As CBD is now legal in all 50 states, innovative and effective uses for these hemp-based products are becoming more mainstream. While the FDA prohibits any sort of health or beauty recommendations on CBD products and packaging, Lindsay Holhaus, the founder of Plain Jane hemp and CBD products, helps us understand the potential positive effects of CBD in beauty routines while sharing what’s its like being a female founder in this exploding industry, how her company was started, and what makes Plain Jane different.
We hear so much about CBD and beauty, what can you tell us about the effects CBD is known to have on beauty such as on inflammation or the smoothing of skin texture and firmness?
Due to the FDA’s position on hemp derived cannabinoids, companies are not allowed to print recommendations on their packaging. What we do know is that our endocannabinoid system has a role in regulating metabolism. Our skin is the largest organ of the body with a complex active endocannabinoid structure and plays a relevant role in healthy and diseased skin. Research is still ongoing, but cannabinoids are believed to hold qualities that may help the skin heal faster, limit the growth of bacteria and fungus, and soothe discomfort.
Research also suggests that cannabinoids applied topically may help with a variety of skin conditions and may improve the production of collagen, making the skin and muscles firmer and connective tissue and bones stronger. What we’ve done at Plain Jane is take this research to create several topical products containing CBD and other cannabinoids, including CBG and CBN, which are infused into rich creams, lotions, oils and salves. These cannabinoids are full of antioxidants which may help reduce inflammation.
What can you share about the landscape of women in the THC/CBD space? Are the opportunities you need available to you?
Historically, women haven’t had the same access to capital or wealth that men have had. I think in general having access to capital isn’t as important in the CBD industry because marketing avenues are limited and you don’t need the same prohibitively expensive licensing that you would for THC. In this way, it makes the CBD industry a great equalizer because companies can do well based on product and branding alone.
With that being said, all of the opportunities we’ve needed have come from men. When we went out to look for investors and buyers for our company, every single one was a man. The investment space is still largely male dominated so from a pure numbers perspective, there just weren’t as many opportunities for women to support us.
Tell me about the founders of Plain Jane. How did you come together to create this brand?
Plain Jane was founded by two young guys from MIT I happened to be friends with. At the time, I was using CBD from a dispensary and we thought selling it outside of the dispensary and online would provide a lower cost option for people. In 2018, I joined them as a partner.
At the time, there were very few low cost options for CBD because the companies jumping in early could charge whatever they wanted because there wasn’t a ton of competition. We decided charging whatever we wanted wasn’t a sustainable method, and figured that by charging less, we could maintain more customers long-term.
Prices have come down significantly since then as competition increased and we’ve seen brands fold or have to significantly reduce prices as the market corrected itself. Since becoming a founder, I grew the business and then sold it in 2020 to a larger hemp company, Industrial Hemp Farms. Industrial Hemp Farms is run by Gus Hanger and Joseph Pham who have made a name for themselves in the hemp flower industry.
How is Plain Jane different from other brands? What are you most proud of with Plain Jane?
I think what makes our brand stand out from other brands is our authenticity. We aren’t perfect, and we don’t have the most expensive, luxury packaging. We didn’t raise a bunch of money to start the company or have a celebrity name. What we do have is a good product, bright packaging, lower than average prices and consistent customer service. We are also sold almost entirely online which helps us keep prices low and limits the amount of capital we need to compete in retail. Execution is everything and I think this brand has excelled at that.
I’m most proud of this authenticity and the reach it has created. I’ve worked on political campaigns and I think it’s similar when you are marketing to customers. How do you identify with your target audience? How do you motivate them and get them interested in your company versus another brand?
Where is your product sourced?
We work almost exclusively with small local farmers. We purchase the product in small, craft batches that are of the highest quality while still allowing room for lower cost options for our customers. We mainly purchase from Oregon farmers but also have relationships with Colorado and Hawaii farmers. At one point we tried to vertically integrate and grow our own product but we quickly realized our efforts were better spent on what we were good at, marketing.