Welcome to our first Cannabis Conversations! In this series, we will be jumping into all manner of real, open & honest conversations around CBD, cannabis and the people who advocate for it.
Today, you’re hearing from Chloe & Maurice, the husband-wife duo behind RadRitual to share our CBD stories and why we do what we do. You’ll get to know the people behind the products and why in the world we got into this crazy Cannabis industry. There is an overflow of information out there about CBD and if you’re confused, check out this handy little CBD 101 guide we put together. Otherwise, let’s jump in to Cannabis Conversations #1: The Founders.
Name: Maurice Nordlander-Notkin
Position: Cannabis Chemist + Specialist
Holy Grail Product: Kushy Cloud Cream Name: Chloe Nordlander-Notkin
Position: Owner, Founder & Head Creator
Chloe: Okay, so hi… this is fun, interviewing each other. Let’s jump right in and start with your cannabis journey. You call yourself a cannabis expert or specialist these days after working in the CBD specific field for the last 7 or so years and also having involved yourself heavily in the medical marijuana sphere, but take us back to your first experience with cannabis.
I was actually always super against it, when I was younger, because of preconceived notions of what people were saying at the time about how it can mess up your intelligence and I was worried about you know college and school. I also lived in conservative Texas at the time, so it was a different environment, it was much more prevalent and accepted when I came back to Pittsburgh. The first time I tried cannabis though, I was with my best friend from like, ninth grade and we had a joint. I didn’t feel like I had a traditional high, I just got really hungry and that was pretty much it. I moved back to Pittsburgh and started using it a lot more often to help me relax. I enjoyed it the first time and thought it was fun, you know it made me feel good, relaxed, took away a lot of the normal stress of high school and the anxiety that comes along with it.
C: Nowadays, you are a medical marijuana patient. When did you feel like “oh, okay this is medicinal and therapeutic for me,” as opposed to just something fun to do?
During college, when stress and personal anxieties reached a high peak, I started recognizing the more medicinal and therapeutic effects of cannabis and that it could really be an alternative medicine with much more positive results than other methods. I've really been using cannabis as a medicine for years, since college really, it's just only become legally recognized as such in the last couple of years.
C: Okay so tell us about your trajectory from college to now working in the industry?
In late 2012, my PTSD started escalating and I was using cannabis to combat that and I started just immersing myself in that world and learning as much as I could about cannabis as a medicine for things like that. I traveled to Colorado and learned from the growers, cultivators, trimmers and bud tenders there and came back to Pittsburgh and brought my knowledge and experience to my first management position at a local store than I ran. We were one of the very first locations in the city to bring in CBD products and people really started responding to it. I ordered from California and made sure to have the highest quality available at the time and became known for that. I built a really strong reputation for myself as a highly knowledgeable, quality-driven specialist and people would come back because of that.
C: Let’s talk quality. You’ve always had quality as your top priority. That has followed you through your entire career in the industry and I know personally its something you won’t ever compromise on. You’ve also seen how much quality standards have changed since that first order to now. There are so many new technologies now that it’s so different.
Well you can start by looking at how the first form on the market was this black, tar-like oil that tasted awful, but that’s what was available and now today you can get clear, clean 99% pure CBD oils with no flavor. Just for context. Nobody knew what this thing was back then. Some places were getting it synthetically from China, nobody was testing, there were no restrictions at all, whereas today people are getting called out for sub-par lab results or false advertising on CBD quality and content. For example, a lot of the bigger, well-known and easily accessible CBD companies are getting exposed for saying they have 500mg of CBD in their oil, but lab tests prove there is only 100mg or something.
C: What does a company have to have to pass the Moe approval, because its a pretty rigorous task.
I’ve seen thousands of products from so many companies. The product itself has to look a certain way - that’s one of the first tell tales of how its made and the processes that go into it. It took a lot of product testing and personal use to recognize quality just by appearance. It matters to me where it comes from, where and how its grown. The lab results have to hold up to the highest standards of percentages and quality as well. We’re lucky to be at a point now that we won’t work with CBD labs or suppliers that are shady, sub-par or not in the business for the right reasons. If a company can't produce their third-party tested lab results, its an immediate no-go from us. The people we work with genuinely love what they produce, they love the science, technology and respect the plant and all it can do to heal people. Our partners' values always match our own and it shows in the quality of the end product.
C: This is one of the most competitive, fastest growing industries historically I think. It’s not an easy industry to work in, so why dedicate yourself to it?
I came in at the beginning with a lot of the original people and companies so I definitely feel that rapid growth and you know with rapid growth comes growing pains, but I personally know the benefits of CBD and cannabis and I believe in it. I have PTSD and chron’s and CBD/medical cannabis has been the most effective therapy or treatment to those things for me. That's coming from someone who has tried everything, I mean years worth of doctors and medicines and nothing has been as impactful in a positive way as cannabinoids. I was able to get off tons of medications using cannabinoids and its propelled me forward in a good way.
My interest in this field has never waned or decreased. Sure, there have been really challenging and trying times and its still a really vulnerable position because accounts and platforms can be taken down at any time. You know, I've had to deal with social media accounts being shut down at 10k, 14k followers. It happened enough times that we just scrapped that account completely. We've had banks shut down our account with no reason or warning. We've had our website hosts kick us off, all because we do CBD. We're constantly fighting against shadow-bans and elevated risk and competition because we work with a plant. It's getting better though, slowly, but with the Farm Bill and more states legalizing.
C: What is your favorite thing about working in the industry?
Seeing results, and seeing people come back and share their stories of how much the products have helped them in dealing with whatever they’re dealing with and how much it’s improved their wellbeing. Seeing people’s journey from curiosity or desperation evolve into loyalty because of the positive results is awesome and definitely keeps us going through the moments that may feel a little more difficult or discouraging. CBD has a unique ability to bring people together and speak honestly and let go of stigmas or assumptions, which is a really inspiring way to connect with people. In spite of all the challenges I mentioned before, it's obviously the people and how we can improve their experience that makes it worth it.
C: What’s it like working for RadRitual and how did you get here?
No idea, I think I was drugged. Just kidding. Well I got here because of you, we met and you wanted to heal people and I had the experience on the CBD side of things and we decided to put our heads together and see what we could do. It was the best decision… I love working here and doing this. We get to help more people and grow nationally and reach more people. Its really hard work making sure you always have the best quality and are providing the best customer experience, you know it’s not always perfect but we learn and grow quickly and as a dedicated team so it's worth it. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve had and the first I can really call my career as opposed to just a job. It’s really fun and also crazy working with a spouse because you can be creative together but its also the person who you go home with at the end of the day and you can’t completely separate things, but it pushes us to look at things differently and learn from each other and new ways of thinking and communicating. It is fun though and I think it works for us because we’re both highly motivated, driven and a little bit competitive.
In a day and age where the industry is at a point of thirty new CBD companies launching products daily, and others trying to take your ideas and build off them, I wont lie its very demanding and a never ending fight, but worth it for me everyday to help as many people as we can reach.
C: Well, thanks for sharing all of that and providing some awesome insights into our world and the CBD world.
Moe: Now it's your turn. Tell us about your first makeup and skincare experience and how you got to the place of wanting to make your own products.
My journey started very low effort. I started using moisturizer because someone told me I had dry skin and if I didn't moisturize I could age faster. For makeup, I never wore much of anything until probably high school. I remember ninth grade was like the peak of that black eyeliner, raccoon look, but that's what everyone was doing. There was nothing on my face but moisturizer and eyeliner and maybe a little gloss or balm… lip balm was very big in high school. Foundation always scared me and still to this day if I can go barefaced I do, so that’s like 97% of the time, but I do love playing with colors.
I love watching other people do makeup because it’s just such an art form and also very soothing to the soul for some reason. Watching someone create art on a living face, it’s just an act of love and care whether its on your own face or someone else and it’s the same for a skincare routine. Building a routine means you’ve had to take the time to get to know your skin personally and what it likes and needs. It’s a pretty intimate ritual of self care, which is something everybody needs in their life and I think on a real level, that’s why I love it so much and why I wanted to bring that energy into people’s lives through my products.
I got really into skincare personally in college and looking back on it now, I think I got so into it because it was like an outlet or escape and it did become a way for me to learn myself. It was just an interest then, until I got to grad school and started playing around with making my own products. I started doing that because I had sensitive skin, I wanted natural and clean products and I wanted a creative outlet. I love making things with my hands and tend to jump into those kinds of projects when my life is a little hectic and I need to feel grounded. Creating has always been my ultimate grounding ritual, but I ended up actually thinking that I hated making my own products because I was doing it out of the tiniest little NYC kitchen and it wasn’t grounding at that point. Life kind of took over for a while, but I was learning about the real, nasty, dangerous world of mainstream skincare ingredients and regulations and how badly it can impact our health in real ways so I knew from that point that I wanted to do a business that supported other people who made their own products and help get them into the hands of people looking for high quality, clean beauty and skincare.
I honestly never thought I would end up making my own products again, but when my heart feels something calling it, I have to listen. Now that I have a more adequate way to make products (not a tiny NYC kitchen) I am so in love with it again. I’ve known the struggles of hating your skin and kissing a lot of skincare frogs just to hope for the one that will make a difference. I hope the products I make instill confidence and self love and that “Wow, I finally found a no-bullshit product that makes me love my skin again” moment for people.
M: We work in two extremely competitive and fast growing industries. What is that like and how do the skincare and CBD industries compare or differ?
As you said before, we’re both highly driven individuals and I think fast paced industries suit us well, but man is it a challenge every single day. For me, it drives my creativity to levels I didn’t even think I had in me. Every competitor or hurdle or set back just feeds my creativity and pushes me to want to move faster or do better and its what keeps my brain fresh with ideas. The truth is that I never thought I would be in this industry. I went to school for International Relations and Social Change and then a Masters program in Non-profit Management and Social Entrepreneurship. I’ve learned the CBD and Beauty industries by experience / trial by fire essentially and for me, that works well because the industries we’re in change rapidly every single day, so its not really something any courses or books could have taught anyway.
You have to be adaptable in such fast-moving and growing sectors, but be able to stay true to yourself. It’s interesting for us, I would say, because the mission and values of our business are so personal. It’s about an experience and emotions and enhanced wellbeing for our customers and it comes from such a personal place, but at the same time its business and business is supposed to be the opposite of personal. I think we’re learning daily how to blur those expectations of what business is supposed to be and that’s why I’m grateful for never having gone to school for this. I like that our industries allow for more fluidity and rule-breaking and norm-questioning because I think that’s what creates better, more authentic brands and brand-to-customer experiences.
There are things that I hate about the CBD Beauty industry for sure. I hate that money really does rule everything, meaning brands with giant budgets can launch shitty products with CBD on the label and be the ones who are getting seen by consumers. Brand trust is at a really low point because of this system where consumers don’t know what’s paid for, what’s real, what’s just a marketing ploy and this is especially rampant in our industry. There’s a lot of pettiness and copying and just low-integrity moves happening every day and that truthfully does get to me, but I’m learning how to cope with that in positive ways. I just put faith into the quality of our brand and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received since launching and hope that its really the people who are in this for the right reasons that end up sticking around for a long time and rising to the cream of the crop.
I call our brand a disruptive brand because in the Beauty Industry, its really built on making consumers feel like they aren't good enough or beautiful enough or whatever and there is zero integrity in terms of ingredient safety or transparency. Our brand disrupts that norm because we stand for the complete opposite of that. You know this about me because we're married, but I hate being told what to do or how to do things, so when the industry says you have to do things one way, I tend to try and prove that wrong. It's also pretty amazing to be in an industry that is dominated by women entrepreneurs. The cannabis industry has a higher percentage of female ownership than traditional business does and we've really been grabbing this potential by the horns. It's exciting that one of the fastest growing industries is also one of the most woman-owned too and I feel really lucky to have found my way here.
M: How did you end up deciding to incorporate CBD into skincare. What was your previous experience or exposure to cannabis and CBD?
Like most people, I smoked a lot in my younger days until I stopped having fun with cannabis and wouldn’t touch it for a long time. I had essentially written it off as just being something that wasn’t for me anymore. Back then there really was no education around it in my world, you just got what you got and that was that. I grew up in New York City, so we smoked a lot of Sour Diesel and that was about as much as I knew about what I was ever smoking, so to me, I viewed all weed as being one in the same. CBD was not even in anyone’s frame of reference at all.
When I adopted two rescue dogs in my grad-school days, I heard of CBD for the first time and sort of didn’t think much of it. Then, when we met, I had already started my journey of detoxing off of hormonal birth control, which was one of the best moves I've made personally, but I started having really crippling menstrual pain, like knock the wind right out of you for days pain. Like most who turn to CBD, I did so because I was desperate for anything to work. You told me about it and that you sold it in your shop at the time and I tried it and it was the only thing that worked for the pain. I started to notice that if I was using CBD regularly, I could go months without any pain.
Then, when you brought your CBD to RadRitual and the quality of our CBD oils improved and improved, I started putting them directly onto my face because I figured, if it can do all these amazing things for my insides, what can it do for my skin? I saw the fastest results I had ever seen, specifically to my under eyes, which had always been a struggle area that no product could tackle and I decided this was something worth playing around with. So, that’s really how the idea of what our brand is today was born and I love that you can see the roots of that in our products (cough, Womb Boom, cough). It's been a really funny journey for me because I went from being a cannabis user as a teen, to completely swearing it off and hating it, to now actually working and advocating for it again.
It just goes to show that there are so many misconceptions about it and that when you actually educate yourself on all of the variations and things that cannabis can do, your entire idea of what it is can change. I've learned what varieties of cannabis work for me and what doesn't and that's a pretty empowering place to be in because you can advocate for your own wellbeing and health.
M: What is your vision now, where do you see the brand and company going moving forward?
I think our vision is the same and that is to be the best brand that we can be and to be known by consumers as a most trustworthy & educational CBD brand. I know that the results of our products already speak for themselves and I envision just becoming better and better because our foundation already is so great. I have so many fun product ideas that I can’t wait to bring to life and share with the world, so growth is definitely on the horizon. As nice as it is to be such a small, family operated business right now, I hope to move into a position where I could be training and hiring passionate people to help with the production and manufacturing of our products and expand on our workshop environment.
As long as the business is under my ownership, it will always be hand-crafted by real human people because quality really is our number one pillar, so to teach others how to make our products and be able to produce more without compromising on quality would be incredible. My social change background also hopes to use our brand platform as an agent of change in the cannabis world too. I feel a responsibility because cannabis is so healing but has also been a tool for oppression of marginalized people, you know so many people have been imprisoned on cannabis related charges and I hope that our platform can be big enough one day to make a difference there. Hopefully some good and exciting collaborations will be in the future too, but everyone will just have to stay tuned in to see where we go and what happens!
M: How does your background in Reiki and Energy Work correlate or help the brand & your work?
I did a really fun interview with The Cools a little while back that goes into more of that side of the business, but Reiki and Energy Healing fall into the same category of self love / self care. It's been hard to mesh my role as a practicing healer and creator of our products just because of time constraints but when I'm making products, I am tapping into my spiritual side because it makes me feel in touch with myself on a spiritual level. Maybe it goes back to ancestors who provided plant based medicines to their communities or who knows why, but I feel myself healing when I'm creating these products and as most healers will know, when we heal ourselves, we heal others. I do still practice for my regular clients and occasionally open up my book to new clients if I have time. Primarily though, my background in healing informs the RadRitual brand by allowing me to infuse our products with healing energy and it also serves as a pillar of strength and belief for me when things are more challenging. Since starting this business, I've been through a lot, and we've been through a lot together that I don't think I would have been able to push through in the same way without that background to fall back on for guidance. My intuition is and has always been my inner compass and my spirituality makes me feel strong and that's something that I think any entrepreneur needs in one way or another.