Titus Wouda Kuipers on launching a CBD business during a global pandemic

My co-founders and I launched Vilosophy last year after spending many years working at senior executive level within global FMCG brands. With an inherent belief in freedom and choice, we were united by a shared vision that people should be able to live their life their way. Our mission was to build a consumer goods business that focusses on bringing premium alternative ingredients to market through a range of innovative lifestyle brands and products that are accessible and available in different formats. At the heart of our business is giving people the choice and freedom to live their lives their way and we are focused on developing a range of brands and products that match this aspiration.

We launched in September 2020 with our first brand to market – V&YOU – a consumer lifestyle brand that produces premium products using active ingredients, such as CBD, helping people to enhance their daily vibe and to find joyful intensity in everything they do. The launch portfolio was created around four vibes – calm, chill, focus and boost – so people can choose to enhance their vibe depending on how they feel that day.

The impact of the pandemic

What we did not envisage however when we started out was that our launch would coincide with the most significant global pandemic in living memory. COVID-19 has certainly provided for an additional dimension, which we had not anticipated.

Since March last year we have hardly seen each other at all in person, but like many businesses have relied on technology to stay connected. We would never have thought that we could build a business from scratch in a completely virtual way, and yet it has been proven possible to do, with Microsoft Teams enabling our regular team meetings and ensuring we remain in touch, even if we cannot be together in person. What’s more, we have had to completely rely on digital for sales and communication, something that would not have been the case pre-pandemic. For now face-to-face meetings and events are out, but video calls remain firmly in.

Navigating Brexit

And let’s not forget the impact of Brexit, which has come hand-in-hand with the pandemic. The uncertainly surrounding Britain leaving the EU was undoubtedly difficult to navigate, like so many businesses which rely on products and materials from Europe. However, after some initial problems surrounding international shipping and a mountain of complicated paperwork, we have overcome these hurdles and the way ahead is certainly clearer.

Fortunately the industry in which we operate has been largely unaffected by lockdown restrictions, unlike many businesses within industries such as leisure, hospitality and travel. The lifestyle products we produce remain popular and across the sector the wider consumer interest in trusted and premium CBD products continues to grow year-on-year.

Education is key

With our CBD pouches we have opened up a completely new market in the UK. However we have found there is a job to do in terms of education, to explain the product and how it should be used. In spite of the continued growth of the CBD market, there remains a level of mistrust and misunderstanding among consumers. Our ongoing challenge is to dispel this mistrust and to educate consumers on the use of CBD. With our pouches for example, they can be used anytime, anywhere. There is no smoke or vape, and no need to pop outside. And in today’s strange new world of social distancing and face masks, it is still possible to enjoy CBD discreetly wherever you are.

 

By Titus Wouda Kuipers, co-founder & CEO of Vilosophy

 

 

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