“5 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Leading A CBD Business”, with Joy Smith and Fotis Georgiadis
You can’t jump over the hurdle if you don’t see it. We were very aware of the ‘gray area” that continues to exist in the CBD space. This is why we’re hopeful for FDA industry standards. But we weren’t anticipating how the misconceptions existed outside of the consumer base. One of our main social media platforms actually took down our account during the holiday season, along with some others, under the assumption we were selling “pharmaceutical prescription products.” We were rightfully reinstated, and received an apology, but it was a wake-up call to be aware of any potential roadblocks no matter how obscure they may seem.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Joy Smith, the co-founder of the Fort Collins, CO-based Joy Organics, a family-owned and operated business created to help dramatically improve people’s health and quality of life. Their mission is to create the most pure, organically grown, and bioavailable full spectrum cannabinoid products on the market at an affordable price.
Can you share with us the story about what brought you to your career path?
It was CBD itself that sent me down this path. My son recommended I try it. I was reluctant at first but when I experienced the results for both my sleep and pain issues, I was an instant convert. Where my hurdle took place what finding a brand I knew I could trust given that this is still a largely unregulated industry. So it was clear to me that if I was having difficulties then others were as well. That was my motivation. To create the highest quality, most rigorously tested product possible and make those results available to help eliminate concerns.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The most interesting thing we’ve discovered since launching the company is that because the industry is so new, it’s like the wild west when it comes to good, solid information and best practices on everything from product design to retail environments to customer education. You don’t have that problem when you’re launching a restaurant. There’s a lot of institutional knowledge already out there that can serve as a guide for what may work and what may not work. So we had to make our own answers, answers to questions we were getting from consumers, and answers to questions we were getting from our white label customers.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This is a tale about the challenges of having a very fast growing company. We have a monthly cocktail hour for our employees at a bar in Fort Collins. My son is our Chief Marketing Officer and works out of Ohio. He was in town that day and came to our cocktail hour. He noticed a guy come up to the bar and our private event and order something to be put on our tab. This was a complete stranger. My son thought the guy was trying to scam us out of free drinks and was about ready to kick him out of our party, when he introduced himself as one of our newest hires! We had been adding so many new employees that if you were away from the office for a few days you never knew how many new faces would be there when you come back! It’s a small example, but a good reminder to always be mindful about how quickly you are growing.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We recently had our biggest sale of the year and were able to incorporate a give-back program into that promotion. We raised enough money to feed 640 kids in Northern Uganda breakfast and lunch for an entire year. I’m planning on going out there to visit and report back about the amazing changes we’ve been able to help make. What was particularly exciting was how our customers responded. It wasn’t just about the sale. It was also about helping children in need. Everybody wins.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
When we started our first store here in Fort Collins, CO I had very little experience in retail and had to learn everything at once. My daughter came up for the summer and became the store’s manager for a little while. I could not have gotten through that time without her. She now runs her own Joy Organics shop in Austin, and I couldn’t be more proud.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
We’ve found amazing success with affiliate and influencer marketing. The excitement about CBD is building and a lot of our partners feel they are a part of a movement to improve as many lives as possible. I think that’s part of what has made it so effective. And because CBD companies are currently prohibited from advertising on Facebook and Instagram, it’s a great way to build a following and social media presence.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I’m excited about the seemingly unlimited potential for healing that we’ve found in CBD. This is coming from a plant that has been used medicinally for thousands of years and we’re really finding ways to maximize its benefits. I’m also excited about the unknowns, and how much room for research and discovery there is in this space, and I’m excited about how many people are able to start their first business and see so much growth and success. There is such an emergence of entrepreneurialism, especially with women in this industry, and I really love seeing that.
My three primary concerns is the lack of regulation, the lack of consistency in products, and honestly, I’m really worried that Big Pharma will swoop in, assert itself, and limit the access to clean and effective products.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
1) It’s not always about self-promotion
We worked extremely hard to create the type of products that would stand out in a crowded space for their effectiveness. But we quickly realized that just having a great product wasn’t enough when there were still so many misconceptions about what CBD is and what it does. So we’ve taken on the responsibility of educating the uninitiated on our website and have done so in a non-promotional way. Our focus is on fact and not belief. We’re obviously hopeful potential consumers choose our products but we’re just as interested in making sure the real information is out there so people can make informed decisions.
2) When you’re on the inside — remember to look outside
With online sales such a crucial part of our business, as it is with so many companies today, it’s very easy to just look at numbers and forget that there’s human beings behind them. People who have made the decision to give you their hard-earned money in exchange for a product. And in the CBD space that product is personal. It’s about wellness. What we’ve done, which has been invaluable, is to maintain a brick and mortar presence. We have three stores in three states which not only provide additional sales avenues but the opportunity to personally interact with consumers. Not only can we educate and become involved in a customer’s personal needs or goals, but we get instantaneous feedback on a host of issues. What’s working, what we may be able to improve and the overall climate of the industry from the consumer’s perspective. It’s an important relationship and the more we know the better positioned we are to provide.
3) You can’t jump over the hurdle if you don’t see it
We were very aware of the ‘gray area” that continues to exist in the CBD space. This is why we’re hopeful for FDA industry standards. But we weren’t anticipating how the misconceptions existed outside of the consumer base. One of our main social media platforms actually took down our account during the holiday season, along with some others, under the assumption we were selling “pharmaceutical prescription products.” We were rightfully reinstated, and received an apology, but it was a wake-up call to be aware of any potential roadblocks no matter how obscure they may seem.
4) You are your business
My life’s work, both with Joy Organics and prior to the company, has been focused on helping and empowering others. I’m not the kind of person who takes a “Look at Me” approach and always felt that I was secondary to the bigger picture. But now I see the value of attaching a name and face to the mission. It can be hard for some entrepreneurs to put themselves in the public eye as the face of their company. But it can provide dividends in the form of trust, confidence and a personal connection.
5) Don’t deviate from your personal values
When you’re starting your business and bringing people on board, or even just researching, there’s a good chance you’ll be promised the moon by those who have ulterior motives. If you just listen to the promises, which almost always revolve around money, you might not notice that, “The road to wealth is fraught with traps and pitfalls.” Those traps often have dishonesty or manipulation at their core. It’s very easy for some who envision success and wealth to deviate from their personal values and beliefs. All I can say is don’t do it. Not only is it a bad business decision, because it will invariably come back to bite you, but it’s a bad personal decision. Getting up in the morning and going to work with a clear conscience and sense of purpose is a far better choice than considering how you’ll have to get out of a self-created mess or rob Peter to pay Paul. Honesty and integrity in business is not naïve. It’s wise.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Do everything you can to make employees feel valued. We all work hard, and we’re all running so fast. So being intentional about making sure that our employees are getting everything they need is a must. One example for how we do that is by offering every employee a subscription for a monthly massage at a local spa here in Fort Collins.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Definitely something healing oriented. I’m passionate about facilitating the healing of bodies, of relationships, and of communities, and would love to continue to incorporate all of those passions into what I do, and certainly into any movement I would create.
Thank you so much for joining us!