Be a voice in the industry. If you don’t think something works, bring awareness and create change around it. As cannabis business owners we need to make our voices heard, rather than complain or resist. Go to neighborhood meetings, town hall gatherings, and write to your local representatives.
Ih ad the pleasure of interviewing Shauna Blanch. Based in Colorado, Blanch is the COO, Co-owner & Co-founder of Color Up. This cruelty-free, all-natural CBD company is led by a team focused on putting products into service and educating the community.
Blanch has been named one of “100 People You Should Know” by Hemp Connoisseur and was included in the 2019 A-List in Dermascope. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Reiki Master, yoga teacher and is studying to become a Licensed Esthetician.
Prior to co-creating Color Up, Blanch spent over a decade in the pharmaceutical industry where she focused on Dermatology and Internal Medicine. She eventually left the pharmaceutical industry on a mission to share a more natural, compassionate lifestyle. Blanch moved to Colorado to become more intimately involved with hemp, herbalism and plant spirit medicine. She consulted for several cannabis companies, grew her own medicine and became deeply involved in the industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
I’d been a recreational cannabis user since high school. For many years after college, I found myself working in the pharmaceutical industry. After connecting with some friends who were addicted to opioids and heroin, and having my life drastically changed while trying to help them, I left the pharmaceutical industry and moved to Colorado to immerse myself in the cannabis industry.
It was then that I knew there was another answer to health and healing, but it wasn’t until our dog Kali was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer that I began to understand the true medicinal value. We began researching ways to treat her symptoms, which was when we found CBD (Cannabidiol). We immediately began growing high CBD hemp plants and the results were amazing!
Kali experienced a decrease in overall inflammation, reduction in tremors, and an increase in appetite, all without side effects. Cannabis allowed us a lot more quality time with her despite being given short-term diagnoses by several Oncologists.
As a result of this experience, my two best friends — Bryce Conley and Will Parker — and I started making pet products at home and gave them to friends and family. We began experimenting with dosing and percentages for ourselves as well and couldn’t deny the benefits. After receiving nonstop positive feedback, we signed our names on a business partnership!
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?
A frightening experience for us that could be interesting to other cannabis entrepreneurs: Our credit card processing system was shut down. In 2019, we had a credit processing partner close our processing and withhold close to $20,000. We had to quickly educate ourselves on banking regulations and now process through several new companies.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
My parents’ reaction was that I was going to be an illegal drug dealer! They had been calling me a drug dealer already because I had come from pharma sales. Their reaction was, “Great, now you will be an illegal drug dealer.”
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?
Definitely Hillary Olsen Hilliard. She is the Founder/President, Denver Integrative Massage School & The School of Botanical & Medical Aesthetics. Hillary was the first person to believe Color Up enough to carry the products and offer us a platform to educate on.
Thanks to our partnership with Hillary, Color Up is the only CBD brand to have a full wellness center where students receive their school hours in order to graduate while utilizing CBD in services. This is being done at our Denver Wellness Center with the School of Botanical & Medical Aesthetics.
When Hillary began carrying our topical products at her school in April 2017, and within a few months, our internals as well, this was the break we needed. It gave us the courage to move our production space from our house to our first CBD Wellness Center location in Denver in July 2017.
Hillary noticed how well the CBD products and education were doing at her massage school and clinic, so she asked us about designing a skincare line that could be incorporated into her aesthetics school. We created a comprehensive, full facial line for the students to learn and use during their program and launched our skincare line in March 2018.
As part of incorporating the products into the schools, Hillary required us to create a curriculum. It was due to these education classes that we moved to our second location in June 2018 and began ramping up our own educational program.
And, we just keep growing and growing our educational offerings! In 2019, we moved into our third location, which is a 12,000-square-foot campus. As I mentioned, the School of Botanical & Medical Aesthetics and their students work out of the center.
The Color Up team also launched the Cannabis Master Program for the Spa Professional in 2019. We wrapped up the year with online classes led by Color Up’s President of Education Emily Davis, LE and Vice President of Education Liz Aigner, LMT. The live webinars launched the following requests by those who could not attend classes at the CBD Wellness Center. Plans are for the classes to evolve into a full lifestyle and wellness education program focused on cannabis.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I just mentioned our educational offerings. To that, we are adding:
- A sustainability campaign that will become part of our brand culture. More to come about this!
- The Color Up Cares Initiative. Launched at the end of 2019, Color Up Cares was created with the intention to bring healing and balance into the lives of those fighting cancer by raising funds for research, meals, wigs, and other ancillary items, as well as providing free spa treatment days and oncology-safe, self-care products. In October 2019, Color Up began donating 5% of all sales generated by the Wellness Center to a different cancer organization each quarter. We are also hosting a Color Up Cares Day once per quarter at the center where we provide free CBD facials to people who are currently fighting cancer, are survivors or caregivers. The next Color Up Cares Day is February 22.
Despite the 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?
When I started in this industry seven years ago, I was one of only a few women in the marijuana movement in Denver. In the time I’ve been here, there are so many more women in the industry.
At Color Up, we believe in supporting women! At our Wellness Center, we offer free space to the cannabis women’s groups in our area. Which leads me to my first advice to support gender parity: If yours is a business, support smaller groups.
Secondly, if you are a woman in the industry, attend events and support the women who are behind them.
Thirdly, as female leaders, we have to find a balance and let it be okay that there are men who do support women. Don’t feel as if you always need to fight the masculine. Instead, come together and find a balance. Women educate more on what we can do in the cannabis industry. We invest in different energy and perspective.
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.
- Follow banking and processing laws closely. Reference our credit-card-processing story from earlier.
- Be flexible and know when to change or when to flow.
- Watch the fluctuating ingredient market. At the beginning of 2019, there were not enough cannabinoids to be found for our products. At the end of the year, there was an overflow. To keep enough ingredients in stock, it’s important to be connected and work with people within the industry so you can find what you need when you need it.
- In order to really make a difference, there’s a lot of work to do. There are no rules and regulations in the cannabis industry yet; it’s up to you to research everything. It’s ever-changing and unlike any other industry right now. For example, we can’t just call an attorney, ask a question and expect a quick answer. They must research it themselves in order to be up-to-speed on questions as they pertain to cannabis.
- Be a voice in the industry. If you don’t think something works, bring awareness and create change around it. As cannabis business owners we need to make our voices heard, rather than complain or resist. Go to neighborhood meetings, town hall gatherings, and write to your local representatives.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
- The growth of the industry.
- The motivation in the industry.
- Availability of using different cannabinoids in different products. We are paying close attention to CBC (cannabichromene), CBG (cannabigerol), CBDA (cannabidiolic acid), and CBN (cannabinol). The thing that excites me the most is the therapeutic benefits that are enhanced when these cannabinoids interact with one another. Not just when they are all together in a full-spectrum or broad-spectrum form, but when they are isolated and then intentionally formulated together. As we learn more about how each cannabinoid can increase or decrease the efficacy of another cannabinoid, we can start to pair them together to combat specific conditions and diseases.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry?
- Pharmaceutical companies coming in and monetizing, commercializing, and monopolizing an otherwise organic industry. This is becoming a reality.
- Banking regulations. The fact that most banks won’t deal with cannabis companies, even if they are from hemp, is concerning on many levels. This limits POS system availability, marketing efforts, and advertising, to name a few.
- States that allow unregulated products are a concern because, as frustrating as it can be to keep up with regulations, we see the value in being sure that companies are following SOPs, using regulated hemp and participating in 3rd party testing.
If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
I suggest the items I just mentioned. I feel it’s important to add, we feel like those in the cannabis industry are doing the best job they can. It’s a new industry! The government is also doing the best it can. There is a reform that needs to happen. As a whole, though, the industry is moving along quickly and well.
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?
We would like to see federal legalization happen. Everyone should have access to this natural plant’s medicine. Also, as I said previously, legalizing cannabis keeps it from being controlled by pharmaceutical companies. Therefore, those in the cannabis industry can partner with government agencies to control how it’s used.
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?
This is not apples to oranges. Cigarettes have no health benefits. If we were to regulate cannabis, it’s critical that, from the beginning, harmful ingredients are not added in as how tar was thrown into cigarettes. It cannot become about, “what we can throw in there to make it addictive?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”- Albert Einstein.
We cannot change something in the same state in which it was created. At Color Up, we are trying to create a lifestyle that goes well beyond products. It’s so easy in this business to get worked up about a regulation that you see coming, and, in turn, forget what you are supposed to be doing. As cannabis professionals, we must step out of that way of thinking and reacting. Instead, we should create a new space so everyone can grow and do the work we set out to do.
This quote is also relevant to me, because, as a leader, I need to help team members remove themselves from a place of stress (perhaps found at a former job). When you take yourself out of chaos, balance and peace can be brought back.
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?
The Compassion Movement. As a leader/owner of a company, it’s my job to build a foundation of love, respect, and compassion for everyone. As you build that foundation, you are supporting each member of the team to live their best. For example, if they are working hard for your company, but are not great at a specific task, consider how to move them around to another role. Have the compassion to recognize shortcomings and how to work around them, and that employee will spread compassion to others on the team and in their personal relationships. Spreading compassion is the thing we are going to do that changes the world!
Social handles — Color Up: @ColorUp on Facebook and @ColorUpCBD. Shauna Blanch: @ShaunaBlanch on Facebook, @SimplyShaunaB on Instagram and Shauna Blanch on LinkedIn.