How Fleur Marché Is Converting The CBD-Curious Luxury Customer with Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder

fleur marche ashley meredith schroeder

As cannabis continues to skyrocket and make its way into other industries, more and more entrepreneurs are looking to jump in.

But with CBD only just entering the mainstream, how do startups determine their ideal customers and then – even more difficult – win them over?

Enter Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, former directors at Goop and co-founders of online startup and “cannabis apothecary” Fleur Marché.

Inspired by cannabis’ many health benefits, Ashley and Meredith set out on a mission to bring this powerful ingredient to the beauty and wellness arena, providing a carefully-selected curation of the best cannabis products for canna-curious luxury customers.

In this episode, Ashley and Meredith share an inside look at Fleur Marché and give us some tips on how entrepreneurs should go about finding (and then converting) their correct target market.

Learn more at https://fleurmarche.com

Key Takeaways:

  • Ashley and Meredith’s work at Goop and what sparked their desire to enter the cannabis space
  • An inside look at Fleur Marché, including its educational resources and online curation of the most elegant, top-quality cannabis products on the market
  • Ashley and Meredith’s mission to convert the canna-curious luxury consumer and bring cannabis into the beauty and wellness space
  • How the co-founders drew on their experience at Goop during Fleur Marché’s creation process
  • Ashley and Meredith’s day-to-day work at Fleur Marché and how they complement each other as co-founders
  • How Fleur Marché targets its ideal audience and Ashley’s advice on how to niche down your demographic
  • How Meredith successfully raised capital for Fleur Marché and her advice to entrepreneurs looking to fund their startups
  • Where Ashley and Meredith see the cannabis-wellness space going over the next few years and the opportunities that excite them the most

Read Full Transcript

Matthew: Hi, I'm Matthew Kind. Every Monday, look for a fresh new episode where I'll take you behind the scenes and interview the insiders that are shaping the rapidly evolving cannabis industry. Learn more at cannainsider.com. That's cannainsider.com. Now here's your program.

Matthew: Hello, CannaInsiders. Today we have a great show for you. We're going to hear from the co-founders, a young startup called Fleur Marché. My biggest three takeaways from this interview were that these founders thought the opportunity around CBD was so big and compelling that they left their day job at Gwyneth Paltrow's lifestyle brand, Goop, to start Fleur Marché. Two, why defining clarity around your ideal customer and your message is so important. And three, how to raise capital and refine your pitch to investors. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Many cannabis and hemp companies are starting. But do they know who their target market or ideal customer is? Today's guests are co-founders that are doing an excellent job of defining who they want to serve. I am pleased to welcome Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, co-founders of Fleur Marché. Meredith and Ashley, welcome to "CannaInsider."

Ashley: Thanks for having us.

Meredith: Thank you.

Matthew: Give us a sense of geography. Where are you in the world today?

Ashley: This is Ashley. I am sitting in our headquarters in Hancock Park, Los Angeles.

Matthew: Okay.

Meredith: And this is Meredith and I'm actually in my third bedroom in my house in Highland Park, which is on the east side of Los Angeles.

Matthew: Okay. And I'm in Winter Park, Florida today. So I'm glad we're all someplace warm for spring here.

Ashley: Nice. Yay for spring break.

Matthew: Yeah. Ashley, what is Fleur Marché at a high level?

Ashley: So, Fleur Marché is an online CBD boutique, whose mission is to rebrand cannabis as wellness. And we're specifically targeting women who are skeptical or outright closed off to using cannabis as anything other than a recreational drug. That's sort of what they have always thought of it as and aren't quite yet ready to accept that it's something different. So we're trying to change their minds.

Matthew: Okay. And Meredith, can you share a little bit about your background and journey and how you got into the cannabis space and came to start this company with Ashley?

Meredith: Sure. My background is actually pretty well entrenched in retail and women's fashion. So I started my career at a big box retailer called Macy's. When they were headquartered up in San Francisco. They had a West Coast headquarters up in San Francisco. So I kind of started my career there. Learned all the ways of a big box retailer and then went more and more niche from there in terms of retail experiences. So most recently, I was at Goop, where I managed the fashion vertical, the e-commerce business.

So I've been, again, entrenched in sort of like female-facing consumer businesses, primarily in fashion, my whole career, whether it be buying, planning, merchandising strategy. So, very familiar with a female audience and how to contextualize a product assortment for her. And then in terms of how I became interested in cannabis, it was much more of a personal journey for me. As Ashley mentioned, you know, we're going after a reluctant sort of like audience and consumer and that really was who I was.

Embarrassingly enough, a couple of years ago, I wouldn't go near cannabis because I still was recovering or had PTSD from a bad pot brownie experience. And once I realized sort of what the new product landscape looked like and how amazing these product offerings were sort of like out in the modern day cannabis world, my lens was changed once I tried some products and integrated them in my life for my own sort of like wellness needs. And so I became pretty obsessed with all things CBD and THC and sort of finding the right products for myself to integrate into my wellness routine and just for sort of like daily things like period symptoms, pain management, workout recovery, sleep aid, all of the things that we sort of like deal with based on daily stresses.

And once I became passionate about the category, I realized, especially given my background, that there really wasn't a great retail experience out there. And that there was such an opportunity to create something beautiful and sophisticated and really elevated so that women could more viscerally respond to this category in the way that I knew that they could because, as it existed before, the retail experience just was subpar.

Matthew: Yeah. So deep retail experience, that's great. When people don't know what Macy's is, sometimes I'll come across people and it's like they don't know what Macy's is. "And I really don't know what that is." I go, "Oh, it's the store from 'Elf.' Isn't that right?" They go, "Oh, yeah. Okay, I know what that is."

Meredith: Oh, my gosh. Yes, I'm probably dating myself by saying I started at Macy's.

Matthew: Yeah. No, no. I mean, but everybody knows it once you say that. So...

Meredith: True.

Matthew: So, Ashley, before you answer that question as well, I just want to say for, like, every woman that's listening pretty much knows what Goop is. That's Gwyneth Paltrow's kind of lifestyle site. And there's also e-commerce and fashion and a lot of things going on there. But for men that are listening, they're like, "What's Goop?" So that's what it is.

Ashley: Yeah, thank you for clarifying.

Matthew: Yes. Yes. So, Ashley, go ahead. You tell us about your background and journey as well.

Ashley: Yeah. So I think my career is mostly shaped by strategy and storytelling. I started off in the film industry as a development executive. So reading a lot of scripts and trying to figure out how to package them with writers and directors, which is where sort of the storytelling aspect comes in. I did that for a while, realized it really was not the thing that I was meant to do. So I went to business school to learn some skills, and came out of business school really wanting to focus on marketing, and figuring out how to sort of stretch that storytelling aspect of my career into something that was a bit more strategic and focused on data and thinking about sort of frameworks and things like that.

So, went to Mattel, where I was a brand manager on the Barbie brand, which was really pretty wonderful. And that's where I really learned the fundamentals of marketing, and how strategy and storytelling play into that. From Mattel, I went to a company called ClassPass that at the time was a small startup and launched their LA operation. It has since grown and is now an international fitness platform. And then left ClassPass to go to Goop where I was brought on to the team to launch the wellness business vertical.

And for the men and women out there who may not be as familiar with Goop, it's really known, first and foremost, for its wellness practices and sort of for pushing progressive, alternative, interesting conversations about wellness and health and sort of providing options for primarily women, but also men, anyone who's interested, alternative to traditional medicine. So I came...traditionally they've mostly done that in content. And I was brought on to help to put a commerce aspect next to it. And it was...I think we're going to talk about this...it was as part of my role at Goop that I really first encountered cannabis.

Matthew: Yeah, you know, that background in the film industry and script reading and stuff, is there anything that you kind of still take away from that experience in your day to day life where you say, "I'm going to kind of take this idea that I learned from the movie industry and apply it here"?

Ashley: A hundred percent. I think in terms of as we think about messaging and brand building and what you're actually communicating to your audience, whether that's an audience of moviegoers, or an audience of CBD users, I think figuring out, first and foremost, what is it that we're trying to say has always been something that was really deeply ingrained in me and what is the point of this.

And with a script, it's actually much harder oftentimes than a marketing message because you have, you know, two hours' worth of content to sift through. But the other thing I think they've really taken and it translates, regardless of the story you're trying to tell, is the emotional connection. And that's really what makes either a film or a business successful. Are you connecting with your customers or consumers on an emotional level that really touches them and makes them feel like they need to keep coming back for more? They need to really engage and to really take part in whatever it is you're building.

Matthew: Okay. So, Ashley, you were at Goop, you have this background in the film industry and in marketing. What made you think about CBD that it was going to be a big opportunity? What was kind of the moment where you're like, "Hey, this is gonna be big, and I want to be part of it"?

Ashley: A hundred percent. So, early on, in my tenure at Goop, we started thinking about CBD, because to her credit, Gwyneth Paltrow was an early sort of adopter of the notion that cannabis could be wellness. So way before I was actually working in it, I was researching it and figuring out, what is this? What's the regulatory landscape around it? What's the science behind it? How do you vet products to make sure that they're high quality and you're not selling snake oil?

And in the course of doing that, I started to use it myself and realized that it was very effective. At Meredith's suggestion, oftentimes, I would sort of try products mainly, for me, for pain relief, substituting out Tylenol and Aleve. I realized that this was a really potent wellness tool. And of all the wellness tools and wellness healing modalities that I was being exposed to, for me personally, this was the most palpably effective. But I was also realizing that, you know, I was selling products to all of these women who were very invested in wellness and self-care, really willing to be adventurous in terms of what they were trying and the products that they were, you know, testing out or sampling.

But when you said the word "cannabis" to those same women, they almost like physically recoiled, immediately shut down and would say, "No, no, I'm not a stoner. I'm not interested in getting high. That has no place in my self-care routine." And it felt like there was really sort of an opportunity to help them understand that this could be something really valuable in terms of making them feel better. And so just, again, from my storytelling background, it felt like we really just needed to tell a new story.

We really had to rebrand cannabis as wellness and start talking to these women about how cannabis and specifically CBD could help them sleep better or manage their anxiety or deal with menstrual cramps, as opposed to just something that's used, you know, recreationally to get high. I felt like if you could effectively do that, you could take this averse consumer group, make them curious, engaged, and then ultimately very loyal in the same way that they were loyal to things like ashwagandha and crystals and tarot cards and, you know, things of that nature.

Matthew: Okay. So Meredith, you went from having a bad experience with a pot brownie to pushing CBD on Ashley.

Meredith: I had quite the evolution. Yes, it's true.

Matthew: Well, let's talk about fleurmarche.com. Meredith, if we were to pull up your site right now and just be looking over your shoulder as you browse through it, what would we see?

Meredith: Yeah. I think, first and foremost, you'd probably notice some really beautiful product imagery and photography. That was a really important aspect for us. We wanted this site to feel more akin to a beauty or wellness, health and wellness site or even close to fashion. We wanted it to feel like a big departure from traditional sort of cannabis experiences that you see online. So there's big, sort of visceral images that are very stimulating.

And then we also have a lot of educational content on the site as well. So you'll kind of see equal parts product photography and product focus as well as educational elements because to us, to sort of our continuous points, our whole goal is re-contextualizing this category that otherwise, women feel icky about or still have a stigma about. So we want to make sure that we string educational components for the category throughout the entire sort of shopping experience.

Matthew: Yeah. And you've really done a great job at that. That was one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you because I was like, "Wow, this is just really well executed." And back to Ashley's point of like, "What are we trying to say?" And you get to that quickly and you have to get that point across quickly because when people come to their site, it's like, you have about three seconds to show them something before they're like, "I'm out of here," you know.

Meredith: Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly. We wanted to make an impact quick because, you know, and we thought about our audience a lot and we thought about the fact that we wanted it to be sort of non-generational when our mothers shop on this website, when our cousins shop on this website, when our peers shop on this website. So we really wanted it to feel welcoming to, really, all women.

Matthew: And Ashley, how do you define your customer and speak to them?

Ashley: Yeah. So it's really the customer I mentioned before, we call her "the reluctant consumer." That's really who we're going after. And it's more of a, I would say, a psychographic segmentation than a demographic segmentation at this point. It's that woman I just started to describe before who is very highly invested in wellness and self-care, whether that's through fitness or eating organic food or using crystals and breath work or all of the above. This is something that's important to her life, but she does not yet identify cannabis as an ingredient or a solution that's relevant to her. So we are laser focused on helping to change her mind.

Matthew: And the psychographic, how deep do you go in mapping that out in terms of what this customer avatar, you know, does for fun, what their concerns are, how they see the future, what kind of car they drive? You know, how far down that rabbit hole do you go to define your customer?

Ashley: To be fully transparent, to date, we have not gone that far down because we were...one, we were working to get the site up quickly. But, two, I think we both have a pretty...from our past experience, it's a pretty solid understanding of who that woman is just from real-time speaking to her whether it was at Macy's and BCBG or ClassPass or Barbie at Mattel.

So we had a pretty good sense, foundationally. And then we did a bit of research before we launched the company. We did a survey with 200 of our peers, family, friends, and friends of friends to understand their thoughts on cannabis and sort of how they were using it, so that informed a ton of our sort of mapping. And then anecdotally, just every single day, I think our hypothesis proves true as we talked to women in their 80s and women in their 20s who sort of have the same questions about CBD or are interested, curious, maybe, but mostly are afraid of it.

But at the same time are not finding solutions to the needs that they currently have, and so are open to at least having the conversation. As we are now sort of putting functionality on the site, and in our email communications, that will help us get more of that actual information now that we sort of have real customers in real time, and so we'll continue to build that out.

Matthew: Okay. And we talked a little bit about the look and the feel of the site already, Meredith, but how did you come up with the exact motif and draw on your experience at Goop to do that, to convey what you were trying to do? I mean, you had an idea in your head of what you want to try to convey, but then how do you actually materialize that?

Meredith: Yeah, it was something that we talked a lot about, and we went through a lot of iterations for. We knew that we wanted it to feel very feminine. So that really was the foundation of, like, determining sort of like our logo, our typography, sort of like the color palette. We wanted it to be very non-generational as I mentioned earlier, so that it could really run the gamut of women that it would appeal to. But first and foremost, we wanted it to feel feminine because that was what we felt was missing from the traditional retail experience in cannabis.

Nothing felt overtly feminine. There was certainly, like, luxury plays in the form of dispensaries, but nothing that really spoke to women in the way that we knew we could. And then, you know, we were very thoughtful about sort of architecting the site accordingly. So, you know, all of our efforts were really focused on intuitive frameworking of the website so that the shopping experience was all sort of femininity-based and psychologically reached the woman in a way that wasn't being offered in the online retail landscape prior.

But yeah, I mean, there was a lot of detail that went into it. Having a French sort of typography for our logo is really important. The meaning of...we should probably clarify that the meaning of Fleur Marché, it sort of loosely translates to a flower market. So we really wanted to, again, re-contextualize what the word "flower" meant in the traditional cannabis space, then we wanted it to feel overtly feminine. So florals are certainly an important part of what we do. You'll see that repetitive sort of in the design of everything we've built out. And, yeah, I mentioned this earlier, but we certainly wanted it to feel beginner friendly.

Everything needs to feel really, like not...you know, you're not intimidated by the experience at all, because that was a frustration for us early on. And then in terms of how Goop influenced it, I mean, of course, it did. I think Goop was, and Gwyneth certainly and we were so lucky to work alongside her throughout our tenure at Goop. But, you know, she's sort of a master and the team at Goop is a master at executing beautiful brand experiences and retail experiences. So I think that was an inherent part of being able to execute this beautifully.

Matthew: Ashley, what you're doing here is interesting because Fleur Marché is really a product curation and education site. You don't create your own products, but you do organize products into interesting bundles and categories. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Ashley: Yes, I'm happy to. So when we decided to start the company, we knew almost immediately that we wanted to be a curator at the outset at least, as opposed to creating our own product. And the reason for that was that all of a sudden, we were seeing a ton of really high quality, interesting, sort of strategic products come out specifically targeted towards this reluctant consumer or what we specifically targeted at least towards women.

And it felt like there was this...the problem wasn't necessarily availability of product, the problem was actually figuring out what product to use and which of those products were high quality and which of those products had the amount of CBD in them that they said they did. So education was more of the issue than supply. So that's sort of how we got to become a curator. And then once we realized we wanted to be a curator, we also then encountered the burden of having to explain to the customer exactly what it is that you're trying to do, and why they should be choosing one tincture versus another, or using a topical versus an edible.

And that's really...those issues were really what got us thinking about how to bundle products, how to create categories. And where we landed was that need-based communication is really the key here. And it's something that we saw when we were selling fashion, beauty, and wellness products at Goop. It's something that I certainly saw on Barbie and as I was working at ClassPass. Women want to understand what this product will do for them, especially if they're taking a leap in terms of ingredients or something that feels a little bit outside of their comfort zone. "Help me get what it's going to do and then I'm much more likely to start talking to you about it."

So, you'll see on the site, we created and really came out with what we call CBD starter kits. And they're purposed. So we have a CBD starter kit for pain, for sleep, for anxiety, and for skincare. Again, the goal there being if you don't know what you're doing, if you're really confused about all of this, here's something that we can just give you to help you get started. That said, if you want more, and you're not ready for a starter kit, you just want to buy one product, the way that we've organized the site is very specifically to help you on a personal level.

So you can come to the site and say, "I'm having trouble sleeping." There's a category of products for you to go look at specifically to address that issue. Or you can say, you know, "I don't necessarily have an issue, but I'm really interested in topical CBD." We've also organized it in that way so that you can go find it there. And the goal really with our categorization is to make it easy for...and Meredith talked about this, that beginner consumer, who is a little intimidated, doesn't really know what she's doing, but also wants to be able to navigate and understand without having to do too much work. So we really focused on making this very user friendly specifically for that reluctant consumer. And that's really the sort of impetus for all the categories and all the products that we create or sort of the bundles that we create.

Matthew: Yeah. And the reluctant consumer is reluctant because of just an incredible propaganda campaign, and I always marvel at that and think that has got to be the most effective propaganda campaign I've ever seen. Because it wasn't even 100 years ago, it was, what, pre-1930s that nearly every household had cannabis tinctures in their, you know, cupboard.

And then it was just an unbelievably successful propaganda campaign that you're trying to help educate consumers to unwind their mind to get to a point where they can think about this more clearly. And it does beg the question like, gosh, if this was such a successful campaign to kind of smear a plant like, is there anything else like that in our culture? I think about that. I wonder sometimes, no, don't answer. But I do, I think about that.

Ashley: I have the same thought. I mean, it's just crazy. It really is. I mean, I don't have a lot of, like, the actual data, so I won't quote things. But just to understand what started to happen in the '40s and how the government sort of scheduled marijuana and maybe didn't mean it to be long-term on the drug schedule and how it just stayed there. There's just a lot of really interesting things that you hear about how this all happened that are quite curious.

Matthew: Yeah. So Meredith, there's no real playbook for being a startup. You wake up in the morning, you know you have to do stuff, but how do you decide what needs to happen today that's going to be the most impactful just trying to get into the practical nuts and bolts of, you know, running this business?

Meredith: Yeah, it's so hard. I think for me and for Ashley and I collectively throughout this process, it's been very useful to have a teammate. I can't really imagine navigating this on my own. So I think by us sort of designing our very clear division of responsibilities early on, that's helped us prioritize our individual task lists. So I certainly think that's important, like on a daily, monthly, the sort of like annualized basis. And I think for me, I just have to have very clear goals and benchmarks but with clear time constraints to keep me on track.

And then I try to prioritize what's really going to move the needle in the business. I mean, you're always going to have an insurmountable task list. It's kind of just the nature of what we're doing. And I learned that early on, because this is my fourth startup in a row, my first own startup, but my fourth experience in a startup in a row. So I've kind of been bred for this.

But I think, you know, accepting that your task list is going to feel insurmountable is step one. And then just really sort of prioritizing looking at your task list and understanding what's going to move things forward in the biggest way possible is where you kind of start. And then communication obviously is key. So Ashley and I are in constant communication to make sure that like, collectively, we're marking things off of our list that won't inhibit the other one from making progress.

Matthew: Okay. That's good that you got that experience from other startups. So you can say, "Oh, I don't want to do this. I do want to do that." So that's good.

Meredith: Absolutely. Yeah.

Matthew: You don't have to make the same mistakes on your own. Okay. So, Ashley, the focus of Fleur Marché is that you want to be the CBD whisperer to canna-curious women. Sometimes entrepreneurs think, "If I focus on this demographic, then I can't serve this other demographic over here, and I'm excluding them." But is that really true and do we need to think about it that way? I mean, you talked a little bit about serving women. But do you ever think like, "Well, that means I'm actively not serving this demographic"? And is that okay? I mean, what's your thought there?

Ashley: Yeah. So I think one of the fundamentals, one of the first things I learned about marketing was to clearly define your audience and that if you try to serve everyone, you end up really reaching no one or actually connecting with no one. And so I actually think that a laser focus on a very specific audience is really the most important part of defining your brand, how you operate, and what you're really trying to do. And then, of course, there's a series of, like, concentric circles, sort of concentric circles of various audiences around that core audience that you're targeting.

But again, if you don't have that laser focus, it is hard for any consumer to define you and sort of say like, you know, when someone says, "Fleur Marché, who are they, what do they do?" If you have gone too broad, it's very hard to define and I frankly think it sets you up for failure. And I also kind of disagree with the idea that you can alienate an audience unless you're being extremely careless or trying to. Because, I think if you have strong brand values and you have a very clear point of view, other consumers than the ones we're specifically targeting start to become interested because inevitably, those values will be relevant to other people's lives.

And what we're seeing specific, you know, for example, with Fleur Marché, is that we are a brand that is squarely focused on women. But we see a fair share of orders come through from men, we see a fair share of orders come through from women who are not canna-curious but are, in fact, you know, cannabis veterans who have been smoking pot for years, but are just sort of now becoming interested in CBD and value the concept of quality education and transparency. Which, again, are things that we value for everyone, but are so honed in on because we believe that beginner consumer, the reluctant consumer needs to feel comfortable that those things are firmly in place, but it certainly applies to a much broader audience.

So I think that that clear focus has actually only helped us and does help us, like, put a stake in the ground of, "Here's who we are, everyone's welcome." We're not trying to exclude anyone but we're also building what we're building with a very clear consumer in mind. So I guess that's really is like the differentiation. It's you're building focused on this one, you know, consumer who's right in front of you, but that doesn't necessarily exclude anyone else. Everyone else is welcome to partake in what it is that you're building. And frankly, probably can connect to it better because you have such defined values, principles, and messaging.

Matthew: Yeah, so it's not exclusion, but it's clarity, firstly.

Ashley: Exactly. Exactly.

Matthew: Okay. It reminds me of how Lowe's, the home improvement store, said, you know, "Home Depot's got this great successful business but it's kind of rough around the edges and it's not very friendly." So they said, "Let's make Lowe's, like, clean and more well organized and better lighting and we'll attract more women to it." And then it turned out like, "Hey, men like this, too. Like, we just don't know how to articulate it sometimes." But it started attracting men as well. But that clarity just kind of drew into the tractor beam people that wanted that.

Ashley: Exactly. I think we talk about clarity and simplification versus dumbing anything down. So we're certainly not dumbing it down. We're certainly not trying to, like, operate only for the lowest common denominator. But we're trying to create like a very...yeah, exactly how Lowe's did, a very clear, clean experience that, frankly, is attractive to anyone. It's a sort of bottoms up like, you know, everyone can get on board with that.

Matthew: Yeah. So Meredith, we already talked about the survey that you sent out to friends and family and, you know, all the different feedback you got when you were starting Fleur Marché. But what questions do you get asked the most right now from the canna-curious visitors?

Meredith: Yeah, great question. I think there's still a lot of education to be done around demystifying CBD in general. A lot of people still ask us that, even as recent as yesterday, "Does it get me high?" So I think that's one of the top questions we are asked is, "Will CBD get me high?" "Will it pass a drug test?" And then understanding the different delivery formats is a big one as well. So understanding the difference between topicals, versus vaping, versus tinctures, and how they really affect you in different ways and the benefits of each format. It requires a lot of education with our customers.

Further Reading: Will CBD Make Me Fail A Drug Test?

And then beyond that, we've had a lot of in real life activations of our brand and our retail experience which has been great in gathering learnings from our audience. And these women are super engaged but they often really just want a personal consultation, to be honest. They want to know what we're using, what our favorite products are, and how to use them without...they really just don't want to do a lot of research. They want someone to sort of help them solve their issues or their needs and really understand on a one to one basis how to incorporate these products in their daily wellness routines.

Matthew: Yeah. They want a friend to tell them like, "How will this really make me feel?"

Meredith: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Just like my friends wanted. And so that really was our goal is to sort of scale that concept of having your best friend make the recommendations for all things cannabis.

Matthew: Yeah, that's a good goal to be the friend.

Meredith: Yes.

Matthew: Ashley, as the wellness umbrella around hemp and cannabis grows and expands, what are your next areas of focus?

Ashley: Yeah. So I think when people get this question generally, and historically we've actually answered it as well with like, "Oh, new product delivery formats or new ways of using or ingesting cannabis or CBD," I actually have changed my mind on it. I think the next great frontier in cannabis is not as much a new product category as it is product efficacy. So we're starting to talk to a lot more brands who are working on water soluble CBD and nano-emulsions, emulsification, which is breaking down CBD extract into very small particles that more easily sort of assimilate in your body.

And I do think that as, you know, we're in the midst of the cannabis and specifically CBD craze right now, so much product is coming to market. And very quickly, there will start to be tiers in terms of bioavailability, which is how quickly a product makes it into your bloodstream, the CBD of a product makes it into your bloodstream, and how effectively, how much of the CBD is actually getting in. And I think that we're already seeing it happen but brands will start to just perfect more and more that efficacy so that, you know, you can take a product and, within 15 minutes, feel the desired effects. So I'm really excited for that. We've been hearing more about that.

And then I think also, there is just more and more research being done on all the other cannabinoids that we haven't yet really focused on enough. So, CBG and CBN are the next ones, but we're starting to hear about something else called CBC.
 
Learn more about the cannabinoid CBC (Cannabichromene)
 
And, you know, what does that do? Because there's 200 cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. And I think they all probably have strong therapeutic benefits in one way or another that we're just scratching the surface of. So, really excited to see how we can make the current things that we have, the CBD and THC, even more effective and just work quickly and efficiently. And then also just exploring that next frontier of what else is out there? What else can be helping us feel better?

Matthew: Yeah, that's a great point. You know, the efficacy is the next frontier. I hope that's true. That would be great.

Ashley: Yeah. Me too.

Matthew: So Meredith, let's talk a little bit about capital raising. How did you go about capital raising for Fleur Marché, and what was that process like and where are you in that process?

Meredith: Yeah, it's a long and arduous process, I would say. Anyone who's gone through it probably can relate. We really started our fundraising process back in September, after we had decided to leave our jobs. We built out a pretty robust business plan and a pitch deck to go out to investors and we were lucky enough to have... Oh, I'm hearing a little bit of noise. Can you guys hear me okay?

Matthew: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:34:23] It sounded like you were on a windy clifftop for a moment. But, no, you're back.

Meredith: But we were lucky enough to have an early believer in that first round of conversations within our sort of like clique circle or like our own little internal network. So we had an early believer early on that really allowed us to get started. So we got a yes pretty quickly, which did not necessarily pave the way for the rest of the conversations. I think we were just insanely lucky on that very first conversation. And then we kind of kept fundraising for about six months. We're just now nearing the finish line of our first pre-seed raise.

We really took meetings with pretty much anyone that was willing to listen to us and hear more about our concept. And I think that was really important to our process, because it ultimately led to a lot more conversations. And I think something important to keep in mind when you're going through the fundraising process is while you're exhausted and you don't necessarily think that the conversation you're about to have or the pitch you're about to give will be effective with that particular audience or those particular investors, it does lead to so many other meaningful connections and I think you always have to be hopeful that those doors will open for you. And for us, they really did.

And so we were able to conjure up quite a few believers between friends and family and a couple sort of more institutional players in the space. And I think when it's this early on, they're really just looking to believe in the founders and sort of like your vision and your master plan. And I think Ashley and I were extremely convicted in what it was we were building. And so, yeah, I think we just powered through for six straight months, and we're now finally at the finish line.

Matthew: Meredith, did you notice that your pitch was getting better or different as you went along?

Meredith: That's a really good question. And Ashley, you can feel free to add. But I think it really, for us, depended on...it's a hard process, because you're doing it in tandem with also trying to get your business off the ground, and then ultimately operate it at the same time. And I think that's extremely challenging to have sort of like mindshare all over the place.

And so we would joke that, like, we were better in the morning than we were in the afternoon because all the stresses of all the meetings that we had throughout the day, like, ultimately set us up for failure in our pitches in the afternoon. But it totally varied. I mean, at some points, we felt like we were really in stride, and then in other points, even six months later, we were like, "Wow, we bombed that."

Matthew: Well, it sounds like you did a pretty good job to me. So maybe you can write a blog post on CBD for raising capital. Yeah.

Ashley: Because I will say, the only thing I would disagree with, I do think we can kind of give you our pitch in our sleep at this point. So now, at the very tail end of it, we've now perfected. But I agree with everything else Meredith said. There were some rough days.

Meredith: Well, I think we're just all so hard on ourselves, you know. I mean, we're our worst critics. So I think, you know, even our worst pitch, you know, externally was probably better than anything most people had heard. But like, at that point, we had heard it so many times. But we sort of felt like we were failing at some times even though I'm sure we weren't.

Matthew: Yeah. And most people don't remember, you know, a lot of the details in retrospect, like they say, like, you know, you feel like you screwed up something, but most people just have a big picture, you know, memory of whatever happened.

Meredith: Right. Yeah, exactly. And I think what you learn along the way is just don't sweat it. Just don't sweat it. Like, you just have to keep moving forward.

Matthew: Well, at this point in the interview, I like to ask a few personal development questions to help listeners get a better sense of who you are personally. With that, Ashley, is there a book that's had a big impact on your life or way of thinking that you'd like to share?

Ashley: Definitely. So after I graduated from college, I took a year off and traveled. And while I was traveling...I think I was maybe in India, I read a book called "Mountains Beyond Mountains" by Tracy Kidder. And it was about the sort of development of an organization called Partners In Health, which was started by Dr. Paul Farmer, who essentially, the first project Partners In Health ever did was to go into areas of Haiti that had been particularly struck by the AIDS epidemic, and try to cure AIDS not by treating sort of like the symptoms but by actually digging into the culture and trying to understand, like, many levels below what was leading to this epidemic and why it was so bad in these parts of Haiti.

And it was just...I mean, I love the book. It's a great read for something that sounds so serious, it reads like a novel. It's a very, sort of like quick read, I will say. But I really became so enamored with the fact that he was trying to solve problems based on, like, the underlying issues rather than just what was apparent at the surface.

And I do think, I mean, as corny as it sounds, I know this sounds like I prepared this. I swear, I forgot, I actually didn't see this question. I forgot to think about it. So it really has shaped a lot of how I think about problem solving. Like, yes, what is the fire at hand that you have to put out? But like, is there a way, you know, what do you do next time or what can you do to prevent this from happening again? Like, how are you dealing with the underlying issues and not just solving the problem because that likely leads to it continuing? So it's been a meaningful book in my life. I've gone back and read it once since. And it, again, holds up.

Matthew: Yeah. That's kind of like the, attack the root of the problem, not the branch.

Ashley: Exactly. And he was...I mean, Partners In Health has since expanded across the world and is doing, you know, amazing work because of that strategy.

Matthew: That's cool. I don't think we've heard that recommendation before. So thank you for that.

Ashley: Yes.

Matthew: Meredith, is there a tool that you use that you find very helpful for your productivity with you and Ashley or your extended team that you'd like to share?

Meredith: Yeah. I mean, we're in super startup mode still, so we don't have a whole lot of tools in place. However, I think something...it's not necessarily a literal tool, but it's something that we found really important early on in our process, especially as we were fundraising. And just to document our own progress was, we sent out progress reports really diligently to sort of like anyone that wanted to be on our subscriber list, really, between like friends and family and investors, just so that we could document all of our progress or setbacks and be really transparent along the way with our process.

I think that was a really effective communication tool for us with external people who ultimately then converted into an investment after they saw some progress or led to some really meaningful brand partnerships or conversation that allowed us to be more productive in the business for sure. So that was really important in our process early on. And then also, I mean, we have Google, you know, Google Spreadsheets for pretty much every single thing that we do.

Largely thanks to Ashley because she's much more OCD than I am. But I think that has been really valuable. It's a great tool to keep yourself organized. So, from very early on, whether it was like developing all the product copy for the website, the wireframing of the website, the pricing, the inventory we buy, like, everything is pretty well organized, considering what stage of the company we are. So I think keeping yourself diligent and using the tools that are accessible to you is certainly important.

Matthew: Yeah, definitely, too, that progress report, like you mentioned, that does help a lot of people that weren't sure the first time you spoke with them kind of come around if they are on the fence like, "Hey, you know, Ashley and Meredith are legit. They're making a lot of effort here and they're getting results and they're doing things and it wasn't, you know, kind of just an initial push with nothing behind it."

Meredith: Absolutely. And even if we didn't think, even if we felt that it was falling on deaf ears, which honestly, it wasn't, because we felt engagement from the email correspondence right away after we would send one. But beyond that, we would hear sort of like buzz about us before we even launched. So we knew that conversations are being had and we knew it was kind of spreading. So it was really effective for us.

Matthew: Ashley, if you were starting all over again with Fleur Marché, what would you have done differently? I know you're still a young startup, but that probably makes the pain of decisions that you wish you didn't make even more real still.

Ashley: Yeah, I mean, I guess my answer is kind of, I think we're still in the phase of making those decisions that will either make or break us right now. And so, you know, in six months, I'd love to answer this question again. I think right now, honestly, because everything...you know, everything feels so weighty, every decision feels so big. But I do think one of our strengths as founders is that we do have a little bit of levity. We are aware that like, it does, you know, "Not today, Tuesday," like whatever decision's in front of us does feel huge.

But in a week even, it probably will come second to the next decision we have to make. I think one of the reasons [inaudible 00:43:30] we're great about that. So for me right now, the only thing I probably would have done differently is started this sooner. I think it was really important for us, once we decided to start the company, to move quickly because we felt like the craze was coming and now it's here. If I had thought to do this a year earlier, you know, imagine where we'd be now. So for me right now honestly, that's the only thing I would have done differently to date. But I'm sure that will change.

Matthew: Good. Okay. How about you, Meredith?

Meredith: Hey, that's a really good answer, Ash.

Matthew: It was.

Ashley: Oh, thanks.

Meredith: I don't mean to sound cavalier, but I kind of agree. Like, I don't think...I'm not like a regretful person. I think we really did the very best we could and we are as strategic as humanly possible and thoughtful about really every single aspect of what we've done. And I think there's kind of no shoulda, coulda, wouldas for us at this point. I think we're about to learn what those are for sure in the next six months. But I kind of want to steal her answer. That's really good. I wish we would have started this sooner. But honestly, I don't think I had the balls to do it, though. I think, for me, it remains to be seen.

Matthew: Yeah, there's that fear threshold. I always talk about that. I've started a couple businesses. And it's like, I just say I was 51% courage. Like, you don't need to be like this fearless, courageous leader. It's like just a little bit more, then, just enough to get through the fear and then, you know, stick with it. So...

Meredith: Exactly. Exactly.

Matthew: Well, Meredith and Ashley, thanks so much for coming on the show today. As we close, can you tell listeners where to find your site?

Meredith: Yes. You can find us at www.fleurmarche.com. And that's French spelling, so I'm happy to spell it if that helps.

Matthew: Sure.

Meredith: It's fleurmarche.com. And then you can also find us @fleurmarche on Instagram or Facebook. And then also @FleurMarche, one word, on Twitter.

Matthew: Great. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today and good luck in the rest of 2019, or I'll say bonne chance in the rest of 2019.

Meredith: I love it.

Matthew: Take care.

Ashley: Thank you so much for having us.

Matthew: Thank you.

Meredith: Thank you so much.

Matthew: If you enjoyed the show today, please consider leaving us a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or whatever app you might be using to listen to the show. Every five-star review helps us to bring the best guests to you. Learn more at cannainsider.com/itunes. What are the five disruptive trends that will impact the cannabis industry in the next five years? Find out with your free report at cannainsider.com/trends.

Have a suggestion for an awesome guest on "CannaInsider"? Simply send us an email at feedback@cannainsider.com. We'd love to hear from you. Please do not take any information from "CannaInsider" or its guests as medical advice. Contact your licensed physician before taking cannabis or using it for medical treatments. Promotional consideration may be provided by select guests, advertisers or companies featured on "CannaInsider."

Lastly, the host or guests on "CannaInsider" may or may not invest in the companies or entrepreneurs profiled on the show. Please consult your licensed financial advisor before making any investment decisions. Final disclosure to see if you're still paying attention. This little whistle jingle you're listening to will get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Thanks for listening and look for another "CannaInsider" episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.