Would you drop the security of your job to risk everything and follow your calling? That's what happened when Monique Sar decided to co-found Supportive Naturals. From the finance world to launching a full-spectrum CBD company, Monique never imagined she would have a career in the cannabis industry. In fact, for much of her life, the plant was taboo. However, an interest in wellness and dedication to continuing her grandmother's legacy led her on a journey of a lifetime. It is this commitment to service, joy for helping others, and passion for plant medicine that drives her daily.
What inspired you to enter the cannabis industry?
I was inspired to enter the cannabis industry for a number of reasons and I am so pleased that I did!
Last summer, my grandmother passed away suddenly. It changed my entire world. She was the sweetest, kindest little old lady, and was really the glue that held my family together. Before she passed, I was working all of the time in financial planning and wealth management. I regret that I did not spend more quality time with her. While I would take my grandmother to doctor appointments, on several occasions, I chose not to visit her and take a client meeting instead. I know that I cannot take any of those choices back.
However, it really taught me that there is so much more to life than just working and trying to make money.
At the time, I was sitting on three non-profit boards and really enjoyed what I was doing for the community. Although I was comfortable and on a trajectory for growth in my career, I left my practice of eight years in order to do something more fulfilling for me. I found joy and fulfillment in being able to help people with some of my non-profit work. But as time went one, I decided I wanted to do something good for the world and continue my grandmother's legacy.
Her legacy started when my grandparents and their children first immigrated from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge over to the United States. They had no money or assets and came with the hope of leading successful lives and a chance at the "American Dream”. My grandmother brought along her knowledge of plant medicine and natural healing. She used to cook with cannabis. In fact she even used a salve to help ease her pain before she passed away. This was so helpful to her because, unfortunately, she was allergic to some medications. It would break my heart to see my grandmother suffering.
I loved the idea of continuing my grandmother's legacy of plant medicine on a much larger scale.
At this point, I decided to enter the industry with the hope to help so many more people. However, I also knew there were many obstacles ahead. One of the largest obstacles was overcoming the stigma within my own family. Even though my grandmother might have seen cannabis as a natural remedy, living in the U.S., my family had a negative stigma attached to it. My mother raised my brother and I as a single mom. She was an immigrant and she did what immigrants do, work hard and expect their children to go to college and get a good job. She only wanted the best for us. When I approached her about entering the cannabis industry, she had her reservations about me leaving a very noble career to do this. However, she also knew that cannabis helped my grandmother and others.
With my mom's support, I am extremely excited to be a part of the industry and give people a chance to help their loved ones.
Tell us more about Supportive Naturals
The journey of Supportive Naturals began when I met my co-founder, Taylor Mears. He has such an inspiring story and had a background in the cannabis industry. I was so touched by his story as it related to what my grandmother was going through.
We began working very closely together and I learned so much from his expertise. He really inspired me to continue learning about the industry. I quickly saw that not only does cannabis impact the person affected, but their spouses, parents, siblings, and many others! Cannabis stretches to everyone and can positively affect peoples’ lives.
Taylor and I had originally intended on Supportive Naturals becoming a non-profit. After realizing that we were only serving a certain number of people, I saw that this could be a much greater opportunity and serve so many more people! This led us to start the company Supportive Naturals.
Our mission is to help people by breaking down barriers, challenging perceptions, and offering high quality premium CBD. Supportive Naturals was founded on the backbone of people and their stories. I am very excited to lead this company!
What type of CBD products do you offer?
We currently offer full-spectrum, organic, premium CBD products including: CBD Vape Pens, CBD Oral Tinctures, CBD Salves, and CBD Bath Bombs! We are constantly innovating new and exciting CBD products to better serve our community!
How has cannabis influenced your life?
Cannabis has influenced my life so positively by helping many of the people around me.
For example, cannabis has really helped my co-founder, Taylor and the struggles he has gone through. CBD was the one solution for his seizures. This plant changed his life.
I have never felt more fulfillment and confidence about a venture in my life. I am so passionate about the industry and CBD - all health, no high!
What have been your biggest hurdles operating in the cannabis industry so far?
One major hurdle is that I cannot pay for social media advertising. It’s frustrating, unfortunately, but that’s the nature of this industry.
Other hurdles definitely include the grey areas around compliance and operations. Some examples include things like setting up a bank account or payment processing. Though these may seem like normal housekeeping items for infrastructure, I have ran into many obstacles, as not many large institutions will accept our accounts due to the industry.
This all comes back to the negative stigma and perceptions.
The greatest challenge I have faced though has been around peoples’ perceptions about cannabis. As I have been doing some market surveys for our E.U. launch, I have uncovered that many people do not understand the medicinal benefits and look at it more like people are just trying to get high.
There is definitely still a lack of education and negative stigma built around it.
How have you been able to overcome these challenges?
I have been able to overcome those challenges by doing tons of research, speaking to leaders within the industry, and networking with key players. With these connections, I have been able to gain much deeper insight from learning about their experiences and also learn some valuable tips they have uncovered throughout their journeys.
In regards to dealing with perceptions, this has been an ongoing challenge. However, I hold true to our mission. More and more people are becoming educated about the subject. People are increasingly become aware of the benefits of CBD and trying it for themselves. This has been the highlight of my overall journey and I just have to remember to keep pushing. Because, this isn’t about me, it’s about the impact we can make by serving others!
Name the top 3 skills every cannabis entrepreneur needs
I believe that every cannabis entrepreneur needs to have these three strong skills: leadership, work ethic, and emotional intelligence.
#1 Leadership - Having great leadership is a necessary skill. This is far different from management skills. For example, managers will tell you what to do, whereas leaders will teach you why and how to do something. Having great leadership is critical as it has the greatest impact on the company overall.
#2 Work Ethic Having a strong work ethic is necessary in this industry, because it is still in its early stages in the grand scheme of things. For example the U.K. has just announced that medicinal cannabis will now be legal! There is still a lot to learn in an industry that is growing so fast and you have work hard in this industry. You have to be to be proactive, put in the long hours, and have a strong work ethic in order to be successful in this industry.
#3 High EQ - Lastly, having a high emotional intelligence, EQ, is absolutely crucial. Because of the negative perceptions within this industry, it is very important to be able to connect with people. By having a high EQ, you would have the ability to really empathize with others, perceive, and asses others’ emotions, to educate about the benefits and challenge perceptions within the industry.
What is the best advice you've received recently?
“Don't forget why you first started this business. It's not about making money, but helping people.”
That was a message I got from my uncle and its one that I won’t ever forget. I feel like I get so caught up, overthinking things, and worrying about everything. At the end of the day, it’s really not about me, but about the people I am serving.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
My biggest tip for maintaining a work / life balance are to make self-care a priority!
I always tell my team that if we work hard, we get to play hard! So this means that when we are online and at work, we’re staying focused. You can get a lot done if you just stay focused on your task at hand. This allows us to totally unplug when the day is done, because we know that we did the work we were tasked with.
No one wants to take work home.
I am also a big believer that friends and family time needs to be a priority. I recommending taking it one step further and scheduling in things like a mani / pedi for yourself, family time, happy hour with friends, and dates with your significant other!
It’s easy to get absorbed within your business, but self-care is extremely important.
What are your favorite resources/tools for your business and why?
There are so many amazing tools and resources out there! Shout out to Women of Cannabiz and their downloadable guides as I have used some with my team!
Bringing it back to basics, I am certainly thinking back to my business degree back at the University of Denver. There are so many elements that go into a business and I am digging up some old books when I was building the business plan and marketing plan!
I definitely want to highlight that I have been using a lot things I learned from my experiences from my other businesses and non-profit board experiences. There were many systems and elements I have implemented into our current corporate structure.
Another one of my main resources have been my legal team here in the U.S. & in the U.K. as we gear up for our E.U. launch. There are so many grey areas in this industry and so I wanted to make sure that I do everything by the book as much as I can with regards to compliance and the nature of the industry.
Lastly, I have a coach that has helped support me personally & professionally. She has helped me organize and simplify my affairs to help me take it to the next level. She calls me out on my b.s. and helps to make sure that I’m attacking the process and not making excuses for myself. I have definitely noticed a difference in myself working with her, especially in this industry with many obstacles to overcome!
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
Remember your why, and remember that it’s not about you, it’s about the people you are serving.
Like Simon Sinek always says, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it."
Be the leader that makes a difference. Always offer your knowledge and share it with others.
We as entrepreneurs get so caught up on the numbers, the sales, the results. But it’s important to remember that these are things you cannot control. Focus on what you can control and direct your activity and inputs there. You cannot get around hard work and taking shortcuts.
This is ultimately what’s going to move your business forward and the results will come.