Jen joined us for our latest Q&A to discuss her leap from the tech world into the role of CBD entrepreneur, the founding mission behind Be Jubie, how the company is forging ahead with its goals, and more.
Ganjapreneur: Where did the idea behind Be Jubie originate? How was your family involved in forging the initial idea?
Jen Jackson: I always dreamed about entering the cannabis industry and often joked about owning a dispensary one day. In December 2018, my mother was visiting for the holiday and she introduced me to CBD. She used a salve for her lower back pain and found relief. I immediately started to research CBD and the more I learned about the therapeutic benefits the more excited I became. The idea of owning a business to help my mother and so many others with a plant was inspiring.
My husband Jamaal and two sons (Ethan and Cameron) helped me come up with the brand name. “Jubie” comes from the word jubilant and it evolved into a made-up adjective. Jubie has many meanings: good vibes, happy, focused, informed, empowered, clarity, and wellness. We started saying “Jubie” around the house, I would ask my son “How was school?” and he would reply “Jubie”. We all really enjoyed saying it and now “Be Jubie” is here!
Why do you feel called to enter the CBD market?
My passion comes from my inherent love for the plant, the ability to improve the wellness of my community, and the fact that I didn’t see myself in any of the existing brands. All of those components compelled me to join into the CBD market. Black people suffer from anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, arthritis, etc – just like everyone else. We deserve to know about and use a plant-based alternative to improve our quality of life. I want Be Jubie to be the catalyst and raise awareness.
Before founding Be Jubie you had a career in IT; how has this experience shaped the growth of your business and your journey as an entrepreneur?
There is a direct alignment with developing Be Jubie as a brand and what I learned in my IT career. I led a software development team for many years. We were small, nimble, and we worked hard to develop solutions for complex problems. I had a lot of competing priorities to manage and to be effective I maintained my focus on the problem to be solved in order to deliver meaningful value to our stakeholders.
I applied the same approach to Be Jubie. I focused on finding the highest quality hemp-derived CBD oil and launching with one product offering. I knew most of my customers would be new to CBD and after extensive research, I believe you should start your CBD journey with an oil tincture. The oil tincture provides multiple application methods (sublingual, digestion, or topical) and the ability to control your unique dosing. Since I am bootstrapping the company on my own I didn’t have the resources to launch with multiple product offerings at once, and I also don’t think it’s necessary. I learned that from my IT career. Figure out what you’re passionate about, the most important problem to solve, do that well, and grow.
The success of my IT career also relied heavily on building trusting relationships with business stakeholders. For any brand to be successful it’s critical to build a trusting relationship with your customers – that’s important to me.
Have you ever encountered “canna-bias” or judgement from peers, family, or colleagues due to misunderstandings of what CBD is? If so, how do you address it?
Weeks before I left my corporate company I found myself in meetings (in-person and remote) letting people know that I resigned. The first question is always – Where are you going? What is your new position? I loved the awkward silence that followed when I would reply “I’m starting a cannabis company” lol. After two seconds of initial shock, everyone was always gracious and encouraging. A few peers hit me up offline expressing interest and wanted to learn how they could get involved.
People that know me personally know that I have been a consumer for almost 20 years. They were really excited for me and felt it was a perfect fit. My mom introduced me to CBD, so overall I didn’t experience canna-bias, at least not to my face. To address canna-bias I think it’s always best to go the education route. I’m a firm believer that normalizing cannabis through education is key. I have also accepted that everyone is not going to agree with my decisions or become pro-cannabis. I’m ok with that and it doesn’t impact my mission or drive to continue in my pursuit.
It’s interesting that co-workers from your former job reached out in private to learn more about cannabis rather than bring it up in the office. What normalization steps do you think could be taken to help create a space where these people felt comfortable inquiring about cannabis in conversation?
The stigma of cannabis is still alive and strong, that’s why colleagues approached me offline, either in a private office or a direct message on LinkedIn. There are a lot of cannabis consumers in corporate America, but until cannabis is normalized it will always be an offline conversation or reserved only for colleagues you trust.
Normalizing cannabis is part of my mission for Be Jubie. I have a campaign right now called “Normalize Cannabis Through Me” where I’m putting a face to cannabis users who are mothers, fathers, entrepreneurs, creatives, business professionals – everyday people. They are brave enough to come forward owning the reason why they consume cannabis. My hope is that people will see themselves in the participants and realize that cannabis consumers are productive, intellectual people like themselves. When you can relate or find common ground with someone then you are more open to accepting something you may have had a preconceived notion about. Seeing yourself through the lens of others can help change the stigma.
What’s interesting is that I have not been able to convince THC consumers I know personally to participate in the campaign. So far, only Be Jubie customers are featured and I hope that changes. Consuming cannabis legally or illegally can still jeopardize your job, so I get it. Baby steps. I even had a Be Jubie customer who works for the government in a state where CBD is legal, not willing to participate because it’s frowned upon. Until companies stop testing for cannabis and more people view it as a therapeutic plant vs a drug, the stigma will always be there. I will use Be Jubie as a catalyst to do what I can to destigmatize through education and relatable campaigns. Anyone interested in participating in the “Normalize Cannabis Through Me” campaign please DM me on Instagram.
What makes Be Jubie different from other organic CBD brands?
Be Jubie products are 3rd party laboratory tested, effective, and tastes refreshing. I’m proud of our product and proud that our mission extends beyond selling CBD products. I am passionate about learning all I can when it comes to the cannabis plant. I’m on a mission to normalize the plant through education and do my part to break the stigma. We should no longer be judged for using a safe plant with proven therapeutic benefits that brings joy to so many. Most CBD brands tend to separate themselves from THC as if THC is a “bad” cannabinoid. Be Jubie debunks that narrative: we are a hemp-derived CBD company but we acknowledge and aim to educate on the benefits of all varieties of the plant.
It’s important to me that customers know they have an effective product they can trust that is tied to a brand with a purpose.
What is the ethos behind Be Jubie’s marketing efforts, and what is the message that you want to convey?
The vibe of Be Jubie is defined well in our slogan. I use the components of the slogan to keep me rooted and drive the marketing efforts:
Be well. Be informed. Be empowered. Be Jubie!
Be well. I care about improving the wellness of my community. Life is heavy and cannabis brings joy and relief to so many. I want to bring that awareness to my customers and make it known that we have an all-natural alternative to help improve the rollercoaster we call life.
Be informed. I believe that science-based cannabis education is necessary in order to tear down the lies, propaganda, and stigma tied to the plant. When I learn something new I pass it along to my customers so that they are equipped to pass it on and help change the stigma
Be empowered. I’m a 39-year-old woman, a wife, and mother of 2 children that left a stable, successful, and well paying IT career to chase a dream and start a new journey. I decided I will not live the second half of my life in fear and afraid to fail. I’m not advising folks to leave their job, there’s a lot involved in taking that step. I do want to encourage people to feel empowered to live their best life. Start whatever it is you have been pushing off. We only have one life, you got this!
Your mission statement mentions advocating for cannabis criminal justice reform. What are some examples of direct action that CBD consumers and brands can take to help create an industry centered around restorative justice for victims of the drug war?
Prisoners locked up for non-violent cannabis offenses need to be freed. Can you imagine being locked up for cannabis while the industry is emerging and now the government has deemed the cannabis industry essential? It’s great that the government is finally recognizing cannabis as medicine but it’s a complete slap in the face to all the people tied to the legacy market who are serving time (some are life sentences) for a therapeutic plant.
Decriminalization should be a prerequisite for restorative justice. The war on drugs has disenfranchised entire black and brown communities and reform needs to happen. As a brand or consumer, you can bring awareness whether it’s through social media, websites, blogs, or discussing with friends/family. You can find advocacy groups you align with and support them through donations, signing petitions, calling/writing local officials, voting, etc. I support the efforts of the Last Prisoner Project and if you are a brand or consumer who cares about cannabis criminal justice reform I encourage you to visit their site to learn more about how you can get involved.
In a panel, you discussed how most CBD companies are white-owned with products marketed to white women. What steps has Be Jubie taken to reach black people in both business execution and marketing efforts? How could the industry, on the whole, shift their models to cultivate a more diverse consumer community?
During my competitive analysis for Be Jubie, I realized that the face of most brands were white folks. There were a couple of brands that seemed to consider diversity but for the most part, I didn’t see myself in them. It felt like there was an entire market being ignored. It’s important to me that Be Jubie is an inclusive brand and that my community is reflected throughout our marketing, on our website, and on social media. To bring awareness to the brand I started off by building relationships with local businesses in my city that valued inclusivity. I would ask to be a vendor at parties, events, and markets where my community is thriving. Being intentional about who you work with and where you show up is a reflection of your brand.
For the cannabis industry to cultivate a diverse community, there needs to be more minority ownership. Brands are a reflection of their leadership. People will naturally brand to the community they are most familiar with. If most of the cannabis brands are owned by white men, then their marketing efforts will reflect that. The reason why diversity is lacking in the cannabis industry as a whole is clear – white business owners make up 81% of the industry. How we change that is more complex. Black and brown people need an equal playing field, especially for an industry that was created on the backs of our communities. I don’t desire to ask white business owners to cultivate a diverse marketing model, I desire more black and brown ownership.
Leaving a steady and successful career to start a fledgling business is brave and takes hard work, how did you solidify Be Jubie before taking on the company full time? What was that transition like?
Thank you for calling me brave. I haven’t decided if I’m brave or having a mid-life crisis lol. I enjoyed my IT career, I learned so much and am grateful for all opportunities it afforded me. The company I worked for started heading in a new direction. I was losing passion for the work and found myself at a crossroads. Do I stay and “ride the corporate wave” while I launch Be Jubie? Or start a new job while I launch Be Jubie? Neither option was fair to the company or to me. I felt that in order for me to truly give Be Jubie the attention it deserves to be successful I needed to focus on it full-time.
My husband and I talked about it for quite a while and we collectively decided that I will move forward with Be Jubie full-time. I had a few pennies saved up which allowed me to still contribute to the household. That was important to me because I didn’t want to introduce a financial burden on my husband. We agreed that if I can’t grow the business after a certain period of time then I’ll start looking for another 9-5.
To answer your question, I left my job before Be Jubie was solidified. I don’t recommend that path for everyone. However, I haven’t been this happy and challenged in a really long time. I have no regrets so far and if I fail, the personal growth will have been worth it all.
Thank you, Jen, for joining us for this interview! Learn more about Be Jubie and Jen Jackson at BeJubie.com.