Bluebird Botanicals CEO and founder Brandon Beatty has always been interested in the power of plant-based supplements. He developed a fascination with cannabis and herbs from a young age – one of his favorite past times as a teen was wandering through the aisles of GNC and Vitamin Shoppe and writing down the names of products on a pad and paper to research later. He had a transformative experience with cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms as a teenager, which is what really ignited his passion for herbal supplements.
Prior to starting Bluebird, Brandon worked at an apothecary in Boulder, Colorado that sold a variety of essential oils and extracts. These products contained many of the same compounds as hemp extracts like terpenes and often used the same extraction methods utilized to obtain CBD. When he first discovered CBD around 2010, it was through his employer at the apothecary who used it for his personal health. In 2012, he started working on Bluebird at nighttime and on weekends, and eventually was able to dive fully into it with the explosion of growth caused by releasing Bluebird’s first hemp-derived CBD products in 2013.
Despite his passion for the industry, Brandon quickly realized what a risky business he had just started. In 2013, CBD was still in legal “gray area,” and many early Bluebird employees feared sudden federal intervention could leave the business up in smoke.
“We were one of the early pioneers,” explains Brandon. Bluebird was one of the first companies selling hemp CBD nationally and globally before the 2014 Farm Bill was signed. Even after the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, the industry was still shrouded in uncertainty.
At the beginning of Bluebird, there was only a handful of employees and very little funding to get off the ground. Brandon himself was one of the main customer service representatives at the beginning. He would answer phone calls, fill bottles, and ship packages alongside our now Chief Brand Officer Michael Harinen, Operations Manager Luke Brigham, and Director of Operations Dave Sommer. It was a ragtag team of talented individuals wearing every hat they possibly could in order to get quality products to people that needed them.
That’s what carried the team through those trying times – the immediate positive response from early Bluebird customers. “From day one, we saw this was really supporting people’s health in a positive way.” This was reflected by the organic growth Bluebird experienced in the first several years. The company’s reputation spread quickly online and more and more customers began finding success with Bluebird CBD. The company strives to abide by FDA guidelines and thus refrains from sharing the testimonials we’ve received from our amazed and overjoyed customers concerning specific ailments. However, we have a physical “wall of happy” in our Bluebird headquarters where we share the heartwarming, tear-jerking stories of lives that have been changed by our products.
Bluebird’s bootstrap business success was guided by a ready, lucrative market and a strong industry reputation earned from exemplary customer service. “It meant so much to me to see how many people were benefitting from our products,” reminisces Brandon. However, the challenges increased alongside the growing attention on CBD. The 2014 Farm Bill resulted in a lot of contradictory policies and statements from local and federal legislative bodies. Cannabis was (and still is) fighting to dig its way out from under decades of stigma and blanket restrictions across the globe. Brandon recognized the need for more leaders from the hemp industry to step forward and lead the charge towards legalization. He volunteered for the job.
Prior to Bluebird becoming involved with lobbying organization U.S. Hemp Roundtable, hemp was essentially undefined from marijuana. Despite its minuscule levels of THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid, hemp was under the same blanket ban as marijuana. When Brandon and Bluebird became involved, they immediately began working to establish the definition of hemp and make it federally legal. The Roundtable also hired Mitch McConnell’s previous lobbyist David Cameron to help push the 2018 Farm Bill.
Brandon helped in the drafting of the language that got passed in the 2018 Farm Bill, removing hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and making it fully federally legal. He worked closely with attorneys to draft a model state bill, including a bill recently introduced in Texas that will allow the state to grow hemp for the first time in 60 years. He now serves as Executive Vice President of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable as well as the chairman of the Roundtable’s policy committee. Additionally, he is a member of the Cannabis and Government Relations Committees and serves on the board of trustees for the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). He also represents the U.S. Hemp Roundtable on the board of the Hemp Industries Association.
Although he didn’t have any hand-holding or someone saving his skin along the way, he attributes much of his success to his parents for being the most excellent role models. “Both of my parents are incredibly intelligent and hardworking. They have really helped me become who I am, and who I’ve become is what has allowed Bluebird to happen.”
Brandon and the Bluebirds are now working on one of the biggest projects yet – trying to solidify CBD’s place as a federally approved ingredient in food, supplements, and cosmetics.
To accomplish this, Brandon has been working closely with the U.S. Hemp Roundtable among several other associations. This has been an ongoing issue for over four years, but it’s an important one because it will allow extremely conservative companies to enter the CBD market without fear about the regulatory landscape. Although the FDA has acknowledged CBD’s potential as a health supplement, there’s still a lot more work to do to get the final “OK.” However, this could have major historical effects; essentially, this could be what allows the hemp CBD industry to grow into one of the largest industries in the nation.
Also, it turns out that being radically transparent and honest with your consumers is the best marketing strategy you can invest in. Bluebird’s industry-leading quality control system allows customers to view third-party lab tests for every single batch of every single product that leaves our facility.
This plays into one of Brandon’s biggest concerns about the industry – untrustworthy companies. There are unfortunately a lot of companies making bad products with bad business practices and questionable marketing tactics. This includes making disease-related claims about their products, which is against FDA regulations and creates a safety concern. Says Brandon, “It would be a lot easier for CBD to get FDA approval if everyone attempted to follow the rules – so if you’re reading this and you’re one of those companies, get your act together!”
Likewise, following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, there is still a great deal of uncertainty among companies and health departments about how to proceed. It’s going to take more time to get everyone on the same page. One of hemp’s top challenges this year will be getting state legislation passed to fully open up the industry across the nation.
The thing that most excites Brandon about the industry right now is its potential to improve the health of millions of people. Beyond the success stories our team has heard, the political, economic, and environmental impact is also incredible. Hemp leaders have put a lot of effort into developing legislature to help the industry grow. Bluebird is already a legacy company in the hemp CBD world and it’s only been six years. We’ve watched the industry grow from a few companies in 2012 and 2013 to today where the industry is making headlines across every major publication from Forbes to the Boston Globe.
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