Topflight athletic recovery: Mending bodies and minds with CBD
Professional female athletes are changing the game. Whether scoring goals or challenging gender discrimination, these women are badass—body and soul. So once the match is won and recovery begins, more and more are turning to the healing power of CBD. Who better to speak to the needs of athletes than female-led Mendi? Heads Lifestyle caught up with CEO Rachael Rapinoe to talk about equality, recovery and Mendi’s role as a confident disruptor.
Heads Lifestyle: MENDI. We love the name. Can you tell us about it?
Rachael Rapinoe: MENDI is it’s own name. There’s nothing out there like it. We want it to become a household name people think of when they want something for pain management, recovery or just to feel better. We think Mendi rolls off the tongue nicely, too.
Whether you’re an elite or everyday athlete, Mendi wants to help people live in harmonious balance. I mean, doesn’t that sound nice?
HL: Sports commentators often declare: “It takes years of hard work to become an overnight success.” Tell us about the hard work that went into the successful launch of Mendi?
RR: Ain’t that the truth! It was the same for my last company and it’s definitely the same for Mendi, although I wouldn’t say we’re successful—yet! Our team had been concepting Mendi for three years before we decided to give it a go. Finally, in January we were accepted into a business accelerator program called The Initiative here in Portland, OR. This pushed our team to take the leap. The accelerator program was five days a week and very intensive. We all did this on top of running our other companies. I really can’t believe we’ve only been working on Mendi for nine months; it feels so much longer than that. Getting to market, announcing Megan Rapinoe and closing our investment round were huge milestones for us. But, this is just the beginning of our journey. To say this has been hard work is an understatement. However, we’re all more than excited for the challenges that lie ahead.
HL: You played professional soccer and suffered numerous sports-related injuries. You also hold a Masters in Health Studies in Exercise. Sounds like you are ideally qualified to speak to the needs of athletes. How did this lead to Mendi?
RR: I’ve been in the business of ‘being your best you’ for quite some time now. In tandem with my educational background, I also started and ran a national soccer and performance training company since 2014. I am more than qualified to speak on the demands of high performance training, as well as the importance of optimal recovery. Not to mention, my athletic background and connection to current professional athletes and all of the stresses they go through daily. In essence, I truly care about well-being and living a balanced life. Whether you’re an elite or everyday athlete, Mendi wants to help people live in harmonious balance. I mean, doesn’t that sound nice?
Former pro soccer player, trainer, coach and Mendi CEO, Rachael Rapinoe.
HL: It sounds great! But why cannabis? What brought you to this industry?
RR: My business partner, Kendra Freeman, brought me to cannabis. I had zero intention of ever getting into this industry until she educated me on the medicinal aspects of the plant. I started to connect the dots to athletes and athletic performance. Then, I started seeing many professional athletes using cannabis as a recovery tool. After doing an abundant amount of research and collecting anecdotal evidence, I believe 100% there needs to be a place for cannabis in sports. The findings are undeniable.
HL: The cannabis narrative is changing dramatically. But Mendi is vying for more than change, your goal is disruption. What would a Mendi future hold for athletes?
RR: The Mendi future is to disrupt the sports and pain management industries. Instead of people grabbing their bottle of Advil, they grab Mendi to help manage their pain and feel better. Ultimately, our job is to improve the lives of athletes using nature’s best tool.
Ultimately, our job is to improve the lives of athletes using nature’s best tool.
HL: Tell us about your starting line-up? How did you put together a balanced team?
RR: Our three MVP products that we decided to go to market with are a mix of propriety formulations and low hanging fruit. We had to launch a delicious gummy, because consumers love them. This was a no-brainer! However, we added a couple of Mendi elements to them by coming to market with a 25mg dosage, vegan and all-natural. Even with simple products like a gummy or soft gel capsule, we will do everything we can to differentiate ourselves from the pack. The Mendi salve stick is our star product and bestseller. We are very excited about the salve stick because it’s our own all-natural formulation. The form factor is different than most other salve products on the market and very functional for athletes. With a 500mg dosage, the efficacy on this product is amazing.
Mendi's MVP products: 100% isolate hemp-derived CBD 25mg dose gummies, salve stick with 500mg of CBD and CBD 25mg dose gel caps.
HL: Your title is CEO and Head Coach. Who’s harder to coach: 11 players on the pitch or an office full of workers?
RR: I’d say a roster full of 11 year olds! LOL! Right now, we have a small Mendi squad but we’ll soon be adding more employees now that we’ve closed our round, so I’ll let you know next year.
HL: What does women-owned mean to you?
RR: Badass! Particularly, in a male-dominated industry you have to be pretty badass to be a female-led sports CBD brand. We’re confident disruptors rapidly gaining the trust of professional athletes. We’re able to do this because we have a genuine story that resonates with many, many people.
We’re confident disruptors rapidly gaining the trust of professional athletes.
HL: Your sister Megan is one of your partners and your first athlete ambassador. She stands for so much more than just her sport. What does she bring to the Mendi team?
RR: Exactly that—so much more than being a soccer player. She and other athletes we are signing stand for equality, equity and are working everyday towards building a brighter future for the next generation. Megan brings a huge network of influencers, brand development and strategy firepower, high-level creative experience, product innovation and legitimacy to the brand.
One-two punch! Rachael with two-time World Cup champion, Olympic gold medalist and Mendi board advisor and athlete ambassador Megan Rapinoe.
HL: “Women and underrepresented minorities are the best agent of change during this time in history when an entire generation of kids who don’t fit in are searching for leaders who personify dignity, grace and power.” Please tell us how Mendi is implementing this statement in its day-to-day operations?
RR: Historically, women and underrepresented minorities are always the ones pioneering the way for change. Mendi is here to disrupt the old ways for managing pain and recovery, so who better to move the needle and fight this important fight with us? We intentionally came to market signing female athletes, first. Every athlete we sign, every employee we hire and every partner we work with will personify all that Mendi is. We are more than just a company selling products. We have something to say to the world. We want to do it all the right way.
HL: It’s a documented fact that professional athletes are overprescribed and often dangerously addicted to prescription painkillers. Can such a gentle alternative like CBD really work? Can it be a first step to addressing the opioid crisis?
RR: CBD does have a subtle effect, but I wouldn’t describe it as gentle. Our body is filled with receptors from head to toe. These receptors give information to our endocannabinoid system, which supports the function of a lot of things. The number one function of our EDS is to keep us at homoeostasis or balance. That is a HUGE job! Evidence does show it can help with opioid withdrawal symptoms, but there is a lot more research to be done on CBD to really grasp the full effect of this cannabinoid. Hopefully, the FDA will allow this to happen soon.
I slowly started using CBD for sleep, stress, inflammation, pain, etc. and the results were astounding. I felt like a new person.
HL: You called your introduction to CBD “organic.” Can you explain this and how you hope to educate the next generation of athletes?
RR: I was never the kid or young adult using cannabis. To be honest, I was a little scared of it because of all the propaganda we were exposed to over the past several decades (War on Drugs era). My introduction to cannabis was through athletes in my mid- to late-twenties, who were using it as a recovery tool. This was the first time I had ever seen anything like it. Then, I slowly started using CBD for sleep, stress, inflammation, pain, etc. and the results were astounding. I felt like a new person. After using CBD consistently for several years now, I’m able to focus for much longer periods of time, I feel calmer, less anxious/stressed and feel much better post-workout. It’s become a part of my daily supplement regimen.
Megan brings a huge network of influencers, brand development and strategy firepower, high-level creative experience, product innovation and legitimacy to the brand.
HL: What makes an elite female athlete?
RR: Elite female athletes have the same makeup as elite male athletes. They’re incredibly competitive, obsessive, self-motivated, high-achieving individuals, disciplined, hardworking, and oh yeah, amazing athletes. There’s no difference, other than a few genetic differences, between elite female and male athletes. They all want the same thing—to be the best.
HL: Tell us about your plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
RR: I cannot disclose our Tokyo 2020 plans, but we will be representing several athletes and will have a new line in market. That’s all I’ll say.
Athletes know when companies are trying to blow smoke up their A$$. We are taking the time to meet with them, listen to their concerns and come up with solutions together.
HL: What’s your game plan for winning the trust of professional athletes and becoming the foremost CBD brand in such a crowded and unregulated marketplace?
RR: We’re rapidly gaining the trust of athletes because we are an honest, transparent and authentic brand that makes high quality products and has something to say. A lot of it is about relationships, but also being genuine. Athletes know when companies are trying to blow smoke up their A$$. We are taking the time to meet with them, listen to their concerns and come up with solutions together. They like being a part of the process. Everything we do has a different level of thoughtfulness and detail, compared to what you see on the market today.
Athlete built and approved. The Mendi hemp CBD salve stick can be used daily to stay balanced and at top performance.
HL: Let’s talk about the products—vegan, gluten-free, all-natural, and hemp-derived. Tell us about the decisions regarding the development of your product line?
RR: Again, we want to be differentiated with our products and brand. Going the extra mile to be all-natural, vegan, high bioavailability, high dosages and premium design/packaging elements to further separate us from the noise is critical. Consumers like companies who are detailed and can authentically story tell around their products.
HL: Where do you source your CBD?
RR: We source our hemp CBD from Colorado at the moment, although down the road we want everything to come from Oregon. Our supply chain is all-natural from start to finish and we definitely are concerned with being an environmentally sustainable company. Our goal is to be one of the most cutting-edge CPG companies in regards to biodegradable form factors.
HL: As a retired professional athlete, can you give us your elevator pitch for equal pay?
RR: If you don’t invest in the women’s game, it will never make as much as the men’s game. Bottom line. People try to make the argument that women’s sports don’t bring in as much revenue as men’s sports—that’s completely false. If we continue to give men’s sports a 100-mile lead, they will always make more money. They both need to start at the same line; otherwise it will never be equal.
HL: Heading a start-up is a lot of work and stress. What do you do to relax?
RR: Above anything else, I make sure to get enough sleep! It is the most important thing you can do for your body, especially if you’re stressed. Of course, I work out, eat healthy, take my vitamins (and CBD), etc. But I don’t mess around with my sleep.
Lear more about Mendi at: themendico.com
And follow them on Instagram at: @themendico