April 9, 2020
The message of personal hygiene, with an emphasis on hand washing, is a message many Americans have heard loud and clear as a means to thwart infection and the slow the spread of coronavirus during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Common stringent hand sanitizers are good at killing the germs, too—if you can find them. But people in panic-mode have stripped store shelves clean, and online sales have driven the cost of hand sanitizer to more than $130 a bottle in some cases.
That’s led to businesses throughout the country, like distilleries, making alternative products. But in Arkansas, a different type of business has stepped up. Shake Brands Corp.—a platform for cannabis brand licensing, product manufacturing and retail distribution in Arkansas—got to work developing hand sanitizers.
Starting April 9, Shake was dispersing it by the gallon out of its USDA-certified lab to police officers and city hall staff in Johnson, Arkansas. That version of the product does not include a hemp extraction, but a version now being sold online does.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to give people access to the products they need at affordable prices,” says Antigone Davoulas, Shake’s general counsel and “Business Bud”. “Our aim is to keep it simple and offer products that comfort customers at a time when panic buying and price gouging are on the rise.”
Mixology on a timeline
According to Shake scientist, Syrona Scott (“Beaker Bud”), the infused hand sanitizer for sale combines alcohol with aloe and Shake’s hemp extract, which has antimicrobial properties. The aloe helps soothe cracked hands often dried out by other ingredients, Scott says.
“Now more than ever, it’s important to give people access to the products they need at affordable prices.”
“Though cannabidiol is a naturally occurring chemical present in industrial hemp extracts, it’s not what gets people high,” Scott explains, “however it is part of a heavily regulated industry.”
Scott and Davoulas say this particular formulation was developed in less than three weeks. That speedy development helped get it into the hands of those on the front lines in Arkansas, who badly needed it.
“It feels purposeful to have the data come together so we meet a need and the shortage,” says Scott. “If we can use our abilities—in whatever capacity—to keep the people going on the front lines safe, it’s deeply rewarding.”
Protecting the industry
According to Davoulas, Shake is also assisting farmers and small business owners in the hemp industry, positioning them for life after the crisis.
“We’re helping our independent industrial hemp farmer clients on things like building brand equity and government certifications that will help set them apart from the fierce competition,” Davoulas says.
To that end, she suggests farmers use this pre-planting season to “sow” trademark registrations, complete paperwork for USDA certifications and develop clean packaging design—all steps to help them grow. Shake is also mentoring farmers by sharing information on everything from weeding through hefty regulations to supply chain issues—even fronting farmers the money for application fees, Davoulas says.
She also recommends transitioning to online retail and mobile platforms.
Other experts recommend scrutinizing insurance policies in the wake of COVID-19-related expenses, and one attorney even says providing paper documents helped his business reopen when it was closed by Chinese regulators.
“The rules for guidance during public health emergencies change by the minute and whether you grow hemp or not, you need to be agile and adaptive,” she says. “The only true capital you have is yourself and your team, so lean on your personal relationships and people you can trust. Also, work with local banks and advertisers, and get people on the phone if you need help. But keep advertising.”
And keep those hands clean.