I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Jochim. Melissa is the creative energetic spirit behind High Beauty, Inc. high is a revolutionary skincare brand powered by Cannabis sativa, an ingredient that Melissa professes is only beginning to have its true potential understood. She says that her early days in Chemistry class were spent as much under the emergency showers as they were at the lab table, because things bubbled over as she experimented with the fascinating solutions in the laboratory. Fast forward decades, Melissa finds herself being heralded as one of the preeminent formulators in the natural, organic segment of the beauty industry. She has over the span of her career formulated skincare products for a variety of companies, all in the burgeoning organic range of the beauty market. The list of products that Melissa developed reads like a dictionary, but highlights include: Blossom Organics (also a founder), Juice Beauty, Alba Botanica, Beauty Without Cruelty, and the Martial Vivot Grooming Line. Melissa holds 14 patents for her skincare formulations. Her career has allowed her to travel the world working alongside and eventually mentoring some of the leading minds in the organic beauty industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”? How did you first get into this business or get interested in the business?
Istudied chemistry at University of Missouri and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. The beauty industry just fell into my lap. It’s funny, my mom was in the beauty world, she owned her own hair salon, and I swore I would never go down the beauty path.
I ended up becoming an Esthetician and then a formulator after I discovered my passion for skincare. I have been combining aromatherapy with natural and organic ingredients throughout my whole career. I wanted to figure out how we could do things differently — naturally and organically — with ingredients that were actually good for us.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company.
Before branding high, I actually was in the process of creating a completely different and very conservative cannabis skincare brand that was trademarked and developed and ready to go. I went into my meeting with Sephora to realize they were ready to embrace the cannabis revolution. This made me pull a brand from my backburner that was cannabis trend forward, not the safe conservative brand I was initially presenting. Sephora was ready to go full throttle Cannabis! That’s how high came into being.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
high stands out because we are not a CBD brand. That was a deliberate choice which has panned out to be an excellent choice given the pushback against CBD’s.
Everyone is focusing on promoting CBD right now but CBD’s have regulatory and legal drawbacks and they are not the only ingredient we should be excited about. high is not trying to claim that we’re the next great thing for every health ailment — high focuses on how Cannabis ingredients can be used topically and legally for skincare.
High is formulated with food grade Cannabis sativa seed derivatives along with other nourishing plant oils, vitamins, antioxidants and essential oils. High uses legal ingredients that can be bought in every state and can be shipped across state lines. We work only with cannabis seed derivatives that are exempt from the Controlled Substances Act under the 2004 United States Ninth Circuit Court decision to protect sales of industrial Cannabis sativa-derived foods and body products. The most recent 2018 United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision did not change this status.
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?
I am grateful for my Mother. My Mother was my biggest advocate. She was a single mom who owned her own hair salon, she was an entrepreneur, and she immersed me in the beauty world from the time I was a young girl.
I was fortunate early in my career to work with and learn from some of the leading entrepreneurs and the brightest minds in the industry. I worked with trailblazers in the natural products industry as my first job where I learned how to develop products from concept to shelf. That was a very influential period for me.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Yes. High is launching two products exclusively in Sephora this summer.
Our high five — Cannabis Facial Moisturizer and high expectations — Cannabis Facial Oil.
We are working on extending our collection and we have three additional products formulated that we will launch early next year.
More generally, I approach my entrepreneurship consistent with what my business partner (and high board of directors member), Brad Patt PhD, once said to me “approach each brand as if it is not your best idea, nor your last idea, Melissa. Then you will remove the emotional chains that hold many founders back.” I’m also finalizing the brand development for an authentic science-based oxygen skincare line, Element Eight, that will be sold in the luxury market in Fall of this year.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
1. We’re blazing a new trail within the Cannabis industry and really, we’re just scratching the surface of discovering the many amazing ways we can benefit from Cannabis whether it is skincare or our health and wellbeing.
2. I’m excited by the shifts going on in the industry, states are allowing hemp research to learn more about what we can do with this amazing plant. That wasn’t happening in recent past.
3. I’m really excited to see states embracing the cultivation of cannabis, not only for our economy, but also to gain knowledge on all we have yet to learn about cannabis’s benefits.
My biggest concern is that the cannabis revolution is like the wild, wild west right now. Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but whether or not the products coming out of these businesses are safe or not is a big issue. I’m concerned that consumers are not being protected. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association disclosed that only 31 percent of 84 lab-tested hemp-derived CBD products contained the amount of CBD indicated on the label. We have no set regulation on purity or extraction method and these are ingredients being used for our health and wellbeing. This is concerning.
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.
1. You need to be current and educate yourself about the legal landscape of doing business with cannabis. For example, CBD is federally illegal right now and that poses a lot of risks for companies.
2. Know who you are and what it is you’re trying to achieve. You cannot be everything to everybody. Stay true to that. High is selling a product that is going to be really amazing for one thing — your skin.
3. Don’t be a “me too” product. Differentiate yourself.
4. It takes money to do anything, and you’ve got to be able to fund your project.
5. Whatever you end up pursuing needs to be something you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about natural skincare and what cannabis can do for the skin.
In our experience when people are passionate about what they do they are more successful. Where does your cannabis passion come from?
I’m probably one of the few people featured in this publication who has never smoked marijuana. I’ve never explored Cannabis for that “high.” I’m passionate about the plant and what it can do for the skin. It has always excited me from that perspective.
The scientist in me makes me want to explore all of the other uses for this plant besides what is claimed for THC and CBD. There are thousands of different compounds available to us and the seeds are the ideal place to start for topical skincare.
Cannabis sativa seeds contain powerful levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-6, omega-3, omega-9, linoleic acid, and even gamma linoleic acids (GLA’s) rarely found in natural oils. Scientific evidence shows it is an effective treatment for eczema and inflammatory skin disorders because it is made up of 80% polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA). Even more, it’s perfect 3:1 ratio of omega-6 (linoleic acid) to omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) EFAs help balance and repair the skin’s natural barrier.
High concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), and stearidonic acid (SDA) within cannabis sativa seed oil neutralize inflammatory responses and restore the body’s natural ability to resist and repair damage.
Finally, Cannabis sativa seeds are a complete protein source with all twenty amino acids in combination with vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, D, E and arginine. These essential compounds prevent free radical damage, protect skin and delay the aging process.
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?
In the next five years, high will be one of the top ten skincare brands in Sephora.
And, cannabis will be recognized and understood for its benefits as a must-have skincare ingredient.
It is a huge endeavor to take cannabis from what it is recognized today and develop into an ingredient for topical skincare in the beauty industry.
The Cannabis industry will transform so much in the next five years. As those changes happen, high will be in an advantageous position to incorporate those changes into our product offerings so that we can go mainstream with high-speed.
Are you able to identify any rising stars at your company or in your industry that people need to keep an eye on?
high is a brand new start-up! Our stars really include everyone on our team. Our highly talented team creates a high-powered synergy and what we have created is truly amazing.
What growth sectors should most people be paying attention to that they might not be currently?
People are so in awe of the lifestyle side of Cannabis right now that they’ve lost sight of what we can do without having to fight the status-quo. High is coming out of left field with a legal product. High uses seed extracts, these are legal in every state right now. You can actually ingest the ingredients we use, you can buy them at the store and they’re beneficial for your skin.
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 want to have lunch with Woody Harrelson! He is an original and beats to his own drum. He’s survived being on the fringe both on a personal level and in business. He is an inspiration and someone I would love to brainstorm with.