The words you use when it pertains to your product, matter. Being intentional about how you speak and tell your story about your product is crucial. Be 100% transparent about your product.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Holly Fortier.
Holly Fortier is the Founder & CEO of SalTerrae, a CBD company with a strong focus on intimacy and sexual wellness. She resides on the seacoast of New Hampshire and is inspired by deep human connections. Holly has a strong retail background and her competitive business nature allows her to view things objectively. She is a creative thinker and a problem solver on all levels. In her retail career as a buyer/merchandiser and store manager, she was able to implement her critical thinking with an intense drive to succeed. The key component that allows Holly to succeed as well as to grow businesses, is her ability to connect to her customers, as well as the vendors she works with. Holly’s deep craving to bring an organic food-grade intimate CBD oil into the marketplace is driven by her passion, love, and drive for inclusivity. With this, she is able to bring intimacy and connection into her brand. Holly wears many hats, but at the end of the day what inspires her most is clean eating, meditation, exercise in many forms, long walks, nature, relaxing by a lake or the ocean, and one on one time with loved ones.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
Many years ago I realized there was a great need for an intimate oil that was made to use in a fun and explorative way as well as formulated with stimulating, organic ingredients. I believe intimacy is an important part of any relationship, and sex is crucial for connection. Since CBD is known to encourage blood flow and relax the muscles, I did my diligence in research to find a way to incorporate it into the oils, which we found to be a key ingredient. I believe my line of intimate CBD oils can deepen connection and fulfillment to all. Connection with yourself and your partner is the key to a healthy relationship. I feel people are starting to learn about the vast benefits of CBD and THC due to cannabinoids and how they have a direct link to our health. We believe the natural properties of cannabis are the future of the health & wellness industry, and will soon be as common as veganism.
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?
Everyone has embraced SalTerrae and the story. It amazes me the need for a clean product like this. People that have tried it have really appreciated that it’s made of food-grade ingredients with the benefits of hemp. I feel as though men and women of all ages are looking for a true connection… and in a world where there is so much division and isolation, my hope is this line of intimate oils helps us to prioritize time for ourselves. Whether that be through self-pleasure, or with our partners.
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?
Honestly, I wish there was a funny story, but we launched SalTerrae back in October and it has exceeded our expectations on how quickly it has taken off, so there’s not been much playtime to reflect upon. However, one thing stands out to me. It was not a mistake, but it was how I had to go about explaining my line of intimate oils to friends, and strangers. We had a study group of about 60 people try our product to gain insight on them, and when I approached people to participate, they were surprised that I had an organic food-grade line of intimate oils made with broad-spectrum hemp extract because there’s so much stigma attached with this type of product normally. But once I explained the purity of my ingredients and my message of bringing intimacy into relationships and connection with ourselves and others, everyone loved them, especially after using them:).
The lesson I learned is to go out of your comfort zone and believe in your mission and you’ll succeed as long as there’s integrity.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
One of my dearest friends is an older woman in her late 70’s and doesn’t share the same perspective as I do when it comes to sex and the desire to enhance sensual intimacy. So when I announced my launch months ago, she wanted to show support for my business endeavor and commented without truly understanding what my oils were used for, and thinking they were body oils for dry skin. Her comment was, “Congratulations my friend, I’m a customer for life”! Her comment makes me laugh every time I think about it! I haven’t been able to meet my friend to share this funny story in person due to covid, but I definitely need to in order to see her expression:).
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?
There are two people, in particular, I will always be indebted to. The first person being my advisor and brand ambassador as well as one of my closest friends, Jen Chinburg. Jen and I had met through a mutual friend, and we immediately clicked. She is my go-to person for everything. Jen offers her infinite support and love as well as helps me navigate the business side as she has a strong background in the finance and marketing sphere. Jen always helps ground me when I feel overloaded.
The second person I am eternally grateful for is Sam Ouellette, my operations advisor. Sam and I met through his sister, Susana, who is also one of my close friends. He has a plethora of knowledge, experience, and an expansive network in the cannabis & hemp space. Overall Sam has been crucial in helping the team and I navigate the industry. I’d absolutely be lost without Jennifer and Sam!
Jen and Sam have brought life into SalTerrae with their hard work and dedication. You can see their faces light up when they talk about SalTerrae and the passion they both have for SalTerrae. Through many conversations with friends and family, she discovered that most everyone wants to experience pleasure, joy, and intimate connection and that CBD (or hemp) used for wellness has become mainstream. People have been so enthusiastic about our line that it made her more of a vocal advocate for the benefits of the SalTerrae products and the Company’s mission.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
All of my time and attention has been focused on SalTerrae, and perfecting what we have in place, and improving in all ways we can. But I am working on a new project, and it soon will be announced. I’m so excited about what we have in the pipeline. I can’t say anymore, because I’ll give it away, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise! My hope is that my products will have a positive impact on people’s lives. Whether it’s softer smoother skin or less discomfort in their bodies. It’s all about making a difference in some way.
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?
- More industry resources that provide greater education and mentorship to women and minority entrepreneurs that pertain to the cannabis/hemp industry and to help more women and minorities become involved in the space.
- Promote female CEOs and entrepreneurs through our culture and take down the stereotype of the male executive that has always existed.
- Cannabis financial institutions, investors, and investor networks that are geared for early startups in the cannabis/hemp industry for women and minorities.
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.
- Learn to be quick on your feet because there are constant changes within the government rules. So understanding the landscape and various cannabis/hemp laws in each state you operate in is important.
- Having the right team that are experts in the space, who follow the rules, and have past experience so they can help you navigate them. There are plenty of “experts” in the cannabis space, so it’s a learning process to be able to align with the best experts.
- When you don’t know something, be the first to admit it. Be humble and find a knowledgeable expert to help you in your particular topic you need help with.
- The words you use when it pertains to your product, matter. Being intentional about how you speak and tell your story about your product is crucial. Be 100% transparent about your product.
- Don’t be too focused on what your competition is doing. I feel the focus needs to be on maximizing the value in every way to your customer. What makes your product unique and stand out MOST TO THE CUSTOMER.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- The fast growth of the industry and the differences between the products and product offerings.
- Seeing more female/minority entrepreneurs getting involved in the hemp/cannabis space, and the value they bring, and their recognition.
- New research being done on the efficiency of cannabinoids and terpenes. To me, this is huge growth.
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?
- The amount of unsustainable packaging that is used and where the packaging comes from I find very concerning. There’s way too much plastic still being used and boxes that are not sustainable. My dream was to have a unique line with sustainable packaging. So my focus is on the integrity of my product in every way and what’s best and good for our planet. SalTerrae uses linen boxes that come from the flax plant and grow effortlessly. Also, our double black glass bottles are imported from Europe to ensure the integrity of our oils.
It would be great to see more businesses using sustainable packaging. These options are always available but might be more expensive to them, regardless of the initial up-front cost. Customers appreciate the extra efforts that emphasize sustainability. Stand out and be unique.
- Lack of transparency in regards to the quality of hemp/CBD products. Standardization of testing and labeling requirements as it pertains to CBD/hemp. Promote full transparency with the quality of your products, making available your organic certificates and 3rd party testing lab results, etc are crucial.
- It’s incredibly difficult to receive funding from conventional financial institutions in the cannabis industry, so you’re forced to seek funding from angel investors, or other types of investor groups, which is not an easy process for women and minority startups in the cannabis/hemp industry. The process needs to be made easier at the legal and the federal level across the board.
What are your thoughts about the 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?
For us, CBD/hemp was legalized in 2018 with the Farm Bill and is largely what opened up the opportunity for us to start the company.
I would say to our senator, that it has created a lot of business as a result of the passing. We saw the ramifications of it and there was no big massive concern, but instead, there was a lot of opportunity that was created and I feel that will be the case with cannabis as long the government doesn’t complicate things more than what needs to be; however there still needs to be some major changes with financial institutions, social media, and marketing based upon FDA approval. For us, we have found it challenging being in the intimate oil space and CBD space, especially when it comes to social media. Their policies are very outdated and classify anything related to sexuality as “explicit” or “violating community standards.” There is a big difference between explicit content and sexual wellness and these guidelines need to be changed.
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 in time, cannabis will become more socially acceptable, much like Hemp and CBD have since their legalization. My hope is cannabis will leave a much more positive impact on society as opposed to what the cigarettes and the tobacco industry have done. The benefits of cannabis outweigh any downsides in my opinion.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein
We take so much for granted in our lives, and life passes us by without truly seeing the tiny miracles in everything. I find what has helped me, is living in the present moment. Then you slow down enough to see and appreciate everything with a new perspective, and that’s when you start to see everything as a miracle. I try to look at nature through the eyes of a child with extraordinary wonder and appreciation. It might be the color of the sky or the way the moon reflects off the water, perhaps the shape or color of a flower. “Life is a miracle”! For me, this quote gave me the power to start my business and to trust the journey, which has been miraculous.
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. 🙂
Do everything you can do in the most responsible manner that puts the greater community and planet first. Be aware that everything you do as an individual or as a company has an impact. Basically, make sure your decisions are conscious ones for the greater good for all!
Being authentic and displaying that through your passion. It can be your business/product, messaging, or helping your neighbor. My hope is, my oils bring deeper fulfilled connections, especially in a time where there’s so much division and people feel more isolated and lonely due to the restrictions in place.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!