Brendan Smith

Co-Founder of Raw Botanics

Brendan Smith is Co-Founder and CEO of Raw Botanics. In his role, he is responsible for day-to-day operations, product development and ensuring the brand’s products align with the brand’s authentic and transparent strategy and vision. A life-long entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in the industry, Smith brings his expertise in business development, technology, and marketing to the Raw Botanics team.

A trauma survivor who has long- battled PTSD, Smith is passionate about the radical health benefits of quality, hemp-derived products and hopes to serve as an advocate for others looking to enhance their quality of life.

In addition to his role at Raw Botanics, Smith is the Founder and CEO of Motive Interactive, a global mobile app marketing company that uses machine-learning algorithms to optimize, predict and serve high-quality traffic in mobile advertising. A dedicated entrepreneur, Smith has created and sold several businesses including a clothing brand, transportation app, numerous content websites and a domain portfolio, that in 2019 had several high-profile domains ranking in the top 50 highest sales.

Smith has been twice named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), was a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, as well as, the CEO of the Year by CEO World Awards. Additionally, he has been recognized by the Inc. 5000 five times for his role as CEO at one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

Born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, Smith attended the University of West Virginia and now resides in Encinitas, California where we can be found surfing, snowboarding, or spending time with his wife and two children.

Where did the idea for Raw Botanics come from?

At the age of 17, during my first year of college, I was the victim of a random act of violence that left me fighting for my life. I was lucky to survive but it changed my life forever and many years after this horrific experience, I still suffer from PTSD. When COVID-19 swept the world, the stress from being faced with a global pandemic increased my symptoms—nightmares, disrupted sleep and anxiety. It led me to take a deeper look at my condition and continue working toward finding natural remedies for relief.

As such, my PTSD is the main driver behind creating Raw Botanics, which began as a sleep aid and anti-anxiety supplement. I’m excited to be involved in the hemp and cannabis industry and proud to have developed something that can help people like me.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m a huge fan of routines. As an entrepreneur, I have found them to be critical to building businesses. I’m up at sunrise, followed by time to visualize success, meditate, read The Daily Stoic, workout for an hour, have coffee, spend time with my wife and kids, then head to work.

I prioritize my week in segments. Mondays are for planning, Tuesdays are for external meetings, Wednesdays I schedule general internal meetings, Thursdays are for operations of the business, and Friday is for strategizing. I try not to book meetings or calls on Monday and Friday, so that if needed these days can be used for brainstorming, personal wellness or creative endeavors. This is how I have operated for years and how I have built a number of companies while managing the stress of it all.

However, when I had kids, this changed drastically. It’s totally possible to have this kind of structure with kids, but you have to make sacrifices that eat into being a parent that I was not willing to make. Although I do still have routines, I forgive myself for days when life gets in the way and I’m far more flexible in how I attack a typical day. With young children, you are on their schedule a bit, so I lean into that.

Today, my days focus on family time as a priority. It’s a more fluid and adjustable schedule that gets interrupted constantly, but I make sure that I focus on the family for the first and last few hours of every day. I spend at least one hour in nature running, walking, surfing or snowboarding, or meditating. I keep the same work routine most of the time, but now it may just start a bit later in the day. Being flexible has been helpful because if my family needs me, I can lean into that and put more effort there, and at times when work is hectic, I can shift and lean in that direction.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I have ideas constantly, so a big part of bringing them to life is to prioritize them, filter them and then decide the ones that are realistic based on bandwidth and of course need and market opportunity. The problem with being a “dreamer” is that I’m always coming up with these crazy ideas. The first thing I do is ask myself, would I buy or use that product? If the answer is yes, then I ask my wife if she’d use it. If the answer is ‘no,’ I usually drop it, but if she shows any interest in it, I take it to the next step, which is ‘who else would use or buy it?’ I start with this process before investing in an idea. From there, it goes into market opportunity and all the business logistics, which really comes down to getting all the right people working on the specific tasks, and I direct that.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Natural wellness is becoming mainstream which excites me. What really excites me are the brands that are taking this to the next level when it comes to the efficacy and quality of ingredients. I believe in the healing power of nature and choosing natural remedies first. It’s become easier to do this as many great companies are getting into the natural wellness space with innovative products. However, “natural” is a word people throw around with little thought as to what it means. Many brands in the natural wellness space take advantage of the obscurity of this word, the lack of regulation, and sell products that are far from natural. I look at the melatonin products that are increasingly popular and sold as “all-natural” by almost every brand that sells them. Melatonin used in supplements is not natural, it is a synthetic compound created in a lab. Studies have shown it comes with significant side effects and is not necessarily healthy for daily use. Yet, if you purchase a product with Melatonin in it, it’s almost always labeled as natural. Because “chemically synthesized in a lab in China” does not have the same kind of warm and fuzzy sound to it. So, I’m most excited about the trend of real natural products being produced by companies that are transparent and not willing to compromise for a quick buck.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

A habit I have that makes me more productive as an entrepreneur is a daily dedication to a minimum of one hour in nature without devices. Anyone could do this, but few do. You don’t have to live in the mountains or by the ocean. You can get into nature in the middle of a large city, just walking the streets or finding a park. Just get outside and don’t take your cell phone with you. I do this daily and it gives me an amazing time to unload negative thoughts, stress, and let my imagination run wild. I get Vitamin D and tune into every smell and sound around me. This helps the world around me slow down and allows my thoughts and ideas to flow freely. This is my biggest secret weapon.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Choose your battles wisely, sometimes it’s best to walk away.

Smile more, worry less. Positivity is infectious, and happiness is a choice.

The scars you can’t see are worse than those you can. Pay attention to what heals you and keep it in your life.

When you’re afraid to ask for help, go ahead and ask anyway.

Practice everything you love to do at least 50% more than you already do. Your natural talents and passions may not pay the bills, but they will always feed your soul.

Don’t be afraid to dance, sing and perform for others when the music moves you even if you feel embarrassed. This will build tremendous confidence and keep you grounded.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The  secret to success is giving, not taking – if you share your services or ideas with others, with no agenda and no monetary benefit, you will receive greater monetary and spiritual value in the future.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Being an entrepreneur takes tremendous creativity and problem-solving skills. In order to achieve my goals, I constantly visualize my success. I visualize every aspect of it from the successful outcome and goal achieved, to the problems that come up and how I handle them. I visualize uncomfortable scenarios, but only when I’m ready to visualize how I solve them. Similar to how an athlete will visualize themselves competing and winning before they start the event, I do the same thing with goals I set and obstacles that I know will get in the wa

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Stepping away from the business and empowering those around me. When you start a business, you hire people to take on roles. These are people you trust to do the role they are hired for. Oftentimes employers never let those people soar; they micromanage them to the point where they never have any success. The strategy I learned to be most effective is to hire slow and fire fast. Once I believe in someone, I put them in a place of impact and power. I get out of the way and let them soar.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

It’s hard to pick just one, but I would say my most painful failure as an entrepreneur is not putting the right contracts and operating agreements in place at the beginning of a partnership. I put too much trust in people and did not act on my gut impulse as I should have early in my career. This was a costly mistake that I made a few times and learned the hard way.

One example of this comes from my experience owning a leading marketing agency for over 17 years. I started the business with a co-founder who brought with him some great clients. I made a handshake deal and all those clients disappeared very quickly after starting the business. Maybe this person was burnt out. Maybe they never had it in them. Maybe the industry got too complicated. Either way, they checked out right away and never came back, still owning 50% of the business. Because I trusted this person, we did not have the proper contracts and tools in place to settle any disagreement and it became a very difficult, toxic, and damaging burden for the company for many years. I overcame this by being understanding and patient with this individual. I never lost my cool and even when it was almost unbearable to deal with, I stayed the course. I was honest, transparent and never tried to force this person to do anything they didn’t want to do. I chose to be patient and understanding resulting in this person seeing the reality and taking responsibility, allowing me to acquire the entire business at a very favorable value. This was a big win for the company and for me personally, but it was something that took years to achieve. Today, everything I do is in writing, and I pick the people I work with very carefully.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Create a device that can show how your body (liver) is breaking down supplements and vitamins and its need for those supplements or what deficiency you may have in real-time.

Many people take vitamins or supplements, but they don’t really know if they need them or if they are working. If your body needs an immunity boost you may feel it, but usually when it’s too late. If there is something changing in your body that you can’t feel, but you had an early detect technology, you would probably load up on zinc that week. So, knowing what your body needs at any specific time would be really helpful.

If you knew that the 80% of the vitamin you took that day was passed through the body and discarded because you didn’t need it, you would probably stop using it. I see a huge opportunity here for companies to create consumer products that give the common person insight into what is happening with their body in real time and track it through an app. If we had this information readily available, we could customize our wellness product to what we actually need at that moment and what is actually showing to be effective. I’m not sure if something like this exists or not, but I have never seen anything like this on the market for consumers to buy.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

SEYDEL Blues Noble 1847 Harmonica. It’s kind of expensive for a harmonica but it has a great tone and I wanted to get back into playing after a long time away from it. I have been playing blues harmonica my entire life and have such an appreciation for the instrument and blues greats like James Cotton and Sonny Boy Williamson. It’s hard for me to find time to play music, but when I do it brings me so much peace and joy.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

The voice memos app on my iPhone. I often have ideas when I’m driving and can’t write them down. I find it to be easier to just click and record my voice and let loose some of my best – and craziest – ideas.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.

I was gifted this book when I returned from the hospital after being in critical condition from the stabbing that nearly killed me. I suffered a great deal of mental and physical pain, and this book was of great comfort to me. It helped to ease my mind and heal. As I progressed as an entrepreneur, this is a book that I would often turn to calm my business mind and keep me centered as a servant leader.

The quote, “out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars” has especially resonated with me.

What is your favorite quote?

“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice and is never the result of selfishness” – Napoleon Hill.

I started my first business when I was 20 and by 30, I had built numerous multi-million-dollar businesses, employed close to 100 people, and developed diverse technology and products from machine learning and artificial intelligence to a health and wellness luxury brand. The biggest secret to my success is that I follow a servant-leadership philosophy in my management style. I’m committed to uplifting those around me, and I strongly believe that you must sacrifice and give in order to grow and succeed.    

Key Learnings:

  • Uplift and empower others with no agenda. You must sacrifice and give in order to grow and succeed, spiritually and professionally.
  • Visualize your success, from the obstacles that may come up and how to handle them, to the successful outcome and goal achieved.
  • Choose the people you work with very carefully. Once you trust and believe in someone, get out of the way and let them excel.