Jeff Cunningham, founder of The Hemp Barn, took time to provide us with the interesting story behind his company. Take a read at what his thoughts are around breaking into the hemp industry, what makes The Hemp Barn products stand out, and the hurdles he overcame to launch and grow his business.
Thank you for taking the time to tell us more about the obstacles and successes of your company, The Hemp Barn. Can you give us more insight into why you decided to launch it?
It all started back in October/November of 2016. I have always been a bit of a cannabis nerd so I was aware of CBD and other cannabinoids other than THC and their potential uses/benefits. I was also aware of hemp but only the kind most commonly grown for seeds or fiber production, not cannabinoid production. Around this same time I was still recovering from tearing my calf muscle several months ago. It was mostly better, but as anyone who has torn a muscle can relate – it can take up to a year for it to feel 100%. I was looking into using CBD and assumed I would have to source it from a friend in a recreationally legal state.
During my search I stumbled upon a few instagram posts from hemp farmers during their growing season and was surprised to see big resinous flowers. I was aware of strains like ACDC and other high CBD, low THC strains but was honestly completely oblivious to the work genetically that had been going on with hemp in the last few years. Once I realized the genetic work going on and the only legislative difference between hemp and marijuana was the THC content had to be .3% or less, I knew the immense potential of what could be accomplished genetically with hemp.
I purchased a few CBD products from transparent companies like Green Mountain CBD and 4 Corners Cannabis to try out and was blown away by the final product and how authentic the taste/smell and experience was. After that, I decided I wanted to dive head first into this since I found the majority of CBD products on the market that were hemp derived where either of questionable quality or price gouged.
Were there any other experiences or revelations that motivated you to get The Hemp Barn off the ground and running?
The amount of low-end product on the market. Back in 2016 there was literally only a hand full of companies that were actually transparent with their products and half of them were insanely priced. In the earlier days of post 2014 Farm Bill, a 250mg tincture could easily run you 75-100 bucks. It was pretty obvious early on which companies were in it for a quick trendy cash grab, vs actually passionate about cannabis and their products.
I think it’s important for readers to understand the incredible amount of effort it takes to launch and grow a business, especially in the hemp industry. Can you shed some light on some of the issues you’ve encountered and how you navigated those?
The biggest issue by far is what I would call “getting around being blacklisted by essentially every industry”. Anything from a bank account, to advertising, credit card processing, website hosting (and even essential business necessities like workers compensation and product liability) were a nightmare to get up and running. Even though everything we do is state and federally compliant, having all those services is still a huge pain to navigate.
What did the process of creating, finalizing, and selling your first products look like?
Our first manufactured final product was our vape cartridges. It took an entire year for it to work, due to a variety of reasons. The main issue is any CBD oil with a concentration of 50% or greater will start to crystallize and sugar up. This is a problem for vape cartridges since it will turn it into sludge and ruin the hardware/perform poorly.
Our vape cartridges pursefully only contain at most 40-45% CBD and another 30% being other cannabinoids like CBC, CBN and CBG. This keeps the total cannabinoid content in the 60-75% range depending on batch but avoiding the crystallization issues found in most vape cartridges and not having to cut them with PG/PEG/VG/MCT like most.
The second hurdle was acquiring a reliable source of legitimately cannabis-extracted terpenes. We now work with two farms in California and Oregon that we source our cannabis-extracted terpenes from. The final product is a delicious, 100% cannabis extracted vape cartridge!
Tell us what makes The Hemp Barn products unique and different?
Our use of full spectrum, cannabis extracted-terpenes instead of fake strain specific blends meant to mimic strains and our elevated levels of CBC, CBG and CBN in our products. We also price all of our products ethically and have been selling pure CBD isolate for $15 per gram for over a year now!
How have you addressed any stigma or fallacies that tend to surround the whole hemp and CBD industry?
We’ve encountered surprisingly little stigma from a consumer standpoint. There has been a LOT of hype/publicity around hemp/CBD which has helped that. The most stigma is from a business standpoint, as mentioned above in reference to acquiring normal business services like banking.
There are various markets and audiences for CBD products. What is your target demographic?
Our vape cartridges are our best selling product. Most of our product line is concentrates so our typical consumer is male and between 18-35 years old. There seems to be two distinct consumers – those interested in concentrates and those interested in tinctures/topical/edibles.
Can you tell us your secret for attracting and retaining customers?
We let our products do all of that. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have not spent a dime on any advertising or marketing. We let our products speak for themselves, instead of trying to fancy it up with marketing/branding/advertising excessively. We will begin some official marketing/advertising in the very near future, though, as the market is getting very flooded right now and we need to finally get our name out there, so to speak.
Running a business takes tools and resources. What sorts of things have you relied on to keep your business productive and efficient?
Not many really, just the power of the internet in general. We are pretty active on social media and luckily there are still hosts like ECWID that will host your cannabis- related website.
In terms of feedback, what has been the general reception for The Hemp Barn products?
Universally positive. The only complaint is sometimes we get feedback from a user that our vape cartridge tasted “burnt”. But 9 out of 10 times that is due to a battery issue and vaping it too hot. We plan on coming out with a pod-based system for this very reason in the future to rule out any battery/cart compatibility issues.
With all of that positive feedback and good reviews, what tends to be your best-selling or favorite product?
Our vape cartridges are our best selling product by far. There are very few CBD based cartridges on the market with elevated levels of other cannabinoids and real cannabis terpenes for a true entourage effect. Our CBD isolate is our second best selling product, due to the price. At $15 per gram, we are the cheapest by far for 99%+ US grown/processed isolate.
Are your products third party lab tested by batch? If so, are you willing to attach and share your lab results?
Yes and yes!
As a hemp-derived CBD business, how do you ensure you are staying aligned with the evolving regulations around hemp?
We only work with licensed farms and GMP-certified processors to ensure we always have a compliant product. The biggest hurdle is ensuring you can fully trace everything back to a legitimate hemp license.
In the expanding and often-overwhelming industry of CBD, advice can often be priceless. What would you say to someone interested in breaking into the CBD business?
Be prepared to put 100%+ of your energy into it because it will be anything but easy, especially when it comes to credit card processing and basic banking services. I would personally recommend to formulate your own products, as at least half of the products on the market are from the same few companies (white/private labeling to other companies) with only marketing/branding setting them apart, instead of their products setting them apart.
How do you stay relevant, inspired, and significant in a market like CBD, which many say is becoming quickly saturated?
Genetics and passion. There are still a ton of road blocks in this industry and the race is officially on for other cannabinoids like CBC, CBG, THCV, CBN, etc.
What do you think the future looks like for CBD-related products?
I could see flower becoming more regulated/restricted due to the total THC content usually being way higher than .3%. I feel the days of “only delta 9 counts” are coming to an end very soon. Isolate I could possibly see being regulated as well since they will consider the 99%+ purity a pharmaceutical.
What’s the future look like for The Hemp Barn, in terms of your products and overall business vision?
Hopefully bright! We will always continue to improve our products and prices and stay committed to our values of ethically products without additives/fillers/fake terps.