Continue pushing boundaries and being comfortable talking about topics that might be taboo because these are the topics that often need to be talked about most.
Kerrigan Hanna Behrens, CMO: Kerrigan spent five years at UBS Securities, where she held a variety of roles including hedge fund financing sales and capital introduction, in which she worked with hedge fund marketers to effectively market to West Coast investors. Her passion for branding led her to pursue work at Wolfgang Puck and Taco Bell, where she executed marketing campaigns. Kerrigan has her BA from Duke University and her MBA from UCLA Anderson (‘15). She is currently the cofounder and CMO of Sagely Naturals.
Kaley Lillibridge Nichol, CFO/COO: Kaley spent five years at J.P. Morgan in Chicago and London, where she worked in Leveraged Finance, M&A, Capital Markets and Global Corporate Banking. Her entrepreneurial family roots inspired her to pursue a rapidly growing restaurant startup, LYFE Kitchen, in Los Angeles where she led strategy and operations as well as opened 10 stores across the U.S. Kaley has her BA from Indiana University, Kelley School of Business. She is currently the cofounder and COO/CFO of Sagely Naturals.
Where did the idea for Sagely Naturals come from?
Kerrigan: I first learned about CBD through a friend, whose life completely changed when she began using CBD to treat her chronic pain. She had a doctor prescribe it for her when he realized that prescribing opioids for a woman in her 20s might not be the most responsible thing to do. Once she started using it, she was able to live such a fuller life and was in significantly less pain. When I had my first chance to try it, I had one of those definitive entrepreneurial “light bulb” moments. I had been experiencing pretty chronic lower back pain at the time and a friend offered me some CBD. Half an hour after I took it, I felt better than I could remember feeling in ages. The edge was really taken off and, in that moment, I really felt like CBD had the potential to change a lot of peoples’ lives for the better and I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to do just that.
Kaley: When we started Sagely Naturals, we couldn’t find CBD products that resonated with us. We wanted the therapeutic benefits of the cannabis plant, but we didn’t want to have to get high in order to experience those benefits. From a branding standpoint, we also wanted products that we could proudly carry around with us to the yoga studio or display in our bathrooms. Sagely was born out of the idea that we wanted to create an inviting brand that feels therapeutic, familiar, and safe. One that you would see at Target or Whole Foods.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Kaley: We find that we’re most productive when we’re able to work with flexible terms. We allow ourselves and our team to work pretty autonomously and we try to ensure they can take care of other stuff going on in their lives. We don’t want to have to micromanage our team so we’ve managed to find some great self-motivators and we allow everyone to be productive on their own terms.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Kerrigan: Our customers are very vocal about their needs and how they use Sagely Naturals. We take their feedback and use it to create better experiences with our products and inspiration for future products. For example, we heard from our customers that they were using our Relief & Recovery Cream on their temples when they had a headache. Given that the product is really meant to be more of a body lotion, we knew we could improve on the user experience for our customers who were using our products for headaches. We came out with our Relief & Recovery Headache Roll-On for these customers – it’s a blend of essential oils, like peppermint and eucalyptus, with CBD and it’s actually the product we hear people carry around with them in their purses the most.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Kerrigan: The growing enthusiasm for CBD. I think one of the big keys to ensuring that the industry continues to move in this direction is for new brands to challenge the long-held biases people have about the type of person who uses cannabis. My business partner and I look somewhat conservative — we both started our careers in investment banking and are not daily consumers of cannabis — but we both are passionate about CBD and the way that it gives people like us access to the therapeutic benefits of cannabis without the high. So brands like ours and some others are appealing to much broader categories of people who a few years ago never would have been open to using cannabis products. What’s really interesting is that over 70% of our customers don’t even use other cannabis products!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Kaley: Working out. It allows me to get outside of my head and brings clarity so when I am working I’m able to focus and get more done.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Kerrigan: It’s not a way I would have described myself until recently, but someone called me a “destigmatizer” recently and it really rang true as something I never knew I strive to be. So, I would tell my younger self to continue pushing boundaries and being comfortable talking about topics that might be taboo because these are the topics that often need to be talked about most!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Kerrigan: Take a step back from the day to day and remember what we are trying to accomplish, looking at the big picture. With every decision we make for the brand (who we hire, which products we develop, etc.) we always come back to what Sagely stands for. Our name, Sagely Naturals, came from the spirit of the archetype of the Sage. The Sage cares about transparency, healing, trust, and empathy. These are values we rely on that really guide our high level and day to day decisions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Kerrigan: Always thinking about the customer. Knowing as much about your customer as possible and making decisions based on those customer insights. At the end of the day, everything we do is about ensuring their needs are met. When customer needs are met, you don’t have to worry about retention or loyalty or even sales.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Kaley: There are a lot of stigma issues around CBD we have had to overcome – banking and credit card processing in particular. One payment processor we worked with locked up tens of thousands of dollars for 180 days. From that experience we learned to not keep concentrated amounts of capital in one place and diversify our funds.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Kaley: Cannabis delivery service that caters to seniors. Seniors are often the most medicated individuals and in the most need for natural alternatives. Everyone is focused on millennials, but we care a lot about seniors and would love to see a delivery service that caters to them specifically.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Kerrigan: We recently hosted a welcome lunch for our expanding team. We’ve brought on new team members who believe in our brand and wanted to kick off their experience with us in a really positive way that establishes a sense of community from the beginning.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Kaley: Google sheets. We use it to keep track of documents and share information with our team.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Kaley: “The Participation Game: How the Top 100 Brands Build Loyalty in a Skeptical World“. It’s about how brands engage with people in today’s world so they can feel more trusted and experiential. It’s a great read for anyone looking to grow their brand.
What is your favorite quote?
Kerrigan: “The greatest wealth is health.” – Virgil
People, particularly young people, don’t realize how important health is until they no longer have it!
· Creating a business in a taboo industry can certainly cause some headaches but it also may allow you to create a unique value proposition for what is often an underserved market!
· Know as much about your customer as possible and make decisions based on those customer insights. Starting with a proven customer insight can save you a lot of time in determining your product market fit.
· Think about your brand’s values early on in your founding. It may seem premature, especially if you start with a tiny team, but they can help guide you in really important decisions from product to culture.