Behind the Scenes at Street Lawyer Services, Yana Makes it Look Easy
Yana.Tokes is Lonny The Street Lawyer’s Chief Operating Officer at Street Lawyer Services, the east coast cannabis lifestyle brand with three shop locations in DC, Miami, and NYC. Behind the scenes of the shops and social media, Yana runs the creative direction, marketing, IT infrastructure, and the daily operations of all three shop locations. Even though her petite size and young looks would make you think she is new to the workforce, Yana is a force to be reckoned with in the cannabis industry. Lonny has called Yana the “Michael Jordan” of his company.
Before working her way through the smoke-filled cannabis industry, Yana received her Master’s in Technology Management from Georgetown University in 2018 and her Bachelor of Art in Human Computer Interaction Psychology at the University of Maryland. At 25 years old, she was Managing Director of an intellectual property legal-consulting firm that focused on supporting high-tech industries. “I started in sales at the bottom level and in two years I was managing 70 employees worldwide. Our offices were in DC, India, London, the Netherlands, and our clients were mainly based in California. Needless to say, I never slept,” said Yana. “I got to the highest point a woman could get to in a corporate style company very quickly. When I hit that ceiling, I said to myself, “It’s now or never.” In 2019, she felt it was the right timing to leave her corporate career to do something more self-fulfilling in a new and risky but fast-growing cannabis market.
Reflecting on the journey here, Yana stated, “I didn’t want to look back on my life and say ‘what if’ like so many attorneys I worked with in DC. I managed a legal firm at 23 years-old. I was working with lawyers twice my age who hated their lives…they were stuck in offices reviewing paperwork and the highlight of their day was wearing stuffy suits down to our local politician-infested steakhouse to talk about a client’s legal problems. And ‘pretend’ to be well-to-do. I was watching my life in slow-motion, seeing the progression of how it was going. I knew I needed more.”
How The Duo Met
The two met at a recording studio where Yana would go rap (yes, the woman can rap) after work as a creative outlet, an escape from the corporate monotony. From the shared passion for creativity to their unique past history in the legal world, an ironclad friendship between Lonny and Yana was born.
Lonny tilted what an attorney should look like on its head. “When I met Lonny, I saw an attorney who said ‘fuck this,’ and took the risk of living a life worth living.” Their skill sets were so matched that Lonny was able to show Yana how they could use cannabis as a means to explore the creative outlet they all wished to pursue. Lonny was still building his vision for the cannabis empire he’d be creating and Yana helped roll that ball into something bigger. “Meeting each other truly felt like fate,” said Yana
Cannabiz SUCCESS IN A GREY MARKET
Cannabis shops in NYC and DC are still operating in a grey market and it is very hard to build a nationwide brand when reforms are still up in the air on the east coast. The Street Lawyer and Yana both see their crossing of paths as crucial for Street Lawyer Services success, as do their employees.
In a year and a half, she was able to use her experience in the corporate world to turn Lonny’s then small DC shop into a national brand with three operating locations on the east coast (DC, NYC and Miami).
She’s been familiar with building things from the ground up since her undergraduate years. While a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, she set up the IT infrastructure for a start-up company featured on “Shark Tank,” where Mr. Wonderful invested $100k for a 3% stake in the company. “My technical experience and start-up culture background is exactly what Lonny needed to grow his start up style canna-business. To grow his social media persona and following, my human computer interaction studies were a huge support in devising the right progression of his character,” said Yana. “Lonny the Street Lawyer was already a full-blown character in real life, that part he had down on his own. Depicting this correctly on social media and having people continually engage with his persona is not as easy as it looks. When you watch his 1min skit videos, you don’t realize how much thought truly goes into finding the right messaging. We’re still operating in a grey market and how we message is extremely important.”
Who are the SLS Women?
The SLS Women are brand ambassadors and budtenders for Street Lawyer Services. Yana was one of the 1st brand ambassadors Lonny hired as an SLS Woman. Yana has taken on the SLS Woman role as a new way to empower more women to enter the cannabis industry and has hired many women to join the team.
From her success in building Street Lawyer Services’ brand, Lonny wanted to reciprocate by investing in Yana. Lonny fully funded the launch of Yana’s canna-brand, WomenXWeed, an accessory line that compliments smoking Street Lawyer’s products. It was created because the cannabis industry can be skewed toward the male gender. “I felt the smoke shops where I bought my pipes and devices were all so male-branded” (The future of cannabis is female, NBC News).
It was important to Yana that each of the SLS Women’s creative and professional aspirations were aligned with the needs of a cannabis lifestyle brand. And the SLS Women feel indebted to Yana in return. “She is a mentor who listens and cares for one's personal goals and skills, allowing the SLS women to hone their own individual brands and work on their creative craft,” said SLS Woman, Sasha Abramzon.
Another SLS Woman, Arianna Lesi (Ari) was quick to second this. “In the short period of me knowing Yana I have realized this woman is who I aspire to be,” said Lies. “In all the business endeavors I have been involved in, this experience thus far has been the most motivating and inspiring and a big part of that is due to Ariana. Yana is like a creative mogul acting as a creative agency all in one person.”
Yana followed by saying, “Music and the arts are what bring the cannabis community together. Creatives use cannabis as their support to think in new ways outside of this structured world.”
Street Lawyer and WomenXWeed host events for the SLS women, like Lucci and Loreana, to host their talents. Supporting the artistic paths of the staff is at the core of Street Lawyer Services. Lonny always said, “The real risk is not pursuing your dreams. It’s far more risky to live a life you don’t want to live.” This resonated with Yana. He proved to her that a career in cannabis was actually possible. And together, they’re showing the world just that.