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 Rachael Maddison of StrainConnect.
Meet Rachael Maddison
Rachael’s path to the development of StrainConnect didn’t start in the grow room or dispensary. Instead, Rachael’s entrepreneurship journey began with debilitating sciatica after giving birth to her children. She began exploring cannabis as a viable option to manage her constant pain.
The idea of her business took root as she spent thousands of dollars trying to find the right cannabis treatment plan to manage her pain. Rachael experienced first hand the need for a tool that provides personalized recommendations to people new to cannabis.
This idea soon led to the R&D in February 2018 of StrainConnect with the help of scientists, medical professionals, and cannabis professionals. Shortly after, Rachael was accepted into the Founder Institute, a San Francisco tech incubator, through this experience she was able to leverage her own background in technology and the personalized service space as she continued to build and grow her company. And in November 2018, StrainConnect officially launched and has been a tool used by the “canna-curious” to match CBD & cannabis products at the molecular level with individuals.
In our interview with Rachael, we asked a variety of questions to learn more about StrainConnect, and what it takes to build a startup in the cannabis industry!
DCN: Rachael, 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 StrainConnect?
Rachael Maddison: StrainConnect is the only bioscience-backed AI-driven consumer app that personalizes CBD and cannabis product recommendations using lab data, all within 3-minutes.
DCN: What ignited the spark in you to launch your business?
Rachael Maddison: Frustration. The idea that this little green plant could potentially be life-changing, but no one knew how to personalize it for ME. So I used my tech expertise to do something about it.
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? Were they supportive?
Rachael Maddison: Hahahaha…well…yes? My family here in California understood the market needed it, but that’s because they were desensitized since we were in a medical market at the time. However, I’m pretty sure my family in Wisconsin thought I was dealing drugs! Haha! I was asked how I could support “smoking weed” when I was so against smoking cigarettes (I guilted both of my parents to quit smoking).
It was at that point when I knew education was indeed the key to understanding. So once I spent the time to educate them about the positive effects and debunk any myths, they were on board. But now that they are on board and are excited about the possibilities of the plant, unfortunately, their state isn’t legal…yet — one hurdle at a time.
DCN: What is unique about your business?
Rachael Maddison: StrainConnect utilizes product lab results to identify what products fit individuals best – not the idea of how a generic strain name is supposed to make everyone feel. Our platform addresses the uniqueness of each individual, unlike any other platform on the market.
We also require brands to apply to be a part of our platform. They must submit a third-party cannabinoid and terpene COA for each product. It’s a level of standardization to ensure that what the brand is saying on the outside of the package is exactly what is inside the package, and provides that brand with our “stamp of approval.”
DCN: What are some challenges you faced early on and how’d you beat them?
Rachael Maddison: I, personally, had a lot riding on success. I was working three-times as much as I would usually and therefore I was away from my children, and I had added financial stress to our family since I hadn’t taken a paycheck for almost a year.
When you have a great idea, are organized, have a plan of attack and are committed, it can become discouraging when you can’t find others to join your team that has the same level of urgency and passion.
I found that being transparent with my team was the most important. I am humbled to say that I have the best team. Ever. They work their butts off, they see our vision, and they do everything in their power to execute.
DCN: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Rachael Maddison: Honestly…I just started to draw. Although I have a background in UX Design and Information Architecture, I used to do a lot of logo design and custom graphics. I had imagined a big puzzle, where a person’s ailments, desired effects, and personality characteristics made up the straight-edged, outside pieces, and then each one of the cannabinoids and terpenes were the inside pieces to complete the puzzle. Hence, “connecting the puzzle pieces for a whole self.”
The “strain” part of our name is a purposeful misnomer. Unfortunately, more people think of cannabis as “strains” than chemovars – even half of the cannabis industry still thinks this way. That education will come with time, and we are blatantly calling it out – especially since our platform is entirely strain-agnostic.
DCN: What is the best piece of advice you can give to others looking to launch a company in the cannabis industry?
Rachael Maddison: Do your homework and find advisors who will actually help you. We have a fantastic industry advisor on our side, Kristen Yoder, who can spot bullshit a mile away. Having common sense yourself is crucial, but having others on your team to look at things through a different lens only makes your company that much stronger.
DCN: What’s the hardest part of founding and running a startup?
Rachael Maddison: Fundraising. By far, it’s the fundraising chase.
DCN: Is there anything that surprised you about being an entrepreneur in the cannabis industry?
Rachael Maddison: The awesomeness of how diverse it is.
DCN: How do you stay balanced?
Rachael Maddison: Between family and a startup, there isn’t a whole lot of extra time. But it’s important to make time – even when it isn’t convenient. My husband works weekends. So every so often we’ll make it a point to have a “date day” during a weekday when the kids are at school and go to a movie matinée and binge on greasy food at Mel’s Diner. Those are some of my favorite times, besides playing “Spot It” or “Seek-And-Find” with my girls!
DCN: What book has inspired you the most?
Rachael Maddison: David Meltzer’s “Connected to Goodness”. It’s a great mix of startup strategy and how to utilize for good in this world.
DCN: How can we as an industry continue to make a positive difference in society?
Rachael Maddison: Make your work purposeful and encourage diversity. Be involved in your community and help your fellow founders when they need it.
DCN: Thank you, Rachael, for sharing your story and offering such real and insightful advice to DCN readers!
For those looking to learn more about StrainConnect, please check out, www.strainconnect.com and on Instagram & Twitter at #mystrainconnect or Facebook and LinkedIn at @strainconnect