Strong founder stories feature prominently in the CBD industry. The people behind the life-changing products have a vision, a purpose and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of CBD.
Kat Merryfield of Kat’s Naturals is one such individual. We caught up with her to learn more about her unique background, the importance she places on giving back to the community, and how she’s grown a business that’s now ‘the Number One Rated Organic CBD Isolate on the Market.’
C-Matters: Great to chat with you, Kat. Before we talk about the industry, why don’t you introduce yourself?
Kat Merryfield: I’m Kat Merryfield. I go by Kat of Kat’s Naturals. I founded the company three-and-a-half years ago under a different name, Merryfield’s Farms, because we were farmers. I discovered CBD for the first time from a farmhand who was working with us.
I’d hurt my back and he handed me this stuff that I’d never heard of. At that time a whole lot of people didn’t really know what CBD was, he didn’t even know what it was.
But he told me: “Hey, I brought this from Michigan, and I heard it helped back pain.”
I looked at it and I was like “OK, I know cannabis.”
He said it wouldn’t make me high, so I gave it a try and then no kidding, within 10 minutes I’d completely forgotten that I was in pain. I was just sitting there working and thinking “whoa, this can’t be for real.”
CM: What made you want to start out in the CBD industry?
KM: I have a background in natural health and nutrition. But I’d never seen or experienced anything like CBD before.
The back pain came back so I tried the product again and the same thing happened — I just completely forgot about it.
That incident began a journey of discovery and trying to figure out what this stuff was.
I started by calling the manufacturer, but they were very uninformative.
They just said “well, it’s CBD, it comes from cannabis.” But they couldn’t tell me how it worked.
So, I started doing some Internet research instead. There were only about five companies online back then and so I called all of them and only one returned my call and actually educated me.
They were based in the Netherlands and had been selling cannabis products for a long time, so they were able to give me the lowdown on the science behind CBD and how it worked.
That led to forming a deeper relationship with that company to the point where I said I’d import their Isolate to make my products if they’d help me learn how to work with them.
And so I paired their knowledge with my background in natural health and nutrition and herbal formulations and came up with a product line that I took to market alongside my regular produce of meat etc.
That’s where it all began, doing some research and development and selling CBD products for the price it was costing me to make them. In exchange, this company would give me feedback on how it’s working, who it’s working for, in what conditions, whether it was consistent, all those kinds of questions.
This was back in 2015 and led to the formulation of the products we sell now. It’s been a crazy ride.
CM: That’s fascinating. We’d looked at your website and story and always assumed you got into CBD because your husband was a Veteran. But, it all started with you.
KM: Yeah, my husband Brian is a big part of the story too. He was in the Reserves and travelling a lot. And on one particular job he was in a lot of pain and had PTSD that kept him up at night.
He grinded his teeth. He had terrible nightmares. He was a horrible insomniac. And so we tried CBD to see if it would work for him.
I was also using it with another soldier friend who had epileptic seizures due to traumatic brain injury while he was in the military.
And so that’s how we got to the 1500mg dose because that was the one that worked for him without having to consume a huge amount of oil.
He said the low milligram dose worked but he’d have to drink practically an entire bottle to get to work. But when we developed the 1500mg he only needed like three drops.
That’s how we came to that potency and it worked really well in reducing his knee inflammation and reducing his anxiety levels and inability to handle crowds.
He also started sleeping a little bit better and then his teeth grinding stopped. And it was just this progression that we weren’t expecting.
By this point we’d figured out not only did CBD work well in treating pain, it also improved the psyche too.
We’re continually astounded by the different situations and ailments we’ve successfully treated since creating these products.
CM: That’s an amazing story and so relatable. And also goes some way to answering the question: “what drives you on and makes you want to always give something back?”
KM: It just feels really good to help others. I’ve always been a big giver.
My husband and I were in the military making $11,000 a year and if it wasn’t for really good people it would’ve been really difficult to raise our kids.
Now we’re in a position where our company is making enough revenue to be able to give something back and choose causes where we can help make a difference.
That’s been kind of interesting because there’s still this prevalent stigma around cannabis and it’s been hard to find charities that will accept our money.
For instance, we really struggled with Operation: Rally Point.
When we were looking at charities, we went to them first given their background in helping Veterans transition back into civilian society.
But they were very unsure about taking ‘cannabis money’ for soldiers.
It took a year of educating them, telling them that our products aren’t for getting people high, and gradually more studies came out that backed this up.
After a final conversation with Vince (at Operation: Rally Point) we finally convinced him and he said “you know what guys, we’ll take it. We really need this.”
We also looked at funding a society during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
I had cancer once upon a time and it was a cause close to my heart but I wanted to do my homework and not see the money squandered.
Again, I reached out, we found a couple of societies doing good work but they didn’t want to take out money.
So, the search switched from a national level to state level. Still no. Surely someone would take the money we were pledging?!
Eventually, I found a ‘Quashing County Cancer Society’ through my work with our small town’s Chamber of Commerce.
They were writing checks for people with cancer, helping them to pay bills, and we struck up a relationship.
In one month we raised $10,000 for them.
They really appreciated it, and it’s so much better than just padding your own pockets.
CM: That type of philanthropy, especially localized, is so impactful and will obviously help paint your business in a positive light. On a more commercial level, how important is it for you to receive positive reviews? Do you find they make a difference?
KM: There isn’t an easy answer to this question. I can only tell you the truth. Some review sites are paid and paint a false picture because they’re influenced by the companies that can afford to pay them the most.
We don’t have very huge margins because we choose to work with smaller farmers. We choose to work with local extraction outfits and they charge higher prices because they’re just not huge conglomerates that can swallow these large dividends.
So, we just don’t have the ability to give some of these companies what they’re asking for in exchange for good reviews.
It’s problematic because one unfair review can really cost you and that’s not good in a world where such sites play a big part in helping to educate the wider public about your products and business.
I’ll give you another example. An ex-business partner of mine created a couple of review sites without my knowledge. And when we split ways our review went from number two to number 16 so you can see the way they can be skewed.
My advice here is just go to the unpaid sites and not those that are being paid to push one product or another and go to chat groups on Facebook to get educated. I know a couple of them that do a really good job of mediating questions and responses.
CM: Do you think companies that don’t give back are missing a key element to reaching those who need CBD?
KM: Yeah, I think they’re missing something that could make them feel really good about themselves and do something greater for the world.
But you also have to be mindful of the fact that the majority of CBD players are perhaps too small to give back, just like we were. It took us several years before we were in that fortunate position.
That said, some are just flat-out greedy. I’ve met plenty of CBD companies, both starting up and have been there, that just don’t give two cents about people. They’re in it to get rich as fast as they can and then drive it into the ground and they don’t care.
CM: How would you say your customer base has changed since starting out?
KM: It’s expanded a lot. When we first started out it was mostly women aged 45–70.
Now we see younger people and those just hitting their 30s who are starting to experience a lot of anxiety take an interest in our products
But it’s interesting to see a lot of people don’t want to be high and they’re converting from regular marijuana usage to CBD because it allows them a higher focal point and they’re more effective in society.
The younger generation want to stay focused and lose that anxiety so that they can be successful. But they also want to get away from the opiates for the little aches and pains, antidepressants and the anti-anxieties that make them incapacitated.
That’s very heartening to see. I wasn’t sure how that was going to go when it first started out with the people who have been on medications for so long that they’re riddled with chronic ailments that stem from taking them.
The CBD movement just started out as word of mouth and we didn’t put any money into our marketing for two-and-a-half years because it was all driven that way.
But now that people are starting to be educated, we had to put more money into the education not necessarily the marketing pop. We don’t do that. We’re just getting more education out there and making improvements to our website. You know, getting more materials out there to help people.
CM: How do you maintain the highest standards and what makes your product stand out from the competition?
KM: Our products are THC free and our product principles stand out.
We’ve noticed that pretty much any company, any brand, will offer products from 300mg all the way up to a 2000mg/3000mg or more.
We’ve learned that less is better.
This mitigates any side effects. Some companies will say there are no side effects, but we’ve learned enough from our customers to know that some people are super sensitive, even to CBD.
These people may experience a little headache or dizziness.
We encourage these customers to start out with one drop until they hit their level, then maintain that level before purging their bodies of the cannabinoids once a year and starting over.
This helps the body utilize the cannabinoids more efficiently so that’s something that kind of stands out with our company versus a lot of the other competition.
CM: Where do you see your business in the next three to five years, especially with the passing of the Farm Bill?
KM: Our biggest concern this year became is maintaining the quality of our supply chain.
We’ve started to see a break point where some companies are just pumping out products so fast and the quality is starting to fall away.
We’ve always outsourced our Isolate to labs that specialize in really high-quality pharmaceutical grade Isolate.
Well, those companies are losing their quality control. They’re just trying to do too much at a time.
We’ve seen shoddy products coming out. We’ve sent it back. We’ve tried. I mean it’s just become a mess. So, we have one company that we know is still doing a good job. But we can only order small amounts at a time from them. We have to vertically integrate our Isolate production in order to keep that quality of production in place.
CM: What do you think the biggest challenges will be?
KM: As mentioned, I think maintaining quality will be the biggest challenge. And also we’re seeing an enormous amount of funds coming in and funding companies that aren’t doing the right thing.
Hopefully they won’t put companies like ours out of business just because they can consume so much. They don’t really have the right business model.
They don’t have a product. And I just don’t want to see people who’ve worked so tirelessly to get this industry up and running become disillusioned as we navigate this frontier.
But I think it’s a lot like the computer industry when it first started. You know, it was a huge boom.
It was incredible how fast it moved. But then several companies emerged, and they earnt trust through providing quality products and helped us go into the future. So that’s what I’m hoping to see in CBD.
We’ll probably also see a great shake-down take place where the 20–25 companies that are doing a really good job will rise to the top and will be able to fulfill the needs of their customers without compromising on anything
CM: Do you think there’s enough room and enough demand for there to be a top 20 list of companies that are all making decent money?
KM: Oh gosh, yes! I don’t think that we could scrape the surface of what we need to produce to meet the needs of the people right now.
I think it could take us five to seven years to be able to grow, extract and produce the amount that is needed to supply even our own country, let alone the others that are increasingly interested in our products.
We want this to grow in our country too. It’s unbelievable what can be done here. I just want to see that the people who stay in it do so for the right reasons, don’t compromise their quality over time and we can all stand together.
CM: Anything else you’d like to share with us?
KM: It’s been a pleasure meeting you and talking to you and I really appreciate you coming into this industry and shining a new light on it. I’d only add that at the beginning of 2018 we had three employees and now we’re up to 16.
It’s just weird. We need more manufacturers. We need more edible manufacturers so we’re actually looking for more chefs because we love having our chefs in charge of our edibles.
We also just hired an HR member of personnel who’s been in HR for a long time and two months ago we hired a quality control manager to make sure that every bottle was at the utmost quality and he’s working on developing towards certifications for our products. It’s a very exciting time.
We’d like to thank Kat for taking the time to talk with us. Visit her website at https://katsnaturals.com.
And keep checking back for more informative interviews with CBD pioneers and C-Suite execs!