Is Hemp a Superfood? This Enterpreneur Bets His Business On It
Elixinol Global Founder and CEO Paul Benhaim believed in the nutritional benefits of hemp before it was trendy.
This ongoing Q&A series puts the spotlight on successful entrepreneurs in all different facets of the cannabis industry. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Tell us about your business.
I started in the hemp industry 25 years ago, after learning about the nutritional benefits of hemp. I created the first commercial hemp food products and this led to my evolution into the hemp-derived dietary supplements business. In 2014, I co-founded Elixinol, which has become a global CBD company that distributes to 40 countries. In January, Elixinol joined forces with another company of mine, Hemp Foods Australia, to form Elixinol Global which is traded on the Australian Stock Exchange.
Why did you decide to get into the hemp business?
I’ve always been motivated by businesses that create positive change. I originally got into hemp after seeing how it could reduce the amount of plastic we use in the world. When I learned that hemp is also a superfood, I got into hemp food products. I saw that people were experiencing inconsistent results from their hemp CBD products, and I knew they needed consistency and quality. I thought people are relying on these products for radical health transformations, they need to be able to trust them. I realized there was a need for high quality, stable, safe compounds that were reliable. Due to my experience with hemp for two decades it seemed a natural evolution that, with the support of scientists, doctors, and a great team, we could make this possible. The change we want in the world is possible through hemp--I truly believe that.
What was one of the toughest challenges you faced in your business and how did you overcome it?
Communicating the benefits of our products has been a big challenge. The law will not allow us to say that our products are good for anxiety, PTSD, inflammation, pain, epilepsy etc. But people are desperate for this knowledge. We can only share the fact that all mammals, including humans, have an endocannabinoid system that requires such products. We’ve overcome this obstacle in multiple ways. First, people feel the difference when they use our product. Our biggest advocates are our customers, they’ve spread the news about Elixinol and we do our best to provide them with factually accurate information, limited only by what the law will allow us to say. We also have actual medical professionals including doctors and nutritionists available for customer consultation.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone just starting off in the cannabis industry?
Research, research, research. And that does not mean to just search the internet, as much of the information is not entirely accurate. The internet is a good place to start, but follow it up with in-person interviews as part of a thorough due diligence. It may take some time; however, this is the foundation for your future! Before starting in the hemp business, I must have spoken to dozens of scientists, doctors, and farmers. They continue to be some of my most important collaborators today.
How has your leadership style evolved?
I continue to remember that there is always something more to learn. To listen, to trust my team, and to follow my gut. Putting myself in "other’s shoes'" allows me to see different perspectives to ensure that balanced decisions are made that support growth. Sometimes the result means making decisions that go against mainstream beliefs, but I have no problem in pioneering new methodologies when everything lines up.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
The Dalai Lama said: "In order to carry a positive action, we must develop here a positive vision."
As a leader of a global business starting to make positive change, I often look within to see how we can improve. I’m extremely aware that change starts with me. In daily business, while we all strive for our best, most productive selves, it’s easy to lose sight that we can be both kind and efficient. I often consider how I can do what I do with fewer words, but always keeping kindness in mind. How may I bring more clarity and kindness to communication? If I can be kinder and clearer with my team, then that empowers clarity and kindness in their work. Great communication allows us to share significant efforts, with more people.