche.
Tell me about an esteemed achievement of yours.
My greatest achievement: I get to wake up each day and go to work in a place that I built from scratch.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
I remember my mom used to always tell me, “When one door closes, another door always opens.” I think to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s just as important to know when to get in, as it is to know when to get out of any business. I think that when we invest heavily into anything in life, whether it be in the form of time or money, we tend to want to nurture it even when it’s obvious that it is time to cut our losses and move on. The ability to foresee change and adapt to it accordingly is crucial to success in any industry.
I think to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s just as important to know when to get in, as it is to know when to get out of any business.
What is the most important thing for us to know now about the legal marijuana industry?
I run into friends and colleagues every day that have great ideas that could help to expand and positively change the legal marijuana industry. Unfortunately, most of them are still speculating from the sidelines rather than actively pursuing their dreams and developing their inventions. The most important thing to know about the legal marijuana industry is that you should be getting into it right NOW!
If we are sitting across from each other a year from now, how will our conversation about the ‘green rush’ be going?
A year from now, the hub of the marijuana industry, and I am not referring to Colorado, will have passed recreational marijuana and California will take on its role as the leader of the green revolution. My hope is that all of the grey that has surrounded the marijuana industry in California will change to black and white in terms of the policies, laws, and the regulation of this industry. We will still be chatting about how backward and archaic Federal Marijuana policy remains, but I believe that California will quickly be laying the foundation for the end of prohibition in the United States as a whole.