Founder, Gunhee Park: Why We Started Populum
We asked our founder, Gunhee Park, to take a moment and tell us why he was moved to start a CBD company, and what he hopes to achieve with Populum.
My first encounter with hemp was in 2015. At the time, I was living in Austin and trying to make healthier choices by eating less meat, sticking with organic food, and introducing supplements and vitamins into my routine. One afternoon, I was looking for produce at my local farmer’s market when I saw a booth selling hemp-infused products. I had always been told that hemp was essentially another form of marijuana, something illicit and illegal, so seeing it at a farmer’s market - especially in a state with strict marijuana laws like Texas - made me reconsider what I thought I knew about hemp. As I tried some of the hemp dips and protein bars at the booth, I engaged in a brief conversation and was told that they weren’t going to get me high, and they weren’t illegal either. In fact, they were good for me.
Following that experience, I developed an interest in the health benefits of hemp seeds, which quickly snowballed into a passion about the potential of this amazing plant. I found that hemp seeds tasted better than flax or chia seeds, hemp protein allowed me to eat less meat, and soap made with hemp seed oil did incredible things for my skin. But what really drove my curiosity was the fact that this plant, which was seemingly benign and beneficial, has been largely outlawed and regulated with a heavy hand for 80 years.
I started Populum in late 2016 with the goal of creating a company to champion the hemp plant and introduce more people to its benefits while separating its association from pot. I’m deeply interested in learning more about hemp, but like many people, I didn’t know anything about the plant until a few years ago, when it started showing up more and more in my everyday life - I wanted to make it easier for people to learn more.
Of all hemp-derived products, I discovered CBD last. When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. Researching online, I found exaggerated claims from an oversaturated market of brands that promote CBD oil as some form of cure-all, so I initially dismissed it as a fad or a cash grab. But then the popularity and ubiquity of CBD grew, and because I had already tried and loved other hemp products in my daily life, I decided it was worth trying. And it was.
Through Populum, I set out to help reframe the way people view CBD, and to provide high-quality, trustworthy hemp products to conscious consumers like myself.
Throughout my research, I realized that the problem wasn’t about what is or isn’t in CBD, or what it does - but that CBD had an image problem. All I could find online were stoner companies and clickbait articles that seemed to only fuel the fire on the stigma surrounding CBD and hemp. I’m a conscious consumer who cares about what I’m putting in my body, and I had a hard time figuring out where or how to buy CBD oil that I could instill my full trust in. Eventually, I realized that this lack of information and credibility was depriving the public of access to hemp, and through Populum, I set out to help reframe the way people view CBD, and to provide high-quality, trustworthy hemp products to conscious consumers like myself.
The core mission of Populum is to destigmatize hemp, a plant that I feel has been misrepresented and misunderstood for too long. We strive to help our customers who are interested in trying hemp to feel confident and safe - because they know where it’s coming from, and who’s making it. We want them to enjoy the process, rather than feel nervous about legality or stigma or snake oil salesmen.
And we use three simple practices to fulfill our vision:
Growing hemp was prohibited in the US until 2014, and because of this, most companies were forced to import it from overseas. But the market changed when the 2014 Farm Bill passed. That Farm Bill lifted federal restrictions on hemp growing in the United States, so now companies selling hemp products have the opportunity to work with domestic farmers, all of whom are licensed according to the standards of their state-level Department of Agriculture. By working with US farms, we can be more transparent about our sources, and there’s a level of quality control that we can’t guarantee will be adhered to by farmers in Europe and China. We have tighter control over what crops we can use, and we can promise our hemp extract is clean, safe, and effective.
With CBD growing in popularity and trends, we’re seeing more and more people interested in trying CBD oil for the first time. Here at Populum, we want to ensure that trying CBD is stress-free. To help consumers feel at ease, we maintain a policy of 100% honesty. We provide third-party lab reports so you can see exactly what goes into your bottle, offer a straightforward return policy and trial period so you never feel cheated, and staff a team of customer service representatives who are available to you through chat, email, and phone for any questions and concerns that you might have throughout your experience.
A lot has changed in the last few years, and even more will come with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. But there’s still work to be done. Over the next few years, we hope to see continued legislation that makes farming and consuming hemp more accessible in all 50 states. We’re doing what we can to help push the needle forward by partnering with organizations like the Hemp Industries Association on their lobbying efforts, and by working locally with state representatives and advocacy groups.
As the accessibility and popularity of hemp increases, you’re going to see it adopted into more and more industries; everything from coffee or skincare into sustainable materials and homebuilding. I’m a firm believer in the power of hemp, and I can’t wait for Populum to continue to move forward as a pioneer in this industry. Every email and note from customers about the positive impact Populum’s products have made in their lives makes every minute worth it. I believe firmly in our core values, and hope that by doing these things in way that’s transparent and filled with a genuine passion, that we can make hemp accessible to everyone, and everyone can be well.