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Business Beat - Columbia Startup Looks to Cultivate Wellness, Cannabis Understanding

Zhihan Huang/Missouri Business Alert
Kristen Williams, CEO, founder and creative director of the startup Hempsley, sits in her office at The Hatchery coworking space in Columbia.

Kristen Williams, CEO and creative director of Hempsley, achieved what she considers a big accomplishment — she convinced her grandparents in Alabama to try CBD oil. They’re even recommending her business to their friends.

Williams’ ever-evolving company sells CBD and aims to educate the public about cannabinoids like CBD. And for her, getting her reluctant grandparents to try CBD was a big deal.

Williams considers herself an advocate of cannabis — the name of a plant that refers to both marijuana and hemp. In order for cannabis to be considered hemp, it must be less than .03% THC, the chemical that produces a “high” in marijuana. CBD is a non-psychoactive compound derived from hemp.

Williams said she decided to stay in Columbia, where she believes cannabis products are less accepted, because she finds it rewarding to change the opinions of people who are apprehensive about CBD.

But Williams wasn’t always so accepting of cannabis products.

“D.A.R.E did a good one with me,” Williams said. “I was very scared.”

It wasn’t until Williams’ second year of college that a friend she trusted convinced her to do more research about cannabis. She said she tried cannabis herself, and realized it wasn’t what she thought it was. Then, she heard the story of Charlotte Figi, a girl who was having more than 300 violent seizures a week, and was being treated with CBD extract.

“Coming from the background I do, I understood the public’s concern, but I had also done all the research and I understood why this little girl wasn’t getting high and I wanted to just help people understand,” Williams said. “Because they clearly just didn’t understand, at the root of why cannabis and CBD works is this amazing system — the endocannabinoid system.”

Several studies have shown links to CBD as an effective treatment for severe epilepsy like Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, according to a Harvard medical school blog. It’s also commonly used to treat anxiety, insomnia and inflammation caused by arthritis. However, there is no comprehensive study about the true effectiveness of CBD.

Williams said she knows CBD doesn’t help everyone, but her goal is to give people the confidence to at least try it. She considers CBD a tool in the “wellness toolbox,” of natural remedies like herbs, essential oils and massage.

To read more, see our partners at Missouri Business Alert.