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One-on-One with Kannaway CEO Blake Schroeder

przez Maciej Maciejewski

There’s no question that risk-taking is an indispensable part of leadership. When we look at leaders who are making a real impact, we see that they have the courage to venture into the unknown while others patiently await a better time, ideal circumstances, or assured results.

They are willing to take certain risks because they know that indecisiveness and pessimism deters opportunity. Leaders also understand that if they are to prosper in the modern world, they can’t afford to play it safe. They must use risk-taking abilities to foster an environment that encourages innovation. 

While people are finally beginning to realize the benefits and opportunity around CBD, there’s one company that has made significant strides over the past several years, proving it’s a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

Kannaway, a subsidiary of Medical Marijuana Inc, the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, is one such company that is at the forefront of providing life-changing benefits of hemp-based cannabidiol (CBD) to people across the globe. By offering high quality CBD hemp products that promote well-being, the company has garnered a worldwide following and a team of experienced, passionate brand ambassadors representing their products.

Blake SchroederBlake Schroeder

Armed with decades of direct selling expertise and a wide breadth of cannabis knowledge, Kannaway CEO Blake Schroeder has been instrumental in Kannaway’s booming success, speaking at events around the world and promoting the many benefits of CBD. Not only does Blake drive the strategic direction of the company, but he is committed to the continual development of its innovative product line and adaptive leadership structure. Today, you’ll get to hear all about the company’s exciting new developments directly from Blake himself.

Maciej Maciejewski: What initially attracted you to the cannabis industry?

Blake Schroeder: First off, hemp has a long and storied history of industrial, recreational, and medicinal use. In China, hemp was used to make rope as far back as 10,000 B.C., and hemp has also been used to make clothing, paper, and building materials for thousands of years. In fact, industrial hemp was so important to colonial economies that settlers came to America with hemp seeds in hand, and the English crown demanded that every farmer reserve some land to farm it. The plant’s rich history is what initially sparked my interest.

Fast forward to today and the fight for legitimacy and structure in the cannabis space continues. After seeing everything play out in the news, I started having conversations with friends who were far more successful than I was and I told them I was thinking about going to work for a hemp company, leading their direct selling division. Almost unanimously, they all pointed out it was a growing space where a real difference could be made. Those opportunities don’t come around very often, so I had to seize it.

At the time, I honestly didn’t know what reactions of my friends would be if I told people I was going to work for a hemp company. I remember one guy said “Blake, look at the wristwatch that you’re wearing. Look at the furniture around you. Are all those industries going to be bigger five years from now than they are today? Then he asked, “Is the hemp and cannabis industry going to be bigger than it is today?” And there was just no question about that. It is ever evolving, and I love being a part of that change.

Maciej Maciejewski: What is Medical Marijuana Inc.’s history in the cannabis market?

Blake Schroeder: Although marijuana might be legal in some states in the USA, it still remains illegal on a federal level and in many countries around the world. To avoid any potential obstacles, we wanted to ensure that our business could be legal both in our country and abroad. Before the Farm Bill was passed in 2018, it was illegal to grow hemp in the United States, but it was legal to extract cannabinoids from certain exempt parts of the cannabis plant that are grown outside of the country. After our team conducted research on the various different cannabinoids present in the hemp plant, we found CBD to be the standout.

Our hemp origin story began at a 5th generation hemp farm in the foothills of Northern Europe. Medical Marijuana Inc. worked closely with European farmers who had been growing cannabis crops for decades for other purposes and figured out how to do the CBD extraction, launching the world’s first-made, commercially available, CBD product. Now, looking back, it’s pretty remarkable. The company’s CEO Dr. Stuart Titus was the first person to bring a CBD product to the world. As a company, we’re really proud of that history.

Maciej Maciejewski: How did Kannaway enter the direct selling space?

Blake Schroeder: Medical Marijuana Inc. started Kannaway in 2014. I was hired in 2016 to help manage the company’s entire portfolio of companies, and specifically to help grow Kannaway to the potential we know it has. In California, if you want to be in the cannabis business, you have to get a dispensary license, which can be rare and expensive. From there, you have to open a dispensary plant or farm, which most people don’t have the capital or expertise to do. This was a way for people to get involved in an emerging industry that is going to grow for a long time.

Maciej Maciejewski: What separates Kannaway from competitors?

Blake Schroeder: As The Premier Cannabis Company, we are constantly striving to be a company of bests in everything from our customer service to our brand identity.  We are part of the first publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, the first direct selling cannabis company, and the first to establish a global CBD pipeline and legally deliver CBD across the United States and to over 30 countries around the world. Kannaway has also helped break down many of the barriers that prevented people from accessing safe, reliable, and beneficial cannabis products, and we’re confident that we will continue to be the industry’s most innovative CBD provider on the market.

Maciej Maciejewski: How does Kannaway focus on customers?

Blake Schroeder: We have a customer-centric program. In our case, we're lucky. I walk around with a little jar of Kannaway salve in my pocket, and when people ask what I do, I say, “I’m in the cannabis business.” But, depending on where I am in the world, I’ll get a different response. If I'm here in southern California, people will say, "Ha! That’s really cool. So am I.” If I’m in North Dakota, they might look at me and say, “Oh, my God! You're going to jail. What are you doing?” lt gives me an opportunity to educate, and it creates a demand. People have heard so much about CBD, but have many misconceptions about what it does and whether or not it’s even a legitimate supplement. The reason why people are more prone to learn about CBD is because of the work that our company has done. There's a real demand for the product.

Maciej Maciejewski: What CBD formulation does Kannaway use?

Blake Schroeder: A rigorous process that requires a high level of skill and precision to perform correctly, we’ve found that CO2 extraction is the safest method there is. It also produces the highest quality products, which is an important factor for us at Kannaway.

We move through different refinement processes to prepare our base hemp oils. The first step uses as little refinement as possible, leaving the CBD hemp oil in its most natural, unaltered form, which we call Green Oil.

For our next level of refinement and for a higher CBD concentration, we decarboxylate our oil (a gentle heating process) to convert CBDa into CBD, retaining the raw hemp’s nutritional value while maximizing CBD content. We call this oil Blue Oil, and it is used in some of our most popular products.

For maximum refinement and, for some, a more enjoyable taste, we refine our hemp oil even further. Following the decarboxylation process, the oil goes through a state-of-the-art filtration process to remove some plant material, leaving behind a golden honey-colored oil with a higher concentration of CBD, which we call Gold Oil.

These processes are very different from the processes the rest of the industry uses. Most of what you can find on the market today is either made from distillate or isolate, which, in our opinion, is not nearly as high quality of a product. We're the only direct selling company that formulates from the original Green, Blue, and Gold products. We know it's far superior to anything else you're going to find on the market.

Maciej Maciejewski: Your products have all undergone “rigorous triple lab testing.” What does that mean?

Blake Schroeder: Our flagship Hemp farm is found in Europe, because they grow the highest quality hemp found anywhere in the world right now. Part one of our triple lab testing is we test our CBD once the plants are pulled from the ground and following the harvest. Then Part two is it's tested again once it goes into the extractions process. And then the third test, when we complete our final formulation, it's tested again. That's what we mean by triple lab tested. Essentially, we're taking all the necessary steps in making sure that everything we promise on our label is true and our customers have the peace of mind with the products they have purchased.

Maciej Maciejewski: What makes up Kannaway’s Soil to Sale™ Commitment?

Blake Schroeder: Before Kannaway, there was no large-scale hemp production or technology to produce, harvest, and process hemp on the scale we envisioned. There was no safe, clean, industrial solvent free way to extract cannabinoids, no quality pipeline, and no reliable manufacturing processes. So, we took the initiative to invent them ourselves. 

Thanks to that small handful of hemp-pioneers, their thousands of hours spent investigating, the development of equipment and technology to make their dream come true, and millions of dollars spent in research and development, people and families all over the world have access to the world’s finest cannabis and CBD products. And even though we are now one of the largest, fastest growing cannabis companies in the world, the standards set by those who restarted this entire cannabis revolution back in the beginning are still our same standards today.

The ongoing commitment to use the best farms, the best techniques, the highest safety standards and to provide the world’s best education on cannabis and CBD are the four key elements are what make up our Soil to Sale™ pledge.

Maciej Maciejewski: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Blake Schroeder: They say hindsight is 20/20; if only we knew then what we know now. I try not to live my life with any kind of regret. At some point, I learned that I can do this just as well as anybody else can, and there's no reason it can't be me. And, in fact, if not me, then who? And if not now, then when? When you start thinking about things that way, it's really empowering. I learned that I'm just as good as everybody else, and I can do just as great a job as everybody else, if not better. So, I’d tell my younger self to spend time building both personal and strategic relationships and most importantly, to not let opportunities pass me by.

Maciej Maciejewski: Who has influenced your career the most and why?

Blake Schroeder: My dad had an incredible work ethic. He was a real entrepreneur, and, while I don't have the same entrepreneurial skills that he had, I learned how to work really hard from him. He said, "The learning comes from the doing." So, sometimes you've just got to get in there, and you've got to do the work to learn how to do it and gain¬ confidence. I learned that success is mostly about getting in the game and staying.

Maciej Maciejewski: What does the future hold for Kannaway?

Blake Schroeder: After the excitement of 2018 and the continued momentum of 2019, we have high hopes for 2020. We are part of an industry that is changing the world and making a difference to people’s lives every day and we are excited for all the opportunities 2020 is going to bring.

Maciej Maciejewski: Thank you for the conversation.

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