JJ McKay and an impressive suite of investors believe there’s serious demand for a cannabis lifestyle brand that’s decidedly more Martha Stewart than Snoop Dogg.
To fill that need, the Seattle startup advisor and relationships guru launched The Fresh Toast. The online media company is 50 percent light-hearted, shareable mainstream content and 50 percent information targeted at casual cannabis users and people interested in marijuana as medicine.
“Doing research, I realized that if we can present information to the groups, the demographics that we had identified in a way that they were used to, they would come and we could help transform and redefine the industry and be a market-maker like Martha Stewart,” said McKay, who is well known in Seattle philanthropic circles.
The Fresh Toast is headquartered in Seattle and its main content office is in New York City. A beta version of the site is live, with sections like “Hot Mess,” “HighWay” and “Rx.”
The Rx vertical, which provides advice and resources related to medicinal marijuana, is a key revenue source for the company. The Fresh Toast plans to use its Rx directory services and advertising to generate initial profits. Eventually, the company will add live entertainment (The Fresh Toast Stage), sponsored events, a marketplace, and data research as revenue sources.
The Fresh Toast’s target audience sees cannabis “as one facet of their daily life,” says McKay. “It’s not a definer. They look at it like vodka or lattes or aspirin.”
Because half of the content on the site is unrelated to pot, The Fresh Toast is able to skirt Facebook’s policies that prevent other cannabis blogs, like High Times, from promoting on the social network. It is also the first marijuana-related brand approved by Google Adsense, according to McKay.
The Fresh Toast has raised $2 million from Glen Johnson, former CFO of Alaska Air Group, Caroline Kelly, former president of The Seattle Times, and Rob Goodman from American Medical Companies in Portland. The company — which joins other high-profile and heavily-funded cannabis-oriented startups in Seattle such as Privateer Holdings and Headset — is in the process of raising an additional $800,000.
“We do think we will redefine the market and our initial responses are saying that,” said McKay.