Sarah Choh is Building a CBD Culture of Healing For Women

Three years ago, when she was 25 years old, Sarah Choh found herself covered head to toe in an unbearable head-to-toe rash in her NYC apartment during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her skin all over her body was burning and itching incessantly with no end in sight. Desperate for relief, she turned to weed and took edibles every day for two weeks, hoping that it would relieve her nightmare. The THC did help distract her from her pain, but Sarah also started to feel significant anxiety as a side effect.

“I didn’t really have a panic attack, but I knew that it was accentuating things I didn’t want to feel,” she said.

Fortunately, Sarah’s mom, who works as a therapist, knew that CBD can ease anxiety and sent her a care package of CBD products. To Sarah’s relief, the CBD not only relieved her itchiness and the uncomfortable pain that came with it, but she also noticed a substantial drop in her anxiety. This experience opened her eyes to the powerful healing benefits of CBD and inspired her to start Reform Botanicals, a CBD wellness community for women who believe in the culture of healing, in the fall of 2022. 

The Healing Powers of CBD

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, has garnered attention in recent years for its potential in addressing an array of health concerns. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive, which means it does not induce the “high” associated with cannabis use. This characteristic makes it an attractive option for individuals seeking relief from pain and other symptoms without experiencing the mind-altering effects typically linked to marijuana.

One major benefit that CBD is recognized for is its ability to alleviate pain. It interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system, which regulates functions like pain sensation. A study from a Canadian medical cannabis clinic suggests that CBD can help reduce chronic pain and inflammation, making it a preferred choice for conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia.

There is also promising evidence from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggesting that CBD can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. CBD influences how the brain’s receptors respond to serotonin, one of the most important neurotransmitters influencing mental health. This research has positioned CBD as a powerful treatment option for anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Although CBD has powerful healing benefits, Sarah notes that it’s typically “premium priced and really unaccessible with random smoke shops that you can buy them from. And even online, there weren’t that many trustworthy brands I felt I could invest that amount of money into.” 

With the belief that more people should have access to the power of full-spectrum CBD, Sarah aimed to tackle this lack of accessibility, trustworthiness, and affordability of CBD products with Reform Botanicals. 

The Beginning of Reform Botanicals

Before starting Reform Botanicals, Sarah began her career in the beauty industry by serving as a luxury beauty analyst and buyer at Walmart eCommerce & Jet.com. She learned to manage a Profit & Loss (P&L) and educate consumers on the benefits of premium self-care products. Subsequently, she transitioned to the food and wellness sector, where she spearheaded product strategy and development in the DTC food-as-medicine space. Later, she applied her expertise in commercial strategy for key product launches as a product manager at a technology-driven pharmacy startup. These varied experiences, from online retail to enhancing user experience design, gave her the necessary skills to start Reform Botanicals. 

“I feel like each role had its moment, and cannabis honestly kind of fits all of it, in a way,” said Sarah. 

More than anything else, Sarah’s relationship with her mom was pivotal in creating Reform Botanicals. Sarah’s mom introduced her to the power of CBD with the products she sent for Sarah to treat her rash, which inspired Sarah to start a CBD business. Furthermore, as an immigrant parent, Sarah’s mom believed in the American dream and wanted her daughter to chase her dreams through entrepreneurship. That belief not only led Sarah’s mother to encourage her to start a business but also led her mom to invest her own personal savings into Reform Botanicals. 

Despite this strong foundation, Sarah had many obstacles to overcome so that Reform Botanicals could succeed in its mission.

Becoming the CBD brand for Women

Even with her mom’s support, starting a CBD company had many challenges. Reform Botanicals soft-launched 2 years ago, targeting Gen Z and millennials with full-spectrum CBD tinctures through their e-commerce store. 

In describing the initial branding, Sarah said, “It was chrome, with very vibrant neon colors.” 

Sarah initially thought the company would be a fun side business she could do while having a full-time job. But a week after launching, she lost her job with only one week of severance pay. After qualifying for unemployment, Sarah decided to go all in on Reform Botanicals, honed in on who was being ignored by the market, and realized it was women from ages 25-45 who simply were looking for low-dose THC products to relax and sleep at night. With this realization, Sarah removed all her existing products from the market, did a hard pivot to full-spectrum CBD gummies, and rebranded to make Reform Botanicals more approachable to women like her who felt left out by the traditional cannabis space. 

Outside of marketing challenges, there were many hurdles to overcome with manufacturing and regulatory compliance. 

“There are so many regulatory things from lab testing, the price of hemp dropping or going up, and fluctuations in the market,” said Sarah. 

The cannabis market is notoriously filled with brokers and middlemen who inflate the prices of supply for entrepreneurs like Sarah. Sarah had to invest much of her time researching to get straight to the source and get the best pricing. But more than anything else, regulation is the number one headache for most, if not all, cannabis brands. The cannabis industry is heavily regulated, with laws varying from state to state. This meant ensuring compliance with constantly changing regulations. 

“There’s so many changes happening that I have to stay on top of politics and regulatory updates that happen at least every month, which is super frustrating or scary sometimes,” explained Sarah. 

For instance, last July, New York unexpectedly banned full-spectrum CBD products from the market. All of a sudden then, Sarah’s products couldn’t be sold because they had trace amounts of THC in them. Then, New York amended the law three months later to allow them to be brought back into the market. Finally, in January, the state amended the law again to change the allowed ratio of THC to CBD in consumer products. Cannabis business owners are then put in a tight spot where they have to play it safe so that if any changes happen, they can limit the negative impacts on their business. 

“You can’t take as many risks compared to funded brands that can throw away products if they want to, which is incredibly wasteful, but that’s what happens,” Sarah explains.

All of these challenges have been trying for Sarah, but she has remained undeterred. Her steadfast determination is rooted in Reform Botanicals’ mission of being more than a business that sells nice products. Reform Botanicals’ No. 1 goal is to create a community that promotes inclusion and healing for women. 

Creating Community Around Healing

“What makes Reform Botanicals really stand out for our customers is its focus on the community,” says Sarah. 

Sarah participates in weekly pop-up events in BIPOC communities to highlight CBD’s therapeutic advantages. From yoga classes to ceramic workshops, these gatherings raise awareness and cultivate a sense of belonging among the local community. Sarah emphasizes that healing goes beyond Reform Botanicals products. Lasting healing comes from the relationships and support networks that can only be nurtured through a strong community. 

Sarah imagines a future where Reform Botanicals is a leader in the wellness space and is known for its accessibility and reliability. Her objective is to make CBD goods affordable and accessible for all, enabling people to improve their well-being without experiencing unwanted side effects through low-dose THC options. Even within a fluctuating cannabis market, Sarah remains dedicated to upholding the quality and authenticity of her offerings, ensuring they always adhere to the highest standards.

“My dream is to be the go-to brand for consumers when they think about cannabis products, whether it’s CBD or low-dose THC products,” she states. 

She encourages her customers to see cannabis as a way to cope with their life situations instead of escaping them. At the end of the day, Sarah Choh is just your everyday cannabis enthusiast trying to share the healing journey of cannabis with other women.

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