“No matter your accomplishments, remember you’ve accomplished nothing” — My partner Danny likes to chime in with this mantra when we reach certain goals, and I always keep it in the back of my mind as constant motivation to push further. When you start finding some degree of success in a venture, it is easy to become complacent. These words serve as a constant reminder that there is still more work to be done.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Peabody.
Adam is the co-founder of Flora Hemp Spirits, a CBD-based alcohol alternative disrupting the spirits industry by providing consumers with a new way to drink.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started my career in hospitality about a decade ago as a bartender and really fell in love with the art of crafting cocktails. Eventually, I landed a position as the Head of Mixology at LondonHouse Chicago, a beautiful hotel with a rooftop cocktail bar in the heart of the city. While I was running the bar program there, I noticed we were getting a growing number of requests for non-alcoholic cocktails. This led me to research what was out there for people who didn’t drink but still wanted to enjoy sophisticated cocktails. I found a few non-alcoholic spirits, but they all simply tasted like flavored water and didn’t bring much to the table when mixed into a drink. Furthermore, none of them offered any active ingredient to alleviate stress or anxiety.
One day I was venting my frustrations to a colleague when everything just clicked. He had been successfully using CBD to relieve social anxiety and knew people who used it to treat everything from chronic pain to sleep disorders. We quickly realized that CBD offered a lot of the same effects as alcohol, without the intoxication. In short, it was the perfect alcohol alternative. The very next day we began working on a recipe, and after a lot of trial and error, Flora was born.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Flora is the world’s first and only CBD alcohol alternative and it’s totally revolutionizing the way people drink in social settings. There is a growing movement of people looking to curb their alcohol consumption, and Flora provides an excellent way to unwind at happy hour without consuming any alcohol. The CBD content is great for relieving anxiety and stress, some of the very things people turn to alcohol for, and won’t leave you with a debilitating hangover the next day. On the contrary, many of our users report that it helps hangovers when taken as a nightcap. It’s not simply an alternative to alcohol; it’s an entirely new way of drinking and we’re excited to be at the forefront of it.
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?
When we first started working on the recipe, we were looking for a way to mimic the burning sensation of alcohol and one of the ideas we had was to add chile peppers. At the time we were working out of my partner’s one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood which was about 650–700 square feet at most. We added about three pounds of dried arbol chilis, which are anywhere from five to ten times spicier than jalapenos, to our pot with all of the other ingredients and brought it to a boil. Within an hour we had basically filled the entire apartment with pepper spray from the fumes and had to evacuate; choking, and sneezing the entire way out. It was so bad my partner could not even go back for a full 24 hours and had to spend the night on my couch. When he finally went back the next day, he found out that his building had to clear the entire floor for several hours until the fumes dissipated. We consequently ended up dropping peppers from the recipe, but when we moved into our production facility, we made sure there was a very good exhaust system, just in case.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve crossed paths with so many great people who have shared their wisdom with me, however, my parents have probably shaped my work ethic and way of thinking more than anyone. There are a million different obstacles to overcome as an entrepreneur, and I think a major hurdle for some comes when the people closest to them don’t see their vision or support their career path. I consider myself very lucky to find mentors in a position where many entrepreneurs find obstacles.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Disrupting to meet a need or solve a problem is generally positive if it doesn’t create a larger, more serious problem in its wake. I think a good example is a disruption of the restaurant industry by fast food throughout the 1950s and 60’s. On one hand, fast food was creating a cheap and quick alternative to traditional restaurants, but at the same time, there was a nutrition trade-off that many would argue outweighed the benefits. At the end of the day, I think you bear some degree of social responsibility as an innovator to ensure you’re not creating more problems than you solve.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- “Work smarter, not harder” — A fellow entrepreneur and friend of mine once gave me this advice when we were first starting out and it really stuck with me. When you’re trying to gain traction for a new idea, it’s easy to get caught in the trap of “working hard,” but also it’s important to evaluate the return you’re getting on your time.
- “Fail quickly” — You’re going to have failures, plain and simple. Things are very rarely going to work out on the first try. Recognizing failures quickly and moving on from them is key, especially in the early stages of a business when you are working with limited cash flow.
- “No matter your accomplishments, remember you’ve accomplished nothing” — My partner Danny likes to chime in with this mantra when we reach certain goals, and I always keep it in the back of my mind as a constant motivation to push further. When you start finding some degree of success in a venture, it is easy to become complacent. These words serve as a constant reminder that there is still more work to be done.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We’d really like to do a THC-based alcohol alternative under the Flora brand, however, that’s probably at least several years down the line and heavily dependent on changes in Federal regulation.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
It’s difficult for me to say because I’m not in their shoes, but I do believe our society is still struggling to break away from traditional gender roles and I think there’s still an enormous amount of pressure on women to conform to those roles. When I think about how difficult it was for us to build our business without having those obstacles, it gives me a tremendous amount of respect for innovators who have had to overcome them.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
Richard Branson’s book “Screw it, Let’s Do It” is a quick read with a lot of valuable lessons about business and life. I’ve always admired his passion for adventure and willingness to push the envelope, and I try to mirror those qualities in my own life. One of my favorite takeaways from the book is to greet challenges with optimism. Many people are naturally apprehensive about new ideas. It is much easier to say “no” to things. There is no risk in saying “no.” While you’re busy avoiding risk, however, you’re missing opportunities. Fortune favors the bold.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In the movie Vanilla Sky, Jason Lee’s character is joking around about how Tom Cruise’s character enjoys this dream life and tells him “just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour.” I saw the movie with my dad in maybe 7th or 8th grade and that quote stuck with me. Whenever I experience setbacks or disappointments, I always go back to it in my head and think of how much sweeter it will make my next win.
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. 🙂
We’re very fortunate to already be a part of a movement that’s helping people live a healthier lifestyle. Coming from a hospitality background, we’ve seen so many of our peers struggle with alcohol abuse and it’s a real issue throughout the industry. My partner had a friend who passed away from cirrhosis in his 30’s. Seeing firsthand the hardship and destruction that alcohol can cause has had a profound effect on both of us, so when we first came up with the idea for Flora, we immediately thought of all the people in our industry who could benefit. My genuine wish is that more people will explore alcohol alternatives in the years to come, even if it is not our product.
How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram @florahempspirits and facebook.com/florahempspirits are probably the best ways to stay connected. We also have a lot of great information on our website at www.FloraHempSpirits.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!