There is a rampant cannabidiol (CBD) revolution in the air, and it will probably increase as the Cannabis sativa chemical gets pushed into the mainstream, big-box market. CBD has been put in cheeseburgers, alcoholic mixed drinks, bars of soap, and freakin’ salad dressing. The movement can be blamed on the broad cultivation of hemp being allowed federally legal by the 2018 Farm Bill, and also creatives being bonkers over what to mix CBD with.
A load of cash-money will most likely be made—the CBD market is sitting around $1 billion right now, on track to reach $22 billion over the next several years—and Mike Reznik and Rahul Easwar are superiorly aware of that. Back in March, the two Executive Masters of Business (MBA) graduates of The University of Chicago launched the entrepreneurship alliance of LeafyQuick, the exclusive and initial CDB on-demand delivery service in Chicago.
Money making aside, Easwar (born in Southern India; computer science grad of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; 15 years in Information Technology consulting) and Reznik (Moldova native; Rogers Park, Chicago roots; owner of large-scale accounting systems) are interested in spreading the knowledge of CBD health benefits. With help from both local and national CBD companies, LeafyQuick’s goal is to keep CBD consumers happy as a clam.
“Mike and I were discussing innovative ideas all the time because we sat next to each other in the MBA program for 21 months,” said Easwar on May 10, sitting in LeafyQuick’s pop-up shop in Wicker Park on N. Milwaukee Avenue; Reznik was sitting across the desk from him. “We wanted to use IT for the greater good. We’ve made corporations money in the past, but how could that be applied to a social problem? The CBD thing seemed to be kicking off, and we know it is good for people, so, how can we apply our technology to get CBD out to people faster?”
Reznik and Easwar admit that business was a little slow when the LeafyQuick pop-up opened about a month ago—lasted through May 15—but volume steadily picked up. Four curious people explored the tiny store as we spoke. One young lady made a quick exit, but a mother and daughter struck up a conversation on how CBD helps fight pain.
Easwar said that nobody really knows where CBD is sold. “We want to make CBD accessible on the same day as people need it,” he said. “You name it, everyone is delivering—Amazon, GrubHub, UberEats—but nobody in the CBD market was delivering like that. Maybe you could get it the next day, but more likely two days or more. At that point, customers will have to search for a local retailer and make a trip. The LeafyQuick platform is very GrubHub-esque.”
The order that I placed at the pop-up (a 15 mL bottle of oil and dark chocolate treats) for my mother made it from Chicago to New York in two days. Just imagine the speed of LeafyQuick over Chicago’s 10,856 square miles?
“The market is surely growing,” said Reznik, wearing a causal, navy-blue suit. “The demand could be more right now, but we’re also trying to educate the population on CBD, hence the pop-up stores [LeafyQuick plans to relocate to more Chicago neighborhoods]. Consumers come by and ask questions at face value. Once we explain and educate them, then they are conformable to come into the market.”
As MBA guys, not scientists, Easwar and Reznik are learning more about medical CBD gains with every retailer, distributor and manufacturer LeafyQuick works with. LeafyQuick sells products from a variety of local and national companies—Half Day, Jade House Genetics, VCC Brands, Select CBD, CBDistillery, and Veritas Farms—but is brand agnostic. Reznik and Easwar see brands eye-to-eye: where they manufacture and what they do.
“We have a bottom up approach,” Easwar said. “At first, it was talking to vape shops around town, and then it was branching out to different doctor clinics, chiropractic centers, medical centers, yoga studios, gyms…then retail outlets, bigger commerce, and pet stores. We’re in that second tier right now…there’s a mental health physician down the street that is helping us.”
Understanding the process and formula of CDB is the only way LeafyQuick is going to have quality communication with its customers, Reznik said. “The search for knowledge is fulfilled by the brand producers that know what needs are to be filled,” he said. “Secondly, we are trying to bring doctors on board through the University of Chicago network.”
The amount of humans who have come into the Wicker Park place without any prior CBD information surprised Easwar. “Some people wonder if it is OK to legally step in here [laughs],” he said. “They ask, ‘do I need a card?’ Maybe I thought there was more widespread knowledge out there.”
The big, green and wavy “CBD sold here” sign is no reason to induce paranoia. CBD products are completely legal in all 50 US states (LeafyQuick will ship to all) and contain no more than 0.3-percent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Also, the guys inside the glass box are inviting. “We look forward to the life stories, why people need CBD,” said Easwar. “Truly, people need CBD for medical conditions, and are trying to turn away from Pharma medications.”
The most common recurring ailment heard from LeafyQuick patrons is anxiety, Reznik said. “People are anxious to go to work, or they are anxious for the weekend to start, or can’t calm down and relax for certain reasons; we see that often,” he said. “Sometimes, people can’t go to sleep. They’re looking for a way to get more sleep.
When you surf to LeafyQuick’s online store (leafyquick.com), you will see four colored boxes: sleep, relax, relief, and focus. A click of a box will send you to products that are segregated for each of the four specific states. “That’s driven by the consumers—we learn from them and what they use CBD for,” said Reznik. “But they might have a hard time making the right selection, so we try to make it easier.”
The correlation between products and state-of-mind is like a marriage, Easwar said. And since Reznik and Easwar can’t make any medical diagnosis, LeafyQuick let’s the at-large community know that the stronger CBD tinctures (dietary supplement that is not psychoactive) are for sleep, and the weaker tinctures are for focus. “We rely on customer feedback,” continued Easwar. “We had a guy come in who wanted to buy every lavender vape that we had in stock, right off the bat. OK, well why? Please shed some light. He said that the vape provided much needed clarity for his day-to-day.”
LeafyQuick uses a “technology-enabled distribution channel” for simple delivery. Reznik sees this in three different phases: App Consumer, Driver, and Brands. “The customer has an app to track the delivery on demand—notifications from when the order is placed, all the way to their door,” he said. “The delivery driver is also on the app, seeing orders on the queue, picking up and dropping off, and communicating with the customer. Also, the brands we work with have the ability to go into the system and load products and prices, educate customers, and manage deals.”
There is no fleet of official LeafyQuick vehicles yet, but Easwar and Reznik contract professional drivers that are over 21 years old; Easwar and Reznik have already made plenty of Chicago deliveries with their personal cars.
“We’re starting to see the network broaden out,” said Easwar. “The demand in Chicago has prompted us to expand business. We’ll be opening locations in New York City and Miami.”
Reznik said that he uses the lavender vape pen for relaxation (he was able to save one for himself despite that guy that bought up the whole stock). Easwar uses the CBD pain gel for back aches, and says that it works better than Icy Hot. LeafyQuick sells products for pets, too; CBD can help uneasiness in joints, and might assist in calming a dog.
“I think we still rely on the word-of-mouth culture,” said Easwar, taking control of the conversation as Reznik attended to a customer. “Kids [over 21] come in and buy CBD for their parents to help their loved ones with this or that…we’re thinking beyond. This is not recreational use, it is exclusive health benefit. We had a cyclist come a long, long way to get CBD for his dad who has stomach cancer.”
LeafyQuick’s standards are very high because CBD delivery is widely unknown. But if CBD is on the path of normal commerce, how does LeafyQuick ensure that its products are tested, organic, and locally grown?
“We openly display any third-party testing results, we meet with every owner of every company that wants to sell through our system, and we stand behind that,” said Easwar. “We get pitched by brands every week, and we will turn some away if we do not feel like proliferating that brand—we’re selective. We put our name behind anything that we think our customers might love.”