“To prevent burnout, surround yourself with people who are passionate & have a genuine desire to help the company grow”
Lessons In Servant Leadership From Suzanne Hoggan
“Surround yourself with people who are passionate about what they do and have a genuine desire to help the company grow. We feel incredibly lucky to have found team members who work together synergistically; everyone brings something unique and incredibly valuable to the table. Additionally, we are aware that our company would not be where it is today without the immense support we’ve received from the community.”
I had the pleasure to interview founder Suzanne Hoggan
Thank you so much for joining us. What is your “backstory”?
I was originally referred to my now-partner Kenia for website design 2–3 years prior to starting CannaSmack. We were in close communication for work purposes but developed a sincere friendship where we could confide in one another. When my brother passed away from a prescription drug overdose, I felt there had to be holistic answers. At the time, Kenia lived in California with her husband who has been using cannabis for years to treat chronic depression. Upon sharing my ache, Kenia opened up about her family’s experience with cannabis. I wasn’t for or against cannabis, but out of desperation to find alternatives I further opened my mind to the possibilities.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from the University of Utah and also have obtained a Master Esthetician License. I tend to have several projects going simultaneously; one project led me to producing promotional product, the go-to item was a lip balm. To suit the theme for the brand, we playfully named each flavor after a strain name; Mango Kush, Blue Dream, etc. The original formula for this project did not yet contain hemp seed oil. Nonetheless, they were a hit; I quickly began to receive requests to purchase these lip balms which was when the idea struck. I called Kenia for a brainstorm session with the brand name “CannaSmack” in mind; descriptive of a kiss of cannabis. We agreed that not only does this product need to include hemp, but we had to have purpose; an honorable mission.
We figured: If people can open up to the idea that hemp is safe, while becoming educated to the fact that hemp is also cannabis, maybe that train of thought will lead others to pursue understanding to the endless possibilities of the plant’s health benefits and industrial applications.
CannaSmack was never an experimental product produced at home in a kitchen. As a Master Esthetician, I deeply understand the importance of quality control and creating products in a sterile environment. Our chemist was originally against the addition of hemp seed oil to the formula, due to religious beliefs and a lack of understanding of the plant. Kenia and I shared articles and encouraged self-guided research. After learning about the benefits of hemp seed oil for cosmetic application, our chemist was on board.
We’re very particular about quality and pay close attention to where all of our ingredients are being sourced. The consistency, feel and flavor had to be perfectly silky and light; it was important to us that it doesn’t feel like there is wax on your lips. We went through 50–60 formulations to the first basic non-flavored formula. The next step was sampling different flavor profiles at various concentrations. Each new lip balm flavor could take anywhere from 2–20 tries to get the flavor just right; the ingredients have to agree with each other.
Our branding has always been vibrant and ‘in your face’. When we partnered with Madison @HappyTokes in early 2016, Kenia’s designs for CannaSmack got a little makeover. First came the peach pattern. Characters like the bunny were added, inspired by Madison’s happiness. Each flavor’s complex and unique pattern soon developed.
Intentionally choosing to brand our products with a hemp leaf as our logo, we’ve drawn a massive crowd of acceptance, but have also experienced regular censorship, which has been a driving motivation behind our #FreeTheLeaf campaign which focuses on cannabis education & awareness.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
During the first year after launching CannaSmack we began reaching out to any store we could think of who might be interested in carrying our lip balms. One time, I was in Wendover, Nevada, with my parents and we stopped at a tobacco (smoke) shop which is next to a strip club. My parents were driving and I was in the back seat like a 49 year old child. I thought “why not” and hopped out to show them the lip balms, asking if they might be interested in carrying our products. His eyes got big with panic and quickly said “my manager would not allow this here”. I took my walk of shame back to the back seat of my parents’ car and said, “I am worse than a tobacco store and a strip club,” hanging my head in defeat.
This experience showed me how much education is truly needed surrounding this plant. Recognizing that I surely didn’t ‘know it all’ myself, I saw that we all have to learn. We developed a little infographic style “hemp facts” sheet, which has been a helpful tool in quickly explaining hemp in similar scenarios.
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?
Success is not solely achieved, it takes a village. I am grateful to my parents who are immigrants; I saw how hard they worked and how honest they are in everything they do. I aspired to be like them, in business and personal relationships, when I grew up.
I am also so grateful to my team, Kenia and Madison, for all their hard work and dedication to this company. I feel very fortunate to have found such amazing people who have similar core values. While Kenia and I have been working together for 6+ years now and speak to each other daily on the phone; we have never actually meet face to face. We are able to communicate well and trust each other which makes running a business together easier.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are so excited for our soon-to-be-released soap-free body wash and hydrating body oils. A lot of hard work has gone into creating these two formulas and we can’t wait for people to start trying them.
Our new luxuriously creamy, soap-free cleanser is gentle and moisturizing; perfect for even the most sensitive skin. Infused with premium hemp seed oil and prickly pear seed oil, this powerhouse blend bestows soothing hydration with vitamins A, B, D, E and Omega 3&6 fatty acids. Don’t expect a foaming lather, we’ve eliminated the chemical suds.
Our new 100% non-comedogenic “dry oil” provides intense moisture while absorbing quickly and easily into skin when gently massaged. Infused with premium hemp seed oil; rich in vitamins A, B, D, E and Omega 3&6 fatty acids.
We hope to see CannaSmack become a staple in the mainstream market.
So much unseen work, care, and dedication goes into creating all of our products. When things get overwhelming, we are constantly encouraged by the amazing feedback that our customers give us, as we are regularly reminded about the incredible conversations our product initiates. With a product so simple and innocent, we provide an opportunity for anyone to become a cannabis activist; even your brilliant little ones have the capacity to understand and also explain the difference between cannabis as hemp and medical marijuana.
I strongly believe that Cannabis will continue to gain momentum towards Federal legalization within the next 5 years. More states are legalizing, at least for medical purposes, offers a larger audience of patients the opportunity to have safe legal access to their medicine.
However, it is becoming increasingly important that consumers are passionate about educating themselves regarding things such as the dangers of pesticides and the existence of synthetic cannabinoids, which are currently approved as medicine by the DEA, while the actual plant remains illegal.
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 once shipped 500 units of lip balm to our customers with a small typo reading MAGO KUSH instead of MANGO KUSH). Lesson learned — no matter how many eyes you have on the project, triple check everything before sending it to print! Even when there are processes in place, sometimes mistakes still happen. Don’t be afraid acknowledge it and fix it as soon as possible.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Surround yourself with people who are passionate about what they do and have a genuine desire to help the company grow. We feel incredibly lucky to have found team members who work together synergistically; everyone brings something unique and incredibly valuable to the table. Additionally, we are aware that our company would not be where it is today without the immense support we’ve received from the community, we call the #CannaSmackTribe.
Look for opportunities to do and be better, rather than for quality-cutting shortcuts. We call this integrity beyond the label, and do our best to lead by example, especially in this category. Being “on the inside”, we have a different understanding about the rules and regulations surrounding sourcing of ingredients, labeling, and the multitude of ways in which other producers find loopholes in which they make their products appear to be something better than they are.
Abundance. Happiness. Family. Kindness. These are CannaSmack’s core values.
- Abundance: Create wealth in all aspects of life. Be rich in love. Embrace acceptance.
- Happiness: Have joy! Laugh often. Engage in good humor. Be optimistic. Be playful, funny, light, witty. Embrace happy.
- Family: Create relationships that promote positivity. Find synchronistic ways to nurture and supports one another.
- Kindness: Be nice! Treat people well. Show compassion. Be gracious. Be generous. Have only the best of intentions. Be thoughtful. Be open minded.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi
In all aspects of business and personal life I strive to treat others as I wish to be treated. I have repetitively seen the positive impact this philosophy has had in my life and with the interactions myself and my team have with others.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. :-)
When we first started this company, we never imagined that we would be transformed into Cannabis activists overnight. Sure, we understood the misconceptions and stigma associated with Cannabis (Hemp) but we never expected to receive such hesitation in regards to the nature of an image of a leaf in reference to the hemp seed oil in our completely legal products.
Our #FreeTheLeaf campaign originated as an initiative to fight the media’s censorship of the Cannabis leaf. It has since been transformed into an education based campaign with the aim to support legalization and normalization.
We try to do our part but we can’t fight this battle alone! We invite you to join our #FreeTheLeaf movement by sharing light and knowledge about cannabis/hemp with anyone who might listen. We encourage you to take a leap and be social advocates; even if you do not change someone’s mind today you may have planted a seed of curiosity that could change the stigma in their mind in the future.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I have a big wish list:
● Jimmy Kimmel
● Bill Maher
● Bill Gates
● Snoop Dogg
● Miley Cyrus
● Lady Gaga
● Joe Rogan