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Melissa Dugan of Pharmstrong: “Tax on cannabis has helped state budgets and created jobs”

Tax on cannabis has helped state budgets and created jobs. But, I am most excited for the world to understand how hemp can help our planet. Not only can our bodies benefit from hemp’s therapeutic properties, but we can also slow global warming by using hemp for planting and building. What’s exciting is that we […]

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Tax on cannabis has helped state budgets and created jobs. But, I am most excited for the world to understand how hemp can help our planet. Not only can our bodies benefit from hemp’s therapeutic properties, but we can also slow global warming by using hemp for planting and building. What’s exciting is that we have so much more to learn about how hemp can help the body and our world. We are just scratching the surface.


As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Dugan, Co-Founder of Pharmstrong

Melissa Dugan, CEO, and Co-Founder of Pharmstrong, is one of only a handful of women who own and run a successful CBD enterprise. Opening Pharmstrong UK this November, Melissa is a trailblazer bringing Pharmstrong’s premiere Colorado CBD to Britain. Melissa is now prepared to take Pharmstrong on into the EU, South Africa, and Australia.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Looking back, it seems like this career path just developed in front of me, like stepping stones appearing below my feet. I was a stay at home mom, my kids were entering high school, my husband’s career changed, and I had just graduated from coaching school. My husband invested in a hemp farm started farming, and the farm was looking to build a brand. At the same time, my mother was beginning to experience medical issues related to aging, and she asked me to help find a non-pharmaceutical hemp product to help her with pain. I live in Colorado, and after visiting many dispensaries, I realized there were no products appropriate for my mom and safe for her to use. I knew then that I could do a much better job at bringing safe and effective CBD to people who do not shop at dispensaries. So, I set out to use the hemp from our farm and make a product for mainstream adults looking for a CBD brand they could trust.

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?

In March of 2019, we opened a store on Main Street in Breckenridge, Colorado. When I started Pharmstrong, I wanted to focus on e-commerce, and I never envisioned having a store. It has turned out to be one of the best experiences of our lives. Every day we engage with people new to CBD. We also get to meet many people who come into the store to share their experience with CBD. Not many CBD companies meet and talk with their customers. We have a free CBD sample bar, and customers saddle up to the bar and try our products. It’s turned out to be the best way to educate people and listen to their stories. We have hugged them, held them while they’ve cried, laughed with them, and celebrated their healing. Helping others is all that matters. We are a place where people feel heard and supported. We believe that everyone deserves another chance to feel their best.

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?

This isn’t funny, but it is a mistake. We did exactly what everyone says not to do when you start a web business. Yes, we built an online store and expected everyone to flock to it. Well, guess what? No one came. Surprise! The lesson we learned was that a start-up budget must include marketing and advertising, and it should be most of the budget you have. You can’t just hang your shingle. You have to pave the path, put up billboards, install the stoplights, direct traffic, and open the doors. You have to come into an online business with marketing dollars to spend.

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

Yes! We are committed to keeping our products cutting edge, easy to use, and convenient. Our new products will take the place of traditional CBD products that are difficult to use and messy. Imagine, instead of taking out your tincture bottle, measuring a dropper full, and hovering the dropper over your mouth, you can pop a dissolvable tablet. Easy peasy. If it is easier and less intimidating, we know more people will give CBD a try.

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?

My brother in law, Steven Storlie, was a huge help when we started our site. He is the owner of an outdoor apparel company called Wallrest. He would fly into Denver from Portland, Oregon, sit with me for hours, and talk about the website, marketing strategy, and branding. Being an entrepreneur can be isolating. In the beginning, I spent hours by myself, studying and strategizing. We all know the term analysis paralysis. Well, I would absorb so much information I couldn’t figure out what to do next. Steven was always just a phone call away, and he would help move me into the next right action. It’s still important to have a mentor, get support and reach out for help.

This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?

We get a lot of feedback from our customers, and it has been essential to our growth. I think focus groups, surveys, and one on one interaction can help grow your business in the right direction. Make sure most of your campaigns are based on customer research. However, keep a little budget aside for some crazy ideas. Mix your slow and steady long play with some fun ideas that create brand buzz.

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

Tax on cannabis has helped state budgets and created jobs. But, I am most excited for the world to understand how hemp can help our planet. Not only can our bodies benefit from hemp’s therapeutic properties, but we can also slow global warming by using hemp for planting and building. What’s exciting is that we have so much more to learn about how hemp can help the body and our world. We are just scratching the surface.

What concerns me most about the cannabis industry is over-regulation. I would hate to see the industry become so regulated that we lose the plant’s natural healing benefits. We don’t want hemp to end up being so manipulated in a lab that it ceases to be natural.

Unfortunately, there are still rogue cannabis companies out there giving us all a bad name. Every day in our store we educate customers on how to spot an inferior product. Companies are mislabeling their product’s potency and ingredients. There are even products utterly void of anything therapeutic. These companies are taking advantage of the public’s trust.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.

Ha! Where do I begin? You would think that legalizing CBD in 2018 would make it legal, right? Well, yes and no. It is legal, but most government-backed organizations, large corporations, and some government-regulated local businesses deny its legality. We have had to bypass and work around the following issues:

  1. Banking: Many banks still deny cannabis companies.
  2. Insurance: Many larger firms will not insure cannabis companies. Getting insurance is usually done through underwriters and at a higher cost.
  3. Merchant Processors: CBD and cannabis are still considered high risk. Most bank-backed merchant processors will not work with our industry.
  4. Golf courses, city fairs, and non-profit events: have denied us entry as exhibitors because we are still considered high risk. We have been denied participation in events because the organizers worried about the stigma of being illegal.
  5. Marketing: Many online advertisers still deny CBD and cannabis companies from advertising. They classify and block these ads as “recreational drugs” and “unapproved substances.”

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Stay the course. In our store, we talk to people every day who are suffering. Our cannabis and CBD companies are bringing natural alternatives to millions of people who need them. We are bringing hope and possibility. I take CBD every day. I know how it helps me, and I am determined to help people stop suffering.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

What if we chose just one person to care for outside our family? Just one. What if we checked in on that one person and made sure they were happy, healthy, and heard. I’ve learned that the best way to get out of my head and my own drama is to help someone else. We all have room in our day to check on one person. Make one other person’s well-being a priority. Helping others is salve for the soul.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

@pharmstrongcbd

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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