First, what is CBD? CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is one of the two most abundant chemicals (cannabinoids) in the cannabis plant, of which there are between 100 and 140. CBD comes from two varieties of cannabis—hemp and marijuana. The most abundant chemical in the marijuana plant is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is what causes the psychoactive “high” users get. CBD is the second most abundant chemical in cannabis, but it does not cause a psychoactive effect and it can be extracted from the hemp variety of the plant.
While there’s been decades of research into THC, with CBD, it’s only been over the last dozen years or so that those in the science and medical fields have uncovered that it may provide an array of benefits.
While consumers the world over have always been keen on improving their overall health and longevity, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, interest in wellness and strengthening immunity has never been greater.
In 2018, the U.S. Congress passed a law that legalized hemp in all 50 states, and in doing so, removed CBD from the controlled substances list, ushering in the start of the “CBD Boom.” Soon after, a company called CBD Hemp Experts launched, and in just two years has become an innovative industry leader.
Aaron Bouren, in 2018, was looking for a remedy for his father, who was suffering from cancer. In doing so, a friend recommended CBD, which provided his dad with a natural, alternative management option. While CBD is not a cancer-treatment, Bouren said it helped his father significantly and sparked a passion to explore further.
Bouren, along with partner Gregg Sturz, started looking into CBD, with their sights set on starting a new business. They flew out to Colorado for a deep dive into the CBD cultivation, extraction and manufacturing processes. Inspired by what they learned, they called upon a long-time friend, Jim Fulford, to join them in the venture. Here, the trio immersed themselves into learning all they could about CBD. They rented an apartment together, studied the CBD industry intently, and ultimately launched their new company, CBD Hemp Experts.
The ownership trio brings together diverse business backgrounds that form a unique synergy. Bouren is a lifelong entrepreneur, having launched successful companies in the healthcare, manufacturing and fragrance markets. Sturz owned nutraceutical and pet wellness companies, in addition to holding CMO and COO positions at $100+ million businesses. Fulford, who also owned a nutraceuticals company, is CBD Hemp Experts’ technology whiz.
“The relationship the three of us have is perfect,” Bouren said. “We’re in three different lanes, bringing together three unique perspectives. Together, we’ve created a company in CBD Hemp Experts that is ‘strategically-integrated.’ What that means is, we know how to build systems and processes, such as remote sales, and utilizing state-of-the-art business management tools and technologies. Most important, we’ve done the research, understand the science, and know how to manufacture the highest quality, hemp-derived CBD products.”
Although there are myriad CBD companies that have cropped up in recent years, CBD Hemp Experts has emerged as a leading CBD brands’ vendor, meaning, they are the wholesale supplier for many private label brands.
While CBD Hemps Experts is headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, the company has outposts throughout the U.S. for sales, manufacturing, fulfillment and distribution. Its customers, who can be found in all 50 states, truly run the gamut, and in just two years there are more than 4,000 of them.
“Our customers are looking to have their own CBD brand. They could be a chiropractor’s office, a physical therapist, large and small retailers, C-stores, and even social influencers. There is not really a typical makeup of who our client base is made of; it’s really anyone wanting to market private label CBD products,” Bouren said.
Customers can choose from more than 170 SKUs, which include sprays, gummies, tinctures, capsules, topical skin care creams, hair care, pet care, and more. Most recently, the company announced a new line of Water-Soluble Nano-Emulsified CBD products that use an “exclusive next generation bioavailability technology,” designed to enhance absorption of CBD. CBD Hemp Experts’ R&D team is constantly looking to enhance and add to its product lineup, in addition to improving its role as an end-to-end solution for private label CBD brand owners.
Two Technology Companies ‘Stick’ Together
While its breadth of products and range of high quality CBD manufacturing capabilities are key drivers fueling CBD Hemp Experts’ growth, at least equal to that is the company’s ability to build and benefit from close relationships with entities throughout the supply chain. From hemp farmers to vendors to customers, CBD Hemp Experts builds strong, lasting relationships built on transparency, honesty and integrity, in addition to being a company that is easy to do business with.
Bouren emphasized that CBD Hemp Experts is not just a CBD company. “What we really are is a technology company that is manufacturing CBD products. Everything we do, every product and service we offer—our entire process—can be done without any human interaction. We’ve intentionally built our company to be like both a cruise ship and a speedboat. Our core is solid, steady and reliable, but we can move and pivot. We want to be an organization that’s nimble— high speed and low drag—with the ability to move on a dime.”
Automated processes are driving the company forward, but CBD Hemp Experts also prides itself on a simple business practice that’s often overlooked. “When we opened our doors, we jokingly said that our unique selling proposition would be that we answer our phone,” Bouren said. “We said that if we answer our phone, we’d be in position to win in this space. Two years later, it’s still part of our value proposition—answering the phone and returning calls.”
CBD Hemp Experts is a full-service, end-to-end wholesale supplier. Not only does the company sell CBD products, it also ships to customers products shelf-ready—custom-labeled to brand owner specifications. This is where the company’s relationship and reliance on its label supplier, Wizard Labels, is of paramount importance.
Wizard Labels is an e-commerce label manufacturer and supplier recognized for its rapid growth rate and innovative process for ordering labels online. Wizard Labels said it offers superior customer service through an intuitive, self-service online portal that simplifies the complexity involved with buying custom product labels. Along with its unique interface, the company is also an all-digital label converter, using the latest in digital printing and finishing technologies to streamline the entire process.
Compared to conventional label printing techniques, digital printing is ideal for short run labels and orders with multiple SKUs. The technology does not require printing plates (while doing away with the added fees required for plates) and minimizes both material waste and the time and labor it takes to set up and change jobs. The benefits digital printing provides make it an ideal fit for a company like CBD Hemp Experts and its need for short print runs involving many SKUs.
While Bouren, Sturz and Fulford were in Colorado getting CBD Hemp Experts off the ground, they came upon Wizard Labels, which happens to have offices in the state. “I had reached out to a few local label companies in Colorado, and Wizard was one of them,” Bouren said. “Based on what we had in mind for our business model, choosing a label company to partner with was a big decision. We knew having a label supplier able to meet our turnaround time requirements would be critical. A lot of the label printers we looked into seemed really antiquated, used older technology, and came up well short in what we were looking for in terms of speed, quality, costs and especially turnaround time.
“One of the things we like most about Wizard Labels is the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s a technology company like us. We love that we can do everything online when it comes to our labels. It’s nice to be aligned with a progressive company that also leverages technology, and we really like that we can upload artwork online and everything is paperless—including payment—which is the way business should be done in today’s day and age,” Bouren said, adding, “Oh, and like us, they also answer the phone. If we need them they are either a phone call or e-mail away. They’re incredibly responsive.”
The original plan for CBD Hemp Experts was to send links to customers who would then order labels from Wizard. “But we quickly realized that would be painful,” Bouren said. “We would be losing control of the process—and it could take forever. With turnaround time being so important for us, it was ultimately an easy decision.”
When a CBD Hemp Experts customer places an order, it goes to its in-house label design team. “While some people get their design done in a matter of hours, others can take weeks,” he said. “But once it’s done, we upload the approved artwork, and Wizard Labels does their thing.
“The process at Wizard Labels is fast, accurate, and we get back labels that our customers love and are very happy with. They can see the professionalism their labels are made with. Looking at some of our competitors in the marketplace, it’s sometimes very obvious they are using cheap, tabletop printers or inferior suppliers—lots of smears, bad colors, labels that just don’t look good,” he said.
CBD Hemp Experts’ products are for its customers to affix with their own branding. “The only thing they can’t change on the label is the compliance information and ingredients,” Bouren said. “Everything else they can change—colors, fonts, even the product name. Our average customer will choose between three and 10 of our products to carry. They’ll typically start at 100 per SKU, see what sells, and reorder accordingly.” Design, compliance reviews, printing and label application information is stored by CBD Hemp Experts to facilitate faster reordering.
Integral to the CBD Hemp Experts’ value proposition is its ability to be a one-stop-shop for customers. While it’s not a requirement for customers to purchase their labels through the company, it’s encouraged, and Bouren noted that when a client does choose to outsource labels on their own, it’s a one-time mistake. He said, “Every single time it happens, we tell them, ‘Okay, we told you it was a bad idea.’ Prior to going astray, we actually make them sign a piece of paper reiterating that we advised against it. Without fail, they come back and say, ‘I screwed up.’ There are just so many advantages to getting labels through us with Wizard Labels.”
“Wizard Labels has the template guide for every single cut required for our products. They have the exact specs for everything. I tell customers, sure, maybe you can get labels for a few dollars cheaper from some other printer, but remember, we are including not just the printing and finishing, but also the design, compliance review and the label application process,” Bouren said. “Then they realize that they want to be in the CBD business, not the label application business.”
A High-End Hook, Valued Relationships
Before anyone is even allowed to be a customer of CBD Hemp Experts, they have to buy a sample pack. “We don’t have a conversation until they try our products and know they like them,” Bouren explained. “There’s a reason we do this. We have a national wholesale premium brand called NAYSA—which means ‘Miracle of God’—which can be formulated into every single one of our products. This is for those that want to buy at wholesale and start selling right away. Of our 170+ SKUs, they’ll carry some with their branding, and they’ll also take our NAYSA brand and sell that as well.”
CBD Hemp Experts NAYSA brand is adorned with Wizard Labels’ chrome BOPP label material with gold and silver. “They get their sample order and say, ‘I love the way this looks! Can you make my labels look like this?’ And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish—to get them to see what high quality looks like. And it hooks them right away,” he said.
When new clients come to CBD Hemp Experts, they usually don’t even have a brand yet. “This is when they see the value of our in-house label design team. We help them throughout the brand development process every step of the way,” Aaron said. “We manage the entire process, which starts from the time they tell us they want to place an order. Everything takes place online—they get contacted by our design team, the design gets completed and approved, the labels get uploaded to Wizard Labels, the labels get printed right away and sent to our fulfillment center where they are applied and then shipped.”
The CBD Hemp Experts team appreciates and values relationships, with both clients and vendors alike. “At the end of the day, more than anything, our business is about people, it’s about relationships. If there is a problem, you can pick up the phone, someone answers, and the problem gets fixed. It’s what we do with our customers and what our vendors like Wizard Labels do for us.”
“If we mess up, we fess up, we never cover up, we just fix it and do it right; that’s a mantra of ours,” Bouren added. “We have people that spend a lot of money with us. Sometimes things happen that are out of our hands, like a box breaks in transit. That’s no one’s fault, and if it happens, no worries, we take care of it. Because above all else, we value the relationship.”
He continued, “I have vendors that I have left, and there are vendors I’ll leave in the future. But rarely have I left a great relationship. At the end of the day, people sometimes quit businesses, but people don’t quit relationships.”
Bouren’s philosophy extends into CBD Hemp Experts’ company culture. He concluded, “Our entire team, they are not our staff or employees, they’re our family. They know and feel that. They care so much, and their passion is evident in all the work they do. Our customers’ experience matters to them. Nobody on our team is looking to make a sale, everyone is looking to build a long-term relationship and be a strategic partner for our clients. Our goal is to help them build their brand and be the entity behind the scenes supporting that. That’s our model.”