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Anja Charbonneau, founder of Broccoli

Anja Charbonneau, founder of Broccoli

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and what is your background?

My name is Anja and I’m the founder of Broccoli. Prior to this, I was the creative director at Kinfolk and worked as a freelance photographer.

In what city?

I live in Portland, Oregon (our office is here), but our team is split between different cities and countries, and we work with contributors from all over the world.

Can you tell about us, about your magazine 

With cannabis becoming legal in some states and countries, it felt like it was time to represent the modern cannabis user in a new way, while also focusing on the perspective of women. There are so many people who are interested in cannabis, but they weren’t seeing themselves reflected in the pages of the existing weed magazines, which are often very industry or cultivation-focused. We want to show that cannabis is more than just the finished product, that it has very deep, nuanced, globally significant roots, and that you can be inspired by weed without every page of your magazine having to show someone smoking a bong.


Our goal is to normalize cannabis by showing it through the lens of art, culture and fashion. Not all of our stories are about weed, we also love to talk about interesting figures in history, film reviews, music recommendations, and random deep-dives into topics like shells or butterflies. We’re speaking to a broad set of interests, not just cannabis.

Print: Why choose print? What kind of paper you use and why? Typography? 

Cannabis is such a sensory subject, so it makes sense for us to focus on print, to reconnect with our environments through the experience of holding and reading something real. Print also gives us the chance to experiment and evolve our design in a way that’s impossible to match online unless you have the funding to redesign your website dramatically every few months. We use a coated matte art paper, and our library of typefaces grows each issue. Lately, we’ve been very inspired by big, bold, 1960’s-inspired faces.

How’s the public response? 

The response has been incredible, and spread to an international level very quickly. We’ve increased our print run dramatically since Issue 01, and we ship to over 40 countries around the world. It’s proof that the stoner stereotype is false; there are cannabis lovers from such varied cultural backgrounds, and these people are typically very driven and creative as well. It’s so inspiring to see our community expand.

Can you give us a tour of your local media scene?

Portland has a couple free weekly alternative newspapers, a local monthly magazine, and some tourism focused publications as well. Bitch is headquartered here, which is cool, and there are a lot of digital projects, like Portland in Color by Celeste Noche, highlighting artists of color who live here. Portland is absolutely not a media hub in terms of it being an industry with lots of jobs available, but there are a lot of very creative people in town. Portland’s creative output far surpasses the opportunity here in terms of work.

Business: Good print mags get a lot of love, but is not always translated to sales or advertising. How’re the sales? Advertising-wise, is it a normal approach of selling an ad page or more a brand ad approach? 

Broccoli is supported almost entirely by our brand partners. Many of our brand partners are in the cannabis space, but we’ve worked with companies in fashion, art, tech and education as well. Our partnerships are all bespoke, some include traditional advertising and others are more complex with branded editorial or events. Cannabis brands have a hard time finding platforms for their product, because they’re restricted online and they want to reach an audience beyond your traditional weed magazine reader, so that’s where we can help.

What is your online strategy?

Our goal is to avoid the hamster wheel of digital content, so we use our website to showcase the print magazine and upcoming events. We pour our hearts into the print edition of Broccoli and we simply don’t have the resources to match that quality online, in bulk quantities. Instead, we’re working with other digital platforms on some shared editorial, but always making sure that it supports the printed magazine.

About design, what does your brand represent/reflect?

Broccoli is all about the balance between weird and beautiful, represented through our art and photography. We break a lot of typography rules, like shifting the shape and style of our logo each issue, but we also try to keep the magazine structured, with smaller articles in the front (often including recurring features) and back, and our larger features in the middle. It’s important that the magazine isn’t too conceptual, because it needs to be accessible. You don’t have to be a deep nerd about strange magazines to get into Broccoli.

What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?

It’s inspiring to work in an industry that is still being shaped, and I’m motivated to build up Broccoli in a way that lifts up others, through our storytelling, donation programs, and engagement with our extended community. Cannabis is an important part of many people’s lives, and there are so many fascinating stories to tell.

What are your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

The hardest part is the moment when something breaks or goes wrong, because it’s always up to me to fix it. I’m getting better at rolling with these moments over time, but sometimes it just sucks, like the time I shipped hundreds of magazines as “flats” instead of “packages”, which got rejected from the post office and I spent an entire day searching for the orders, canceling them, and reprinting labels. Now we outsource our fulfillment, which makes me really happy. No more boxes!

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a magazine?

Treat it like a business. Making a magazine is very expensive, so if the numbers don’t make sense, your magazine will not last very long. One of the best choices we made was to publish three times per year, instead of quarterly. A quarterly schedule is relentless, and if you’re also trying to run the business, plan events, do social media, etc, at the same time, you’ll burn out so fast. Make sure to give yourself a comfortable bit of breathing room between issues.

Upcoming projects

We are working on our first festival, In Bloom, happening here in Portland at the end of May. We’re thinking of it as a 3D expression of the magazine, a gathering that expresses the art, culture, and community of cannabis. We have some amazing speakers, workshops, food, musical performances and brands coming together to make something really fun and special. | |