When you walk into the RESTART CBD retail store located near The Domain, you immediately notice the thick smell of marijuana. In a glass display case, there are rolled-up joints, along with shelves of other products like oils, edibles, tinctures, and smoking devices.
Each of the approximately 50 products sourced by RESTART CBD contains 0.3% THC or less, which is the legal threshold in Texas to sell and purchase cannabis. Yet the retail experience is designed to mimic the best aspects of the more than 50 marijuana dispensaries that RESTART CBD co-founder and CEO Shayda Torabi has visited around the world.
We spoke to Torabi about her business, her prior professional life at WP Engine, what she earns as a social media food influencer, and her efforts to destigmatize marijuana.
Listen to the episode below or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, or Stitcher. The full transcript is available to subscribers.
Cover Charge: Episode 5 Transcript
Nick Schenck: [00:00:00] I want to kick off this podcast by just reading a caption from a post that you published on your Instagram account a few days ago. “I grew up watching Weeds, dreaming of being Nancy Botwin, trying to figure out how a Texas girl was going to get into cannabis. And now I’m very living proof that dream big enough and anything is possible.”
So explain that caption and how you went from dreaming of this career to, I believe, in 2019 you were named Texas Cannabis Queen. [restrict]
Shayda Torabi: [00:00:54] Yeah. That’s a really good question. Oh man. Well, first of all, born and raised in Austin, Texas. I love this state. I am proud to be a Texan, but as most know, Texas is not the most favorable when it comes to cannabis laws. So growing up, while I very much enjoyed the cannabis plant in all of its many forms – you know, live music, capital of the world, going to rock shows and things like that – I didn’t see a career path for how I could work in that industry full-time. So for me, I graduated with a degree in marketing and communications. I went and got – at the time – a very small tech job at a web hosting company called WP Engine. They’re in the WordPress space. And ended up getting my masters at my time at WP Engine. I was with them for about six years, just exploring WordPress and partnership marketing and brand marketing – and still loving cannabis, but not really seeing, again, the career path.
But so for me it was like, I’m a marketer. I love marketing. I love creating. I love branding. And I think those all coalesced. Gosh, now it’s been about five or six years. I was in a car accident. I was hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian in downtown Austin. And that for me is really what kickstarted my journey into working in cannabis full-time.
So part of my recovery story is me getting exposed to CBD through my mother. And that would later on go to be the impetus for us founding RESTART CBD. But when I first got exposed to CBD, these were all kind of, you know, at the time what seems like random experiences in life.
Oh, I grew up in tech and WordPress. I love marketing and have a passion for branding. Oh, I really enjoy cannabis. But how does that all kind of mesh together? And so when I was going through recovery from my accident, I got exposed to CBD and had no idea what it was, was not familiar with these different cannabinoid terms and blindly started using that aspect of the plant.
And that’s really what opened my eyes to both the medicinal properties of cannabis as well as, you know, giving me some sort of glimmer into, “Hey, I could maybe work in this industry,” which now – kind of like you’ve, addressed – I posted that comment a couple of days ago because it was 4/20 and I was feeling very grateful amidst everything that’s happening, just to find myself being somebody who gets to have a seat at this table, not only for Americans, not only for Texans, not only for women, but also just like that proud young me who is like, “If you dream big enough, you really can go exactly where you want to go.”
Nick Schenck: [00:03:39] So when you were watching Weeds growing up or in college, and you were thinking, “This is an industry I’d like to work in.” Did you think that there was like a legal path for you? Or were you just like, “Oh, that’d be cool one day? I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but like, this is something I’m passionate about. I would love to pursue a profession,” but you had no clue how you would do that.
Shayda Torabi: [00:04:02] Yeah. I just think that for the amount of work that’s been done in the cannabis industry today, we as an industry are still so far behind other industries. And so back when Weeds came out, medical marijuana was really the only thing on the table, and it was really only in states like California or Colorado. And so this idea of a recreational market, this idea of consumer packaged goods, this idea of media platforms and educational events and healing, truly healing people with plant based medicine, those were really – not something that I was even visually dreaming about. I think if you would have asked me then the plan could have been, “Well, I could move to California or Colorado and maybe get a job working at a farm or something like that.” But to really connect those dots to marketing, educating consumers, creating a brand, creating a product, some sort of conversation. It just, that wasn’t even something I knew was available to me.
Nick Schenck: [00:05:10] For those who don’t know, explain the difference between CBD and weed as it’s known in pop culture. What’s the distinction?
Shayda Torabi: [00:05:19] Sure. So I would say the main scientific distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana is the amount of THC that is present in the plant.
So federally, industrial hemp is legal because it contains less than 0.3% THC – compared to marijuana, which traditionally contains anywhere from 5%-20% plus THC. And so, the effects of the THC are really what trip people up to use a punny word. You know, psychotropic, psychoactive effects with the more amount of THC.
So most people look at marijuana as something that they do – feel out of body, feel, you know, just like sleep. Maybe you’re using it for medicinal benefit – versus CBD’s real main property is anti-inflammation. And so that’s where it has more of that healing medicinal application.
Nick Schenck: [00:06:13] Before you were in that car accident where you were a pedestrian, you were hit, and that led you to discovering CBD, you were a fan of marijuana with the high THC percentage.
And I’ll get to the car accident later because I think that’s an interesting story. But on 4/20, you also posted on Instagram that you’ve had a personal relationship with cannabis for over a decade. “It’s helped me manage my pain, anxiety and is a plant-based way to help me relax at the end of the day.”
Was that the first time that you’ve openly disclosed to the public that you’re a recreational marijuana user?
Shayda Torabi: [00:06:55] No. I always like to share my affinity very discreetly and very safely. I always like to use the asterix: I like to enjoy marijuana in states where it’s legal, of course.
But I’m not ashamed of it. I think if we can post on social media that people are going out – maybe not going out these days – sitting down with a friend and having a glass of wine to unwind at the end of the night, I too should be able to say, “Hey, I’m reaching for my joint, my edible, my whatever it is to experience cannabis at the end of the night to unwind.”
Because to me, they’re one in the same. They’re different vices to some extent, but I definitely believe that cannabis – looking at it compared to something like alcohol, looking at cannabis compared to other pharmaceutical drugs out there – cannabis has zero toxicity. So you’re looking at the effect that it has on your body.
And it’s really hard, it’s pretty much impossible to overdose on cannabis. So again, looking at how – its affects on your body really are minimal. It’s a preference. And so for me, I don’t really drink a ton of alcohol, but you can absolutely find me enjoying cannabis as often as I can get my hands on it.
Nick Schenck: [00:08:10] So how was your 4/20?
Shayda Torabi: [00:08:12] 4/20 was so great. It was a weird one this year. And then, of course, a couple days later, it’s Earth Day. So it’s like, wow, we’re having Earth Day and 4/20 and I have to say this, it wasn’t just 4/20 right. So for those of you who don’t know, 4/20 is a stoner holiday. It stems from this California high school. These kids got together in the back of their school, and they chose this time to go partake in this plant. So now of course, stoners everywhere like to enjoy 4/20, but it was not only 4/20 the day of the month. It was 4/20 the whole month, because it was April 2020.
So it made for a really big one this year. So yeah, we participated, we did a couple of live events. We tuned in with some of our friends, hemp tours. They run some cannabis tours here in Austin. We participated with a really cool webinar on hemp and sustainability for Southwestern University, which I thought was really cool.
Again, we’re talking about making progress in this conversation, especially in a state like Texas. Southwestern University, for those of you who don’t know, is a private university. So I thought that was just really cool to be able to – maybe the former me was just excited about going and hanging out in the green belt with a joint – but the present me is like, “Hey, we’re creating content and we’re educating people and we’re able to have this higher level conversation around this plant.” And that was just really fun to be a part of.
Nick Schenck: [00:09:29] When you are enjoying weed in states where it’s legal, how do you like to enjoy it? I mean, there’s different strains. There’s edibles, like you said. There’s vaporizers, there’s joints. Like what’s your go-to?
Shayda Torabi: [00:09:44] Oh my gosh. Well, I appreciate the question because I think out of most people, I probably explored all of it. I really love the plant itself. So like, I really love loose bud, loose herb, if you will. What I like to smoke it out of really can vary depending on where I’m at. Lately, these days it’s a steamroller or it’s a joint because it’s easy for me to move around, but I’m also a really big fan of microdosing. So again, in states where it’s legal, you have a little bit more wider product set options. So there’s a company in Colorado, I’m spacing on the name, but they make five milligram mints. Those are my favorite. They’re five milligrams. They come in sativa and indica, and it’s just a nice little buzz that just kind of like helps chill me out throughout the day. And especially when I’m in Colorado, you know, popping a mint and going for a hike, that’s my dream.
Nick Schenck: [00:10:36] What’s a steamroller?
Shayda Torabi: [00:10:38] A steamroller is a type of device, a type of smoking device that essentially – man, I feel like I’m doing like this disservice, I feel like I should show everybody a visual – but it’s like a long tube essentially. It looks like a steam train, if you will. It’s like a train and it fills with the smoke.
Nick Schenck: [00:10:55] Like a chamber.
Shayda Torabi: [00:10:57] Yeah, yeah. You get a lot of smoke in it versus some of the smaller pipes. That was a good word, chamber. They don’t have quite a big chamber. So you’re not getting as much smoke, which depending on how much and how often you consume, you kinda want to inhale as much of the good stuff as you can.
Nick Schenck: [00:11:12] Great. Is it liberating to talk about it openly? Because in previous conversations we’ve had, you said when you worked at that hosting company in Austin, major web hosting company, that you had to keep it under wraps, that it was a part of your life that you really couldn’t disclose because of the stigma attached, and now you’re open about it. How’s that feel?
Shayda Torabi: [00:11:35] I honestly feel so fortunate and blessed. That’s the only way that I could feel about it. I think I’m definitely still cautious. I want to be respectful of the laws. They’re put in place for a reason, but when you look at, again, the impact that cannabis can have from a positive perspective, I feel like this is my opportunity to be a positive voice. Saying you can be high functioning, you can be successful, you can be a female, you can enjoy these things, you can love these things, and you can still be a great daughter, friend, whatever the case may be. Because it doesn’t define you. I think that, again, there’s a really big stigma around what cannabis is, who a cannabis consumer is, what cannabis makes you feel like, and unfortunately as somebody who’s in marketing and media, I hate to break the truth to you guys, but it’s all been marketing and media that’s confused your mind. It’s made you feel one way about this plant or another.
Nick Schenck: [00:12:32] Do you blame the movies Half Baked and Cheech and Chong?
Shayda Torabi: [00:12:36] No, I actually blame Reefer Madness. It’s so crazy. I remember watching that movie and just kind of, you know, laughing because it was like, who would believe that this is how it’s going to make you feel or have this, you know, going to go want to attack people or be angry or aggressive.
And I’m like, I’ve never felt that way when I smoke marijuana. Like, why is this what other people are saying? But you look at the period when that movie got released, you look at some of the other competing industries. We talked about this on our sustainability webinar the other night. Hemp as a crop is regenerative and restorative to our earth. You can grow hemp and have more yield with half as much land and half as much water as cotton. So when you look at cotton, plastic, timber, these multi-billion, trillion dollar industries, it breaks my heart because that’s really all that we’re playing with. I don’t think marijuana, weed, cannabis is bad.
But I think that these other industries with deep pockets have unfortunately painted a picture that says, “Hey, this is a drug. This is going to make you go crazy. You shouldn’t be on it.” And I’m here to challenge that and say, “Hey, this is a healthy way to have a relationship.” I still stand by, you know, the idea that everything in excess is bad.
You eat too much ice cream, that’s not good for you. You drink too much alcohol, that’s not good for you. I’m not saying to go, you know, sit – well, maybe I would say go sit in a cannabis bath. I think that could actually be very delightful. But anything in excess could be bad. So if you put it through that lens of, you know, what works for your body – and so you’ll hear us say that a lot at RESTART CBD. We want you to have the best relationship with cannabis that you can have. So it’s not about what works for me. How much do I take? How often do I consume? It should be: What do you like? How do you enjoy it? Do you prefer edibles or do you prefer smoking?
I never want someone to feel that smoking is the only way to experience cannabis. It is the most bioavailable, to use a scientific term, which means it’s the most absorbent. You’re going to feel it the most quickly, which is why there’s this huge association to smoking cannabis products, because you feel the most quickly. People want to feel the effect.
But when you’re looking at CBD, for example, from a medicinal application, topicals, edibles, sublingual oils. Those are huge applications that also have properties to them that are beneficial. So it’s just getting people comfortable and open to exploring how cannabis can work for them.
Nick Schenck: [00:15:01] The mainstream conversation around marijuana, I feel like it’s more prevalent now than ever. I mean, Elon Musk joined the Joe Rogan podcast and smoked a joint on the podcast. Do you feel like that stuff is helpful to de-stigmatizing it, or do you feel like most of the conversation around it in mainstream media is not helpful?
Shayda Torabi: [00:15:24] I think it’s helping. I think you’re seeing a lot of high-quality content come out. I think you’re seeing a lot of people who like myself, maybe were in different positions in their life where they couldn’t come forward or share their love or their passion or their use with the plant as openly as they might want to.
And I think when you get to a certain point in your life where you -whether you’re Elon Musk, I mean you’re Elon Musk, you literally could do and say whatever you want within reason, you know – maybe me on the other end of that spectrum. I’m not really an anybody at this point, but I’m working on it, you know?
It’s just, it’s whatever that degree of liberation is. I think it’s allowing us to see ourselves in the media, and so I absolutely am for it. I think it’s creating a conversation that needs to be had. I think it’s really cool when I see major publications like Forbes or Entrepreneur Magazine talking about cannabis and talking about this booming industry.
I don’t think that everything that’s happening in the industry is done the right way. I think you’re seeing a lot of big brands get caught with their foot in their mouth, whether it’s from a money thing or it’s from a labeling or regulation thing. I think there’s a lot of stuff plaguing our industry that hasn’t been sorted out because of the irregular regulations that are just existing right now. But I do think that the conversation is happening in such a way that it’s exciting to be a part of. Absolutely.
Nick Schenck: [00:16:47] I want to go back to something you wrote in that post about this helps you with anxiety. Talk about your anxiety. How do you experience anxiety and give me a sense of like, before and after. When you’re feeling anxious, you try CBD, the first time you did that, did you notice a big difference?
Shayda Torabi: [00:17:09] Yeah, so I – like most people – don’t know what I don’t know until I’m in it. And so I think growing up, especially working a really high stress job in the tech industry, our startup, man, when I was there, I was employee 13, and when I exited six years later, there were 650 employees. They had grown from Austin, Texas, to San Antonio, San Francisco, Ireland, London, you know, just exploded internationally. And I didn’t really know how to cope with that stress. I think I was just running, running, running for so long, and you don’t realize you’re tired until you kind of stop. And so I didn’t experience CBD until after I had left that job.
And so again, I kind of put that in the same categories, like I didn’t really know what my anxiety was until I was sitting in the anxiety. And so I was running so fast for so long, and then especially launching my own brand, it was like, wow, this is like a lot of pressure. And most people, if they Google us, they’ll see that RESTART CBD is a family business. And so family can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. So that also added on to, “Hey, I’m a first-time entrepreneur. I’m working in a really disruptive industry. I’m doing it with my family. Wow, this is pressure. Like this is something that I’ve never felt before.” And I first used CBD for pain management. That was really my first experience into it. And so I think it’s fair to point out when you’re using CBD, there’s not a different CBD for anxiety or for pain or for sleep. It’s really the same product and it’s how many milligrams, how much you consume. So with my accident, I was taking a larger dose of CBD and too much CBD. Not that there’s an overdose, but it can cause drowsiness. So I was taking large doses in the evening, primarily never really taking it in the daytime, not really seeing an application for anxiety with myself because I was never diagnosed as someone who’s clinically anxious. So I never felt this – I’m anxious. I need something for it.
And so when I was taking CBD from the accident, that was definitely a really great assist in my life to my healing journey. But it wasn’t really until we got into the business of running RESTART that I started exploring, of course, other times of day to take CBD, other ways to consume CBD, talking about, I think oil is the primary way that people experience CBD today. But now you can smoke CBD herb just like you smoke marijuana. Now there’s edibles.
Nick Schenck: [00:19:38] Anxiety actually is something I suffer from. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more self-aware. And that’s how I got into CBD. And my anxiety stems from, I put a lot of pressure on myself. And so I tried taking some pills, CBD pills that I got at, I think it was Central Market, and honestly, I thought it was a placebo.
I was like, “I feel like maybe I’m a little more chill, but maybe I’m just convincing myself that I am.” I tried a few oils, too, and, um, actually my wife got our dog some CBD oil, and I was like, “I’m going to try this, too.” It didn’t necessarily help. A CBD joint, I did notice a definite difference in my anxiety levels going down.
So yeah, I can definitely vouch for that. I think it probably depends on the dosage you do.
Shayda Torabi: [00:20:34] I think dose matters and definitely, like you’re saying, the way that you take it. So I personally do enjoy smoking, but I like to take my CBD generally every day through an oil. So that works for me. If smoking works for you, like I love that.
And again, going back to like, I want people to have a really healthy relationship with what works for them. That’s why there’s different options. It’s not a one size fits all. It really is just opening your eyes and your mind into thinking, “Hey, this is what I like. This is what works for my body.”
Nick Schenck: [00:21:05] So one thing that stands out to me about you, and we’ll get back to CBD and RESTART in a little bit, but you’re a prolific food blogger. Your Instagram account, you have about 20,000 followers. You post a lot of food pictures and photos, and you’re an influencer in the food space. Describe how you got into that and also explain like the food community in Austin.
Shayda Torabi: [00:21:29] Well, for one, we have the most amazing food community. Again, as someone who grew up here, I can attest that we haven’t always had this diverse community of different types of restaurants and chefs and owners, but that’s really what drew me into creating a food blog. So I’ll back up a little bit. When I was working at this hosting company, part of my job was to manage our events, and as I mentioned, they expanded nationally and internationally as well.
And my job was to go to these different cities where we had offices, where we had customers, and to create experiential events for them to enjoy, which oftentimes meant food, especially in my downtime. Also, I’m a human being. I got to have food, so, hey, I’m in Toronto, I’m in New York City. What should I eat?
And so, because we were a WordPress business, and because I was traveling, I was in my early twenties it was very fortunate for me. I just started kind of using the tools that were in front of me. I love creating content. I love community. I love food. I love eating. I think food is universal. You don’t have to speak the same language as somebody, but you could put a really good plate of food in front of them and you can have a really good experience over that meal.
Nick Schenck: [00:22:41] A lot of people would say, “Oh, your passion for food probably stems from your passion for cannabis.” They kind of go together.
Shayda Torabi: [00:22:48] I would say so. I mean, I’m definitely a fan of shows like Bong Appetit. If you’ve got Netflix, there’s a new show called Cooking With Cannabis. I think, again, those shows might be cheeky, but they’re showing this community of people who just like being together, and why not do that over food and sharing these plants? And so when you put cannabis in that category of it’s a plant, it’s an ingredient for life. You can use it as an accoutrement, or you can enjoy it kind of raw. There’s this experience to it. And so, yeah. I found myself traveling and creating this content and loving food.
And then of course, I live in Austin, so I would come home and I would continue to create that content. And for me, I always like to say, you know, I’m probably one of the more selfish people out there, really because my content started for myself. I wanted a place to document what I was experiencing, what I was going through. And so it was really organic for me. And so I always like to highlight that because I think sometimes people are like, “Oh, I’m going to do this thing and it’s going to have this huge impact.” And I think that’s great sometimes to have a goal or a plan. But for me it was a little bit more organic of, “Hey, I like these things and I just want to create.”
So I’m a creator at heart and just found an opportunity to create something that I’m really proud of. So, yeah, I like to work with the local restaurants and chefs to support their brands. And so for me, I feel like I sit in an interesting position as both a consumer and as an entrepreneur.
And so we, now with our brand RESTART CBD, have been able to leverage a lot of those relationships. So one most recently that I’ll kind of shout out. There’s a local company here in Austin called Blenders and Bowls. We love them. They have about four locations. They are a smoothie bowl and smoothie company owned by two incredible women.
And they know me and my sister through my blog. My sister also has a blog, so her blog as well. And it was never a forced like, “Hey, you got to put CBD on your menu.” But they’re smart business women. They’re seeing, hey, CBD is pretty buzzy. So actually last year for April for around 4/20, we launched a RESTART CBD bowl with them, and so they made a special flavored ingredient bowl with our CBD on the menu. They put our name, our logo on the menu, and they just revived it for 4/20 this year. So if you want a CBD bowl with RESTART CBD and Blenders and Bowls, they’re making that available right now for the rest of the month.
Nick Schenck: [00:25:12] That’s smart. I’ve seen like Antonelli’s Cheese do that with restaurants where you see their name on the menu when there’s like cheese. I think that’s smart on both sides. For restaurants and for retailers.
Shayda Torabi: [00:25:22] Exactly. It’s like they’re being smart because they’re seeing a trend with cannabis and with CBD in particular. It’s smart for us because I love collaborating. I love partnerships. It’s, again, creating opportunities for me. And so I don’t think that those relationships would have necessarily happened had I not had my blog or been in the food community in that regard. And so I think that’s just one example of a few that we’ve been really blessed to be able to work with local Austin brands and, you know, some outside of Texas as well to just help educate people in a really meaningful and fun way. I mean, who doesn’t want to have like a CBD bowl?
And then it’s really fun for us, too, when we get to go, as we say, drive by, but we can’t drive really anywhere these days, unless it’s for, you know, groceries. But cool to see them promoting our brand on their social media. It’s giving us another talking point.
Nick Schenck: [00:26:11] Do you feel vulnerable sharing so much of your life on social media? Or does it come easily to you?
Shayda Torabi: [00:26:19] I’ll share this. I love to share, but also people should know, it’s not everything. It’s not the totality of my life. I think that there are things that, of course, I try to keep a little bit more private out of respect for those people or those things in my life.
But for the most part, I am a sharer. I believe in community over competition. I believe in vulnerability. I believe in transparency and honesty, and it’s kind of why, for me, being able to work in cannabis is like the ultimate declaration of who I am as a person. I’m a believer. I have a relationship with God. I think there’s an association that if you are a Christian, you can’t also like cannabis, or if you like cannabis, well surely you can’t be successful in business, or, you know, there’s just like a lot of and’s or but’s in the conversation. And so for me to literally be like here where I am, a testimony to you can be successful, you can be happy, you can be fulfilled. You can work in an industry like cannabis. You can believe the things that you want to believe is just really liberating.
Nick Schenck: [00:27:26] That’s great. For the audience, the people listening to this, who maybe they’re managing their company’s Instagram account and they’re like, “How do I gain followers?” Or let’s say it’s a restaurant owner who’s like, “I want to know what’s the best content to post to build engagement, gain followers?” Can you give some advice to them?
Shayda Torabi: [00:27:46] Loaded question, because I really believe that content should be unique to you and your brand. And I am not a marketer who says that you have to be on every platform.
I think that there is some strategy that should be involved depending on what business you have. So like for example, using CBD as an example, because I talk about this a lot when I speak in industry events. We have a retail location and an eCommerce store. Those together create a different marketing mix than if I just had an eCommerce store, or if I just had a retail location.
So yes, I think it’s important to have a social media presence. The translation of that – for example, with what’s going on right now with Coronavirus – I got an email the other day, a publicist friend of mine crafted an article, I think it was for Culture Map, that highlighted a bunch of small businesses that aren’t on social media.
Saying like, “Hey, don’t forget about them.” And so putting myself in that position as an influencer in food, of course, there’s the big brands who have the budgets, who are reaching out, and I hope people understand that you’re seeing things on social media because people are creating content around it because there’s some dialogue around it.
I want to believe that things are a little bit more organic, and there are to some extent, you know. I like a certain nut butter. I’m just going to organically go post about that because I made my toast this morning and it tasted good. But on the other side of that conversation are brands who are reaching out to people saying, “Hey, it’s a time of need. Help me promote this new product concept, menu item, curbside,” whatever it is. And so kind of stepping back and realizing there’s a lot of small businesses that don’t have the budget to hire a publicist. They don’t have the time to run social media. And so unfortunately they don’t even have a social media presence.
And so I just sat there reading the article like, wow, there’s so many people who we just aren’t even thinking about because they’re not in our frame of mind. They’re not showing up on our social media feeds. And so I do think maybe a piece of advice would be to look at where your customers are and to create content for them.
So using ourselves as another example, and I’m a marketer, as you all know, the amount of people who come into my retail location and tell me – because I ask – how did you hear about us? They say, “I just Googled CBD near me.” I go, “You didn’t hear me on a podcast? You didn’t find a video I posted on YouTube? You didn’t hear me speak at an event?
“No, I don’t know who you are. I don’t know your story. I Googled CBD near me. You showed up, you were close, you had some good reviews.”
So what that says to me is two things. One, consumers are going to go where it’s convenient. So how do you be convenient to them? If you think your consumers are on social media, go there. If you think your consumers are on the radio, go there. If you think your consumers are living in their houses and you can send a personalized mailer to them through the USPS, that’s an option. You should do that. You know?
So it’s looking at what am I trying to sell? Don’t just be on something because people are on it. There’s a lot of noise out there and you’re trying to cut through that noise.
Nick Schenck: [00:30:37] Yeah, that’s a great point. Once restaurants reopen, what’s the first place you’re going to go for a meal?
Shayda Torabi: [00:30:45] Well, I’ve already kind of had it. My favorite restaurant is Sway. I love Sway. I love Thai food. Sway is a place that – if you know me – I celebrate there. I cry there. Every great accomplishment, every heartbreak is like celebrated at Sway. So that’s where I’m going to be. But I ordered them a couple of nights ago just to support, you know, take-out curbside, but I cannot wait to just go sit – my favorite spot to sit, too, if you ever go to Sway, they have three locations. All three locations have the same offering. It’s a chef’s table, chef’s counter. You get to sit and watch the kitchen. It’s just, again, for me as somebody who’s very experiential, you can watch the cooks, you can smell the food, you can see the action, you can be a part of it.
And so for me, it’s more than just like, “Oh, I’m eating, you know, like the son-in-law pork dish. It’s like I’m eating my dish and I’m watching these very passionate people do their job really well, and it’s like the symbiotic experience, and it’s just so beautiful. So yeah, I’m looking forward to maybe not just eating the food, but sitting at my favorite spot in the restaurant.
Nick Schenck: [00:31:47] Okay. Last question on being a food influencer. If I’m a restaurant, a grocery chain, and I want you to promote my brand on your Instagram account, what are the requirements? And how do you price that?
Shayda Torabi: [00:32:03] So I will caveat that every influencer will respond to this question differently. So I’ll just share how I respond.
You asked about authenticity and transparency and like being who I am, and for me, what you’ll see on my content is really who I am. I do not like to support brands, whether it’s paid or not, for things that I personally wouldn’t eat. So a big thing about me, which comes through in my social media, so it’s not a secret, is I don’t eat dairy. I’m dairy-free. I’m not lactose intolerant. It’s just a preference for my health and wellness.
And you know, I’ve gotten offered a lot of ice cream to be sent to me for free and to pay me to cover that content or to create that content. And it’s always something that I have to kind of ask myself, you know, do I take the paycheck and then sacrifice some of my authenticity? And so for me, it’s always a no. It’s always going back to what’s my core.
And so I think for brands who are looking to work with influencers, maybe spending some time up-front, doing some homework on who those people might be.
And I’m also a really big advocate – I don’t think that somebody needs to be a massive influencer with tens of thousands of followers to be effective. I think that we’re all influencers. You know, your wife might suggest something to you that she heard on a television episode and you would think, “Oh, I might try that. You know, I trust her. She’s my wife,” or your brother, or your friend, or your parent. And so I think, you know. I read an article the other day, it said, maybe because of Coronavirus, influencer marketing is dead. And I was like, yes, in some regards, I do think this idea of a glorified person who tells you to go somewhere and do something might be dying.
But I think if you look at it from that human element, it’s like we’re all influenced by something. And so who do you want to be influenced by? And so I try to be that person on Instagram who’s like, “I’m a real girl. I put my pants on just like you do every day. I make choices for myself, for my body, for my life, for my sanity. And these are the choices I make.” And so I love when brands match my intention in life.
So, for example, last night, talking about influencer stuff. Capello’s is a national brand. They make almond grain frozen foods. So they make like gnocchi or a spaghetti that you can cook and it’s not made with gluten or grains, which I think is really great. Because I also personally do not eat grains or gluten. And they sent me a box and there was no price tag. There was no, “Hey, we’re sending you this, you got to create content.” It was just a really nice gesture for them to send it to me. And, of course, I enjoyed it because I like that food. So I put it all over my Instagram. I made stories about it and it’s just like a really nice symbiotic thing. So I think it depends what’s your end goal, what are you trying to do? Whether you’re the brand or you’re the influencer, it’s just trying to create some sort of like authentic reaction for somebody to feel something. So that’s always what I’m trying to get at is just being relatable.
Nick Schenck: [00:34:56] In 2019, if you include like the income you got from influencer marketing and like the free stuff you got, how does that compare to like your income from RESTART?
Shayda Torabi: [00:35:05] Yeah, so I’m probably one of those really bad influencers who’s like money, what? I’ve monetized off of my Instagram, of course. I think it’s a channel, it’s a tool I like to leverage. But for me, it’s not my end goal. My end goal is to be a business owner and to be an entrepreneur and to create a brand. And so I look at my influence on Instagram as an extension of the brand that I’m ultimately building. So again, I’m not opposed to cutting income off because it will serve a greater purpose for me building my brand.
And it’s such a funny thing that I’m saying this out loud now because if anybody loves Gary V out there, I just watched a Gary V video last night, and he basically said the same thing. He’s like, I know I could be X amount times richer if I would have just said yes to every opportunity that came my way.
But he’s like, “I don’t like those things. I don’t want to do those things. That’s not me.” And so really having confidence in what you want to present to the world and who you want to be. And I just feel like I’m in the middle of it still. But I’m having that moment of leveling up of like, this is great. It got me here. But like now it’s time to like go to the next level. And so I really just believe it’s a tool. It’s a platform and it’s accounted for some of my finances to answer your question. I certainly do get sent things and offered experiences and go to places, and I cherish those opportunities when they come. But really it’s the platform and it’s the conversation that I’m able to have that really makes the most impact for me at the end of the day.
Nick Schenck: [00:36:32] Okay. Let’s jump to that car accident. So what was the year and explain the whole context.
Shayda Torabi: [00:36:40] The year was either 2015 or 2016, I’m not quite sure, which is very weird because I think when you’re in any traumatic experience, it’s so real in that moment. And now to be so far removed from it and to see the person I am and the way my life has grown from it.
I really believe, you know, there’s periods of your life that start and end chapters. And so for me, the accident, again at the time was not something that was significant. It sucked. It was like, “Oh man, I’m in a car accident and I’m in pain and I have to recover. That sucks. Like, what does that mean?”
But now, you know, five or six years later, I’m reflecting back and I’m like, “Wow. That got me here, so I’m so grateful for it.” So yeah, the accident was very.
Nick Schenck: [00:37:26] It was on sixth street, west sixth, right?
Shayda Torabi: [00:37:28] It was on west sixth. So it was, gosh, man, if you ever believe in like anything higher than yourself, you got to believe that God exists. Because for me, this was literally – like to be in a car accident as a pedestrian walking across the street. This is how it went. I parked my car at WPEngine, which is the hosting company I used to work for, office. I left my car at my office to walk to La Condesa to go to an influencer dinner where I was invited by the sustainable food group, which is a local nonprofit in Austin.
I was walking back to my car after the sustainable food group dinner, and I was hit by the vehicle. So I was still working my job at WPEngine, I was also being this food blogger. I was also this person who loved cannabis behind the scenes. Everything literally crashed at once.
Nick Schenck: [00:38:13] So was it a green light for you and the person just ran the red light, or how did it occur?
Shayda Torabi: [00:38:19] It was my right of way, and gosh, he was coming down Guadalupe, taking a left turn onto, I believe it’s fifth street right there, and it was my right of way. It would have been his right of way to go straight, but he was turning, and so it was my right of way to walk.
And so instead of him waiting for me, he tried to clip and like it literally was like milliseconds. Like when it happened, it was almost like I saw him coming. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this guy sees me. He’s going to stop and wait for me to walk across the street.” And he didn’t, and he hit me and I fell to the ground.
I remember like paving into his car, falling on the ground, and having that thought of like, “Was I just? Did I just? What? What just happened? Was I hit? No, surely I wasn’t hit by a vehicle.” And I just remember thinking, I remember it was Sunday night thinking, “I just got to go get my car. I gotta go home. I gotta go to work tomorrow. Like I can’t be here. I can’t be laying on the ground.” I can’t, like, I didn’t know what happened. Next thing I knew, ambulances showed up. I was being taken at Brackenridge. They were cutting my clothes off my body. They didn’t know if my spine was impacted. And it was just a very surreal, scary experience for anybody to ever go through.
Nick Schenck: [00:39:38] Yeah, and just to fast forward, you got introduced to CBD and then that helped in the pain management and ultimately led to you wanting to start, RESTART. An interesting part of the RESTART story to me is that you started RESTART with your sister, Sydney, who’s a former UT swimmer and an Under Armour athlete. Does Under Armour understand that she works in the cannabis industry? Has that been a conflict at all?
Shayda Torabi: [00:40:07] No. They know she does and they support it actually. We’ve been really fortunate, which I think is really cool when you can show up as your authentic self. It’s like the people that matter are there, and the people that don’t matter, they just like, don’t even matter. So yeah, my sister is a former collegiate athlete at the University of Texas. The quick story about us is we joke, she’s the yin to the yang. I’m very much like love marijuana, love cannabis, love going to like states like Colorado, California, enjoying it legally.
Sydney was always like, “Yeah, that’s my sister. She’s over there enjoying some stuff,” and just, it wasn’t for her. And again, it’s like her body, her choice, she should put in it what she wants. So it took a little coaxing for her to get into this mindset of wanting to start the business with me. But now she’s really like my best partner.
Not just because she’s my sister, but because she really brings to the table that naivete of somebody – like for me, I’m like, “Oh, cannabis. Like I’ll try anything.” You give me a new product and I’ll see how it makes me feel. She’s a little bit more cautious. She wants to understand the ingredients, she wants to understand, you know, the process, the extraction, the integrity of the product.
And so I think together we really mirror a true experience of what someone would want when they’re trying to understand how cannabis could benefit them. But man, no, she does what she does. She creates fitness content. She talks about us to Under Armour. We actually have a lot of Under Armour staff who support our brand and buy our products just because of Sydney.
So again, I think when you can stand by something and operate authentically. Like this is how it’s helped me and create a new face for someone to see having success with something that maybe otherwise was demonized, it just completely changes the game. And so it’s been really fun because yeah, we’re getting a lot more athletes or people who are like, you know, doctors or physical therapists who are saying, “Hey, I’ve heard about CBD and I’ve read about y’all’s story, and I really resonate with it.”
And I just think that’s really cool to be somebody who people can relate to.
Nick Schenck: [00:42:02] Yeah. Most people say never mix family and business, and I can think of one example in particular where it’s totally blown up. How does it work for you guys?
Shayda Torabi: [00:42:10] It’s a challenge. We thankfully work in CBD, so there’s lots of that to help us out every day. Yeah. The joke is like the moment, and sorry, mom, I love you if you’re listening to this. The moment my mom walks in the room, my sister, she looks at me, I look at her and I just take a big ol’ drop of CBD. I’m like, and I just need to calm down and take a moment. But yeah, I think it’s, for us, a blessing.
We are such a close family. My family lives here in Austin because we grew up here. So thankfully like the family is like around the corner, especially in a time like Coronavirus where you’re having to kind of quarantine. I’m lucky that my business is my family because we’re able to stay operating. And so, you know, who can you trust more than your family?
I’m just so grateful that I have their support. Especially, I get asked this question a lot, my name is Shayda Torabi. I’m Middle Eastern. My father is a first generation Iranian and grew up in Iran. And you know, people sometimes think, do your parents know what you do? Does your dad know what you do? What does he think of that?
And I think, my mom’s in the room with me most of the time. She helped us come up with the company name. My dad’s always there supporting us, helping us, you know, especially when we’re in the early days, like moving our stuff from, we did a South By Southwest expo our first year, and our dad was there helping us build our booth.
And again to reflect on like, I don’t hide my love of cannabis. I don’t hide my passion or my excitement for being a woman and entrepreneur in the cannabis space and have my family be like, “Not only do we support you, but like here, let’s help you get there,” is just the coolest thing. Because I don’t think a lot of people have that family support in their life in general. But for me to have it in cannabis, especially, it’s just like, it’s enabled me to do more.
Nick Schenck: [00:43:49] Explain the division of labor. Because when we first talked, you described your mom as like a mad scientist.
Shayda Torabi: [00:43:55] Yeah. So our mom, she created our original formulation. So when I was going through the accident and recovery, I was eight months post-accident, and I was doing traditional recovery methods, so physical therapy, steroid injections, pain medication. And I had gone through those cycles for the course of eight months and finally got to a point where the doctor was like, “Well, do you want to have surgery?” And I was like, “Not particularly. I’ve kind of healed myself and we all know surgery can cause other complications,” that’s when my mom kind of was like, “Whoa, stop the train. Let’s see. There has to be another way.” And she knew that I loved cannabis. But again, I didn’t really know what CBD was. And so she kind of brought that education to me.
And at the time it was not legal in America. It wasn’t illegal, but it wasn’t legal. There wasn’t a marketplace for it. So you could really only get hemp and CBD products from Europe, China, Canada. And so my mother started sourcing in raw materials and making me really just like home concoctions, like making her own oils, making her own topicals for me.
And so that’s really how I got first exposed to CBD was because my mom was like, “Hey, I hear this plant has these medicinal properties. Let’s try to give them to Shayda and see what happens.” And so those original products that I was using were the formulations that we then launched RESTART CBD with. And so our mom is very much kind of the pioneer in the family for getting us into CBD.
But definitely my sister and I came in and helped create a brand around it.
Nick Schenck: [00:45:18] You’re in marketing, promotion, you’re the CEO. Would does Sydney focus on?
Shayda Torabi: [00:45:23] So Sydney, I like to say, is our chief operating officer, so she pretty much handles everything when it comes to a lot of customer experience stuff. She manages all of our shipping.
So we as a company are divided between our e-commerce brand as well as a brick and mortar. And so there’s a lot of different roles that go into that. Like you just kind of said, you know, marketing the business, operating the business. But what most people probably are surprised to hear, which I always like to share, because it’s the real truth, is we’re in the business every day. You know, it’s not a set it and forget it. It’s not a, “Oh, I had a dream and I built this business and now I’m off on an island.” But like, really, that was my dream, and I’m not living that part of the dream yet. So we’re there every day. So I would say our split is, you know, half-tactical and half-strategic.
And so there’s a lot of days where we are there. You come to the store, especially when we’re open without Coronavirus, you know, and you can come back into retail experiences. You come into the shop and you’re seeing either Sydney or I or both of us together because we’re in our business every day. It’s our full-time jobs. It’s our primary focus.
Nick Schenck: [00:46:25] What about your parents? Bceause they had an insurance business. And the interesting thing about your brick and mortar is it’s right next to your parents’ insurance business. So how do they divide their time?
Shayda Torabi: [00:46:33] The most supportive. So our dad really isn’t a part of the business at all. He’s just more like the guiding, like, you know, father figure, who’s like, “Just making sure my little baby birds are doing okay.” But our mom is really involved. She’s just kind of like helping, I would say. She splits her time between her business with the insurance and us. Again, just because I think she had the original idea around CBD that she has a lot of that – I say I have the cannabis knowledge and the industry knowledge, but I think my mom really has the formulation, the product. My mom has a really good understanding of like what’s happening in the market from a – like what are people offering? What are they selling? You know, how much are they selling it for? Different aspects like that.
Because I think most people assume – let me use dosing as like a side tangent example. When you come into our shop, there’s only so many products that have certain doses, but when you step back and you look at the research and the application of CBD, for example, children who take CBD for epilepsy is a really big area that there’s a lot of research being done. In those reports, those children are taking upwards of 200 milligrams of CBD per dose. That’s very high compared to the market that we operate in as a consumer brand. My highest product is a hundred milligrams. And even then you’re looking at, you know, we were kind of talking about different products. CBD water, for example, the most I’ve seen in a CBD water is 20 milligrams.
So how do you get from 20 milligrams in a water for somebody who’s trying to take it for pain, sleep, or anxiety – to 200 milligrams to actually be “medicinal.” I think there’s a huge gap. And so what people don’t realize is because it’s not regulated, there’s not really a, “You should have products that fit this dosage or you should have products that fit this strength or you should do this or that.”
It’s a lot of, we have to interpret and operate out of this unregulated market. And so that’s a lot of kind of like what we as a family kind of strategize together is just, you know. Well, legally, I can’t say certain things because it’s not regulated. But what are other industries that I can look to?
So, for example, this is a tip for anybody who’s maybe contemplating CBD. If you’re making a CBD skincare product, for example, maybe CBD isn’t regulated, but go look at the regulations for other skin cares or topicals and seeing what they’re doing. What are they, how are they listing their ingredients? You can’t maybe get specific on the dosing, but you can see how those other industries are being regulated and get some sort of idea.
And so that’s kind of what we as a family try to operate on. It’s like. Okay, well the road is only half-paved, so I’ve got to then go interpret the other half of it. So just trying to be mindful of that – it’s always driving the ship as well as fixing the ship.
Nick Schenck: [00:49:10] Sure. You’ve been to 50 different dispensaries in places like California and Nevada, Amsterdam. When I went to your retail location, what struck me is, number one, the smell, right. I’d never seen CBD in a store and like smelled weed, but it smells just like any other dispensery I’ve been to in states where it’s legal. Did you like have a list of, alrght, “I like these aspects of these dispensaries. I’m going to take the best of all these and put it into our retail store.”
Shayda Torabi: [00:49:46] Yes. A hundred percent. One, there’s like the geek in me who’s like, “Oh man.” Like I just think back to some of my favorite dispensaries. There’s one in Seattle, it’s called Diego Pellicer, and it’s just like gorgeous. I mean, they even have like a joint that I think is like wrapped in like 14 karat gold paper. Like something obscene. Just like very luxurious, and then of course, you’ve all been to the kind of like smokey shop type experiences. And I think that those were very big influences on – when we were creating our brand – what we wanted that experience to be like. And so again, I’ll reflect on like my sister and I’s comparison.
I will buy cannabis from anybody anywhere. It doesn’t matter. I’ll figure it out. I’ll get it. I’ll go to the shop around the corner because I want to buy a gram of something. My sister on the other hand, again, she’s very, you know, she wants to know where she’s going. She wants to feel safe. She wants to make sure the people she’s talking to are educated. She wants to have her questions answered.
And so for me, it was kind of like the marrying of those two ideas. This like what is going to be like a fun space for somebody who loves cannabis to walk into? But also what’s the experience like for somebody who honestly is not me. I’m not my target customer. I’m somebody who’s like, again, I will put anything in my body. I will try it. I will like read the Internet and I will make some conclusions. Sydney is like, “I don’t know. I want someone to walk me through this. I need a hand to hold. I’m not quite sure what I’m doing.” And so I see that over and over and over again when people walk in. And so I love that you highlighted that our store smells that way.
I remember kind of the transition, because we didn’t always sell flower. We originally started the brand with just oils. So it didn’t always smell like that when you walked in. And so as we started adding more flower, it started smelling more and more like that. And at first we were a little cautious, like, “Oh no, people are going to come in and think that we’re just this smoke shop and it’s going to kind of turn people off.”
But the more we kind of leaned into it, people come in and their first reaction is like, “Oh, it smells amazing in here. This is the best. Like I didn’t know this was an experience in Texas,” and you’re just like, “Yes. Like you’re getting it. You’re invited into this space.”
Nick Schenck: [00:51:45] And the demo of your customer. It’s a huge range, right? You have senior citizens coming in there, right?
Shayda Torabi: [00:51:51] Oh yeah. We did an event a couple of weeks ago, right before Coronavirus actually, where I went and spoke to, um, like a senior citizen care facility. And you know, we’re really fortunate. Again, I think what people hopefully highlight and will continue to highlight is, I’m not just, we’re not just some girls who are like trying to make a quick buck.
I really care about cannabis and I really care about the experience, and I would not put something in front of somebody that I personally wouldn’t have tried or put in my body. So whether that’s the quality of the products that we’re making, or the products that we’re sourcing and from other brands.
And so to be able to stand in front of people, whether they’re 25, 75 and everybody in between and be relatable to some extent. I think people are like, “Oh, we trust these women. They’re very smart and educated and they make me feel safe.” And like, that’s just such a compliment to me. That and when somebody – slowly, it’s happening – people are like, “Man, this is a really cool dispensary.” And I’m like, “Yes, it is. “And they’re like, “Oh, sorry. It’s not a real dispensery.” I’m like, no, keep saying it. And then it will be like, keep dreaming it, like keep having that excitement around it. And so, we made a little video right before Coronavirus and I was promoting it yesterday on social media and I said, “Our Austin, Texas dispensary tour.”
Like, I want people to feel comfortable and not have this like. This is what a dispensary is. This is what cannabis is. It’s like, no, this is like for you, this for your mom, this is for your dog. Like everybody can use it. And so that’s just a really cool aspect I think that we’re able to create that space for people to feel welcome no matter what quality of life they walk in from.
Nick Schenck: [00:53:25] And you faced some resistance early on though, right? You told me a story that the first few weeks that you guys were open a squad car would park in the parking lot outside your retail location. Describe that.
Shayda Torabi: [00:53:39] Oh my gosh. Yeah. You know, despite having our parents’ support, this is the part of story I’ll share. Our location is right next to a Thundercloud Subs. And so everybody likes subs. And so we moved into our new retail location and had this like – we launched the brand a couple of months prior, so it was like we’d already been established. But it’s like, as the industry keeps growing, what people again don’t realize is the unregulation is kind of like, what is the law today?
Because it could change tomorrow. And I remember we kind of moved in, we had settled in and we started seeing these cop cars show up and you’re just like, “Oh. Oh my gosh, they’re here for me. Oh my gosh. They’re coming. Today’s the day like, Oh, Oh no, the laws changed and I missed it,” and like something’s happened.
And I remember existing in that fear for a couple of weeks and having conversations with my parents just being like, they might not be coming for us, but there might be a day that they do. Like what does that look like? And I just remember our parents being like, “We’ll get to that day when it happens. Until then, like you keep going.” And just feeling that – gosh, I’m like, even like, just like reminding myself of that support I have, I’m feeling the goosebumps of, I mean, I’ve literally told my mom I could get arrested and go to jail. Not that what we’re doing is illegal, but I do think the interpretations of the laws, especially when you’re talking about CBD flower, for example, if you’re following any of the news coverage around it.
It looks and smells like marijuana. And right now, specifically in the state of Texas, we do not have the funds to prosecute and test every product that gets confiscated on the streets. So unfortunately, you could have people who are quote unquote, you know, selling hemp, but it’s really marijuana. And so obviously marijuana is not federally legal. Therefore, it’s a felony in the state of Texas, and if you’re distributing it, it’s a much more severe crime than that. And so to be in this position where you’re like, I know what I’m doing is legal, but unfortunately the people that I might be interacting with could interpret the law differently. And that’s just, you know, bookended by all this stuff that I hear constantly. I mean, I speak nationally at different hemp shows. I’m friends with a lot of other brands in this industry, and the stories that I hear, I’ve had people literally call up and say, “How are you selling this product? We’re in Dallas, we’re in El Paso. We just got, this happened to us. We just saw this bust happen,” and you’re like, “I don’t know who’s interpreting your law.”
You know, like, I don’t know how your local jurisdiction is operating, but like it’s really scary because it’s real. And so now I wouldn’t say that I live in that fear so much, but definitely there were days where it was like, I got to have a jump back ready. I could go to jail. Like I just don’t know what’s happening. The more that I put my neck out there, the more that I’m becoming a target, but now I’ve kind of leaned into that target and saying like, “I’m a target. And I love it because I really just believe this plant is changing people’s lives from the inside out. And I want to be a part of that story.”
Nick Schenck: [00:56:25] When Mayor Adler announced that he didn’t want police arresting anyone for small marijuana possession, did that impact sales for you guys at all? Where maybe people were like, “All right, I’m going to be less paranoid about buying this product because of Mayor Adler’s announcement.”
Shayda Torabi: [00:56:44] I don’t think it necessarily impacted us in a way that you saw like product onsumption or like purchasing, like uptick. But I think what people don’t realize, for example, with the state of Texas when it comes to hemp in particular, so the federal law passed in June of 2018.
The Farm Bill, I’m trying to get my dates right. I think it was actually October of 2018, and then it was June of 2019 that Texas passed the bill. So when Texas passed our hemp bill. House bill 1325, I believe. They said you can grow in the state of Texas industrial hemp for the purpose of turning it into products, however, you cannot grow for smokables.
So smokables in the state of Texas is still technically not a part of the law, so that more or less gave us a scare, thinking, “Not only can they maybe, you know, catch you with your marijuana or your hemp, and it’s the other one. But now it’s really, well, you can’t even be selling it in the state of Texas.” So it’s not a problem even if they have it, because you can’t even buy it in Texas. And so that was more of a scare and a concern, seeing how our state was interpreting the law. And so it was actually another jurisdiction, another organization that was trying to interpret the law, which I think now things have settled down.
I don’t think that it’s going to be as severe as that because they were taking the law into their own liberties and words of how they were wording it. But that was more scary to us seeing, well, maybe I can’t even sell this product. And that sucks because you have consumers who have found relief with it, have found benefit with it.
And not only am I not able to sell it, but you’re removing that opportunity from Texans.
Nick Schenck: [00:58:23] Yeah. How many product SKUs do you have and can you share what your top-selling product is?
Shayda Torabi: [00:58:28] Yeah, I would say, um. Gosh, we have probably, I’m going to be generous to us. We have more than this, but like, let’s say 50 different products, and a lot of that is variation. So different strengths, different bottle sizes. But I would say like the big heavy hitters are like sublingual oils. I think that is the primary product that people are being marketed to when it comes to CBD. And so when you’re looking for CBD oil, you’re really looking for the oil. So I would say sublingual oils is the most popular.
And then because you’re having this kind of weird relationship with cannabis flower, that’s another opportunity that I think we proudly stand behind. But as the state and federal laws change, we’re trying to navigate. But people love to smoke, myself included. I think smoking is a really great way to unwind.
It’s something that you do feel a little bit more quickly. And so I see almost a different customer set though, coming in for that. So it’s people who are like – for example, I just got a review the other day. This guy processed his whole order with us through Coronavirus. It was like a COVID praise.
He was like, “I just moved from a legal state. I’ve never been able to go inside RESTART CBD yet, but the Torabi sisters were so friendly and welcoming, loved the online experience. Just bought some bud from them, you know, like can’t wait to go visit their dispensary, their store when they reopen.”
And it’s like you have a lot of those people who are coming from legal states who are looking for the experience of a dispensary who are looking for the quality of products like loose bud. Like myself. Like I said, like when I go to these other states, I just want to buy the flower. I don’t need to be like wooed by all this other stuff. And so you have people who come to Texas and because we are retail, again, I hear people say this in person, they say, “Oh, is this marijuana? Marijuana is legal in Texas? I didn’t know marijuana was legal in Texas,” and you’re like, it’s industrial hemp, but it smokes just like marijuana,” like specifically speaking to the flower. They’re just confused. They’re not really quite sure what our laws are. So I think you have people too who just don’t realize that Texas is so backwards and they’re like, wait, what? Where am I? What’s happening? And I’m like, “You’re in Texas. It’s fine. We have industrial hemp. We’re going to get there one day, slow and steady.”
Nick Schenck: [01:00:36] For people listening who don’t live in Austin. You really can’t drive two or three blocks, at least in Central Austin, without seeing a sign saying CBD inside or selling CBD.
It’s at convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, pretty much you see it everywhere. Amid that much competition, how do you stand out and then how do you differentiate your product from the CBD sold at the convenience store when the average consumer doesn’t know the difference, and maybe they’re not going to take the time to educate themselves to know the difference?
Shayda Torabi: [01:01:13] Yeah. So I think that’s a really real scenario, right? With CBD and the efficacy and the integrity of the products. Unfortunately, some consumers just don’t know. So what I’ve experienced happen is maybe somebody comes into my shop. Randomly, their friend dragged them in and they say, “Oh, I tried CBD before. It doesn’t work for me, and I start questioning, “Where did you get your CBD from?” Oh, I got from a gas station. I had one guy who was like, “Oh, I was driving through Arkansas and I just saw somebody on the side of the road selling it and I bought some.” Those are really big signs that probably what you’re buying is not really quality products and because it’s unregulated, anybody really can say anything and put anything in a bottle.
And so I think from a consumer perspective, looking for things like milligrams, looking for things like an About Me page for the brand you’re buying from sound really simple and small, but they can speak volumes to, “Hey, if I take this brand of CBD water and I see that they don’t have a website or a social media presence, then I would maybe question what’s actually in the water?”
Is there actually CBD in it, or is somebody just putting a label on something? And unfortunately, I’ve seen that happen far too many times, so I’m very cautious of it, and that’s we try to share with our consumers. I’ll never stand up here and say, “My CBD is the best,” and I’ll never pretend that I have all the answers and I’m the most educated person in the room.
What I will do is I will tell you that I care very much and I try to do as much research as I can to pass on information to our consumers and just to be a resource for them to go on their own journey. And I think that that’s where we as a brand have found success is because we just want to tell people the truth.
I don’t want to tell somebody that this is going to fix their pain or cure their anxiety if it’s not. But I want them to have an open enough mind to think, “Hey, maybe if I try this, it could.” And so that goes into dosing that goes into types of products. So people come into our shop and they say, “Hey, I want to take CBD.”
I go. “Great. What do you know and where do you want to start?” Sometimes they know some information, sometimes they have no information and they’re a blank canvas. And so it’s all about meeting people where they are and just, you know, connecting the dots for them.
Nick Schenck: [01:03:23] But when you drive around Austin, you see all these CBD signs everywhere. Does it give you anxiety or are you like, “Good. More people are going to be exposed to CBD and the market’s going to grow, and we’re one of the leaders in the market, so that’s great.”
Shayda Torabi: [01:03:35] For us. It’s both. I think when regulations come – what’s the adage? It’s like, the good floats, the crap sinks, you know?
And so I think when regulations come out, again, reflecting on my earlier statement, if you are trying to operate a CBD skincare brand, looking at how skincare is being regulated will keep you in line with what we anticipate some of the regulations to be. But if you’re just kind of like blindly out there, like I saw, for example, this is a really big one.
Full spectrum is a type of CBD category. There’s full spectrum, which means the trace amounts of THC are present. There’s also isolate products that mean it’s just pure CBD isolated out. So single cannabinoid, no THC. When you’re talking about the bud, the loose bud, the flower, the plant grows in nature with THC in it.
It is present, and I have unfortunately seen some brands in Austin tell consumers who have then come to my shop and told me this, “Well, so-and-so told me that the bud was THC-free.” I had one girl that comes to mind, she’s a nursing student. Her dad was with her. They come to my shop. They say they were just at another CBD show making a couple stops. Were sold CBD flower and told that she would, she’d be fine. She would pass a drug test and I go, “If you’re a nursing student and you care about your job. And you care about your future. I probably would personally not put full spectrum products in my body.” Not to scare her, but to just give her the very real reality of anybody could say anything. It’s unregulated and you should absolutely know what’s going in your body and be able to make that choice.” Because if you follow the news again, I saw this Utah bus driver. She was just taking CBD oil, got drug tested, failed a drug test, and they said, you can either quit or we’re firing you and she’s like, “I’m just taking CBD oil.” It’s like, unfortunately, when the laws don’t match the private sector, you have a gap, right? And so this has played out.
Just because marijuana is legal in Colorado doesn’t mean you can be high on the job. So if you are still, for example, a nurse in Colorado and you are in a room and a needle gets dropped or a pill bottle gets dropped, everybody in the room is going to get drug tested.
So that doesn’t give you free range to just go consume cannabis because you’re in a legal state. Your job still can make a decision for how that product or how that plant is interpreted, if that makes sense. And so I still think consumers need to take that into account. It’s not a free for all. It’s not, “Oh, this is legal and now I can just do it because the law says so.”
It’s like, no, you still have an employer. You still have certain scenarios that you need to abide by. And so trying to make sense of that in-between is really where we try to approach. And so, no, I’m not worried about these other stores because I think people can tell the authenticity and the education that we provide.
But unfortunately, on the other side of it, yeah, it kind of bums me out when I see brands misusing this opportunity and this platform to help educate people. Because for me, yes, I have a retail store and yes, I sell products, but I am a Texan and at the end of the day, I want my state to have cannabis legal in all forms.
And the amount of people that are voting, who might have a bad experience because somebody sold them something or told them that something was going to work and it didn’t, is going to then make that person less likely to vote in favor of cannabis when it comes time to really voting when it matters.
And so it’s just how do you combat that every day? And I can’t get worried about all the crap that’s existing. I can only be responsible for my circle of the world. And fortunately I get opportunities like this to get on podcasts and to tell my story and to advocate that not all of us out there are, you know, bad players and a lot of us out there really truly believe in the powers of this plant and want you to have a positive experience with it, too.
Nick Schenck: [01:07:07] Yeah. Let’s talk about Coronavirus. You shut down your retail location. How much has that impacted your business from a revenue standpoint? Like from February to March, what percent decline did you see?
Shayda Torabi: [01:07:19] Fortunately, I think we didn’t see too much of a decline. I think there’s other aspects of the business that have suffered just because our minds had to pivot and readjust to this. But because we had an e-commerce business already established, people were able to pivot to buying online from us.
And then in the city of Austin, while cannabis and CBD shops were marked as nonessential, meaning I could not be open from a retail perspective, we were still able to be operating curbside. And I think that that formally takes effect even this week, I believe. And so we, I wouldn’t say took a – we’re not making the same, but it didn’t do a significant decline – like we’re still able to operate. It’s just repositioned the strategy a little bit. It’s like, “Oh, well people aren’t coming into my store and asking me questions, how can I be available to them?”
So we started creating a lot more online content. I’m trying to connect again to the consumer in the ways that make the most sense for them. Taking advantage of Instagram live the very first week that it happened. The Coronavirus mandate hit Austin. We did Instagram live every day, and it was just being there, just being a face, just like answering questions for people. And so we’re very fortunate and I think, while there’s no, I can’t make medical claims saying like, CBD cures, blah, blah, blah.
It’s like, my personal anecdotal opinion is, man, this time is really trying. I’m personally not sleeping a lot. I’m really anxious. My heart goes out as a food blogger, as an Austinite, as a Texan, as a citizen of this world. The amount of businesses that are not going to survive, the amount of businesses that are not going to come back. The amount of friends’ nusinesses that I personally am watching in my day-to-day life just crumble or have heartache. It’s like the world as we know it is not the same. And so to have a product that I know has helped me and I know is helping my customers and to continue to be able to make available to my customers, is a blessing.
So we’re thankfully operating. We’ve repositioned our strategy, but we’re still trying to move forward as best we can.
Nick Schenck: [01:09:12] Did you apply for the payroll protection loan?
Shayda Torabi: [01:09:14] We did not qualify. I think because of the amount of income that we made is not displaced enough. So it’s again, a blessing and a curse.
And I think there’s a lot more businesses that could probably benefit from that money more than we could.
Nick Schenck: [01:09:25] Okay. Last question, if you allow yourself to think long term, five years, 10 years down the line, what’s your vision for RESTART?
Shayda Torabi: [01:09:35] That’s a really great question. I’ll kind of interject and share something that I’ve been working on that I feel like I can make a public declaration, too.
So I just launched my own cannabis consulting agency, so it’s myself, me. How I expand on that, I’m not quite sure, but I would love to help influence the next generation of cannabis entrepreneurs with my experience and kind of, you know, learn a little bit of the hard stuff the easy way through me.
And so for me and my sister, we love RESTART. We want to still operate. We are pushing forward to hopefully see Texas turn into a fully legal state. In that case, we would love to be a part of a true dispensary experience, but we are not interested in – at least right now – but definitely not franchising. We want control and ownership of the brand.
It’s very important to us, especially from an education perspective. My goal isn’t to have a thousand RESTARTS all across Texas or across the country. We really want to be direct-to-consumer, and so I think during Coronavirus has been a really good experience for us to go more online, to be direct-to-consumer. To be just a resource that people can trust and feel confident about what they’re using. So I think RESTART will always still be there. Um, but again, as that platform for us and for myself in particular, to do something next with it. So just trying to, like I said, help the next generation of entrepreneurs in cannabis with the things that I had to learn the hard way. All this stuff that we’ve just been talking about, regulations and what you can and can’t say, and how do you tell your story and what happens about competition and all that stuff. And so hopefully I can help influence some people to do it a little bit easier this next time.
Nick Schenck: [01:11:12] What’s the name and where can people get more information? Just a quick plug for that.
Shayda Torabi: [01:11:16] Yeah, it’s TheShaydaTorabi.com. So it’s going to be TheShaydaTorabi, and that’s how you can connect with me, check out my resources, hire me, and then RESTARTCBD, of course, is RESTART CBD on Facebook, Instagram, the web, everything like that.
Nick Schenck: [01:11:32] Great. I really appreciate the conversation. Thanks a lot for joining the podcast.