Article by High! Canada
High Canada has recently had the opportunity to sit down with Chelsea Cunningham from Entourage Nutraceuticals. Chelsea lives with her family on a ranch in Alberta and they are hemp farmers. Some of the best in the country.
Chelsea, can you tell our readers about your background education and training leading up to your chosen career?
My background is rooted in ranch land management and rangeland restoration; I come from an agricultural background. Pasture lands essentially work best from the soil up. That being said I have a music and media background which is a blessing since I am a Creative. A lot of people ask me what my education is and where it comes from, my answer is not expected. Typically they are looking for a university degree and large amounts of work from a large corporation and that is not the case with me. I myself am organically grown, I have been a mentee for years, I have selected mentors and have been a big believer in the mentorship system of learning. As s young child I picked out certain characters and role models with skill sets that I admired and wanted to emulate in my own life. I didn’t just ask them I hounded them. I have an incredible amount of people who have taken the time out of their busy schedule and successful lives to take the time to teach me what they know and take me under their wing. One very prominent mentor for me is Brenda Schoepp, she is an amazing leader. She breaks new ground in agriculture, cattle industry and international farming practices beyond what I have ever seen woman or man do.
What was your first exposure to cannabis and CBD?
My first exposure to cannabis was through my business partner who is also my brother. I come from a faith background and believe that things were created with a definite purpose. I’m open to each living thing sharing what it excels at in life. This has served me well in business and also as we discover health benefits of different plants. My background of using herbs in my daily life and the apothecary style of medicine has led me closer and closer to what the benefits of the cannabis plant are. I’m not a smoker, I don’t vape often or dab but I saw a huge medicinal quality to this High CBD Hemp plant. With further investigation and seeing people’s lives changing for the better, literally seeing proof in front of my face with people having all sorts of medical problems and seeing a plant take care of it directly. Now I can’t make claims for any disease directly but in my personal experience I have seen this product that I’m working with right now give people their life back. My personal story with CBD and coming from high CBD hemp is that I was diagnosed with Lyme disease 4 and a half years ago. I was in Oregon helping on a ranch and had decided to go for a run, in the high desert when I returned home, I took off my shoes and I noticed a tick. I took it out not thinking much of it as it was a very small tick. Within weeks I had the bullseye rash, symptoms and testing. That has lead me to 5 years of research, flying to alternative health doctors and knowledge seeking. It has taught me how to really take my health and my body and equip it to heal itself. I found our conventional medical system was not treating me to an effective point when I temporarily lost the use of my arms and legs. When I say CBD gave me my life back, I am serious and committed to it. CBD gave me my mobility back.
How are you feeling now?
I am at a point now where I have been using CBD for a year. I do know that I have been using CBD for a long enough point now that my flare-upsare minimal to gone. Through a combination of CBD and Chinese medicines I’m not only at a limited symptom stage, I’m testing less and it will be overcome very soon.
Do you feel that finding out you have Lyme disease and finding out that you had to figure out a lot of your own treatment did that lead you to the path you’ve chosen now as a farmer testing and researching CBD?
Yeah, I think that it definitely played a part but it’s actually been that I am very quiet about my disease. Not because I don’t want to share and help people but because I find it overshadows all else and that’s what people see at times. Instead of seeing a human they see a disease. It has developed empathy with people who struggle – whether it be mobility issues – whether it be any sort of crippling disease, symptom or ailment – I now have a completely new empathy for these people. It is because of that empathy and because I have seen people who need a solution that’s not going to harm them in a different way. I see it work with my friends. I see it work in my Mum.
When you’re eyes open to it’s potential, it is unstoppable.
Lead me up to the creation of the current business you’re working on, how did you begin research in CBD and becoming a CBD grower?
I got involved directly and very hands-on to the extent of setting aside my other successful businesses. I got involved with CBD wholeheartedly and it is to the credit and opportunity of my brother. He has an enthusiasm for this industry that is unmatched not only that, he has the experience to back it up with the connections and networking relationships to effectively grow and succeed in this market. He does it from a serving heart and that is the only way I would have decided to move forward in any business. He came to me and said, I know we talked about growing but how about now? We started to turn the wheels in the hopes that this might go legal. We had been talking about it for 3 years and formed our corporation at the beginning of 2018.
Can you tell us about some challenges or adversities you faced on your new path into the industry?
I had to decide mentally whether I was going to commit to the point of this becoming a thread of who I am. I knew I had to do that because I saw how much education needed to happen and how many people we could serve. There are some amazing key players already at work that I am proud to say are in the high CBD hemp industry. I aligned myself as fast as I could with them. I believe others success is not a threat to my success but a lift to something bigger. Moving forward it set the tone to once again being a mentor and mentee position in this industry. I learned very quickly if you are willing to learn and if you are willing to watch you will then become the mentor very quickly and mentors will appreciate your work ethic. The team at Entourage is second to none. There’s no way I could be running this and doing this without an incredibly capable team. I need to work with those that challenge and encourage each other.
Our biggest challenge was probably access to licensing and the other one was legality. The knowledge that if we didn’t get a change in legislation we were going to have to chop the crop down and throw it out. If legislation didn’t change we would be sitting in a very different boat. People always make business complicated but it wouldn’t be worth it without them.
I give the same respect to any male CEO or grower as I would any female CEO or grower in this industry because to me it’s the cheering either one on into success and that is equal for both.
Take a step back and explain to our readers exactly what you have going on here in Alberta?
Entourage Nutraceuticals is committed to developing high CBD hemp strains through research and development and taking them to a commercial level of growth where we can supply for the CBD market directly. In doing that we have a research and development facility as well as commercial farms. We are finding what works and what doesn’t in Canada so that Canada can be a leading CBD supplier and that is going to change lives indefinitely.
If you had advice for other women, or for people entering the industry what would it be?
I believe the number 1 most important rule is to invest in your own personal development and then in others. I’ve made a habit of reading/listening to a minimum of a book a week, I put in an average of an hour and a half to two hours a day of podcasts. I engage with my family and as a priority and use my workout or personal time to fit it in.
The second piece of advice would be to be okay with quiet for a little bit each day. Its okay to go to board meetings and not contribute much verbally when you’re new. It’s okay to show up and learn. It’s okay to show up and ask simple questions. Be prepared but never too proud to ask the basics. The experts have taken me on a journey of knowledge just because I was willing to ask.
What challenges have come with running your own CBD operation?
It’s expensive! It’s been a blessing that we’re able to be where we are with the inputs we have put in but don’t kid yourself, there are many challenges that have been faced and overcome. For instance, we might need a system and maybe it won’t be here till 4 weeks after we need it. We are problem solvers in this business so we will find somewhere else to get the item or build what is needed. No is only rarely an option. Our team is phenomenal but sometimes things are just out of your control and you just have to wait. Sometimes you have to accept it and understand it was a challenge for this year but it’s not our last year in business. It’s being accepting of where we are at and realizing there is still more to learn.
Can you tell us more about your team?
I have an amazing team. We have a bit of crossover right now as our group of companies is expanding. We are be coming completely vertically integrated in the CBD space. What we want to see, in time, is that we are all the way from genetics in seeds to products in peoples homes. Building quality control is one of those steps building standards of practice and in this industry that is this new. This is groundbreaking.
Dr. Darryl Hudson is our geneticist and he is awesome. He is a very gifted ‘creative’, which I find a blessing to find someone in science that is a gifted creative. My business partner, my brother, Jeremy Cowie, he is a phenomenal entrepreneur. He is a few years older than I am so I grew up watching him outside the home working and building successful businesses for years. I watched him be successful from his willingness to work hard and the willingness to learn. Jud Hillock, our CFO and fabrications mastermind, as well as James Whitehead of CBD Therapeutics, is an Ace in any hand. We have multiple other partners, I mean our whole team is amazing. I could not do it without my nursery manager Kim, there aren’t a lot of humans that you can call up and ask to do just about anything and they have the capacity to find a solution safely and in line with our company’s values.
Can you expand on what the term “Launchpad” means to you?
Absolutely, I live with my 3 kids on the ranch that their dad grew up on. When we purchased the property we decided it would be a Launchpad and that stems from a desire to welcome people not only into our home but into our businesses. Have them stay and rest and learn and then propel them to whatever vision has come to them in that time.
What is the best part of doing research and development in high CBD?
It’s bringing something new and amazing to the world; we are bringing it up and developing a relationship with each variety. It is amazing how much these plants teach us about ourselves. I have had to learn to wait for what the plant wants to tell me and to listen long enough to hear it.
Can you share your analogy between THC and CBD?
Due to the fact that this is a very new crop, we have had a lot of questions of what exactly are you growing and why is it even different? I found one of the best ways to explain the difference between THC and CBD was this analogy; so do you remember the hot twins you went to school with, they’re both super cute, they look the same they kinda act the same and everyone is constantly mixing them up. Well one of them grows up and maybe gets tattoos and puts themselves out there in the more eccentric kind of way and the other twin grew up and decided they were going to medical school. So one twin is more on the experimental and inquisitive side of life and the other is the smart girl who looks very socially acceptable. That is THC and CBD. How’s that for brutal stereotypes. Sorry! Lol
We like to end off our interviews by asking what three things you think our readers need ?
-The willingness to serve and the discipline to learn what others need.
-Education is a privilege not a right, think about the type of education you want and go get it. Eat it up and show appreciation for it.