By Natalie Kra
Hie Living LLC is true to its name; from tinctures and concentrates, to skincare, to pet products and more – the company offers a diversified line of products with hemp in, well…everything (HIE). Founded by Chyncia Rodgers, a North Carolina native with a passion for clean beauty, Hie Living LLC is a showcase of Rodger’s background in the beauty industry, her entrepreneurial spirit, and proclivity for formulating products that are better for both people and the planet.
When Rodgers first caught wind of the calming benefits of CBD, she wondered to herself how she might harness them to treat the various skin conditions she was familiar with from years of working in the beauty and skincare industries. Eager to learn more about the power of hemp, Chyncia set off on a mission to study the plant and explore the ways in which she could incorporate CBD into the skincare products she knew, loved, and sold as a part of her career.
Initial experimental formulations consisted of oil-based products combined with full spectrum CBD and other anti-inflammatory ingredients. These early prototypes were a hit with both family and friends, motivating Rodgers to find a way to get a foot in the door in the industry.
However, entering an industry dominated by white men as a Black woman was not without challenges. Eager to find a mentor to teach her about hemp first-hand, Rodgers faced many unreturned phone calls and emails, lots of distrust, and the inability to be taken seriously.
Persistent and passionate, Rodgers continued her search and eventually connected with Charles Fesquet, a state-licensed hemp grower and processor. Fesquet saw in Rodgers an eagerness to learn, authenticity, and drive and so he gave her the time, energy, and resources that many others would not.
Under his wing, Rodgers learned the intricacies of growing hemp and processing CBD and just a few months later, they embarked on a partnership to launch what would become Hie Living LLC. Rodgers told Q City Metro that this partnership was an invaluable steppingstone to her success; “I think what has helped me, if I’m being honest, is the fact that my partner is White,” she said. “It’s been a blessing to have him because otherwise, I would be stuck still trying to find out important information.”
Rodgers quickly leveled up her formulation abilities by working with a cosmetic chemist to get properly trained on proper production equipment, how to measure and maintain pH levels, ingredient selection and mixing, and other technical aspects of creating quality CBD products. She also began to submit each product to third-party testing, a form of quality control and accountability. From Hie Living LLC’s inception, Rodgers set high standards for her products that she knew had to be met in order to gain the respect and acknowledgement that she deserved in the industry.
Hie Living LLC’s initial strategy was to provide clean, affordable hemp-based beauty products directly to consumers; however, Rodgers’ vision has since taken a turn. Today, she’s focusing more of her energy on securing B2B sales and strategic partnerships like the recent launch of a co-branded product line with the Charlotte-based sports bar and hookah spot, Hideaway Bar & Lounge. Hie Living LLC has transformed from a DTC model to now include co-branded partnerships, as well as white label contracts, and even consulting services for those that Rodgers works with that include everything from graphic design, regulatory compliance advice, and marketing communications.
Rodgers has bolstered her business model by broadening her ventures, growing the business through strategic expansion. Rodgers is adamant about driving the industry forward through collaboration and aims to create a more inclusive environment within the hemp space by welcoming others into the industry through partnership. Rodgers is a true believer in the power of collaboration; “If the world was made up of people helping people, we would all be so much better versus everyone having to figure it out themselves.”
Diversifying the business is just one way that Rodgers has created a sustainable business model; the company is also currently in the process of transitioning to hydroponically grown hemp plants. Hydroponics involves a soilless form of growing where plants are grown in water filled with nutrients. This form of growing is recognized for a greater water efficiency than its conventional counterparts as well as its ability to shorten the growth cycle by almost 50% – meaning Rodgers can produce more products in less time and with lesser resources (with the exception of electricity).
Considering that only 1.4% of American farmers are Black, and only a small proportion of that are Black women – Rodgers has broken the glass ceiling with her strong entrance into the field. Her story and her successes are paving the way for a more inclusive industry, and it is her hope that she gives women the courage to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures, especially in hemp. Women entrepreneurs are moving the industry forward and it’s time that we rethink the faces of the leaders of hemp.
Expect to see more innovation in the industry from Chyncia Rodgers who has big visions for the future of hemp including partnerships with the housing construction industry and medical practitioners. “I’m in this for the long haul. This is something that I’ve always wanted me to do. I love this and however long it takes, I’m in it for the long run.”
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Natalie Kra is a 3rd year graduate student at the University of Colorado, pursuing both an MBA and a Masters of the Environment. Natalie is focusing her studies around sustainable food systems and hopes to leverage her education and passions to drive impact in the CPG industry.