Real Talk with Our Fearless Leader: Ashley, CEO and Co-Founder
With our first birthday officially under our belts, we’re feeling rather nostalgic.
So it felt fitting to finally sit down with Co-founder and CEO Ashley Lewis and dive into what made her jump ship from Senior Director of Wellness at media behemoth goop, to embracing CBD and launching a start-up that speaks to wellness-obsessed but cannabis-skeptical women.
Here, we get the skinny on her favorite products—both old and new because 12 months and a baby can change things—as well as what we can expect from Fleur Marché in 2020.
Tell us a little about what brought you to cannabis in the first place. Are you still using CBD for the same reasons? Do you also use THC?
Despite the fact that I never really liked it, I smoked a good deal of pot in my younger years. I was the girl in college watching the bong make its way around a circle, dreading my turn because I knew that I had no clue what I was doing, that I’d probably end up choking uncontrollably, and that I’d either feel nothing or like I wanted to lay down and sleep forever. Needless to say, I wasn’t really a fan of weed, but while running the wellness business at goop, I was tasked with looking into CBD and learning what all the hype was about. This led to me trying a ton of products, learning about the science behind it, and understanding how cannabis could help me feel better vs. making me want to throw up and die. I first used CBD to help with back pain—which is a constant issue for me—then I started to experiment with it for stress and the crippling anxiety that I wake up with. It worked! Then I really converted when I got some low-THC-infused candies that were so delicious my sweet tooth overrode my fear of edibles. I realized that, when controlled, THC could feel just as good as a glass of wine, without the calories. And when I got pregnant, I stopped using everything other than CBD topicals—as there are really no studies on how CBD affects pregnant women—and I felt the difference. I’m now breastfeeding and still using topicals, but eagerly awaiting the day when I can dive back into my CBD and THC go-tos!
Even with its growing popularity, a lot of people think CBD is a placebo. What is your response to that?
It’s not. Try it and you’ll see. As someone who’s worked in wellness for awhile, I’ve always felt a responsibility to be skeptical about trends and fads. Like, does Ashwagandha actually work? Is cleansing your crystals in the moonlight a real thing? But CBD was one that I never had to question because its effects were so palpable for me. That said, it works differently for everyone and every body. You often have to tinker around with dosage to figure out what works, but that doesn’t mean it’s not helping. I find it funny that with OTC drugs like Tylenol or Advil, if it’s not working people just take more. But with CBD, if it doesn’t work the very first time, people are quick to write it off as BS. And, even if it does work, they’re eager to write it off as placebo. If everyone gave CBD the leeway we give OTC and prescription drugs, we wouldn’t need to talk about whether it was placebo or not.
Fleur Marché aims to speak to an audience of women who are somewhat reluctant about cannabis. Why have you gone after this select group of women, and have you effectively reached them?
We targeted this group of women because we were them. We understood the hesitation around cannabis because we, too, had written it off as something that was just for stoners who wanted to get high. And while we didn’t judge that, it also wasn’t something either of us was particularly interested in. After one bad experience with a pot brownie and enough embarrassing coughing fits to last a lifetime, we knew that a nice glass of rose or even a strong tequila cocktail felt sufficient for a weeknight winddown or a Friday night on the town. But we also understood that cannabis—especially in this new era of dosed, high-quality products—could be used as a purely therapeutic tool. And a very effective one, at that. Once we converted and started using cannabis as part of our daily routines for headaches, a sore neck or stress, we had a clear and unique position on how to talk to other women like us about how cannabis could help them feel better without the high, munchies or smell that never seems to wash out of your clothes.
with her son James "Bodie."
Is there any woman in particular you’ve converted to CBD that stands out in your memory? If so, what was the a-ha moment for that woman, and what products did you recommend to her?
One of my closest friends from business school is a good Midwestern girl who always does the right thing, plays by the rules, and seems like the last person to have any kind of cannabis product in her medicine cabinet. She’s one of the smartest, most straight-edge people I know but she works like a nut and doesn’t sleep well at all. I recommended that she try Yuyo Botanics’ PM Formula—a bestseller on our site—and got the following text a few weeks later: “Omg. I slept like a baby last night for the first time in forever thanks to YOU!...I’ve been a horrible stress case non sleeper the last couple of months!” She’s now repurchased the product multiple times. It’s those moments that make me positive we’re on the right track, that we’re helping people and making a difference.
What are the most important questions you should ask yourself when considering what CBD products to purchase? How is this different from a year ago?
The questions everyone should be asking are the same as they were a year ago—with a few additions. Fundamentally, you want to know that: 1) your product actually has CBD in it; 2) the CBD comes from clean, non-toxic hemp; and 3) the product was manufactured the right way, with high-quality ingredients, in a legitimate facility. The only thing I’d add now is to ask why a product has CBD in it and what the CBD is supposed to do for you. Since the Farm Bill passed, we’ve seen a “green rush” which has yielded a flood of new CBD products into the market. Some awesome, most not-so-awesome. CBD is largely being used as a marketing tool rather than a valuable ingredient. If there’s not a high enough dose, or if it’s being used in a way that it can’t actually interact with the body positively, there’s really no point in taking it.
What products are your current go-tos and why? Are there any you’re still using a year later?
Plus Products’ Balance Gummies are the product that converted me to CBD. They’re delicious, don’t require dosing, and really work. I’ve been taking them for over a year, and I was so excited when they came out with a hemp CBD line and approached us to be the first online retailer to carry it! Lord Jones’ Old Fashioned Gumdrops are also really delicious and perfect for 3 p.m. on a Wednesday when I’m tired, grumpy, and having trouble focusing. Kana Skincare’s Lit Hemp Face Oil has been part of my routine for about six months and I’m a devotee. It’s the perfect consistency, smells fab and leaves my skin looking so glowy (despite the fact that I have a 5 month old and don’t sleep well). And finally there’s Sagely Naturals’ Brightening Eye Cream. Initially one of my favorite brands for pain relief, this science-obsessed brand finally came out with skincare, and their under-eye cream is a real gamechanger.
with fellow Fleur Marché co-founder Meredith Schroeder.
What’s the most bogus CBD product you’ve seen out there? Be honest!
The CBD sports bra! It’s hysterical but terrifying that brands are trying to exploit “the next big thing” so brazenly. It’s really not great for our industry because it adds fuel to the fire that “CBD is BS.”
Your clueless BFF comes to you and says, "Ash, just tell me what to CBD to buy!" What do you recommend to her?
It depends on what she needed it for, but these are my go-to recommendations for each of the "Big Needs."
· Sleep: Yuyo Botanics' PM Formula or The Good Patch's Nite Nite Patch
· Stress: Rosebud's 700mg tincture (if you don’t mind a slight weed-y taste) or Juna's Balance Drops (if you do) or Plus Products' Balance Gummies (if tinctures aren’t your thing at all)
· Pain: Lord Jones' High CBD Formula Body Lotion—I just tried this and it worked within minutes; I’m now an evangelist—or Life Elements' CBD & Honey Ache + Pain Relief Stick (for more of a thicker salve-type feel)
· Skincare: Kana Skincare's Lit Hemp Face Oil or Sagely Naturals' Brightening Eye Cream
Proudest Fleur Marché moment of Year 1...Go!
This is such a hard question because, as an entrepreneur, it's hard to see and appreciate the wins. It feels like the goalposts are always moving farther out and like someone else is always doing things better. So even when you accomplish something big, you immediately and inadvertently compare yourself to someone who appears to be having more success—not that they actually are, but social media is a bitch. But the moment that sticks out most is a trunk show we did in Chicago last May. We were at the tail end of two straight weeks of travel—with a 12-hour-a-day weekend craft fair in between—and we were 7 and 6 months pregnant. We had lugged huge suitcases across the country, across the city, up and down stairs, over cobblestone streets, in and out of Ubers. It was our last trunk show (in a 3rd floor walk-up) and we killed it. It was our best trunk show to date, and despite the fact that we were exhausted, run down, grumpy and uncomfortable, we really connected with this group of women who just got it. We got back to the hotel and shared a huge Chicago-style deep dish pizza. And for that glorious moment, it felt like triumph.
with her husband Jim Gilio and son James "Bodie."
What do you wish to accomplish in Year 2?
Stay alive? JK. In Year 1, we laid the foundation for who we are, what we’re about and who we’re talking to. Year 2 is really about using what we’ve learned to scale the business, grow the audience, and firmly take hold as the trusted resource for women in cannabis. Despite the influx of CBD brands and retailers last year, we’re confident that our standards and values have set us up to win in the long run. But we still have to get in front of more people, better hone our message so that it’s really clicking with our target audience, and continue sourcing and vetting top-tier brands whose products we believe stand apart from the rest. This year, my goal is that when someone asks about CBD in conversation with family, friends or colleagues, they’re instantly referred to Fleur Marché as the one place you need to go to learn all you need to know about CBD.