Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Founder Friday Feature:
Kaelyn Nicks of Jaded CBD

How Kaelyn Nicks and her brand Jaded are helping consumers stress less and sleep more

Like many modern Americans, Jaded founder Kaelyn Nicks got “caught up trying to do it all.” She explains, “In my early career, I worked a demanding schedule in corporate America. I worked over 60 hours a week, and I was exhausted.” She began looking for products that could ease her chronic stress and fatigue, and her friend suggested CBD. “My immediate reaction was ‘Absolutely not.’ I was super uneducated about cannabis. I told my friend, ‘I don’t have time to sit on the couch all day.’ And she said, ‘You won’t get high. Just try it.’ So despite being jaded about CBD, I tried it, and I loved how it made me feel. It felt like this huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders.”

That said, when Kaelyn began looking to buy CBD on her own she quickly became frustrated. “I didn’t know how much to take, everything tasted really bad, and the ingredients a lot of companies were using were questionable. I spent almost 10 years in consumer goods. So I thought, ‘I know what to look for as an educated shopper. If it’s this difficult for me to find what I’m looking for, I can only imagine how difficult it would be for other people.’ And that’s where the idea for Jaded CBD started.”

She explains, “I want to help people tackle their chronic stress and get a good night’s rest through these healthy, clean, CBD-oriented products. [Jaded] launched in 2020, and we have been growing ever since.”

Differentiating themselves in the CBD industry

Kaelyn came to CBD as a novice, so she spent two years educating herself before launching Jaded. “I traveled across the world to meet with the top cannabis scientists and researchers to understand the plant, and how to work with it. I wanted to make sure that the formula I created was very intentional and as bioavailable as possible.”

Kaelyn is also aware of the CBD skeptics, but she explains this skepticism is largely due to the unregulated CBD industry that allows cheap, low-quality products to flood the market. “There was a study out of UPenn in Philadelphia that studied CBD. They Googled CBD oil and bought the first 100 oils that popped up. They then tested how much CBD was in the product versus what they stated on the packaging. They found that over 70% of the products were mislabeled and contained less CBD than they claimed if any CBD at all. So people who are buying cheap CBD may not even have tried CBD at all.”

To differentiate themselves, Kaelyn and her team have been extremely intentional about their formulations. “When we created our first product, a CBD oil, it wasn’t enough to ensure that it was as pure and clean as possible. The cannabis plant is a bio-accumulator and it soaks up toxins from nearby crops. So if you’re not careful, and you don’t take the proper supply chain protocol to strip out all those toxins, it can be dangerous to consumers. I physically visited every single cultivation site and made sure that the due diligence and quality control were there. I also made it a key priority to make sure that all of our products are vegan, gluten-free, allergen-free, non-GMO, and cruelty-free.”

Giving consumers what they want

After launching Jaded’s CBD Oil, Kaelyn and her team found that many CBD newbies didn’t necessarily understand how to use it. “We did consumer research, and we found that gummies were the form that people were most excited about, so that’s where we doubled down. We launched with eight flavors, and they sold out almost immediately. Last March, we launched our sleep tight gummies, which took our original CBD gummy and souped it up with functional mushrooms and other adaptogens to make it that much more effective.”

“We want to keep driving and innovating to make Jaded better and better. We will continue to stay focused on stress and sleep to benefit the spaces we care about and know we can provide the best experience for our customers. So our focus will remain consistent, but how it shows up will unfold. CBD is the beginning, and we’re just getting started.”

The limitations of CBD restrictions

Dealing with the rules and regulations around CBD has been a constant battle, Kaelyn says. “I didn’t understand the immense difficulty it would be to win in this space because of these restrictions. CBD is 100% federally legal across all states, but we still get lumped in with cannabis and marijuana, which are controlled substances. We’ve had to roll up our sleeves and get creative in terms of how to reach our consumers. We prioritize making sure that we have a one-to-one relationship with our customers and do everything we can to make it a personalized experience. For example, I handwrite notes to every new customer for every order, and it’s those little things that make a difference.”

“I also do a lot of events and speak on different panels. I have found that whenever I’m able to get in front of people and tell my story, it clicks. So many people don’t understand CBD, and they don’t know who to buy from or trust. So when customers can see me and relate to my story, and they see that I’m a real person who cares so much about the quality [of the product], it gives them the confidence to buy it. And once people find out about Jaded and try us, they love us and keep coming back. Our repeat rate is 40%, which is eight times higher than the average CBD brand.”

Finding meaning in Jaded’s impact

“As soon as I accomplish something, I tend to go on to the next. I’m trying to do a better job of taking a step back and celebrating the small wins. But the thing that keeps me going despite the 15-hour work days is that almost every week I get an email from a customer saying, ‘Kaelyn this has changed my life.’ It’s so powerful when you can sleep well. No matter what, what drives me is my impact on people’s lives. My background is in consumer goods and retail, and I’ve worked with all the big box retailers. But at the end of the day, what is most meaningful to me is the impact I have versus the dollar count or being in every Target across America.”

Kaelyn’s advice to fellow entrepreneurs

“When I first started the company, I was overwhelmed. I was constantly drowning and trying to obtain more information to be as perfect as possible. My learning has been to flip the script to value progress over perfection. One of the phrases I say to my team is ‘We’re Airbnb 2008.’ So many people look at the Ubers of the world, and I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we don’t have to be there just yet. This is a process and an adventure. We have to focus on the small wins along the way, instead of fixating on the end destination. We’ll get there, but it’s a journey.”

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