Founder Spotlight: Kerrigan Behrens of Sagely Naturals
Kerrigan Behrens is the CMO and Co-Founder of Sagely Naturals. The CBD startup has already been featured in Vogue, Forbes, and People Magazine and their products have quickly become some of the top sellers in the market.
With a quickly growing industry, Kerrigan and co-founder, Kaley, were able to set Sagely Naturals apart by offering approachable CBD products meant to replace what’s already in your medicine cabinet. Sagely Naturals is on a mission to educate consumers on what CBD is and to provide natural solutions that help customers get back to doing more of what they love.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Sagely Naturals came to be, and what it's on a mission to be able to set out to do.
When I met my co-founder, Kaley, we actually thought we were going to start a food business. Kaley had worked in operations for a company called LYFE Kitchen, and I was in marketing for Wolfgang Puck and Taco Bell while I was in business school. When we started talking about starting a business together, obviously we were thinking about food.
Then I had my first experience using CBD. I've dealt with pretty chronic lower back pain for years and a friend recommended that I try it. The first time that I tried it, it was such a life-changing experience that I realized it had the ability to not only to change my life, but also a lot of other people's lives for the better. I was able to convince Kaley to ditch the food idea altogether, and we started Sagely Naturals in 2015.
Sagely Naturals is a collection of hemp-derived, CBD-infused products that support whole self wellness. We ended up learning that the vast majority of people are already interested in the medicinal benefits of cannabis. They just don't want to have to get high in order to experience those benefits.
The CBD market is a very fast-growing market, anticipated to be $22 billion by 2022. There's a evolving regulatory industry around CBD right now, but obviously hemp is in high demand these days. Tell me about how Sagely Naturals sources for its products, and what really makes you guys different there?
Changing regulatory environment is an understatement. That's definitely been one of the hardest things about starting the business. Sourcing is equally hard. I would say it's slightly easier today to source than it was in 2015 when we started. It still does take a ton of due diligence and quality control on our part, so we have someone internal who is dedicated solely to quality and sourcing.
It's always been critical for us to find growers and extractors that grow in the U.S. and they're growing full spectrum hemp, taking the oil out in a way that leaves no solvents, and grown without pesticides. For us specifically, we actually use CBD oil that does not contain THC. People often ask us if they're going to fail a drug test or if they're sober. They don't want to mess with THC at all, and not having that psychoactive effect is really important to them.
One of the common questions that I hear from folks that are interested in jumping into the CBD industry is, with the regulation, just challenges around payments, platforms, tools and advertising, to be able to run the business. What are the learnings that you guys have picked up along the way there?
That truly is the hardest thing, especially as that relates to our direct-to-consumer business. I can't count the number of payment processors that we have had to go through, not to mention our inability to advertise on platforms like Google and Facebook.
It does really make us focus on the basics of marketing. How can we take our customers who love our products and encourage them to tell their friends? One thing that I would say has been really useful for us is having a robust referral program. Referral marketing has been really key, because 78% of our customers have said that they've actually replaced an item in their medicine cabinet with a Sagely product, so we know that the products are working for people.
The other thing is, we lead with education. In our space in particular, people have a lot of questions about what CBD is. What's the difference between hemp and marijuana? Is this going to get me high? If we don't answer those kinds of questions right off the bat when someone arrives to our site, we're probably going to lose them pretty quickly. So we lead with education more than we do with marketing.
For other entrepreneurs that are in the early stage of setting up a business, potentially a direct-to-consumer website, what are some of the strategies that you've built into the site that really help drive conversions?
One other really important one has been offering a discount to our first-time customers who sign up for our email list. I already mentioned how important education is for us, and email really allows us to further educate, so it's been important for us to have that channel of communication open with our customers.
So, customers are coming to the site. There's a popup on the site that's offering some type of a discount. After somebody throws an email address in there, any learnings about what that welcome sequence looks like, and what's worked well for you guys with the education?
We actually just revamped our welcome series. We have a series of three emails that, no surprise, I'm going to sound like a broken record here, are really focused on educating our consumers about who we are as a brand, what CBD is, and what you really need to know up front. Then, toward the later stages, we have more of a product push.
You've also just launched Dreamwell, which is a line of product that is designed to help with sleep. What else is in store for the rest of the year and beyond that?
We're super excited about Dreamwell. The collection was inspired by the idea of encouraging people to just look forward to bedtime again. It should be a simple time. So, Dreamwell was really created to help people relax before going to sleep. We have a body oil and an essential oil roll-on which are infused with essential oils of geranium, clary sage and, obviously, CBD. Then we have our Dreamwell CBD plus melatonin capsules.
As for the future, our brand is synonymous with approachability in the CBD space, so all of our future product launches will be products that you would already find in your medicine cabinet. Our focus has really been on topical applications, things like creams, essential oil roll-ons, and that's really enabled us over the last four years to become experts on how to formulate these kinds of products. You can definitely expect to see some innovative topical applications from us in the next few months.
That's very exciting.We're in the customer service space, so one question we always like to ask is, what's your favorite customer service success story?
I think it might surprise people to hear that our customer service line actually dialed straight to my cell phone for the first two years of our business. Not only because we were a small team, but because I'm also very into customer service, like you. I still read a lot of the emails that come in through our customer service inbox. It might sound cheesy, but I actually think that customer service is one of the most critical things we do.
Empathy is our core company value, and so when we think about what that means to us, it's really about listening to our customers and trying to put ourselves in their shoes. Our mission is to allow people to do more of what they love, so hearing feedback from customers about how they've been able to get back to yoga class, or be more present with their friends and family is by far my favorite part of the job.