Today we’d like to introduce you to April Cole Worley.
April, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When cannabis was legalized in California via Prop 64, I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever was next. It felt like a calling. Not knowing where it would take me, I recruited two designer friends and founded Mender, a cannabis brand based on the Central Coast of California just south of Big Sur. That was over two and a half years ago and since we have launched our elegant and clean CBD Daily Essentials Bodycare Collection. I have my education and experience in boutique creative agencies to thank for that.
Fresh out of grad school where I studied Political Science and got a Master’s while my son attended the pre-school on campus, I landed a job at a boutique creative agency that catered to the cult wine industry where I cut my teeth as a marketer. My poli sci training gave me a nice edge on understanding research, analysis, and project design and measurement and the marketing piece tapped deep into my creativity—something that working in government or the NGO space was left untapped…
So the goal in cult wine marketing was to fight the stigma wine had as a snobby consumer item—to a beverage of the people—because that is how wine began. Cannabis has the opposite problem. It has a low-brow reputation, and I wanted to elevate its status to not only more respectfully represent the plant. Very few brands were doing it, and also I saw it as an opportunity to break down the stigma surrounding cannabis.
I have always seen cannabis as a healer, and that is what Mender means—a healer. As far as how I started and got to where I am now, the path has not been linear. At all. I always loved school and learning and was the first person in my family to go to college (my dad was a building contractor, and my mom was a housewife). I don’t think my dad really approved of college, he would make comments about ‘snobby intellectuals’ and stuff.
Despite this, I started at community college and waited tables at night. I studied environmental science but found my true love in anthropology and stuck with it as I moved to San Francisco to wrap my bachelor’s degree. After that I had zero idea what to do with my degree and without anyone to mentor me as my family was not connected to the professional class at all, I got my emergency teaching credential and worked in a couple of Montessori schools and day facility for head injured and developmentally delayed adults, and waited tables.
Then I had my son, and I ran a craft collective called CRATINISTA that was actually ideated by someone else but I ran with it and made it happen and silkscreened t-shirts and did freelance reporting and writing for extra money until I just felt lost beyond words and decided to go to graduate school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where I studied political science and got a Masters in Public Policy.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Smooth is certainly not how I would describe my road. Ha! Growing up there had been a lot of chaos and money issues in my family and while I certainly have my parents to thank for encouraging me to be creative by not allowing TV in the house and always listening to music and surrounding my sister and I with cool art books, I really wanted the type of stability—emotional, financial, etc. that I saw in some of my friends’ homes, but it is hard to create that for yourself.
I started my adult years with creating more chaos in my life. I had gotten pregnant my senior year in college and decided to get married, which seemed very unlike me even at the time—I am super independent. I ended up miscarrying, but I really liked the guy, so we decided to go to the wedding anyway. After that, I just felt lost. Searching for that career that was going to make me feel ‘middle class’ I worried constantly that I was a failure.
I was also getting broadsided with dealing with childhood issues, like they were all bubbling up at once: memories of terrifying run-ins with my rage-aholic father, being sexually assaulted during an attempted rape by an older boyfriend when I was in junior high, and then the miscarriage, and even the comment the doctor made after I had surgery to remove the fetus, “Wow! You really are all legs aren’t you?” And then the housing crisis hit and my husband I lost our house, and he was out of work and our son was one. I felt really powerless.
Like “I’m 30… what is wrong with me?” I was also really starting questioning my role as a woman in this world and wondered if I would ever be able to break free and not feel beholden to the will of men around me. I also started to realize that being raised working class was a definite handicap when it came to careers. I would meet people whose parents had gotten them good jobs because they served on boards with other important people. I would have to Google ‘what does being ‘on a board’ mean.”
One time when I was waiting tables, I ran a credit card for a man with Esq after his name, and I asked him what that meant. He looked at me like I was an idiot—I was 29 at the time and pregnant again with my son, surely I knew what Esquire meant. There was TONS of this stuff, but I was determined to put my pride aside and learn and grow.
I had tested into the GATE program in southern California when I was in kindergarten and had always gotten pretty good grades, plus extra-curricular like journalism and I would sometimes write a column for the local paper. I knew everything good that came to me came when I put myself out there, so I kept at it — asking questions, connecting with people, etc. So when my son was 3 1/2, and I had reached the end of my ‘stay at home mom’ rope, I applied to graduate school and got into the Master of Public Policy program.
I remember at one point I had kinda bombed a paper—my son had been up all night for a few days sick and I was exhausted and I misheard the directions and the Professor went to the chair of my department and made a comment about me not being right for the program or something. I took it as a challenge. Fuck it. I am HERE. I earned it. I redid the paper and stuck with it ultimately graduated two years later with distinction.
My dad had stage 4 cancer when I graduated, and I was so happy he saw me. All that stuff about intellectuals melted away, and when they called my name to accept my diploma, and I had my colored ropes for honors around my neck I could hear him whistle and whoop in the audience, and it was awesome. I am holding my 5-year-old in my arms with my robes on in most of the photos—I was proud he got to see me graduate, too.
Then build a new career at 35. I tried government, nope. Non-profits, meh. I like things to move fast—like business. So I did everything I could to roll in all of my past experience to sell myself as this smart, analytical and motivated creative and I think it worked because it was true. I think that is exactly what a marketer ought to be and it felt right. I bounced around a few small agencies and a 2-year stint as an in-house marketer, but it wasn’t until I founded my own two companies that I felt successful and realized.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Mender – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
At Mender, we formulate full-spectrum CBD Bodycare for women and men in a collection of products that help people get CBD into their daily routine to support their endocannabinoid systems and offer an all-natural hand-crafted alternative to everything from Youth Serum to Body Butter and Deodorant.
Our design is what really attracts customers. We have been called ‘hippie in a good way,’ ‘elegant,’ ‘clean,’ ‘modern botanical’—our goal was always to design products that you want to sit out on your shelf and give you a feeling of calm when you look at them. After that, our ingredients. Everything we use is natural, from our clean US Hemp Authority Certified CBD to the organic olive oil that we purchase from a local farmer, people love that they can trust what is in our jars—and I think the packaging really reflects that.
A lot of CBD product companies use ingredients that can actually cause inflammation—we are aware of that and get the most from our CBD by pairing it with ingredients that are bioavailable and do not cause inflammation. We also work really hard to make it super easy to work with us. We use just enough tech tools to streamline operations and communications so customers can expect consistent service, and then we also have policies in place that make it easy for small businesses to work with us like no order minimums and quick turnarounds on shipments.
We also rely on Instagram a lot to connect with our customers and retailers. We can’t legally advertise online or on social being a CBD company, so all of our inbound and outbound marketing is organic which is actually kinda cool.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
As far as expansion, we just launched a beautiful new product—CBD Massage + Body Oil that can be used by professionals for the rapidly growing CBD Massage market. We plan on adding another really cool product lineup toward the end of the year and another planned for next Summer. There will undoubtedly be others, but we are waiting for the CBD research to tell us where to go next. What do peoples’ bodies need? And what can we create to help them?
- You can subscribe to have our beautiful hemp CBD Deodorant delivered to your door every other month for $16 out the door
- Our highly-effective CBD Pain Salve starts at $28
- For CBD anti-aging skincare, it doesn’t get any better than our CBD Youth Serum starting at $32
- Website: https://www.mender.shop/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mender.shop/
- Other: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aprilcoleworley/
Annie Hock Photography