Jess sat down with the team at Thrive Market to discuss being a female entrepreneur in a male dominated space, building a brand in a crowded marketplace and some awesome daily gratitude practices.
Jessica Mulligan is the founder of Winged, a company that produces premium hemp extract oil products developed exclusively for modern women. Read our interview to learn about her early struggles to get the company off the ground, and how she maintains an attitude of gratitude every day.
HOW ARE WINGED HEMP EXTRACT OIL PRODUCTS SPECIFICALLY FORMULATED FOR WOMEN?
In developing Winged, my team spoke to hundreds of women and asked: What do you need to help you be the best version of yourself? We heard them say the same things over and over again—they need support with balance, sleep, mood, and stress—so we formulated specifically for those conditions.
In our unique formulations, we took full spectrum hemp extract one step further by adding nutrients that specifically support women, like evening primrose oil, black cohosh, chaste tree berry, and lemon balm. Women’s bodies have different hormonal shifts and need different nutrients.
When a woman wakes up in the morning and doesn’t feel overwhelmed or anxious, she is capable of anything. She is unstoppable. We want to give her more of those mornings—a solid foundation from which she can take flight.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE BEING A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR IN AN INDUSTRY THAT’S PREDOMINANTLY MALE.
I have actually found an incredible sisterhood within the hemp community. There are several amazing female-founded and female-led hemp brands that work hard to support and lift one another up. For example, I am in a group on Instagram with about 13 other CBD companies, all female-led. We share information on best banking practices, which trade shows to do, best ROI on certain marketing strategies, etc. “Collaboration over competition” is the motto among this group. That old saying about rising tides lifting all boats holds true, and it’s so refreshing that these women embrace that philosophy. Together we rise!
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND BEFORE FOUNDING WINGED.
Before Winged, I led a collagen company called NeoCell. I am very proud of the work we did there as we pioneered ingestible collagen. Now, the health benefits of collagen are widely known and adopted.
My goal is to do the same with cannabinoids. I want to make it widely known how they can support women’s health. The more people we can reach and educate, the more women can find relief through hemp extract oil products.
We knew we wanted to create a brand that authentically spoke to women. We also wanted to create a community where women could be both vulnerable and empowered.
WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES GETTING THE COMPANY OFF THE GROUND?
The biggest challenge was finding quality partners to work with. We started development before the Farm Bill of 2019 that made hemp legal, so many of the suppliers—for everything from banking to website support to merchant processing to manufacturing—were operating in somewhat of a “gray” zone. The vetting process and finding partners that were accredited and legitimate took longer than I expected.
In terms of the marketing aspect of Winged, it all came very naturally. We knew we wanted to create a brand that authentically spoke to women. We also wanted to create a community where women could be both vulnerable and empowered. Once we nailed our mission, the rest was easy.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER WOMEN WHO WANT TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESSES, OR ALREADY IN THE PROCESS OF DOING SO?
My general business advice is to try to learn from as many entrepreneurs (online and in real life!) as you can. If you don’t have these people in your network, there are so many great podcasts to learn from. One of the first things I learned in starting Winged was how much I needed to learn! Be as relentlessly curious as you can, and don’t be afraid of sharing your story and idea with others. I have gotten some pivotal business advice from strangers in some of the most unlikely places—like people sitting next to me on flights. There is knowledge all around you if you aren’t afraid to ask.
I also think establishing your corporate structure, setting your margins, and developing a general plan for cash flow in the beginning can save you a lot of difficulty later.
In terms of the branding and marketing side of business, I think making sure you’re solving a problem is so important. From there, you can zero in on your audience. Don’t try to be all things to all people. It’s a crowded marketplace in every business category, and serving a specific solution to a specific audience can really help you stand out.
Lastly, don’t forget to have fun and keep things in perspective. Being an entrepreneur is full of highs and lows. Remember that it’s all part of the process, and no one, not even Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, has a success story that is without dips and setbacks. One day, you will look back and be so proud of everything you overcame.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Seeing our customers repurchase our products is a real marker of success. It means we are doing something right. I also define success by what we’re able to do in our communities to help women. Last week, we announced $25,000 in scholarships to MOSTe for underprivileged young women to go to college. That we’re able to contribute in such a significant way is a huge success.
No one, not even Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, has a success story that is without dips and setbacks.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF IF YOU COULD OFFER ANY ADVICE?
Relax and enjoy the journey. I think back to my younger self and I was so hard on myself—always thinking I should do better, be faster, work harder. I really wish I had been kinder to myself! I can’t go back in time, but I try to practice being kind to myself now. It’s a work in progress, but “progress” is the keyword, and it’s one of the healthiest things I have ever adopted!
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE WINGED PRODUCTS? HOW DO YOU USE THEM THROUGHOUT THE DAY?
I usually take Happiness softgels in the morning for a mood boost. It’s a stellar way to start the day! The formula is full of good mood ingredients. Plus, black cohosh and chaste tree berry help even out hormonal fluctuations. It’s important to take this supplement with food because it’s full of powerful herbs.
I also love the Relaxation gummies. They’re delicious, made without any artificial ingredients, and contain lots of great relaxation-promoting ingredients like CBD, L-Theanine, lemon balm, and chamomile. The best part is, the formula is non-drowsy, so you can pop one in your mouth anytime you need a moment of zen.
WHAT ARE SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HEMP EXTRACT PRODUCTS?
I think the most common misconception around hemp stems from confusion with marijuana and whether someone will feel “high” from it. Both hemp and marijuana come from the cannabis sativa plant, but what makes hemp hemp is that it has very low levels of THC, so it’s non-psychoactive. You get all the benefits of the plant without the high.
WHAT DOES YOUR IDEAL WEEKEND LOOK LIKE?
I’m a big fan of relaxing on the weekends. Netflix, books, and napping. I’m on planes for work meetings pretty much every week, so some do-nothing-me-time is high on the weekend priority list.
WHAT’S SOMETHING UNUSUAL THAT YOU ALWAYS KEEP IN YOUR BAG OR AT YOUR DESK?
I keep a journal in my bag. Every day, I write three things:
- One thing I’m grateful for
- One thing that I want to manifest
- One nice thing I did that day (or plan on doing that day)
This practice keeps me in a constant state of gratitude, and it’s so uplifting to look back and read what I was manifesting in the past and see how much of it has come true!
WHAT ARE YOU READING AND/OR WATCHING NOW THAT YOU FIND REALLY INTERESTING?
I just finished a book called “Dopesick” that dives into the history of the opioid epidemic and how it stemmed from the marketing practices of big pharmaceutical companies. It was a harrowing book but a really important one. The issue is very personal to me, as I have lost loved ones to the epidemic. I’m really encouraged and hopeful about the research being done around opioids and how cannabinoids might be able to help.