Katarina Kollarova Maloney wasn’t familiar with the benefits of CBD until discovering its importance a decade ago. She quickly became a CBD convert and has since shouted its benefits from every rooftop possible.
Maloney founded the Pharma Hemp Complex brand in 2012 well ahead of the CBD craze. Her vision to begin the company showed the incredible foresight she had knowing CBD would become a major market. In spite of issues still preventing CBD’s full growth in the United States, the potential is there for the market to get even larger. The industry is expected to exceed $5 billion this year.
The CEO is still as passionate as ever about the CBD market and continues to fight for its availability for individuals. With Hemp Health expanding into Europe and the marketplace growing worldwide, Maloney’s tireless work ethic has paid off.
Katarina, hemp and CBD have been major talking points in the media and healthcare industry over the last few years. CBD is a divisive topic with one side claiming it is not helpful while the other side praises its benefits. Firstly, what brought you to the world of CBD and hemp?
I first discovered the benefits of CBD in 2010 when I was experiencing some health issues with my digestive system and I quickly realized it is an excellent and safe alternative to traditional medicine. Taking CBD simply works and that was the reason for me to get involved. I knew right then there was great potential to bring it to market. This was one of those moments in your life when you know you are in the right place at the right time.
You founded Pharma Hemp Complex Brand in 2012 well before the CBD craze hit fully. How did you foresee the impact CBD would make just a few years later?
I saw a few trends. One of them was that CBD products were becoming increasingly popular. The legalization of medical and recreational cannabis at the state level has really increased the availability of CBD products over the last eight years. Additionally, the passage of the US Farm Bill in 2018 which legalized industrial hemp really accelerated it. The entire industry is moving forward at breakneck speed. I can remember four or five years ago having a conversation with someone and trying to educate them on the difference between marijuana and hemp and that was quite the challenge because at the end of the conversation, they were just convinced that we were selling marijuana. Today, I can talk to someone at the grocery store, I can talk to the chiropractor, the doctor on the plane, and nearly all of them will have some kind of exposure to CBD. It sparks interest in a deeper conversation of not only what we do but how we do it, how it brought us into the industry or how they can learn more about finding their trusted source because navigating through ecommerce sites and getting all the vast publicity from some of the brands who don’t have a trusted source has allowed people to have more questions and become a little smarter when it comes to consumers purchasing CBD products. I think that is a good place to be in and a good direction where we are headed.
In 2018, a reported $620 million of CBD products were sold in the United States alone. What has driven the interest in CBD products in the country?
The benefits of CBD are very promising. Studies suggest that it can help relieve anxiety, ease schizophrenia symptoms, and reduce pain (though the latter is often done in conjunction with THC). Disease treatments in the USA can be costly and people are looking for healthy, safe, and more affordable alternatives. The CBD market is like a gold rush as are most emerging industries. While many companies are getting into the market, there are not a lot of recognizable brands. We have made quality and affordable products our top priority while educating the public. As with most emerging industries, only a few companies will dominate whether there are 300 companies or 1,000, it’ll still be dominated by a handful of companies when the dust settles. That is our goal, to be the best and global pacesetters in the industry.
The CBD market continues to grow and exceed expectations. It is an industry that was once seen as niche but with more individuals seeking health alternatives, the market continues to expand. The CBD industry is expected to exceed $5 billion this year, a 706% increase over 2018.
For anyone that hasn’t tried CBD, what are the benefits they can expect from using products infused with the oil?
CBD is often marketed as a cure-all supplement with many customers claiming it can cure or relieve everything from anxiety to treating cancer without any supporting research. However, cannabis’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug has severely hampered American scientists’ ability to study CBD, making it difficult to support or refute these claims. The studies that are available tend to be small or are done on animals or in laboratories. That said, CBD is showing promise to help with many health ailments as more and more studies are being conducted. The strongest evidence of CBD’s effectiveness, though, is in relation to epilepsy. Last year, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a medication used to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. It was the agency’s first approval of a cannabis-derived drug. Depending on where you live, you can find them at pharmacies, gas stations, pet stores and more. The industry shows no signs of slowing down as sales of CBD products are expected to exceed $5 billion this year, a 706% increase over 2018, according to the Brightfield Group, a cannabis-focused research firm. As a result of customer health needs, we at Hemp Health have a wide range of products portfolio to address customer demands. Anything from Pet Treats, Matcha Energy pills to human suppositories.
Pharma Hemp Complex sells high-quality CBD products to customers online. As a seller that deals with wholesalers and distributors, what is the sector like for an entrepreneur? How easy or difficult is it to get into the CBD arena?
Right now, it’s online exposure and recognition. Because of the pandemic, the online market is a convenient way for people to learn about and purchase CBD-based products. Our goal is to steadily grow our online sales by 25% monthly while building a strong, recognizable brand. Looking towards the future, our plan is to scale up the retail areas to be able to satisfy the growing demand for CBD oil and its derivatives with the special restrictions in place due the pandemic. CBD is a supplement where the benefits are derived through continued usage thus you need to take it daily to get the most benefit and it is just much easier for clients to go online and choose what they need. Our philosophy is that education about CBD is extremely important. Educating consumers about the beneficial properties of CBD turns them into loyal followers. In the long term, we’d like to penetrate markets and regions of the world that CBD is currently not available.
The possibilities for CBD products are nearly limitless. According to Maloney, the company is working on a number of new ideas that will deliver CBD to individuals in a variety of products. With health at the front of everyone’s mind currently, it is likely people will turn to more CBD items to ease anxiety and insomnia.
There are a lot of products infused with CBD oil including lotions and make-up. What are some of the newer products that have hit the market or will in the near future that contain CBD oil?
I think health is at the forefront of everybody’s minds now due to Covid-19. Anxiety is the most common ailment of CBD users. Depression and insomnia, which are likely to spike over the coming months, are a close second and third. For those that truly need CBD and are relying on it for their health and wellbeing, consumption is expected to continue or increase. As hemp oil is highly nutritious and health boosting (according to data from the USDA they are a complete source of protein providing all nine essential amino acids, and are also a source of essential fatty acids such as alpha-linolenic acid, omega 3 and Vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium) all of which have immune boosting potential. The popularity of daily routine products as well as edibles are steadily increasing. We are developing new oral and hygiene products in 2020-2021 that include products from luxurious skin lines to basic daily hygiene products.
When US politician Mitch McConnell spoke about hemp being a major part of the country’s agriculture sector in the future, a lot of investors, farmers, and business owners turned their attention to CBD. However, over the last 12 months, it seems that interest has declined in the US. What is your take on the country’s interest in CBD and hemp?
Having a prominent member of Congress say something positive about hemp will surely get people’s attention and give interest a boost. Sales are increasing, competition is growing even though there is change in market formation. Consumption types have changed in the COVID-19 era with edibles emerging as the growth leader during the pandemic and sales are up 28% as of April 2. Beverage — to date has among the slowest growing and smallest sectors in cannabis — has seen sales boom, up 14%. Elsewhere, flower sales have increased by 12% and vape pens were up 9%. These category numbers show the dynamic growth in this industry.
The Food and Drug Administration has not clarified its stance on CBD and hemp as yet. How has that made being an entrepreneur difficult and has it stopped Hemp Health from reaching customers?
It absolutely has hindered the industry. There is a misunderstanding in Washington about exactly what CBD is, what is permitted to sell and what is not. The Hemp Bill 2018 specifies that hemp products sold under 0.03% THC levels are legal 50 states wide, while the FDA came up with their own representation about Oral Administration that conflicts with the Hemp Bill ruling. These issues are supposed to be addressed this year, but the USDA and FDA are overburdened. State and federal lawmakers scramble to address the urgent healthcare and economic needs. Hemp CBD regulations are delayed or are put on hold during COVID 19. This is part of the reason major big box stores are hesitant to sell CBD products. I believe, now is the prime time to make CBD benefits and products more available to the public to help with the tough times the USA is experiencing. Fewer regulations, less restrictions and less red tape would enable more access to CBD products.
Hemp Health with Pharma Hemp Complex has expanded to Europe with offices in Germany and Italy. What is the demand for CBD like in Europe and is it touted as highly there as in America?
Over the next five years, according to Grand View Research, the global CBD market is expected to accelerate to become worth more than $20 billion. CBD is seeing monumental demand in Europe. The market is expected to grow 400% over the next four years. In Europe CBD is classified as novel food and therefore requires pre-market authorization. EFSA is in the process of approving applications from one of the Czech firms and it will determine how fast the expansion will happen. Any new developing market requires regulatory reform.
Katarina, you have worked in business for some time and it always seems that you have got something big occurring as an entrepreneur. What is next for you?
Public Listing and Frankfurt Exchange IPO for European Market Expansion. I feel privileged to be part of the development, to be in the front lines and help shape the terrain of the CBD future. I learned many lessons to get where I am at, and this knowledge will serve me well moving forward. I am thrilled to be part of the hemp CBD revolution in Europe with our new clinical studies, new patents, and drug applications plans. It is empowering to be part of this great opportunity.
What is a day in your life like?
Days fluctuate depending on if I am traveling for work, adventure or staying in the office. The morning goes by before I realize and it is almost lunch time. I have discovered an intermittent fasting diet works well for me. These days, I have only espresso with biscotti for breakfast and my first meal is around 1pm to2pm. I always try to squeeze a small meditation routine and yoga into my day with a hike with my husky if I am home. He also accompanies me at work. He is quite clever. It is never a dull moment when he opens the door to the conference room while we are having a meeting. On days I have business travel, the day is chock full of meetings, dinners, sitting on a train or in a plane and again hustling. Typical day of the CEO. I compensate for my busy work schedule with recharging with adventure travel and these days are the best. Always full of spontaneous moments from diving in cenote with crocodiles or enjoying a beach day with friends. Life is too short, so I try to enjoy every bit of it.
What is something most people do not know about you?
I am a very down to earth person and would prefer to wear a simple t-shirt and jeans even when I meet my clients.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“Never lose sight of your end goal, allow for setbacks, get comfortable being uncomfortable and above all: Trust Your Plan.”
“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need tomorrow.”
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world what would it be?
If I could change one thing it would be equal access to opportunity. We cannot change where we are born. Some people will be born with a silver spoon in their mouths, while the rest will have to work hard—and some very hard. A more level playing field would make the world a vastly better place. A kid born in a small village in Eastern Europe or in Brazil has a ludicrously small chance of becoming a doctor compared to a kid born in an affluent suburb. The world would be a better place if both kids had a more even-handed ability to pursue that same dream. If both are equally talented, equally driven, then surely humanity and the world would benefit with both being able to pursue their dream.
Do you find the industry to be male-dominated these days? What is it like being a female CEO in cannabis/ hemp?
At the leadership level it is still very much male-dominated. That does not bother me at all. I believe you must earn your position in any industry on any level. If you’re hardworking and successful, it should not matter if you male or female. For me, it’s a great opportunity to be creative and fulfill my ambition. I was at a point in my career where I could take a risk, and I did. I hope I can show other women that they can do the same.
What was the path you took to get to where you are today?
I believe the most important thing is to be passionate about what you do. Doing things for the right reasons. I had to take a lot of risks along the way and they paid off. I felt that I could get out and start creating things that would make a difference in the world. Someone once told me “If you give something a go and it doesn’t work out, you certainly haven’t failed. You just learned something”. This has always stuck with me.
What other CEOs do you look up to?
A person’s heroes can say a lot about them. For me it’s Richard Branson and Elon Musk. Their leadership and management styles inspire me and I try to incorporate what I have learned from watching them as the CEO of the company. Being in a developing industry like cannabis and hemp you must have extra thick skin and be ok with quick adaptation. Elon and Richard represent that for me. Katharine Graham from the Washington Post for boldness and courage is one of my favorites as well.
As the hemp industry grows and goes from strength to strength, so does Maloney. Her name will only become more synonymous with CBD as time goes on. Her decision to get in on the ground floor of the CBD industry made her a visionary. Now, she is leading a revolution that continues to see more Americans — and people in Europe — gravitate towards CBD thanks to its health properties. There is still certainly much to do and people to convince of CBD’s importance in the world. Maloney has positioned Hemp Health at the forefront of the industry with helping individuals feeling their best as a top priority.
Images credits: Elena Uvarova
Journalist and author. Contributor