In 2017, Wisconsin established a pilot program that allowed farmers to grow hemp legally for the first time in 60 years. Peggy Coffeen and her husband, Kevin, considered the opportunity.
“My husband, who is an agriculture lender, came home one day and said, ‘We’re going to grow hemp,’” Coffeen said.
She said that growing hemp was so new that she was afraid it would be illegal and they’d end up in jail. But Kevin was the driving force, and he convinced her that it would be a great way to produce an income-earning crop.
“Eventually, I changed my tune,” Peggy Coffeen said.
Both had years of experience in the dairy and agriculture industries, but entrepreneurship had never been in their plans. Peggy, who is editor of a national dairy magazine, found herself treading in new territory.
“I was doing everything myself,” she said. “Branding was something I knew nothing about and had never done before, but I dug into everything I knew to do. I employed every little skill set I had.”
The result was P’ri CBD (www.pricbd.com), a name that spoke of her mission. P’ri is the Hebrew word for fruit and she felt strongly that God was leading her to establish a brand with faith-centered values. In selecting the name, the business found its niche. Not only would they produce a top-quality product at their fifth-generation family farm in De Pere, every order would include a prayer card.
On Facebook, where she has more than 1,000 followers, she has a wellness community which she says is “a gathering place to nurture our bodies, minds and spirits, while giving glory to the Almighty Father, God, who crafted us in His image.”
This faith, she says, is the foundation of healing. The CBD products are an important part of the equation, and her target market, mostly women, are promised a product that they will be proud to have in their purses. All of the products — full spectrum extracts, balms, body butters, bath bombs, roll-ons and salves — come in specially designed packaging.
“I looked at the competition, and none of the marketing or branding appealed to me,” Coffeen said. “My clients are not interested in the recreational benefits of marijuana that many promoted. My goal was to create a product with a classier look.”
Even though she had no experience with graphic design, she found help on Etsy and worked with an online printing company to produce a design that featured gentle colors and a recognizable logo. Most importantly, she said, she created a product line that was “Tested, Traceable, and Transparent.”
That transparency is front and center in her marketing. Clients are like family, and they are invited to be part of the planting process and to visit during special events. The products are made locally in small batches by artisans who hand label and formulate the recipes to ensure they meet quality standards.
As a result, the business is growing and Coffeen is trying to decide what her next steps will be. She is working with Laurel Haak, a Green Bay SCORE chapter mentor, to look at her options. Does she want the business to remain mostly regional or does she want to scale it to a broader market?
“As I set my goals for 2022, I want to increase revenue,” she said. “But I am also looking at this year to determine how to serve my existing customers and have more visibility in the local market. I’m not sure what that will look like.”
For the first time, she is spending more time putting goals on paper and is working on a business plan. She has about 20 wholesale clients with an opportunity to expand. She is also considering expanding her product line to include edibles. Haak is helping her work through some of those issues.
“One of the first times I talked to Laurel, as silly as it sounds, she started to ask questions. My husband, the finance guy, wants to grow the business and scale it so we can be in the larger retail chains, but nothing about that thrills me,” Coffeen said. “Laurel helped me to see that I don’t have to do things the way other people see the business. I need to focus on how I see it.”
What she sees is customers who have been positively impacted by using products with THC. The P’ri products are tested to assure customers that they are getting the maximum amount allowed by the state (the legal limit is 0.3% THC). With all of the products on the market that fail to meet standards, Coffeen says her business can be trusted (details are provided on the website).
The website also includes testimonials, and those using it join the estimated 33% of adults who have used or are using CBD products. The industry is huge, with annual growth skyrocketing and estimated to hit $16 billion in the United States by 2025. Coffeen will be working to decide how much of that growth she wants to be part of while she works full time and cares for two young children.
“I have learned that I can’t do everything myself,” she said. “I was afraid to let go of all of the little things I was doing, but after getting burned out a few times, I know that I need to focus on the things that will move my business forward instead of being so busy being busy.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.