We need to get the terminology right and stop confusing things with legal or political language. Cannabis is Cannabis. It’s a plant. From that plant, you can make anything from Marijuana to house insulation. And underneath that, there are loads of political and legal terms that the industry befuddles with botanical terms. All hemp, Marijuana, buds, hemp seeds, industrial hemp, hemp fibers, CBD derivatives, terpenes, crystals, leaves — you name it! — it’s all Cannabis.
As a part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ulrika Karlberg.
Ulrika is the co-founder of the Cannabis-centric beauty and lifestyle brand Herb Essntls. She’s spent the last 10 years in the creative industry executing and leading creative work for international and national brands across multiple categories, including fashion and beauty. She specializes in marketing, branding, and creative strategy. Ulrika, a native Swede, resides in New York City.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis & beauty industries?
Thank you and my pleasure!
I was always an avid skincare user and interested in plants and herbs and how they can be used for therapeutic and beautifying effects, both topically and from the inside out. The idea for Herb Essntls was born on a trip to LA in the spring of 2015. The green rush hadn’t fully begun yet, but you could feel that something was in motion.
Back in NYC we did some serious research about Cannabis’s effect on the skin and read scientific studies and articles. When we realized the potential of Cannabis as a beauty agent, we decided that we owed it to the idea to make it happen.
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 general, the most interesting thing about starting a company is all the people you meet and get to collaborate with. Specialists in fields that I didn’t know existed before.
One awesome memory is a morning when I woke up to an email from France. It was Colette in Paris placing their first order which was a big deal for us. I remember reading it, still in bed, and feeling this sensation of both joy and panic. I learned that, if you just take it to step by step, work methodically and thoroughly, you can do almost anything.
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?
I don’t know if this is very funny. But one thing I’ve learned is that you can waste a lot of time and energy on listening too much to people’s opinions about your business. Everyone will gladly share their advice on how you should do things differently, but no one will care about your business the same way you do and no one knows your business as you do.
I’ve gotten a lot of great advice over the years, and a lot of times, I’ve taken it. But sometimes you have to stand up for yourself and keep true to your vision, even if it means going against someone’s great advice.
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the industry?
Both my parents are judges. And despite Sweden’s reputation of being a progressive country in so many ways, it has a surprisingly conservative and antiquated stance on Cannabis from a legal and societal point of view. For a long time, I was not sure how to approach the subject with them, that we had started a Cannabis-centric brand, and avoided it whenever I saw them.
When we eventually chatted about it they were overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic — both of them now use our products every day and love them (at least, that’s what they tell me).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My partner Robert, hands down. We complement each other very well, I’m more impulsive and action-forward while Robert is incredibly strategic and thoughtful. Without each other’s support and skills, we would not have been able to take Herb Essntls from a side project into a real company with employees.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are! We’ve got exciting new product releases coming out in 2020 and beyond, as well as other activities that we hope will bring value and joy to our community. We’ve also just moved into a new studio space in NYC and will soon be able to invite collaborators and customers to come and see us in person.
One of the main reasons why we started Herb Essntls was to create a space where creativity could truly lead and we look forward to extending that opportunity to more collaborators in the future.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. 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?
This is a tricky question and a very complex issue to unpack. I’ve come across so many amazing women — and men — in this industry who have helped and inspired me. It’s easy to give advice based on your own individual experience, but that doesn’t mean that it’s true for anyone else or that it will work for anyone else. But I’ll give it a shot.
As individuals, I think we can lead by example, help others when they need it and ask for help when we need it. As an industry, we need to value all skillsets equally and observe them for what they are. And as a collective, we need to keep the conversation honest and factual and listen more than we talk.
Can you share 3 things that most excited you about the cannabis & beauty industries?
The first one is the potential in this plant from a beauty and wellness perspective. We have only scratched the surface of what this magical plant can do and I can’t wait to learn more about it as science and research continue. Second, I am really looking forward to how this industry will influence the environment and planet. Cannabis is one of the most sustainable plants that we can grow and it can be used for virtually anything — from beauty products to fuel to building material to medicine to clothing and so on. I am excited to see it become a natural go-to material across many, many industries. And lastly, I am excited for the conversation around Cannabis to become more nuanced and diversified as the industry matures.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the cannabis industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
- We need to get the terminology right and stop confusing things with legal or political language. Cannabis is Cannabis. It’s a plant. From that plant, you can make anything from Marijuana to house insulation. And underneath that, there are loads of political and legal terms that the industry befuddles with botanical terms. All hemp, Marijuana, buds, hemp seeds, industrial hemp, hemp fibers, CBD derivatives, terpenes, crystals, leaves — you name it! — it’s all Cannabis.
- Remove all obstacles in financial services.
- We’re still a very young industry, so we need to grow up and get more professional. But we’re getting there.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I really like this one, from Gandhi: The future depends on what you do today.
First of all, it’s factually correct (ha!). It applies to both the big and the small. It helps me see the bigger picture sometimes when I feel stuck. And it helps me slow down and think twice when I’m rushing.
It’s simple — but incredibly powerful — if you think about it.
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. 🙂
Oh wow! I do think that, as a planet and as individuals, we could all benefit from eating more plant-based and less or no meat. It’s the most integrated idea that I can think of; it has effects on our health, on our environment, on a socio-economic level… the list goes on. It is also something that is possible and available for everyone to do. So I’ll say that. Less meat, more plants, please!