How CBD Helped Paul Pierce Cope With PTSD and Depression
Paul Pierce lit up the NBA as an all-star for 19 years. Now he’s co-founder and CEO of The Truth CBD Remedies and the Vesper One vape available on Eaze Wellness. But it hasn’t all been a smooth ride for Pierce. In 2002, he was stabbed 11 times, a harrowing event that led him on a journey to discover cannabis for pain, depression, and PTSD. Pierce talks about how he went from being a CBD advocate to a CBD entrepreneur. He’s joined by business partner, Elliot Mermel.
JON: So Paul, let’s start with you. First of all, congratulations on the product. It’s very cool, and I’m happy that you are a part of the cannabis world.
PAUL: Oh man, thank you. I’m excited that I can be a part of this and just bring a stability to the marketplace, somebody who’s somewhat trustworthy and already has a name out there and a voice and a platform that people can trust.
JON: Yeah. It seems like more and more athletes are coming out, particularly in the CBD field, and really talking about how it’s helped and impacted their lives. I just heard that Gronk released a brand, or is sponsoring something, and I know that you were very early to this.
But let’s talk about your journey to finding CBD and cannabis. It really started with a tragic incident in your life. Is that correct?
PAUL: Yeah, but it took a while to get to the point that I am now, because in the early 2000s I was stabbed 11 times, with life-threatening injuries. It really did damage, not only because of the wounds, but just like the after-effect, just dealing with post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and including the pain of the stab wounds. So that every day aspect, and then having to go out and play ball every single day of my life. A lot of things in between where I got to this point today had to happen.
It was at a point where you get addicted to pain medication, sleep medication – and that happened to me for a lot of years. I had no clue about the marijuana plant or even CBB at the time, so for a lot of years this is how I kind of hit my problems head-on, just using different medications that had different side effects on me to where it had me drowsy at times and affected my play and my energy throughout the day.
But I just didn’t really understand what else was out there for me because when you’re in sports, there’s so many banned substances and things that you’re not allowed to take that you’ve just got to go with what you can. That’s pretty much what I did for a lot of years before I even got a chance to discover CBB and the non-psychoactive parts of it that can help not only my body, but my mind.
JON: So you were using, I assume, opioids, after this terrible incident of this stabbing – I think it was around the year 2000?
JON: You were using opioids to treat both the pain and also some of the psychological effects of that incident, correct?
PAUL: Absolutely. That’s something that’s very addictive. It got to the point where you couldn’t go without it. I saw it really just changing me mentally and physically, and it was bad. [laughs] It was bad.
JON: Yeah, it’s bad enough to be stabbed 12 times and then you have to deal with the effects of these drugs. So it wasn’t overnight that you just discovered CBD.
PAUL: No, it wasn’t something that happened overnight. Being that I’m from Los Angeles – and Los Angeles, along with Colorado, was one of the first places to legally allow growers to grow. You had shops, dispensaries and stuff. You had a lot of things that I learned came through the black market, to be honest. I had friends that grew in their garage and were testing different things, not only with the flower, but the other aspects of the marijuana plant.
At first, it started off with a friend giving me topicals and pills derived from CBD, and I was like, “Man, this stuff is pretty good. It’s helping me. Where does this come from?” This was before I had a clear understanding of what the marijuana plant can do, outside of just smoking it or vaping it or getting high off it, what other aspects this plant can do.
When he brought it to my attention that I was able to make a cream or oral juice for you – you know, “try this out.” But like I said, this was something that was out the back door. This wasn’t in stores.
JON: Yeah, this is way before what we’re dealing with now in LA – because I’m in LA right now – like recreational. There’s a legit pot shop dispensary on every corner now, and they’re high end. It wasn’t like that back in the day. We’re talking about really black market/gray market type stuff.
PAUL: Exactly. So that’s why I was excited when the laws got less lenient [sic], they started allowing statewide for shops to open up and really give the public a chance to really see what this is all about. That made me really excited because then I was like, this was something I had a chance to use before it even really hit the marketplace.
JON: But this is still when you were playing, right? Were you concerned about the drug testing and stuff?
PAUL: Yeah, I was. A lot of times I wouldn’t do it during the season as much as I did during the summer, because you have more time. I didn’t know if it was something that would stay in my system or would fail a drug test.
I didn’t know that until later in my career that it didn’t have those effects, the psychoactive part, and it wasn’t on the list of bad substances for the NBA, the things that came from the hemp-derived CBD. So after a while I was like, “okay, I could use this more in the season now,” knowing that I wouldn’t fail a test and knowing it wouldn’t be harmful.
JON: Right. What year are we talking about here? 2010 or so?
PAUL: Yeah, around 2010, 2011. I was dealing with some serious issues because from my stabbing I had a lot of nerve damage. That’s where the topical really came in to help because I was getting a lot of stingers through just shoulder bumping or landing on the ground, things of that nature. And then as you get older you start dealing with knee pain. And then myself, I dealt with sleep apnea also. I was dealing with –
JON: Wow, a lot of things.
PAUL: A lot of things. [laughs]
JON: Were you primarily doing CBD? Was there THC in these products, or primarily CBD?
PAUL: During the season it was primarily CBD. Some of the products that helped me sleep during the summer I would use contained THC, and that was just to help me sleep because I had a long problem – like I said, I deal with sleep apnea even to this day.
JON: When did you go from being a consumer of CBD to wanting to start your own business? Tell me a little bit about that journey.
PAUL: The reason is there’s so many products out there in the field, and you don’t really know which ones are giving you what they actually say they’re giving you. I was just like, why don’t I go out and try to start my own line, being that I have a great platform, maybe a trusted platform amongst my fans that people can trust? Not just somebody trying to make a quick dollar or somebody – like I said, just a lot of imitation products, like in everything you have out there these days.
So if I could be the voice of something like this to where I’d be like “This is what I use and this actually works. Look at what I’ve been through, and these are the changes that I’ve been able to make in my life” and get that message out there, I think it would provide more confidence in people leaning in this direction.
Because like I said, there’s so many products out there that just don’t work. People are trying to make a quick buck.
JON: How did you source the product that you wanted to use? Because obviously you know that a lot don’t work, but you were probably using products obviously that did work. When you were starting a company, you weren’t growing your own stuff – or maybe you were.
PAUL: I actually started my own company, I bought a building. We grew our own flower, took the trim from that, and developed our own oil. It’s all in-house, from people who I trust and people that I know. This is no outsourcing and me slapping my name on it. This is coming from a facility that I own, that I monitor each and every day.
JON: How big was that facility?
PAUL: I have a 10,000 square foot facility based here in California, and we grow flower, which we use the trim to extract. We have an extraction facility.
JON: So you just said “I’m going to do this all on my own, I’m going to grow my own stuff,” and you partnered with people that you trusted in the industry?
PAUL: Yeah, absolutely. It’s some people that I know that have been in the industry, some friends that I brought along that have been doing this for a number of years. I just slowly but surely built my team.
JON: When did you decide to give it a name and brand it and stuff like that?
PAUL: I just thought using my name, “The Truth” – that was a brand that’s been with me throughout my whole basketball career, and I just thought it would make sense.
JON: What’s the story of The Truth? My understanding is that Shaq gave you that name, right?
PAUL: Yeah, Truth was given to me early 2000s, I believe 2001. It was a game we played against the Lakers in the Staples Center, and I wound up having a huge game, 40+ points. I think we won the game and Shaq went up to reporters like, “Man, I knew this guy could play. I didn’t know he could play this good.” He said in these exact words, “This guy is the motherfucking truth.” [laughs] They printed it in the paper the next day, and from that day on it stuck.
JON: That’s awesome. And it’s great because it was in your hometown that he said that. Okay, so that just stuck with you, so you knew that that was going to be a good game. Just to go through the process a little bit, once you decided to set up the grow, did you decide “now we’ve got to market this and create a product”? Did you always know you wanted to do a vaporizer? Were you selling flower? Tell me a little bit about the process of how you thought about how you were going to distribute this product that you were growing in your facility.
PAUL: We set up the facility. I had a chance to meet the guy who’s on the line with us right now, Elliot Mermel. This is something – it was crazy how we met. We were at a hookah lounge and chilling, and we got into the conversation of medical marijuana and CBB and oils. I think he had a vape pen with him and I was asking where’d he get it from. Then we brought up the conversation, and then we just built a relationship. We were like, “Why don’t we start our own vape pen?” I was like, let’s do some CBB in it.
Once the idea came, I saw an opportunity to get a building where I can manufacture more flower and oils. We took a trip to China, met with some manufacturers about the hardware and coming up with a luxury line, something that was different. It just took off from there. And this has still been in the making for the last couple years.
JON: Yeah, it doesn’t happen overnight. Elliot, it’s a good time to bring you into the conversation. Tell us a little bit about the background that brought you to being in a hookah lounge with Paul Pierce. [laughs] How’d you end up there?
ELLIOT: I was meeting up with a friend who was actually in the cannabis industry at the time –and I typically stay away from the Hollywood area. I’m from New England, so I don’t really enjoy the congested parts of the city. I found myself trapped in 12:30-on-a-Sunday traffic. Hadn’t been to a hookah bar in a long time, saw there was one close by, and went over there during March Madness.
PAUL: Yeah, we were watching the NCAA tournament.
ELLIOT: It was just myself at the bar at the time, and probably around 1:00, Paul walked in. I was like, man, that dude looks shockingly similar to Paul Pierce. He was rounding out the end of his career. I knew that Paul was from LA and obviously was a legendary Celtics player, and I grew up in Rhode Island as the only Lakers fan of my group of friends. So it was just an interesting dichotomy there.
I just told him that I obviously just love basketball in general, and the games were always on TV for me growing up, and I saw him and just congratulated him on an illustrious career. Then at the time, I was working on cannabis fertilizers. I was making topicals in my kitchen at the time. I said to Paul, “I’d love to get your input on this and whether it works or not.”
We exchanged numbers, and from there started to explore the aspects of the space, commodity versus other ancillary sides, and that’s where the ancillary part was born.
JON: Wow, so you guys didn’t know – you just walk into a bar and Paul Pierce happens to be in there, or he comes in later, and this is just a happy coincidence. You guys had no idea, didn’t know each other before.
JON: You just happened to be a huge Celtics fan. That’s an amazing story. Paul, you trusted this total stranger. What was it that…
PAUL: Well, it wasn’t that I trusted him. He was in the space. Like I said, he had the topicals, he had the vape. Then I was like, “Where you from? Where you live at?” He lived like 10-12 minutes from me, so I was like, “Oh wow, you live out that way? Man, we should meet up and have a conversation about some of the stuff you’re doing.” Since he lived so close to me, I was like, “Man, why don’t you come over to the house and let’s talk. Let me see some of your ideas you have.” Then it just kind of clicked off from there.
JON: That’s great. So as far as the timeline, this is before you started your grow? Or was this after you started your grow?
PAUL: This was before I started my grow.
JON: So you guys start talking, and then you go into this business together. You start the grow. When does Eaze come into the relationship?
PAUL: Eaze is recent. We did something with them this summer, and we did a launch of our CBD line in Boston. We used the Eaze platform, which is a well-known, trusted platform, especially here in California, to launch their Wellness line in Boston. What better place than to do it there, where I have a huge following, a huge fan base. Allowed our fans to enter a competition, come check out our product. That was pretty much the official launch. That was maybe a couple of months ago.
JON: So that’s new, so I’ve jumped ahead. Let me take it back in the timeline a little bit, because I jumped ahead too far. After you guys do your grow, you come up with this brand name. The mission, as you mentioned, Paul, the primary mission is that you want something that people can trust and you’re a trustworthy person, trustworthy brand. You call it The Truth. How did you position yourself in the marketplace – there’s so many CBD brands out there, and of course there’s you, and there’s only one you – but was there a way that you guys decided to position it so that you would stand out from the other products out there?
PAUL: At this point it’s hard to really stand out. At this point in the game, you’ve got a lot of different celebrities who are in it now. The biggest thing is hopefully being a voice, being trusted, being genuine, and being authentic with everything you do. Because now, like you said, Gronk is in the market. You see different celebrities in the market for CBD.
I just think with my voice and me being a high level athletes playing at the highest level, being in the championships, being from LA, playing in Boston, I think I have a story that I can tell that is something that has really helped me along the lines of my career, along the lines of my basketball after-life. I think a lot of people can feel my story.
I think that’s something that can separate me. Definitely the traumatic events that I’ve been through and dealing with anxiety, dealing with post-traumatic stress, dealing with mental health. These are things that I’ve had to deal with throughout my life, and that’s the story I try to bring and let everybody know that it’s real. It’s real.
JON: Yeah. Go ahead, Elliot.
ELLIOT: I just think a major component also as far as positioning and strategy and mission was with the creation of the Vesper or the creation of the vape, it always started with Paul and I, usually over a game of chess, making a mind map. Entrepreneurial-wise, what was wrong with the industry, what did we wish there would be in the industry, what kind of complaints did we hear, and really attacking it from the problem side in order to create the solution.
When we looked at vapes in general, we created a list of what we didn’t like, but then on the highest level, as far as celebrity-endorsed brands and brands that have a celebrity component, what we didn’t want to do was just create something that was a white-labeled product that didn’t have any tangible value or any novel IP behind it.
That’s where we realized the celebrity aspect is the draw, but in order to gain that customer retention and that customer trust, we really had to deliver a premium product. So it was, from the get-go, the ethos that the celebrity will draw the customer in and a superior product will retain that customer.
JON: Was that the number one problem that you guys were solving, that a lot of the product out there in the marketplace was not of good quality?
PAUL: That was my main issue with it. Yeah, just bad quality, man. You’ve got people saying they’ve got things the product can do that it doesn’t do. Not to say that makes us better, but ours has been through a lot of testing, different tests over time, to where it was like “all right, we finally got it right.”
JON: The main testing being that you use it.
PAUL: Yeah, and I’ve been the guinea pig. [laughs]
JON: [laughs] That can’t be the worst job in the world. Tell me about that. Did you have to test a lot of different iterations of your product before – what was it like testing?
PAUL: Yeah, that’s the testing process you go through.
JON: Did you enjoy that?
PAUL: I started off with Elliot’s product and then we just got better and better over time. He started off with a great topical, and then you find ways that you can make the product better and better to where it’s just like…
JON: But Elliot, your topical was being grown – obviously the flower was coming from a different source, right? Did you guys merge flower?
ELLIOT: Yeah, that was coming from my garage at the time. I think when Paul and I fused, that’s where we saw a unique opportunity. Everybody, especially in this space, talks about vertical integration, but vertical integration with respect to we want to have cultivation, manufacturing, retail, and delivery and what have you. I think that in looking at other industries, we wanted to take it one step further and add that intellectual property component that would be attractive to outside investors and people that weren’t necessarily comfortable with the gray legality federally in the space.
So that’s where we saw the fusion of the commodity side and the vertical aspect over there with the facility and the cultivation and manufacturing, and coupling that with a superior hardware component that’s totally separated that has at this point around 10 patents, domestic and international, surrounding it.
JON: Okay, so your IP also is the hardware product. How did you come about getting there? There’s the stuff that goes in the hardware, but what about the hardware itself? What was the problem you were trying to solve in that space?
ELLIOT: I think just recollecting when Paul and I made our first list – and Paul can add in if I forget anything – we both didn’t like that either a vape could be pressed to inhale or it was auto-inhale. The battery life was terrible, the reliability was terrible. There was no on and off. You’d never know if the device was on or off. Sometimes it would pull, sometimes it wouldn’t pull. Cartridges were leaky. If you left it in a car by accident, you’d come back with this sticky stuff everywhere. You’d have to go at it with alcohol.
That’s where we started, just one by one, going down that list and tackling each of those problems and adding that into our hardware. Then about 8 to 10 months later and about 12 prototype iterations, that’s when we finally settled on the first hardware product.
JON: Everybody I talk to that’s in this business says it’s really, really a hard business. This is no playing around. Some people – I’ve talked to even movie execs, whatever – people who were getting into the business saying it’s the hardest business they’ve ever been in. I don’t know if you guys agree with that, but I’m curious what some of the most difficult challenges that you’ve had to deal with in creating this product have been and how you overcame them.
ELLIOT: I would say that what you’ve heard is exactly right. I would say it’s a nightmare. At least from our side, it starts in just dealing with the international component. Dealing with Chinese manufacturers in and of itself is challenging, especially in a startup bootstrap model.
I think once you get to domestic and talk specifically about the cannabis space, you’re not dealing with a – everything is gray. Everything is gray in terms of laws are constantly changing, regulations are constantly changing. You have to stay on top of that. But even just the relationships. I think entrepreneurially speaking, it’s those relationships and that cultivation that allows you to progress along the life cycle.
In this space, you never know, is this someone that this person came off Wall Street and now they’re in the space, so you know how that person operates, or was this person dealing out of their pickup for the past 10 years and now has a suit on and you’re dealing with that type of individual? There’s really no sense of assurance in building those relationships that you have the confidence that you would in another space, like “this is a reputable individual who I can trust to get this done.”
You just never know when you wake up – and that’s even dealing with just everyday relationships. Then when you get into the nitty-gritty on the CBD front, you’ve got a whole other issue of credit card processing, bank transferring, all of that type of stuff that, again, you never know if you wake up one day and boom, your credit card processor decides they no longer do vape CBD.
The challenges are so numerous, and I think it’s just all revolving around the level of unknowing, if you will, that circulates in the space.
JON: Paul, what’s been the toughest part of this business for you?
PAUL: I guess along the lines of what Elliot said, it’s dealing with manufacturers, and also the competition. There’s a lot of competition in the field, and you’ve got to earn the people’s trust. Like I said, traveling to China numerous times and just remodifying our product, making sure it’s perfect, dealing with people who say they’re going to do something they don’t always do – any business you do is always going to be a challenge. Elliot talks about this all the time, and he gets down and I try to get him up. [laughs] You have your pitfalls.
But that’s the challenges of a new business. Just relationships. Just continue to develop relationships is what I’m trying to say. Continue to be positive. Things will turn around. That’s what any entrepreneur out there – things aren’t going to always go your way at first. It may not go your way for a while. But it’ll come if you just put the work in.
But right now we’re in a time where, like I said, it’s just developing the trust of the people, of the consumer. You have the trust, and then another product comes out, they move on to the next. So it’s just about finding the consistency and giving our customers what they want.
JON: Playing at the highest level as a professional athlete, are there lessons that you’ve taken with you from the court now to the cannabis industry?
PAUL: I think sports always provides life lessons, especially when you play a team sport – or an individual sport. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to have your trials and tribulations. Things aren’t going to always be great for you. Like I said, I played my first three, four, five seasons on losing teams. When you come from a college program and a high school program who always won and you get to that next level, you get some road bumps to where you’re not the best when you step into the highest level. There’s other competition.
You’re vying for your spot to re-prove yourself again, and that’s the same thing in this industry. Just because I’m Paul Pierce, I’m coming into a new industry, doesn’t mean that I’m coming in and people are going to respect me or are going to trust me and a product that I bring out. You’ve got to re-earn that trust. You’ve got to re-earn that validity of being somebody that people can come to and your word is what you say it is.
JON: I was talking to Al Harrington from Viola. I don’t know if you guys work together.
PAUL: I’m very good friends with Al.
JON: Yeah, I figured you must be. I know that he has been really quietly – or maybe not so quietly – lobbying the NBA to legalize at least CBD, or permit it within the league. Are you involved in any of those kind of talks? I know he talked to the commissioner.
PAUL: I haven’t been involved in any talks with the NBA, but I think it’s definitely something – I think it’s caught the NBA’s ear. You know the crazy thing about these sports leagues? Players are always trying to find ways and answers for some of the surgeries and problems they have with rehab, and going overseas, trying to find a method or a medication.
I just read today that Wilson Chandler failed a drug test because of a medication that was on the substance abuse list, but it wasn’t on there as of a few years ago. They just put it on maybe 2 or 3 years ago. But he needed it for his rehab. So I’m saying, they should be able to allow alternate treatments, alternate things that you can do.
I truly believe CBD is the answer in these sports leagues. I truly believe that. Not only NBA, but all across the highest level. NHL, football. Especially the sports where it’s heavy physical contact, absolutely.
JON: Do you think a lot more people use CBD in professional sports than we know about? Like did you see it being used?
PAUL: Absolutely. That’s without a doubt. I did it. [laughs]
JON: Right. We mentioned some of the other athletes that have come out and are now starting – are other athletes coming to you and saying “Hey Paul, I want to get into this game as well; can you give me some advice?” Is that happening to you a lot?
PAUL: I’ve had small conversations, but I think because of the stigma that’s on marijuana, they associate it with CBD. I mean, it is associated, but that’s a different part of the plant. So guys are still scared. There’s so much money in these industries. Guys don’t want to take that chance.
JON: I wonder about you – go ahead, I’m sorry.
PAUL: But the conversation has been brought up. But I think as more and more people learn that it’ll open the doors in some of these sports – I believe once it becomes federal legal, if ever, then you’ll see a rush. But I believe it should be open to sports leagues now.
JON: I agree. I guess the Big Three, which is –
PAUL: I think they should be the pioneers to opening the doors for everybody. All these athletes and influencers, they should be the trailblazers for this.
JON: Did you ever have some concerns when you came out as a CBD user? I’m making it sound like it’s a bad thing – but that it might hurt your career, your image? I know you do television. You’re a public figure. Did you ever have a few concerns about “maybe I should just keep this between me and my body instead of making it…”
PAUL: I never did. I never really had the good guy image, but I never really had the bad – I was never a bad person off the court. A lot of people just didn’t like me because I played for Boston Celtics, so that was my bad image as a guy who talks a lot, who’s mean. But as far as off the court, I never got in any trouble. So my image was like “he don’t care.” [laughs] But it wasn’t in a bad way, you know what I’m saying? It wasn’t like I was an actual bad guy off the court. People who know me know I’m one of the coolest guys you could be around.
JON: I’m sure you are, but as a Knicks fan, it was tough. A lot of tough nights for me. [laughs]
PAUL: I get booed everywhere, but it wasn’t because of things that I did off the court.
JON: Yeah, no. People respect what you do on the court. Last question: as far as marketing, one of the things I hear from a lot of entrepreneurs in this space is you’re limited in the way you can market your product because of regulations, just like the regulations because it’s federally illegal. You can’t do Google AdWords, the classic things people use to advertise. How are you guys getting around that advertising?
PAUL: A lot of it is through Instagram, through word-of-mouth, using my celebrity just to go around – especially since California’s a big market. I’m able to reach out to a lot of different people and touch a lot of different influencers and people in the game. That’s one of the toughest parts, too. You can’t market how you really want to because of the laws and stuff. But a lot of it is through social media and word-of-mouth.
JON: And doing podcasts like this? [laughs]
PAUL: Yeah, podcasts like we’re on today. Absolutely.
ELLIOT: I think it’s incredibly difficult, and that adds even another layer of complexity, especially in this day and age. The Jeff Bezos model of a 1-click buy, “how can I make it as easy and quick as possible for you to give me your money?” Or like Web 2.0, how do I keep you on our site so it’s not like 1998 where you have to go off to a different site to then put in your credit card, to go to another verification site. You’re on three different sites.
That’s the difficulty of these marketing hurdles. If you market through Instagram or you figure out ways to market through Facebook, you can’t do just a 1-click buy. You can’t have sales through these Instagrammers. You can’t do Google Ads in a traditional manner. So it increases the time that someone has to spend to go from “okay, I want to buy this” to “where do I give them my credit card information?”
There’s different marketing hacks, if you will, that we’ve figured out for the hardware component – which is also restricted because it’s a vape – but nonetheless, being restricted on three of the Top 3 most-visited websites on the planet and not being able to do paid ads through those is incredibly difficult, especially when those same three companies are obviously doing everything they can to reduce organic reach because organic reach means they’re not making money. But if you try to give them your money, they don’t want to take it. So it just makes it incredibly difficult.
JON: It must be really hard. This product that you’re doing with Eaze, how did it get its name? Vesta?
JON: Vesper. I’m thinking of Vespas, like those Vespas you drive around Italy. But Vesper, how did it get the name Vesper? Where did that come from?
PAUL: You know what? We sat in the back and played chess many days and just thought about what’s a great name. Actually, Elliot came up with the name. We were trying to come up with something that was catchy. Originally I think we said it was –
ELLIOT: What was it? Erolite?
PAUL: Erolite or something.
ELLIOT: We went through probably 200 names, and we trade-checked maybe 20 and they all failed. Then went back to the drawing board and spent months and did the searches ourselves.
PAUL: And you said Vesper is actually…
ELLIOT: It’s an evening cocktail.
JON: Is it really?
JON: It’s like Gimlet. Yeah, okay, Vesper.
ELLIOT: Exactly. It’s a sophisticated evening cocktail.
JON: That’s a cool name. How are you positioning Vesper as different than The Truth?
ELLIOT: I think that’s the hardware component. We’ve been treating this as both a razorblade model and kind of a SaaS model, but through the hardware. By that I mean the software that we’re providing are the contents.
Paul has his cultivation side through Green Mamba that does CBD in the state of California that’s cannabis-derived, so it can go into shops but still CBD, and then for out-of-state we do hemp-derived CBD through Truth. Those are kind of the software component to the hardware in essentially building a superior platform that is Vesper and then providing a superior software that can be loaded into that hardware.
JON: To conclude here, what is the best business advice you ever received that you go to a lot when you’re struggling in business or that you maybe share with other people who ask you questions about getting into business? What is something that you learned over the years that’s been helpful for you?
PAUL: I think for me, it goes along the same lines of what I did in sports. You’ve got to continue to just be persistent. You can’t let things bring you down. We’ve had a lot of tough passes getting to the point to where we are today. Like I said, in my basketball career I was stabbed 11 times, and that same season, I came and played 82 games, which is already tough to do – and this happened a month before the season.
So I just try to get the message out there that things aren’t going to always go the way you want it to, but you’ve just got to continue to surround yourself with people who work just as hard as you, people who share the same vision as you, positive people, and just keep putting in the work. Eventually it’ll turn around. You just can’t get discouraged.
It’s easy to say, because in the business world it’s more than just getting to the gym and putting up shots. It’s borrowing money, spending money that maybe you might not have, and then you look up and you spent your last dime on something that hasn’t produced the way you’d like it to produce. But I’ve talked to other businesspeople. The guys from Aspire started with like $50,000 to start the business, and they’ve grown to, what, a billion dollar industry?
ELLIOT: Yeah, $3 billion.
PAUL: I was just like, wow. That’s very encouraging to hear stories like that.
ELLIOT: For me, I’m a big quotes guy, and I think that two big quotes that I like is – I’m a firm believer that failure is just a matter of perspective. In that light, Thomas Edison talking about the light bulb, coming up with it on his hundredth try, or he and his team, he said, “I didn’t fail 99 times; I just found 99 ways not to make the perfect light bulb.” That’s great.
Then I think also just talking with people and learning from their mistakes so you can try your hardest not to repeat them. That’s why history is an important topic for me, and along those lines, Henry Wadsworth saying “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is worth more than 10 years mere study of books.”
So I think just listening to other people’s opinions, learning from their mistakes, trying to improve, and then just knowing that “failures” will happen, but you’re not really failing ever if you’re learning along the way.
JON: I guess I should ask you – and I don’t know how public you are about the sales of both your products, but are you guys encouraged? How have the consumers responded to the product?
PAUL: The consumers love it. I think everybody that we’ve had try the product really loves it. Right now our issue is just getting the product at just a mass –
ELLIOT: Mass distribution.
PAUL: Yeah, the distribution right now. But everybody who’s tried the product loves it. We’re always trying new ways to make it more innovative. How can we make it better? How can we make it different? That’s always the concept, the ideas that we talk about pretty much each and every day.
We have actually a new product, a more sleek product that’s going to be launching next year. In order to stay on top of the game, you’ve got to be able to adapt. I think we’ve tried to adapt over the last couple years.
ELLIOT: And perpetually innovate. You’ve got good months and bad months, but year over year, our growth rate is I think the best position, and that’s well into the hundreds of percent growth year over year, from double figure sales into triple figure sales year over year and improving.
But yeah, like Paul touched on, the biggest thing in a team that’s as bootstrapped as us, which is essentially two to three people with some contract help as well, the big thing is getting a few number of large distributor partners so that you can really focus on the relationships with those partners and really just push volume through those avenues and allow yourself to focus on also what Paul said, which is innovating product cycle and constantly coming out with new devices.
JON: Because this is a CBD product, I’m assuming you can sell it across state lines, right?
JON: So where would one find The Truth? “Where would you find The Truth?” I like that. [laughs]
ELLIOT: Right now our Vesper products are being sold through vapevesper.com. You can get empty cartridges there. Converters, which is one of our main differentiators, which allows you to use any standard cartridge through our device.
Additionally, on the credit card front, we’re selling The Truth CBD-filled pods through a website, truthpods.com, but then credit cards – we’ve gone through about eight credit card processors there and just got a new application going today. Hopefully that’ll get online. So for now, Eaze Wellness is still the only online distributor that has our filled cartridges.
And then, like I said, product cycle – Paul and I are about a month and a half away from launching CBD topicals and oral sprays, and that’ll be limited to a single skew of the topical and a single skew of the oral spray in order to ensure that we’re delivering the best product. That will be easier in getting the credit card processing, and we’ll be launching that website soon as well.
JON: Cool. This is great, guys. Again, congratulations for all your success and for fighting the good fight.
PAUL: Oh, definitely.
JON: I look forward to trying the product myself. I’ve got to talk to somebody about that.
PAUL: Oh no, we’ll send you some. Don’t worry.
JON: I appreciate it. I’m here in LA. I’m easy.
ELLIOT: That’s perfect. We can just –
JON: Yeah, exactly. Best of luck to you guys. Thanks so much for doing this call and podcast.
PAUL: Thank you, Jonathan. It’s been a pleasure.
JON: All right, thank you. Take care, guys.
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