I sat down with the CEO of The Green Dragon CBD, Matthew Jadwin, to get his perspectives on the company, the industry, and the latest impacts of COVID-19. The Green Dragon CBD had its grand opening just 5 months ago, so this checkpoint provides a fascinating checkpoint in this rapidly evolving industry.
“Why did you start the company, what is the company’s mission?”
My father and I started this company as part of a major life decision to go into small business. When we were making the decision on the type of business, we wanted to focus on something that was beneficial to people. Not just another product and something that helps people, not hurts them. We were watching the nicotine vaping industry at the time going through all the deaths and health scares. We knew we never wanted to be in a position where we questioned our impact on people’s lives just for the sake of a dollar.
We also knew that small business can be difficult, and we were familiar with the growth in the CBD market. We thought the combination would be perfect. CBD is so promising in terms of the health benefits for people, no matter the age, sex, race, or physical condition. There are active clinical trials and more positive results every day.
CBD is also an industry that has many problems. There are too many products without proper lab results, labeling or quality. The topic itself is new to many people; there are many misperceptions and fears. Education is sorely needed. The company’s mission is offer top, trusted, quality products to people with strong educational resources. We want to do that through online and in-person channels at the best prices so that everyone has the knowledge, access, and pricing to be able to reap the health benefits.
“What are the two biggest challenges you have faced?”
The biggest challenge is that CBD has a lot of negative connotations to many people. Since the early part of the 20th century, hemp has been grouped together with marijuana for the purposes of laws, taxation, and business regulation. Thinking about CBD and its related products as natural health supplements versus some illicit drug is a mindset still in most of the population. That is something we strive to overcome everyday through constant messaging and education.
Another big struggle that is somewhat related is the ability to even reach the general public with advertising and information. As an example, Facebook & Instagram, Microsoft, Google, and most major companies do not allow CBD advertising. It is hard to get the right messaging out to people about what CBD is and what it can do for them. We rely on many other sources to get the message out including organic social media, networking, events, social media influencers, partnerships, and word-of-mouth from our retail store.
“What have been some of your best experiences so far?”
There have been so many great experiences in starting and growing a business for myself personally, but what really creates that extra great feeling is the feedback from customers. The thing many people not fully realize is that a lot of businesses must focus on a specific demographic. What we get to experience every day in the CBD business is that anyone who comes in the store or visits our website can benefit from the products. That makes the range of success stories and interaction truly wonderful.
And the positive feedback that fuels our business doesn’t stop with people. CBD is a powerful help to many dogs and cats. A very typical story occurred just last week. One of our customers was exchanging some emails to talk about the product experience with her dog. She had ordered some dog treats online. Before taking the product, her dog couldn’t hop on the bed or get up on the couch, the joint pain was too bad. After taking the treats, it was like night and day and he was like a new puppy running around the yard, pain-free. Those stories are why we are in business.
“How has COVID-19 effected your business?”
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a traumatic event in the world on so many fronts. One of the many reactions has been with most of the nation working and living from home, they have become more conscious of themselves and their health. We have found that more than ever, they have been seeking out alternative ways to better their own health and that of their families. With CBD emerging so prominently in the last two years, the COVID-19 virus has opened people up to the possibility of using CBD and other natural remedies to stay healthy. We were lucky enough to grow dramatically in April with over 80% of our customers being new.
We decided as a business that during the initial outbreak we would shut down the retail store and focus online. We implemented free local “no-touch” delivery to ensure that our customers could still get the CBD they needed as part of their health regimen. We also provided larger discounts online for our customers to make it more accessible during the difficult economic times. We went through and cleaned all our products prior to shipment to our online customers.
St. Louis is a city where the community is very tight and with over a million people in the greater area, there is still a small-town feel. We are dedicated to keeping brick and mortar locations to serve our local communities.
Since that first week, we have reopened our St. Louis store in Chesterfield, MO with new hours. When we re-opened, we did so with special social distancing and health procedures in place. It has all worked well, obviously keeping our customers health as priority one, while ensuring they had access to the products they needed.
“How will the increased legalization of medical or recreational marijuana impact your business?”
We estimate that it may reduce our own sales by approximately 10%. I believe most of our customers want to be able to derive the health benefits of cannabis without having a psycho-active ingredient like THC that defines marijuana. We see the markets as largely separate but related by a common plant benefit with some overlap of customer base. People who want to get high as the primary driver won’t be satisfied in a CBD store, and people who want health benefits solely without the effects or potential legal issues (drug tests, etc.) of marijuana will still be loyal CBD customers.
I personally feel that the health benefits of using cannabis, in any form, are especially important. In certain health circumstances, marijuana can be an important therapeutic. Also, THC combined with the cannabinoids can be more beneficial in certain circumstances. You may find this surprising, but I am not excited about the fact that a psychoactive drug will be legalized across the population in general, for recreational purposes. I wish my cannabis industry friends the best, but it is generally not a business we want to be in.
“What do you say to people who do not believe in CBD?”
I would challenge them to actively go and read about CBD with an open mind. Learning about how it functions naturally with your body and reading the evidence that is out there is undeniable. If they feel comfortable, then try it for a few weeks and honestly try to experience the potential positive impacts. There are very few potential side effects and if you are open and try it, many people find it a dramatic improving element to their lives.
Whether it is for depression, anxiety, joint pain, sciatica or just for general health, it is a game changer for many. Most people don’t take a high enough dose, so dosing is something we talk to our customers about a lot.
“What do you think about the future of the CBD industry?”
I think in 5-10 years from now, CBD will be available as an everyday household item and most people will use it as part of their daily health routine. It will be on your counter or in your cabinet just as a multi-vitamin, ibuprofen, protein powder or anything else is today.
What is more exciting is that it will likely be integrated into many new FDA-approved drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, neuropathy, depression, anxiety, cancer treatment and more. The CBD industry is rapidly changing. In the next 2-3 years we will see a lot of FDA testing and approved brands with larger clinical trials.
Larger national companies will be creating their own lines of CBD products. Most of the smaller producers will get “weeded” out. The challenge of education will remain and that’s where our market position will continue to be invaluable. We will carry the large, tested brands but provide personal service and education to our customers.
“What are your plans for The Green Dragon CBD moving forward?”
There are three focus areas for us moving forward. Increasing our reach, enhancing education, and continuing our commitment to product quality. We have spoken about all of these but let me add a little more clarity.
We must increase the number of people who are exposed to quality CBD information. We will be investing heavily into outlets across more than a dozen marketing channels to reach more people. It can be challenges in the prohibiting CBD advertising markets, but we are developing strategies to overcome that hurdle. We are engaging several social media influencers nationally to “get the word out”, so to speak. Our local partnerships with Stray Rescue of St. Louis and Riverfront Times are also important for us. Not only the advertising aspect but participating in events where we can get out and talk to people is invaluable.
Education has already been a huge focus for us. Our website has a CBD Education page and a blog area with dozens of education posts. We invest a lot of time into this area and typically have 2 new educational topics each week. We also send these out in social media and to our newsletter subscribers. We recently added “brand pages” which, in addition to general CBD education, allow our customers to get familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each of our brand partners.
Finally, product quality is a continual focus area. If we can’t ensure the best products for our customers, we will go out of business, or worse. We could become just another CBD store advertising the latest brand without prudent vetting. We add and delete products from our portfolio all the time based on changes from our brand partners or feedback from our customers. The science of CBD is continuing to evolve, as will the products. We plan on staying at the front of this for our customers.
In closing, I would like to thank all our customers, our brand partners, our influencing and marketing community and our employees for their support. We look forward to seeing victory over COVID-19 and helping everyone on their health journey.
Note: Matthew Jadwin’s responses were captured live and edited for clarity and word flow.