Matt Parks of One Less CBD: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a CBD Business
If people really demand transparency from companies and take charge of educating themselves on the benefits and risks of medications and supplements, people will be able to live safer, more productive lives.
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 Matt Parks.
During his decade as Vice President at Williams Medical Supply, Matt Park’s efforts grew the company from a regional to national supplier while maintaining a steadfast promise to ensure new patients can be serviced. Understanding that his success was a direct result of building long-term relationships, he was imbued with a great appreciation for small businesses. Matt also observed the rise of the opiate epidemic, a problem he knew stemmed in part from a lack of quality options in chronic pain and inflammation treatment. These experiences united seamlessly guiding his decision to create One Less CBD.
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?
My interest in medicine started when I played college baseball and eventually got my Masters in Sports Administration with Belmont University. Through my teammates and my own injuries, I began to appreciate that inflammation and chronic pain aren’t the exceptions, but the rule in many people’s lives. After graduating, I launched my career at Williams Medical Supply where I worked my way up to VP and really started to understand the impact medicine can have on people’s lives, both good and bad. During the past decade I spent there, I witnessed the rise of the opioid epidemic and wondered why we’d been so ineffective in responding as a society. My research led me to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and the idea of offering better, more informed choices to patients. While not everyone struggles with heavy painkillers, I think most people have symptoms they’d like to alleviate or a medication they’d like to move away from — even relying on something mild like Aleve every night can be rough on the kidneys long-term.
It was this realization that led me to the CBD industry. I set out with a purpose in mind rather than trying to cash in on the trend. I looked at all the balms, salves, and other topicals targeted at inflammation and chronic pain, and I saw that the market was filled with thoughtless, white-label offerings. In response, we assembled five other active ingredients that have been proven effective over generations to compliment CBD and carefully balanced them into a formulation. My goal was to create a topical cream that would be incredibly effective even if you took all the CBD out. The response to our product has shown that. Offering a natural relief to those in need is something I feel honored to be part of.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was able to sit down with the former president of Ripken Baseball, a past mentor of mine. It really allowed me to open up about my aspirations for the company by learning from his business acumen. He instilled in me to focus on the “why” behind the business, instead of getting caught up in how we were going to be successful or market share, to not put the cart before the horse so to speak. After a two-hour conversation and once the why fell into place, the entire brand fell into place as well. All the cloudy decisions suddenly became clear. It was like reading the answer instead of trying to figure it out.
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?
We started our company with a severe branding misstep. We originally chose the name Isotherm because it combined isometric and thermal for the cooling experience — please stop yawning. On top of that, we initially utilized an old-school, 1920s-looking, yellow apothecary bottle. Suffice it to say, it did not exactly scream quality product in the way our new black and white jars emblazoned with One Less CBD do.
The lesson I learned was to not overcomplicate things. When I had my head in the clouds trying to be unique and interesting just for the sake of it, the approach turned out to be dishonest. If the brand doesn’t resonate with you, why would it resonate with anyone else? When I really sat down and remembered why I set out to create the company, everything else followed.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re currently in talks to partner with a charitable organization working with recovery, something I believe is integral to our approach. Without action, our branding is just lip service and corporate advertising. So, I greatly prioritize being able to create change in the world. We believe anyone can fall victim to addiction or suffer from the effects of pharmaceuticals and that everyone deserves to make healthy, informed choices with their body.
A lot of the failings in the industry aren’t just around offering quality products with purposeful formulations, but in how they communicate their brand. A lot of CBD companies make irresponsible, impossible claims around what their product can do. Transparency and honesty are paramount in an industry that’s under a lot of public scrutiny and still looking to prove itself.
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?
It might be cliché, but my wife has truly been my best friend and biggest supporter. When you’re pulling together a decade of savings to devote towards a vision, your spouse has got to really believe in what you’re doing. I have three young girls and wanted to prove to them that if you want to create change in the world, you have to be the one to go out and do it.
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?
I think young people are allergic to bull. They can sniff the mattress salesman “we have a special deal in the back room just for you” approach a mile away. They value honesty and transparency; not enough companies are using this in their approach. If you’re always playing it safe and trying to say the right thing about your brand or product, you’re going to come across like every other company. In a market as competitive as CBD, you can’t afford to blend into the herd. By being straightforward about the shortcomings and challenges of your sector, you can align your interests with your consumers — and sleep better at night.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
- The possibilities for CBD seem to be endless. We’re seeing a radical change in acceptance from medical communities, slowly research is catching up to what people already know from experience.
- People will be able to move away from the pillbox in terms of caustic medications that have serious long-term side-effects, like kidney damage. CBD opens the door for people to realize there’s a wealth of natural alternatives for many (but not all) conditions and complaints.
- There’s a new generation of people excited about sustainable agriculture and cultivation through hemp and other natural products.
- Too many people are looking at this as the next gold rush to get rich quick. Making a safe, effective, and popular consumer product is not easy in a competitive market.
- A lot of companies make impossible claims. The most over the top I’ve seen was someone claiming CBD helped treat COVID-19. On the less outrageous side, some companies don’t employ third-party testing of their product so you can’t even be sure what they claim is in their product is actually there.
- When dealing with supplements, you do have clear FDA guidelines to guide your decisions and you enter a grey area in terms of what’s known and what’s not. Everyone has a superior formulation and a self-serving agenda. Consumers need to keep a critical eye on what’s snake-oil and what’s research-backed.
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.
- The market is saturated, so you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle to win peoples’ attention as soon as you say you’re starting a hemp or cannabis company.
- The industry is chock-full of deep-pocketed corporations muscling their way to the top with inferior products.
- This is not a standard enterprise. Everything from banking to advertising has specific regulations that change the game completely, every dollar spent needs to be done so creatively and efficiently.
- There are as many barriers as opportunities in this sector. Find your lane but don’t set the cruise control, because your lane may change tomorrow.
- Pick the right people to go to war with.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Listen to your employees. I believe the CEO shouldn’t be the smartest person in the room. Ideas come from collaboration and really hashing out the pros and cons. Employees who feel they’re making a contribution and see their ideas come to life are more likely to stay with you and feel empowered. It’s just as important that a CEO makes decisions with courage and conviction even if it’s not popular with your employees, but explain why you made your decision. Act like a leader because that is what you are. It’s OK if it doesn’t work out as planned just move on to the next idea. Allow your employees to fail so that they become better. Encourage risk and decisive action that has thought behind it. You hired these people for a reason so don’t suppress their abilities because you’re afraid of a bad result.
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. :-)
I would inspire a movement to critically examine what we put in our body and why, especially when it comes to medications. The opioid epidemic resulted from over-prescription and a lack of education on the incredible dangers involved, even for treatments as simple as dental work and back pain. My mother was a night-shift ER nurse and my brother spent most of his childhood in the hospital getting surgeries, so I grew up with a great appreciation for the importance of medicine and informed care. If people really demand transparency from companies and take charge of educating themselves on the benefits and risks of medications and supplements, people will be able to live safer, more productive lives.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can follow our company on Instagram @onelesscbd
I am always up or connecting on LinkedIn and I welcome people to message me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!