Be ready to put yourself out there and vouch for your own brand because, in the beginning, no one else will.
The global health and wellness market is worth more than 1.5 trillion dollars. So many people are looking to improve their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. At the same time, so many people are needed to help provide these services. What does it take to create a highly successful career in the health and wellness industry?
In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Health and Wellness Industry” we are talking to health and wellness professionals who can share insights and stories from their experiences.
In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Shaina Kerrigan.
Shaina Kerrigan is a mother of two and the founder of Molly J., a CBD-infused, small batch confection company based in Marin, California. Ensuring quality and authenticity by creating small-batch, handcrafted CBD gumdrops, Molly J. offers a cutting-edge wellness experience that is equally delicious as it is beautifully packaged. With Molly J., Shaina hopes to “spread the chill” while educating the public — especially women and mothers — about the benefits of CBD edibles.
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?
Sure! I was born and raised in San Diego, California with a 5 year stint in Charlotte, North Carolina. My Dad was a mechanic for US-Airways and my Mom was a Stay-at-Home-Mom until I was in middle school, when she became a cashier at Sears. Throughout the next 10 years, I watched her rise the ranks and shatter glass ceilings to become their SVP of Sales, often the only woman at the table. If I wasn’t tagging along to her stores and watching her manage her teams, I was playing around on empty commercial airplanes at the airport hangar with my dad. It was a wild childhood, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
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?
Two back-to-back pregnancies sunk me, both physically and mentally. I had a laundry list of complications during each pregnancy so I was out of sync in many ways, the most obvious of which was sleep — even after I had both children sleeping through the night, I couldn’t seem to do the same myself. I tried the easy solutions (sleeping pills, nightly wine, etc) but always felt I was covering up the issue, not solving it. Desperate for a good night’s sleep and the energy I hoped it would bring, I redesigned my whole lifestyle and became passionately curious about wellness. I hired a nutritionist to teach me what to put in my body, I googled exercise routines to plan out my week, I upped my skincare routine, and even started flossing nightly (which shocked even me, to be honest). Last but not least, I found CBD — the ultimate tool that keeps me balanced.
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?
If it can qualify as an activity, then I’d wholeheartedly say sleep. Over the years, solid nights of deep sleep became rarer as I got more entrenched in my career, picked up social drinking, and eventually had kids. After my second child and the awakening that came with it, I saw that my body was desperately calling out for consistent, healthy, and deep sleep so I invested in an Oura Ring which helps track sleep patterns (REM, restfulness, etc) and have had so much fun analytically tracking what supports my sleep (CBD, white noise, and a dark room) versus what inhibits it (alcohol, heavy dinner meals, and my co-sleeping dog, sadly).
To live a wellness-focused life is one thing, but how did it become your career? How did it all start?
A few years ago, when I was desperately looking for something to help me sleep, I walked into a dispensary and it felt like a record stopped — I was the only woman in the shop and everyone noticed, immediately. The whole experience was intimidating, overwhelming, and awkward. And yet, the CBD I came home with helped me get the best night’s sleep I’d had in a really long time. At that moment I knew that CBD was a tool that women, especially moms, needed in their toolbelt. I started hosting tupperware-like parties for cannabis with fellow moms in my community and it quickly took off, building a waitlist of 30+ people at any given time. From there, I learned that women ultimately wanted a treat at the end of a long day to take the edge off, which is what encouraged me to start working on our own high quality luxury CBD confections.
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?
Working in the cannabis space is ripe for challenges — we’ve had to move to 4 different website platforms due to ever-changing internal policies, our Facebook account was shut down without explanation, and payment processors applied fees to CBD businesses at the same rate as gun sales. It was all incredibly frustrating and each time a door shut, I considered throwing in the towel on the whole operation. Yet, at the same time, I would receive weekly heartfelt emails from customers sharing the good news that our gumdrops finally helped them sleep, soothed chronic body pain, and more. Our product has become a much-needed medicine for so many that throwing in the towel would leave them empty-handed, which was a big driver in why I kept pushing forward. My biggest lesson from those early days is that keeping our mission to “spread the chill” as our true north will keep us motivated and headed in the right direction.
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?
Last week, I received an email from a woman who has struggled with grand mal seizures her entire life, saying “I have twitched so much at one time, I’ve embarrassed myself because people stare at me like I’m crazy.” She said “Your product has changed my life. It’s made me feel like a new, happy and confident person again; someone who sleeps well and can enjoy life. I hope you know you have changed my life.” First, I cried, then I sent it around to our team so they’d cry too.
We get these regularly — emails from people with vertigo, insomnia, dementia, and so many more. As a side note, research is still ongoing so these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Instead, the point of sharing these stories is to showcase just how serious we are about making a difference in the world.
Larger ailments aside, we see our impact on a more common level — to spread chill. There are so many stressors in the world that we have to nurture moments of chill and prioritize whatever that might mean to you: relaxing with a good book, laughing with friends, going for a run, etc. Our CBD confections are meant to be another tool in your toolbelt to encourage those moments of chill for a more balanced life.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
When we started Molly J., our confections were made with our “Chill Formula” meant to take the edge off after a long day. During the COVID-19 panedemic, when stress and anxiety were at an all-time high, we developed our own proprietary “Sleep Formula” using CBN (another cannabinoid in the cannabis plant) to help with a deep, deep sleep. Looking forward, I’m looking at all the areas of my life that I feel out of balance, and going deep in learning about other plant-based wellness ingredients that could help bring me back to level ground. Together with our team and partnering up with a medical professional, we’re in product development mode, creating new confections to help with those common points in our lives when we may feel out of sync.
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?
Authenticity. Our chef has been with us from the beginning and has a tough job on her hands, literally — she makes every single gumdrop by hand in small batches, which is no easy feat. I’m constantly in awe that she’s still just as excited about this endeavor as I am, and I think one of the reasons for that is because we’re open, transparent, and authentic with each other. We’ve cried during 1:1s, we’ve talked through emotions when stress was high, and we’ve planned the future just in case she were to leave. We’ve built a solid foundation of trust, and she knows I’m looking out for her career growth and learning as this business continues to grow.
Empathy. In the beginning, I found a photographer on Nextdoor (of all places) and throughout the years, we’ve remained loyal to each other. Recently, we wanted to do a refresh photoshoot but she had health issues and couldn’t do it. Instead of finding another photographer, I told her we’d wait for her and to let us know when she was ready, and she sent back an emotional response thanking us profusely. A few weeks later, she was working with a publication on a photoshoot and Molly J. happened to be one of the products up for consideration for the list. She reached out, saying she spent extra time and creativity to make sure our products looked stunning in their photos. The world of business is small, so when it comes to fellow colleagues, my motto is to “leave them better than you found them.”
Drive. When we first started out, the CBD industry was a mess. Among so many things, website platforms had no idea how (or even if) to support CBD businesses, which meant their rules and policies would often change, forcing us to move our website across four different platforms. This bumpy and frustrating road has made it crystal clear that when you own your own business, no one pushes it forward except you. When you take a vacation, when you have a sick day, or when you mentally check out, the business goes stagnant and you lose momentum, making it that much harder to get the wheels going again. Having a consistent and reliable drive to move things forward is key.
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?
To me, wellness means balance and, more specifically, everything in moderation. What I don’t believe in is withholding something from yourself that brings you pleasure, just because it’s been labeled as bad. For example, wellness may mean saying no to a slice of your birthday cake, because…sugar. Instead, I think wellness is a balance of both mental and physical health, with a focus on moderation. Eat the slice of cake because it’s your birthday and it will make you happy, but then lay off the sweets for a couple days to balance it out. We see this happening with alcohol, too — there’s a strong movement to go cold stone sober (which is great if that’s your specific goal), but I’d argue that if you enjoy a glass of wine for the taste and experience, don’t withhold it from yourself. Instead, focus on balancing it out so that you have one glass of wine with dinner or just don’t overdo it on the weekends. This same “everything in moderation” balancing act can be applied to all facets of wellness (and life in general) — exercise, career, parenting, etc.
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?
I mentioned above that our world is stressful, and signs show it’ll continue to get more stressful with each coming year. Individually, as we get older, we take on more responsibilities, our bodies fatigue with age, and things start to get heavy. I’m convinced there’s a turning point we all naturally get to — perhaps dubbed the “midlife crisis” — wherein we redefine ourselves in some way, realizing that the old way we were living life just isn’t going to work for the next chapter. We laugh about this being the time Dad buys a red sports car, or when a stay-at-home mom goes back into the workforce, but this, to me, is our instinct shouting out to us. It’s when we stop, take stock of what brings us happiness, and prioritize it.
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?
Prior to starting Molly J., I worked in the tech space for 9 years. My company, Yelp, was an early adopter of catering to its employees’ health and wellness needs, providing anything from fully stocked kitchens to company-sponsored affiliate groups where like-minded individuals could come together and support each other. When I started Molly J., I set out to hire Moms and cultivate a company culture that supported them, starting with flexible working hours and the ability to work from home whenever needed. Through this approach, our team can easily take time off for health issues, family responsibilities, or even just to take a break from the stress.
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.
- A genuine curiosity and willingness to try new things. The wellness industry is…weird. In just the CBD space alone, I’ve seen some very quirky products hit the shelves including CBD-infused tampons (do not recommend!). To stay in the game, it’s important to keep an open mind and stay curious as the innovation continues to churn, as weird as it may be, because you never know what might actually stick.
- Solving a common problem. Apparently the global wellness space is valued at 1.5 trillion dollars, which explains why there are now millions of products solving every possible problem you could ever experience in your entire life. Problem is, how many people actually need Psychic Vampire Repellent Spray or a Vibrator Necklace for when you’re on the go? Sure, you may get picked up by Goop (which both of these were, not surprisingly), but it’s incredibly hard to rely on strong and long-standing revenue growth for products like these.
- Something that actually works. What do the Shake Weight, Yoni Eggs, and Waist Trainers have in common? They didn’t live up to the hype. The Shake Weight may have made for a great SNL skit but all-in-all, these products came out with a strong buzz then slowly lost steam because they didn’t do what they said they’d do. Sadly, there are plenty of examples like these in the wellness space, causing consumers to doubt the industry as a whole. As such, it’s imperative to back up your claims with a product that actually works.
- A relatable and trustworthy personality. Wellness is personal, which means consumers want to see someone else they trust vouching for the product or idea. If a stranger came up to you asking you to buy a candle that smells like their armpit, you’d run away as fast as possible. If Gywneth Paltrow came up to you asking you to buy a candle that smells like her vagina, admit it — you’d think about it. The point is, the person behind the product or idea matters. Be ready to put yourself out there and vouch for your own brand because, in the beginning, no one else will.
- Thick skin. I would bet a zillion dollars that nearly every single wellness-related brand would agree on this one thing: every body is different. This means that what may work for one person may not work for another. If you plan to step into the spotlight with anything in the wellness space — a product, a claim, a movement — get ready for criticism. It could be doubt from potential consumers or negative feedback from actual customers, but you’ll get it. You can’t please everyone, because everyone’s wellness needs are different, and more often than not, your one product, claim or movement won’t solve everything for everyone. Once you come to terms with that and focus on those you are helping, it’s smooth sailing from there on out.
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. 🙂
Growing up, I was always a sleeper and by my teenage years, I would clock in a wake-up time around noon. To this day, I’ll get out of bed around 9am on the weekends, hearing friends and family say “Well good morning, sleeping beauty!” and “Boy, you really like to sleep in, huh?”
Our society’s take on sleep is so weird to me. I’ve heard phrases like “I’ll sleep when I die!” and “Morning bird gets the worm!” all my life, but this idea of cutting short our time to recharge for no real reason except to go-go-go is strange. It’s as if we think sleeping — the act of restoring our energy to take on a new day — is being lazy. If your iphone was charging and you unplugged it early to go-go-go, would you be surprised if it died an hour later? Wouldn’t you be upset that it didn’t have enough juice to last the whole day?
Here’s my big, bold, lofty movement: normalize sleep via #the30daysleepchallenge. Knowing that every body is different, The 30 Day Sleep Challenge would be an experiment between businesses and their employees, wherein for 30 days, businesses would agree to honor a natural wake-up time for their employees. This would mean no meetings until 10am or later, and employees would get to turn off their alarm clocks and wake up when their bodies naturally wake up. For their part, employees would agree to honor doing what they can to achieve a deep sleep: go to bed at a normal hour (no later than 10:30pm), no screen time before bed, low alcohol intake, etc.
Throughout those 30 days, both the company and its employees would track performance, energy levels, and overall mental health and happiness so see how repetitive deep sleep and operating on the body’s schedule can optimize all other facets of life. I’d be fascinated to see the results.
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.
Coming out of left field with this one: Melissa McCarthy. Here’s why — at Molly J., we’re on a mission to spread chill and we believe that ‘chill’ means different things to different people. Some find chill by relaxing with a good book or eating a delicious dinner — I find chill by laughing. I love laughing. It doesn’t matter how stressful my day was or how long my to-do list is getting because if I can get a good solid laugh in, the weight of the world lifts off my shoulders, even for just a bit.
For that reason, my life goal is to laugh more and I do that by being silly, having fun, and staying in the present. Melissa McCarthy is the master of this and not just because she’s a funny comedian — she knows that laughter can be a huge weapon to combat stress and anxiety, and I’d shower Melissa in a waterfall of Molly J. CBD confections just to learn an ounce of her ways.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
We share Molly J. updates along with regular reminders, tips, and tricks to keeping chill on Instagram at @molly.j.life. To shop our high quality CBD confections, head to www.mollyj.life.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!