Connect
To Top

Meet Riley Brain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Riley Brain.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?In August of 2016, I found myself sitting at my desk, dreading the start of the upcoming school year. I had worked hard to land what I thought was my dream job teaching elementary music in a top school district, but it didn’t feel right. I knew in my gut I wouldn’t be happy teaching for the next 30 years.

Meanwhile, a recent trip to Portland, OR inspired me to dream up ideas for a line of design-focused ceramic pipes. At the time, most of the pipes I saw in Oregon dispensaries were traditional glass spoon pipes and the like. So when I found myself searching Craigslist for kilns between classes, I knew I needed to pursue the idea. I bought a secondhand kiln with $700 from my Grandpa (still our only outside investment) and started making ceramic pipes in my basement. I set out to make an alternative line of pipes that double as art objects and help shift the stigma surrounding cannabis, especially in my home in the more conservative Midwest.

Instagram was an invaluable tool in those early days, and really, has been up until recently (more on that later). The platform provided me with a space to reach customers and interact with them in a casual way. I posted a lot of process videos, cannabis education content, and grew comfortable talking to my selfie camera about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship daily. This helped me build connections with customers across the globe. Instagram definitely contributed to the early success of Wandering Bud. I wish I could say the same about its impact today!

I have learned a lot about myself through this experience leaving teaching and starting a small, creative business. My biggest takeaway is that a degree I chose at age 18 does not have to define the rest of my life. I am qualified to do more and am worthy of finding a professional passion.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Is it ever? Ha…

In August 2020, I woke up to an email notifying me that our payment processor of two years would no longer process payments for us because we make pipes. We were cut off from taking payments on our website without warning. After crying some big tears, I got to work finding a solution. This ultimately took an entire month as securing payment processing for a cannabis-adjacent business is an extremely difficult challenge. We also had to invest in a custom website in order to integrate our “high-risk” processor. But we made it though!

Recently, Instagram rolled out a “limit sensitive content” feature which essentially censors accounts that focus on cannabis, among other topics. Our reach was abruptly cut to about 20% of our usually engagement. While I had always heard that it’s wise to diversify marketing channels, that piece of advice has never rung as true as it has in the current social media climate. We are still navigating this hurdle, but I’m confident we’ll get through it.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
We are a small team of artists who design and make highly aesthetic ceramic cannabis pipes and accessories by hand. Our pieces are meant to be left out around the home as art objects and stigma breakers.

Cannabis consumers are eager to elevate their experience with high-quality, thoughtfully designed, sustainably manufactured pipes that double as home decor. Our collection brings beauty and intentionality to your ritual.

I am most proud of our continuous drive to improve everything we do. We are always learning, accepting feedback and making improvements to our pieces. I feel like our newest piece, Flora is such a reflection of that growth mindset. We started with a killer idea but were initially stuck on the execution. So, we asked for help from those who know more than us, we learned a pretty intense new process and spent a lot of time troubleshooting and testing. A year later, we were finally ready to launch the most intricate product we’ve made yet.

What’s next?
We just hired our fourth employee, making us a team of five artists now. I still can’t believe that! It feels like yesterday I was working alone in my basement, so leading a team of five incredible humans in a beautiful, light-filled studio is just a dream.

As we approach the holiday season, we are focusing on producing as many of our handmade pieces as we can. We’re dreaming up new products we would like to make in 2022, which is daunting but also probably the most fun part of this work.

We are also in the midst of a big marketing strategy pivot. Instagram isn’t working for us anymore. We’re taking steps to make us less reliant on social media, since we have no control over their policies. So for the first time ever, I’d ask that anyone reading this sign up for VIP emails via our website over giving us a follow on Instagram
(though doing both is also great!). We’re looking forward to starting a few email-focused promotions and to the launch of our new weekly newsletter (cute name TBD!)

Pricing:

  • Our products range from $25-$420

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Alyssa Broadus Lauren Pusateri

Suggest a Story: VoyageKC is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Local Stories