CBD Bristol is a brand run by two friends, Ross and me, Jonathan. We met through mutual friends after moving to Bristol in 2007. Ross is an artist who runs his own screen-printing business, and I am a self-employed Holistic Massage Therapist.
In 2013, I went to work on a Medical Cannabis farm in Northern California whilst travelling around the West coast. Medical Cannabis had been available in California since 1996. To get a Cannabis prescription, you had to have a Medical Marijuana card. This could be attained for Californian residents through their doctor or at a medical Cannabis dispensary. These dispensaries would often have blacked out windows and a green flashing cross in the window. Because Cannabis was medically available, consumption of cannabis was very normalised in California, which was a stark contrast compared its illegality in the UK.
In 2017, I was introduced to CBD at a friend’s birthday camping trip by an Irish woman, who worked for a CBD company. As well as this she was an herbalist and her knowledge and love of plants, and their medicinal qualities was both extraordinary and inspiring. During the weekend she gave me CBD for the first time, in the form of an oil and through vaping. I loved the feeling of relaxation it gave me. At the end of the weekend, she gave me one of her own CBD creations. she said it was a waxy CBD and herbal infused balm. She wanted me to try using it in my massage practise, on my clients and myself. I happily agreed.
Doing Massage frequently, can cause reoccurring pain in your hands, forearms and elbows. I found applying this balm to their areas really helped relive any aches and pains. When I had a client, I would also add a little bit of the balm during the treatment. Around the same time Ross, had a good friend, who had a medical condition, where his hand would become very inflamed. He recieved an injection on the NHS every 6 months to help with this. I gave some of the CBD balm to Ross to give to his friend to try. A few weeks later, Ross called me very excitedly, he told me that his friend had used the balm on his hands and the swelling had reduced. We knew at this point that we were on to something. The balm only lasted about 6 weeks because I was using it so much and some of my clients asked if they could have one to take home.
A few weeks later Ross and I went to go to Cornwall and see Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry play a gig. We stayed on a campsite for 2 nights. On the first evening, during a walk on the beach, I mentioned to Ross that we should come up with a brand name. Sometime later in a whilst in the pub, Ross suggested, “ How about CBD Bristol?” Straight away I said “YES, that’s it”. I quickly checked on my phone to see if that website domain and social media handles were available. They were. We bought the domain name and took the social media handles; CBD Bristol was born. The next day, we saw the mighty Upsetter do a blinding set, aged seventy-eight. It all felt like the beginning of our brand was being blessed by this Reggae Legend.
The next big thing to happen involved a friend, Holly. She worked as a barista in a local cafe. She messaged me to say that her painful menstruation cramps had started at lunchtime during a busy period, and had applied the Savasana balm, to her stomach. She said it instantly relived the pain. I knew this wasn’t something to be sniffed at.
I had recently struck up a friendship with Cassi, we worked together at a massage event in Bristol. Cassi had been making balms and skin care products since she was a teenager and had a wide knowledge of essential oils and natural ingredients. she suggested we collaborate in making a CBD Menstruation balm together. We arranged a meeting and spent the day coming up with ideas and creating our CBD menstruation balm, which we decided to call Shakti Moontime CBD Butter.
In the next few weeks, Savasana began to be stocked in two local Wholefood shops; Matter and Harvest. We sold the products through the Instagram and Facebook accounts and taking transactions on PayPal. Word was spreading quickly.
A couple of months later, Ross and I, and few friends and I had our annual June camp on Dartmoor. Sat round the campfire one night, Ross kept being bitten by Mosquitoes and other flying insects. I gave him some Lavender essential oil to dab on his skin. After a short while or so he said “I think is really helping, I am not scratching, and they are no longer trying to eat me. So, we then started the discussion of creating a new CBD Balm designed to help keep away insects and reduce scratching from bites. On returning home, we started working on a formulation for our new product, and quickly the Bite Nurse balm was born.
In September we asked a good friend, if he would create a basic website for us, for £200. It looked good and was great to finally have an online shop, but it ranked low down on Google. Customers found us more through our social media, now buying from the website. The brand was building a good reputation. One evening during this time, Ross came over to help make a batch of Savasana, afterwards we sat in my front room with my housemates and got onto the subject of a logo for the brand. We all sat around drawing ideas and Ross came up with our now infamous logo. A cute little character, named ‘Little Big Time’ my American housemate , Bob. Later that year I was interviewed for a Podcast by a local fitness and wellness influencer, Nick Green. The year ended well, when another CBD company asked for a big wholesale order to sell alongside their oils at some markets. They sold very well, and this led to lots of new customers.
2019 – More Products and a new houseAs 2019 began, new products began to emerge. Cassi and I collaborated in three new products between February and July. Firstly, our CBD and Epsom Salt bath Mix, Morning Sun, and Yoni Love.By this time many customers of the Savasana balm had approached and told me that it had helped with conditions of Psoriasis and Eczema, most notably relieving itchy skin. As a sufferer of psoriasis, myself, I wanted to create a CBD balm designed to help with this and something that was great for the skin. We came up with Morning Sun.At this time, I enjoyed reading about new and interesting CBD and Cannabis products coming out in North America, I heard about Cannabis Lube and was fascinated by the idea of this product. I We began making our own and thusly created our oil-based CBD Lube – Yoni Love.What happened next was incredible. We uploaded Yoni Love to the website and made a few social media posts about it. A couple sold straight away, then a few of days later I received a phone call from Alex, the manager at Harvest. She told me, a customer had come into the shop telling them how amazing the Yoni Love was, and how they should stock it. She ordered twenty bottles there and then.
Around this time, I hoped that Cassi would want to join CBD Bristol. I thought that between the three of us, our combined talents we could continue to grow exponentially. She declined my offer as she wanted to set up her own skincare making business. So, these products became an official collaboration between our business’.
At this time Ross and I had decided to look for a house together. With both of us under the same roof, we thought the business could really grow from our home. CBD Bristol HQ.
The second half of 2019, we decided to invest some money in getting the website redesigned from a professional web designer. It looked much more professional and was ranking higher in Google. Unfortunately, the we had a big drop in sales in the last quarter of the year, and out of the blue PayPal changed their policy on CBD Companies, so we had to scramble to find a new payment portal. All of this after a prosperous first 18 months. Had we peaked too soon? Despite sales being down my passion for the brand did not wane. We struggled on through during Autumn, during this time we created another new product, Bristol Night time Foot Oil. A balm designed to help with sore feet and to aid sleeping.
2020, the Pandemic, CBD Distillate and Journey into ingestible oil2020 started well and sales picked up. The new website looked great and was ranking higher in google. Around this time, we wanted to get some of the products certified so we sent off for our CPSR certificates for Savasana, Shakti and Morning Sun. We also replaced our CBD and Bath Salts blend with a new CBD Bathing product, Cacao, and Jojoba CBD Bath Melts.I was still working as a Massage Therapist alongside the CBD Brand, so by the time the start of March 2020 came round lots of clients were cancelling and sales plummeted again, in the weeks before official lockdown was announced, Coronavirus had reached Europe and the UK and was spreading fast.We all know happened in the following weeks, and I am not going to lie it felt terrifying. I had a reoccurring dream where, there was a mass panic, and I would rush to my car only to find it would not start. When the lockdown was finally announced, I did not really know what to do with myself. I decided instead of feeling depressed was spend my time, working on CBD Bristol. At this time, another CBD brand who I mentioned earlier made a big order of our Morning Sun balm. It was a nice project to work on and keep us busy. Trying to navigate the new world of ordering ingridients and stickers during the height of the first lockdown was interesting.
A few friends approached me asking if I could get them some CBD Oil to help with the stress of the situation, I had recently been reading about a new form of CBD extraction called Broad Spectrum CBD Distillate so bought our first batch. We began blending it with MCT oil. I delivered it to friends and word caught on quickly
You may have wondered why it took 2 years and a pandemic for us to start selling CBD oil, but we were inexperienced in running a business and the journey in creating the topical products kept our attention. I was used my hour of exercise to cycle around Bristol, delivering the CBD oil to friends and customers. It felt good knowing I was really helping people find a way to relax during a very stressful time.
In October that year, we switched our Beeswax to Candelilla wax to make all the products plant based and using the Distillate upped the strength of all the products. As well as selling the CBD Oil, this stabilised the sales of the business. A year of hard work during the lockdowns really paid off.
2021, the office and expansion out of the house, billboards.At the start of 2021, I did my second Podcast interview, this time with Anna, who had previously written a blog post about our products the previous summer. We had also launched our 50/50 CBG & CBD Ingestible Oil.We began to think with the increased sales it would be good to start running the business away from our house. In a chance encounter I ran into Melissa from Planted Skincare, I had met her a few years previously working at a festival. We met for a coffee, and I proposed the idea of finding a shared studio to run our businesses from. She had a think and a few days later agreed. In February, we started looking for somewhere to call home for our businesses. The first few places we viewed we either too expensive or too small. I started to think that this was going to be harder and more expensive than I originally thought but then everything fell into place. We found a studio in Stokes Croft. The space was gorgeous with big windows and lots of natural light. A few days later we signed the contract, and it was ours. After nearly a year of Covid and Lockdowns, just getting out of the house felt so good.
Having the studio was great, it really increased both sales and productivity. We began paying for a stand at the CBD trade show at the Olympia in London. Due to take place in April 2022. In September, a very good friend, who worked in advertising industry told us the ban on CBD in print advertising had been lifted and would we be interested in doing a print media advertising campaign across the city. We agreed and Ross got on with designing the adverts which would be showing at Bristol Bus station and Parkway railway station and on a big billboard on South Bristol’s independent high street on North Street. In late November, early December they went up. It was amazing to see our brand on advertisement boards across the city which we had called home for over a decade.
2022 – The CBD trade show, The MCCS Recommendation and winning a product awardBy the time January came round the reality of the work to get ready for the trade show seemed daunting. We had never done anything like this, let alone been to a trade show and the extra costs of exhibiting were mounting up. I had not realised how much work and money it would be.The year started well, and the business continued to grow. Then as the continued talk of high energy bills and the start of the war in Ukraine began, sales started to drop off. Despite the hectic schedule of preparing for the trade show we managed to release our newest product a CBD/CBG Tattoo healing balm, which was an idea in the beginning but reinvigorated and encouraged by our friend and local tattoo artist Shaun Sepr.The next few months was full on. Ross and I decided to not use the trade shows shell scheme and instead go to a local printer to get a branded signage which we could decorate the stand with instead. As well this, printing flyers, info sheets and making huge amounts of products. For two months I only had one day off a week. The trade show eventually came round and Ross and I alongside my sister Abi and a good friend Bob, headed to London. The next day, preparing our stand. The trade show as busy as we had hoped but it was good to show off our brand on a national level. We had lots of compliments from other exhibitors and made some good connections within the industry. We received lots of compliments about the products and the branding.
After two days the trade show was poorly attended and we were frustrated by this but on our return, we received some great news. We received an email from Professor Mike Barnes of the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society. He explained that they were an organisation set up for medical prescribing professionals. They had done a mystery shopper and bought a CBD oil from 300 UK based companies, to see if their labelling was appropriately labelled for medical prescribing professionals. Only 20 companies got on their private list, and we were one of them. I had a great conversation with Professor Barnes on Zoom, and receiving this news really invigorated us.
Using the branded signage, we bought for the trade show I started to do regular markets in and around Bristol so with all our new signage the stall looked good. It was great way to get new customers. In Autumn I recieved an email from the Cannavist Magazine, they had been the sponsor of the Trade show and they were having their annual CBD and wellness awards. I decided to enter four products. I really pushed this and asked all my friends and followers to vote for us. There were some big names from the industry involved. In late November the results were in and Savasana had won best fitness product and Morning Sun came third in Best CBD skincare. I was over the moon; our products were receiving some national recognition.
It’s now March 2023 and I am sat my desk in the studio recalling this for you It blows my mind to think of this incredible journey of CBD Bristol in the last five years. Not many businesses reach this milestone but here we are still growing, still learning, and most importantly still helping people. I love hearing from customers and how the products have not only aided them but really added something to their lives. I remember during my time on the Cannabis farm in California speaking to people, who used Cannabis to help with a wide range of ailments. We were now doing the same thing with our unique products.
Thank you for reading and thank you for being on this journey with us.
Jonathan and Ross