As part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Vince Sanders. He founded CBD American Shaman in March of 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri as a way to help with the discomfort many cancer patients experience. Since then, Sanders has built CBD American Shaman into a team of doctors, chemists, lawyers, and advocates. Sanders pioneered the use of nanotechnology in the hemp industry to enhance the plant’s health-supporting effects and to increase the bioavailability of CBD.
CBD American Shaman produces high quality cannabinoid tinctures, creams, pet products and more. CBD American Shaman is certified by the US Hemp Authority for its manufacturing and quality control standards. Currently with 365 locations offering their premier CBD products, American Shaman is one of the largest CBD retailers in the United States.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. I know that you are a very busy person. Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you grew up?
I was born and raised in Kansas City, MO. I grew up with role models and mentors all around me. Both sides of the family had many entrepreneurs, so I had the opportunity to watch a lot of people in business as I was growing up. I always knew I was going to be an entrepreneur.
What were your early inspirations that set you off on your particular journey?
Growing up around entrepreneurs set me on the path to entrepreneurship. My first business was in car detailing. My current business, CBD American Shaman, began from a calling to try to help my uncle who was terminally ill. My mission with CBD was and always has been to make quality CBD, get it to people, and ultimately help people feel better. CBD American Shaman became a business where we first started selling products over a span of a couple of weeks. Although I kind of stumbled into it as a business, once I decided to follow this calling things moved fast.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When I was first starting out in business in general, I started a car detailing business. I won a huge government contract of several thousand cars that needed detailing before they went up for auction. While I was filling out the huge stack of papers I got after applying, I found myself guessing on a majority of the information required. I had no idea what I was filling out. Meanwhile, I’m waiting and waiting for the contract to come, and I started to think I didn’t win the business. Only came to find out that huge stack of papers I guessed my way around was the contract. And I was the only person to apply for the contract, so I won the business immediately unbeknownst to me. Once I got the contract, I had no idea how I was going to pay everyone initially. I was waiting for the money to come through. Instead of waiting I took out a loan at the bank for the first payroll, which they gave to me immediately seeing that it was a government contract.
All in all, I learned several lessons from this experience, including always take action, and make as intelligent a decision as you can at the time with all the information you have. A certain percentage of decisions will always come back wrong, but it’s important to learn from them what not to do.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Although I grew up around many family members and mentors that inspired me, I have to point out my paternal grandfather. He owned a large chain of standard oil gas stations, and later on owned a line of full-service car washes. He had a certain “country mentality” about him, very down to earth and straight forward. He always treated me like an adult and as an equal. I would always run ideas by him, and he would give me honest feedback. I’ll never forget when he told me, “chase too many rabbits and you won’t catch any of them,” which meant to focus my efforts on no more than a few ideas otherwise you’ll most likely spread yourself too thin (and none of the ideas will be executed as great as they could have been).
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first started CBD American Shaman, I was constantly trying to get people to understand that it’s legal, has great benefits, and there is science to back it. The hardest challenge was education and convincing people that it worked, which also included legal trouble. The push back from all angles was enormous, but this taught me when you get shot down you come back twice as hard. I would brainstorm every month how this is going to work, and what I could do differently to help people see why CBD is so beneficial (and nothing to be afraid of). The legal problems only expanded, I was fighting attorney generals and county prosecutors — but I always won. I was and continue to be so passionate about how CBD can help people, so I started going up the ranks. I started lobbying and speaking in front of the house and senate to educate people on why CBD is a legitimate natural alternative that can help people feel better. I put my heart and soul into supporting the 2018 round table hemp farm bill, went to Washington D.C. again, and more all because I believe in this so much.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Starting CBD American Shaman felt like a higher calling, something that I was meant to do. My passion for helping people helps me continue to move forward everyday. I put my heart and soul into this business, I believe in it so much. I have always known the potential of this product, and I wanted to get it to the world.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
CBD American Shaman is now one of the largest CBD retailers in the US with over 360 locations. Things are great, but I still face challenges. That is part of business. I love this business and how it continues to grow. Anytime there was a push back, I pushed back twice as hard. All of this taught me that anyone that’s successful has to be extremely resilient. The success won’t come easy, you must be prepared to never give up if you really want it, you have to be open to the fact that your whole concept might change, and you must be flexible — all kinds of things will go wrong but you have to keep going.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe the biggest reason my company stands out is the passion that is ingrained in the culture. The vast majority of people involved with CBD American Shaman are so passionate about it, and fully believe in its power and potential. Our brick and mortar stores are a place where people can get educated on CBD. The endocannabinoid system is fairly complex, I believe you need that visit with someone that understands it, can explain it, and guide you through the process to fully benefit from CBD and find what works best for you. Additionally, we’re always raising the bar, never complacent, we’re constantly investigating the science to keep moving the industry forward.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In business and entrepreneurship in general, my advice is to keep pushing, believe in yourself, and never give up. You have to have a sense of self and confidence otherwise you will get beat up. Also, to be open to change, it’s important to stay true to yourself and your vision, but keep in mind that it will mold and develop as it evolves.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
CBD American Shaman is a very charitable company, we’re constantly donating to all kinds of causes, and giving our time together. I also believe that starting this business was a higher calling to help people feel better. It has never been about the business or making money for me.
Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
It’s virtually impossible to please everyone — You have to make what you believe is the best decision, even if that means angering people. I deal with all kinds of different personalities that have very different views from me. I am regularly being told what I should/shouldn’t have done, and it can get very political. I understand now that everyone is entitled to their different perspectives, and that different perspectives are healthy. But ultimately, I have to believe in my own leadership and decision making.
Own your mistakes — I find it off putting if people can’t own their mistakes. This kind of builds off having trust in your own leadership. There will always be times when mistakes are made, or when you make the wrong decision. You’re human and it will happen. But it’s about how you stand up and own it. There is no way to predict the outcome, but owning your mistakes is the best way to move forward. I make mistakes all the time in business, but I always analyze so I learn what not to do in the future. I believe it’s the only way to build resilience and move forward.
Find the right people for the job and trust them to do their job — Structuring and finding the right people to carry out their roles is critical for success. My company requires farming, extraction, marketing, sales, science, and more. I can’t possibly do all of these roles. It’s about learning to find the right personalities and best fit possible — then letting him/her fly and rise to the challenge. Of course, you have to watch and manage people, but I fully believe in letting people learn to fly. Don’t think you’re the best at everything, you have to find people that are specialists and on the same page. This will bring more success to the business.
Make it more than just a job — I believe development of culture so we can make it more than just a job is so important for success. CBD American Shaman is really a health and wellness company who is here to help people feel better. I try to instill the message in everyone that works for me that we want to leave the world a better place than we found it. Which means let’s be charitable, let’s give consumers better products, let’s make employees feel at home and appreciated through better benefits. It’s about developing a whole culture, not just a job.
Pick a place and go — You have to develop an overarching idea of where you want to go, and where you want the business to go. Don’t worry about the steps as much, it’s like building a ladder as you go. You just have to get moving. You will figure out ways to improve as you’re taking each step, and the longer you do it the better you’ll become. I believe the best way to learn is by doing. Stay focused on the bigger picture, which for me was helping people through CBD, and pick up the rest as you go. I never intended to build franchise options, but now we have over 360 locations. You’ll figure out the “how” as you go. You must learn to become comfortable with uncertainty in entrepreneurship.
Now that you have gained this experience and knowledge, has it affected or changed your personal leadership philosophy and style? How have these changes affected your company?
My leadership has of course changed over the years, it has evolved as I have evolved with the growing company. I developed thicker skin so I could learn to take on more criticism and decipher if it’s worthy of analysis and implementation to grow or something to let go. I also believe in leading by example. I will always put on whatever hat is required of me, I’m not too good for any job. Lastly, I value a different perspective now more than ever. Never exclude anyone’s ideas no matter who they are or where they come from. That develops teamwork, and teams that thrive because it encourages them to be involved.
This series is called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me”. This has the implicit assumption that had you known something, you might have acted differently. But from your current vantage point, do you feel that knowing alone would have been enough, or do you feel that ultimately you can only learn from experience? I think that learning from mistakes is the best way, perhaps the only way, to truly absorb and integrate abstract information. What do you think about this idea? Can you explain?
I fully believe that the best and only way to learn is from experience. Experience brings wisdom that books and just “knowing” cannot. That’s why I believe you have to trust the decisions you make, and some of them will be wrong. That’s just life, but it’s through the whole process that you learn and grow. Growth only comes from discomfort.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would get political to help more people. I believe in ideas that will help the greater good, like healthcare and paid education. Let’s empower people to do better. And the more opportunities people have to do better, the better the country does as a whole.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
American Shaman on Instagram @cbdamericanshaman