In this Cannabis Creative Blog, I sit down with Carrie Mapes, co-founder of Hello Again, a cannabis product specifically formulated for women in menopause. We talk about how cannabis can help the unique challenges that menopause brings, overcoming the challenge of launching a product during COVID, and how her product is changing women’s lives.
One of the most exciting things about growth in the cannabis space is watching the plant address medical issues that modern medicine falls short of caring for. One such issue is menopause.
Modern medicine is famously indifferent to the struggles that menopausal women go through. Hot flashes are the butt of sitcom jokes and many medications rely on hormone therapy to help women. But Carrie Mapes is here to change that.
Mapes is the cofounder of Hello Again, a cannabis company that makes vaginal suppositories for women in menopause. Hello Again came about almost accidentally, when Mapes and her cofounder Patty Pappas realized that cannabis could help them navigate the challenges of menopause, but they couldn’t find a product that fit their needs, so they made one instead.
Neither of them were smokers, or even particularly interested in cannabis before starting Hello Again. Mapes describes her and her partner as “customer founders”; people who didn’t set out to enter the industry, but instead created a product they wanted to use.
Their product is simple in concept and revolutionary in effect. Suppositories from Hello Again go into the vulva and dissolve, entering the bloodstream from there. The endocannabinoid system has receptors in the vulva, as well as the uterus, vagina, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, so the cannabinoids interact where they’re most needed. They have a daytime formula that’s mainly CBD and a nighttime formula with more THC, so you can tailor your use to the time of day.
Mapes loves that this product changed her own life, but it’s sharing Hello Again with other women that drives her to keep going. The suppositories helps with pain, hot flashes, emotional regulation, insomnia, aches and pain, and even brain fog.
Hello Again launched right before COVID hit in 2020, and required some serious pivoting in terms of marketing and brand education. But the result was reaching an even wider audience than they originally thought possible. While Mapes intended the product mainly for menopausal women, it’s also been hugely beneficial to women with endometriosis and women going through early menopause from cancer treatments.
It’s with these women in mind that Hello Again has two new products hitting the market later this year; one focused on period and endo pain and the other for hangovers.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- cannabis is uniquely positioned to help with specific women’s issues that modern medicine doesn’t address. It’s people as innovative and brave as Mapes who help move this industry forward and create better options for women.
What’s something you see that really excites you?
CM: What really excites me is where dispensaries have come since we first got on the shelves. The products in general, on the shelves are much more elevated, the packaging and the marketing is much more elevated. It parallels familiar shopping experiences now much more than it ever did for people who are new to cannabis and new to dispensaries. So I think that’s terrific.
A lot of stores are building out their wellness sections, even shops that you wouldn’t have guessed would make a move toward that. But I think that’s terrific. First of all, it’s great for Hello Again, we’re a wellness product. But secondly, it really goes a long way to destigmatizing cannabis and the use of cannabis. So I love seeing shops do that.
And then, from where I sit, female entrepreneurs, and female focused brands are really blossoming right now in the state of California. Of course that’s the space I live in, so I don’t know how much of an echo chamber I’m sitting in right now, but I think that’s really exciting. And, for Patty and I, because we launched right before COVID, we really didn’t have colleagues right off the bat because everybody was in their little silo. It’s been really great now that we can all mingle a little bit and mix a little bit. We’ve really met some fantastic supportive female entrepreneurs in the space.
What’s something you see that you’re not a fan of?
CM: From where I sit every time there’s a problem, it seems that it gets pushed onto the brand. If the dispensaries are having inventory problems, there’s a new thing the brands have to do to help the dispensaries with their inventory. And if the distributors are getting crunched in some kind of way, they pass that on to the, to the brands.
We’re starting to see more dispensaries that are pay to play, which isn’t something that we generally do. But we’re seeing that more and more so it’s really tough.
How does sustainability factor into your brand choices?
CM: Obviously our ingredients. That’s one area we have complete control over and we work with almost completely organic ingredients as available and all natural, good business practices. And our packaging is recyclable.
Unfortunately, there are two areas where we can’t be recyclable. One is our childproof pouch. And two is our suppositories are made on a pharmaceutical grade suppository filling machine. They go into sterile individual packages that you pull apart to get the suppository out. And there’s nothing we can do about this amount of plastic, but we did choose not to include an applicator. And we’ve made other choices like that along the way about our swag where we’re really trying not to put more plastic in junk out into the world.
Talk to me about diversity in your company
CM: We’re a small company, but we’re entirely female run. We have between 10, 15 employees right now, all women. And they vary in ranges from 21 to 60.
COVID interrupted this, but we’re getting back to it now. From the very beginning, we really envisioned kind of this army of women working for us. And this is a different group of women than I think who you’re referring to, but it’s a group of women who also get overlooked and that’s stay-at-home moms. You raise your kids, you have a set of skills, but you’ve taken some time off or you’ve left the workforce for some reason, but you still have a lot to contribute. But you can’t just go into a conventional job search and be as successful. And we envision that for our company, like women who may or may not be in menopause, that certainly are in midlife, and are mad, talented, but just don’t have a platform to perform,
What’s been the biggest challenge that HelloAgain has overcome?
CM: It’s funny because our original format for a brand that would’ve launched was, in-store events, a lot of in-person things. We had events called mena-posums planned, where we were gonna bring people together to talk about cannabis and menopause and other issues that might affect women at this phase of life. Of course, that was all just back burner. Our ability to even go into dispensaries was completely back burner. So in some cases, some dispensaries wouldn’t even allow us in for staff training.
So we pivoted as best and a couple of good things happened. We developed a training video and all of that, but there was just an explosion of virtual events and podcasts. So we really got our feet wet quickly and learned a lot because all of a sudden we had all this opportunity to reach what ended up being more people than the 25 that would come to the dispensary on a Tuesday night between seven and nine or whatever it was.
That was one thing. And then secondly, because it all just kind of slowed down during COVID. I think that Patty and I, it basically gave us opportunity to learn every aspect of the business. And if things were tugging along as they were before COVID I think we would have had to hire a little bit of expertise early on, or contract out a little bit of expertise early on. But because the pace of play was a little bit slower, we figured out every single aspect of our business and I know that’s allowed us to be really lean. We have a really lean team here and we’re now much more discerning about what kind of help we need people come to we’re presented with opportunities for people to sell us.
What’s something you’re proud of?
CM: This product.
My life changed, Patty’s life changed, and the best thing ever is getting an email and seeing that we got submissions on our website overnight, with women who have found the product and are using it specifically. We formulated for menopause, but we have a daytime formula and a nighttime formula. The nighttime one has a little more THC in it, but you still don’t get high.
What makes us different is we also have these other botanicals in, so we’re providing terpenes with the right ratios of THC and CBD to either help you with temperature regulation, mood and energy level and all of that in the daytime or at night. And originally for women in menopause, but women with endometriosis pain found us.
Then we had women find us who were kicked into early because of their cancer treatment either because of radiation or because they’re taking estrogen blocking drugs now. That has really touched both Patty and I quite a bit because those women are just so much younger when they’re going through menopause. And so their peers aren’t going through menopause and it’s much more like going off a cliff. it’s physically really challenging. So that’s been terrific.
And then every once in a while, there’ll be a submission; there was one that just said this product was soul saving. That’s why we’re doing this. We were not sitting around thinking; how can we get into the cannabis space? That is not our story. I mean, we’re customer founders. We thought this would help us. We tried it. It did. And helping other people is the reason that we’re doing this. This is why I want this product to be around in 25 years when I’m too old to be the face of menopause.
What experience do you want your customers to walk away with?
CM: That you feel better.
With our nighttime formula, you get a good night’s sleep. You brush your teeth, you wash your face, you put it in, you go to bed. I read a few pages of my book. And you can kind of feel this relaxation that really starts in your pelvis. And if you just lean into it and go to sleep, what happens for women who haven’t had a good night sleep in years, you go to sleep, you stay asleep, or if your dog, your bladder, whatever, wake your baby wakes you up in the night, you can go back to sleep. And when you wake up in the night, you’re not groggy and you don’t feel high so you can get up and function, but then you can also get back in bed and go back to sleep. And it’s a beautiful sleep. You wake up feeling rested.
The daytime product is more subtle. What I do is I get up in the morning, brush my teeth, put it in, get back in bed and answer my few emails. Maybe have a cup of coffee, , let things settle. And then you may need to use a panty liner. it melts within 30 minutes and you can kind of feel the effects within an hour. The daytime formula has far less THC.
What I tell women is just put it in and forget about it at the end of the day, take stock on the day. And the common experience is I had more sustained energy during the day. I had more patience during the day. I didn’t take the bait. When I heard the fighting words, I let ’em go. I didn’t double down. It addresses hot flashes. So yes, you still might start to get hot, but unlike, but you can take off your sweater or open a window, like a normal person and cool down, unlike hot flashes that are associated with menopause, where it’s just a furnace and it’s gonna burn until it burns out.
CM: What’s next is we’re gonna be coming to the state of Michigan very soon within the year. So we’re thrilled about that. We have great partners there.
We’re right now in the final stages of formulating two new SKUs. One is for younger women, focused on pain, anxiety and focus. And then another one is going to be for hangovers.
What’s your favorite way to consume cannabis?
CM: Hello Again!
I love the beverages. My mom is in her eighties and never, ever used cannabis and I introduced her to the drinks because she just can’t drink alcohol anymore. That’s been really fun to see her adapt. I love the face oils; I think there’s so much out so much good stuff is gonna happen with skincare in cannabis. And of course the back bombs.
I’m a little chicken still about smoking. I went and I bought a pre-roll that was for creativity. I thought that’s it, I’m fine, I’m gonna find the right day to do this. And I have to say it’s like been sitting there for six weeks probably, and I haven’t done it yet.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
CM: Historically speaking, cannabis has been used for thousands of years by women, for sure. Famously Queen Victoria using cannabis for her menstrual pain. And there’s records of all kinds of use of cannabis, especially by women. It’s so sad that we’ve lost all that knowledge.
I did read somewhere (I don’t know, this is true, so I’m going to preempt it.) But I did read somewhere that they’re starting to think that the endocannabinoid system is responsible for kind of that mysterious thing that signals when women go into labor really that the endocannabinoid system might play a role in that.
(Author’s note: a 2021 mini review found “increasing evidence that, in addition to early pregnancy events, the ECS plays a regulatory role in pregnancy maintenance and the timing of labor.”)