Grower Stories #65: Dee Dee Taylor
An Interview with Dee Dee Taylor, Founder/CEO of Kentucky-Based 502 Hemp Wellness Center
When traditional medicine failed her husband, Dee Dee Taylor knew they had to explore other options. That exploration led her to found her Kentucky-based 502 Hemp Wellness Center. Now, she’s talking with AskGrowers about her personal inspiration behind her brand, the medical potential of hemp-derived CBD oils, and the challenges she faces navigating the ever-growing legal cannabis industry. #growerstories
I got into this business out of medical necessity. My husband suffers from adult on-set Grand Mal seizures. His doctors had him up to a cocktail of 28 pills a day and he was still having seizures. The side effects were worse than the seizures and after a near-fatal seizure, we decided to search for a natural alternative.
He traveled out west and learned about CBD oil and started taking it. It was almost an instant fix. He went asymptomatic for five years! To date, he has only had four in 11 years. They happened two to four times a month. We started making his medicine at home and then started large-scale manufacturing in 2014 when the first farm bill passed and KY started their pilot program. I was a paralegal at the time, running law firms and always a bit stressed.
In 2016, my anxiety and panic attacks were at an all-time high, so at my husband’s urging, I tried CBD oil for myself and it worked! Better than any pharmaceutical had and without side effects. I decided then that I had to learn as much as I possibly could and truly got into the business. I literally started selling my husband’s products out of the trunk of my car. Now I own one of the largest retail stores in Louisville, KY.
Tia (AskGrowers) : How did you start the brand? Tell us your origin story!
Dee Dee Taylor : My brand started after I built enough equity in my retail store to afford my own brand. My goal was to resolve the two biggest issues the industry currently faces. Creating products that were palatable to those who do not enjoy the taste of raw hemp. Make products that are safe & ethically extracted with 3rd party analysis showing that the milligrams my customers were paying for were actually in the product.
Tia : What was the biggest challenge your brand faced in your rise so far? What's been your biggest stumbling block?
Dee Dee : One of the biggest challenges has been dealing with the lack of education and regulation in the industry. There are a lot of individuals getting into the industry who are misrepresenting what is in their products. Some of these products contain dangerous chemicals. Because the FDA has been unwilling to recognize CBD as a legitimate supplement there is no regulation.
Another stumbling block in this industry is ignorance on the part of marketing resources & banking institutions. Most credit card processors still refuse to work with CBD companies. I have had personal accounts closed, credit card processing companies cancel, the latest is my credit card for the business was canceled as well. I have had paid marketing shut down on Google, Facebook, and several others. All in the fear that CBD may be some type of narcotic and despite the fact that it’s federally legal.
Last would be the rules that the Commonwealth of Kentucky has imposed on our farmers and processors. While I am neither, it still affects my retail business. I can’t sell hemp flowers from Kentucky to the public. I can't have tea made with Kentucky hemp. A processor can’t take their crude and ship it out of state to another processor or even in-state (that may have changed). Now, there are new laws pending requiring extra license fees to sell CBD oil.
Tia : How do you distinguish your brand from the others? What makes you so special in comparison to other brands similar to yours? What sets you apart from the rest?
Dee Dee : Quality and taste. I truly believe it starts at the seed & soil. Our Kentucky farmers have been our partners since the beginning. They grow a specific strain of hemp for us that produces consistent, high-quality CBD.
My boutique flavors are the best tasting on the market. We have the original Bourbon and Mint Julep CBD flavors. We are in Kentucky Proud after all and the official products partner of the Kentucky Derby Festival. It seemed fitting to have a true Kentucky Flavor line.
Tia : You have a wide range of CBD products on your website. Tell us about your best-selling product. Why do you think that one connects so well with your customers?
Dee Dee : Our 1500mg Orange Dreamsicle is the number one seller both in-store and online. It tastes like an orange push pop and is just smooth without the hemp bite to it. Plus it works!
Tia : What’s your personal favorite way to consume cannabis? Why?
Dee Dee : I prefer the oil. I feel it is the healthiest and most effective way to consume any cannabinoid. Every now and again I love to eat a piece of our gourmet chocolate.
Tia : What would you recommend to beginners to start with? Any particular strains/edibles? What would you recommend to a first-time cannabis user?
Dee Dee : It depends on why the beginner wants to take CBD oil. We usually do a consultation first and then decide from there.
Tia : Tell us a bit about your CBD Education program. What is that about and what inspired you guys to start it?
Dee Dee : People google when they have questions about a product. But I was finding that google just shows mostly marketing pieces from a company’s perspective and sometimes their information was wrong. It is often about who got their blog up first and not necessarily reliable information. One company had lead in their product, but their marketing company was able to bury that information so people wouldn’t find it. I want people to learn from a reliable source, even if they don’t buy from us.
From the beginning of this journey, I wanted to educate people. Our website was just a stepping stone to do that. I spend a lot of time researching and debunking myths and helping my customers learn the truth. Integrity matters. Honesty is the key to my business. I have pulled products from my shelves that were from questionable companies and refused to sell them anymore. I got into this business to help people, not to make a quick buck.
Tia : According to your website, some of your products feature “all-natural flavors harvested from the essence of real Aged Bourbon Whiskey Barrels.” Can you explain how you do that and what’s the process to making it happen?
Dee Dee : As much as I would like to take the credit for that extraction process, I cannot. My manufacturer has a flavoring company that extracted that bourbon essence from the barrels for use. We had about five to seven different flavors to choose from and I picked the smoothest tasting one they had.
Tia : Are there any brands similar to yours you appreciate and follow? Can you name them? If so, give them a shout-out here!
Dee Dee : No. We sell products from several other companies we have thoroughly vetted that have quality products, but none of them are like us.
Tia : What would be your advice to the newbies in the industry? Any tips/tricks from your point of view they can follow? What’s the biggest mistake that first-time entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry make?
Dee Dee : Do your homework. Don’t expect anyone to help you. Learn as much as you possibly can.
Don’t jump on the bandwagon for money. This industry isn’t easy. You have to legitimately want to help people & be willing to have people turn their back on you, accuse you of being a drug dealer, and straight take advantage of you. You have to hold strong & believe in positivity and receive rewards from those whose lives you make better.
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Thank you so much, 502 Hemp team, for taking the time to do the interview. To learn more about them, head on over to their website.