How I Left College To Start A $17K/Month Business Selling CBD & Hemp Products
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Jackson Jesionowski. I am 21 years old and am 8 months into owning FullBodyZen, a CBD/HEMP manufacturing company.
My whole business started with CBD Pods compatible with the Juul, this soon became hemp flower, prerolls. and hemp cigarettes. Now, 8 months later we are doing $17K in revenue a month and have 14 total products.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Eight months ago I crashed snowboarding. Not your typical crash, the last thing I remember was thinking “I'm going too fast” approaching a jump and the next, waking up in a hospital throwing up violently. Afterward, I did not feel like myself, there was a substantial concussion and my cognitive abilities were lacking. I thought there had to be SOMETHING I should be taking.
Through my research, I found marijuana, CBD specifically, reduces the swelling that is causing damage to the neurons. I went shopping and boy were it expensive, to get the most bang for my buck I settled on vape juice, given its high bioavailability compared to oral products.
Fraternity friends took notice of my new toy and I explained that it was CBD juice, a friend tried it and loved it but the only vape he had was a Juul.
Luckily my dorm room years of hustling served me well, I was all too familiar with deconstructing Juul pods filling them for resale. I made one, he loved it and bought 10. Talk about a small minimum viable product, I reinvested the funds right away buying peoples empty pods and stocking the vending machine I had placed in the fraternity right away.
At this time I would have been a junior but I had dropped out in the middle of my sophomore year due to the mild success of betarian.com. And for the fact that school was proving to be worthless to me. I started out in MIS which was basically an advanced Excel class. I realized “Business” in school did not mean entrepreneurship as naive as I was to think that. So I opted for a skill that could not only get a job but be utilized in any business I did and went with computer science. Sadly my codecademy course had proved all too well and the lecture did not take attendance. I just came for the tests and submitted the homework, getting marks off for using functions we had not learned yet.
Produce things and put them into the world, understand the value of being a producer over a consumer.
To top this off I was a pledge at the time for my fraternity and was sharing the homework with older active members in the same class. At the end of the semester, I was called in to be shown that one of them did not change ANYTHING. I would have to retake the class I already learned nothing from. I decided to opt for minimum credits of a topic I love (neuroscience) and to work on Betarian in my freetime. I also built this
Business is my passion anyways so the second I started making a decent income it was all the backing I needed to win the argument with my parents. That also meant being cut off from their income, something I argued against but realize was necessary to keep me hungry and fighting.
Betarian had taken a turn in the first two months it had done $30,000 in revenue with a 20% margin. 5,000 of that revenue being from one person buying consistently over the 2 months. Sadly, his passport he verified himself with was fake, and he charged back every transaction from 2 months as “not his”. Paypal sided with me, but because he went Bank -> Paypal -> Me. Paypal did not have the authority to deny the return of funds.
Lesson learned, more verification measures added, and restrictions limiting daily purchasing power. Also limiting the income I would receive was the fact that I now had almost no money to keep Ethereum stocked in the site and purchasing through a bank meant 2-3 business day wait times. From this point forward the site was side-lined.
I tested many new ideas prototyped an AUX to Lightning charger bracelet but did not put forward the 3.5k needed for the first order. Then “247mediabooster.com” I resold Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud, Youtube likes plays and retweets. On top of that, I made a simple bot followed and liked users from specific hashtags and followers of other users on Instagram. This software was doing decently well, at peak I had 15 clients paying 20 to 140 dollars per month to be signed up for it at the same time. Signing up new clients was proving to be hard, door to door sales were failing and I was not 100% confident in the software as some accounts would get blocks from bot detection.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Once the idea was validated in the fraternity I contacted my friend who owns a smoke shop and pitched it to him. He gave me a price they would pay and crunching the numbers I could make 300% margins. Great!
I ordered 100 empty pods, plastic clamshell packaging, higher mg CBD vape juice and paid a friend to design a label.
I ended up listing the empty pods and sold half of them covering the cost of the other 50. I took my packaging to the dollar tree and found a 3 compartment plastic box and that was the display. I sold a pack of 15 pods to a friend, then went smokeshop to smoke shop.
I left a sample at stores where the owner was gone, and when an owner was in made a sale.
At this time my product cost was $2.5-3.5 and I was selling them depending on mg for $6-8. REINVEST. I took all that money and bought more pods and packaging, extra pods to list for sale on offerup of course. My mother owns two clothing stores at the U of A, she asked her landlord and got permission to sell the pods at the front desk. She sells them for 14,16,18 and takes a generous $4 cut. To this day I get a check over a thousand dollars every month from her.
I got a couple of my fraternity friends filling and packaging the pods at this point. One of the first store owners gave me a jar of hemp when I came in, said it was flying off the shelves. Driving home, looking down it was no different than looking like I had a jar of marijuana. It even smelled the same, at first, my brain sparked a more mischievous idea.
To produce the jars and labels for my fraternity so they could avoid MIPs. I decided to shoot the owner a text and ask how much he was paying. $24 at the time, I quickly did some research and said I'll sell better quality, nice looking jars of hemp to him for $22. It would cost me $7.
Describe the process of launching the business.
This business fell into my lap and calling any portion of the business a “launch” like saying the day Santa comes to your house is on Christmas. I sold a few pods to a friend, then put them into a vending machine I had in my fraternity, then into a retail store. After I got into enough retail stores I had shake from the pounds of hemp I was buying. I had a bunch of cigarette tubes laying around, and some cones and decided to test out making some new products.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
99% of the DTC (Direct to consumer) sales is out of my hands. As I stated before I started out by going smoke shop to smoke shop with a tray of product and an invoice. It was not until I went to hollywood I have used my friends as small focus groups, and my Instagram following to decide between labels and even in choosing our company logo. The polls are such a useful feature that I feel is underutilized by many companies.
I have a good friend in LA who I had given a couple of CBD pods to while he was in Tucson. He ended up posting it on his Instagram story and someone reached out to him about my company. I arranged a trip to LA to meet this possible investor and figured I would go out to local smoke shops there too. We even set up a stand on Hollywood BLVD. It was a HORRIBLE stand though and I was surprised to still make 100/hr.
The direct store sales did not fare so well. On Hollywood Blvd, none of the store owners were in at the time. The one store that an owner was in for, ended up buying a display of the pods. They have reordered since and you can find them on La Brea and Hollywood Blvd.
One worker asked me, why do you not go downtown to the wholesale market? I said “the what?” this was news to me. I arranged to go tomorrow not knowing what to expect. I went into plenty of stores, felt underprepared but managed to land a 12k order with a store called Calikulture.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
This Friday I will receive a 65K wire from fraternity alumni who was intrigued by my business at a homecoming reunion. He met me at the very start when I had just made my first few jars of hemp. I texted him later and after a month got a reply, I kept him up to date as my company grew and we continued talks of investment.
I took my mom's car up to LA with 12K of product to a distributor Calikulture a couple of weeks ago. This was our largest order to date. On the way back I was actually stopped when a dog sniffed the car, luckily we had barely any product. Just king-sized prerolls I had made to try and land a white-label deal with a company “Bolt” eventually we got through after showing enough licenses and border patrol getting approval from their higher-ups.
This will continue to be the main focus, selling straight to distributors but this past week I did place a $100 ad on a hemp forum that has already paid for itself 10x over in mid-sized wholesale orders. The idea of an MLM keeps popping into my mind. The local CBD stores are price-gouging customers and many companies' products do not contain as much CBD as advertised. This was a funny thing I saw, where I was selling my CBD pods (150mg per max) and there were pods advertising 1000mg. Well, these pods can hold .7ml even if you put 100% pure CBD isolate (which then you cannot vape) into the pod you could get up to 700mg. Not to mention it needs to dissolve into the vapable liquid.
With the investment we are looking at cargo-vans, I have trained a couple of friends to the point that the manufacturing shop can run autonomously. I will have them fulfill website orders, and create product after filling the van and will take off myself to distribution networks across the nation.
So far I have not made it past of LA as a distributor there has bought us out never allowing a surplus of product to go after more distribution. I am in the works of fixing this by hiring new employees. I am having a girl help me arrange gift baskets that I will go to fraternities and sororities at the U of A with in order to recruit.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing I never expected was to be any decent at graphic design. Throughout the last 8 months though, minute changing to labeling based on regulations and feedback that I was too impatient to explain to the friend I was using for design caused me to become quite decent with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We host our website on Shopify and use FollowPlanner for Instagram.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Start now, get the mentality that all effort is progress, it truly is. Once you can stomach that fact things change. Produce things and put them into the world, understand the value of being a producer over a consumer.
Conquer your inner demons and try and remove wasteful high-dopamine activities from your life,
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
If anyone is in the Tucson/U of A area I am definitely hiring more minimum wage positions. Besides that, I am open to the idea of higher-level positions like marketing, distributors in other states but this would work on a commission basis to start as all profits are being reinvested into material goods.
I am thinking of building out an MLM but have no experience if someone wants to take over that department and do a rev share. Always open to new possibilities.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
CannaFacturer has provided an update on their business!
Over 2 years ago, we followed up with CannaFacturer to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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