Spotlight Series: Ashley and Meredith from Fleur Marché
Story by: Leighana Martindale
Fleur Marché is a true vision and blessing for the cannabis industry. Founded by Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder, they are on a mission to rebrand cannabis as a wellness tool. They aim to help you think differently about cannabis, no longer reserved only for the stereotypical ‘stoner’, cannabis today looks very different. By introducing their customers to a whole new way of using this plant, one that will make you feel better, Fleur Marché website specifically deals with CBD [which doesn’t get you high] but delivers real wellness benefit for issues that range from daily irritants to debilitating burdens. They knew they needed to help destigmatize and demystify the cannabis space in order for others to get on board, and they are putting everything they have into becoming a trusted and valued resource that you can count on.
How did you get into the cannabis industry?
I got into the cannabis industry after running the Wellness vertical at goop. There, I was surrounded by all of the newest, most exciting brands and products and CBD quickly rose to the top as the thing that was most effective for me, personally, in terms of pain and anxiety management. I spent a lot of time deep diving into CBD, trying to learn as much as I could about the science and regulatory landscape behind it, as well as how to evaluate CBD brands and products to ensure they were high quality, effective and legitimate. And in that time it became very clear that, while CBD was increasingly being integrated into the social conversation, there were all these women who still thought of it as something just for stoners looking to get high. In my mind, these women were missing out on what I felt to be a really valuable and powerful wellness tool. And I saw a clear opportunity to reframe the conversation around cannabis (specifically, CBD) to make it feel less intimidating and more relevant, specifically for these women who were already invested in and experimenting with health, beauty and wellness.
Embarrassingly enough, I was anti-cannabis as recent as 2 years ago. While I was dialed into all things wellness (I am formerly from goop!), I held a pretty strong stigma re: cannabis and didn't think it was for me. I reluctantly went into a dispensary with my husband 2 years ago, and my entire perspective changed on the category. In that dispensary I found a potent and effective PMS pain medicine (a hybrid edible of CBD + THC) and never looked back. I became obsessed, and wanted to ultimately share my passion on a bigger platform, as I felt the traditional cannabis industry was overlooking a pretty valuable audience of women who also were uneducated on the category and reluctant about exploring cannabis as a wellness tool. I saw a clear opportunity to create a beautiful retail experience that felt just as beautiful as shopping for beauty, wellness or fashion products.
Tell us a little bit about your company.
We are an online apothecary focused on rebranding cannabis as wellness for women (starting with CBD). We curate 3rd party brands, and have aggregated the best of the best CBD products in a one-stop-shop. We have a strict vetting process for any brand who makes it into our assortment, and are as educational as possible about CBD, its benefits, and how to incorporate these products into your wellness routine.
When does your day typically start and what’s a normal day for you?
My day usually starts at around 5:30am , when either I'm heading to the gym, my husband is heading to the gym or I'm up thinking about work. :) If I'm not heading to the gym, I'll slowly get a start to the day by watching the morning news and answering emails. We usually schedule calls (internally or with partners) starting around 8:30 or 9, which I'll take en route to our office. From there the day can really go anywhere, but it's generally a mix of meetings, calls, coffee, and some actual work time. I head home around 6ish on average, grab the dog from daycare, figure out dinner with my husband and then keep working until about 9/9:30 when my eyes basically shut for me. :)
What is your vision for your company moving forward?
Ashley: The plan is really to grow the brand to become the trusted cannabis resource for women. Ideally, we become a household name and the first place women think to go (or recommend their friends go) when looking to explore how cannabis can support their wellness routines. Hint hint: that likely entails a lot more IRL activations and retail experiments…
Meredith: US expansion! We truly want to create the Sephora of cannabis. We want women to understand the benefits of cannabis / CBD, to shed their stigmas about the category, and to delightfully access all things cannabis in a beautifully curated and intuitive way, across the country.
What was your first experience with cannabis like?
Ashley: One of my stoner friends in high school “hand-crafted” a bong out of a coke can at a sleepover one night. I tried it, couldn’t stop coughing, and then didn’t really feel anything – I definitely did it wrong.
Meredith: Awkward. Wasn't everyone's? I went to a desolate hill top near my house with all the "older kids", on a school night and smoked out of a homemade trophy bong, and returned back to my family house moderately stoned, but super unsure of how to act.
What challenges do you face working in this industry?
Ashley: The ever-changing regulatory landscape of the cannabis world definitely keeps you on your toes. It feels like there’s a new rule or a change to an existing rule every week. One of the biggest issues we deal with is payment processing. Making sure that we’re working with merchant processors who support CBD, and who are willing to support long term, has been shockingly difficult.
Meredith: I think because the cannabis space is still so new in a lot of ways, everyone is sort of pioneering this space, even though Los Angeles is such a hotbed for the industry. It feels like we're all building the plane as we are flying it. Tactically, some challenges we've faced, in cannabis specifically, are ensuring we are buttoned up and most knowledgable from a regulatory perspective, and then also credit card payment processing as it relates to online cannabis sales is quite the headache right now.
What solutions have you found?
Ashley: We’ve had to stay nimble, calm and pragmatic as we deal with new legal issues, regulatory issues, partners who do, and then don’t, want to be part of the cannabis craze, and more. I think it's important to do your homework, understand your options and be prepared to jump from one solution to the next without getting too hung up on it. For us, the best approach is to do things the right way without cutting corners or taking shortcuts.
Meredith: We've armed ourselves with a lot of legal support (mostly women I might add!) to make sure we are staying on the right side of things. We've also been lucky to have advisors, and fellow founders to help give guidance when we hit a hurdle, in order to come up with solutions to push things forward.
What is one thing you with everyone knew about cannabis/hemp?
Ashley: I want everyone out there to know that CBD DOES NOT GET YOU HIGH. It's the question we get the most and I think it's still the biggest deterrent to our target audience engaging with CBD. That's a real bummer, because CBD can really make you feel better...
Meredith: That it's not only a recreational drug, and you can actually control your consumption of it. You don't have to relive your awful pot brownie experience. It has potent therapeutic benefits, and can be used as a meaningful wellness tool in your life. This goes for CBD or THC.
What is one thing you wish everyone knew about your company?
Ashley: That we really do the work. We personally vet every product that appears on our site from evaluating the branding, to trying the products on ourselves, to requiring a pretty thorough set of 3rd party lab tests from every vendor. We then review that testing personally to ensure that the products contain high quality hemp (that's free of pesticides, heavy metals and solvents), that they're well made in certified facilities and that they actually contain the amount of CBD they claim to. This is not an easy process and requires a lot of back and forth with potential brands but it allows us to guarantee that when we tell our customers something is high-quality, we can truly stand behind it.
Meredith: That our CBD products don't get you high. You'd be shocked by how many times we are asked this. I am also confident in that we have the strictest vetting process, so our curation of products really is the best of the best and trustworthy. We don't carry snake oil. Lastly, we work very hard to offer the most education when it comes to understanding CBD, our products and their benefits.
What is your favorite way to consume cannabis?
Ashley: I'm a big fan of topicals and tinctures when it comes to CBD. For THC, I'm a fan of low dose edibles.
Meredith: For CBD products, tinctures and patches are my jam. For products with THC, vaping, edibles or prerolls occasionally.
Do you think legalization will change the world for the better? Why?
Ashley: Without a doubt. I could go on and on about the social implications, the medical implications, and the financial implications of cannabis legalization. But I'll keep it short and sweet by saying that I think it was a miss to ever make cannabis illegal. Legalization is essentially right setting the way things should have always been...and also helping to solve some of our biggest issues as a society (e.g., dependence on prescription drugs) in the process.
Meredith: Yes, but I think we'd have a ways to go before the dust would settle. Even with the farm bill passing, it's broken doors wide open in a lot of ways, helped socialize cannabis a bit, but it's also still incredibly murky. I am personally a believer in plant medicine, so I am cautiously optimistic having cannabis (more broadly) federally legal would provide meaningful options for people in multiple facets of their lives.
What advice would you offer to another woman looking to get into this industry?
Ashley: I don’t know that the advice is that different from advice I’d give a woman starting a business in any industry, but I’d say: play to your strengths. I think we as women (present company included) can doubt our instincts, question our approach or way of thinking about things, and that’s so off. It’s like not raising your hand in class because you think your answer could be wrong, and then watching someone else give the same answer, which was right. Go with your gut, don’t worry too much about how other people are doing something, because what will be unique about your company is the unique way in which you approach it. But the other side of this is knowing when you don’t know what you’re doing and being honest with yourself about it. Ask for help. Ask as many people as you can. You get no extra points for trying to figure things out on your own.
Meredith: Do it, if you feel authentic passion for the category. There can't be enough good female players in the space. Stay away if you are just looking to make a buck.