I sat down with Erin Gallagher, owner of Southern Hemp Tea Company, an Illinois-based ecommerce store, to discuss about how CBD changed her life, her mission to get CBD into the hands of everyone, and why you should never buy brown CBD flower.
For Erin Gallagher, starting a CBD company was a moment of divine intervention.
Gallagher is the owner of Southern Hemp Tea Company, a CBD company that sells sustainably sourced and freshly blended herbals teas as well as CBD flower, infused bath bombs, soaps, and honey sticks.
In just a year, Southern Hemp Tea Company has already made a name for themselves as a provider of quality and affordable CBD products. For Gallagher, the pandemic presented the gift of time to explore an idea she’d had growing for a while. Once she began to connect the dots, things really started to take off.
Suppliers, production, product labels and sourcing; once Erin started to look, the connections had already started forming. It was a fortuitous combination of timing and networking that would make any entrepreneur green with envy.
But it was also the result of hard work, day in and day out. Meticulous from the start, Gallagher was shrewd enough to recognize a saturated market from an empty one.
Tea presented a unique opportunity that capitalized on what Gallagher saw as the intersection of two important trends; reaching new CBD users and creating a CBD beverage.
(She was clearly on to something- MJBiz reported a 40% increase in cannabis beverage sales in 2020, and the number is expected to rise again in 2021.)
So why tea?
Tea is a staple in pantries and cabinets across the country, a drink that most Americans already know and love. Gallagher saw an opportunity to introduce CBD into the lives of people who had never tried it in an unobtrusive way.
And getting new people to try CBD is the passion that drives it all. Sharing the benefits of CBD is not just the mission statement on her website- it’s the driving force that’s pushed Gallagher to make Southern Hemp Tea Company see such success in just a short time.
Diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at 16, Gallagher battled crippling social anxiety with alcohol addiction for several years. She’s been sober for 10 years now, but when her anxiety disorder threatened to throw her sobriety off track, CBD saved the day.
Her passion for the plant is obvious as is her genuine enthusiasm for helping people. A good customer experience is at the heart of her values, and Gallagher wants everyone who buys from her store or sees her at a dispensary to walk away feeling empowered and excited to try their products.
So what’s next for Gallagher and Southern Hemp Tea Company?
First up, Las Vegas. If you’re at the Cannabis Conference in 2021, stop by and say hi at her booth. She’s also got a weekly podcast called Spilling the Tea you can check out on Spotify.
From there, the sky is the limit. The ultimate goal is a brick and motor location; a sip and smoke store where patrons can order their tea, browse baked goods and other CBD products, and enjoy a joint in a welcoming atmosphere.
The last 14 months have been a whirlwind for Southern Hemp Tea Company, but it’s nothing compared to what they’ve got next.
Creative Cannabis Blog: Why CBD?
EG: When I became a more frequent user, I started noticing my anxiety changing. I noticed my moods were more even and I wasn’t having so many anxious moments. I thought “wow there’s so many people out there like me who don’t know CBD works.” It became my mission to help people to find a natural solution. CBD doesn’t cure [anxiety], but it can eliminate a lot of anxious feeling, anxious thoughts, the physical aspect, the social anxiety, even everyday stress. And there’s also other factors- it helps with insomnia and it helps with mild pains and aches.
Overall, I’ve had such an amazing experience and my life has changed so much that I wanted to change other lives. I wanted other people to find the relief that I did. There’s something magical about CBD because it provides the same properties as THC to the degree of not getting you stoned.
What’s something in the industry that you’re really excited about?
EG: You know what it is? Drinks. [Holds up her bottle of Southern Hemp Tea Company iced tea]. When I thought of this, I knew that I hit a gold mine. I knew that where I was going was the future of products. What’s funny is that behind-the-scenes I’ve been working on these bottles for six months. As I’m in my process, I’m seeing little by little, drinks and tonics, infused drinks. So I knew “okay you’re on the right path”. Then when I got in a dispensary in the cannabis industry, I’m seeing drinks, tonics. There’s one by Cann, 2 mg THC, 4 mg CBD and they’re fantastic. Drinks are absolutely becoming a thing in CBD and THC.
What’s one thing in the industry you think needs to change?
EG: The market is f*cking saturated. What’s killing me right now; Instagram was a huge funnel for a lot of small businesses, especially in CBD. We were trying to find ways to promote and get the word out and I was able to gain a lot of traction through social media. They’re shutting down posts left and right, they’re messing with the algorithm.
It’s really dumb because CBD is legal in all 50 states. In America we can run ads on prescriptions all day on your TV. Side effects may include: death, and that’s okay! But we’re not going to let people promote this natural wellness that doesn’t have death as a side effect. They’re trying to control consumer minds [through social media].
When it comes to social media and platforms like that, give us the green light to spread CBD. Stop trying to ruin Christmas. Let us have our trees and share it with our friends.
There are also companies out there that saw a gold mine in the trend of CBD. People are jumping in with any kind of product and slapping the letters CBD on anything they can, and it’s not a legitimate source of CBD. There’s a lot of companies that are giving people a bad experience on CBD.
I see brown CBD flower in vape shops and I have to ask them “does anyone actually buy this?” They usually say no! I have fantastic, USA-grown, premium CBD flower that’s green, smells fantastic, has COAs provided and comes in at 19% . That what they should be selling. I’m on a mission to change the path and pave a new path for things that could be improved. And if you see brown CBD flower, walk away.
How does sustainability factor into your business?
EG: I’m very particular on which products I use. I don’t have as many options as large companies but I try to keep things as minimal as I can, as far as waste. The glass bottles [for the tea] were because I wanted to go with the rustic, vintage look that went with the Southern Hemp and Southern lifestyle. I try to tap into natural and wholesome and local as much as I can.
How dd you vet your product sourcing?
EG: All of our ingredients are USDA-certified organic herbs and teas and flowers. The companies I chose to work with; when you support Southern Hemp Tea, you also support a lot of other good practices in processing and bottling.
I like supporting local companies, so anytime you order our bath bombs, you’re supporting a small business in Nashville, Tennessee. That cool thing is that you’re giving back to not only my company, but you’re giving back to another small company. I research companies before I work with them because I want to support reputable, good companies. I’m all about supporting good people in the industry.
How do you see diversity and inclusion playing out in the industry?
EG: I think it’s great because consumers come in all different shapes and sizes and colors. Seeing that it’s not just one group of people that is capable. It’s not just the white man. We’re all capable.
Diversity and equality is a big thing in our society and it’s important because we have to support each other. We’re all the same planet, country, states and cities. If someone comes in, no matter your sex, race, color, religion, if you’re coming in with a mission to provide an amazing product to people, let them do it.
You have to find your strengths as a person and not let anyone tell you can’t do something. Where I am is amazing. How far I’ve come in 14 months, let alone the 10 years I’ve been sober. I was in the face of death at one point. If you told me 10 years ago that I would be sitting on a CBD company that I started with $500 in my pocket and next month I’m going to Vegas to an 8,000 person expo, I’d have doubted every word out of your mouth.