Photo courtesy of TOQi
A certain sparkle in the eye mixed with a piercing look. A deep vision of the future, manifested through the accuracy of words, each of them delivered with the cadence of someone who’s truly passionate about their craft.
That gaze is the one thing that connects creatives like Virgil Abloh or Patrick Kelly, Basquiat, or Kanye West—and many more Black geniuses who have made sure that each of their works is more than just an object.
These people have all been disruptors, a mix of artisans and activists ready to unsettle the preconceived notions of society—you can see it in their music, dresses, art, and eyes.
Drew Henson has that same look.
When we got on a video call before the end of 2021, Henson was sitting in his Toronto office, a place that reminded me of a runway show mood board mixed with a laboratory wall, where sketches and prototypes mix with inspirational photos and highlighted keywords.
He was wearing a minimalist hoodie that looked both luxurious and laid-back, a vibe he communicated throughout our interview, sharing thoughts that ranged across a wide spectrum, ranging from “I want TOQi to become the Dyson of cannabis” to “we must ensure all current cannabis prisoners receive amnesty.”
Perhaps it’s his two halves (Henson is both an engineer and a designer) that have him running ideas on both sides of the brain.
“It can get overwhelming,” he says, “When I use cannabis, I’m able to center my thoughts, focus on one or two ideas, and be productive.
Otherwise, there’s a floodgate of thoughts and ideas that just goes nonstop.”
A constant influx of ideas might not sound like a problem if you’re a creative professional, but if you’re also an entrepreneur who wants to break the glass ceiling and set new standards, it’s important that both spectrums come together to simplify and harmonize the final product.
He’s been fine-tuning the process over the years and throughout different countries, including Italy (where he studied his Master’s degree), the United Kingdom (where he performed as the Director of Products for Drift Innovation Ltd.), and China (where he was the Chief Design Officer at Forearm Network Technologies Ltd.
His milestones include having worked directly with NASA to clear his award-winning Drift Ghost-S camera design for the International Space Station and a slew of accolades, including iF Design Awards, Red Dot Design Awards, the 2010 AEA Renault F1 Innovation Design North America first prize, and most recently, Drew’s design for the Lotus by SEAM was a finalist for the SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards and TOQi took home 2nd Place for ‘Accessory Brand of the Year’ in the 2020 ADCANN awards during its inaugural year.
“Cannabis has been around for most of my daily life, and it’s always been somewhat taboo,” he says. “I really did not imagine that I would have a career in cannabis products.”
“While I initially wanted to become a motorsports technologist, I spent much of my early career designing consumer technology products, so it’s been a natural evolution of my own design growth.”
Drew set himself the task of creating TOQi purely for selfish reasons (he wasn’t happy with the vapes that were available and wanted one that would be perfect).
He began by tackling the biggest issue: battery life. “I focused on developing a battery that would not only last longer than others on the market, but would be able to charge wirelessly and seamlessly, whether on the back of a Qi-enabled smartphone or even plugged into a USB-C.
Turns out that many other users had the same struggles that I did finding the best battery. All of the other features were added from there.”
Learning to be consistent is the name of the current game in Canada.
Access to premium products is now coming online, driving new format growth and access to education, with consumers looking for better consumption methods.
But the real matter at hand is TOQi’s objective of being at the forefront, advancing the conversation around equality in the cannabis industry. “I’m passionate about providing a future for people who have been harmed by previous prohibition laws.
That’s why TOQi is partnering with Cannabis Amnesty to work to expunge minor possession charges from the hundreds of thousands of people, primarily Black and Indigenous, who have been harmed by prohibition laws.”
As more companies thrive in today’s legal market, it’s of the utmost importance that minor non-violent cannabis charges are expunged and people worldwide can reincorporate into society.
This common goal lies deep in Henson’s heart, mindful that TOQi must always be two steps ahead of its competition.
“Innovation doesn’t come in finite amounts where it hits you two or three times a year. As an entrepreneur, every day you wake up and you have to deal with problems. How you deal with those problems is innovation. It’s a consistent constant. For every day that we’re in the game, we’re always innovating.”
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