“Forti Goods furniture had to be something that people would want in their homes whether or not they consume cannabis,” says its founder Sharon Kevil, who previously spent over a decade as an interior designer before turning her talents to develop furniture for Kohl’s.
The brand is targeting a grown-up audience largely made up of people in the 35-65 age range who don't draw their identity from cannabis, says Kevil and this carries over into its product design. “It couldn’t have a hippy-stoner style that doesn’t appeal to anyone over 30,” she explains.
"Many people who use cannabis regularly, have jobs, children, friends, hobbies — you know, a normal life. Normal people doing normal things, and they happen to also use cannabis. We wanted to support and normalize that,” continues Kevil. “If you can buy a bar cart without shame, you should be able to do the same for cannabis without it being this weird looking or hyper-stylized thing.”
So what does marijuana-friendly furniture look like? Forti is aiming to be the Room & Board of cannabis furniture. Its pieces are high-end — its side table starts at $2,150 and a coffee table starts at $2,350, locally manufactured in the Midwest, and built from sustainably-sourced materials. Each piece has controlled access via an app and carbon filters that neutralize the scent of cannabis.
“When we developed the line we spent a lot of time figuring out the lock and user experience,” says Kevil. During the design phase, Forti considered a biometric lock in addition to RFID chips, cards, and wearables. “But we kept coming back to the one thing that you’re almost never without – your phone,” she adds.
With facial recognition or biometric security on your phone, Forti moved toward a mobile and web app system to lock and access its draws. A key driver in this decision, Kevil says, was making access easy for people as they age — accessing an app using facial recognition is easier for someone who might be experiencing symptoms like Parkinson's than trying to make a key card work. “You shouldn’t have to sacrifice safe storage in your home as you age,” she explains.
Another key decision that was made very early on was to make as much of the product on the same continent as its customers. All of Forti’s products are designed and made in the US, giving the brand greater control and transparency over how its products are made, what they are made out of, and who is making them. “I can take a slow furniture approach and make quality products that people are proud to have in their homes, and can see the high level of quality in their Forti Goods piece,” says Kevil.
Forti is a brand borne from Kevil’s career experiences over the past 20 years. “I’m building the company that I want to see in the world: one focused on not only profit, but on a broader social impact, the people it employs, and a deeper sense of purpose,” she says.
"I’m building the company that I want to see in the world: one focused on not only profit, but on a broader social impact, the people it employs, and a deeper sense of purpose."
Kevil is also making every effort to support women-owned and led companies in the process of building Forti Goods. “It’s very important to me - from my attorney, accountants, banking, to branding, advertising, and PR. I’m trying to be the change.”
High-end, American made and sustainable furniture for people who use marijuana sounds pretty niche. But it’s an audience that’s growing.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in 11 states, medical marijuana in 34, and with polls showing these numbers could increase, Forti wants to play its role in driving the sea change in the US. The brand supports the lobbying arm of the Marijuana Policy Project, which is the number one organization in the US working to legalize cannabis.
“They’re working not only to legalize cannabis for all adults and patients living in our country but to do it equitably. That last part is a big deal,” says Kevil. “If cannabis is going to be legal in our country, we really need to address all the damage prohibition has caused, especially to communities of color.”
The US House of Representatives also passed legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions, a further sign that the tide is changing. “This is just the first step in a really long process,” says Kevil. “But first steps are a must if you want to get to the finish line.”
Ten years ago, Kevil recalls being in Amsterdam enjoying legal marijuana before it was recreationally legal in the US. “I never thought I would see a state with legal adult-use, let alone the possibility of the whole country,” she says. “But things change.”
“I never thought I would see a state with legal adult-use, let alone the possibility of the whole country."
So what do these changes mean to Forti Goods specifically? “More potential customers, which translates into a broader opportunity to talk about sustainability, slow furniture, conscious capitalism, and this will broaden our ability to normalize cannabis in the home through furniture,” says Kevil.