I had the pleasure to interview Suzanne Hoggan Founder of CannaSmack
What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
I was originally referred to my now-partner Kenia for website design 2–3 years prior to starting CannaSmack. We were in close communication for work purposes but developed a sincere friendship where we could confide in one another. When my brother passed away from a prescription drug overdose, I felt there had to be holistic answers. At the time, Kenia lived in California with her husband who has been using cannabis for years to treat chronic depression. Upon sharing my ache, Kenia opened up about her family’s experience with cannabis. I wasn’t for or against cannabis, but out of desperation to find alternatives I further opened my mind to the possibilities.
I earned my bachelor’s degree in Speech Communication from the University of Utah and also have obtained a Master Esthetician License. I tend to have several projects going simultaneously; one project led me to producing promotional product, the go-to item was a lip balm. To suit the theme for the brand, we playfully named each flavor after a strain name; Mango Kush, Blue Dream, etc. The original formula for this project did not yet contain hemp seed oil. Nonetheless, they were a hit; I quickly began to receive requests to purchase these lip balms which was when the idea struck. I called Kenia for a brainstorm session with the brand name “CannaSmack” in mind; descriptive of a kiss of cannabis. We agreed that not only does this product need to include hemp, but we had to have purpose; an honorable mission.
We figured: If people can open up to the idea that hemp is safe, while becoming educated to the fact that hemp is also cannabis, maybe that train of thought will lead others to pursue understanding to the endless possibilities of the plant’s health benefits and industrial applications.
CannaSmack was never an experimental product produced at home in a kitchen. As a Master Esthetician, I deeply understand the importance of quality control and creating products in a sterile environment. Our chemist was originally against the addition of hemp seed oil to the formula, due to religious beliefs and a lack of understanding of the plant. Kenia and I shared articles and encouraged self-guided research. After learning about the benefits of hemp seed oil for cosmetic application, our chemist was on board.
We’re very particular about quality and pay close attention to where all of our ingredients are being sourced. The consistency, feel and flavor had to be perfectly silky and light; it was important to us that it doesn’t feel like there is wax on your lips. We went through 50–60 formulations to the first basic non-flavored formula. The next step was sampling different flavor profiles at various concentrations. Each new lip balm flavor could take anywhere from 2–20 tries to get the flavor just right; the ingredients have to agree with each other.
Our branding has always been vibrant and ‘in your face’. When we partnered with Madison @HappyTokes in early 2016, Kenia’s designs for CannaSmack got a little makeover. First came the peach pattern. Characters like the bunny were added, inspired by Madison’s happiness. Each flavor’s complex and unique pattern soon developed.
Intentionally choosing to brand our products with a hemp leaf as our logo, we’ve drawn a massive crowd of acceptance, but have also experienced regular censorship, which has been a driving motivation behind our #FreeTheLeaf campaign which focuses on cannabis education & awareness.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
During the first year after launching CannaSmack we began reaching out to any store we could think of who might be interested in carrying our lip balms. One time, I was in Wendover, Nevada, with my parents and we stopped at a tobacco (smoke) shop which is next to a strip club. My parents were driving and I was in the back seat like a 49 year old child. I thought “why not” and hopped out to show them the lip balms, asking if they might be interested in carrying our products. His eyes got big with panic and quickly said “my manager would not allow this here”. I took my walk of shame back to the back seat of my parents’ car and said, “I am worse than a tobacco store and a strip club,” hanging my head in defeat.
This experience showed me how much education is truly needed surrounding this plant. Recognizing that I surely didn’t ‘know it all’ myself, I saw that we allhave to learn. We developed a little infographic style “hemp facts” sheet, which has been a helpful tool in quickly explaining hemp in similar scenarios.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We interact with and genuinely care about our customers. Check out our social media presence; we LOVE showing off our customers and highly respect their feedback, as it often helps us grow and improve.
Quality and sourcing of ingredients. This really MATTERS. A lot of people pay attention to the label but we go one step beyond by being mindful of the quality of raw materials we source to go into our products.
I think our brand is relatable. Our audience connects with CannaSmack’s ‘in-your-face’ branding and outspoken support for legalization and normalization of Cannabis.
Not just a brand; a movement. I think people are waking up to see the positive potential for Hemp and Cannabis as a whole. We regularly hear feedback surrounding CannaSmack’s ability to help customers create a peaceful dialog with friends and family in regards to cannabis. Starting the conversation with our completely legal and safe product, typically being shared #SmackAttack style (as a gift), presents an opportunity to talk about what Hemp is and segway into expressing health issues being experienced and how cannabis has helped (or could help) them overcome these issues.
We’re proud to use our own products & share them with our family. I have three wonderful granddaughters: Indie (9), Mae (5), and Luna (2) who absolutely love their CannaSmack lip balms. Every time they come to visit the first thing they ask is: “Where is the CannaSmack?” or “Do you have any new flavors?”. Kenia’s daughter is also one of our first testers.
Despite that we are a small company with limited resources, we remain mindful of opportunities to lower our carbon footprint. The CannaSmack Cares page on our website outlines our efforts in this.
Our TEAM! — We are SO LUCKY to have found team members who work together synergistically. Everyone brings something unique and incredibly valuable to the table.
Our TRIBE! — We are extremely aware that our company would not be where it is today without the immense support we’ve received from the community.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Success is not solely achieved, it takes a village. I am grateful to my parents who are immigrants; I saw how hard they worked and how honest they are in everything they do. I aspired to be like them, in business and personal relationships, when I grew up.
I am also so grateful to my team, Kenia and Madison, for all their hard work and dedication to this company. I feel very fortunate to have found such amazing people who have similar core values. While Kenia and I have been working together for 6+ years now and speak to each other daily on the phone; we have never actually meet face to face. We are able to communicate well and trust each other which makes running a business together easier.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We are so excited for our soon-to-be-released soap-free body wash and hydrating body oils. A lot of hard work has gone into creating these two formulas and we can’t wait for people to start trying them.
Our new luxuriously creamy, soap-free cleanser is gentle and moisturizing; perfect for even the most sensitive skin. Infused with premium hemp seed oil and prickly pear seed oil, this powerhouse blend bestows soothing hydration with vitamins A, B, D, E and Omega 3&6 fatty acids. Don’t expect a foaming lather, we’ve eliminated the chemical suds.
Our new 100% non-comedogenic “dry oil” provides intense moisture while absorbing quickly and easily into skin when gently massaged. Infused with premium hemp seed oil; rich in vitamins A, B, D, E and Omega 3&6 fatty acids.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
- The sense of community we’ve discovered has given me hope. This industry is filled with so many intelligent and talented humans with huge hearts.
- Despite the fact that people likely think this is a male dominated industry, I’m so happy to see there are so many rising and successful female entrepreneurs making positive changes.
- As this industry continues to blossom, I feel confident for future generations, as cannabis education is being openly shared with the masses.
1. Political turmoil and insecurity between federal and state law.
2. Lack of regulation and oversight for laboratories, growers, and producers; possibly exposing patients to harmful pesticides and chemical additives they are unaware of.
3. The cannabis industry gains acceptance by the masses daily, yet we’re still fighting censorship over the image of a leaf. In attempt to speak about this positively, our ongoing #FreeTheLeaf campaign sheds light on the educational facts surrounding hemp.
Can you share your top “5 things you need to know in order to succeed in the Cannabis industry”? Please share a story or example for each.
● In our experience, when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. We are have small team at CannaSmack, but we do our best to allow everyone to work on what they love and are best at. Delegating responsibilities more efficiently keeps team morale up since everyone enjoys their job.
● Kindness & honesty go a long way. When you are genuinely kind to others, it will not go unnoticed. As a growing company we have had our share of challenges with customers and vendors. When you are honest and kind people are more willing to be understanding and kind in return.
● Integrity beyond the label. We do our best to lead by example, especially in this category. Being “on the inside”, we have a different understanding about the rules and regulations surrounding sourcing of ingredients, labeling, and the multitude of ways in which other producers find loopholes in which they make their products appear to be something better than it is.
● Abundance. Happiness. Family. Kindness. These are CannaSmack’s core values.
a. Abundance: Create wealth in all aspects of life. Be rich in love. Embrace acceptance.
b. Kindness: Be nice! Treat people well. Show compassion. Be gracious. Be generous. Have only the best of intentions. Be thoughtful. Be open minded.
c. Happiness: Have joy! Laugh often. Engage in good humor. Be optimistic. Be playful, funny, light, witty. Embrace happy.
d. Family: Create relationships that promote positivity. Find synchronistic ways to nurture and supports one another.
● When treating employees with understanding, they become your second family. Madison wrote a 2 year anniversary blog post for us to share the tale of how our relationship developed since first contact. There are a few experiences she highlighted in that collective group of stories which speak to how a little bit of understanding on our behalf turned into sincere commitment, loyalty & motivation.
Where do you see your business going in the next 5 years? Where do you see the cannabis industry going in the next 5 years?
We hope to see CannaSmack become a staple in the mainstream market.
So much unseen work, care, and dedication goes into creating all of our products. When things get overwhelming, we are constantly encouraged by the amazing feedback that our customers give us, as we are regularly reminded about the incredible conversations our product initiates. With a product so simple and innocent, we provide an opportunity for anyone to become a cannabis activist; even your brilliant little ones have the capacity to understand and also explain the difference between cannabis as hemp and medical marijuana.
I strongly believe that Cannabis will continue to gain momentum towards Federal legalization within the next 5 years. More states are legalizing, at least for medical purposes, offers a larger audience of patients the opportunity to have safe legal access to their medicine.
However, it is becoming increasingly important that consumers are passionate about educating themselves regarding things such as the dangers of pesticides and the existence of synthetic cannabinoids, which are currently approved as medicine by the DEA, while the actual plant remains illegal.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
Madison Ortiz has been a rising star in this industry since she launched her Instagram page @HappyTokes in January of 2014. A genuine patient with a family-friendly collection of content; she works hard to create a peaceful, open-minded dialogue surrounding cannabis education, alongside creating a safe place for discussions about mental and physical health. The audience she engages with, known as the @HappyTokesTribe, is incredibly rare; filled with humans ready to bare their souls in the comment section for sake of helping one another grow. I’m thrilled we scooped her up when we did; she’s a phenomenal resource to our team.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
Viable hemp paper and 100% biodegradable hemp plastic solutions. We hope to be first in line for packing boxes and packaging made with hemp.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
I have a big wish list:
● Jimmy Kimmel
● Bill Maher
● Bill Gates
● Snoop Dogg
● Miley Cyrus
● Lady Gaga
● Joe Rogan