Spotlight on Small Business: Hemp Cures Body Shop Preaches Plants Rather Than Pills
Tiffany Joi raised her eyebrows when she launched her line of CBD-infused lotions and oils at the Hyde Park Farmers Market in 2019.
“You should have seen the looks,” said Joi, owner of Hemp heals the body shop. “People were looking at me like, ‘She’s got this thing that gets you high.'”
What Joi actually had was a collection of homemade concoctions that his mother, and his mother’s friends from church, had come swear by to relieve aches and pains.
Joi then realized that growing his business meant educating his community about the difference between THC – the chemical in marijuana that gets you high – and CBD, or cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis and hemp plants that is increasingly being adopted for its health benefits. .
“I wanted people to believe in plants rather than pills,” said Joi, who grew up in the Roseland neighborhood in the far south of Chicago and currently lives in Hyde Park. “I try to heal people naturally from the inside out, from the outside.”
Hemp Heals Body Shop, which participated in the Polsky Center’s Small Business Growth Program, was launched just as CBD products were starting to appear on the shelves of mainstream stores and dedicated CBD stores were sprouting up across Chicago.
The boom in the industry, bolstered by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Illinois in 2020, has helped Joi’s business understand and accept cannabis use. And although the competition is plentiful, Joi has cultivated a loyal following in communities on the South Side where she hopes her remedies can provide the most benefit.
“We are one of the hardest hit in terms of health conditions,” Joi said.
Joi started Hemp Heals in 2018 to help relieve her mother’s knee and back pain, which was so severe she could barely walk and couldn’t sleep. Lenester O’Neal remembers crying in pain when his daughter called one day to check in. She agreed to let Joi give her something new to help her.
“She said, ‘Are you ready to be my guinea pig?’ O’Neal recalls. “When you are in pain like this, anything anyone offers is okay.”
Joi asked for a recommendation from a trusted friend who had an underground business making edibles made from marijuana. The friend baked oatmeal cookies, which helped ease the pain, but O’Neal didn’t want the weight gain or weight gain linked to the baked goods, Joi said.
That year, Joi took a trip to Colorado, one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana, to research what types of products dispensaries were selling. It was there that she heard about CBD topicals, which relieved pain without the intoxicating elements of THC, and decided to try making her own.
“This trip to Denver was what catapulted me into this business,” Joi said.
In his home kitchen in Chicago, with “YouTube University” as a guide, Joi experimented with different CBD ointments and creams, combining them with anti-inflammatory essential oils and other natural and organic ingredients. She used her 17 years of experience as a Chicago Public Schools Health Inspector to lead a watertight vessel.
With her mom’s feedback, Joi tweaked the recipes until she had a game-changing cream. O’Neal, who had suffered debilitating pain despite steroid injections and high doses of ibuprofen, said she felt relief as soon as she rubbed her daughter’s CBD cream, and it lasted longer. than other remedies like the application of heat.
O’Neal took the creams to church to share with his friends. Some were appalled, but converted once they tried it, O’Neal said.
Soon Joi’s phone started ringing with requests. (Illinois at that time had legalized the sale of CBD products, as long as the THC content was below 0.3%.)
While Joi’s target audience were the elderly, she soon learned that their children and grandchildren were often the ones who bought the products for their older family members and persuaded them to try them. Some would also buy for themselves to fight anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Joi discovered another customer segment when she attended a vendor market at the University of Chicago and found that many students were interested in her non-THC CBD drops, which help with alertness and focus. . They have become regular customers.
“I saw a spike in those sales around the finals,” Joi said.
As sales increased, Joi began applying to Business Accelerators and was accepted into the Polsky Center Small Business Growth Program in the summer of 2020. Associated with a team of UChicago students and an industry expert, Joi has developed strategies for marketing, finance and securing shelves. space in shops. She learned the fundamentals of business, such as calculating the cost of her goods to determine her profitability.
“Basically they tore my business apart,” Joi said with a laugh. “In the right direction.”
Today, Hemp Heals products are available at hemphealsbodyshop.com as well as the Silver Room retail store in Hyde Park. They are also sold in the temporary store of Hemp Heals in the Retail store L1 in Washington Park, inside the historic building that housed Chicago’s first “L” station.
The L1 retail store, at 319 E. Garfield Blvd., is is part of a new business creation accelerator operated by Arts + Public Life, an initiative of UChicago Arts, and is shared by Hemp Heals and two other South Side-based black-owned businesses who are members of the program, which aims to increase opportunities for communities that have been excluded from economic development. The trio will occupy the space until September 2022.
For O’Neal, seeing his daughter quit her job to work full time at Hemp Heals was nerve-racking. But she is convinced that Joi will succeed.
“I’m so proud of her,” O’Neal said. “She puts all her heart into it. “
For Joi, making Hemp Heals a successful business goes beyond his own ambitions. She wants to demonstrate to the younger generations that they can create a business around their passions and use it to create generational wealth.
“I say to young people, ‘Never follow the money, follow the passion and the money will come,” Joi said. “If that girl from the Roseland community did it, so will you.”
Article by Alexia Elejalde Ruiz, associate director of media relations and external communication at the Polsky Center. Alexia was previously an economics reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Contact Alexia via E-mail or on Twitter @alexiaer.