Written By Rita Thompson and Melissa Hutsell. Photography by Kaylia Boshard of My Bud Life™ . Cover photo courtesy of Buena Botanicals.
A majority of businesses in the cannabis industry are run by white people — 81%, to be exact. As a result, minorities are underserved as both entrepreneurs and as consumers.
This is why My Bud Life™ and Emerald Media, both women-founded companies, have joined forces to create the Walk the Walk Collaborative. As part of an entrepreneurial initiative that’s focused on growing minority-owned companies in the cannabis industry, their goal is to build equity in the new and emerging market.
Throughout the Winter of 2020-2021, Buena Botanicals founders Coral and Rah Hines collaborated with Walk the Walk’s ultrapreneur and My Bud Life™ founder, Doreen Sullivan, an award-winning marketer, and Emerald Media founder, Christina de Giovanni.
The entrepreneurs worked side-by-side to help the Hines reach their goals of becoming full-time entrepreneurs.
Twin sisters Coral and Tarah “Rah” Hines are raising awareness together about natural CBD products via their lifestyle brand, Buena Botanicals.
Buena Botanicals currently offers a range of plant-based wellness products, including CBD-infused tinctures, bath bombs and topicals made with USDA-certified organic hemp.
Since launching their brand in 2019, Buena Botanicals has continued to gain traction. They have caught the attention of People, Elle, and Martha Stewart Magazine, who ranks the Hines among the top “ten female CEOs who are spearheading the CBD industry.”
But both Coral and Rah are balancing their full-times jobs in addition to building their budding business. To help meet their expansion goals, they teamed up with the Walk the Walk Collaborative, eager to take their next steps forward.
Their North Star
The Hines’ commitment to holistic healing is directly inspired by their mother, who suffers from arthritis and sciatic nerve pain.
“She is our inspiration. She is our first customer,” Coral explained. “We wanted to try and find a way to help her with all of her symptoms [naturally]. She was taking all of these medications with all these side effects. We gave her some of our CBD and it brought her relief.”
“We [thought], ‘if it can help her, then why not everyone else in our community?” Coral wondered.
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Twin sisters Rah (left) and Coral (right) Hines. Photo from @buenabotanicals on Instagram.
Gaining Perspective Through Sisterhood
Now that hemp is legal at the federal level, the CBD market is expanding rapidly.
In July, the BrightField Group projected the U.S. CBD market to reach $4.7 billion in sales in 2020, with 14% growth from 2019.
While an influx of opportunists can make it hard to stand out in an already crowded market, Coral and Rah credit sisterhood as their distinguishing factor.
Coral comes from a career in the fashion industry. Rah, on the other hand, is a certified permaculturist, and is increasingly involved in issues like environmental justice and food freedom.
Their contrasting lifestyles, however, grant them a perspective they might lack individually.
“I’m the working mom, Rah is the world traveler and yoga teacher,” Coral explained. “It brings our business full circle because we have these different perspectives and points of views that we merged together to form this one vision.”
While Rah described herself as a free spirit, she said Coral — a mother of two — is “very secure and rooted.”
“We have similar interests, but we’re also very different,” added Rah. “I think that comes through in the quirkiness of [our] brand.”
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Coral comes from the fashion industry while Rah is a permaculturist and yoga teacher. Photo from @buenabotanicals on Instagram.
CBD in the A-T-L
While Rah lives in Tampa, Florida, Coral is currently based in Atlanta. Both regions are known for having some of the largest growth of women-owned businesses in the nation, according to Businesswire.
In fact, Coral describes Atlanta as “the Black Mecca.”
“[There are] so many great Black-owned businesses and things that are here that aren’t, per say, in other places,” she said.
However, there is little awareness of CBD, particularly in Black communities she explained. “A lot of people in our communities don’t know what CBD is. People don’t really fully understand it yet.”
That’s why the Hines are focused on improving access to and awareness of CBD products, they explained further.
To accomplish this, they aim to build partnerships with frontline brands that recognize the need for equity in the cannabis industry and beyond.
Navigating the Industry as Black Women
Both Coral and Rah feel a shared sense of pressure as Black female entrepreneurs.
“We both really believe in our products; how they benefit us individually; and how they can benefit the community,” said Rah. “With the historical context, the criminalization of Black and Brown folks over cannabis in general and what we want to do with the brand — I feel a lot of pressure.”
“Do more, help more people. Do it faster, do it better,” she added. “It contradicts what we’re about: self care, wellness, and healing.”
“As Black women, we’re just so used to that feeling,” expressed Coral. “We’re used to feeling like we have to do everything. We’re used to that feeling of having 100 things to do, and having the world on our shoulders.”
But as a brand rooted in holistic healing, Rah pointed out that relaxation is revolutionary, “especially if you are a Black person in the United States.”
CBD is a tool, explained Rah. “It’s not [about] taking CBD so I can go do more stuff,” she added. It’s about “taking CBD so you can relax and zoom out and really understand what’s going on with yourself, your mind, [and] your emotions.”
“Not Fully in the Self-Employed, Entrepreneur Life — yet”
The sisters operate Buena Botanicals by themselves. They do their own marketing, and fulfill every individual order themselves, including sending each package off with a handwritten note.
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The Hines also fulfill all orders. Photo from @buenabotanicals on Instagram.
But, as they balance their growing business in addition to their full-time jobs and families, the Hines find that their resources, especially time, are limited.
“Both of us do work full-time,” Rah explained. “When we try to figure things out, it just takes us a little bit longer because we’re not fully in the self-employed, entrepreneur life — yet.”
“We feel like we’re on the right track,” Coral expressed. “But I know that we can [do] so much more, especially with our market. That’s what we really need help with. We know what we want, we know how to get there, but we don’t know how to itemize. We don’t know [how to] reach the maximum amount of audience that we can get.”
That motivated Coral and Rah to join forces with the Walk the Walk Collaborative in November 2020. The collaborative connected the Hines with resources ranging from product development to financial management services.
— Expand their product line
— Create a consistent marketing plan
— Build solid partnerships with frontline brands that align with their goal of helping create a more equitable industry
Expand Buena Botanicals
The Hines teamed up with marketing and product development expert, Doreen Sullivan. Sullivan’s powerhouse clientele includes Disney, the U.S. Olympics, ESPN and more.
To to add more value to their brand through things like packaging and photography, Sullivan joined Coral in Atlanta in January 2021 at the international buyers market, AtlantaMart. Their mission — bring Buena Botanicals’ motto, Live Life Buena, to the forefront by creating visuals around it.
Buena Botanicals is foremost a plant-based brand that emphasizes self-care from mother earth. Instilling this in its aesthetics requires building “a tool kit of visuals,” Sullivan explains. So, they went to AtlantaMart to help build that tool kit. They shopped, spoke to and learned from vendors, and bought pots, aprons and other items to showcase Buena Botanicals’ organic elements.
“We were able to see how to accessorize our products for photo-shoots and also how to create more value by adding little details and accessories that catch the customer’s eye,” Rah explained. “We have also talked about how to create a story around our brand and how to improve our messaging.”
Armed with confidence, and visual tools too, Coral then joined Sullivan at the My Bud Life™ headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina in February 2021 for two days of creative development. Here, Coral accessed the agency’s design team and photo studio — which helped curb $5,000 in creative costs.
Together, they built upon Buena Botanicals’ tool kit of visuals. That included marketing and educational material, which the Hines can then take to local marketplaces, pop-ups and community events throughout Atlanta and Tampa.
“Going to Charleston and meeting [Sullivan] and her team was everything,” said Coral. “Everything that we accomplished in those two days would have taken weeks for us to accomplish on our own.”
Create a Consistent Marketing Plan
In addition to creative services, Sullivan helped the Hines map out a one-year growth strategy. The plan includes details on reaching target audiences, and introducing additional revenue streams, like spa kits.
Emerald Media’s Christina de Giovanni and her team also worked to hone-in on a marketing plan, something that the Hines’ admitted was their biggest struggle.
“It’s us two, but there’s so many things that we don’t know about. Aspects like financials and marketing,” Rah added. “We do research on Google. Google was our team partner, really.”
Not only is it time-consuming, it’s taken up a lot of the Hines’ budget, Rah explained. ”If you knew how much money we’ve lost trying to find a marketing person, you would pass out.”
To help get Google to work for them — de Giovanni jumped into action creating a digital marketing strategy, which included Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and programmatic advertising. Programmatic advertising relies on a machine, or an application (instead of a team of humans) to buy and optimize ads. Doing so frees up time while also improving the efficiency of ads.
De Giovanni is also creating marketing and editorial materials, and distributing them throughout the media company’s outlets. She has also connected the Hines to financial consultant, Brian Smolin of Smolin Consulting. Smolin, along with Sullivan of My Bud Life™, is analyzing the Hines’ budget to support the reduction of the cost of goods through a series of consultations.
So far, the Hines have reduced some of their overhead costs. For example, they have cut the price they pay per unit of tincture jars and stickers by half.
Moving forward, they will continue to work together to figure out how to add as much value to the Buena Botanicals line as possible through things like buying in bulk, and sustaining wholesale requests.
“We are looking forward to going more in depth, especially with our finances to build the framework needed to achieve our goals,” said Rah.
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Growing a tool kit of visuals. Photo from @buenabotanicals on Instagram.
The Hines’ third goal is to build relationships with other brands who contribute to an inclusive cannabis industry.
In addition to those made within the collaborative, the Hines want to create partnerships with online marketplaces that showcase Black-owned companies, such as Humble Bloom or the Black-Owned Marketplace (BOM). Walk the Walk’s founding partners provided the Hines with a list of such marketplaces.
The collaborative will continue to work with the Hines, and position them to sell their products through other outlets — expanding Buena Botanicals’ presence even more.
While the Hines are well on their way to living the entrepreneur life they dream of, their ultimate goal is to help people live better lives by using organic, plant-based products.
“I feel rejuvenated to continue on this journey. We are so grateful for this opportunity and for everything the My Bud Life™ and Emerald team have done for us,” added Coral. “We are even more excited about what the future holds for Buena Botanicals after being a part of this program.”
My Bud Life™ and Emerald Media will continue to walk the walk with Buena Botanicals, and provide updates throughout the process, including a six-month follow up with Coral and Rah Hines. In the meantime, you can support them by donating to their Cash App $buenabotanicals, or by purchasing Buena Botanicals products at BuenaBotanicals.com.
Walk the Walk is an entrepreneurial initiative founded by My Bud Life™ and Emerald Media. The collaborative’s mission is to grow cannabis focused-minority businesses. The collaborative aims to consult, create and connect one minority-owned business at a time with the resources and connections they need to take the next steps in their business.
Individuals or companies looking to follow, contribute, apply — or nominate a business to the initiative — can visit walkthewalkcollaborative.com.