Intrigued by women-owned, CBD-based skincare brands, their struggles, marketing challenges, and the driving force behind their ventures, here is an in-depth conversation with two such women founders. Janet Schriever, founder of Code of Harmony and Mandy Lile, founder of Potency 710, open up about their ventures, motivations, challenges, and the road ahead.
Q1. Why did you decide to launch a skincare line with CBD?
I have Rosacea, and battling this condition for most of my life led me to develop my line. Also, the lack of non-medical products that help with this condition was an issue that I was personally invested in. When I started experimenting with CBD, there were not many studies, and the ones that we had were very theoretical in nature. The thing that intrigued me the most was that CBD works differently in the skin than any other ingredient. It effects the Endocannabinoid System, which made it an ingredient unlike the other anti-inflammatory botanicals I was already using in my products.
I have always been fascinated with clean ingredients and the power of plants. As CBD became more mainstream, the more I read, the more I knew it would be an amazing ingredient in skincare.
Q2. What is the biggest difference you see between CBD based skincare products and the non-CBD based skincare products?
I feel like CBD products are very ingredient-focused. Unfortunately, they tend to focus only on the CBD, and nothing else. This is finally starting to change as more brands launch and are trying to differentiate themselves. CBD skincare products tend to be marketed to younger people, who are more accepting of Cannabis in general. Therefore, the messaging often focuses on the cool factor of Cannabis and the relaxed vibe associated with CBD. For me, this has been challenging, as I am making an efficacious skincare product often sold in a professional spa setting.
CBD, like Cannabis, offers a powerhouse of benefits to our body and especially our skin. With CBD now being legal across the U.S., I couldn’t see using a skincare product that didn’t include it as it offers antioxidant and antibacterial properties like no other ingredient. And proven to be a powerful free radical fighter.
Q3. How do you see the CBD skincare market evolving in the future, and what role do you see your brand playing in it?
I feel like it is already evolving into a serious category with products focused on problem skin, sensitive skin, acne, etc. I have also seen many brands entering the spa market, where my focus for Code of Harmony has been for the past two years. My products do well both at retail, and with professionals across the country who are performing CBD facials with my entire product line. I am an Esthetician, and this is my lane. I would like to go deeper into the Pro side of the business as the Direct / Retail business grows.
As we note on our website, “there’s nothing more rewarding than offering their customers a high-quality product that heals from the inside out. As the industry continues to evolve, so will Potency No. 710.” CBD is an invaluable compound for our skin’s health. I see it becoming even more popular as more benefits are discovered with prolonged use, and Potency will be there offering new products, new formulations, and new ways to improve the look, feel, and health of your skin!
Q4. How did you decide on the name?
We actually changed our name to Code of Harmony two years ago when I opened the retail/day spa. At that time, CBD was still not considered a credible ingredient and somewhat federally illegal, and the old name was trademarked by another company while I was denied.
I’ll admit, I was pretty mad about it then, but I’m really happy that happened. Code of Harmony suits us perfectly and gets the message of what we do across. We follow a Code when making our products – which is to create Harmony in the skin, Harmony amongst ingredients, Harmony in the environment. Harmony is something that resonates with me on a personal level and how I want to be living in the world.
Everyone always asks what’s behind the name! Potency is defined as “The power of something to influence or make an impression” If you reverse the 710, it reads OIL. And it is also a trendy term used in the cannabis world, and well, potency is everything, isn’t it?
Q5. How do you market a CBD brand with all the regulations around it?
I have had to keep it simple. I don’t try to create a work-around for Facebook ads or do things that aren’t allowed. I make good products. I keep it real with my Instagram profile, and what I do seems to resonate with the skincare obsessed professionals and fans of the brand. Progress may be too slow for some people this way, but I am as busy as I can be without losing my mind. I am a team of 2-3 people, and working until I fall asleep at night, so I actually haven’t needed to do much more marketing than Instagram. Pre-Covid, I was scheduled to do 4 Pro Skincare (spa) tradeshows this year. If those had happened, I would not have been able to handle the orders.
We tiptoe! Since the new regulations went into effect with the passing of the 2018 farm bill, it has gotten easier. However, I am constantly finding new areas where people are restricting CBD companies from marketing and advertising. I find that the product sells itself, and that word of mouth is indeed still the best advertising possible! Additionally, the fact that I had built trust with my past clients in Kentucky, they initially helped me build and market this brand from its infancy.
Q6. How are consumer segments for CBD skincare products different from non-CBD based skincare products?
In the beginning, people assumed that everything would be relaxing. So most products were focused on pain relief, ingestible tinctures, and fluffy stuff like bath bombs. Mostly it became a “wellness” ingredient, more than a skincare ingredient. Now that people are starting to understand that it helps with different skin conditions, it is becoming more of a treatment product as well. Hopefully, people will understand that it is also a good age-slowing ingredient and antioxidant. It is still thought to be relaxing, and uniquely has the ability to relieve stress in the body and topically. CBD skincare products are wellness-focused, which is different from other skincare products at retail or in the spa.
With CBD products, especially mine, I feel that consumers are remarkably diverse, of various ages and lifestyles, because the products are powered by plant ingredients that are safe for all skin types. CBD offers benefits for our skin at all ages. The same cannot be said about many non-CBD products, many of which are not safe for use on certain skin types or by individuals of younger ages.
Potency No. 710 CBD skincare products are all in one option that provides benefits for everyone from the teenager fighting hormonal acne to anyone fighting the aging process.
Q7. What has been the impact of Covid19 on your business, and what is CBD’s role in that impact (meaning how is a CBD skincare line impacted vs. non-CBD skincare line)?
There are two aspects of my business that have been effected. While the skincare line has fared well and direct sales are great, the entire spa industry has been shut down. The Estheticians and Spas I sell to have not been working (myself included) and the wholesale business has suffered. I allowed many of my Estheticians to dropship with us, which helped us both. I wasn’t doing a ton of retail going in, so I was not reliant on that.
I don’t know that the CBD has made much difference between our sales and a non-CBD brand. I feel like everyone who had an established online business going in has done pretty well. As for us – some people stocked up. Some people finally had time to try that masque they had been eyeing. Some people bought our internal/topical tincture to help with the “maskne” and stress.
I have been busier than ever before. I feel like plants offer us such a purpose in life. From giving us oxygen to treating illnesses, plants offer us many benefits. The fact that most of my products are packed with essential oils; they tend to bring a sense of peace to our mind, body, and spirit. The Potency brand is more than just skincare. Its purpose-driven self-care and a vibe you have to experience firsthand!
Q8. Are there any steps you took to market yourself differently during these times? And what was the impact?
No – I actually didn’t have any time! I started to do more video tutorials and that sort of thing, but I felt like there was too much to look at for people, and we still had good sales not doing it.
During this crazy time, I have connected with my audience, consumer base, and social followers on a deeper level. While we all have our struggles in life, in many ways, this pandemic has brought people closer together as we all try to navigate these waters of uncertainty. I have taken this time to utilize my marketing efforts to help others find sanity and new self-care methods rather than just for product promotion. I have also been doing many small random acts of kindness and gifting more products than ever before.
Q9. How difficult is it to be a woman-owned CBD business?
Sigh. I don’t know how to answer that question because I don’t see Code of Harmony as a CBD business. I see it as a Beauty business. CBD is one of our amazing ingredients, but I don’t push that any more than any other beneficial plants we use. And I feel like that resonates with my customer.
I do find it difficult being older in the beauty business. I am 53, and people want to see youth in that IG feed. I definitely think I would have gotten funding by now if I were younger, or a man. I think many people discount the mature woman as a non-desirable image for a youth obsessed culture, especially one with CBD as a main ingredient.
Being a women entrepreneur has its own difficulties, as does owning a CBD business. When you combine the two, it is like a circus some days, however, with faith, dedication, and lots of self-care combined with a passion for helping others benefit from the power of plants, it isn’t as difficult as one may think. It’s all a mindset, and as long as your mind is focused on the true mission, the obstacles come and go like any other in life and business. It’s all about balance.
Q10. What is the biggest challenge to growing a CBD based Skincare brand?
It used to be payment processing and the legal roadblocks. Now it is funding. Banks still don’t like us, so traditional business loans are impossible for a small business. I have done pretty well without it, but it makes it really difficult to scale up being self-funded. And that is where we are at right now.
My experience in the skincare industry has helped tremendously on this journey. However, it has not always been an easy one. I’d say the most challenging part was bringing the brand to market before the Farm Bill being approved. At that time, it was a daily worry that my website would be shut down or that a merchant would freeze my account, funds, and ban me from their platform. It was a little like living in the Twilight Zone. Since the passing of the Farm Bill, though, it has been pretty smooth sailing.
CBD-skincare brands, in particular, have gained from the current and unwelcome crisis amongst all the categories.
According to the founders, CBD-skincare brands are evolving from a focus on wellness and associations of relaxation to a serious, skincare category with anti-aging, antioxidant, and other plant-powered benefits for the skin.
As if being a woman in business wasn’t tough enough, CBD-based skincare brand makes it even more challenging to secure funding and scale up, but that has not deterred these founders from pursuing their passion.
The grit and determination of Janet and Mandy, and many more like them, who, out of sheer passion, have gone about their business with purpose, creativity and unrelenting attitude is truly awe-inspiring. They have already made it in my books.
ROHIT BANOTA, Founder of StorySaves, has created, transformed and grown dozens of health and beauty brands across North America using proprietary Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Tribe, and Innovation frameworks.
He has over 17 years of marketing and business experience growing consumer packaged brands including with startups and MNCs like P&G Beauty and Grooming.