You’re never equal to anyone until you are in service to them. Meet them where they’re at, with generosity and equality first. Pay it forward, always.
John Friess is the CEO and founder of Metolius Hemp Co., a vertically-integrated company that works alongside family farmers to plant, grow, harvest, cure & craft all of their organic hemp flower & consumable products on their four acre regenerative farm just outside of Bend, in Central Oregon, from seed to satisfaction.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
We grew up continually going to family land on the Metolius River near beautiful Bend, Oregon. Since graduating college, we’ve been fortunate enough to have invested in and helped build, through proven founder peer mentoring, 235 Oregon startups through our end-to-end accelerator, known as a scalerator, called Starve Ups. Starve Ups was launched by 13 founders, is run by founders and is solely for founders. It provides peer mentoring, all of our collective resources, networks and support to every membership founder in the organization. It does this all without charging any fees, without taking any equity, without any cost. It is purely a pay-it-forward non-profit.
Through this non-stop startup immersion and experience over 21 years, we have helped dozens of companies start, sell, exit and go public, and strengthened my expertise in funding, brand and startup practices. I’m proud to say that of 100% of the companies we worked with that have exited their startups via an acquisition or IPO, each had one, if not all of their original founders, remain at the helm for the entire journey.
My passion and focus right now is my wellness brand gaining great momentum, Metolius Hemp Company. It is definitely my most exciting project to date. As plant based medicine and hemp acceptance are finally getting the recognition they deserve, I’m happy to be a part of the movement. Our mission with Metolius is to bring medicine to consumers and enlighten them on the benefits of hemp.
Was there a particular person or event that inspired you to live a wellness-focused lifestyle? Can you tell us about your main motivation to go all in?
Our son Canyon played a major role in my decision to go “all in” into the wellness world, both as a business and for my personal life. When our son was diagnosed with autism at a young age, we began to reevaluate every aspect of our lifestyle choices. The way we ate, slept, drank, exercised, and interacted with friends & family; all the decisions we made had health in mind. We focused heavily on Canyon’s health and particularly became interested in any natural solutions for coping with his ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We began to research a variety of alternative medicine practices and soon, his mother and I discovered plant medicine, specifically CBD, derived from hemp (which is non-psychoactive).
We began seeing incredible results with him, our friends and family. The improvement with anxiety management, pain, inflammation, sleep, mood, focus and more, was truly remarkable. When you get the right form and combination of cannabinoids in your endocannabinoid system, your body achieves homeostasis on a cellular level when it has everything it needs and all systems are in balance.
Though there are twenty-five primary plants on earth that produce cannabinoids, cannabis is the most powerful as none others contain all of them (phytocannabinoids) and in such diverse variety. As we dive further into studying this plant as a society, we’re going to find that nothing is more efficacious in terms of treating such a wide variety of systemic conditions. Many doctors in both the Western and Eastern medicine worlds now believe the root cause of many chronic illnesses and diseases is caused by inflammation, be it in the brain, heart, gut, etc. Cannabis has the potential to treat this on so many levels. ASD is just one example that we’ve had a personal experience with in seeing the positive impact the plant can have.
Most people with a wellbeing centered lifestyle have a “go-to” activity, exercise, beverage, or food that is part of their routine. What is yours and can you tell us how it helps you?
My go-to’s include intermittent fasting at least 6 days a week, for the past few years. It’s been a huge game changer and I will continue this rest of my life.
I also take a variety of high-quality nutritional herbs and vitamins. I research a variety of natural solutions with alternative, holistic approaches. I have used cannabis on and off for a number of years, as well. Now that we’ve done extensive research, I have integrated numerous cannabinoids into my routine as I try to achieve homeostasis on a regular basis. Now I find myself picking and choosing from a variety of our products as well as some of our peers’ products, depending on what my body needs at that time. I certainly try to incorporate CBD, CBN, CBG as much as possible.
Otherwise — good sleep and sparkling ‘fizzy’ water are part of my daily routine!
To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?
I credit the evolution of the startups we’ve helped launch thus far. It began with medical education and a software solution for education, seeing the impact video-based learning could have in the health field. Next came a fitness company. We created a portable gym that could go anywhere — in your home, hotel rooms, apartments in the city, etc. This would help people get on a workout plan that was easy and approachable. It was all about practical solutions for people that they could easily incorporate into their busy lives. We wanted them to adopt these practices into their lifestyle, without any fuss.
Prior to Metolius, we supported the launch and IPO of Arcimoto, which disrupted the electric vehicle industry and focused on improving the environmental impact of transportation, in a fun manner. All of the businesses we’ve launched have been in the realm of health, wellness, and/or environmental responsibility. Bringing it back into cannabis, it’s a similar situation. How can we help people incorporate healthy, approachable changes into their lifestyles? We are working to democratize people’s health; removing stigmas around plant medicine, educating people on the power and diverse applications. Like all of the startup businesses, if we are innovative enough and provide a unique solution to easily change someone’s life, we’ll be successful.
Can you share a story about the biggest challenges you faced when you were first starting? How did you resolve that? What are the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
The biggest challenge for me was jumping into another startup, knowing exactly what it was going to take. Having done this nonstop, I knew I was signing up for another 5–8 years, at least, of all-or-nothing commitment. The energy output and time commitment takes ambition and great focus. If you jump in, you’re all in. You have to be willing to accept that.
How do we overcome this challenge? By talking to people and seeing the impact of our initial product offerings. Immediately seeing the value in our products and knowing how important the mission truly is. To be honest, I think Metolius has the potential to be far more impactful on society’s health than our first and second companies combined.
Can you share with us how the work you are doing is helping to make a bigger impact in the world? Can you share a story that illustrates that?
When we first launched Metolius, we set out with the goal that medicine is our mission. What we quickly realized was that our hemp-based products have a wellness application for nearly every consumer. Harnessing the power of non-psychoactive cannabinoids like CBD, CBG and CBN, we can provide natural remedies for enhancing relaxation, improving sleep, reducing pain or stress and simply finding calm in this chaotic world.
An even more profound discovery after creating our first products, CBD/CBG Hemp pre-rolls and cigars, was when one of our co-founders was able to completely replace his tobacco consumption with our hemp. Within a few weeks, he was able to quit smoking cigarettes completely. We then shifted our focus to helping tobacco users reduce or replace their consumption of cigarettes, cigars or chewing tobacco by utilizing Metolius Hemp. By creating a “Healthy Vice” product for each category, whether you’re a smoker, chewer, or even an alcohol drinker, we’ve seen huge success in the amount of customers kicking unhealthy habits by switching to our organic CBD & CBG products. Everyone has a vice. We’re aiming at creating an entire movement around finding a healthier vice that not only replaces unhealthy ones, but can provide a wide array of wellness benefits.
Additionally, we position ourselves as educators in the cannabis industry. We’re aware of the bad reputation that cannabis has received from the general public over the last few decades. We feel it’s time to change that perception and enhance the awareness around the abundance of health benefits that this powerful medicinal plant contains. We want to teach people that there are cannabis products you can use that won’t get you “high,” but rather clear-headed and calm.
Another avenue in which we’re looking to have a massive impact is helping out our veterans. Many studies have shown positive treatment using CBD for dealing with PTSD & anxiety symptoms of which so many of our country’s vets suffer. We recently launched a campaign to help support by donating free CBD & CBG hemp products to any vet that requests a sample, as well as partnering up with some organizations that generously distribute free CBD to vets.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
There are a couple of Metolius products we recently launched that we’re all really excited about. Our River Dips are the world’s first CBD lip pouch, containing 100mg CBD isolate in every pouch, accompanied by magnesium to help promote the calming effect (and something almost all of us are deficient in) and natural flavoring. Just three organic ingredients and incredibly powerful in delivering CBD to your system in a fast and efficient manner. Dips are perfect for those looking to quit chewing tobacco, as well as those that don’t smoke or just want CBD on the go.
Our newest product, River dreams, is our natural sleep aid utilizing Cannabinol, or CBN — the next hottest cannabinoid on the block, known to help promote regulated and restful sleep. We’re excited to be one of the first to market hemp brands to produce our mixable sleep powder — a combination of CBD Isolate & CBN Isolate. I recommend it to just about everyone, and it makes for a great CBD mocktail.
We have a variety of exciting new products on the way!
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
1) Be yourself, genuinely. Be authentically who you are. Don’t change it up, even in business meetings. Be real. The world needs more of that. Real people doing real things that they are passionate about and truly want to help others do.
2) You’re never equal to anyone until you are in service to them. Meet them where they’re at, with generosity and equality first. Pay it forward, always.
3) Make the relationship everything. I’ve heard over the years “you’re so good at sales, you can sell anything to anyone.” To me, it’s more about forming genuine relationships. That should be the focus. It’s more about actually getting to know someone on a personal level, forming human connections and prioritizing their wellness over sales strategy and tactics.
Believe you can always be yourself, and you are equal to everyone. Focus purely on building relationships. This will translate through the brand. A brand should be a true reflection of its founders. We’re just normal people that honestly want to help others. I think that’s why people are attracted to Metolius.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. Wellness is an incredibly broad topic. How would you define the term “Wellness”? Can you explain what you mean?
Wellness is a general sense of wellbeing; a balance of all internal functions and one’s overall mental, physical, spiritual well being. This is what I love about working in plant medicine. You notice immediately if a plant is lacking water or nutrients, has poor soil quality, etc. If something is disrupting the balance, it shows us!
You have to do what makes you feel like you, your optimal self. Get your system in a state of balance, homeostasis.
As far as health and wellness choices go, Metolius has taught us it’s all about the incremental changes you can actually make right now, ones which are truly adoptable. It has to be approachable. Our method for helping people Reduce or Replace™ tobacco is done by handing someone the perfect alternative, that’s completely on the opposite end of the health spectrum. If you’re not ready to quit, at least consider taking a healthier hit. Let’s figure out a way to meet you where you’re at, and not make the change so daunting. We’re seeing Metolius Hemp products decreasing cravings, desire for nicotine, addiction, etc. People see immediate results and they’re able to find an alternative that makes them feel great.
As an expert, this might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to expressly articulate this. Can you please share a few reasons with our readers about why focusing on our wellness should be a priority in our lives?
Wellness, to me, is a holistic approach that embodies and affects all that we do on a regular basis. Our sleep, mood, cognitive function, energy, ability to breathe, eat or think…it’s all based on daily wellness and how we treat our bodies. Wellness is all about nourishing and strengthening our bodies constantly, with healthy (and real) foods, exercise, clean air, vitamins/minerals and water, what we need to keep our immune, central nervous, endocrine and other bodily systems functioning at the optimal rate. It also means promoting longevity and sustainability for humanity as a whole. The better we care for ourselves and our own body, the more that spills over into caring for each other, inspiring all to live healthier lives, treating the planet with more respect, and everything that thrives on it. We need more preventative care and daily wellness, a “maintenance routine”, if you will. In the Western world especially, we’re so focused on symptomatic treatment. It’s on each of us to take back our health. Now, more than ever.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increasingly growing understanding of the necessity for companies to be mindful of the wellness of their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, can you share steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees’ mental and physical wellness?
I think it’s all about empowering and supporting employees. It goes into that idea again of taking responsibility for our own health. We need to constantly nurture and show conscious care for our mental and physical wellbeing. I try to promote this to all of my team by encouraging a healthy work/life balance, very flexible hours & work schedules, and healthy lifestyle choices. About half of our team works remotely now and we really value a fun, relaxed work environment. We respect each of our general well being as a pillar of the company; getting good rest, taking time for self-care, and proper nutrition are all things we focus on at Metolius.
Fortunately, all of us live and breathe our mission in our personal lives. We believe in the power of natural wellness, food & plants as medicine, and live healthy, active lifestyles primarily outdoors. We try to exude and promote the health and wellness lifestyle through Metolius Hemp’s branding as well.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Purpose. It always starts with purpose. It better be your purpose. It’s the WHY you are here. You are uniquely designed to play a particular role in this life, in humanity, wellness, society, medicine, whatever it is.
- You better have a passion for the particular area you are focused on. Passion is the fuel behind purpose. It’s what drives us all towards achieving that higher purpose.
- Plan — to do something different. Hopefully something disruptive or innovative. It’s almost like your plan is what you’ll do to stand out, be unique.
- You better surround yourself with PEOPLE. These people should be your mentors, your peers, inspire you, the people you like, and will gut check you through and through. These are your true community.
- Perseverance — You just gotta persist. If you persist, I think you will find that you will get there.
My best advice — BE AUTHENTICALLY YOU!
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would promote the most wellness to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Exactly what we’re doing with Metolius right now! The Healthy Vices™ movement, helping people Reduce or Replace™ their tobacco consumption using CBD & CBG hemp as a healthier alternative. Growing the movement around hemp wellness and the idea that these non-intoxicating cannabinoids can help people cope with some of the most common health issues we all face. Encouraging a mindful, healthy & active lifestyle centered around getting outdoors, and conscious consumption is what we stand for as a brand; a crucial part in the success of our mission at Metolius Hemp.
Everyone has a vice, so let’s find a way to replace it with something healthier or at least reduce your daily consumption. CBD & CBG are INCREDIBLE as smoking, chewing, or drinking alternatives.
We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’d say Joe Rogan. He does a really good job of educating the world on topics they aren’t well informed, or even aware of currently. Getting a couple of cannagars to Joe Rogan could be game changing. You want to tie in with someone who’s had the impact he has on his audience. He’s always looking for ways to improve many people’s lives through every aspect. He shares my appreciation on fitness, education, meditation, wellness, health, food etc.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
- @Metoliushemp on all social media platforms
- https://Metoliushemp.com and Metolius.Market
- If you’re a veteran, please check out our veterans page at https://metoliushemp.com/pages/webetonvets, or reach out to us directly at [email protected] to request some free samples.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!