MMA loans

Hemp Heros’ David Hartigan on his ambition to make the “Kerrygold of CBD”

In May 2010, the so-called main stores that sprung up as a result of the crash were effectively closed in response to an increase in drug-related hospital admissions. More than a decade later, in November 2021, a Dublin man became the first person in Ireland to be prescribed medical cannabis following a long and drawn out campaign by advocates.

In the decade since, cannabidiol (CBD) oil, which is derived from cannabidiol, an active ingredient found in both cannabis and hemp, has become a widely used supplement for pain relief, muscle inflammation and sleep aid.

According to Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)which regulates CBD as a dietary supplement, there is no reliable data on the market size of CBD, but the industry group the Medical Cannabis Center expect it to reach almost £1 billion in the UK by 2025, while Grand View Search estimates the global market at $5.2 billion in 2021.

hemp heroes manufactures and distributes CBD petroleum products manufactured for humans and pets and markets them as health and wellness items, which may indicate how much cultural attitudes towards cannabis have changed in recent years.

The company extracts its cannabidiol from hemp, which, like cannabis, is a member of the cannabaceae plant family but, unlike cannabis, contains only psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) trace elements – around 0.2%.

Although they look alike – hemp plants can be easily confused with tall cannabis plants, standing six or seven feet tall – company founder David Hartigan points out that cannabis and hemp are not the same, and that the merger of the two plants has been a thorn in the side of the CBD industry.

Company Irelandhe says, will not authorize any funding for Hemp Heros, having considered it a “cannabis-based company”, and members of the public have in the past said they believe the company sells drugs or had asked him if his products would be marketed. the tops.

“It doesn’t get you high,” he says. “It’s not for that purpose. It’s all about health, wellness and lifestyle, and none of our products are designed to be the least bit intoxicating, but perceptions are definitely changing.”

Hartigan, who recently left PwC after six and a half years, was transformed into CBD oil when managing mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters, who used it for recovery after training and fights.

He spent nine months researching CBD oil, visiting hemp farms and learning different extraction methods, before starting the business in 2019. To date, he has invested €100,000 in loans savings and loans in the company without receiving external financing,

Like nearly 95% of CBD product sellers, Hemp Heros began by selling white label products purchased from one of the c. 20 major wholesalers who dominate the market and have the resources and scale to undertake CBD extraction, which can cost €1-2 million to set up.

Companies can buy a 20kg bag of CBD isolate, the lowest grade of the product, mix it with a carrier oil and resell it for an exorbitant price. Hartigan opted to develop a patent-pending cold pressing technique that is more expensive, but which he says dramatically improves quality while giving the company greater control of its product.

“I always had this vision, I guess, of bringing everything in-house, like we could kind of have full control over our supply chain,” he says.

“Because while it’s great to have someone manufacturing for you, obviously that means you’re just another cog in the machine, you really don’t have anything unique. And so we really wanted to, I guess, take control of that and be able to do everything from seed to shelf.

The company now sources hemp from eight to 10 farms and sells 20 products at an estimated 30% margin, including its standard 30ml oil dropper, muscle balm, dog butter and horse spray, all produced at its factory in Co Wicklow.

Anecdotally, Hartigan says, Hemp Heros has seen fantastic results from its customers, which the company is now trying to back up with clinical research from the UCD veterinary hospital on the effectiveness of the products in relieving pain and anxiety in companion animals and in treating laminitis in horses.

David Hartigan founded Hemp Heros while working at PwC Ireland

Accounts show Hemp Heros made a loss of €15,000 in 2020, and Hartigan says the business is on track to become profitable this year, thanks in part to reduced in-house production overhead. Hartigan estimates annual revenue of €100,000 for the company’s first three years of operation and expects sales to exceed €150,000 in 2022. He is aiming for €500,000 in sales the year next.

While 80% of sales are made online, Hemp Heros stock is now sold in 60 pet stores across the country and Hartigan is actively seeking more retail partners in health food stores, veterinarians and pharmacies. .

He is one of four employees in the company and mainly deals with business development, while the other three employees work at the production site. He will look to add employees to manage marketing, social media and expand production if he manages to land big accounts.

Hartigan is also in full ownership of the company after buying out his business partner and former UFC fighter. John Phillipswho was one of three MMA fighters he managed at PwC, showing the entrepreneurial spirit he says he always had.

The Crumlin man comes from a family of traders and started his own home-brewing business with a kit he bought online when he was 17. After failing his Leaving Cert poorly, he studied business planning at IT Tallaght, now part of Dublin University of Technologyduring which he worked security at licensed nightclubs and events and also moonlighted as a private detective.

He then successfully applied for one of 12 annual INSPIRE fellowship places, which helped fund a master’s degree at UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Due to his poor performance in high school, Hartigan had to apply three times before being accepted by PwC, but the firm Big Four offered him places in its summer internships and graduate programs.

There he rose through the ranks, earning promotions year after year while working to grow Hemp Heros during his final three years with the company. He was also promoted to director level before leaving what he describes as a “fantastic business” earlier this year, and leaving on good terms with the managing partner. Fergal O’Rourke.

At a time of housing crisis and economic uncertainty, it obviously wasn’t the obvious decision to quit an £80,000-a-year job to go full-time with his start-up, but Hartigan has ambitions to turn Hemp Heros into a “Kerrygold for CBD.”

“I think it can become a global giant and basically be something like a Kerrygold for the CBD world,” he says confidently. “We want to be that kind of leader and an Irish brand that has a global footprint.”

At present, 80% of Hemp Hero’s sales are made in Ireland, with 15% in the UK, and split 70/30 between human and animal products, but the company has achieved sales throughout the Europe and India. The UK and major European countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain will be the main focus in the medium term before the company turns to the US, the biggest market for CBD. .

Ultimately, Hartigan may seek outside investment – he recently had a meeting with Enterprise Ireland about changing their policies on hemp-related businesses – but for now he is keen not to become another “flash in the pan” that raises eye-catching sums of money only to quickly disappear.

“I want Hemp Heros to be here in 10 years,” he says. “We set up the business the right way, so the foundation was right, and the values ​​we had, where quality was first, giving people something that is real value for money, were essential.

“We’re in a much stronger position now that I’m full-time with the business. The company is growing and we have mastered manufacturing. It’s more about entering new markets for us.

“We’re looking for partners in markets where we can get that retail presence and really start to grow, because we have everything else in place.”

Photo: David Hartigan.