I’ve been quietly admiring Kelly Benson from afar for a while now. Kelly is the owner of Mindful Earth – a Hemp Wellness Product company currently located in Raymond, Maine. She is also a Be Well Festival sponsor. Bold, beautiful, raw and little edgy – I eagerly double tap every Instagram she shares and admittedly feel slightly envious of her seemingly fearless candor and her impressive depth of plant knowledge. When Kat, owner of Be Well Events, asked me to connect with Kelly for an interview, I jumped at the chance to learn more about this business owner and wellness expert. Below she shares her story, challenges, and vision developed through carving her own path in the Maine wellness industry. Read on for some serious inspiration.
HM: How and when did Mindful Earth begin?
KB: Mindful Earth was first a Maine medical cannabis caregiver business, established in 2015. I found that my patients (and myself) responded much more positively to non-psychoactive high CBD strains over THC strains. I really wanted to be able to serve my greater community rather than just my 5 patients and also utilize my expanding knowledge of the larger world of plant medicine. So, I started working with hemp and formulating blends with other medicinal plants!
Also note that this was when CBD was just starting to make its way into our society - it was still stigmatized and frowned upon by many. The first year was tough!
HM: What is your mission with Mindful Earth?
KB: My mission ultimately is to cultivate community and spread knowledge about how and why the plants can support us. If there is a pill, there is a plant that can do it better - in a much more gentle and non-harmful way.
Also, to provide the highest quality medicinal plant formulations using local, wild crafted, organic, and sustainable ingredients. I am also getting ready to open an apothecary style cafe with a tea and elixir bar. I will have a beautiful space to hold small events and workshops and collaborate with other wellness professionals!
HM: How has Mindful Earth changed your personal self-care and wellness rituals?
KB: So often, as wellness professionals, we offer wonderful advice and services to others but neglect to care for ourselves on a deeper level. When you are constantly pouring from your cup to take care of others, you need to make sure you are caring deeply for yourself and refilling your cup! I have learned this the hard way a few times.
I prioritize self-care, I make sure I move my body almost daily and consume foods and beverages that are going to make me feel great and operate from a place of health and consciousness.
I also literally use ALL of my creations. I rely on these to support my emotional wellness and my immune system, to keep my hormones stabilized, and to keep my skin clear and glowing with life!
HM: What has been your greatest lesson in running your own business?
KB: In the beginning, I had no intention of this becoming what it has. I am 3.5 years in and the amount of personal growth I have gained through this experience is phenomenal! I gave a lot away and de-valued my work in the beginning. I still overdo this a bit by constantly running sales. I guess my greatest lesson has been/still is valuing myself and my hard work in a more respectful and appropriate way.
HM: What makes your products so unique and impactful?
KB: My products are unique for many reasons! For one - my product lines are seed to sale. We had a small hemp farm on our land this past season and after harvest had it processed locally into highly concentrated raw cO2 CBD oil. This is something that I am super proud of as not many businesses in this industry can say that.
Aside from growing hemp, I also organically grew or wild crafted 75% of the plants I use in my blends. Another unique aspect to my business is that, as an herbalist and lover of all plants, I have the knowledge to create ailment specific formulations to support different individuals' needs.
HM: Tell us more about your ingredients.
KB: My values around ingredients are very specific and important to me! I use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible if I don't grow or harvest them myself.
The Maine ingredients I use include beeswax, raw honey, organic fresh-frozen elderberries, organic grain alcohol, wild harvested Chaga, and more! The hemp I grew organically myself as well as many of the herbs. All of my carrier oils, essential oils, and butters are organic and sourced sustainably. My packaging is all biodegradable.
This is the foundation of my business - clean, simple, organic, local, and sustainable. Good for the Earth, which supports us and gives to us so freely and abundantly; and good for our bodies - spiritually, mentally, and physically.
HM: Why is hemp considered such a powerful ingredient?
KB: Hemp/Cannabis is what I consider a "Master" plant. There are many master plants - but this one is the most well-known and wide spread. It is a powerful plant ally because of how but interacts with our bodies natural systems and processes. When hemp is consumed, it binds to receptors that are already within us. Where there is imbalance, it will work to achieve homeostasis. Every mammal has an endocannabinoid system; therefore, it can potentially benefit all humans and animals. It has very subtle effects but very powerful, sort of like its working with the body's wisdom and intuition and nudging us in the right direction.
HM: How has working in the hemp industry challenged your business, and how have you overcome those challenges?
KB: The biggest challenge without a doubt has been working with financial institutions. It has actually been a complete nightmare. No banks or card processors were willing to serve us for a long time. I lost two square accounts, two PayPal accounts, Quickbooks, and two other card processors via my website. We are still considered "high risk" so this has been a constant mountain to climb. I am happy to say that this is starting to change. More options are now available, and I am proud to say I am one of the first hemp businesses in our state to be approved for a business loan for my upcoming apothecary café.
HM: How do you envision the wellness industry shifting in 2020 and beyond?
KB: Rapid and continuous GROWTH.
I also think more regulations via the FDA will start to be introduced relative to herbals and supplements.
This industry is expanding to all walks of life. What a blessed time to be alive - maybe its growth will be powerful enough to create real change for our planet.
Thank you Kelly, for sharing your story with us! We can't wait to catch up with you at Be Well Fest 2020. If you don't have tickets to the festival yet, grab yours here.
Please note – the contents of this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular illness. Some interviewee responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.