A Black Doctor Launches a Successful CBD Line Despite Adversity
Free Book Preview Cannabis Capital
For Dr. Kirsten K. Shepard Ahmed (a.k.a. Dr. K), the path to starting a CBD company was personal. She ran successful health clinics in Texas and California, offering an integrated practice combining medical, chiropractic, acupuncture, and physical therapy. When her father fell ill with cancer, she began to search for an alternative treatment to chemotherapy and radiation's unpleasant side effects. She was so impressed with the healing properties of CBD that she ultimately became President and CEO of her own CBD line—Pain Stopper Inc. In just a few years, Dr. K was able to nail customer acquisition, funding, and her business's operational structure, ultimately increasing revenue by 400 percent.
But not without facing obstacles along the way.
This is how Dr. K did it.
GREEN ENTREPRENEUR: Tell us a little bit more about why you started your company.
DR. K: During my father's (Luke Shepard) battle with Mesothelioma, I started experimenting with natural medicine to remedy some of the uncomfortable and painful symptoms he was experiencing from the chemotherapy and radiation. He was having chronic pain and a lack of appetite, leading me to begin researching medical Cannabis as a solution. The first THC/CBD combination we tried wasn't the best fit, as my father didn't like the taste of the oils or the feeling of being high. I then started exploring the non-psychoactive CBD component and began rubbing them on his skin. He almost instantly felt relief and his appetite increased.
This ultimately led you to found Pain Stopper's Inc. Give us the elevator pitch.
Pain Stopper's Inc. seeks to transform healthcare on a global level. We offer a professionally-formulated and regenerative hemp-based product line supporting whole-body wellness, pain management, and recovery. Pain Stopper's organic and triple-lab tested CBD comes in the form of fast-acting topicals (salves, roll-ons, and extracts) that help alleviate chronic muscle, bone, nerve, and joint pain.
Related: 7 Women To Watch In Cannabis
How is Pain Stopper's unique from other CBD companies?
There's a lot of misinformation in the cannabis industry. A recent Penn Medicine study, for example, found that nearly 70 percent of Cannabidiol extracts sold online are mislabeled. While some are over-labeled and others under-labeled, only 30 percent of CBD products purchased contained actual CBD content within 10% of the amount listed on the product label. That's a serious problem! Not only are the CBD contents we have listed on our labels 100% accurate, but we also follow the highest of industry standards, including conducting third-party testing and having a strong certificate of analysis (COA).
Describe the single biggest challenge you face in the industry.
Like many small business owners, I needed to understand and implement key business elements like finance, funding, and operational structure—while also growing the brand. As a woman of color in this industry, there were also unique challenges and barriers that don't necessarily exist for all others. It's extremely challenging to obtain funding as a woman of color, but more so a woman of color building a cannabis business, as traditional funding sources do not apply.
How did you solve this challenge?
I began working closely with two coaches on Ureeka (a platform that offers mentorship and SMB resources for Black, brown and female entrepreneurs), who helped me structure my customer acquisition, analysis, and conversion factors alongside its research development needs. Combining their expertise and capital, I was ultimately able to increase my revenue by 400% YoY, going from an average of ~$10K to ~$45K per month in e-commerce sales.
What's the best advice you can give to people wanting to break into the cannabis industry?
The cannabis industry is going through a rapid transformation. The laws are always changing. With the lack of clear CBD regulations, it's essential to do your due diligence to maintain FDA compliance and ensure you're finding trusted partners when building out your business infrastructure, like cultivators manufacturers.
There's a lot of confusion and misinformation being conveyed to consumers, which means we as a collective of cannabis founders and leaders must be honest and transparent. That's the only way we'll build trust in the industry to alter negative perceptions and dispel misconceptions.
What do you think are the most significant opportunities in Cannabis in the future?
The opioid epidemic in this country has and continues to be a serious concern. The more evidence-based research that's produced that explores the various healing capabilities of this plant, the better off we'll be able to offer patients natural remedies instead of addictive and toxic pills. I also believe that Cannabis is one of the answers to global warming, so I foresee a major opportunity to increase the number of natural, non-toxic products to help our planet.
What has CBD meant in your life?
While my dad served as my first test subject, which will always be special, in witnessing how much he benefited from Cannabis, I knew I had to find ways to continue to share the gift of relief with others. The reason why CBD has had such a strong impact on my life is that I've been able to witness first-hand the healing capabilities of the plant directly with my patients. I've seen athletes work through injuries, and veterans and seniors feel relief for the first time -- being able to help someone that sticks with you forever!
I'd highly recommend any small business owner—especially those of marginalized communities who often lack resources and face adversity / racial bias in entrepreneurship— to seek personalized advice alongside their funding. At Ureeka, for instance, the coaches and mentors are genuinely passionate about helping underserved entrepreneurs. And beyond these experts, there is a community of like-minded entrepreneurs with shared goals and obstacles who are always willing and able to provide assistance and support where they can.