Women to Watch: Kristen Williams
By Brandon Dunn
You may recognize the name or face, as we’ve been lucky enough to share features written by Kristen Williams, CEO and creative director of Hempsley, in the past. Over the past two years, Williams has taken her one woman brand and turned it into a resource for a growing community, and a staple in a rising industry. But growth and recognition did not come without struggle.
Williams said, “Two years ago, CBD was not as popular as it is now and while lots of people and companies were supportive of me on the down-low, no one wanted to publicly associate with Hempsley, whether it was hanging a sign in their store or liking our Facebook post. It took a lot of patience and relationship building to gain trust in the community.”
“Beyond the other myriad of challenges, the mountain we’re facing now is payment processing for our ecommerce shop. As a ‘startup,’ we don’t have the financial backing to get us any kind of reasonable rates right now, and it’s significantly hindering our business.” But through perseverance and dedication, Williams is no longer alone. “I have been the sole owner,” Williams explains, “Starting in July 2019, we are converting to the Slicing Pie equity model and I will have two other joint owners.”
Recently, Williams was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to tell us more about herself, Hempsley, why she chooses cannabis, and what it’s like being a woman in the cannabis industry.
Greenway: What does Hempsley do?
Williams: Hempsley is a Wellness Guidance company that introduces the basic science behind a variety of natural wellness tools that can support your endocannabinoid system such as CBD, herbs, essential oils and more so that you can begin taking better care of yourself and your loved ones.
We have an online shop as well as a quaint storefront in Columbia, Missouri, where we host educational wellness workshops, one-on-one guidance sessions, and sell only the best of the best CBD products available from around the world.
We also create printed educational materials and digital content to make information about how cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system both accessible and approachable to the layperson. We offer wholesale, licensing, and collaboration opportunities to other cannabis and wellness companies interested in bringing this to their audiences.
Greenway: What makes Hempsley special?
Williams: Rather than go out and create our own line of CBD products, we focus on educating the consumer about how to choose products that are safe and best for their specific needs. Sales come second to education at Hempsley, and you can trust that we’ll never try to sell you something that we don’t truly believe could benefit your wellbeing.
With 70% of CBD products on the market being mislabeled or contaminated, our goal is to create a haven for consumers and empower them with knowledge so that they can make decisions that are best for them. We have a rigorous onboarding process for all the products that we carry, ensuring that every product has been lab tested, was ethically created, and thoroughly reviewed by our own trusted team. When you shop with Hempsley, you can have confidence that the product you are purchasing is safe.
Greenway: What plans does Hempsley have for Missouri?
Williams: Rather than apply for a dispensary license, we decided that we wanted to be the bridge between the new consumer and the cannabis industry itself. Especially in Missouri, many people are still apprehensive about using cannabis; our goal is to help patients feel confident starting a conversation with their doctor or walking into a dispensary for the first time.
Greenway: How did you start Hempsley?
Williams: I created Hempsley in January 2017 out of a deep, inner need to share the therapeutic and non-intoxicating benefits of this plant with my community and the people who raised me. At the time, there simply wasn’t a resource that I felt comfortable sending my grandma or my neighbor down the street to that wasn’t going to make me look like a “stoner” or incriminate me in some way. Hempsley was designed specifically to target a conservative, skeptical, Midwestern audience.
Greenway: What is Hempsley’s mission?
Williams: Our official mission is: To empower you with knowledge so that you can begin taking better care of yourself and your loved ones.
Other missions include framing cannabis as being just another tool in your wellness toolbox alongside herbs, essential oils, etc., and giving advocates of cannabis medicine the tools they need to share confidently with the people in their lives.
Greenway: How did you get into cannabis?
Williams: I grew up a very “good kid,” completely against cannabis. In college, an evening of lecturing a good friend about their “drug” use turned into me being scolded for not having done my own research and trying it myself. This was someone I trusted, so I took what they said to heart, did the research, and tried it — and, of course, realized that it wasn’t what I had thought at all. A year later in 2013, I heard the story of Charlotte Figi, the little girl using CBD oil to subdue her over 300 grand-mal seizures per week, and became distraught over the public’s backlash against her parents.
I’ve always had an activist’s heart with a weakness for children in pain, so I entered the cannabis industry as a graphic designer to help give the new and emerging brands a professional and credible face to help destigmatize the plant. After 3 years of freelancing from Missouri and experiencing tons of legal markets and events, I became desperate for a way to bring this medicine back to my own community and launched Hempsley in January 2017.
Greenway: Why did you choose cannabis?
Williams: Cannabis brings me back to my body and helps me through anxiety, migraines, and intense chronic back pain. Beyond myself, however, cannabis has helped thousands of people get their lives back — whether it’s a child suffering from seizures or a terminal cancer patient, cannabis has the potential to help improve quality of life without severe side effects, and I fully believe that everyone should be able to make the choice as to whether or not they want to integrate it into their lives.
On the flip side, I want to teach people how to use this plant in a responsible and healthy way. While death is not a side effect, there are still side effects, and people should be aware of them so that they can make educated decisions for themselves.
Greenway: What is it like being a woman in your field?
Williams: The cannabis industry is a unique space in that it has a strong and infinitely supportive female community, which I am so honored to be a part of. I have felt the challenge of being taken seriously as a young woman — but I’ve learned how to use my perceived weakness, as I call it, to my own advantage and utilize my network of powerful, wonderful women.
Greenway: What are you most excited about with medicinal marijuana in Missouri?
Williams: Patients having access to cannabis! This is huge for helping destigmatize cannabis use (you can no longer say it isn’t legal!), and I’m excited to have the opportunity to educate even more people about why this plant could benefit them. Ultimately, I just want to help people feel and live better!