Interview with Krista Whitley, Founder & CEO, Altitude Products
Prior to January 2019’s launch event in London, our conference producer David Jones sat down with Krista Whitley of Altitude Products to gain a wider understanding of the market’s appetite for CBD/ Cannabis products on the West Coast of the US.
David Jones (DJ): Hey Krista, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. For our readers could you please introduce yourself, your company and product range
Krista Whitley (KW): I’m the founder and CEO of Altitude Products. Altitude Products is on a mission to save lives by replacing dangerous pills with innovative plant medicine alternatives. Our plant medicine empire includes some of the best-selling premium brands in existence in the United States today, with six THC brands and ten CBD brands offering over 350 SKUs. With a broad range of consumption methods, every product we offer serves a medicinal wellness purpose. As a 100% female Board of Directors with a 100% female leadership team, our diversity has been a distinct advantage in the marketplace.
DJ: What are some of the unique challenges you face in the Cannabis industry?
KW: I started Altitude Products on my couch, determined to bring professionalism and polish to cannabis brands. For the first 2 1/2 years we grew organically, having raised no investment to build the industry’s premier branding and advertising organization. When we finally set out to raise investment to expand into products we faced challenges that are uniquely female. One high profile cannabis investor told me it was “cute” that I wanted to build “a real business”; while another made crude comments about cannabis celebrities after my pitch. As the mother to two young girls, I am acutely aware of how my success as a leader sets a positive example for them and for all women who aspire to lead.
DJ: What developments on the horizon could impact future opportunities?
KW: The most pressing development on the horizon for our industry is the clarity that the passage of the Hemp Farm Act in the United States will provide. Once we have clarity that hemp extracted CBD is legal in all 50 states, the next opportunity will be to achieve FDA compliance to ensure safety for all consumers. Our facility in Las Vegas, Nevada already exceeds those standards and we test our CBD products at the same standard we require THC products to be tested, so we view this as an incredible opportunity to have scalable momentum. Expansion of our family of brands internationally is a real time opportunity for our leadership team, which is why we are participating in the Future Cannabis Strategies Europe conference. Our organization has experienced tremendous success thanks to our ability to collaborate and we are actively seeking like-minded partners in the European market.
DJ: What advice would you give to industry professionals just starting out in the industry?
KW: My advice to any professionals starting out in the cannabis industry are to seek out and learn from the most accomplished professionals in the industry that you can find. I was lucky during the first two years of my company because I had the opportunity to spend time in the earliest days in Washington, Colorado, California, and Massachusetts, which gave me a broader perspective of the industry. Most importantly, it provided me the opportunity to nurture friendships in each of those markets, which has led to a network of industry leaders who genuinely care about my vision. As a start up industry, cannabis is still maturing and the technology changes all the time, so embrace that change and root yourself in relationships with leaders.
DJ: Where do you see the global cannabis market over the next 5 years?
KW: The global cannabis market in five years will see plant medicine achieve a level of mainstream acceptance that is almost incomprehensible today. With federal legalization on the horizon in many modernized nations, we will see the expansion of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana consumption for adults 21 and older. Most importantly, the clinical research studies that are underway today will bear fruit by this time and we will no longer be relying on anecdotal evidence for the health claims made for plant medicine products. It is my great hope that by this time the majority of households will see natural plant medicine solutions in their medicine cabinets, forcing big pharma to invest in the plant medicine industry.
DJ: How have laws and regulations impacted the industry in your current markets?
KW: Altitude Products has been based in Las Vegas, Nevada since inception and I have always been proud of Nevada’s regulatory environment. Nevada has arguably the most regulated cannabis ecosystem on planet Earth, which ensures consumers a safe consumption experience and has resulted in a safer community for families. Nevada’s example of strict testing for THC products has led our organization to apply those same best practices to our hemp extracted CBD products, which gives us a level of consumer confidence that is rare. As a mother, I embrace common sense regulations because they keep my children and community safe. Everything we create is created through the lens of a mother. If it doesn’t help the consumer to feel healthier or happier, we don’t do it.
DJ: How do you manage a new product launch within the industry? What tactics, strategies and processes do you use?
KW: Altitude Products recently launched Black Belt CBD Products, a line of supplements exclusively for the Jiu Jitsu and MMA community that include protein, pre workout, and recover products to minimize inflammation and expedite recovery. When we looked at getting into this segment of our industry we sought out experts in the field, which led to our collaboration with Jiu Jitsu legend Robert Drysdale and UFC Hall of Fame Frank Mir. Relying on their expertise as fighters we worked to formulate the most premium products in flavors we knew fighters were already seeking. Our collaboration went deeper, though, as my youngest daughter (Mia) and I noticed that female fighters were fighting for much smaller purses than the men. Men would be competing in tournaments for $50,000, while women would be lucky to fight for $2500-$5000. The inequality was blatant and unacceptable. Robert, Frank, and I are all parents of bad ass little ladies, so we knew that we had an opportunity to do something positive to impact lasting change. So, we decided to launch the brand at the Black Belt CBD Invitational, which is the first time in the history of fighting that women will fight for the same $30,000 purse. Everyone else in our industry is focused on fighting for the majority, but we have consciously decided to collaborate with industry experts to create premium wellness products in underserved niche markets. As a result, we launched the Black Belt CBD Product brand with over $2 million in pre orders from the most prestigious Jiu Jitsu and MMA gyms throughout America.
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