How anxiety & depression led to a high growth cannabis business, TONIC's founder Brittany Carbone
Today we’re chatting to Brittany Carbone who is the founder of Tonic. Tonic is a CBD company that creates these beautiful tinctures mixed in with adaptogens to help us feel better
Brittany’s taken Tonic from a tiny side hustle operating out of her parents kitchen to a 7 figure business in addition to a hemp farm she started on her parents property in upstate New York - this story is seriously a good one. In this conversation we cover:
Pitching to build a hemp farm on her parents property
Navigating the struggles of building a business in the cannabis industry
The power of organic grass roots marketing
And a mistake that cost her $25,000
If you know someone who would benefit from hearing these episodes, share it with them! Let’s get into it, this is Brittany for Female Startup Club
Please note, this transcript has been copy pasted without the lovely touch of a human editor. Please expect some typos!
So you know I started tonic in 2017, like early 2017 I started to develop products really for my own use um you know I've struggled with depression most of my life anxiety like later on in my teenage years became a big problem and cannabis was really always something that helped me deal with those uh those issues and manage them. But it was really getting to a point where it wasn't kind of workday friendly, I needed something that was gonna allow me to function throughout the day. You know it was a personal trainer at the time, so you need to really be high energy working these crazy hours and everything nobody wants like a personal trainer, it's not super motivating, right? So um so that is when I learned about CBD and you know to kind of cut to the chase in terms of what tonic is. You know we make CBD products um but we really look beyond CBD to create a more holistic and integrative wellness solution for my and body and we do that by using different adaptive jin's herbs and super foods that complement the effects of CBD in specific ways and enhance you know certain benefits. So that way you can really target the effects that you want because that's definitely one of the issues that a lot of people face with CBD is like it can be really hard to find the dose that's right for you, it can do so many things but it's like how do you get it to do what you actually want when you want to do it? Right? So I tried CBD you know for the first time, it's like late 2016 and I was super hesitant about it. Honestly, I was like this is like fake, we'd like I don't understand, you know, like I smoke weed every day, why do I need this different kind of weed now like and that was really when it was brought to my attention that the weed that you know, I was consuming the cannabis I was consuming on a daily basis um is very high in THC, right? So THC is the compound that that gets you high, it has the psychoactive effects, right, or intoxicating effects of cannabis. So you know, I wasn't really realizing that, you know, that was all THC but there's this whole kind of spectrum of other compounds that are naturally found in cannabis um that have kind of been like bread out of the kind of you know recreational or medical cannabis that you consume, you know, for to get high, right? So it's spread with very high THC levels and very low CBD because their antagonists, right? So if there's really high THC there's going to be really low CBD and vice versa. So understanding that CBD was a separate compound that I was not actually getting in the cannabis that I was consuming daily, I was like okay this makes a little bit more sense as to why I would need to supplement with you know something different like this and you know has different effects but I still didn't really understand fully how it was doing that are kind of why those different compounds are important. Uh So I gave it a shot anyway I was like you know what my friend recommended it, you know I'll try it out whatever it can hurt. And I went to a local head shop that you know was selling like a little bottle of CBD like not that strong or anything for like 90 bucks and I was like oh my god this is expensive and like and it felt like you know I was buying you know just weed paraphernalia, you know, I had to go into kind of like a cd head shop and you know and so it was kind of like a weird experience but gave it a shot and I was honestly surprised at how well it really worked to help mitigate my anxiety um and like one of my clients who you know really friendly with actually like said to me like a couple days after taking it was like like what's wrong with you while you're in such a good mood and I was like yeah like I am in a really good mood like what what is going on? And I was like oh I took that CBD that's really the only thing that's different. So I really started to pay attention to you know how it was making me feel. I was noticing like my workout recovery was better, you know my sleep was improving and like you know of course you know the main thing that was focusing on the anxiety was definitely improved my mood. So I was really like okay I need to understand how it's how it's doing this now right? Because you know at this point I had gone through you know college level education on you know physiology, biology, nutrition or certified nutrition coach and really understanding all these thing, it's about the human body and nobody talked about this really integral system that we have within us called the endocannabinoid system. And as I started to learn about the endocannabinoid system which is this giant kind of regulatory network within our bodies, that its main goal is to restore and maintain homeostasis or our bodies ideal state of balance, that it's always striving towards right there called like the Goldilocks zone is where everything is just right and operating just as it should, so sounds good. Yeah. Right. So um that's really the role of the endocannabinoid system and it works with all these different parts of our bodies to make sure that, you know, it's um everything is working in harmony that all these different parts of our bodily systems are working together and you know, working as they should. So I really understanding that I started to understand how CBD interacts with the system in a different way that THC does and that's why they have different effects right? By CBD is not is not going to produce that high. That THC does is because THC finds to certain receptors in your brain called the CB one receptors and that is it kind of fits in like a lock and key and that's what activates that kind of that psychoactive effect. CBD on the other hand, is actually like I said, an antagonist, so it actually blocks that receptor. Not only does it not fit into it, it blocks it. So if you were to have a product that had basically the same amount of CBD and THC right? Like I have a gummy, that's 10 mg, CBD, 10 mg, THC you're not actually gonna feel as high as you would from a 10 mg THC only gummy because of the fact that the CBD is actually working to block those receptors and stop THC from producing those effects, right? So it's a good tip for people out there if you get too high have CBD on the ready so but because it can help bring you down. But anyway, it was really understanding how CBD was working with the endocannabinoid system uh to kind of like send all these signals to help regulate the system, right? Like I said to restore the homeostasis and that's when I really made the connection between CBD and the endocannabinoid system and more traditional, well known adapted gens like Ash Uganda. So Ash Uganda was something that I was using in my routine, one of the only things that I felt I could really notice a difference with um and like it was really helping with my mood and my stress levels, things like that. So I started to really connect the dots at both of these, both of these things, both CBD and Ash Uganda, they both are working towards the same goals, right? Anxiety relief, lower stress levels, balance better mood energy levels, all that right all in the interest of bringing us back to that place of homeostasis, perfect balance, but they take they take different pathways to get there. So while um CBD is really activating the endocannabinoid system and our serotonin levels, Aragon is more so working with our cortisol levels and are, you know, hyper pituitary adrenal axis right? So like they're taking these different pathways to accomplish the same goal. So my my thought was, you know that combining them, they'd be able to cover more ground and more efficiently and effectively, you know, reach those goals and yeah, long story short, that's exactly what happened uh I started to combine these two things, kind of just like a very crude combination that I was making in my home for myself and that's like where I was like, felt like CBD got me almost where I needed to be like, Ash Uganda got me almost where I needed to, but combining them is got got me like really, you know what I was looking for in terms of, you know, really helping with my anxiety and my mood and my energy levels. So, you know, that was just huge for me personally, but I started to really see how it could really benefit a lot of the clients that I was working with as well. So like I said, you know, personal trainer, I was working with people from all different populations, right? Older people who were more so focused on, you know, mobility and, you know, helping with um with pain and, you know, helping uh, you know, do stretching and mobility work and stuff like that to like, you know, 20 year old athletes and, you know, everything in between, Right? So just really understanding how stress and chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation and the cycle that we all get stuck in, you know, to kind of no fault of our own, it's really just that's the reality of modern life, right? Is that we're just kind of, we're constantly stimulated. We're overstressed, overworked. Like, we always feel like we have to be go, go, go, we're bombarded with so much stimulus throughout the day from our phones from the news, you know, everywhere we go, right? So it gets, it becomes really to actually, you know, accomplish your health and wellness goals, whether that's to lose weight to be in less pain, to get stronger. All these things are inhibited by these chronically elevated cortisol levels of stress hormone levels and chronic inflammation. Um, you know, your body is kind of basically and like is so busy putting out fires that it's not, you know, getting to the point where it's actually rebuilding, right? And so how I saw it was that this could be a way to really get people to uh, you know, kind of stop just digging ourselves out of the hole that we've created with stress and everything like that and actually be able to get to the baseline where we can build health and wellness upon, right? So, you know, it's really about just getting to the baseline, getting to that point of homeostasis, getting out of our fight or flight response and allowing our bodies to really do what it needs to do to repair and to to grow and to feel better. So, I started to share this form with my clients and, you know, they were getting the same kind of results that I was, they were really amazed with how they felt, how much better that they were feeling, just overall, um, taking this. So then I really started to, you know, think of other ways that, you know, CBD can address a lot of the issues that my clients were facing and a lot of them were pain related, right? And CBD is such a potent anti inflammatory um, that I started to do more research around, you know, CBD and pain relief and topical solutions um, rather than in the adjustable ones I was making and you created a role on oil um for pain relief that I always started to use with a lot of my clients and that was really like the cool part was, you know, these older kind of more conservative clients that I had, who I knew would be very hesitant if I told them what it was that I was, you know, wanting to put on them, I would just say, hey, like I made this, you know, natural plant based pain relief oil. Do you mind if I put it on that shoulder that's been bothering you and see how you feel? Yeah, no problem. Put it on and like, you know, do a little work and have them move it around and to see their faces like almost immediately that pain that has been been there and just kind of, you know, just agonizing and even if it's just like a dull pain, like, you know, the range of motion that they were not able to accomplish and they're just moving no problem and their faces like, oh my God, like what is that, what did you just, what did you just put on me and then tell them like it's called CBD. It's, you know, actually from, you know, the cannabis plant. But it's like, Yeah, I would always explain it as like it's like medical marijuana but without the high right? And like it's like all the benefits of medical marijuana, but without the, you know, the intoxicating effects. Um and because at that time, you know, early 2017 CBD was not widely known whatsoever, right? It was very, very new to everybody. Like I said, I was a cannabis consumer for 10 years at that point and it was still new to me. So explaining that to people and getting that, get them to understand that was a really big part of it. Um and then from there it's really utilized this, you know, kind of built in, you know, test audience that I had with my clients and everything and I was able to get their feedback like what what's like, you know, what do you want to see, what do you need help with the most, where do you feel like you could use like the most improvement and like, you know, kind of what issues need to be addressed. And everybody said sleep everybody like across the board sleep was the biggest issue. So that really led me to create chill tonic, which is now, you know, pretty much from day one and to this day has been our best selling product hands down and it basically takes the same formula as the O. G. Which is that that original blend of CBD and Ash Lagonda that I created. So it takes that and adds lemon balm and passionflower and a little bit of a higher dose of CBD. So the lemon balm and passionflower really create a very much more calming effect. It really activates certain receptors and neurotransmitters in your body to signal your nervous system to slow down, helps with insomnia, helps with racing thoughts, anxiety. So it's you get all those balancing and restorative effects that you do with that original O. G. Formula but it just takes that calming effect to the next level and you know like I said it was you know Just from day one until now has been our best selling product and I you know it's just we've evolved since um from there and pretty quickly thereafter like I said this was like early 2017, you know became you know as I started making more of these products and you know kind of giving it to more of my community. It was one problem was very clear was that the supply chain and you know the kind of the kind of supply of the raw materials like the CBD extracts themselves were not the quality or the consistency that I wanted for my products like you know especially coming from the background that I came from and health and wellness, I know knew that you know the quality of the ingredients is what's gonna make or break this product right, It's you know, it's nothing without the quality. So um I was really frustrated with the fact that you know there wasn't a lot of states producing CBD at the time, so there wasn't a big supply to pull from, it was super unregulated, just like you know, very wild wild west kind of style and so cowboys out there Exactly and it was getting ripped off and it was just, it was a nightmare. So I had this idea that you know my family has a property in upstate new york, I'm originally from Long Island, like you know pretty close to new york city, but my family has property in upstate new york. Um my husband and I had actually got married there back in 2015 and you know my parents started to spend more time up there after that, turned it into a full fledged wedding venue after after our wedding it came out so well yeah, so I had this idea to uh approach my parents and say, hey what do you think about growing hemp on this land because you know this is going to be a huge industry, there's going to be huge demand and there has to be other people out there like me who are you know really demand a higher caliber kind of, you know, quality material for their products and really um care about, you know what's going into the products that they're making and that they're selling. So not only can we provide tonic and our products with you know, the quality that you know, that we're demanding, but we can provide that same service for other like minded brands. So luckily my parents are, you know, I guess just as crazy as I am and they were, they were down to uh down to go for it and we got our license um from new york state to grow hemp in late 2017. We were among the first privately licensed farmers in the state to be able to grow and uh you know, we've been growing every year since then we got our organic certification, you know, certified organic farm or family owned and operated um in upstate new york and you know really focus on sustainable and regenerative agriculture, making sure that we're giving the land as much as we are taking from it, if not more because at the end of the day, that's what really, you know, is going to determine the quality of your products, but also really like cannabis can be such a beacon of sustainability if it's done right and we really feel like it's, you know, if we're gonna be growing this and taking that on um to really be doing it responsibly and in a way that, you know, is good for the land and good for the environment around us and helping to, you know, contribute to the ecosystem rather than taking anything away from it. That's all, all part of the healing, right? It's all part of this bigger picture. Um you know, our motto is to, you know, be good for the planet and good for the people. Um you know, it's just everything that we do, you know, from start to finish is all about that. And uh yeah, we've been growing since 2018 was our first season. We opened up our processing and manufacturing facility, which I'm speaking to you uh from right now and to that in early 2020 actually, right before the covid shutdown, so the perfect time to launch a new business. Uh so that was really, you know, kind of our last step in becoming fully vertically integrated, meaning that we control everything from when the seed goes into the ground until you know, that bottle gets to your doorstep or on the store shelf of the stories that you purchased it at, wow, Holy moly, there's a lot here to dig into. Oh my gosh, you just answered a million questions that I already had. So I love that also, just quickly, what did before I go into, before I jump into it. What did your parents say when you, kind of pitched them this idea of growing the hemp farm. Yeah, I mean they were just they were kind of like all you know my husband was really taking the lead on like figuring out how like how we're actually gonna grow it and you know managing that. Um And they were just really interested in like oh okay like what do we have to do? Like you know they're they're kind of we're reaching like retirement age and you spend more time up there so they were kind of down for the, cause they didn't question it too much. Which is very ironic considering when I was in high school my mom actually drug tested me for th because she felt I was smoking too much weed. It was a big problem, big issue in my house growing up that you know I smoke too much weed but now my mom, you know not only are we growing cannabis on our family farm, but my mom is tonics, shipping manager and office manager. So every tonic package that you get is packed up by her and sent by your mom. Oh that's so cool, I love that so much. Oh my God, that's amazing. Also I feel like you summed up like how I feel and your products just sounds so amazing. I can just see how that can help so many people. You know like me, I'm someone who I struggle with sleep, I struggle with my nervous system, I struggle with anxiety like I struggle with all these things and sometime you just don't know where to start because you're so like, like you said, also overstimulated with information, like, we get bombarded with, like, take this, do this, do this, and it's so hard. So, as you're telling me your, your journey there, I was like, wow, like, this is amazing, and I can see like the sales pitch is good. I want that. That's the thing. It's like, yeah, I think that that's an important, like, you know, I always want to be careful when I say this because, you know, you don't want to obviously create a product that's just for you, right? You want it to be something that more people can really relate to and engage with and feel like they can get value from, but at the end of the day, like, you know, you should be making a product that that you would want to be using, right? That you you know, what needs that you have. So like, if you're addressing, you know, your needs and your effect actively addressing your needs? Like, there are other people out there that feel like you do, right? And it's really about finding like, you know, that community, who, like, who is that, who are these people that are kind of having these shared experiences and can really relate to what I'm going through, and, you know, kind of have the same uh whether it's kind of values or, you know, um same kind of just ways about, you know, um addressing their their health and wellness. Um and speaking to that, right? And, you know, for me, like, you know, it's all about authenticity and I think that's with any brand, any successful company, you have to be like authentic as a small business. Um you know, it's really what, what we have to rely on, right? I don't have a huge marketing budget, I don't have any of that kind of stuff, but I have my own story and, you know, my ability to really convey that and say that like, hey, this helped me, like just kind of get through my day to day and this this is why I'm making this product. And you know, if I can help other people in the same way that, you know, these products helped me, That's really my goal here, and you know, that's having that as kind of like your your guiding force, right? It kind of makes it easier to make important decisions about your business, right? And and how to go about scaling and how about go about growing your business, like, what is the next step is this selling out, right? Is this aligned with really what I wanna do? And, you know, if you're really stay true to, you know, whatever that that need that you're serving is whatever that mission that you're trying to carry out is if you really kind of have a very strong, you know why as to you know why you're doing it like everything else can kind of fall in line from there, it's always, it just has to be about like you know it gets really easy to lose that in the day to day of running a business and all the stress and have to pay pay my bills, I have to pay my employees, I have to pay my you know what I mean? It's just like I don't have time to just sit down and think about my values but like no actually like you know if you just kind of allow that noise to die down a little bit which again plug for tonic products that is always like what I say like that it's not going to solve all your problems but what it does is helps to create space between you and your thoughts right? Like when you have that straw and anxiety that's like just like feels like it has you by the throat right, you know and it's just like allowing that grip to be released and loosened so then you can you know put into practice like whatever kind of self care, you know whatever meditation or breathing or just kind of time for reflection without having that you know kind of incessant like anxiety you know um just you know playing over and over in your head, I just really create space allows you to get that perspective and then allows you to, you know, kind of just feel more able and you know prepared to kind of, you know, just okay, I can do this like deep breath, let's go, you know what I mean? So being able to kind of clear out that no noise and really focus again on what, why you started and why you're doing this and what, you know, that core vision really is. Um you'll be surprised at how easy it is to make decisions when you're really listening to that voice inside of you and not all the other noise that that gets piled up. I want to focus a little bit on that first year in business and how you kind of, you know, grew out of that community, you had of clients into kind of like the market and I read that you did like $3,000 sales in that first month and obviously proved that there was a real need for your product outside of your clientele. What was your approach to marketing in those early months? 1st 12 months and like how are you getting the word outside of your community? Yeah, I mean hands down instagram was the biggest thing and like that was, it was huge and it's like I will give the caveat that for, especially for CBD brands right now, you're not gonna have quite as much, you know fast and easy success with, you know instagram and social media as I was able to um and that's just because, Yeah, not only has like the landscape of social media, you know, evolved a lot in the past five years, but it's also, you know, CBD the landscape, the CBD industry has evolved a lot and you know, now you see it everywhere right? Like in 2019 I'm sure that every wellness influencer that you follow and the kind of wellness page was talking about some kind of CBD product at some point right? But back in 2017 that was not the case and the cool thing was that a lot of people were really excited and like interested in trying it like they were, it was new to them, they weren't really, you know, um haven't really tried a lot before and if they had, they hadn't tried it with ash Lagonda blended in like, you know, I haven't tried it with these other herbs and adaptive lens that I was using. Um so like you know that was really uh an attention grabber and you know, so I really, I gave away a lot of product um and like it's really came down to trusting um the quality and you know the effectiveness of the product and because that was, you know my feeling was I just need to get it into people's hands once people try it and experience it like they'll love it and you know that will be it, but the hardest part for any product is just to get it in people's hands right to get it out there. So I just was you know all day hitting up different accounts and you know, just you know, talking to different people and uh you know from areas from, you know, fitness and yoga and wellness to, you know more so like like therapists and you know, um counselors and things like that, anybody who kind of really touch like mental and physical well being spaces, right? And you know, really focusing on what our demographic really, you know, really is, you know, millennials and you know more so skewed towards women. You know, our products are definitely not exclusively for women, but you know, it's definitely who we speak to a lot more with the product. So um really just targeting, you know, who is our target demographic, Who do I want to, you know, get to learn about this product and we just send them care packages of free product in exchange for a post. And you know, they were happy to do it and happy to try it out and you know, I was very, you know, very grateful that they had such amazing experiences with it that they were excited to share about it. And you know, I quickly kind of developed a very uh very crude kind of affiliate marketing program like where it's just like, you know percentage of sales kind of thing, you know, and just started to build that up to keep those people engaged and keep them kind of, you know, um motivated to continue to talk about the products and to, you know tell their community about it and it really grew very organically from there. So I definitely had that advantage of uh, you know, being an early mover, there wasn't a lot of noise that was, you know, um that I had to compete against, especially like I said because of the fact my products were very different than the other ones that are out there. Right? So now you see CBD blended with ash Lagonda and other herbs all time. But you know, we were really the first brand to do that commercially right? Like cannabis and Uganda. I'm not gonna take credit for that. Those are both ancient plants that you know are have been used for centuries and centuries. But in terms of you know bringing a commercial product to the market um you know, we were really the first to do it and there is a lot of obstacles and difficulties with that too. I'm not gonna say that it was, you know, um easy to, you know kind of be the first like to to really be doing that. It was really difficult to find co packers or manufacturers because either they would, you know, deal with, you know, products and supplements that didn't have CBD like you know Ash Lagonda blends. Yeah, no problem. And then there's other manufacturers that dealt with only CBD but those CBD manufacturers wouldn't touch other ingredients and and uh you know vice versa, like definitely more traditional like yeah manufacturers out there would not touch CBD. So that's really why I had like kind of no choice but to kind of keep you know from my parents kitchen, you know in the first year I was making all the products in my parents kitchen, so you know when we moved up to the farm and you know like early 2018, um I finally got like my own little office space and was you know manufacturing out of there and you know it's just continuing to grow um you know, I needed to you know kind of continue to keep these products just you know, manufacturing myself because there was not, you know the partners out there that were equipped to do it, so I really had to learn how to do everything myself kind of for for better or for worse, but in doing that it would allow me to speak to my product, you know with more knowledge and you know just a really kind of in depth front and back inside and out knowledge of the product, how it was made and communicating that to the customers more importantly, so that was something that also really um like you know helped to tell that story, you know, is kind of you know how it's made and what that process is and you know what goes into it and why I choose these ingredients and you know how why I choose to do things in a certain way and people really appreciate that transparency and like so these little things that I gathered like in this first year um or like the kind of tenants of the business that really carried through year over year even to this day, right? Like what what do these consumers really care about because it's you know, it's such a new product type and you can try to kind of just fit it into other um kind of buckets right of like wellness and supplements and everything like that. But there's this whole education component, there's this like mistrust component, there's like this um stigma component to it, right? There's all these different layers to really kind of have to sift through when it comes to effectively marketing and speaking to a cannabis related product even if it's not getting you high right? There's still a lot to overcome there. So it was really like leading with education leading with transparency and um just kind of really like I said, being authentic with our customers and kind of always having this very um kind of talking to them like they're my friends right? Like you know how you would talk to your friend if you know she came up to you and was like, hey I heard about CBD like you know, do you like, what do you think about it? Right? Like, and you're just like shooting the ship with your, with your, with your friend and like, you know, somebody who cares about you and it's gonna tell you the truth and isn't gonna like, you know, uh just get all scientific and technical, but it can actually talk to you in a way that's relatable. Um it's really important. And I think, you know, especially when you're talking about products that are so targeted towards mental health, right? And it's like people want to feel seen and in the product that they're consuming and they're engaging with, they want to feel like this is something that they can relate to and that they actually uh, you know, feel good about supporting as well. And like that's, you know, something that's really important to me as well as, you know, really like what do I stand for as a brand as a company and as a person. And how do I, you know, community not only communicate that with consumers but allowed them to kind of be part of that. And you know, we started um in early 2019 started tonics purpose program. So basically give back initiative each month we choose a different nonprofit partner. Um and we donate a percentage of revenue every month to a different non profit, you know, all different, touching all different areas from, you know, social justice and um, you know, uh comparative justice because of, you know, the fact that, you know, cannabis has such a deep history. Um, you know, kind of rooted in racism with the war on drugs and everything like that. Um, it really started with like a recognition of that and wanting to give back to those causes, but it's really expanded to um, you know, women's health. Like, you know, october breast cancer awareness month. We partnered with this group called the breast is, it's, you know, amazing group of women and you know, just really causes that are near and dear to our hearts and communities that need our support. And you know, we're not saying a percentage of profits, right? That's what a lot of companies says like, no, like not profit. It's it's just straight revenue like before any profits, no matter what, every month we're donating to these different causes and allowing our customers to contribute to these causes as well. And feel like, you know, that they're not only, you know, buying products that make them feel good, but they're, you know, doing good as well. Mm That's amazing. I love that. So important people planet profit above profit over everything else. Exactly. Yeah. You said something earlier that I want to circle back to around, you know, the challenges that you face in this industry when it comes to things like co packing or whether it comes to payment providers or whatever it might be. And I saw on your instagram that one of your instagram accounts actually just got shut down recently and that's obviously a challenge that people in this space face as a huge issue. How do you kind of navigate marketing today and like what shifts the needle for you now? Knowing that platforms like facebook and instagram are kind of like, you know, just wild out there. I'm seeing accounts get shut down every day, who you know, just talk about, you know, touch on the word anything and you get shut down like it's crazy. So how do you navigate the space now? It's really difficult and I will say that it's like, I feel like becoming more and more difficult to find channels that are really, you know, effective but the staple and definitely kind of the tent pole of our like especially at digital marketing efforts is our email list. That's the one place that we can say whatever we want, we don't we're not censored, you know, where um speaking directly to people who have chosen to engage with us, you know, want to know what we have to say, right? Um and it's just really like the one kind of direct pathway that we, you have to consumers that is not kind of, you know, uh filtered out through algorithms and censorship and all these rules, regulations and you know, even if your brand is not kind of subject to those same, you know, kind of obstacles as you know, something like CBD is that like that owned first party data, like your email list is so important, right? Or your text messaging list like that's that's something else that we can't do as a CBD company. We're very restricted from SmS. But Norby actually, Norby we are able to utilize SMS through their platform. So that is huge as well. So collecting those customer emails and phone numbers and being able to kind of have that direct line to your customers is incredibly important. Like, you know, if we put out even if it's not even like a discount, it's just like sharing a blog post. It's, you know, we see the sales jump from that email because it just brings you back on top of mind, right? Or somebody was like, oh, you know what I am out of my tonic, forgot I keep forgetting to order it, let me you know what I go now. And so like just these little things just to stay on top of your consumers mind. Uh email has definitely been, you know, the most effective channel for us. But um, affiliate marketing as well. So like I mentioned earlier, I started, you know, my own little very simple, you know, affiliate program uh just kind of a referral based system really. But now we work with like an affiliate marketing agency that has been really instrumental in like yo uh making the affiliate marketing like actually work at scale and you know, utilizing publishers and, you know, everything like that. And that's kind of like a, you know, poorly kept secret these days, is that everything is paid to play. You know, when you see like these lists like, you know, top five, you know, best CBD products for stress or, you know, whatever. It's, you know, basically the publishers of those sites, they do not necessarily have to pay direct money to, you know, get placed on this. Sometimes you do, but they want you to have at least, you know, an affiliate, um, like account set up. So that that way, if they're posting that if anybody clicks and purchases, They're gonna get a kickback, right? And, you know, the higher you put that rate for their kickback, the higher gonna get on that list, right? It might sometimes you see the list of like 30 different products on there. And it's just like, if you want to be number one through five rather than number 25 through 30, like make that commission rate 20% rather than 10. Right? And just like little things like this. But that has been really huge in getting us a lot of, you know, placements and a lot of these, uh, you know, a lot of these different websites and, and articles, um, you know, that's been really huge and just kind of getting us on these different platform, exposing us to new audiences. And what's really great about it is um there's not a huge upfront costs because you know, you're really paying based on performance and a lot of the case, right? So we pay the agency of course, and you know, we pay these platform fees, but at the end of the day you're really um you know, you're paying based on performance, so it's a much more sustainable way for a small business who doesn't have a lot of, you know, capital to throw at marketing to be able to um you know, effectively go after these opportunities, Can you name drop the agency that you use for anyone listening who's like, damn, I want to get into that? Absolutely, I'd be happy to. So it's called spark S. P A R K Ro as R O A S return on ad spend, right? So you google spark R O A S, they're great. The woman that I work with, my account manager would be working with her for almost two years now is Alex and she's amazing and great customer service, I highly recommend them shoutout to Alex, love, That's so cool. Yeah, when you think about the lessons you've learned so far in building tonic, is there anything that you wish you knew before you started? Like any advice that you kind of wish that you got, that you could pass on to anyone listening in, Yes, I would say don't try to do it all yourself. Um so, you know, I got talked about building this vertically integrated business structure where we have the farm the lab and you know, the brand and while that was really built out of necessity because of where things were at at the time, the infrastructure of the industry, like if, you know, looking back on it, not that I would do it differently, um you know, I'm like incredibly grateful for the, you know, these different businesses that have built um the different brands that I've been able to, to serve, you know, through these businesses, but it has definitely inhibited tonics growth at the end of the day because of the fact that, you know, we never raised like a huge amount of money, right? It was always like a very scrappy kind of operation and you know, not a huge team and you know, it's really trying to do it all and you know, something is going to, you know, kind of suffer because of that, right? And you know, even if everything was kind of like seemingly like, okay, surface level, like it's okay, we're not like dying, but like, we're not actually kind of reaching the levels that we could have, if, you know, tonic was my only focus, right? So like, you know, if I was able to really just allow, you know, somebody else to focus on the production and to focus on manufacturing all the, all the million things that go along with that, you know, I would be able to not only just focus more of my energy on sales and marketing and getting the product out there, but also it's a lot of, you know, money to write, like, you know, just even where um spending my money having like, you know, paying payroll for production text to make the product, you know, rather than, you know, putting that towards um you know, a sales team, right? You know, of course, I would have to pay a manufacturer to do that, but it's, you know, different because, you know, as anybody who's running their business knows it's, you know, all the ship that goes wrong on a day to day basis, right? Like that's your mess to clean up. Like it's like that's your dollars lost on every mistake, right? Whereas the a manufacturing partner, if they mess up, like that's their dollars lost, but you're still paying the same the same fee for the most part, right? If it's a good partner. But so like, it was really, and it's really something that it took me a long time to uh kind of come to terms with, and that's why I'm gonna say this with, with all the love and understanding and empathy in my heart for anybody who's like, I can't trust anybody else to do it, but me, there's nobody else, you know, it's like really, again, go back to like, what what is your vision, what is your and like what are you good at? Right? And what is your strength? Um and that is really, you know, a really important and like honest conversation to have with yourself because it's, you know, that is how you're going to accomplish this mission most effectively, right, is by allowing people who are good at what they do to do what they do. So you can do what you have to do, right? And like, that's how you kind of keep this train moving in the right direction and and keep moving like, you know, on, on track, right? So like, really looking at what your strengths are, you know, how you can be of most value value to yourself into your business and then really looking for the right partners to help you support, help support you in all these other areas. Um you know, I think that that's something that we're learning now as we're transitioning into adult use cannabis in new york, um you know, and looking at how we're approaching our business model and it's like kind of conversation I had to have with myself as we were thinking about scaling um the CBD business and you know, it's like, okay, how much are we gonna need to grow more to be able to accommodate, you know, as we scale and like making these projections, I'm like, this just doesn't really make sense, like, again, like if my values are sustainability community, like access, like supporting other people supporting the planet doing this in the right way, It's like, it's kind of counterintuitive that I'm like kind of like hogging it all up for myself, you know what I mean? Like, No, it's like it's all mine and I'm gonna do it, do it all myself, it's like, you know, if there's now opportunity to work with other craft growers and you know, cultivators who are, you know, utilizing regenerative practices and growing on smaller plots of land spread out across a greater space and not, you know, overworking the same same land, you know, and doing these big commercial industrial kind of grows um but doing it in in a way that's more sustainable and more aligned with what we want as a brand, you know, then we can actually help support these growers um you know, help support a wider range of people of a larger community um through our products, so, you know, it's kind of like a revelation that like I said that I that I had kind of in retrospect and now moving forward as we're, you know, um kind of entering this new phase of our business here in new york, um taking that to heart and really, you know, looking at, you know, what are the lessons that I've learned, you know through hemp and you know, the CBD business and how can I like, you know, of course correct going forward, right, and like really just continue to improve, because I think that, you know this is like you're starting your first business, this is you know my first my first business that I started right and a lot of lot of learning learning moments, let's put it that way along the way, right and like it's just you know, I think a lot of people like including myself like I don't you know accept failure or you know anything like very well it's something that you know I have to work on but it's like understanding that you know you're not going to get it right the first time but you have to like have the um kind of put your ego to the side a little bit and like just really be honest with yourself on how you can improve, right, not that you have to give up, but like maybe there is a pivot that you need to make, right, maybe this isn't working, but like how can I like still fulfill this mission that I have and provide this service is like in a way that is going to be more effective, that is going to be more a more successful business model and you know uh it's not all about money but its success in terms of how many people you're reaching and how many people you're able to effect and you know how you're really um you know going about that part of your business, so I think really being um you know kind of honest with yourself in those kind of moments of reflection and not being afraid to like admit okay I need to do this differently. Like maybe like I need to kind of let go of this. Maybe it's like a product in your line that's not really performing well and you're just like all right, like I love this product and I know that like I have some people out there that are gonna be really upset but like it's draining a lot of my resources, it's not performing well. I need to just let it go right and just you know uh being kind of less strict with yourself. Like that's you know, again it took me a few years to really get to that point and realize that that's a good one. Absolutely order yourself. Focus make hard decisions and you know keep going with clarity. I love that.
Question number one is, what's your why? Why do you wake up every day and build this business to help people feel better and you have to uh yeah, just really put forth the best products that I can tell people feel their best good mission to have. Question number two, what's been your favorite marketing moment so far? Oh, that's a tough one, I have to say probably getting uh I worked with Elvis Duran and the morning show for you know, a promotional thing and they invited me to the studio and what was really cool about that? It was that when I was, you know, got our first office space upstate new york, I was just just in my office all day making these products sitting by myself, filling all these bottles. I was listening to, you know the you know, Elvis Duran morning show, like on, you know on my phone the whole time. And they were like my friends like in the room with me like yeah, I just felt like that was like my only company. So then like, you know, a year later being like in the room with them and they're consuming my products and actually I'm like loving them and telling me how much they love my products. I was like, this is like pinch me moment for sure. Yeah, full circle Moment. That's cool. I love that you question # three is what's your go to business resource when you're looking at a newsletter or a podcast or a book to consume. I subscribed to so many different newsletters and everything like that. Um but I have to say that kinda just nailed down one. I don't know, I just kind of, did you listen to today or yesterday uh podcast? I haven't been listening too much podcast. I've been listening to some cannabis specific podcast to help with certain uh yeah efforts that we're doing with the product development on the THC end. Um so I read a whole bunch of different, you know, cannabis report newsletters, new frontier data, yeah, Green market report um the uh new york cannabis insider, all these different things are definitely on my my daily list and then I like to read um so called morning brew and marketing brew and and all those, I get all those newsletters and I read that first thing in the morning to love those ones is great. Question number four is how do you win the day? What are your AM or PM rituals and habits that keep you feeling happy and successful and motivated to keep going every morning meditating has been huge. Um Yeah, I started that practice a couple years ago and it's made a huge difference just starting my day with mindfulness and you know that quiet time before all the craziness starts um and then ending my day smoking a joint relaxing, you know, CBD I use you know, all through the day and then once I'm done working, that's time for THC consumption. So smoking a joint at the end of the day with my husband and my dog and it's all good. I love that question. Number five is, what's been your worst money mistake? And how much did it cost you so many of them? There's probably like five different events that you know, paid like $5000 each for that were all mistakes, but I think that um probably the biggest one was the, I would say that you know the uh I've paid like $20,000 for this conference appearance, like this whole package with speaking and everything like that and It got canceled because of COVID and rescheduled and everything like that and like I just wanted my money back and they would not give me my money back for it and so I did not even end up being able to make it and completely wasted $20,000. But besides that, I have another one that is very similar. Another is when it was actually $25,000 for a commercial. Yeah, this was again back in 2018, it was like a kind of as seen on tv kind of commercial with you know, kevin Harrington or whatever from shark tank and I always say and the commercial ended up coming out so badly and like it was so cheesy and so terrible and like just could not even get it to the point where I was like, this is actually gonna be worse for my business than like, you know what I mean? That any exposure like would, would benefit because this is like not the kind of exposure that I want, It actually hurt my brand. So that was $25,000 wasted for sure. mm Yeah, it's a tough one. Yeah, it's easy for like, you know, we talk about all the highlights and all the good things and all the growth and then you realize that still there are these really gnarly things that happen in business that you've just got to be like that happen and I'm gonna keep on going and and it's important to bring those things to the surface I think for, for other people listening so that people don't feel alone when they're going through a moment like that. So thank you for sharing question number six, last question, What is just a crazy story, good or bad that you can share from this journey in building a business. Oh man. So definitely a lot of crazy stories I would say that probably, you know the crazy, I don't even know if it's the craziest, but you know, our first year farming, we actually had a really bad flood on our, our property right? You know, right before harvest when the plants were ready to go and yeah, we were out at seven in the morning, out in the field on the farm just uh in like waist deep water and I was on, on my stomach, the plants that were in the back and not drowning it with like a hand saw cutting down the plants with a hand saw to try to just salvage whatever we could and you know, uh getting through all of that and you know, trying to turn around for the like the two days later we had our first event at the farm. Like we were hosting this like beautiful um event with, you know, the lovely ladies of humble bloom. It was their kind of launch event and uh, you know, I wanted everybody to see these beautiful plants and everything like that in this beautiful field and we were just like I said, uh covered in mud, like at the end of the day, like swamp creatures. We looked like just completely covered in mud and get, we got the plants, uh, you know, saved salvage as much of the plants as we could, got everything cleaned up and we hosted, you know, 25 people at the farm a couple of days later. Uh, and you know, told that story and you know what went from like the most stressful moment, like ever, like turned into this really amazing like moment, like, you know, as you just said, it's really important to kind of share the um, the lows as well as the highs and it was really cool to see how people like actually respond to that story by like, you know, kind of understanding the plight of the farmer a little bit more and and appreciating more so and you know we had an amazing event and it was just such like a crazy juxtaposition of like you know the lowest lows and the highest highs and you know it's just kind of that's been the pattern since then I guess. Absolutely wow, that sounds crazy. Thanks for sharing. Gosh thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing so much about your journey with tonic. It's so interesting and I'm such a fan, I can't wait to see what you do next and I wish that we could ship to Australia so I get you something, I know me Too. I wish one day. Okay thank you so much. It was really a pleasure speaking with you and yeah I really appreciate you having me on really great great time.