Breaking Barriers in Cannabis Wellness: The Journey of Pacific Rim Brands
Breaking Barriers in Cannabis Wellness: The Journey of Pacific Rim Brands
In the heart of British Columbia, amid its awe-inspiring landscapes, lies the vibrant city of Kelowna. This city is more than just a feast for the eyes; it's a hub of innovation where industry trailblazers are redefining the future. Among these pioneers is Pacific Rim Brands, a dynamic force spearheading advancements in the burgeoning cannabis market.
Pacific Rim Brands isn't your average collective. It's a power-packed ensemble of formulators, chemists, microbiologists, regulatory maestros, production managers, brand experts, and marketing specialists. With their extensive experience in CBD and wellness-focused THC/CBD products, they're not just industry veterans but visionaries with a vast network of trusted advisors.
Their mission? To bridge a significant gap in the market by providing natural wellness brands with a blueprint to launch CBD versions of their popular products. Their comprehensive services range from brand reviews and formulation analysis to Health Canada and provincial registration, brand element design, contract manufacturing, distribution, and marketing.
At the heart of Pacific Rim Brands are two unique offerings - Solevo and Chew & Chill. Solevo brings Ayurvedic-inspired wellness products to the table, blending ancient wisdom with modern science for a holistic health experience. On the other hand, Chew & Chill takes the edible game to a whole new level with high-quality organic edibles that are sugar-free, keto-friendly, and gluten-free, proving they're more than just a premium cannabis product provider.
Guiding this innovative venture is Michele Rebiere, a seasoned finance executive with a diverse background spanning technology, fintech, healthcare, retail, renewable energy, eSports, and most recently, cannabis wellness.
When not steering companies through various stages of growth, Michele is mentoring future leaders, serving on boards of directors, and volunteering with charities and sporting events across sectors. And if that wasn't enough, she enjoys kickboxing, paddleboarding, tennis, and is even penning a book.
In this exclusive interview, Michele shares the story behind Pacific Rim Brands and more. Find out why she believes the cannabis wellness market is here to stay and how her team is paving the way for a more holistic approach to health.
Michele, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. First off, can you tell us a bit about your background and how it has shaped your professional journey?
My background is in consulting and I started my career in the tech sector. Along the way, I had the opportunity to move into corporate finance and eventually, I found myself in the exciting and stressful world of M&A. After being part of a team that completed 16 acquisitions in 5 years, I was exhausted. I was commuting every week to the US (from Toronto), had a kid at home and my body was just in chronic stress.
Unfortunately, that led to a cancer diagnosis and I decided I needed to change everything. My commute, my job, my diet, all of it. I lived a vegan life for a year after my surgery and treatment and just contemplated life and what my next move would be. As a lifelong workaholic it was tough to slow down, but in doing so I took the time to read and learn about our bodies and their healing properties and the healing properties of plants
I didn’t immediately enter the wellness space but it was always in the back of my mind. My first venture after cancer was working with Christopher Robertson, my current business partner, and helping him build a renewable energy (biomass) company. That was a ton of work and it became a bit more stressful than I needed, but we felt good doing our part to contribute toward reducing carbon emissions and sustainability
Fast forward a couple of years and along came an opportunity to enter the cannabis sector. I was excited to learn a new industry but most importantly, I wanted to carve out our own niche in this sector. Not be part of a massive number of people who wanted to grow weed and get rich but be a Cannabis Wellness company.
I finally had the opportunity to put my beliefs into practice - everything we need to heal our bodies is within our bodies or within nature. With a bit of a bumpy start – trusting the wrong people, investing in the wrong facilities, you know the drill – a year and a half ago we were able to establish Pacific Rim Brands as, not just a cannabis wellness with CBD products but also as a unique consulting service provider. This really feels like the culmination of everything I have learned in my life – Consulting, Wellness, Hypergrowth sectors (and how to avoid the pitfalls of growth), Social responsibility and all of that.
You've had a very diverse career and have worked extensively in multiple industries, from fintech to healthcare and even eSports. How have these diverse experiences prepared you for the Cannabis wellness industry?
There is truly nothing that prepares you for the cannabis industry! But you're right, having a diverse background has definitely helped. The lessons learned in managing rapid growth companies and understanding the importance of cash flow forecasting are definitely my trump cards. So many companies entered this sector believing in the gold rush and raised buckets of money, thinking the ROI would exceed anything in history.
But instead of dreaming about the upside, I go heads down into contingency planning and being realistic about margins and cash flow. When you have positive cash flow, raising money and getting bank loans and working capital financing is easier. But so many companies set out to raise capital when they are on their back foot, in a failing position or a few quarters away from positive cash flow. It doesn’t work.
What inspired you to create Pacific Rim Brands and how has it evolved since its launch?
Our vision for Pacific Rim Brands was born out of opportunity. We saw some big gaps in the cannabis sector that we wanted to fill. We asked ourselves a simple question – “Where will innovation in cannabis 2.0 / 3.0 products come from?” And although there is definitely some of that within the cannabis sector, this is not an industry teeming with expertise in bringing products to market.
The know-how lies in Consumer Packaged goods (CPG). If you’ve ever had the chance to work in that industry – even as part of the supply chain – it is like watching creativity, chemistry, precision and project management converge. Talk about a well-oiled machine!
And what we realized is, there is no way for CPG companies to enter this industry. It’s not just about having the right facility or knowing the regs, it’s the whole process. CPG companies need a special flavour of hand-holding.
We were so excited about the idea of building a methodology and a full outsourcing service to guide CPG companies through the process of bringing CBD versions of their popular products to market. And of course, my consulting background means I have a burning desire to create order out of chaos.
Can you tell us about your personal battle with Stage 3 thyroid cancer? How did this experience influence your decision to venture into the cannabis industry?
My diagnosis came about accidentally. Despite the chronic stress my body was under due to a high-pressure job, I didn’t have any symptoms and I didn’t feel sick. But I did have persistent migraines so my doctor sent me for a CT scan and the scan detected a tumour in my throat.
I was still driving home from the hospital when the doctor called and said head back there right now, we are going to do a biopsy. The next few months were a blur of tests and research (on my part) and second opinions. I even took live cells from the biopsy and copies of all my ultrasounds, CT scans and blood tests across the border and met with some cancer specialists in US hospitals.
The shock of the diagnosis is unlike anything I’d ever experienced, but I have to say having cancer, and you’ll hear this from other survivors – has forever changed me in a positive way. It took me a while to find an industry where I could put my holistic beliefs to work. I wasn’t going to leave a business career and become a nutritionist or open a health food store, but I knew I wanted to be in wellness. And who would have thought that the cannabis industry would be that place?
How did your fight against cancer shape your perspective on wellness and holistic health?
Shortly after I was diagnosed, I read an amazing book called The China Study. It examines the correlation between nutrition and chronic illness and has some shocking revelations. It was after reading The China Study that my beliefs began to form and throughout the recovery process I read voraciously. I firmly believe that the body is a complete system and it can heal itself if we keep in a perfectly balanced state. But as you know in today’s environment, that is extremely difficult for most people.
Fortunately, nature offers us all the ‘medicine’ our bodies could ever need. And I don’t just mean plants, I mean fungi and the ocean and sunshine and fresh air. There is so much to holistic healing and there are people that know far more than I do, so we just continue to surround ourselves with formulators and specialists that are as passionate as we are.
How does your personal experience with health challenges inform the ethos and mission of Pacific Rim Brands?
Absolutely an integral part of the core of this company! Fortunately, Christopher Robertson, my co-founder of Pacific Rim Brands was there when I went through my diagnosis and treatment. So he not only understands my passion and commitment to exploring innovation in wellness products and methods but he wholeheartedly agrees.
Then several years later he was diagnosed with a chronic condition and this helped underscore the importance of our commitment to holistic healing and Ayurvedic medicine. Our value system says that for us, it's no longer ok to work just to make money. We needed to live and breathe corporate social responsibility and be part of the impact investment trend.
Could you tell us more about your two brands - Solevo and Chew & Chill? How do they reflect your personal and professional journey?
Over the past couple of years, we have launched dozens of products across several brands. But you are right, today we are focused on two highly strategic brands.
Solevo is strategic because it is our Ayurvedic-inspired wellness line of products. We have formulated every single product in-house and we are incredibly passionate about this brand and its unique products.
Solevo means uplifting and it is a brand that we see – 5 years from now – in medical spas, in wellness centers, in health food stores, anywhere men and women go to feel better within their bodies and their spirits. And our Solevo skincare products, I see on the Sephora shelves one day, rivalling many of the best-selling, chemical-laden cosmetics!
Chew & Chill is a new brand for us. When the US company that owns this brand approached us, we took a good look at the product and determined it fit our criteria for wellness. Although it was a THC-based product, we loved their commitment to healthy consumption. Chew & Chill has had phenomenal success in the US and tackling a full federally legal jurisdiction was next on their list.
They chose Pacific Rim Brands to take them to market in Canada, based on our experience and comprehensive outsourcing program. We now operate Chew & Chill Canada and are firmly committed to revolutionizing the game with full flavour, vegan, sugar-free, keto-friendly vegan edibles!
How does Ayurvedic philosophy influence the formulation of Solevo products?
I love this question. I have been fascinated with Eastern medicine and Ayurveda since I was diagnosed with cancer. I feel like we are struggling to catch up with a holistic mindset, in the Western world. Ayurveda basically means the knowledge of life and is truly a belief and treatment system that places equal value on the mind, body, spirit and nature to ensure healing and good health.
Most ayurvedic products are plant-based and have hundreds of thousands of years of history behind them. We have worked with formulators who have lived in India or studied this ancient method and share our beliefs.
For example, we developed one of the first turmeric-based CBD drops on the market, Solevo Defend. It is a very complex product to formulate as it involves infusing lemon oil and turmeric in order to be compliant with Health Canada rules prohibiting flavouring in extracts. But it is truly one of our most powerful Ayurvedic products and I am excited to get it back into production and launch it with Herbal Dispatch!
We have also been formulating mushrooms and algae and other powerful plant-based ingredients over the past couple of months. So lots of interesting things coming up!
How do you manage to juggle a demanding career, community service, personal interests, and maintaining good health?
I have always been someone with an incredible amount of energy. I don’t know why. I just never seem to get tired or if I do, I just need a break from one thing, like work and then dive into something else like fitness or writing or community service. I think we derive energy from happiness and if you are doing something that makes you happy, it's not as difficult to find time for that activity.
For example, mentoring students or budding entrepreneurs is incredibly fulfilling and taking an hour out of your work day or weekend is easy when you realize the impact it will have on your own personal journey. And it doesn’t hurt that I seem to have been blessed with an extra helping of serotonin!
Can you give us a sneak peek into the book you're writing? Does it touch on your personal experiences or insights from the cannabis wellness industry?
Oh great question! No it doesn’t but I should write about my journey at some point. My book is a topic that is close to my heart, it is called “Poor Jack”. My best friend had a child who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He just turned 9 and I have known him since birth. He is non-verbal, cannot stand unassisted, and only in the last year or so has learned to crawl and sit up. He is still in diapers and as you can imagine requires more than full-time care. But he is the most incredible spirit and such a happy child and I feel like he is misunderstood.
My book is from his point of view, the point of view of a child with CP and how happy and content he is, despite everyone always saying “Poor Jack”. I am loving this experience and learning a lot more about the condition. And Jack is excited I am writing this book about him!
That is really inspiring. Jack sounds like a wonderful young man and I'm sure your book will give people a unique perspective on living with cerebral palsy. Keep us updated on its progress! Last question - What is your vision for the future of Pacific Rim Brands, particularly in terms of contributing to wellness and recovery for others?
Our vision has always been "What does the market look like when CBD products are no longer part of the Cannabis Act?" We firmly believe the work completed by the Science Advisory panel for Health Canada will result in a natural health pathway for CBD and minor cannabinoids and are diligently preparing our customers’ brands and our own products for that future state.
One of the large wellness brands we have been working with is patiently waiting for the regs to change. We are into our second year of contract work with them and although we would love to launch the CBD versions of their incredibly popular products today, we may just wait and see what happens next. Stay tuned!
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