Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Stacy Moore. I am one of the founders of Healing Harbors with my business partner Ashley Lenz. We specialize in personal care and pet products made with CBD (cannabidiol) from hemp.
A main focus of our company and mission is to educate our community about hemp & cannabinoids, their endocannabinoid system, and how our products can fit into the lifestyle and needs of them or their pets.
In line with our slogan “Care For Every Body”, our products are handmade in small batches using high quality and responsibly sourced ingredients consumers can feel good about purchasing and using.
One of our most popular products is our Body Butter, gaining countless positive testimonials for its wonderful smell, smooth texture, and un-compared results for a variety of our customers' needs.
Our Full Plant Daily Defense Oil comes right behind our Body Butter in popularity, both for the effectiveness and inclusion of locally grown MOFGA certified organic hemp. Our top priority is to be a trusted brand that consumers can reach out to with questions or concerns, knowing our dedicated staff will go above and beyond to meet their needs.
Healing Harbors ensures that our products are of the highest quality and integrity, both in base ingredients and titration. All of our products are third-party lab tested and include a scannable QR code showing batch-specific test results, so consumers can feel confident in what they are putting in and on their bodies.
The most compelling thing to us about our business is the feedback we get from customers about how our products have drastically improved the lives of them, their family, and/or their pets. We have customers who attribute their quality of life directly to the use of our products, and that is worth everything to us.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
After serving in the Coast Guard as a helicopter mechanic in Alaska, I (Stacy) was doing home healthcare. I was primarily providing for a woman who had suffered a stroke that paralyzed her right-hand side.
Upon noticing she was finding relief from a topical cannabis cream, I became curious about the potential benefits of hemp and cannabis. Shortly thereafter I began taking classes through Medical Marijuana caregivers of Maine. It was there that I learned everything I could about cannabis; from law to growing and extraction, plant science and potential benefits or risks, down to product formulation.
With my newfound knowledge, I started formulating a cream for my client and the results she experienced were incredible. After applying her fingers would begin to loosen and become more mobile up to her shoulder.
A year into using this cream she was able to fully lift her arm and gained range of motion. We were nothing short of blown away, and so grateful to see her gain mobility that many of us take for granted. Through this I also found a drive to provide this type of relief and care to my fellow veterans, and anyone else who may be suffering and seeking out natural remedies.
That was the foundation and beginning of Healing Harbors; a way to give back to our community in the form of thoughtfully made hemp products and the education that cannabis and hemp may be an option for them or their loved ones.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Starting, we produced small batch lotions and hand-poured soap in a small farm kitchen. With the growth in mind, we intended to work with local producers to take the lead on product manufacturing, leaving us (the founders) to handle the rest of the business.
This began with our Body Butter, which was designed by Healing Harbors and a respected body care co-packer here in Maine. The co-packer was able to complete one production run of our finalized formulation before suddenly and tragically passing away.
This pivoted the design of the company as we no longer had his expert guidance, putting us in the position to learn, adjust, and perfect the formulation and production ourselves.
We continued to work with a variety of local producers in the manufacturing of about 75% of our product line. Outsourcing from others brought us many challenges such as product inconsistency, costing the company large amounts of time and money.
In mid-2020 we hired our now company/business manager, who with her experience and credentials has brought all but two of our products fully in-house. From ingredient purchasing to final sealing and labeling, Healing Harbors controls the entire production process.
We achieved this switch through careful reformulation of existing outsourced products, with the final goal to produce a consistent product that met our standards every batch. When formulating a new product or working to improve an existing one, we always begin with careful research, using peer-reviewed materials, lab and clinical trials, consultations with specific professionals (ex. chemists, hemp farmers, culinary professionals, etc.). We also take into account successful products as well as customer and market demand. This research is done at length, allowing us to build a solid foundation for the formulation, and limiting trial and error as much as possible.
The next step is ingredient sourcing, where we focus on organic, natural, and sustainably sourced. Generally, Healing Harbors can come to a final product formulation after 3 - 4 tries, due to the careful research and planning before initial test production.
Taking the time to plan, as well as starting with “micro-batches” allows costs to be kept to a minimum in the R&D process. Before anything goes into consumer production a detailed cost analysis is performed with a variety of ingredient and material options to finalize our costs as well as cost and value to buyers.
By keeping manufacturing in house we are able to fully control our bottom line, ensure the highest quality of both raw and finished product, reduce overall costs, and most importantly maintain integrity. Our small team, totaling four of us, is dedicated to putting in the work to produce the high-quality products we are now known and respected for.
We have found that ending a relationship after a “three strike” rule, and forging a new one saves a lot of time and stress.
When working on a new product we will often send samples to some of our long-time or regular patrons to get their honest reviews and opinions. This allows us to gain insight into the customer before launching a product and helps to cut out potential consumer issues after launch.
We know it is impossible to make everyone happy, but if they find relief and enjoy the way the product fits in their lifestyle that is key to our business model.
Packaging is almost as important as using high-quality raw ingredients. The recent supply chain issues have caused us to pivot to different packaging than what we were originally using, and ensuring regular supply/availability is key in selecting a packaging manufacturer.
As a small company, we aim to work with as many other small or local businesses as we can for our supply needs. Maintaining a strong and friendly relationship with our suppliers is core to our values, and in doing so we find that it goes both ways, with our suppliers going above and beyond to make things happen for us.
While it is normal to get frustrated from supply or material issues such as missed or late order deliveries, leaking bottles, or items arriving damaged, we have found that ending a relationship after a “three strike” rule, and forging a new one saves a lot of time and stress.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We incorporated in February of 2016 where I spent the time from then until 2018 formulating our initial product line and gathering testimonials from users to make sure they could find relief and results from the products.
The initial design of the branding was made and the first full line of labeled products was run. We started up Facebook and Instagram pages, built our website, and began attending craft shows, farmers markets, and local events to get our name out there. Having face-to-face time with patrons at these events allowed us to develop trust and respect within the community, which paved our way to growth.
As we expanded we had an outdoor hemp grow operation on a MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) farm where folks could come and learn about our company and the products being made with the hemp that was currently growing.
Offering transparency and inclusion into our brand was key to our initial growth. Education has and always will be at the forefront of our mission, and we have dedicated many hours to educating the community about hemp and working to disband the many misconceptions and negative stigmas around it.
Our start and growth process was funded by our savings, bank loans, and outside investors. We have a bit of a unique situation, where our outside investors were people who had experienced the results of our products for themselves, and believed in the power of hemp and what we were creating, wanting to be part of our growth. That being said, standing by your business, and offering a result, can almost assure someone will want to invest in what you are doing. Taking out only as much as we needed, and making sure that everything we did was in the mind of expanding in a way that allowed us to repay any loans or investment as early and efficiently as possible was key.
As more people began using our products and incorporating them into their daily lives, demand grew to include a steady e-commerce business as well as multiple wholesale accounts for stores in multiple states. Wholesaling is a major foundation of our business, and we find that forging and maintaining meaningful relationships with our wholesale clients is essential. Ideally, you want your wholesale clients to be as passionate and excited about your products as you are. We are careful of who we have wholesale relationships with, ensuring that they can offer their customers the same level of service and care that we do. This means our brand is represented how we want it to be while extending our reach and availability to as many customers as possible.
Being up to date on your industry, knowing your limits, identifying your roadblocks, and forming a plan on how to overcome and navigate them will not only reduce stress but help to set you up for success.
Growth and expansion called for a refresh of our branding. Our COO Ashley Lenz is a marketing and graphic design professional, who with the consultation of some packaging experts took the lead on creating the branding we are now known for.
This included a slogan, “Care For Every Body”, buoy logo, brand-specific color palette and font, and overall brand image and tone. We work with an outside web SEO team to elevate brand presence, as it is very difficult in the hemp and cannabis world to do any kind of advertisement, promotion, or outreach on social media.
So much of what we do is researching and staying up to date on compliance and rules and regulations, and strategies on how to work within them while still growing our company in the sea of competition.
The biggest lesson overall is starting is that things will change, and you should be excited and open to those changes. Putting our initial branding next to our current branding, you would think they were two different companies, and that’s a good thing!
As a startup or new brand your first ideas (or even your first ten ideas), will likely not be what you end up with as the core of your business. Listening to consumers, investors, wholesale buyers, and observing your competition is key in forming your perfect niche.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We found that email campaigns are very effective for us to keep patrons updated on products, launching new products, packaging changes, pricing updates, essentially anything going on in regards to the finished products available to them for purchase.
Customers generally don’t like the idea of change, especially when the products are healthy and wellness, so keeping them updated and making sure they know all changes are for their benefit is huge.
A recent example of this is a packaging change and formulation update to our best-selling product, our Body Butter. Due to supply chain issues, we had to change our packaging, and in doing so decided to move from 3.4oz to 4oz for the large-sized jar.
This meant that the overall titration of CBD in the product went up, so not only did the jar look different, it was now a different size and titration. In addition, we added another cannabinoid and dropped the overall price.
As a business person, you can look at this and understand the massive value; larger size, higher titration, and lower price! But customers are creatures of habit and comfort in many ways, and if a product looks different it will often be assumed that it is different for the worse.
Before launching the update we made sure to send out emails and social posts alerting our customers of the change, and ensuring that they understood that the formula was the same regardless of the different look and that they were getting a better value, something we wanted to extend to them in the repackaging process.
This effort not only prevented an influx of customer questions and complaints, but brought in a large influx of orders for the product, and a slew of positive feedback.
As stated previously, social media is difficult in our industry because we are largely barred from advertising on the platforms. We do have a loyal following of people on each of our social platforms and have a consistent and well-maintained social grid, but it is not a focus as far as gaining new revenue for us.
SEO was key for us in landing new customers and in general, we have a customer return rate of over 60%. We chose to work with an SEO company that understands the hemp market, and we generally let them take the reins, and have access and control over our site for SEO purposes, to ensure it is optimized. After we began working with them and having them on the back end, we saw an uptick in eCommerce orders, as well as our presence on google within 6 weeks. They’re in that business for a reason, and there is a benefit to delegating things to those who are experts and allowing them to use that expertise to benefit you. The customer return rate is largely based on the effectiveness and results in customers get from our products. We have meetings with our SEO team a few times a month, where they go over what they have done for us, how we are tracking and ranking, their goals and plans based on our needs, and to get info and input from us such as new products or testimonials.
Our manager always says, “7 out of 10 people will continually use our product once they try it for a week or two” and she's very much correct. All of us here at the company are daily users of our products, and our customers come back and recommend us to their friends and family because they simply just work. Having integrity, transparency, consistency and an incredible product is the core to our success.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Being able to say we made it through the worst of the pandemic, and not only survived but grew, is a testament to our overall work.
Generally, about 60% of our revenue comes from wholesale and 40% from retail (e-commerce and in our storefront at our production facility). In addition to smaller individual stores, we work with a few larger multi-location dispensaries and these accounts make up a bulk of our wholesale business.
For the products, we produce in-house everything is done by hand. We make the product by hand, label and fill the packaging, seal and mark, etc. We have little to no large machinery as we are currently able to keep up with demand in small (400 IU or less) frequent batches.
Overall we only produce products that guarantee a minimum 3x profit over cost, and in doing so maintain stable profit margins. As we largely cannot advertise within our budget, we use a bulk of our marketing funds for SEO in which they focus on raising our google presence and optimizing us for keyword searches.
For our e-commerce we average 75-125 individual transactions, 55% new customers 45% returning customers, spending an average of 10 minutes on our site. Wholesale buyers mostly contact us directly through email or by phone, with a small number of them using our wholesale order platform online.
We have a running document of potential product development, and always have our gears turning around what is coming out in the hemp world, and how we can deliver the best range of effective products for all types of customers.
With market and sales trends we are focusing on expanding our wholesale presence to be in as many states as possible. Dispensaries are proving to be the biggest revenue generator for us, and that will continue to be our focus in the coming years.
Plans to expand include an improved facility to accommodate larger batch production, enhanced efficiency, and an expanded product line. The market is very saturated with hemp and CBD products, so our number one focus is producing the highest quality finished product that works, and is as affordable and inclusive as possible.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We have learned so much since the start of Healing Harbors. Certain business partners did not align with our core values, and though splitting those relationships is not easy, it was in our best interest. Initial costs were higher than they could have been, as we often opted for the absolute most premium without performing research into all of our options.
Through detailed cost analysis and restructuring of our purchasing and production from our manager, we have been able to greatly reduce our overhead costs all while maintaining the standard of quality we are set on.
We have spent money on events or advertising that brought in no revenue, but through those experiences learned what does not work for us, and where we will never spend our money or time again.
Finding the right people for the job has been our number one key to growth and success. As with most businesses we have had issues with team members not pulling their weight, making large costly errors, or causing internal unrest.
Understanding when someone is not the right fit for our mission, and having standards and expectations of our employees allowed us to form the rock-solid team we have now. Keeping our employees happy, giving them respect, inclusion, and offering as much freedom as possible has created an environment where we do not have to worry about things getting done, or getting done right.
Working with qualified wholesale partners who understand hemp products (such as dispensaries) has greatly contributed to our overall growth. When forming a wholesale partnership we ensure that those looking to carry our products understand them, know how to educate their customer base, and are in line with our standards and values.
We want to make sure that if a customer is not buying directly from us, they will still receive the same education and support, while also keeping in mind that if they cannot do so, our small staff will need to pull that weight of customer support, resulting in monetary loss.
As stated before, the market is extremely saturated with hemp and CBD products, which forces us to constantly be doing everything in our power to stay ahead of the game and make the best products possible.
This industry is full of roadblocks, speed bumps, and constant changes and adaptations. State-specific laws and regulations keep us from gaining certain wholesale clients as certain states do not allow hemp products produced outside of their state to be sold in stores.
Thankfully these laws do not affect e-commerce sales, but having a retail presence is often our foot in the door for customers to try our products, often leading them to buy directly from us. The ability to remain level-headed, adapt, pivot, and focus on our mission to provide the best CBD products possible keeps us in the game and growing.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use a variety of different platforms in running Healing Harbors. Our website is based on WooCommerce which we find currently works well for us, though cannot be described as user-friendly as it is largely developed through coding.
We use Shipstationfor order fulfillment and find it is extremely easy to use and navigate. It has seamless integration with our website, as well as the ability to input wholesale and specialty orders manually, covering all of our current needs.
Square is currently one of if not the only credit card processors that accept hemp-based businesses, and has been not only easy to use but a lifesaver in the way of allowing us to have a reliable and affordable payment processing platform. This again is an example of the roadblocks we face in our industry. Even though hemp and CBD are completely federally legal, and none of what we make contains THC or is intoxicating, card processors and banks do not want to work with companies like ours simply due to opinion or perceived legality or image issues.
Mailchimp works well for our emails where we build individual campaigns around announcements, rather than frequent contact. We have found that only emailing when you have something to offer your customers is crucial, as too frequent or “filler” emails result in lost subscribers. We use emails as a sales tool, and each email generates an average of $450 - $1,300 in sales.
Other platforms we use include Grasshopper for the company phone line, Instagram and Facebook, Tik Tok (to create video content for IG and FB), Chatra for our website chat service and Canva to create marketing and social media materials.
We all make mistakes as business owners and it is fundamental to grow, learn and develop.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Ashley and I enjoy podcasts and often seek out those from inspirational and positive people. Someone we admire is Brene Brown. We have both read The Power of Vulnerability and found it to be helpful in business and personal life, learning a lot about communication in this book and how to be a good leader.
We all make mistakes as business owners and it is fundamental to grow, learn and develop the book was insightful and positive in those regards. We keep a steady supply of cannabis and hemp books on hand at our facility, as well as materials on health and beauty, natural remedies, chronic and acute medical conditions, and animal health.
We also often seek out the expertise, consultation, and knowledge of other industry professionals, whether it be a hemp farmer who can teach us better-growing practices, a chemist who can help formulate safe and natural body care products, or a veterinary professional who can advise us on formulating pet care products.
All of what we do begins with careful research, and in an ever-changing industry, we are constantly updating and continuing our education.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
We did a program called Top Gun here in Maine (somewhat similar to Shark Tank) where they helped us to learn a variety of things such as who we were as a company, how to structure our company, and how to attract our demographic.
The opportunity was helpful and insightful and allowed us to receive advice and networking opportunities with other companies and government officials. Seeking out programs in which you can not only learn from other professionals but begin to build a professional network is a great starting place.
Having strong relationships with your suppliers and buyers is also fundamental, as they both are what keep you in business. We strive to go above and beyond in forging and maintaining friendly relationships with customers, buyers, and suppliers, remembering to always express our appreciation to them.
This has resulted in buyers and suppliers prioritizing our needs, inviting us to network events, helping us develop new business relationships, and offering their expertise and advice to help us grow.
With a company like ours, we also learned how important it is to have good SEO and marketing because we are limited in our advertising due to being a CBD/ Hemp company. Being up to date on your industry, knowing your limits, identifying your roadblocks, and forming a plan on how to overcome and navigate them will not only reduce stress but help to set you up for success.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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