Each week we highlight entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry for our viewers to learn more about the leading cannabis executives of our time. This week, we highlight Jasmin Thomas of Ohana CBD.
Meet Jasmin Thomas
On December 1st, 2015 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which means that I have a degenerative autoimmune disease affecting the nerve endings in my brain and spinal cord.
My first prominent thought (which, I can assure you, was not blasé) was that there’s no point of crying over spilled milk: I’ve always been an ‘everything-happens-for-a-reason’ kind of person, and so I will find a natural way to manage my symptoms and get on with it.
I wasn’t able to accept any of the ‘disease modifying’ pharmaceutical drugs I had been offered, so, through extensive research and reading, I discovered cannabidiol (also known as CBD). CBD oil has changed my life – easing a lot of the painful and frustrating symptoms of MS.
The more I researched the diversities of the cannabis plant and its medicinal extracts, the more excited and grateful I felt. This knowledge is invaluable and has changed my life. Through having MS, I have discovered something that I could become wholly passionate about and have found, in medical cannabis, an industry where I really feel I can be my authentic self and truly help others.
A lot of my time and focus has been on finding and offering products to patients which can be separated from the most common way of consumption (smoking) or experiencing the typical high that is associated with cannabis but provides the same benefits.
I am now developing a Topicals range that would offer skincare products infused with CBD which can be used to ease many skin ailments. I’m really excited about diversifying the products available in the UK/Europe and being able to offer good quality natural and organic infused skin care.
In our interview with Jasmin, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about Ohana CBD, and what it takes to build a business in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Jasmin Thomas, congratulations on being featured as this week’s entrepreneur of the week and for all that you do! Can you please share with our readers your elevator pitch for Ohana CBD?
Jasmin Thomas: Ohana is an all vegan plant-based skincare range. Our core belief is that there is nothing alternative about nature and in a world full of pollutants and toxins, your skin care regime can be natural, ethical and environmentally friendly.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Jasmin Thomas: This idea evolved by tagging along to hemp and cannabis events with my partner for his work. I would go off on my own and look at all the stalls but I would get a bit bored, and I didn’t feel like any of the brands really related to me. Although I was happy to be there and get my CBD, which I needed for my medicine, I didn’t feel like the brands available were very diverse. Through my research on CBD, I had been watching the California market, and I thought the topical space really related to me and that we didn’t have much like that here in the UK.
It’s not very mainstream here, so I started making my own topicals, and it just clicked. This is what I had wanted to see at the events I had been attending. I gave my topicals to friends and family and started getting amazing feedback, and I realized this could actually go mainstream and had the potential to be a great form of skincare for so many people. It has naturally matured and developed from there over the last two years. I can combine all my loves through skincare making it vegan, ethical and being conscious of the impact of our products on the environment. I have loved doing this from the beginning and I am really enjoying the journey.
DCN: When you finally decided that you wanted to launch a business in the cannabis industry, what was your experience like when telling your family and friends?
Jasmin Thomas: I’m so thankful that my family has been incredibly supportive. They would support me in anything I do, they are very open and liberal and want to watch me thrive and do what I’m passionate about. They are also super supportive with this because they have seen how CBD has helped and improved my life. My friends have been great, we all work in very different industries and support one and other. Of course, there was some initial shock and lots of questions, but with all the questions they have asked its been a big journey of education for us all.
DCN: How is your organization/business helping the cannabis industry in a positive way?
Jasmin Thomas: We aim to be an ethical and environmentally friendly brand. The cannabis industry sometimes comes under fire for its carbon footprint and I think that it is important for us to be considerate of what we are doing and how we are building these brands in the most sustainable way possible. Hemp is an extremely diverse plant and those of us in the cannabis industry should be at the forefront of being conscious about this and promoting the environmentally friendly nature of hemp.
Here in the UK, I think we are helping the industry in showing how versatile the cannabis plant and its extracts/cannabinoids can be. We still have very conservative views of cannabis in the UK, and as a well-being and skincare brand, we are educating and bringing it to mainstream markets with the appropriate education.
DCN: As we go into 2018, what is one huge accomplishment that you or your team achieved last year that you would like to share with our readers?
Jasmin Thomas: Last year was our first year of trading, it’s been an exciting year! So I would say that our one huge accomplishment was launching our first range of CBD products. The feedback was phenomenal, so many people came forward with stories of how our products had helped them which really makes it all worth it.
The launch received mainstream media coverage too in the UK’s largest newspaper which was crazy and really tested us with keeping up with the demand! Things have thankfully calmed down a little, and we have had time to develop three new products and build a brand new online store coming next month so be sure to look out for that.
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Jasmin Thomas: In the UK the legalities around CBD are a bit grey, it’s such a new industry, and we are all learning and growing together so not having industry standards or a clear path to success has been challenging but also great because we are defining how we would like to see the industry.
Payment processors and websites have been complicated because once there is the mention of CBD or cannabis a lot of them will shut you down. CBD is legal in the UK, so I didn’t foresee this to be an issue, but it has made finding a payment processor a bit challenging. We have had to leave the original website we built and move to a different platform. We contacted over 50 different payment processors individually and had to really go through them all to make sure we wouldn’t have issues as we have had in the past.
DCN: Did you raise capital to fund your business or what creative strategies did you use to execute on minimal cash flow?
Jasmin Thomas: We haven’t raised capital as of yet, so far it has all been self-funded. Until recently I was working full time and working on Ohana in my spare time. More recently, things started getting busy with Ohana, and it was taking up more and more of my time, so I moved over to work on Ohana full time, which is really exciting. We are in a lucky position that we have already gained interest from some investors, so now we have the difficult decision of whether to continue to grow organically or to take on investment to grow faster.
DCN: When taking the leap into entrepreneurship, we have to make many sacrifices. What did you give up to get where you are today?
Jasmin Thomas: Holidays and eating out with my friends are my two biggest loves, and they are the two things I’ve sacrificed most to focus on this business, but it’s definitely worth it because I 100% believe this is my purpose and my passion. I also gave up a really safe and relatively well-paid job with a great team and people who I love and loved working with. It was scary to leave all that behind, but I feel living my truth is a lot more important and rewarding and I am feeling very fulfilled with what I am now doing.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Jasmin Thomas: Network and do your research. Do not go into it without a plan. Don’t go into it thinking this is a great way to make quick money because most of the time it isn’t. We are still in the inception stages of this industry, so it is about being focused on the long term. This industry is so full of passionate people who have such a personal relationship with cannabis that you have to have a strong passion to compete.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Jasmin Thomas: I think this is different for everyone but for me, the hardest part of running a startup is the personal sacrifices you have to make, like not being able to attend all birthdays, weddings and social affairs with your friends and family. Having a small team, you have to be there to make sure everything runs smoothly and make sure your brand is being represented in the best possible way. There are a lot of other challenges, but I see them more as learning curves and excellent educational opportunities for knowing how to run a business.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Jasmin Thomas: It hasn’t surprised me, but what I have found so incredibly inspiring are the women who are leading this industry forward. They are all so kind, compassionate and supportive I am so grateful to be surrounded by women like this.
DCN: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Jasmin Thomas: Being open and flexible is so important because it will rarely go as straight-forward as you think, there are always curve balls popping up. I would say be open to receiving support from others and don’t be hard headed and think that you know it all because collaboration is essential and learning from others is so important. Be a sponge for knowledge.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Jasmin Thomas: Making topicals is my hobby, and now it’s my full-time job. I still really love it, so I rarely feel like I’m actually working. I do sit there sometimes and feel guilty because I’m like “I shouldn’t be having this much fun at work, it should surely feel more serious than this!
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Jasmin Thomas: I love the Whoopi and Maya brand. I have spoken with Maya before, and I think Maya is truly inspiring and genuine. She has such a strong passion for what she does.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Jasmin Thomas: I think we can continue to make a positive difference in society by being responsible for the education we put out there.
DCN: Thank you, Jasmin, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice! It was so great being able to feature you as this week’s entrepreneur of the week!
For those looking to learn more about Ohana CBD, please check out www.ohana-cbd.com!