Bud to Bloom’s course — Making Retail Hemp Products — starts October 13th. The course shares important points entrepreneurs should know before launching their retail hemp business. Photo credit: twenty20photos.
For those looking to learn how to make and sell their own high-quality hemp products either in addition to an existing product line or as a new business altogether, here are three big reasons why I personally think doing exactly this is a great idea.
First, cannabis and hemp are incredibly powerful plants, especially when they are combined with other herbs in thoughtful and skilled formulation. Meaning: one can help more people, and in really profound ways.
And second, because it’s so effective, and is so sexy right now, it’s an incredible opportunity to grow a product-based business. It’s a way to get more plants into more people, and to help make one’s business more profitable.
Thirdly, depending on where one lives, there may already be, soon will be or will eventually be an opportunity to make and sell high-THC products legally. Having already done all the work to have a hemp business will put entrepreneurs in a very good position to enter that market as well.
So there are lots of reasons to do it, and it’s why I did it for years with a lot of success. But what I didn’t realize when I was still in the idea stage was how complicated it was.
I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, and have learned a lot about making products from this plant. I want to share that knowledge with others so they don’t need to go through the same trial and error.
So in my experienced opinion, here are the top five things entrepreneurs need to know in order to launch a line of hemp products.
1. It’s Normal to Feel Confused and Even a Little Scared
Laws around hemp can be incredibly confusing, nonsensical, infuriating, and not easily discoverable. So it’s not a personal failure if one has had a hard time decoding and wrapping their minds around them.
On top of that, there is an incredible amount of cultural baggage and stigma that still exists around this plant. These are things many of us have internalized despite our love for this plant. It can feel scary to work with hemp, because it can bring up lots of fears. Fears around how one will be perceived, or what one’s family will think, or if one might get in trouble. It can also bring up fears around success or failure because of the money involved.
So know that confusion and fear are not signs of impending failure. They’re completely normal and are feelings that most, if not all hemp entrepreneurs, feel at one time or another.
2. State Governments are the Gatekeeper Between Entrepreneurs and Their Ability to Launch Products
Right now, each individual state regulates hemp, and each state is different; entrepreneurs need to know the regulations their states have set.
So make a nice calming cup of tea and look at local state guidelines put out by whichever department oversees the hemp program. A little bit of sleuthing should help business owners determine a number of important things.
- Which products entrepreneurs can and can’t make.
- What the licensing fees are to become a manufacturer, and how to apply for that license.
- What rules businesses have to abide by when it comes to sourcing, testing, distributing, labeling, and whatever else they’ve taken jurisdiction over.
Not sure where to start? Check out this state-by-state spreadsheet with information on where to find the regulations and licensing requirements that apply in each state.
3. There’s a lot of Hemp out There to Work With. A lot of it is Crap (or just not Your Style)
Regardless of a certain state’s regulations, entrepreneurs need to have a source for hemp that they trust. This means they need to know what to look for, and what to ask of people.
For example, there is moldy hemp out there, and hemp that is full of pesticides and heavy metals. And for those working with extracts, all that becomes even more invisible and concentrated. So it’s important for makers to know the right questions to ask suppliers to ensure that their final product meets certain standards, and that it is high quality.
At the very least, the first thing entrepreneurs need to do when talking to potential sources is ask for a certificate of analysis (CoA), or the lab test results that, at the very least, detail the cannabinoid breakdown. Even better is to ask for full panel labs, which will include things like heavy metals, pesticides, mold, bacteria, etc. Any farm or processor that’s worth working with will have something like this. So make sure it’s available, and that it is comprehendible.
Outside of quality issues, though, there’s also all kinds of distillates and synthesized cannabinoids and extracts out there that one can purchase. Product makers need to know what it is they’re looking for and why, or they risk getting overwhelmed or buying into something that’s not aligned with them or their brand.
4. Hemp/Cannabis is a bit Particular
And learning its particularities is key to being able to learn how to work with the plant masterfully and how to formulate the best possible products.
Folks who are herbalists either by profession or hobby have got a leg up. These individuals already understand infusion and extraction processes, blending with other plants, and preferred ingredients. Since cannabis is after all, a plant, one can apply that knowledge here. But cannabis/hemp, like I said, is a particular plant.
It’s chemistry is unique and, for example, requires some special processing to turn the raw cannabinoids into what are called active cannabinoids. There are also certain matrices that hemp really likes to be in, and others that it really hates to be in. It’s important that entrepreneurs know the plants they’re working with in and out. Getting familiar with their chemistry is one important way to do that.
Studying with people who’ve done it before can help entrepreneurs avoid making expensive mistakes. Honestly, this can be tricky because there’s unfortunately a real secrecy in the cannabis industry — which makes sense; we’re all living within capitalism and we need to protect the things that make us money to a certain extent. But not everyone has as much need or desire to fiercely protect that information. So the opportunities to learn medicine making with others is possible, and it’s a big part of what I love to share with my clients and students.
5. Marketing and Sales get Trickier
If they weren’t already tricky, the complex legal history and current climate of hemp and cannabis means that there are some extra obstacles in the way of selling one’s product. Entrepreneurs need to have a strategy for getting around those limitations so that they can get those products out there, seen, and purchased.
Because it doesn’t matter how great a product is if it’s not getting into people’s bodies, and that’s what having a sales and marketing system set up does.
First, advertising on social media is largely out of the question. Some folks are getting away with it with a few tricks. But really, business owners shouldn’t rely on buying ads to get their products seen. Instead, focusing on what’s called guerilla marketing is key. This includes things like focusing on content marketing over paid ads, leveraging word of mouth, and growing an email list so one’s business is not at the mercy of Instagram.
Additionally, most payment processors are not going to want to work with cannabis/hemp businesses. Big players like PayPal and Stripe are not fans of cannabis/hemp, and they will shut these businesses down. That is not something entrepreneurs generally want. Know this ahead of time and plan for it, because trying to sneak it past unfriendly payment processors generally doesn’t end well.
So know the limitations here as well as the regulations, and remember that constraints inspire creativity. This is an opportunity to develop creative ways to get one’s products out there, and for these products to stand out. This means having strong branding and getting clear on the product line’s audience and unique niche.
For those interested in going deeper into all of this and more, and who want expert guidance from within the industry to launch a hemp product line, check out the upcoming six-week course — Making Retail Hemp Products, starting October 13th. By the end of November, entrepreneurs will have the tools needed to start making and selling the products they’ve been dreaming about.
Reading this after the course has started? Email me to get on the waitlist for the next session, or check out my individualized business coaching program designed specifically for plant people by me, a clinically-trained herbalist and cannabis advocate with over a decade of experience in the industry.
Not ready to dive into anything right now? Join the free Bud to Bloom Community, an online network (that’s NOT on Facebook) of other herbal and hemp entrepreneurs.
Written by Stephanie Boucher