As business leaders, we have to come together and support each other throughout the entire industry. Women are strong and creative and can really help shape the way this industry unfolds for the better. Having women and their voices being heard at the tables is a first step in making this happen. We are stronger together!
Asa part of my series about strong women leaders in the cannabis industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amber Laign and Marci Freede.
Amber and Marci believe in the maximizing power that comes from the blending of Essential Oils with CBD in their products. Personal adversities within their families were the ultimate inspiration for their development of Plant Juice Oils.
Amber Laign is originally from the Bay area in California but has happily been living in New York City for more than twenty years. She is a licensed massage therapist through the Swedish Institute, specializing in chronic pain.
Marci Freede lives with her twin daughters, Hannah and Alexa, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Being a mother to twins combined with twenty years in the corporate world prepared her well for entrepreneurship.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?
Amber saw the effects of cancer treatments firsthand as the primary caregiver to her partner, Robin Roberts, who underwent life-saving breast cancer treatments in 2007. In 2012, Amber found herself back in the caregiver role as Robin received a bone marrow transplant. While searching to find a holistic approach to help with the many side effects, Amber discovered the wonderful benefits of combining Essential Oils with CBD.
Marci discovered the power of Essential Oils and CBD in searching for natural healing alternatives to aid in the health struggles of one of her twins. After experiencing such exceptional benefits and the improvements they made in the life of her own family, she knew that she needed to share the love.
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?
It may not be interesting but we find the most uplifting part of running our business is hearing from our customers ( who we refer to as “Plant Juice Peeps”) on how we have enhanced their lives in a positive way. It makes us really proud and happy we started this company.
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?
We have lots of funny mistake stories and we like to keep them all in our “box of lessons”. This box includes wrong labels ( which were actually stickers … if you are a sticker collector, we have many for you!), packaging, 100+ units of incorrect bottles, our first website developer, and the list goes on and on. We always joke that our mistakes -which we call lessons- will make a fabulous podcast one day where we can share the many stories of our mishaps. However, we are proud to say we have never made the same mistake twice!
Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry?
When we created Plant Juice Oils 3 years ago, we were so excited to share our newfound love of CBD with friends and family. In return, they looked at us like we had 6 heads each — as in WHAT are you guys doing! However, through proper education, they are also now reaping the benefits and believe so strongly in the powers of CBD and the plant as a whole. Not to mention, one of Marci’s daughter’s friends thought she was a drug dealer when they would hear cannabis! However, now that CBD is becoming so mainstream, that stigma is thankfully lifting.
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?
We are truly grateful for the many people who helped us throughout this journey. Robin Roberts, who is Amber’s partner in life, has not only been an inspiration for the line but a connector of so many people that have helped us along the way. Julie Lennon, Robin’s dearest friend, has helped us understand the importance of being legally protected. Tory Johnson from GMA, is a vital soundboard for brainstorming creative ideas. Our brand would not be where it is today without the talents of Nate Jensen from Inn8Creative, who is our creative director. He has lent so much of his valuable time and impeccable vision to help create our branding. Jamie Kern Lima, the founder of IT Cosmetics, gave us invaluable advice on how to get a new brand off the ground from her many trials and errors of starting IT Cosmetics. Last but not least, Scarlett Spring, former President and CCO of Visiongate Inc, has been an incredible mentor helping us navigate unfamiliar grounds in a proficient way.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are vigorously working to build Plant Juice Oils as a trusted brand that will be showcased on many store shelves throughout the U.S.
Being a line that addresses everyday ailments with a holistic approach, we look forward to getting our products into as many hands as possible.
Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. Despite 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?
As business leaders, we have to come together and support each other throughout the entire industry. Women are strong and creative and can really help shape the way this industry unfolds for the better.
Having women and their voices being heard at the tables is a first step in making this happen. We are stronger together!
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.
1)Our first challenge came the day we went live with our company. Amber was on a flight overseas and Marci learned very quickly that no banks would take us on to do our credit card processing, we had no idea this was an issue! So it caused much scrambling to find a processor overseas that would work with us.
2) Advertising through Google and Facebook is nearly impossible- making it super challenging to get your name out there. We are, however, finally starting to see some movement with Facebook ads as long as you are careful with your wording.
3) Even though CBD is the “current hot ticket item” there are still retailers with cold feet. We do see this changing over time as the laws ease up and people understand CBD fully.
4) Not everyone is fully educated on CBD making it difficult to book TV segments and placement in certain publications.
5) How complex this industry is as a whole. Not to mention wrapping your head around CBD as a chemical compound so you are able to explain the benefits to a newbie without their eyes crossing and head spinning around.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?
1) Witnessing fellow women-run CBD companies thrive and continue to pave the way excites us on a daily.
2) CBD has helped lift the stigma attached to cannabis allowing the industry to grow as a whole.
3) It excites us watching the industry have such a positive impact on so many lives.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest?
1)The amount of false information regarding CBD and cannabis as a whole is a huge concern. Knowledge is power.
2) While the industry is not fully regulated, this opens the doors for companies to produce a false product filled with synthetics, heavy metals, and or wrong amounts of THC. False medical claims is a huge concern across the board as well.
3) Currently, the banking industry is very difficult to navigate as few banks want to be involved with smaller CBD companies. However, we are just starting to see a little movement here which is promising.
What are your thoughts about 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 believe strongly in federal legalization in the cannabis industry. We would persuade our local senators on how beneficial it could be for the economy and also help to get so many people off of highly addictive pharmaceuticals that wreak havoc on the human body.
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?
Definitely different. We all know the consequences that cigarette smoking has on the human body and it is socially marginalized because frankly, people are shocked that others still smoke. Cannabis on the other hand, although you have to work from the ground up to lift the stigma, has so many health benefits when used properly. We believe strongly that in the future, cannabis will be accepted much like alcohol but with better benefits for the body.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
We have so many that we refer to constantly as we navigate our business. Marci’s favorite is “ If it were easy, everyone would do it” which is a constant reminder to never give up when things get really tough.
Amber’s favorite is “ What is meant for you will not pass you by” which has given her much needed peace of mind throughout her life.
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. 🙂
Our movement would somehow involve sleep! We are major sleep advocates and believe sleep is the foundation for your following day. This will lead to a healthier, more natural way of living. We want to educate as many people as we can on wellness and healthy choices that will help everyone thrive on a daily basis.
Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you only continued success!