“I wish someone told me that this industry can be like high school” With Angela Ardolino, founder of CBD Dog Health
…That the cannabis industry would be like high school. I learned all about the industry in legal places like California, Colorado, and Canada where everyone is very open, supportive and helpful. But operating in a state where it just became medically legal, like Florida, is like the Hunger Games. It is so cutthroat, competitive, and catty. For example, Women Grow is an amazing organization which supports women in the industry; and as a feminist and long-time promoter of women entrepreneurs and leaders, I was naturally drawn to this group. But when I found my local chapter, I couldn’t get in. I called, emailed, and tried my best to become a member, but was shut down at every turn. I reached out to one of the national founders in Colorado to help me sign up, and within a week my fancy name badge came in the mail. The next month I put on my name tag and headed off to the Central Florida chapter meeting. When I walked in it was like I walked into the mean girls’ party in high school. A clique of women huddled and pointed and literally gasped at me. A bully even came up and tried to scare me away while the local chapter founder grilled me with questions — needless to say they were not welcoming. That chapter has since been shut down, but that was not the only occasion that I was excluded in cannabis circles. I have learned that you have to show up and demand to be heard and ignore those who are not supportive, because for the most part we all want the same thing: to get quality natural medicine to people and their pets.
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Ardolino, founder of CBD Dog Health. Ardolino has been caring for animals since she was 8-years-old and has operated a rescue farm for over 10 years. She is also the owner of Beautify the Beast a natural pet salon and spa, and the founder of CBD Dog Health. Angela is an expert in medical cannabis and has dedicated her life to providing all-natural relief for pets of all kinds. She has four dogs, plus four to 10 dogs at any time that she is fostering or boarding. You will never see her without a dog, chicken, goose, or bunny by her side, and her love of animals, combined with her sense of humor and ability to pivot, have made her one of the leading women in the pet CBD industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Originally, I was on a completely different career path. I was the owner of a successful parenting magazine in the Tampa Bay area and had previously founded the Miami Children’s Theater. I was constantly on the move, going to photo shoots and planning community events. But every morning, I woke up in pain and I was plagued by constant anxiety. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I did not like the toxic chemicals being offered to me for treatment. I wanted to find an all-natural way to relieve the pain and stiffness, so I searched for natural alternatives.
Medical Cannabis, CBD in particular, worked miracles for me. It not only relieved my pain and inflammation, but calmed my anxiety and feelings of stress. Because of the relief I found, I knew I needed to share this knowledge. I sold my magazine and immersed myself in learning everything I could about medical cannabis — I even went on to earn my certification in the therapeutic use of medical cannabis from the University of Vermont. I became an activist to legalize medical cannabis in Florida, and dedicated myself to educating the public, doctors, veterinarians, and anyone who wanted to learn through my Canna Conference event in 2016.
My other major passion has always been working with animals, so when I discovered that cannabis medicine works even better on animals, I knew exactly what I needed to do. As the owner of a rescue farm as well as a grooming and boarding business, not to mention an avid cannabis advocate, I married my two passions and started CBD Dog Health. We launched in June 2018, and after hemp farming became legal in all 50 states we’ve expanded quickly to include additional product lines for dogs, cats, and horses. Now, I spend every day helping animals find relief with this miracle plant and I could not be happier.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I am constantly surrounded by dogs so there is never a dull moment. But I’d have to say that having a senior vice president of a major drug chain, as well as the pet buyers from a major brick-and-mortar and online retailer call ME to ask how to sell CBD, how CBD works, and if it is legal, is the most interesting thing to happen yet. Both companies called me around the same time, and I was humbled that they would seek me out for advice, and excited that we had shown big chains how important CBD is.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back in the early days of starting our company, I was traveling back and forth between states where cannabis was legal and those where it was not. At one point I ended up flying to a state where it was not legal, with a suitcase inadvertently filled with cannabis products, mixed in with bags of our Salmon treats. It wasn’t until I opened the suitcase when I got home that I realized what had happened. I guess the smell of fish kept everyone away! (I do not recommend doing this, it could have been a much bigger issue!) I guess the lesson that I learned is to remember that although medical cannabis SHOULD be legal everywhere, we’re not quite there yet!
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always! We are currently working on our CBD Horse tinctures, treats, salves and meal toppers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have been extremely fortunate to work with an amazing team since day one, but I think one of the people I am most grateful for is my business partner, Hernando Umana. Hernando was my former student at the Miami Children’s Theater, and he had (and still has) a successful career on Broadway. He had started taking CBD to treat his own anxiety while also giving it to his dog Blanche for her anxiety, and as a result he became passionate about learning everything he could about medical cannabis. He told me he wanted to be an entrepreneur and saved his money to invest in CBD Dog Health. It has been incredible working with my best friend and “partner in crime” every day.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
Marketing CBD products, especially in the pet space, is difficult because you can’t rely on traditional marketing tools like paid social media ads. You have to ditch traditional marketing and you just have to be real and care about CBD, the customer, and the quality of your products.
We started out by filling a gap in not just one, but two billion-dollar industries — but we took the time do things right and not focus on profits. I, my rescue farm, and my mission are authentic, living brands that can’t be made up. Customers trust authentic people who create real products from natural resources that help their loved ones. Large corporations and even celebrities are hard to trust anymore, so our strategy is to be as genuine and transparent with customers as possible, without gimmicks or unrealistic expectations. You can’t get more legit than us!
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that excite me:
- The federal legalization of hemp. I want everyone to have full access to this incredible medicine.
- Being an expert in the industry from the start and using that to educate as many people as possible — all while helping animals with the power of full spectrum hemp CBD.
- Seeing the national conversation surrounding CBD and cannabis shift away from the traditional “Cannabis is bad!” argument to people demanding more research and being willing to talk about the positive aspects of medical cannabis.
Three things that concern me:
- Federal legalization — On the flipside, federal legalization also means that there will be regulations and rules that may lump hemp in with marijuana plants containing over 1 percent THC.
- Inappropriate regulations that can harm the smaller CBD companies to benefit big pharmaceutical companies who want a piece of the pie.
- Inferior products flooding the marketplace (low potency, broad spectrum, isolates, additives, human products repackaged with a paw print on the label, etc.)
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- That I would be teaching doctors. I knew I needed to educate myself, so I enrolled in the inaugural class on Cannabis Science at The University of Vermont School of Medicine. That intensive program taught me everything about the biology and therapeutic uses of this incredible plant. Since Florida was still fighting to legalize medical cannabis, I felt driven to speak at conferences and teach doctors and veterinarians about how cannabis medicine works. I was surprised to learn that the endocannabinoid system is not even mentioned in their schooling or training, so I taught them and shared research along with my own success stories.
- That I would be treated liked Narcos! People act like I’m hiring children to smuggle heroine across the “wall”. I knew when I entered the cannabis industry that it was going to be crazy, but when I went the pet and hemp direction, I thought it would be much easier because it was, and still is, LEGAL in all 50 states. I was wrong. I was dropped from online shopping platforms, blacklisted on social media, lost my payment processor three times, and was even abandoned by my original bank. As my credit card processors said, “You’re considered high-risk…you know, like porn. It’s legal, but no one wants to be their bank”.
- That I would be judged so harshly by members of the community. I went from being a parenting expert to a cannabis expert, so needless to say there was push-back. People from the non-profit where I learned and taught parenting classes accused me of “telling kids it was okay to consume marijuana”.
- That the cannabis industry would be like high school. I learned all about the industry in legal places like California, Colorado, and Canada where everyone is very open, supportive and helpful. But operating in a state where it just became medically legal, like Florida, is like the Hunger Games. It is so cutthroat, competitive, and catty. For example, Women Grow is an amazing organization which supports women in the industry; and as a feminist and long-time promoter of women entrepreneurs and leaders, I was naturally drawn to this group. But when I found my local chapter, I couldn’t get in. I called, emailed, and tried my best to become a member, but was shut down at every turn. I reached out to one of the national founders in Colorado to help me sign up, and within a week my fancy name badge came in the mail. The next month I put on my name tag and headed off to the Central Florida chapter meeting. When I walked in it was like I walked into the mean girls’ party in high school. A clique of women huddled and pointed and literally gasped at me. A bully even came up and tried to scare me away while the local chapter founder grilled me with questions — needless to say they were not welcoming. That chapter has since been shut down, but that was not the only occasion that I was excluded in cannabis circles. I have learned that you have to show up and demand to be heard and ignore those who are not supportive, because for the most part we all want the same thing: to get quality natural medicine to people and their pets.
- That in marketing CBD, you have to think so far outside of the box that you can’t even see the original box you thought you were dealing with. As I mentioned before, hemp CBD is legal in all 50 states, but big companies like Facebook haven’t yet recognized this and continually deny us the ability to run ads, even going so far as to shut down and blacklisted pages of completely legal CBD companies. My team had to learn to adapt and pivot, but I wish someone had told me to save time and abandon my original ideas about marketing and buying ads, because none of it would be applicable for CBD. I have learned that when it comes to CBD, content and education are key; and even though social media channels won’t allow you to advertise, it is still possible to build a great following and become a trusted resource for your customers. You just have to enter the marketing space with a different mindset than you may have planned.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Find and cater to every employee’s strengths, encourage them to grow, listen to them, and let them know their value. If they have joined you in your CBD company, it was a risk for them too, and acknowledging that can help them know they are valued even when things go wrong or when the company has to suddenly change course. Reward them for their successes and help them reach their goals.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want to inspire a movement I call PROUD 420: exposing cannabis users as the successful, healthy people they are! I hope to get rid of the stigma surrounding cannabis by educating everyone on the health benefits for all living beings. Healthy, active people can be cannabis users — it could be the mom in the grocery store or the business man giving a killer presentation, but everyone has felt the need to hide. So, on April 20, 2019, I am hoping to inspire #Proud420.
Removing the stigma surrounding cannabis use and the legalization of all cannabis (marijuana and hemp) would help EVERYTHING — the economy, jobs, the environment, and most importantly help all of us heal naturally. I would love to make every 4/20 a day for all kinds of people to be able to stand up and say that they are cannabis users and are proud.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
@cbddoghealth #healingnaturally #proud420
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
“I wish someone told me that this industry can be like high school” With Angela Ardolino, founder… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.