With it’s storefront nestled in a mature, but re-emergent Overland Park neighborhood, walking through the door of 8124 Floyd St. shatters the misconceptions of curious customers, said Heather Steppe.
“Its not [shady] … it doesn’t feel like a head shop,” Steppe, co-owner of KC Hemp Co., said of the almost bohemian vibe that radiates from her retail space, which has sold an array of CBD products since its opening last year.
In the Green
Startland takes an in-depth dive into the growing market for CBD and hemp products, and the KC entrepreneurs poised to capitalize on the nationwide trend.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis flower, and is a non-addictive substance increasingly known for its therapeutic properties. CBD is a cousin to the better-known THC, the active compound in marijuana.
“Most of our clientele is 65-plus,” she said, laughing. “It’s these older people who, you know, may have smoked weed back in the day and so they think they kind of know what’s going to go down with CBD.”
Click here to learn about the growing opportunity for marijuana-related startups in KCMO.
Rapidly gaining social acceptance, a retailer selling CBD in the suburbs of Johnson County likely wouldn’t have been welcome in the city — or many others across the U.S. — as recently as last year, Steppe said.
“It was so taboo … I mean, stores [throughout America] were getting shut down. Products were pulled off the shelves. Cops were coming in and raiding stores,” she explained. “Since then, you have, ‘Dr. Oz’ — ‘The Doctors’ are doing specials on it. Oprah had a thing. … They’re pulling this product out of the shadows and putting light to it, which — thank God! — because it’s about time cannabis has light shown on it instead of it being this hidden secret.”
Far from being tucked away in Steppe’s life, selling CBD is a family affair — an experience she shares with her husband Kyle Steppe, she explained.
All the while, the couple’s children — who have also benefited from behavioral effects of CBD — do their homework behind the store’s sales counter, a nostalgic ode to the traditional family businesses that have long-fueled America’s heartland, the couple explained.
“We both started using it for our own personal reasons. I was coming off eight years of Adderall and [Kyle] was going through different depression, anxiety, stuff like that,” Heather Steppe said of the couple’s first experience with CBD.
“We loved it. It was almost instant. I completely quit smoking cigarettes,” she added, amazed by the benefits of CBD — which can include: reduced anxiety, better sleep, pain regulation, anti-inflammation, and balanced mood, she said.
On a typical afternoon, you’ll find the Steppes educating customers on the differences between CBD and marijuana, a frequent question with which they sheepishly walk into the store, Heather Steppe said.
Click here to learn how the cannabis cousins differ.
A modern family business, the Steppes believe CBD is the next great American venture, a 21st century gold rush, explained Kyle Steppe; one no one should be threatened by.
“I mean it’s a booming industry, you know, we’re excited to see where it goes with more regulation and just more information or correct education of the public,” Kyle Steppe said, eager for a future where CBD is as normal a commodity as coffee.
A trend with no end in site, the couple believes CBD-infused food products will take the substance even more into the mainstream, they said.
While CBD “fills in the gaps” for many users experiencing autoimmune conditions, depression, or anxiety — the substance hasn’t yet found a way to fit into a traditional business model, the Steppes explained, noting regulatory obstacles they’ve faced on their adventure in cannabis.
“We had to kind of get creative with our words when applying for banking and credit card processing,” Heather Steppe recalled. “We were open one week, and after Day 6 we got a call and they shut our bank account down.”
Frozen assets and some negotiating later, the company was back online, the Steppes explained.
“These people in the banking industry … they aren’t taking the time to learn the difference between hemp and marijuana or CBD versus THC. They have no idea,” Heather Steppe said of the impact an uneducated financial sector could be impacting entrepreneurs like her and her husband.
Is going all in on CBD a risk or a reward? Click here to read how investment minds and entrepreneurs feel.
Thankfully for the Steppes, communities like Overland Park and the organizations within them are opening their minds, they added, noting that KC Hemp Co. was named Downtown Overland Park’s best new business of 2018.
“[Winning was] amazing — as this cannabis company coming in and we’re voted the best? So, what we thought might be problematic in the community down here, because it is a little bit of an older community, has been overwhelmingly positive. People love having this here,” Heather Steppe said of the recognition — a sure sign of the times, she added.
Sitting in the shadow of the Matt Ross Community Center — an active hub for Overland Park children and families — KC Hemp. Co. stands to shatter stereotypes and elevate a centuries-old substance that could heal the world with its medicinal properties, Kyle Steppe said boldly.