How I Started A Successful
Luxury CBD and Wellness Brand
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Emma Thornton, CEO, LUV Wellness LLC.
As a female-founded wellness and beauty brand, we believe healthier women will lead to a healthier world. We know that anxiety, inflammation, pain and depression, and lack of sleep, are a very real concern. This is why we don’t just make CBG and CBD products. We are growing a passionate and engaged community. This allows women from everywhere to connect with each other and discover how LUV can enhance their holistic health and wellness.
LUV is laser-focused on the incredible therapeutic properties of cannabinoids, in particular CBG (cannabigerol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Our aim is bringing them to more women in a way that supports and sustains their natural beauty.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
LUV was born when I went through a breast cancer diagnosis. I threw myself into researching holistic health and wellness therapies to use alongside my prescribed cancer treatment. CBG and CBD were some of the most effective additions to my lifestyle. I became passionate about bringing this pure natural, botanical to other women. Particularly those who struggle, not only with health scares but also with skin concerns, sleep issues, stress and inflammation.
However, LUV is about more than CBG and CBD. It is about self-care and community. It is a safe space for women to share ideas and information without judgment, united in the problems we all face. Space where self-care is not selfish. It’s a platform that supports women and has given me, and others, the opportunity to share knowledge and personal experience of how CBD can change your life.
After being diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in 2015, I began searching for high-quality CBD products to help during my recovery.
After speaking with my oncologist about CBD, I received a medical marijuana prescription to help me during chemotherapy. I took a very holistic approach to the fight.
Before my double mastectomy, I did 4 months of chemo. But I shunned all the other drugs offered other than a small number of steroids. I took strong full-spectrum CBD to help with pain, inflammation and sleep. For about an hour every day, I religiously worked out, even if it meant that my daughter (who was 7 at the time) had to help push me up the hill! I alkalized my body with a strict diet, took infra-red saunas, vitamin IV’s and examined everything I put onto and into my body.
Given my personal experience, I became convinced that the benefits of CBD profoundly helped me. From easing discomfort, boosting my mood, to calming my mind and stress levels, and helping me sleep. I also discovered how to create the most innovative, high quality, reliable, clean CBG and CBD products.
Prior to the start of LUV, I was a Senior Executive at Nike. As Global Head of Strategy for Nike’s Influencer Marketing team, I signed celebrities such as Travis Scott, Jorja Smith, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. As Chief of Staff for the Strategic Initiatives Division, I ran Nike’s Global Strategy for both the Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics. I also launched the Nike Women’s Style Offense and collaborated on the Nike HTM Flyknit Global Project in 2012.
Before moving to the US with Nike, I lived in Paris and worked for Chanel. Prior to being the first female GM in Dubai, running the GCC region for The Bank Agency, I spent my formative years in London working for The Royal Family, Christian Dior and Tag Heuer. I also worked in motorsport with the likes of McLaren Mercedes and Pirelli. I held the position of EMEA Marketing Director for Microsoft and started my career in Structured Finance at the Japanese Investment Bank Sanwa.
A graduate of The University of Southampton, I competed on both the collegiate sailing and netball teams. I grew up living in Italy, Germany and the UK and currently reside in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy spending time with my husband and two daughters paddle boarding on the lake, skiing and playing golf.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
We definitely found that it was harder not to compromise on clean and sustainable. Sustainably sourcing is harder from a supply chain point of view, and it takes a lot of good planning! For example, some of our raw material lead times are long! Beautiful custom-designed glass jars from Italy, that are food-safe and recyclable, also take longer than sourcing from China!
LUV formulations are guided by the philosophy that extraordinary products are born from a combination of nature’s finest raw ingredients, meticulous craftsmanship and breakthrough technology. Robust testing means that we can guarantee we are sourcing the best when it comes to raw ingredients. Something that, given my personal experience, I’m very passionate about.
LUV is committed to harnessing the natural healing properties of our pure botanical ingredients. We create formulas alive with potent antioxidants that nourish, protect and rejuvenate the skin. We are very meticulous when it comes to selecting the best ingredients for each product. I have a great team around me who also bring tons of experience to this part of the business.
LUV’s natural and clean formulations are cruelty-free, vegan and responsibly sourced. They are also free from parabens, sulfates, mineral oils, formaldehyde, synthetic fragrances and toxins. We have some great partners who’ve been able to work with us right from the start, and make this process a lot more streamlined, which is fabulous!
Throughout, I am really proud to say that we have stood by our founding values:
REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH TO CBG AND BEAUTY
We harness the natural healing properties of the highest quality, purest botanical ingredients.
A BETTER WORLD THROUGH SUSTAINABILITY
Our products are low-impact on the planet and use sustainable materials that avoid toxins and unnecessary waste.
EMPOWER WOMEN EVERYWHERE
Everything we do must meet our mission of enhancing women’s lives through their daily practice of self-care, health, & wellness.
In terms of finance, we have been fortunate to have a dedicated team of amazing founders/investors – led by women! We started with an initial investment of a few hundred thousand dollars, and completed a 7 figure friends and family round at the end of last year. Having been through that process, I’m often asked for advice from women who have a great new business idea or are just starting out on their journey as an Entrepreneur. I’m always honored to be able to help other women in any way I can.
Who is your target market?
Primarily, women who are conscious of ingredient quality, and have a commitment to understanding what goes into their products. They are also likely to have an interest in the LUV lifestyle. They are strong, successful women who care about holistic health, and the benefits of great quality beauty products.
Different women use CBG and CBD to tackle different problems depending on their situation. For example, I hear from our 20-30 year old consumer that they are overworked and anxious. 30-40-year-old busy mums are stressed out and trying to exercise more, but need help with muscle recovery. Everyone is more aware of how detrimental inflammation is AND every woman I speak with agrees that they would like better sleep!
Our consumers of all ages tell us that they have benefited from using CBD and CBG for all of those things. Those women who are interested in the latest and greatest innovations are super excited about the work we have been doing with CBG and the impact it does and will continue to have in the beauty world.
Also, women who love LUV, care about the values we uphold. For example, products that are USA grown and made, organic standards, clean and pure ingredients that are sustainable, recyclable packaging, and a brand that’s female-owned and run, which gives back to other women who are facing health challenges.
We have a give-back program benefiting women going through or who’ve survived cancer.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
We are approached by a lot of celebrities and influencers on Instagram who are excited to try LUV products. It’s great to see how CBD/CBG is becoming more mainstream, as word gets out about how incredible the results are.
We work with an exclusive number of ‘game-changers’ and lifestyle experts and have a group of trusted advisors who are leaders in their fields, from entertainment, to business, to fitness to running charitable organizations. They are actively involved in giving feedback and contributing to the success of LUV.
We have a membership program, and a weekly newsletter through which members hear first about exclusive offers, new products and have access to seasonal events (online and in person!)
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
LUV is a community of incredible women. United globally in their belief that they can demand the purest, most effective botanical ingredients that have a huge impact on their skin, as well as benefiting their holistic health and wellness as part of a truly integrated regime.
Our product, in particular our ground-breaking CBG is truly unique.
We have a dedicated and loyal fan-base in the LUV member community. Our blog, ‘Friday Favorites’ and weekly ‘5 Minutes of Self-Care’ newsletter seem to resonate with women as they cover everything from beauty, skincare, to fitness, mindfulness to amazing recipes.
We have a LUV Woman of the Month feature where we profile an amazing woman which is great because we get to learn from the best. Women who’ve tackled immense challenges, and managed to overcome them to the point that they and their business/family/health are thriving. It’s truly inspirational.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
My immediate thought in response to this question was “Gosh, I’ll have to ask my team what they think!” But actually, that ethos is really what drives LUV. I hope, more than anything that everyone knows they have a voice, that they are valued, that they are heard. I truly believe in the power of the collective, over one individual.
I’m also aware of my strengths, and where I have gaps, so I know when to ask for help and advice. I hope I help to create an encouraging and supportive environment, one that supports each team member’s personal health and wellness.
If someone texted and said they were running 5 minutes late for our 1:1 because they’ve been working out or meditating, I’d usually tell them I’m happy for them and understand their situation. My team can only perform at their best if they are given the freedom and flexibility to focus on self-care so they can stay healthy and happy.
I work hard to set an ambitious vision and communicate clearly how everyone on the team can contribute to achieving that vision, then help lift up and empower them to deliver how they know best.
I think about leadership, and what makes a good, inspiring leader a lot. This time, during quarantine, has certainly encouraged me to be more honest, open, and to communicate more. I’ve also learnt a great deal about leadership during my professional career at some of the world’s biggest companies.
I founded LUV, a by women, for women brand in the luxury space, precisely because I saw the way that women were under-served, particularly relative to CBG and CBD and because I wanted to create a culture in which women would thrive in the service of others and their holistic health and wellness.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
We have a variety of proprietary, custom built tools designed specifically for LUV that connect our content, consumers and commerce and help us all be more efficient and effective. During recent weeks, I would say that zoom calls have been the most helpful, as there is no substitute for being face to face and being able to check in on each other visually during this time.
By nature, our business is global, so communication is key. We have robust data management and customer analysis tools in place, which means we are able to serve our consumers well, when they need it most, by anticipating their needs and providing solutions that fit them on an individual level.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
Prior to founding LUV, I had worked for large global corporations as well as small start-ups, from London, to Paris, to Amsterdam to South Africa, to Dubai and Qatar. I’d been fortunate to work with a huge range of different people from all over the world and learn from them.
I knew a lot about general management, strategy and marketing prior to LUV. However, I hadn’t been very hands-on in terms of sourcing and supply chain previously. I didn’t realize how long it would take to make fully customized, unique products. Particularly those designed, specifically, in new and different ways. Added to that, of course, my personal passion for innovation, and a willingness to do things differently.
Some key things I’ve learned are;
- Stay curious
- Stay humble
- Ask the right questions, then ask more
- Learn to identify people’s individual strengths and help create a role for them in which they can thrive
- Pay attention to the details, but never lose sight of the “helicopter view”… your team is relying on you to set a clear direction and commit to it
- Don’t be afraid to set audacious goals.. then re-imagine them as you start to get closer – pivot if you need to
- Lead with innovation
- Listen to your intuition… then collect the data you need to make the best decision possible in any given moment
- Move fast
- Never assume… anything!
- Communicate more than you think you need to, and don’t be afraid to have a difficult conversation, sooner rather than later
- If your vision is clear, and your team knows that you have their back, you can achieve anything
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
So much! I love the speed, being able to make decisions fast. I love working in a new and fast-growing industry where we have the chance to shape the future. More than anything, I am excited to wake up every day and live the values of LUV. Our community is incredible. I hear amazing feedback from women about our products. That, for me, truly makes my day.
It’s also a real honor to be able to give back to women who are going through or recovering from cancer. I work closely with doctors and healers to make that happen. For me, it’s really important to connect and engage with women who are going through an experience that’s similar to mine. I understand the challenges, and know that life is better with LUV!
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
There are never enough hours in the day! However, I’ve learned to be laser-focused, when we need it most, and help the team prioritize. It’s impossible to do everything, and sometimes certain things may have to wait. It is a work in progress!
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
I LOVE business books, but don’t always have time to read them cover to cover so I use the Blink App which summarizes them really well..
With anything, I like to learn from the best. So business books by Jack Welch, Peter Drucker and Robert Cialdini for example. I’m currently reading The Second Machine Age, by Brynjolfsson and McAfee, which is extremely relevant for these changing times.
I also enjoyed reading Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, along with books like The 10 Minute Life Coach by Fiona Harrold for mindfulness and staying on track. Paul Arden’s “It’s Not How Good You Are, it’s How Good You Want to Be.” is excellent too, for its simplicity and wisdom.
I love reading books by women I admire or can learn from for example;
- How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith
- Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
We are continually innovating in terms of our products and ingredients, particularly in the beauty and skincare line. The next 2-3 years will be a great opportunity to surprise and delight our LUV community, with what are planning to bring to market.
I’m also particularly excited to see the LUV brand grow and expand Internationally to the UK, Europe, Japan and South Korea.