The Story of OhHo
Introducing Bedford's First Couple of Cannabis—and how they got there
What possessed a well-heeled British media couple to decamp London, move to Bedford NY and start a burgeoning CBD business? Stress.
James and Nicola Stephenson’s new brand OhHo was born when James started experimenting with CBD to help him relax after a sale of their former communication and marketing company, Mission Media, went very south.
To make a long, sordid story short: James (a former DJ who once worked for Ministry of Sound) and Nicola (who started her career working for Sophie Rhys Jones, now the Countess of Wessex) had sold Mission to Troika Media Group in an $11 million media merger that allowed the couple to continue running the company. A clash of cultures ensued culminating with a senior Troika executive making claims that James had “threatened to kill” him. The couple was ousted. (The same Troika executive, it turns out, had previously served 18 months in prison for corruption and grand larceny.)
“We sold Mission to a group with whom we were not morally or ethically aligned,” Nicola explains with a long sigh. “No, we didn’t steal any money from the company [as Troika also alleged]. James did call them a bunch of c*nts. I learned a lot from the experience, the hard way, but if things hadn’t gone how they did, we would never have started OhHo.”
“We really believe the future is Cannabis,” declares Nicola as to why the couple decided to transition from London fashion parties with the likes of Isabella Blow to collaborating with U.S. hemp and marijuana farmers in rural areas.
What excites them most about their budding cannabis brand (pun intended) which is named for “OH” (hydroxide) and “HO” (holmium), two chemical components of CBD, are the health benefits of hemp and marijuana. CBD is a non-intoxicating, neuroprotective compound with an incredibly high safety profile. It’s one of the only substances cited by the World Health Organization to have no side effects or risk of dependency.
“We’re really interested in products that tackle issues: pain, sleep, anxiety and products that are alternatives to opioids,” says Nicola. Adds James, “After years of prohibition, seeing how this plant can help people and provide a real alternative for pharma is amazing.”
During the pandemic, the Stephensons escaped Dumbo, Brooklyn with their two sons and three dogs for Bedford, NY, the sleepy yet tony hamlet that counts Richard Gere, Ralph Lauren, interior designer Steven Gambrel and Glenn Close as residents. The family fell in love with the woodsy area and decided to stay put, opening an OhHo office on Court Road, adjacent to the design store La Maison Fête.
James, who is more the mad scientist of the pair, objected to getting into retail at first but Nicola, a marketing and design whiz, got her way and the office soon morphed into a pop-up shop, which was so popular, it turned into a local hang out and a permanent store. The clubhouse vibe called for adding a coffee bar; in pure Stephenson style, they created their own line of coffees, Flying Coffee USA, and released “The French Roast” brew in collaboration with Wes Anderson’s production company to promote The French Dispatch.
Now known by locals as the “Little Shop of OHHo,” the bright space, decked in flowered “Artemis” wallpaper by House of Hackney, with lush plants everywhere, is like Willy Wonka’s Wellness Factory. Next to pre-rolled CBD joints are Piet Mondrian books, House of Waris teas, House of Puff ceramics and mini-mushroom jewelry by McKenzie Liautaud, a favorite of Lil Nas X and Jessica Alba.
The store carries the full range of OhHo products, for which James, a part-time foodie, crafts every recipe himself: oils (named after the state farms where the medicinal hemp was extracted: Colorado, Vermont, Oregon), “dots” (think addictively tasty CBD candies in flavors like Apple Rose, Pear and Fennel Pollen and Lemon Ginger Sour) and healing lotions like the Dream Cream, a hand and body salve, with a rich concentration of organically grown full spectrum CBD, fragrant bergamot, neroli, citrus fruits and lavender.
What sets OhHo apart from other popular CBD companies like Beam (which touts star athlete brand ambassadors) and Green Gorilla (which claims to be the first USDA-certified organic CBD brand in the US) are their upscale collaborations. In May OhHo debuted their first sleepy time CBD chocolate with The Mayflower Inn & Spa in Washington, Connecticut—milk, dark chocolate, and salted caramel. “We had the idea to develop a sleep chocolate for your bedside,” Nicola says, adding: “the only problem is we can’t stop eating it at the office.”
Next on the OhHo roadmap is THC, which, unlike CBD, does get you high. New York State legalized cannabis for recreational use (for adults 21 and older) last September, bolting fast towards a potential $4.2 billion industry. Along with California (where there seem to be more pot dispensaries than ATM machines), New York could become one of the nation’s biggest marijuana markets.
James sees a strong future in THC drinks. According to Brightfield Group,a trade group for CBD, cannabis and wellness products, by 2025 cannabis beverages are expected to exceed $1 billion in annual sales.
“Cannabinoid drinks will be a huge market and real alternative to the alcohol industry,” James predicts. “People, myself included, are looking for alternatives to alcohol; it is outdated. Consumers are getting more savvy to cannabinoids and other plant based medicines – and of course good times! They know what to look for in products and how they want to interact with them.”
Plus, THC-infused drinks won’t mess with your sleep cycle the way a glass of Chardonnay will.
OhHo is located at 13 Court Road, Bedford, NY. Visit their website. They also ship.