September 14, 2019

10 CBD Experts Discuss Their First Year In Business

Carlton Bone
Founder :

What went well and what was a struggle?

I started my career in cannabinoid CPG manufacturing with the launch of the Upward Cannabis Kitchen in Portland, Oregon in 2016.

Upward was a manufacturer of adult-use cannabis products for the legal market in Oregon. During our launch, my partners and I were able to develop some really great formulas and proprietary research into cannabis beverages.

Unfortunately given the over-crowded nature of the market and tremendous financial restrictions we were forced to shutter options in Oregon this year.

Ultimately, the dynamics of licensing manufacturing businesses, as well as the general limited nature of the adult-use market, were hurdles that we could not overcome as we tried to scale our cannabis edible processing business.

These lessons were very helpful though in the decision to launch Spectracom Labs, Inc. this year as a hemp manufacturing firm based in Florida.

Spectracom Lab focuses on research and development of hemp-based consumables from CBD-Isolates to terpene-enriched teas. Since launch, we have found a tremendous need for education and support amongst the medical community.

We are working to empower doctors with the development of our CBD-isolate based “Integrative Cannabinoid Care” product line, Cannabquin RX.

What things surprised you?

How disconnected the medical community has been from recent developments surrounding cannabis policy liberalization. Indeed, learning that the role of the endocannabinoid system is not being taught in medical school, gave me great insights into why there is still a stigma surrounding cannabinoid-based treatments.

Learning about the lag between the research and innovations driven by manufacturers and doctors’ acquisition of knowledge, compelled me to support the medical community with education-based materials.

I have had the opportunity to work alongside my mother, a cannabis physician named Dr. Melanie Bone, to develop an educational curriculum that has given me some of the best insights into this plant and industry.

I would call this the biggest surprise, as second only to when my parents sent me to a therapeutic boarding school as a for smoking cannabis. Ironically, and now I get to support my mom and her cannabis practice.

What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

Speaking from a manufacturing perspective, your supply chain is your life. Whether it’s building redundancies with packaging equipment or manufacturers, the volatility of a rapidly growing market dictates flexibility and adaptability.

Strengthen these connections by developing relationships with your suppliers. I recommend getting involved with trade groups and organizations to learn about what other businesses are doing and what’s happening in other markets.

Develop systems for tracking the massive amounts of information associated with products and production. Have a repeatable, trainable guide for reviewing COAs, product shipments, and more while also working to ensure inventory is well maintained and secured.

The rise of health issues such as vape lung disease, cannabinoid hyperemesis, and more mean that the future of this industry is going to require firms to step up their processes.

Rick Martinez
Founder Green Seed Cannabis Co.

What went well and what was a struggle?

In the beginning for any entrepreneur in many industries there are challenges and even for those of us who have a wide array of experiences starting and launching companies, if we’re being totally honest, we all face issues and struggles. For me it was education, plain and simple.

You see, having been raised an “anti-cannabi” I was always told and learned that cannabis was the ‘devils lettuce’ with ZERO redeeming properties. As such, I avoided it.

And that actually leads into what went well. You see the more I learned the broader my perspective became and the more open I was to the plant and especially the business of cannabis and CBD.

What things surprised you?

The reception. Once I made the conscious, and public decision to enter the industry it was the reception of friends and family that truly surprised me.

In short, they totally supported me and the decision to enter the industry. It wasn’t an easy decision based on my upbringing and background so when I made the decision to come out of the cannabis closet…well…WOW, was I blown away!

What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

There’s probably an entire book I could write about startup advice but if I had to choose ONE thing it would be to empower yourself. Learn as much as you can about the industry and its past, present and future.

Learn about the plant itself and MOST importantly learn about the BUSINESS of cannabis and CBD.

Gabrielle Cohen
Facilitator :

Gab Cohen is a bi coastal yoga instructor who has been teaching since 2014. She has been a CBD enthusiast since 2016 and speaks about the transformations and transitions of life and how CBD can help us navigate through hard times.

She speaks about emotional trauma, addiction, toxic relationships, physical injuries, auto immune disease, mental illness, and the birth control epidemic on her podcast “The Vibe Within” , where she becomes vulnerable and shares stories and reflections that have helped her get to where she is today through the chaos of life.

Gab has hosted and led CBD Yoga workshops in Miami, Los Angeles, and Arizona, as well as CBD yoga retreats in Costa Rica and Tulum, Mexico.

Her mission is to continue to connect with others through writing and spoken word + podcasting to help others find alternative and holistic strategies to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.

She focuses on transforming trauma and chaos into our own personal power and a medium to connect with our true inner passions and aligning ourselves on the right path to self healing.

Mike Luce

What went well and what was a struggle?

In developing consumer insights studies, we pay careful attention to how we engage with participants. Recruiting relevant consumers to participate can be challenging to master for any work in cannabis.

That’s especially true for such a booming and dynamic topic like CBD. Fortunately, we had developed substantial expertise crafting consumer insights leading into 2019 and were well prepared to meet the demand for better understandings of the current and potential CBD consumer.

Part of what has proved challenging in sharing out our findings is the prework and positioning.

The B2B audience for actionable data on CBD consumers is wide and varied. We have to pay careful attention to align upfront with our clients.

At times, we invest additional resources to make sure the knowledge framework on cannabis is in place before diving into conversations on CBD specifically.

What things surprised you?

Keeping to the research theme, we were surprised to discover the sheer scale of disconnect between consumer’s passionate belief in the efficacy of CBD and actual knowledge about CBD. About 80% of current CBD consumers believe CBD can address mental, emotional, and physical issues, which is tremendous.

On the flip side, even consumers with years of experience can’t confidently read product labels (only 16% say so) and only a third are confident in the safety of CBD products.

Those data points and others have proven highly useful however because we have helped quantify the need for education in the market.

What advice would you have?

Speaking from my experience working with brands to launch new CBD products, I can say that trust is paramount. I have seen new entrants even with the best of intentions take costly missteps.

We offer consultative guidance in the course of our work on brand identity and consumer understanding, which is critical, but just as important is forming a circle of trusted advisors.

Anne-Marie Fischer
CEO: CannaWrite

What went well and what was a struggle? What things surprised you? What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

It was quite intimidating to enter the cannabis industry in 2016, when it had already been so well established by the pioneers that make cannabis what it is today.

What surprised me was that despite cannabis being so widely used, there was a lack of reliable, accurate, and well-researched information about cannabis, and that led me to begin CannaWrite, to help cannabis brands and publications educate the public on cannabis in this “new era” of cannabis legalization.

I was lucky that at the time, this was a highly-needed service, so my business immediately took off. I would advise someone starting in CBD today to ensure they’re getting a whole perspective on the cannabis and CBD industries before jumping in.

Understand who’s who, what’s what, and why so many movements and people in this industry have paved the way for new opportunities.

Find your niche, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. The industry is saturated with plant-touching and ancillary services, so you truly need to do the work to stand out amongst the sea of green.

Networking is also key to establishing business relationships in cannabis and seeing where you best fit into the cannabis puzzle.

CEO/Chief Nut A Boring Life

Serafina Palandech
CEO A Boring Life

What went well and what was a struggle? What things surprised you? What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

Hemp is an incredible plant with the potential to help us heal our minds, bodies and our environment.

Hemp can literally clean our soil and improve the earth. The oil from hemp help many folks feel more balanced, free from pain and significantly calmer.

I believe we all need affordable and equal access to hemp and CBD, and there is an overwhelming consumer demand for hemp and CBD.

However, the government is slow to respond and regulate since the passing of the Farm Bill late last year.

Since launching A Boring Life CBD, there have been a lot of challenges – access to fair banking, merchant accounting, FDA regulations, and the inability to advertise on Facebook and Google.

We are rigorous in our testing and compliance to ensure we are sourcing only the best organic hemp grown.

We believe in GMP and look forward to a day when we can sell to stores across the country.

In the meantime, I love growing this industry, preaching about hemp and providing a natural solution.

I invite anyone considering starting a business to do so! I am happy to help professionalize our industry and welcome others into our exploding category!

Kayla Fioravanti
Founder Ology Essentials

We have been in the hemp CBD industry since 2017.

Our biggest headache and struggle has been credit card processing.

This may ring true for many leaders in the hemp industry.

But it has been a worthwhile experience to get into the hemp CBD industry as it is emerging.

As a cosmetic formulator with over 21 years experience I expected to have more formulation problems with hemp CBD, but then we have found that to be one of our strong points instead.

Since we formulate with naturally derived ingredients, use aromatherapy, and herbal remedies we have found that hemp CBD works synergically with our products. It has been a perfect marriage for us.

What surprised me was how quickly hemp CBD made it into the marketplace.

I expected more resistance from people who confused hemp with marijuana. We see some of that, but not the the degree that I expected.

My advice to someone getting into the hemp CBD industry today is to work with suppliers that you trust. Get the paperwork and documentation that proves you are working with the best hemp CBD available.

In addition, I would recommend really researching what you put the CBD into.

I would love to see more people using natural bases for their topical CBD. We are using one of the finest ingredients available on the market–let’s not put it in a chemical cocktail for people to apply to their skin.

Matt Houser
Founder : TarHeal

What went well – When Tar Heal Pharms was started in February of 2018, CBDs were very new in the area.

It was a huge education curve.

That was the great part, getting to educate so many people!

Also, people were so interested because it was so new.

The very best part has been getting to hear story after story of success.

The number of people who have emailed, called, written reviews, and told me personally of how CBDs has changed their lives has been astonishing.

I knew the plant was a miraculous plant, but hearing testimony after testimony made me have so much more respect and love for it.

What was a struggle?

The stigma was still around, but was fading.

There were many skeptical people.

The larger struggle was trying to operate a business without great support from banks and credit card processors.

What things surprised me? It surprised me how open people were about their current struggles and desperation for relief/help.

I have spoken to countless people that have shed tears telling me their current struggles, Family members trying to help their loved ones, and people just wanting to share their story and what they are looking to have help with!

What advise do you have for someone starting a CBD business?

Find a mentor in the business that can help answer questions and guide you.

Also stay positive always and keep moving forward.

But ALWAYS my biggest mission…put out quality products and supply quality products so we can help people see the benefits of CBD!

Katie Devoe
CEO and co-founder CBD Nationwide

What went well and what was a struggle?

When we entered the cannabis industry ten years ago, our vision was to help heal humanity by bringing high-quality products to the marketplace.

Being first to market in so many of the product categories really helped to put us on the map, especially the Paradise and Sacred Biology brands.

Despite the ever-changing industry we have been able to maintain our integrity and have continued to elevate our brands and businesses.

We are proud of our success of 10+ years in operation.

Becoming experts in CBD and THC product manufacturing has led to a lucrative business for our white label business, CBD Nationwide.

We truly are humbled and love being a part of this growing industry, despite the many challenges that come with it.

Starting as a small family business with high standards and ethics and evolving from the California market into a nationally recognized company has not been easy.

We have encountered dishonest businesses, banks and payment gateways that refused to work in the space, investors who took our proprietary formulas for their own benefit and endured a volatile and changing landscape throughout the years.

Not to mention the challenges of being in business with family members – it’s a blessing but can also be tricky from time to time in keeping family time separate from the businesses.

Now that hemp is federally legal, there is yet again an entirely new set of protocols that we are all navigating.

While much-needed research and new regulations are underway, we are still committed to working with the right intentions (for the people, for healing) and with morals that go above and beyond the standard.

We have created our own set of operating procedures that ensure integrity in every step of our process.

Yes, we’ve made some mistakes, but we’ve learned from them. We now operate four companies in this space: Paradise, CBD Nationwide, Sacred Biology, and CannaCertified.

It’s our passion and commitment to the healing power of hemp that keeps us motivated.

What things surprised you?

The lack of education across the board is still surprising to me.

CBD is still fairly new to the mainstream and there is so much confusion and unreliable information out there.

It’s hard to know what information out there is accurate.

Having been in the hemp and cannabis industry for 10 years, I understand that education is essential to the average consumer, and even to the medical professional and large box retailer looking to add CBD to their shelves.

That’s why we started an educational platform with CannaCertified. Education is critical to continue legitimizing the industry.

What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

If you’re entering the industry purely to make a profit, reconsider. You should have a passion for what the plant can do to help heal the world.

We’ve seen players come and go who really only tried to make money and that doesn’t work in this industry.

Leverage your own areas of expertise and hire others who have the right experience to fill in the gaps.

If you’re looking to create a CBD product, find our own niche and innovate.

When we started our first business in the industry a decade ago, it’s because we were the first to formulate infused hard candy and caramels.

We built our business from that novelty and helped set a standard of quality, professionalism and consistency.

Paradise is still thriving and producing high-quality products in both CBD and cannabis now after ten years in business.

If you aren’t in the business of manufacturing, consider hiring those that know how to do it.

Choose a manufacturer that has integrity and a good reputation. Do your homework.

Tour their facilities and make sure they follow GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) standards like what we do for our white label clients at CBD Nationwide. Ask them for client references.

Don’t cut corners when it comes to quality. Source your ingredients from quality providers and track from seed to sale.

Make sure you spend the time to develop the right branding and marketing research and strategy.

Hire someone in compliance who can help you do your packaging, labeling and language the right way.

Most of all, don’t cut corners. Be above board in all areas so that you earn a solid reputation right from the start.

Abe Rahmanizadeh
COO & Cofounder

Abraham Rahmanizadeh
COO & Co-founder : Leafwell Botanicals

What went well and what was a struggle?

We decided to enter the industry after each of our co-founders individually experienced and witnessed first-hand the impact hemp derived products have on people’s lives.

The most impactful for me personally was seeing it help my sister with epilepsy and my mom with her rheumatoid arthritis.

What went well for us is that instead of diving right into the industry without understanding the market dynamics at the time, we setup meetings with dozens of people / companies in all parts of the supply chain including ancillary services, farmers, extractors, product manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, etc. to better understand where we could have the biggest positive impact on the industry.

Through this process we formed a strategic partnership with an extraction lab and we identified B2B sales as one of our core competencies and areas where we could help drive a better overall industry by providing clean, high quality products not only through our own brand, but through other brands as well.

This process led us to setup our own manufacturing capabilities and offer bulk extracts & white label services to other companies in the industry which helped us self-fund our comanufacturing growth and launch our two brands Leafwell Botanicals (Retail) & Leafwell Pro (medical practices & pharmacies).

There were several things that were a struggle when we first started started in the industry.

First and foremost we underestimated how difficult it would be to get credit card processing & banking (banking is now mostly resolved) for a new up & coming company.

We were forced get creative in our early days. Second, was putting together all the materials we thought were necessary to educate not only consumers but retailers, medical practices, and even many of the brands both launching and already operating in this industry.

A lot of misinformation is perpetuated in this industry and we wanted to go beyond just making products for the companies we partner with and help educate them so they can in-turn educate their consumers.

What things surprised you?
The most surprising thing for us was the lack of education across the board in the industry including even companies that are a part of the supply chain.

Here are a few examples that stuck out to me:

The hundreds of brands that tout CO2 extraction as a solvent-less process when CO2 is a solvent in itself and that material needs to be further processed through winterization which requires another solvent before it can be utilized in a product but none of the brands mention that to their consumers.

Companies mislabeling their products such as Full Spectrum CBD isolate or saying THC-Free Full Spectrum Hemp Extract neither of which makes any sense.

Eventually I realized that part of the problem went back to the manufacturers who were misinforming the brands.

Some of the crazy claims so many companies are publicly making.

Lack of understanding in the medical community and hesitation for some doctors to engage given the pitch so many brands have made that CBD will solve all of the world’s problems.

What advice do you have for someone starting a CBD business today?

My biggest piece of advice is to take a step back and do some research before diving into the industry.

Pair your findings with your skill sets and where you think you could have a competitive advantage compared to other players in the industry.

This can be product quality (unlikely), distribution channel, ancillary services, unique products & formulations, or potentially even a completely new vertical in the industry.

If you do decide to launch a brand or manufacture products it’s going to be incredibly important to properly diligence your entire supply chain.

This includes ingredients beyond just the hemp being used in your products.

Here are a few tips:

Ask for CoAs (and know how to read them) and do your own lab tests,
visit the company’s facilities, ask them for their licenses to ensure they’re compliant,

Ask them all the difficult questions and see how they respond & then run these responses by others,

Don’t shop just based on price (look at the vape lung disease & all the stories of contaminants being found in products),

Make sure the company’s you’re working with can scale with you,

Identify back-up plans in case something in your supply chain was to go wrong, among many others.

Hold others and yourself accountable and let’s grow this industry by doing right by the consumers! The most successful people we know in this industry are in it for more than just the money.

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