Founders of Scottish CBD company see potential for products to be used in rugby

Ian McLaren and Sam Williamson launched CBDIABLO in 2019 and are determined that the business' growth won't lead to a change in ethos

Sam Williamson and Ian McLaren launched CBDiablo in March 2019 with a mission to grow a successful business and to support the 'Campaign Against Living Miserably'. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Sam Williamson and Ian McLaren launched CBDiablo in March 2019 with a mission to grow a successful business and to support the 'Campaign Against Living Miserably'. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

JUST over five years ago, Ian McLaren [IM] and Sam Williamson [SW] were self-employed digital marketeers, stressed-out, exhausted and struggling to make ends meet. They were certain that a more fulfilling way of life was out there, but had no idea what that might look like.

Their moment of enlightenment came when they picked up some work from a CBD [cannabidiol] supplier and recognised an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an industry with huge growth potential and the capacity to provide a wider benefit to society.

So, they took a leap of faith and launched CBDIABLO in March 2019, just a few months before the Covid pandemic.


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The world has changed a lot since then, and it has been a heck of a journey for this pair and their business, as part of an industry which has gone from niche to mainstream, used and endorsed by top athletes across the globe as a means of boosting mood, enhancing relaxation and managing symptoms, from muscle pains to insomnia.

SW:

“When we started out, you could only buy CBD from independent vape shops, with a guy behind the counter who has long hair, a big beard and a random CBD rack. Now, just five years later, you can buy CBD as part of a Waitrose meal deal!”

IM:

“Before we started this, we were really stressed with work as tech geeks. It was our first business and we were draining all our savings just trying to get it up and running. I remember constantly trying to fix people’s website in the middle of the night, so I wasn’t sleeping very well at all. Then I tried CBD and instantly felt more relaxed.

“We had marketed CBD products and we’d tried them out, so we had a bit of experience and we were sure we could do it better by providing a higher-quality and wider range of products, and by offering a better service.

“We already had connections, we were already operating in that atmosphere, so we put in a small chunk of money each – it was a lot for us at the time – which all went into our first batch, then we used our marketing skills to create a website and took it from there. Every time we sold out the oils, we would reinvest it, and here we are now. Still an independent and self-funded Scottish company.

“Initially it was more of a side-hustle, but then Covid came and wiped out all of our [digital marketing] clients. They were removal companies, roofers, physiotherapists – industries that were really hit by lockdown – so we stopped billing them and CBD took over.

“We started out as this niche, rebellious company, but the industry itself is becoming mainstream – it is no longer tucked away on an obscure shelf in a vape shop but become mass-market – and our company is going from being a small, folky, kind of silly experiment into competing with some of the biggest companies on earth.

“CBD is becoming something people use regularly because the benefits are proven, and you can see a track record.”

 

 

CBD was legalised in the UK in 2016 but, inevitably, there remains some anxiety about a product which comes from cannabis extract. This is a source of both frustration and wry amusement for the pair.

SW:

“It is just a supplement, at the end of the day. People aren’t adverse to using other supplements. We test it for toxins. It is a natural product. The cannabis bit is the thing we need to address head on.”

IM:

“CBD faces many challenges. It is a compound that is associated with cannabis – ‘bad’  – but also has huge potential as a formidable force for good. Still today, a stigma follows CBD.

“So, we set out to go against the grain, to do better and be different. Always be bold and – most importantly –sometimes just have fun!

“With the help of our customers over the years, we have produced and perfected unquestionably high-quality and uniquely effective CBD products to support both body and mind.

“It is not like taking Vitamin C. It is a different product, it is exponentially more powerful in many ways, and it works on different systems. Vitamins are our building blocks whereas CBD interacts with our nervous system via the endocannabinoid system.

“It does have that connotation of ‘if I take this will it be too strong or do something weird to me?’ so that is a difficulty all CBD companies have, but the products are tested, and they have been carefully crafted to comply with legislation so our products are completely legal.”

The science and legislation behind it is all a bit complicated and convoluted, so the pair reference their own website, where they have put a lot of effort in to describing their products and the value they offer.

Click HERE to find out more.

 

 

For Ian and Sam, the journey has been about much more than seeing their hunch about CBD confirmed and their business grow. It has been an opportunity to engage in causes they believe passionately about.

IM:

“We started the business because we both wanted a change in our career path, and we wanted to do something we could feel good about, something we could be proud of. We also wanted to do something that could raise money for charity, particularly mental health charities, because that is something which has touched both of our lives.

“The male suicide rate is horrendous – we could see there was an issue here and it is something that has affected me in my life – so we wanted to create something which could help fund whatever needs to be done to tackle that issue.

“Then CBD came along, it was something we used, could feel the benefit of, and we could see that it was a product with a lot of potential for doing good, with something perceived as being bad.  I think that appealed to our sense of humour and is why we went for the diablo – devil – theme.

“It was a leap of faith, but we knew we had to do something we enjoyed and found rewarding, to break the endless cycle of monotonous monthly reports and endless client driven pressures.”

SW:

“I remember trying it and just thinking: ‘Wow, I’m sleeping better and I feel better’. We had tried supplements before but nothing where it was the full body experience.”

IM:

“Our product might be quite expensive compared to some other suppliers, but that’s because we searched high and wide to make sure the quality of the oil is the best that we can find.

“It’s not about the first purchase, but the people who come back time and again, which led us to a group of manufacturers who supply a product which actually works rather than just the gimmick of CBD.”

 

 

The company has enjoyed solid growth and was recently named one of the “13 best CBD oils to help boost your mood, enhance relaxation and manage symptoms” by The Independent newspaper, but Ian and Sam are keen to stress that they have not lost sight of the fundamental principles they started out pursuing – with 20 percent of profits still being directed towards their chosen charity.

IM:

“The Calm [Campaign Against Living Miserably] Zone is a mental health crisis phone-line where people can call in if they or somebody they are close to is having suicidal thoughts.

“When I was a teenager I was bullied and had really bad mental health which included suicidal thoughts.  Then, when I got to university, I got sick with a recurring chest infection which led to depression and struggling to function, so my life had quite heavily impacted with my mental health and even today it’s something I have to deal with every day, but I’ve gotten to a place where I’m on top of it.”

Both are keen rugby supporters and are confident that their products are ideally suited to those who play the sport at either elite or club/social level. Two years ago they became the front-of-kit sponsors for the Edinburgh Eagles rugby league team and were blown away by how much their support was appreciated by the players and their families.

IM:

“After one game, a parent came over and thanked us because our contribution had helped the boys have that environment they all loved being in, and that was really touching because we were just trying to do something nice and probably hadn’t thought much about what it meant.

“We’re really into our rugby, union and league. And we’re really into the wellness aspect of it, which might not be the language you naturally associate with the sport, but it is one of rugby’s great underlying strengths – because it is about being fit and healthy, it is also about community, about working hard and looking out for each other, and it is about enjoying what you are doing.

“Part of the reason we support rugby clubs is down to the fact that it connects with our mission to support mental health in our local communities. They are a place where people go for community and a sense of belonging.”

SW:

“These people are thrashing their bodies around on a Saturday and those playing at club level need to recover to get back to work on the Monday, and I think that’s something we can help with.

“I remember thinking at the start of this that most brands in our industry seemed pretty boring, so we hope that we’re playing a part in changing that.

“As Ian has said, the idea behind our diablo brand is doing some good with something that sometimes has bad connotations – hemp and cannabis. We have gone to extreme lengths to research and develop our oils, capsules, gummies and other products using the knowledge we have picked up over the years.

“Now we are at the point where we feel we have put together a range that can rival the most established CBD brands in the UK.

“There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to cannabinoids, and we pride ourselves on providing products which are industry-leading in quality, research and development. From the formulas we use, to farming methods employed, to CO2 extraction methods, every aspect of our products must be as good as can be achieved.

“We’re focussed on quality. There are a lot of companies which will produce something which tastes nice but what we’ve tried to do is offer products which are actually effective.”

 

 

Reading references:

  • For a full explainer (history and how the ECS works) click HERE.
  • For more information on CBD as a compound, click HERE.
  • To find out more about Ian and Sam’s back story, click HERE.

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