SUNDAYS WITH CLEMENT KWAN
A RARE INTERVIEW WITH THE FOUNDER OF Beboe
Talking to Clement Kwan is like talking to a cat who has lived nine lives.
From an upbringing in an East LA steeped in gang culture, to growing medicinal marijuana to pay his way through vet school, significant stints in finance and in fashion, then right back to where it all began with everyone’s favourite herb.
Kwan is the co-founder of LA-based cannabis lifestyle brand, Beboe, which he started with his business partner Scott after meeting on a flight to Detroit and discovering their mutual love for the plant, its properties, and the changing culture that surrounds it.
In his sunny Santa Monica home, we met to discuss his journey so far, his roles as a co-founder and a father of two boys, and his undying passion for boxing.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Clement Kwan and I was born in East LA on June 15, 1977, meaning I’m a Gemini which makes life really interesting. I am the co-founder of Beboe, a cannabis lifestyle brand based in Los Angeles, California.
You’ve had such a varied career so far! How have you gotten to where you are now?
Having grown up from humble beginnings surrounded by gangs and the need to survive, I found that working hard, persevering and following your passion and your instincts were keys to survival, hence my various careers. I actually went to university for veterinary medicine and after milking cows and castrating sheep, I decided to switch over to corporate finance. My first job was doing mergers and acquisitions in the Silicon Valley in 2000. Then tech bust and I moved to NY to follow another passion which was fashion. I stayed there for 13 years until my real passion - marijuana - called for me….
Where does your passion for the marijuana business stem from?
I had a secret and it was that I grew a lot of marijuana to pay for tuition at the university. In the process of doing so, I fell in love with the plant and horticulture but had to put it aside because I was a bit ashamed of it. Instead I became an investment banker, following a more traditional career path. I was also really scared of my mother finding out about it so I didn’t talk about it for a long time.
How did Beboe get started?
Scott and I met on a plane going to Detroit to see the new Shinola store and we bonded over our love for growing marijuana and the culture as a whole. That conversation evolved into what we thought was lacking in the world, and that was to make a socially dosed, aesthetically pleasing line of cannabis products that discerning consumers would be able to bring or use at a dinner party.
What is the brand’s mission?
The mission of Beboe is for our products to be our soapbox for advocacy by attracting a new, discerning consumer into the industry and have her learn more, ask questions, tell her network of friends, donate to the cannabis research centers, support politicians sympathetic to cannabis and ultimately change the perception of the cannabis consumer which leads to full legalization of this wonderful plant.
What are your big dreams for the future of Beboe?
If Warren Buffett were to ever mention us in any interview, that would the ultimate… The other is to become the de facto luxury cannabis brand on a global scale.
How do you balance running a business with having a family?
It’s a high wire act but ultimately it comes down to being there when it counts.
What are the biggest lessons you have learnt as a founder and a father?
I’ve learned that you need to be kind to yourself first and foremost as no one is perfect and mistakes will be made. It’s the correction that is more important than the act of making a mistake which applies to fatherhood and being an entrepreneur.
What lessons do you hope your boys learn from you?
That anything is possible if they follow their hearts and instincts. And to have the courage to do so.
Tell us a bit about your passion for boxing…
I started boxing when I moved to NY to work in fashion from California in 2002. I was a grappler in high school, practiced judo and always enjoyed watching boxing as I grew up in the same neighborhood as Oscar de la Hoya. I’ve practiced on and off since 2002 both in NY and Milan, and really got back into it when I moved to LA about 3 years ago and met Jamal Abdullah, a top boxing trainer who has now become an uncle, of sorts. I’m training to fight an amateur fight soon but the process has been equally as fun.
What lessons have you learnt from boxing? Do you feel like it has a positive impact on your work?
My coach has taught me through boxing to:
1) fight your fight and don’t adapt to what the other person is doing;
2) the punches that you see don’t hurt as much as the ones you don’t;
3) sometimes getting punched in the face is the best way for you to see things for what they are and not overanalyse things.
How do you unwind after a long week?
I love to box, meditate and watch my favourite series, like Killing Eve and Billions.
What are your favourite Sunday spots around LA?
I love going to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel for brunch and sit in a booth in the perimeter of the patio. I also love going to the taco truck in Venice on 4th and Rose Ave. which makes great food.
We have a real soft spot for a good night’s sleep… What is your relationship with sleep?
My relationship is much better now that I meditate and listen to Alan Watts guided meditation to lull me to sleep. I know I need it and really try to get at least 6 hours per night.
How do you make sure that you are getting enough rest? And how does sleep have an impact on your day to day life?
I make sure to meditate, exercise and eat well.
What does quality of life mean to you?
Being able to let go of the things that I cannot change and only focus on the things that I can.
Do you have any tips for young entrepreneurs looking to start a business?
Create and then iterate. Nothing is perfect and your greatest test is to be able to put something out there and have the courage to continually iterate.
And finally, what are you most proud of?
My two boys Theodore and Augustus, and my Beboe team.