CBD use is growing increasingly popular among millennials and young adults. As a treatment for insomnia to eczema, the plant-based product has exploded into the health and wellness market. It is even used to soothe anxiety in anxious dogs and cats. Initially founded to provide CBD products to pets, Buzzn has since expanded to cater to humans as well.
We sat down with founder Minchul An to learn about dog rescue efforts, the medical-backing of their products, and where the company is going.
For those who don’t know, what is the genesis story of buzzn?
Buzzn was created to re-conceptualize health and wellness for pets and their humans. I’ve had 2 particular a-ha moments that led me to the genesis of Buzzn.
- I spent the last 7 years working as an active, licensed pharmacist in NY. Through my practice, I became aware of how serious the opioid crisis is and how we’re a nation that band-aids our problems with pills. Having been personally prescribed habit-forming medications in the past, I knew this was not a long-term solution. I found relief with CBD in 2015.
- In 2016, while working as a pharmacist, I launched Urban Wag, a dog walking/boarding company in Brooklyn. Through Urban Wag, I partnered with Korean K9 Rescue, a dog rescue organization that saves dogs from the meat farms of South Korea. The terrified dogs are flown to NYC to find forever homes. It’s difficult for them to adjust to their new environment, and we found CBD to be extremely helpful with their transition.
Originally, witnessing rescue dogs find relief with CBD and having personally found success with it myself, I set out to create a trusted CBD brand focused on quality, transparency, and education for just pets. After a few short months, pet owners started reaching out with success stories and asking if Buzzn would create human products. That’s when I decided it was my mission as a trusted healthcare professional to de-stigmatize cannabis and bring this natural and sustainable solution to the forefront of health and wellness for everyone under one roof — for pets and their humans.
How do you plan on allocating funds raised in this round to scale the business?
Being a year old, we have spent the last year listening to our customers and understanding what the market wants. We highly value the insights gained from last year to help build our brand into the next few years. By reaching our investment goal, Buzzn will continue to expand our online and offline presence in our sophomore year. With a more dynamic PR strategy, our goal is to expand into west coast retailers and introduce a new category of products—skin care. Here are some of the things that we plan to do with our funding.
We’ll be allocating about 40% of funds raised into sales and marketing. The funds will be used to engage a more robust PR program to help drive new pet product launches and our skin care launch. It will also give us the opportunity to implement a stronger influencer program. We will be able to host / co-host more pop-ups and events with influential brands and influencers. Having more marketing budget will let us grow our Buzzn family and bring a new sales associate onto the team to help maintain our retailer relationships. On the community side, we will also allocate some of the marketing budget to continue our community involvement with more non-profit outreach in order to develop more giveback programs for a variety of charitable causes
For us, product development and operations is also incredibly important as we establish ourselves in the skincare category. We want to put some of the funding towards R&D / product development for skin care and pet products. Our goal is also to update current packaging and create new packaging for upcoming products. The funding will also ensure that we can solidify our new hemp farm and manufacturing relationships to produce products in higher quantities.
Lastly, aside from general business, we have allocated some portion of our funding to building a new website which will give us the ability to do more online. We will also be implementing more analytics, social media and business tools to provide more data in order to drive growth.
Who are your target customers?
We have found that there is an overlap between millennial pet owners and adults that reported the highest level of CBD use. That’s those between the ages of 25 and 34.
CBD products are rising in popularity thanks to greater awareness of its healing properties and pain relief management. In 2018, the global CBD market was valued at $4.6 billion. This is expected to grow at a rate of 22.2%. According to industry reports, the health benefits of CBD infused products is expected to grow the market for years to come.
When it comes to pet care, 75% of millennials own a pet and see their pets as the first “child.” According to reports, “millennials are bringing pets into their household earlier than the previous generations. They delayed marriage, but those pets fill that void.” In 2019, $95.7B was spent on pets in the U.S. with $36.9B spent on pet food and treats. Globally that market size is a lot bigger.
The last of our product category addresses the skincare category. In the last few years, the CBD skincare market has become a growing market of its own. The CBD skin care market exhibits an incremental revenue opportunity of $2.7B from 2019 to 2026. CBD-infused skincare products are gaining popularity among consumers due to its potential to relieve common skin issues through its anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant properties. It has also been touted to potentially help various inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Our Super Powered Healing Balm has been wildly successful as our only topical at the moment. For 2020, we are working to capture the skin care consumer by launching two new CBD skincare products.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
We do have competitors in the market. CBD is quite the trend these days and you see many new CBD brands popping up. I would say what sets us apart is the fact that all of our products are formulated and approved by a team of pharmacists and industry experts who have a deep understanding of the effects of CBD.
On the pets side, we really understand how CBD affects pets and we know that full spectrum products are not necessarily the best for our pets. Most competitor products in the market are full spectrum and for pets to ingest even the trace amounts of THC could create undesirable effects. We also give back to our pet community. A portion of every sale goes to Korean K9 Rescue to help with their mission, and we don’t believe that we can say the same about our competitors.
On the human side, we are different because we can and do offer medication reconciliation. This means that we understand drug interactions with other medications and will make suggestions based on your current prescriptions.
What are the biggest risks associated with your business?
I would say that regulations are still a big risk to the CBD industry. We faced issues with payment processing in 2019. We also face issues with certain banking institutions not allowing us to use their services.
Most recently, we are trying to make sense of what is allowed for paid digital and social media marketing. Currently, marketing and advertising opportunities are still very limited so we depend heavily on events and PR to drive our business. We are hoping that opens up soon.
How is your team uniquely positioned to win out in this market?
We have an incredibly strong team. We feel that with the team introduced below, we are able to navigate and grow in the CBD space with confidence.
I graduated from Northeastern University with a Doctorate of Pharmacy. I spent the last 7 years as a licensed, active pharmacist working in a variety of healthcare settings. I’m a Phytocannabinoid Specialist which is accredited through New York State DOH with CE Credit ‘Medical Marijuana for Practitioners.’ In 2016, I launched Urban Wag, a dog walking service in Brooklyn, NY (while continuing to practice as a Pharmacist). I successfully exited Urban Wag Brooklyn in 2018. Through Urban Wag, I partnered with many pet rescues and services in the New York area.
Buzzn’s Co-Founder Lisa started her career in business operations and finance. During her MBA at Southern Methodist University, she discovered her love for consumer product management. Lisa spent the last 10 years working and consulting for consumer products companies and has managed successful product launches domestically and internationally for brands such as Frito Lay, Mary Kay, Algenist, Arbonne, and more. As a personal story, Lisa has suffered from eczema since childhood. What started as a “project” with her father (a physician), to find a non-steroid option for her skin problems turned into a life-long passion. Inspired by her own experience and the eczema relief that she found with CBD, Lisa is committed to bringing more CBD consumer education into the market. Leveraging her background in finance, analytics, product marketing, and operations, she helps in driving the operational side of Buzzn forward.
On our advisory board, we have three incredible individuals who bring a vast amount of knowledge. First, Dr. Bhaveek Mistry is a licensed pharmacist in the state of New Jersey. He received his Doctorate of Pharmacy from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in 2014. Bhaveek held positions at corporate 10 companies and various hospitals in the greater northeast region. Currently, he is owner and operator at Middle Village Rx, an independent pharmacy specializing in Cardiology and Dermatology. Growing up around natural remedies from his parents and culture, Bhaveek finds comfort in alternative medicine and has found full-body relief from various forms of cannabis extracts.
We also work closely with Dr. Lev Aminov. Dr. Aminov received his Doctorate of Pharmacy degree from the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. His experience ranges from pharmacokinetics to custom topical pharmaceutical formulations. In addition to practicing as a registered pharmacist in NYS, Lev entered the cannabis space in 2017 as the Director of Manufacturing & Formulations at Plant Pharma—a vertically integrated cannabis hemp facility. Lev continues to make an impact in the cannabis space as an expert voice and thought leader, and (he is) recognized as a trailblazer on a mission to help navigate this new frontier.
Another person on our advisory board that is a veteran in the cannabis space is Amy Oppedisano. Amy is a co-founder of the first publicly traded cannabis company in the U.S. – Terra Tech. Amy served on the Board of Directors for Terra Tech Corp from 2012-2017 and is one of the first female founders of a publicly traded cannabis company. In 2019 Amy helped to organize the launch of Mission Green. Mission Green is a non-profit organization that seeks to provide relief for those incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses.
What does your business model look like?
We have currently 3 channels in which we sell our products. We offer competitively priced products online and wholesale. Since we are a fairly young brand, we also participate in a lot of pop-ups and events
Retail – Since our inception in Feb 2019, we have built strategic retail partnerships. We strongly support our retail partners through in-person and social media collaborations and giveaways. We have a strong retail partner portfolio. Over 60% of our brick and mortar retailers are essential businesses and have been able to drive sales even during this scary time.
Online (Direct-to-consumer) – Online presence is a must and we wanted a channel in which we can be accessible to everyone. We ran into some issues with payment processors when we first started online but we quickly transitioned to E-Wallet, and currently, with Square’s CBD Beta program, our pet and human products are available online at getbuzzn.com. In 2020, we are making it a priority to drive more online traffic. Which is why we are going to use the funds to create a more robust online platform.
We also use events to drive awareness and some sales. Events are not our main focus, however, we will say that it has certainly been helpful in a space where advertising is sparse.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like?
When we think about 5 to 10 years down the line, we see a lot of potential for acquisition or merger.
I think we have some great product strategies that will afford us the opportunity to go a few different directions. We currently have a very strong pet CBD category, we see that as a potential to be integrated into a larger pet brand who maybe wants to get into CBD. Of course this could mean that we would have to eventually break apart the pets from the human products.
When it comes to our human product category, we are expanding into CBD skincare / beauty this year, and we have a very special formula. We think that it will be different than the rest in the CBD skincare space. Within the skincare / beauty space, acquisitions often happen. We believe that with the products we have to offer, we could either merge with another CBD / THC brand or be acquired by a larger beauty brand.
We believe that with our expertise and strong product portfolio, we have many, many opportunities in the future. We are excited and looking forward to it with the right partners that may come along.
Why equity crowdfunding?
As we looked at how we wanted to grow, we knew that fund raising would be very important to our next step. However, we are also very realistic as to where we stand as a new consumer products company. At our stage, we believed that equity crowdfunding would be the best direction for us.
We believe that equity crowdfunding gives us the opportunity to generate more brand awareness in a trendy, crowded space. We know that by crowdfunding, we would gain not just an investor but also a brand champion for Buzzn. Giving our customers the ability to be a part of Buzzn through investment gives them ownership and makes them a part of our success. We believe they will show support by helping us spread our mission. Crowdfunding is the best way for us to build a community and our brand.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Minchul and team take this company. Buzzn is currently raising on Republic.
About: Olivia Strobl
Olivia comes to KingsCrowd with a background in venture capital and technology. She spent time at Glasswing Ventures, an AI-focused venture fund in Boston, before joining the KingsCrowd team. There she helped develop machine learning algorithms for the opportunity qualification of preseed and seed-stage startup companies. Prior to her time at Glasswing, Olivia worked in a lab studying the neural correlates of attention. She holds a degree in Neuroscience from Wellesley College.