“Make sure you really believe in what you are doing, and why you are doing it.” with David Chadwick and Len Giancola
Make sure your heart is in the right place. If you are looking to make a quick buck on the growing CBD/cannabis trend, you may have a hard time setting up a viable long-term business. Make sure you really believe in what you are doing, and why you are doing it. For me, helping people to naturally deal with pain continues to drive what I do each day. Nothing feels better than hearing feedback from a customer saying, “after using your product, I had my first good night’s sleep in years because my back felt better.”
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing David Chadwick has led the research, development and commercialization efforts of Leading Edge Pharm’s topical pain relief and skin care products for the past six years. As part of his work, he developed Silvidiol, a novel CBD delivery system that allows CBD to relieve pain without being ingested into the blood stream. Prior to founding Leading Edge Pharms, Mr. Chadwick spent 30 years in the telecommunications industry as an executive and network design engineer. Mr. Chadwick is also US Marine Corps veteran and a graduate of the University of Mississippi.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Most of my career was spent in the telecom industry, serving in a variety of executive roles. However, when my mom was in hospice care, everything changed. She suffered from extremely painful bed sores and there were no effective topical treatments to alleviate her pain. It seemed that opioids were the only option despite their many side-effects.
To help her, I went to a local compounding pharmacy, a place where they can make custom drugs. The pharmacists there were able to create a physician-approved specialized topical compound for pain relief and skin repair, but the price was $1100.
While I was fortunate enough to be able to go to these lengths for my mother, I was also shaken by the experience. I looked around the hospice center and knew that there were other seniors dealing with these same issues who could not afford the $1100, let alone the time, to do what I did.
This process inspired me to find a new way to treat pain — a natural way that would provide a side-effect free alternative to opioids. A few years later, the opportunity presented itself, and I began exploring CBD.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
When I started in the cannabis industry, I didn’t know where to begin because everything was so new. I initially invested time and money to get a cultivation license in California. However, I realized that the anticipated flood of participants in the market would complicate long-term business prospects.
So, I pivoted and applied for a dispensary license in San Diego county. I spent the better part of a year getting this license only to realize that the regulations in California governing dispensary licenses would devalue the opportunity.
At this point, I reassessed why I had entered the industry. I had first looked at cannabis as a method to help seniors find relief from pain. Cultivation and dispensaries were only a means to an end. It was then that I understood that I wanted to make the goods that would provide relief.
It was a long and costly journey, but each step taught me new things about this industry. As head of Leading Edge Pharms, I use the lessons learned in my previous roles to inform our development of topical pain relief solutions.
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?
Nelson Mandela famously said, I never lose. I either win or I learn.
My first few years in the industry, I learned. And now, my company is stronger for it. The best thing you can do to avoid paying for this learning experience is to spend time in the market in which you intend to compete before committing. You may want to work as an employee for another company to learn before venturing out on your own as a business owner.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
While we are developing new pain relief products for people, I think the most exciting thing we are developing is our vet care line. This is being developed in our newly opened research and innovation center, LENCURA Labs. Opening this R&D wing to our business is critical as we help move the science of the CBD field forward. So as of now, our vet care products are in R&D, but we expect to be releasing helpful pain relief solutions for Sparky in the coming months
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?
One of my mother’s hospice nurses helped motivate my decision to enter the pain relief market. We spoke just days before my mother died. She told me that the most interesting solutions to problems come from people outside of the industry. All it takes is someone whose heart is invested to make a difference. And, if I wanted to make a difference, I could.
Almost three years later, the opportunity to get involved in the CBD business presented itself and that talk with my mother’s nurse heavily influenced my decision. She clarified that my motivation should not just be my mother’s experience, but that of the hundreds and thousands of people needlessly suffering. This drives me every day in my work with Leading Edge.
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?
While this industry is young, dynamic and creative (which is a good thing!), it is also an industry that deals with medicine and pain, and which therefore demands cautious progress. In our marketing we want to project stability, and confidence. We earn our customers trust by delivering pain relief products that work. In our marketing, we emphasize our clinical approach. We invest in science; we take our products through third party validation and rigorous clinical testing. We recently announced our employment of a chief science officer and our establishment of an R&D center. We are committed to manufacturing in facilities that operate under the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) standards.
I guess you could say that our innovative strategy in this space is to act like the legacy players. This may cost us some users who are just getting in on the CBD trend, but we think it will appeal to our main audience of people who are looking for natural pain solutions that work. We’re also establishing trust with professionals including pharmacists, physicians, orthopedists and physical and occupational therapists to understand that our products are viable alternatives for their patients’ pain management.
Overall, we look at ourselves not as a CBD company trying to provide a medicinal benefit, but as a pain relief company that uses CBD. It is a subtle, but not-so-subtle difference in the CBD category into which we are trying to fit. We are working to place ourselves within the pharmacy market — to become a call-brand for natural pain relief.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
The most exciting thing about the CBD business is the almost overnight acceptance of CBD around the country. Everyone is interested in the medical aspects of cannabis, specifically CBD.
The second most exciting thing is the spirit of “coopetition” that exists. There are so many companies starting up and trying to establish themselves — a lot of competition. But there is also a lot of sharing of opportunity, which is unlike any industry of which I’ve been a part.
Finally, the cost of raw materials is dropping in this industry almost daily. This is partially as a result of the Farm Bill passing, but also as a result of the competition within the market.
Three things that concern me…well, people making bad products, people mislabeling their products and the FDA’s unclear stance on CBD. With this rush of CBD goods and new entrants to the market, there are a lot of products out there that are subpar. The poor quality of some CBD products reflects badly on the industry as a whole.
Not only is the quality often questionable, but some companies are intentionally misrepresenting information to the point of outright fraud — not just on the product itself, but also data relating to the product’s use. More consumers are choosing to go the cannabis route for medical treatment because it is more natural and more cost effective. It is very important that when they try CBD for the first time that they are trying a proven product and not snake oil.
The snake oil companies may also end up effecting CBD’s status in the eyes of the FDA. With the legalization of hemp, we have a great opportunity to provide affordable, natural treatments to people who need them, but we need the FDA on board. We will soon see how the new head of the FDA approaches our industry.
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) Whatever you think it is going to cost you, add a zero. It’s going to cost you ten times as much. I experienced that for the first couple of years, as I described above in my journey to cannabis. But that learning process made me a better leader and Leading Edge is now thriving.
2) Partners are key. I’ve seen this clearly in the executive team I’ve surrounded myself with — people passionate about making a difference, with industry knowledge and experience, not just in the cannabis market, but in science, medicine, business, sales and marketing. Putting together a strong team makes all the difference.
3) Work in the industry first — as I outlined above. Experience in the industry can make a world of difference whenever you decide to found your company. By working for other cannabis companies first, you can better understand where in the supply chain you want to place yourself.
4) Make sure your heart is in the right place. If you are looking to make a quick buck on the growing CBD/cannabis trend, you may have a hard time setting up a viable long-term business. Make sure you really believe in what you are doing, and why you are doing it. For me, helping people to naturally deal with pain continues to drive what I do each day. Nothing feels better than hearing feedback from a customer saying, “after using your product, I had my first good night’s sleep in years because my back felt better.”
5) Research and know the regulatory landscape for the cannabis industry. If I would have done this early on, I may have spent less time and money going through the licensing processes to rule out cultivating and dispensary. Knowing the market, the regulations, and the competitive landscape before you start making major moves will save you a lot. This is more critical now than every as the regulatory bodies are beginning to address the use of CBD following the passing of the Farm Bill.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
This is a lesson I learned in business long before I got into the CBD industry. Helping employees thrive begins long before the initial hire. CEOs should be selective in the hiring process. Make sure that those you choose to help develop your company are people that you want representing your company as well. When your employees are aligned on your goals and mission. When you hire this way, the rest will follow.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
A movement of business leaders who focus on the common good. So many businesses and entrepreneurs are only driven by financial reward, which is fine, but real success always comes from a bigger picture idea. For me, I’m driven by my desire to take care of people suffering from pain. If you follow this drive, surround yourself with the right team, and do your homework, everything else will align. If it’s only about the money, you might have short-term success. But long-term success comes from the clear vision of what you are doing for the greater good.
When an entrepreneur thinks in that way it helps their business, their employees and the market that they are working in.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find us on Twitter: @LeadEdgePharms or on LinkedIn, Leading Edge Pharms, Inc. — we post company news and updates on both profiles. You can also read more about our approach to developing CBD products on our website, www.leadingedge.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!