I am a personal believer in CBD. I’m not just the president of the club, but also a member because I’ve seen and heard the many success stories that people have had with CBD. I am aspirational that the combination of my confidence in HempMeds products and my background in sales will help me fulfill the company’s mission to expand global access to CBD and educate consumers so that they can make informed decisions if they should incorporate CBD into their daily lives.
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Todd Morrow.
Todd Morrow has more than 19 years of experience in product development, merchandising, and marketing. Prior to his role as HempMeds, Todd served as Vice President of Merchandising and Merchandise Planning & Allocation for Santa Monica-based company, Independent Pet Partners Holdings, LLC. Todd also held various leadership positions at national pet product retailer Petco.
He has a history of bringing products to market and brands to store shelves. He understands and excels at creating wholesale distribution approaches and exceptional natural product experiences. He has the background knowledge needed to make the strategic creative and operational decisions that are required to grow brand recognition and increase revenue and profits.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I took the leap from a traditional corporate atmosphere into the cannabis industry because of the emerging marketplace opportunities that are growing significantly year over year.
I chose HempMeds specifically because of its long-running history as the first company to ever bring hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) oil products to market in the U.S. in 2012 as well as the strong expertise of HempMeds parent company CEO Dr. Stuart Titus, a well-known influencer and speaker in the industry.
I am a personal believer in CBD. I’m not just the president of the club, but also a member because I’ve seen and heard the many success stories that people have had with CBD. I am aspirational that the combination of my confidence in HempMeds products and my background in sales will help me fulfill the company’s mission to expand global access to CBD and educate consumers so that they can make an informed decisions if they should incorporate CBD into their daily lives.
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 the cannabis industry, there are no boring days. Every single day presents its own unique opportunities and challenges. It’s interesting to think that only a few years ago, the majority of Americans thought about CBD as something that stoners might take to get high. We have a long way to go with public education on the topic but we’ve made significant progress in a short amount of time.
The most interesting stories are the stories of success we hear from our retail, professional, and practitioner partners as well as our leaders. Most stories include an epiphany that (while they are related — like lemons and limes), hemp and marijuana are not the same and our CBD products from hemp will not make you high. Things like a buyer from a natural grocery retailer we partner with asking if our products will make her grandmother “too high”, “mellow” or “giggle at her book club” if she uses her CBD tincture before heading out. Or, a natural practitioner sharing a story about a client wondering if she took her CBD capsules in the morning if she would be “too loaded to drive to work”.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now we’re working on a complete rebrand of our website and best-selling products. We are excited that consumers love our products but we also want to make sure that our company and its products are accessible to medical professionals and practitioners as well. We see the gap between traditional and functional medicine quickly closing and doctors becoming more interested in recommending CBD to their patients. In countries such as Mexico and Brazil, doctors are one of our biggest demographics and we think that with legislative progress and an overall increase in research efforts, the same will be true in the U.S. in years to come.
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?
I am fortunate to have worked alongside several terrific leaders over the years. I think one of the most powerful yet simple messages I received was from Dave Bolen when he was the EVP, Chief Merchandising Officer at Petco. The company decided to make a tremendous investment in business transformation activities to better compete and grow our business as e-commerce was becoming such a large part of the consumer journey. They were looking for someone to lead the transformation efforts from a business standpoint and really wanted that person to be me. I knew that a large part of this work was going to be technology related and I had no technical experience aside from business user experience with systems/tools. Dave said, “Todd, take the risk … you can do it. The tough part won’t be getting the wires to connect (technology), the tough part is mapping the strategy and influencing the leaders — you have that strategy and influence nailed.” He smiled and continued walking down the hall. At that moment, I decided I was in! I am so happy that I did it. If you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and take calculated risks, you are holding yourself back from growth.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
With so many people entering the CBD market every day, utilizing creative marketing strategies is as crucial now as it’s ever been. We lead all of our marketing communications with educational resources and make sure that all our messages tie into how consumers can incorporate CBD into their busy schedules. In the past, we have utilized affiliate marketing and look forward to growing our list of social media influencers who can help us tell our story and share their experiences with our products.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I have already secured 100 new retail partners for HempMeds and I’ve established several exciting product line launches for the next year. I also secured the company’s flagship product Real Scientific Hemp Oil CBD as the first product to be included in a highly-regarded physician resource database called the Prescribers’ Digital Reference and one of the first CBD companies to receive a Certification Seal from the U.S. Hemp Authority.
My biggest concern about the CBD industry is that too many amateur players are trying to become a part of the industry without any background knowledge or testing protocols set up to be able to provide consumers with accurately labeled safe products. We test our products at every step of production, from when the CBD is in the ground to when it goes into the bottle. These companies are making it harder for those who are trying to do the right thing because consumers lose trust in the industry or get confused on how to know if a product is safe or not.
The other concerning thing is that there are many so-called experts making a variety of medical claims about CBD and specific CBD products. The FDA has done a good job of cracking down on these parties but there are so many out there that it would be nearly impossible to catch them all. There are a growing number of research studies that have been conducted and that are in progress regarding the wellness benefits of CBD and hemp, but people won’t begin to take these studies seriously until those people making unfounded claims stop spreading false information.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- There will be a mix of seasoned professionals and cannasavvy types who you’ll have to interact with and learn to communicate with to form partnerships and advance your business operations. The industry is growing up but learning to speak to both audiences is critical and understanding the legacy relationships and handshake deals from leaders in the past can be a bit of a spiderweb to untangle.
- There’s a lot of room for innovation. Have an idea and want to become the first? Unlike many other industries that have existed for many years, working in an emerging industry provides vast opportunities from an innovation standpoint, and becomes known for that.
- Social media is a dynamite tool from a brand building and customer engagement standpoint. It is a terrific way to connect with your current and potential audience however most major social media platforms comply with federal regulations and therefore are not cannabis or CBD friendly. Things are getting better, as hemp, which is federally legal under the 2018 Farm Bill, can be used on several platforms but using photos of it may still be taken down because it looks like marijuana to the untrained eye.
- There are a lot of people in this industry that care about quantity over quality. How many products can we sell for cheap rather than focusing on the quality of the product? Producers need to make sure that the products they’re creating are safe but also potentially efficacious. There have been many recent reports of products that claim to have CBD in them, such as CBD water, but indeed don’t even have trace amounts of cannabinoids.
- Payment processing is tough to maintain for new folks entering the market (independent grocery, practitioners, etc). It’s getting easier but rates are higher and it can be tough to find processing partners.
- There’s an overall lack of information and knowledge in the market creates confusion not only for consumers but also folks looking to get into the business. It’s tough for people to sort out who they should partner with and unfortunately folks are provided with partial/wrong information and make a decision on price which leads them to a scenario where they are buying (or selling) inferior products that are not what they think it to be and/or are not efficacious.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
We all go to work to make money to be able to feed our families, have a roof over our heads, and hopefully have some extra income to be able to enjoy life. On top of that, some of us (like me) go to work to also make a difference. I feel very fortunate to feel that way about my job and I like to instill that passion into my team. When we can do something that we enjoy and is meaningful, we work harder and the quality of our work improves.
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. 🙂
Have a mission and go to work with purpose every day. Throughout my childhood, my parents often reminded me that hard work pays off and that everyone is responsible for their own happiness. Not your significant other, not your parents, not your friends, each individual. If you are unhappy or want your life to change it is up to you to make that happen. There are no secret bailouts or magic tricks that can fix that for you. Each of us needs to take responsibility for ourselves — put in the work and live the life you want to live!
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
You can find me on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/todd-morrow-a094535/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!