Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about your company? What brought you to the cannabis business? What did you do originally?
Eric Balshin=EB: I’ve always been intrigued by all of the incredible natural benefits the hemp plant has to offer and love to share that knowledge with others. Yesterday was created to bring CBD products to real, hardworking women in an approachable and practical way. The existing companies in the industry were mainly focused elsewhere, and I don’t really blame them. A large portion of early CBD adopters were crossovers from THC who already had an existing comfort level with marijuana. As has been the case for generations, marijuana users skew heavily male and under 30. However, as we dug into the research and spoke to women from all walks of life, it became increasingly clear that a large portion of new CBD users were female. These women all had something profoundly in common – they were stressed, overworked and tired. I saw it in my own family, with both my mother and sister asking me if I knew where they could get high-quality CBD. It quickly became the hot new wellness ingredient that everyone wanted to get their hands on.
Quickly, a flood of brands entered the category trying everything they could to benefit from the trend. Some companies were vertically integrated, some sold products containing THC, and a lot of them proclaimed health benefits or CBD potency. Very few were focused on actual brand building, establishing a relationship with a customer and nurturing that relationship for years. We wanted to introduce a brand to the emerging CBD user that was trustworthy and authentic. A brand that used third-party testing for everything it sold to help ensure purity, quality and potency. We genuinely care to help introduce stressed out women everywhere to all the natural benefits of CBD, and then be there to guide them through their entire journey. All while keeping things as natural as possible in the process. That’s why all of our products use only select natural ingredients like broad spectrum hemp extract, quality MCT oil, and all-natural flavors. And no THC. I spent the last 10+ years working in finance, covering the consumer and retail industries. Our team, based in Canada, is at the forefront of everything cannabis related, including CBD. We were able to witness the mistakes and successes of pioneering companies and then apply our business acumen to improve upon them with our own brand launch. The feedback has been phenomenal, and we have so many amazing things planned in the coming months– we are gearing up for the long haul!
WB: Do you have a mentor? Did you always want to do what you do today? Who inspired you?
EB: I have been fortunate to work with some amazing people over the years. I worked for the country’s top-ranked consumer/retail equity analyst at one of the largest banks in Canada. He taught me so much about the industry and how to think about the consumer. He had spent years in the industry and used to joke with me that it’s a lot easier to tell others how to run their business than to do it yourself. Going through it now, I couldn’t agree more! After all those meetings with management teams at some of the largest publicly traded retail and consumer businesses across North America, it started to feel somewhat disingenuous to opine on what they could do a better job on, having never done it myself. So, I decided to leap into a sector that I was passionate about and apply all those learnings to build a business.
WB: What are your goals in business? Six and twelve month? What about the obstacles? Stigmas?
EB: We have a number of financial goals around revenue and capital raise/valuations over the coming six to twelve months, but right now the most important goal is to establish the brand the right way – building a strong foundation that can set up the brand for lasting success. There are so many instances of brands altering course or taking actions that degrade the longer-term viability of the brand, all for short-term gain. We have made it a core tenant of our plan to think longer term. Maybe it’s the investor in me, but we aren’t after growth at all costs. We would much rather have slow, sustainable long-term growth than be a flash in the pan. We want to be a major player in the industry 10 years out when this fractured industry starts to consolidate and are planning accordingly. We don’t look at existing CBD or cannabis brands for inspiration; instead we focus on some of the best brands in retail, always asking the question: what is it about that brand that allowed them to stay on top for so long? The biggest obstacle right now, aside from being based in Canada, is the fact I am going after a female demographic despite being a man. But I am surrounded by amazing women in my life – both in my circle of friends and family and professionally – and I lean on them constantly for guidance. My goal for the business is to predominantly hire women and empower them to drive the business forward.
WB: Do you have a favorite food memory? What does your favorite meal look like? Made by whom?
EB: I have so many! My family’s 3-week trip to France raking up Michelin stars and cooking at a professional kitchen in Gascony is pretty high up there. But the one that always stands out is a meal my wife and I had at Eleven Madison Park in New York. It was the year Daniel Humm took over and at the time it was considered a great restaurant but had nowhere near the acclaim it has today. I remember being blown away by not only the meal, but by the service as well. I walked out and told my wife that I would be shocked if that place isn’t a contender for best restaurant in the world at some point. The food was simply outstanding, and the service was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It was like watching a ballet as servers shifted positions around the dining room at exactly the same time, as if synchronized. Truly a life altering experience for me and only further cemented in my mind that a customer-focused approach is best. I would never want to sell a product that my customer doesn’t love and I always want to be there for her if she has any problems with anything. And that’s the way we felt when we ate there. It was magical.
WB: What is your passion?
EB: If you couldn’t tell by my last answer, it’s food! Always has been. I almost went to culinary school at one point during the great recession after I was laid off from my first job in finance. I love exploring new cuisines and putting the apron on to cook at home. It’s what I do to both relax and celebrate. There is truly no better feeling than to cook for your friends and have them in awe that you made something they are eating. I am obviously extremely passionate about CBD as well. I use it daily and know firsthand the amazing benefits it can have on your body, mind, and mood.