Three entrepreneurs who made their bones in Colorado's marijuana industry are starting a new venture focusing on weed's sober stepsister, hemp. It's called Hemp Box and the idea is that subscribers will pay to receive one box per month filled with samples of hemp body-care and food products (as well as one full-sized item). If subscribers like the products, the hope is that they'll order full-sized versions from Hemp Box's website. To launch the company, the Hemp Box co-founders have started a campaign to raise $10,000 on indiegogo.
"What we really want to do is engage women with Hemp Box," says co-founder Jake Browne. Cannabis tends to be associated with young men, and that's usually where companies direct their marketing. "The ads you see for dispensaries -- it's the sexy budtenders walking around in bikinis. That's not what hemp is about at all. And that's not what this industry is about, either," he explains. "If we can start that dialogue with women, it will move the hemp movement forward."
Browne has been involved with the marijuana industry since 2009, when he began working with Hemp Box co-founder Zac Maas at the Releaf Center, a dispensary that Maas opened in 2008. (Maas is in the process of leaving the dispensary.) Browne is also a freelance writer whose current gigs include working as a marijuana critic for the Denver Post's Cannabist website. Asked about potential conflicts of interest, Browne says he doesn't write about hemp; the Cannabist has another writer who handles that. Hemp Box's third co-founder is Sam Sandt, who helped start a cannabis seed company but is no longer involved with it.
While it's now legal to grow industrial hemp in Colorado, that's not the case in most states. However, there are no laws against possessing hemp products, which are already sold at some health-food stores.
According to Browne, Hemp Box's boxes will include products such as hemp-body lotions and lip balms, as well as hemp food items. Spoiler alert: The very first boxes will be stocked with Sunny Hemp granola bars from Nature's Path, a Canadian organic food company. "Our focus is to work with high-end hemp brands that are established, as well as small businesses and entrepreneurs," Browne says. "It's important to us that we feature industry leaders and the future of the industry at the same time."
And why hemp? "Hemp foods, by themselves, are incredibly nutritious," Browne says, adding that they're rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and high in protein. As for hemp body-care products, Browne says hemp's natural oils are incredibly moisturizing. "People find that it's really good, especially in our dry Colorado climate," he says.
Browne hopes that Hemp Box will eventually include products that can help people with serious ailments, like epilepsy and cancer. Certain hemp oils can be high in CBD, which is a compound in cannabis that doesn't make you high. (That's THC.) Recently, Colorado has seen an influx of families with seriously ill children hoping to take advantage of medical marijuana remedies, including high-CBD oils derived from marijuana. Similar oils can be derived from hemp, Browne says, but there's one problem: "CBD oil is incredibly expensive right now," he says. "If we can get enough subscribers, we can reduce that cost."
For the moment, however, Hemp Box is focused on getting off the ground. The company hopes to ship its first boxes in mid-May and launch its e-commerce website by June 1. Browne says the goal is to charge subscribers $20 per month for the boxes.
Even if Hemp Box doesn't reach its $10,000 fundraising goal on indiegogo, Browne says the company will launch, anyway. But to entice donors to give, Hemp Box is offering a variety of rewards, including "good karma" for $1, three months of Hemp Boxes for $55 and six months of boxes for $105. The biggest prize -- reserved for donors who give $7,500 or more -- includes two first-class plane tickets to Denver, two nights at a luxury hotel, a tour of the city, tickets to a sports game or Red Rocks concert and a recreational marijuana shopping spree "with two of Denver's leading cannabis connoisseurs."
Watch Hemp Box's indiegogo pitch below.
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