These Hemp Entrepreneurs Are Disrupting the Hospitality Industry
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After launching a hemp marketplace two years ago, co-founders Sarah Harf and Kelsi Lavicka pivoted their core hemp model to fill a major void in the hospitality industry that provides sustainable hemp solutions. These women now hold accounts with some of the most luxurious and recognizable names in hospitality and set to revolutionize and disrupt an entire industry.
Here is their story:
What brought you into the hemp industry?
We always knew that hemp is an incredible resource and could be used for many applications -- textiles, bio-plastic, biofuel, paper, hempcrete and much more. With cannabis becoming more accepted and mainstream, we knew this would open up the doors for industrial hemp to be a US industry again.
At MoonCloth Designs we are using hemp in a beautiful and modern way with well designed textiles and custom products for commercial interior design and sustainable buildings. Our focus is to help interior spaces have access to eco-friendly materials and help create environments that are fully eco-conscious inside and out. We believe that wellness can start from our direct environments, as humans we spend most of our time indoors, our bodies are receiving toxins in the air and through the materials that we surround ourselves with. Hemp textiles are naturally anti-microbial and hypoallergenic. Hemp is not only durable but also it feels great on the skin, whether sitting on it, sleeping in it, or wearing it.
Related: 5 Ways Hemp Is a Boon for Health
What obstacles and challenges have you experienced in operating within this industry?
There is a strong stigma and lack of accurate knowledge that is attached to cannabis and hemp. We knew it was going to take time to help people realize what the larger economic opportunity is with hemp because of all it’s incredible environmental benefits and diversity in product application. We have a responsibility to educate people about all the benefits that hemp can bring to the world.
Hemp is extremely sustainable; it takes 50 percent less water and land to grow and produce compared to cotton. It also removes (from the atmosphere) 1.63 tons of CO2 per ton of hemp, and an average of 10 tons per acre of carbon dioxide being removed from our atmosphere. An acre of hemp can produce as much paper as four acres of trees annually.
It’s very exciting that it’s now federally legal to grow and produce industrial hemp in the entire US. We hope with this legalization that it will be easier to educate people and teach them how incredible hemp is for their interior design textiles, building materials and consumer products.
How have you overcome these obstacles?
Through our modern artistic branding and marketing approach we have been able to tell our hemp story with supportive imagery that is beautiful and elegant. Most people think of hemp textiles as a burlap bag. We have shifted that perception by creating designs for our clients and products that are functional and beautifully designed.
CEO Sarah Harf speaks at conferences, panels and events to bring awareness and educate on how it can impact sustainable design. She guest lectures at hospitality business schools and feels it is important to work with students to help them understand their buying power and that professional choices have an impact.
As a women in hemp, do you feel that you are at an advantage or a disadvantage (or both) and why?
We feel there are both advantages and disadvantages to being a female founded business. Hemp as an industry itself hasn’t proven to be more difficult for women, though in general we think all female founded businesses have to work harder to prove themselves. At first we thought we might have a bigger advantage as women. There is a lot of momentum right now for women to step into their power and take more leadership in business. What we have found is that as much as people say they are supporting women and investment should go towards women, it’s still surprising to us to see how quickly men get investment without really showing a clear track record or scalable road map. Often we feel we have more to show, we have to be more persistent and more patient. At the end of the day, for us it’s about bringing hemp out of this old mentally, educating the benefits and creating amazing products that go beyond the CBD market. We are working within an industry that is disruptive to societal norms and it can be difficult to get people to understand the bigger vision, but for us this also makes it more exciting. There is so much opportunity and it shouldn’t be an issue around gender.
What have you achieved in this industry that you are most proud of?
We are the first company to bring hemp textiles into the the sustainable interior design space and create hemp products that are designed for the modern world. We have been working with some of the top leaders in luxury hospitality, co-working spaces, interior design and sustainable building initiatives. We feel honored to work with these incredible clients and design teams. Some of our first luxury hospitality clients, (we can’t publicly share who they are yet), are dream clients to work with and were the first ones to open their doors. For us, that says a lot about the opportunity at hand and how we can help define the hemp space.
What was your greatest lesson learned?
Patience and persistence. Nothing happens overnight and true dedication to a big vision is everything. You have to be open to your original vision changing and seeing it evolve in front of your eyes and being ok with it. Staying focused but also flexible has been key to moving forward.
What trait do you rely on most when making business decisions and why is this useful for you?
Not being afraid to ask for help and guidance. We have received incredible support and helpful advice from admired entrepreneurs and friends that have built companies from the ground up. If we feel stuck or hit a bump in the road, it is great to have a community to turn to, that gives us the courage to keep going. Ultimately it is the confidence we have in ourselves, in each other and what we are doing for the environment that helps us make good business decisions.