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Wisdom From The Women Leading The Cannabis Industry, With Chloe Blesh of Hemp Generation

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

To be successful in the cannabis industry you need to find your niche. There are too many companies out there trying to do the same thing and trying to do everything from growing, to selling, to sourcing, to marketing, etc… There is plenty of room in the industry for many amazing businesses to form and exist. We just need to do what we do best. Don’t try to do everything as a company. Form partnerships, find a company that can source better than you, make products better than you, do lab tests better than you, distribute better than you, or market better so you can form a healthy partnership and stick to what you are good at and can confidently succeed in. At Hemp Generation, we’ve constantly tried to do everything from seed to sale and have run into difficulties and struggles that were improved through strategic, win-win partnerships.

As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chloe Blesh.

Passionate about business development and management, Chloe is responsible for the finances, logistics, and operations behind the brand and retail storefront for Hemp Generation. Her compassion, consciousness, and pragmatism help the business stay on track for exponential growth and long-term success.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

My journey in the Hemp in the industry started while I was in college at NC State University. My boyfriend and I attended a Hemp conference at NC State in 2018 which first opened our eyes to the new emerging industry and is where we made our first few amazing connections. From the conference, we both got spring jobs at a Hemp nursery making clones for NC farmers in Durham. From here, we made more connections locally, on instagram, and through events that allowed us to slowly start our own company. I had always been into natural healing, plant medicine and homeopathic remedies, so hearing that cannabis was legal and discovering CBD made me very excited knowing this was a new industry that would help tons of people, and I needed to be a part of it. The journey was never easy and it took a lot of sacrifices, but now Hemp Generation is over 4 years old and we are excited to be a part of this unique industry and to see the help and change it will bring!

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?

One of the most interesting things that have happened to us is how we met some of the people we work with today. One company who we work with closely, we met off Instagram. The head grower was from Italy. They came from a large family hemp company in Italy, found us online, and wanted to work with us. They had a huge greenhouse, a 10 year industry plan, and needed a license to start their grow. We worked with them and in-turn they let us rent two small greenhouses which allowed us to stop sourcing flower for our brand and grow it ourselves. This was huge at the time for our company because we were trying to source organic flower and it was nearly impossible to find quality NC grown flower at the time. This partnership was essential to the growth of our company and It happened right here in NC from an Italian hemp farmer picking NC as the best state for his long term cannabis business plan. To this day, we still work with them and it has been an amazing opportunity seeing two very different companies work together and be mutually beneficial to each other. From this I’ve learned that you never know what connections you might make or where they will come from. Always keep an open mind when meeting new people and also always work together, we are not all competitors, no one in the industry can do everything perfectly themselves, each company needs to use their own strength, and we must work together to build this industry into something great!

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?

One mistake I’ve made is underestimating how crazy this industry could get and how fast it could change. When I was first starting the company, CBD was pretty much the center of the hemp industry. The industry was growing, and businesses and products were expanding all around CBD. Then producers and labs started finding loopholes in the industry by creating hemp-derived THC forms like Delta 8 THC, THCO, THCP, THCV, Delta 10, and many more. It felt like the industry was moving at lightning speed, labs were making cannabinoids faster than consumers could want them or be educated on what they are, and companies were selling these unknown cannabinoids faster than standardized lab testing could keep up with. The hemp industry became a crazy free-for-all of companies trying to make the “next best thing” without prioritizing consumer knowledge, testing, or industry standards. I underestimated the changes and challenges we’d have as a company to compete and find that balance between catering to these new cannabinoids that were wanted by consumers, and trying to still hold high-standards and not cut corners as a company who values quality products, testing and safety.

I knew going into it, the industry would be rocky and take time to stabilize but I definitely underestimated how much these new hemp laws would completely change the cannabis industry. Recently I went to Colorado, one of the states that I previously viewed as defining the recreational cannabis industry and who weren’t interested in CBD at all three years ago were now jumping in the hemp industry. They recently started having CBD stores and in my recent visit this summer employees were even vouching for Delta 8 THC when I told them about our store in North Carolina. Very crazy how this industry has changed over the last few years in such a short amount of time, redefining cannabis completely shattering barriers about what THC is and broadening understanding and differences that cannabis brings. The best we can do as a company is research as much as we can, make valuable connections in the industry and stay true to our mission and goals throughout this industry wave.

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?

It was definitely a learning curve trying to explain to people what CBD was, what my company was selling and how it was legal when we first started. It was such a new emerging industry and definitely wasn’t accepted by everyone. One of the funniest moments I had is when I would tell people that I studied physics at NC State, but went to pursue this new cannabis industry instead. A lot of people would question my actions, not just the industry, but the entrepreneurial journey and that it was not worth the risk and irresponsible of me. They would tell me how a physics job was so much better and more secure, and that I’d be crazy to go into debt and not “use” the degree. Those moments were hard for me. I had to continuously move past those doubts and really believe in what I was pursuing. I think these reactions ended up making me more attached to the industry and more loyal because I really believed in it and didn’t care what it took to succeed. I had my fair share of doubts and regrets because being a business owner can often have few ups and many many downs, but consistency is key. Showing up everyday and creating that foundation to build something big is essential.

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?

Definitely my business partners Louis Rubio and Alex Amaya. We’ve stuck together through thick and thin in an industry that is difficult to build a foundation in and keep up with. I couldn’t have chosen better people to go through this journey with who have just as much passion, perseverance and dedication as I do. Through all the hard times of growing hemp in the heat of the summer with no machinery, no employees, living in a camper for two summers, risking it all and starting a retail store in Cary, NC, sacrificing all our weekends to do pop up local booth events, and battling all the industry changes and challenges we face on a daily basis. I couldn’t have chosen better people to go through this journey with and will forever be grateful.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we definitely have a lot of new and exciting things coming! Currently, we are looking into expanding our retail store, Hemp Generation Wellness, into another location. It has been a slow grind but I think we are finally ready to expand our retail footprint here in North Carolina and try to provide more CBD-wellness products to the Raleigh area. We are also releasing our Delta 9 THC gummies soon! This is exciting for us, we are slow to release products because we do rigorous research and testing to source the best high quality extracts. Our main goal is to provide many unique cannabinoids and products that could help a wide variety of people.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry. According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

There is definitely a lot of work needing to be done in the industry to achieve gender parity. Personally, I first observed and experienced the lack of gender parity while studying physics at NC State, and being one of the 3–5 women in the whole class. Being in a male-dominated field brought many limitations and skewed perspectives to many people. I remember anytime some older or out-of-college person asked me what I wanted to do with my degree they would always assume I wanted to be a teacher. Due to our current society, it is not as accessible for women to work in labs, make discoveries and be a part of physics research because of gender restrictions and discrimination. The cannabis industry has a lot of similarities in restrictions and discrimination in being a male-dominated industry. I think we can change this by becoming and supporting women leaders, building communities, creating high reputations and supporting women-owned businesses. Over the past few years in my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve seen many women becoming leaders in business and it is very inspiring. I listen to countless podcasts and channels and read books and articles about inspiring women in business. Supporting and building communities is one of the best ways I think we can help bridge the gender gap. I would highly recommend checking out women-owned business podcasts, books, connecting on LinkedIn with different women-owned companies, attending expos, buying from women-owned businesses and creating partnerships.

You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each.

Right now the cannabis industry is very unstable. Adapting, persevering, and being dedicated are key for long term success in this industry.

Being flexible is a must. As a company you will have to mold to the industry to some extent. Definitely still keep your goals, standards, and mission true, but be open to changes. We first only sold CBD and catered towards that market, and over time our company shifted to selling other cannabinoids because we realized that different combinations of cannabinoids and products can help different needs and different people. This was necessary for our company to keep up and succeed while still holding true to our core values.

Being persistent and working hard is a must in this industry. Because of the quick changes and market innovations, as a cannabis business owner, you have to constantly be working and adapting. Industry standards, laws, and practices are constantly evolving and you must be persistent. I’ve seen many companies fall short and be forced to close down sadly because they had a poor foundation, and an undefined goal and mission to hold on to during times when the change was necessary and risky. I’ve been building the same business for over 4 years now, and there have been many times during the first few years when I wanted to quit because of how hard it was to adapt in this market. Hold true to your passion, and you will build something great!

Research is key in succeeding in this industry. The hemp industry opened the door to cannabis innovation and in order to keep up and make the best decisions for your company, you must stay on top of current research, regulations, and ideas. Digging deep to find those scholarly articles about new research on cannabinoids can help people. Don’t be a trend follower. Lots of claims come out about different cannabinoids and marketing follows “CBN is for sleep” or “this CBD product is a Sativa,” when actual explanations are deeper and more complicated. Do your own research, show your customers, educate them, and you will come off more authentic this way compared to following current short-lived unresearched trends.

To be successful in the cannabis industry you need to find your niche. There are too many companies out there trying to do the same thing and trying to do everything from growing, to selling, to sourcing, to marketing, etc… There is plenty of room in the industry for many amazing businesses to form and exist. We just need to do what we do best. Don’t try to do everything as a company. Form partnerships, find a company that can source better than you, make products better than you, do lab tests better than you, distribute better than you, or market better so you can form a healthy partnership and stick to what you are good at and can confidently succeed in. At Hemp Generation, we’ve constantly tried to do everything from seed to sale and have run into difficulties and struggles that were improved through strategic, win-win partnerships.

Making good connections is key to success in this industry. Many people view other hemp companies as competition and want to box them out. While there is competition in the industry, there is still a need to work together. There are so many great companies and I encourage everyone to find mutually beneficial relationships in the industry. Attend cannabis expos, connect on Linkedin, participate in help industry talks, speeches and articles, reach out to like-minded people in the area and share ideas.

The industry is rapidly growing and I see it being successful if we all build solid foundations, network with other companies and create this huge web of companies supporting each other in what we each do best in order to make cannabis the safest most helpful natural plant medicine for consumers.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

The three things that excite me about this industry are how quickly it evolves, seeing it help so many people, and the community it creates. Despite the negatives that a quickly evolving industry brings, it is also exciting. Faster growth means more opportunities for research and discovery which has been amazing to see. The mass production of Delta 8 THC would have never come about if it wasn’t for this CBD industry, and I’ve seen the Delta 8 help many people who need something stronger than CBD but get paranoid and anxious from Delta 9 THC. It seems to be the perfect median for a lot of people. It is exciting to see so many people find this plant medicine and have it help them when previously there were limited options. It is life changing to see. Many of our customers at Hemp Generation Wellness in Cary, NC tell me amazing stories about the products that have helped them or a loved one and it is so inspiring. I wouldn’t be here today without all these amazing stories and supporters. The community that this industry has helped create is exciting. I’ve made many amazing connections on instagram, linkedin, at expos, at local hemp events and through the store that have changed my life and made the company better.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?

People not in it for the right reasons, unclear regulations, and a lack of education are three of my biggest concerns in this industry. Time after time I’ve seen companies pop up that are just trying to make quick money and don’t care about the consumers or care to be involved in industry movements or regulations to help keep people safe. I think these companies are bad players and end up harming the industry, making consumers lose trust and making the industry seem deceitful and irresponsible. Regulations also concern me about the hemp industry. Regulations are necessary and needed to keep consumers safe and hold companies responsible to create good products. The huge lack of regulation right now is extremely harmful to the industry because it allows for these “bad players” to take advantage and potentially harm consumers and the hemp industry’s reputation. Hopefully, soon we can have some rules and standards that aren’t too strict and limiting to the industry while allowing for safety and regulation of the products. Lack of education is also a huge concern in this industry. Research is extremely behind compared to the products currently out in the wellness market. A lot of people don’t know what the effects of these products are or how to take them properly, what the dosage should be, how it affects other medications, different people, etc… There need to be some larger efforts in cannabis research over the next few years in order to keep consumers safe and well informed.

What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?

Federal legalization of cannabis would be great and I think it is coming. It has been proven in the past and even more so through the hemp industry that cannabis can help a lot of people seeking answers to many health issues. However, contrary to popular belief, I think the perception of cannabis being “federally legal” is changing. Technically, cannabis or THC is “legal” depending on how it is grown, manufactured, and processed. For instance, here in North Carolina, we can legally sell Delta 9 THC by following the current laws of it coming from hemp plants and abiding by the 0.3% rule. 10mg of THC can be in one small gummy following these rules and that is the same dosing as any “recreationally legal state”. Many people don’t see cannabis as legal because there was no huge feat of national legalization that everyone celebrates even though it’s been here all along through the hemp industry. That being said, even with this “legalization” we are still missing products like high THC flower and concentrates so I do hope cannabis can be fully legalized someday allowing all parts of the plant to be researched, tested, and sold to people who need it. I believe CBD, the different forms of THC, CBN, CBG and all the other cannabinoids are necessary and we need to break the stigmas around cannabis in order for beneficial research to boom.

Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?

I think it would be best for cannabis to have a different status compared to cigarettes. I don’t think it should be highly taxed, socially marginalized or even highly regulated. I do think there need to be strict guidelines and education in place to sell the products because safety and education need to be the number one priority for consumers. Right now there are no guidelines for testing, no strict rules for amounts of heavy metals, residual solvents or pesticides in products and no packaging or dosing guidelines and education. These need to be addressed in order for the products to help people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of my favorite life lesson quotes “Each day you get the chance to be a better version of yourself than you were the day before”. This applies to my life personally and in business. No one is perfect, but if we have an open mindset to strive to be a better version of ourselves it will open the door to growth and success. If each day we can be more charismatic, more empathetic, more understanding, more motivated, and more dedicated it will build us a foundation for personal growth. In business, you have to constantly learn from your mistakes and become a better leader for your company. Not everyone starts off at the same place or has the same journey but doing the best we can to become better people is something we all share.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement it would definitely be a movement where everyone values natural/organic products, using herbs as a form of medication, and doing research for their own self help. Our current society is set up in a way where people seek help, get treated with medication, those medications can often have side effects and then need more medication to combat those side effects and so on. Being in this wellness and CBD business, I’ve witnessed many people struggle and lose hope when the traditional medical system fails them.

During the first year of starting Hemp Generation I started having lots of health issues including anxiety attacks, pain, sleep paralysis, memory problems, fatigue, dizziness, face numbness, brain fog, and I found out I had lyme disease. After months of these symptoms, doctors prescribed me antibiotics twice and they did nothing. I was desperate for help so I started reading books about lyme healing and doing my own research until finally seeking help through a holistic practitioner. This was the first step in my healing journey and I realized that I was capable of my own research and healing by being a part of the holistic community, taking herbs and natural remedies, and making lifestyle changes. After 3 years and many different herbal regiments, non-FDA approved alternative treatments, finding ways of detoxing, and avoiding toxins, I was finally back in good health. By no means was this an easy journey, many times I was frustrated because one herbal regiment would help a bit but not all the way and time after time i’d have to do more research and spend more money on other natural treatments that are sadly not covered by insurance, however it was more successful and hopeful than traditional medicine and doctors could offer me. I learned that we can take control of our health, learn about our bodies, and find what is best for our own health. I still think traditional medicine is necessary and life-saving, however it is easy to fall into the trap of prescription medication when there are safer, natural alternatives or lifestyle changes that can make a significant impact.

Next time you go to seek help from a traditional doctor, I’d encourage you to do your own research beforehand, ask them as many questions as you need, and know what solutions there are; traditional and non-traditional, and decide what is best for you. I’d encourage you to look into natural, healing foods and seek herbal remedies so that you can try different options. Having this mentality will allow us to take control of our health. Never think that there is only one option. Always do your own research. This is the self-awareness movement that I’d want to create.

Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.