After experiencing the positive effects of hemp-based CBD personally, Elisha Millan opened Grass Roots Health to bring those benefits to more people. Now she uses funds from her stores to combat the opioid epidemic.
Thanks to its newly unambiguous legal status, the hemp industry is booming. And it seems everyone is jumping in to join the “green rush.”
But setting the course for this cadre of speculators were the earlier hemp pioneers, entrepreneurs who walked a precarious legal tightrope for years so they could offer hope and health to those who needed medical alternatives.
Elisha Millan of Grass Roots Health is one of them.
A personal journey
To tell the Grass Roots story, you’ve got to flip the calendar back to 2009 when Elisha became unable to work thanks to a double-whammy of Crohn’s Disease and inflammatory arthritis. Years later, she was introduced to cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants known for its therapeutic benefits.
In a recent interview with Authority Magazine, Elisha remembered, “In 2016 I began taking CBD and immediately noticed a difference in the quality of my sleep. When I started taking it consistently, I noticed more positive health changes.”
Inspired by her new lease on life, Elisha felt determined to bring CBD to more people. A year later, in 2017, Elisha opened Chattanooga’s first CBD-specific retail location, Grass Roots Health, on Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Chattanooga’s first CBD retailer
Being first to market with a product or service is usually a distinction entrepreneurs relish. Elisha certainly wears that badge of honor with pride, but when the doors first opened at Grass Roots, her CBD-based products were under extra scrutiny since the federal government still confusingly lumped them together with their more popular cousin, THC — you know, the compound Cheech and Chong really liked.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines waiting for lawmakers to clear up a muddy legislative mess, Elisha proactively identified every legal way she could bring hemp-based CBD to the masses. She was open and transparent with local authorities, even inviting them to her store and making her products available for testing to prove they met legal requirements.
Thanks to that transparent and proactive stance, Elisha earned the favor of a dedicated clientele while also becoming a go-to resource for people interested in CBD, either as consumers or as potential businessfolk.
Fighting the opioid epidemic with Fund 129
With a chuckle, Elisha often explains that she “learned the market determines what makes money.” Her first storefront is a brief stroll from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Given that close proximity to young adults, she thought, logically, that the largest segment of her customer base would be college kids.
She was wrong.
“My initial target graphic was 19- to 25-year-olds. Turns out my primary customers are 50- to 65-year-olds.”
And the Baby Boomers come to the store in droves.
Elisha’s mission to give people alternative healthcare options was quickly being realized, but she wanted to do more.
So in 2018, Elisha founded Fund 129, a philanthropic entity that has the dual goals of promoting hemp-as-healthcare and combating the opioid epidemic. Quarterly, Elisha directs profits from her Grass Roots sales into Fund 129 and then disperses those resources to area organizations whose missions align with the aims of the fund.
More growth, more help
Though 2018 was a whirlwind year for Elisha and Grass Roots, it’s looking like 2019 will be even busier. Grass Roots opened its second location earlier in April (in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia) and is eyeing more retail expansion later in the year.
And while that’s exciting business-wise, what that really means for Elisha is that she’ll have the opportunity to positively impact more people’s lives with CBD and direct even more money to Fund 129 and the people it helps.
They say that if your job is your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life. If that’s really the case, Elisha has it made in the shade.
David Martin is a co-founder of Heed Public Relations.