Featured DNVB: Populum

DNVB List: Thanks for talking with us today!

Populum: You bet, this’ll be fun!

DNVB List: Famous last words! Well, tell us about yourself. Who are you? Why are we talking today?!

Populum: I’m Gunhee Park, one of the founders of Populum.

DNVB List: And, I understand you have a co-founder as well?

Populum: Yes, that’s Ola Olusoga.

DNVB List: Well, it’s great to chat with you. We know what you’re doing now, but what were you both up to before starting Populum?

Populum: I was working for Dell after graduating from Arizona State. After working there for a couple years, I decided to quit and team up with Ola to start Populum.

DNVB List: And what about Ola?

Populum: He worked with digital agencies designing experiences for brands like Delta, Mastercard, Krueger, and some others. He also worked at IBM before we started the business.

DNVB List: Got it, so what exactly is Populum? Plenty of people aren’t going to be familiar with this.

Populum: We’re a premium hemp oil supplement brand. We developed our products with the goal of providing people the benefits hemp has to offer. For 80+ years hemp has been stigmatized and suppressed by both the government and mass media. It’s only recently started to become deregulated. Most people are unaware of hemp or think it’s the same thing as marijuana. It’s not. By working with US farmers, certified PhDs, and using high quality ingredients, we’re striving to deliver a premium product that helps grow awareness within the mainstream.

DNVB List: When did you get started, and how or why did it all come about?

Populum: We started back in November of 2016, recently. We did months of research and eventually realized that hemp’s extracts — they’re mostly known as cannabidiol or CBD — have pretty amazing benefits that most of the public is completely unaware of. We aim to change that. We’re creating a product that delivers high quality hemp oil made right here in the USA.

DNVB List: The next obvious question is, what are those benefits?

Populum: The most ironic part of being in this business is that we can’t really state the benefits of hemp oil. The FDA continues to ignore hemp oil and its potential benefits, even though there’s plenty of research, clinical trials, and even anecdotal evidence that show otherwise.

Many reputable clinical publications have published their findings on the effects and benefits of cannabinoids and CBD. We always recommend our customers to do their own independent research to learn more about the effects of hemp oil before choosing Populum.

DNVB List: In your experience where are the best places to do that research? Where can I find some testimonials of some kind?

Populum: There’s some great documentaries out there. My favorite is called The Scientist, which highlights the work of Dr. Raphael Mechoulam. He’s considered the pioneer of cannabis and cannabinoid research. Other medical institutions, like the Mayo Clinic, have also published findings on cannabinoids. There’s also lots of different articles, books, and scientific studies now focused on this.

DNVB List: Great, well we’ll add some links and check it out ourselves. I know you guys are pretty new but how was the company financed? Are you bootstrapped?

Populum: We bootstrapped early on, yes. Ola and I put our savings together to get it started and have grown by reinvesting our profits and by really focusing on making a great product that customers would continue to use and recommend to their friends and family.

DNVB List: Are most of your customers through word-of-mouth then?

Populum: Yep, it’s our primary driver of growth.

DNVB List: How have you guys decided early on to grow the brand? Not necessarily the business as in the numbers, but the brand.

Populum: As a supplement brand, the most important thing is customer trust. Customers have to know that what they’re taking everyday is made with only the highest quality ingredients. We strongly believe that we can continue to build a lasting brand if we deliver on the customer’s expectations through consistent quality, transparency, and a great shopping experience. We care about the experience each of our customers has while using the product. That’s mainly why we offer a 30 day trial to ensure that each customer is satisfied.

DNVB List: Solid, you can’t go wrong with the free trial. Can you speak a bit more to the high-quality ingredients you’ve alluded to a couple times?

Populum: Definitely. When we were developing our product, our priority was to use 100% US grown hemp. Right now, a lot of hemp oil in the market is being imported from Eastern Europe or China. When hemp is being imported like this, it’s hard to really know the growing conditions of these plants.

Now, the reason why the source and quality of hemp plants matter is because hemp absorbs any toxic chemicals that exist in the soil when they grow. That means if hemp is grown on “bad” soil, the hemp oil will contain the bad stuff, like pesticides, mercury, or lead.

By using hemp grown in the US, the whole supply chain is more transparent. For example, hemp farmers in the US are all licensed farmers, approved by the state department of agriculture. The seeds they use are also inspected.

DNVB List: There’s obviously a lot of hype about the marijuana industry right now with it being legalized in a handful of places. What’s your take on it and how is Populum a part of it, or not a part of it if that’s the case?

Populum: I’d say we’re a little of both. We sell online, not in dispensaries, so state legalization of recreational or medical marijuana doesn’t really change how we do business. That being said, the general legalization of the industry has definitely helped because customer awareness of hemp oil and CBD’s continues to grow organically through that. It’s especially true among customers who are looking for the benefits of cannabis without the psychoactive effects.

DNVB List: We talked a bit about word-of-mouth, but can you speak a bit more to how people are finding you?

Populum: It’s typically through online reviews of our products or through referrals. We’ve found many of our customers come back, and tend to share the benefits they’ve had using hemp oil with their friends and family.

DNVB List: That’s always a great sign. We’re already halfway through 2017 but what’s in store for Populum for the rest of the year?

Populum: The biggest goal for us is to use our product to grow awareness of hemp and CBD oil in the US. One way we’re doing that is making a push on Amazon. We’re striving to become the #1 hemp oil brand on Amazon and to use their platform to grow outreach to more customers who could benefit from hemp.

DNVB List: Amazon. Yes, I’ve heard of them. Little company out of Seattle, right?

Populum: Haha, yeah, they’re doing OK!

DNVB List: What tactics have worked best for you guys on Amazon? Is there a lot of competition in the space?

Populum: Similar to any other brand, the best tactic for Amazon has been building up great reviews. Delivering a quality customer experience through a solid product and friendly customer service has helped us build an initial set of great reviews. This has really helped us gain traction in the hemp supplements niche.

But marketing on Amazon has been an interesting experience for us, because Amazon guidelines actually do not allow us to sell high concentration CBD oil. So we offer a different variation of our supplement, which is a non-concentrated hemp oil on Amazon. Communicating the difference in our products on Amazon vs our site has been a unique challenge for us so far.

DNVB List: Since there’s clearly competition out there, how do you guys differentiate?

Populum: We work hard to stand out through our product and service. We knew that hemp oil is something new for many customers out there, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible for them to try it out.

We’re doing this in two ways — a supplement that tastes great and through the 30 day trial I mentioned. We’ve really focused on distinguishing ourselves through great flavor. Also, we wanted to give customers a chance to try it out risk free. So we offer a 30 day trial where customers get to try it out to see if it works for them. Ultimately, we try to work with each customer so that they’re happy with their purchase.

DNVB List: Seems like the legalization of marijuana is going to be a domino effect where cities and states see the tax money increase and (hopefully) crime and arrests decrease from other places and start to move to some kind of legalization themselves. As you mentioned, this only helps with the awareness you were speaking of. Is business generally good for you guys?

Populum: Yes and no. The attention that marijuana is getting definitely has helped increase awareness in hemp, but the political situation has made a lot of things more uncertain as well. But the positive coverage of hemp has continued to increase over the past couple years, so we’re excited to see the momentum grow.

DNVB List: Good to hear! Anything else we should know?

Populum: We’d like to encourage readers who are fans of hemp and hemp oil to be active in spreading the word on hemp. There’s still a lot of obstacles that hemp businesses have to deal with — for example, we can’t even properly advertise on Google or Facebook — so word-of-mouth marketing is that much more helpful for us.

DNVB List: Wow, didn’t realize that was a rule. We’ll keep that in mind. Thanks so much for chatting, it certainly seems like you’re onto something.

Populum: Thanks, we think so.

DNVB List: And you mentioned you wanted to do a giveaway, right?

Populum: Yeah, would love to!

DNVB List: Awesome! What’s it going to be?

Populum: We’ll be giving away 5 bottles of our hemp CBD oil tinctures — we’re excited for your fans to try it out!

DNVB List: Sweet, we’ll run those on twitter and facebook this week! Don’t forget to retweet and share!

Populum: Always!

DNVB List: Awesome, take care!

Populum: You too, see ya!