Last year, Shirley Holleran Clark found herself on a path to a new business opportunity thanks to her aching feet. “I have plantar fasciitis,” said Clark, the owner of Gold Coast Mobile Massage in Fairfield. “When I woke up in the morning, it felt like my feet were collapsing.”
Clark had tried numerous exercises and treatments but was unable to find any long-term relief for her condition. Last spring, she was experimenting with formulas for a cannabinoid-infused massage cream, and she theorized her solution might help her painful feet. “It’s made with cannabidiol (CBD) that’s derived from industrial hemp,” she explained. “This makes it legal in all 50 states without a prescription. Historically, CBD has been known for pain and inflammation.”
Clark rubbed her cream on her feet for about a week, and then stopped after the discomfort from her plantar fasciitis abated. She was distracted by other pursuits and concerns and the problems with her plantar fasciitis faded from memory.
Clark believed that her formula could be bottled and marketed, but then found herself with a new task: she launched Gold Coast Mobile Massage in September 2016 after working for a decade as a licensed massage therapist for a number of chiropractic and physical therapy offices, and she initially felt she was not ready to create a second company to produce of her cream. For starters, she didn’t know what to call her product.
“For a while, I was calling it ‘Lotion Potion,’” she admitted, with a laugh. “I hate naming things with a passion. I called the new company Sholla Therapies LLC because Sholla was my nickname growing up and it is a combination of my first and original last name.”
Clark eventually decided to call her cream Mago Green as a tribute to her heritage and family. “Mago is the Korean mythological goddess of hemp,” she continued. “I’m half-Korean, and my mom is from South Korea. She grew up in a little hut on a mountain and she said her dad was the medicine man of the mountain. People would come to their hut and he would crush up herbs and give it to them.”
Despite the cannabinoid presence in Mago Green, Clark noted that spreading it on the body will not induce a case of reefer madness because tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high, is absent from the hemp used in her product. “I just can’t put pot on people,” she stated.
One obstacle Clark faced was finding a vendor who could provide her with the CBD quality she desired. “That is my secret ingredient,” she said, declining to identify her eventual choice of supplier. “There are so many companies and they could be selling snake oil – you don’t know what you’re getting.”
After using herself as a test case, Clark tried out her Mago Green formula on a friend’s grandmother who was burdened with a rash and a friend of her father’s who was dealing with arthritis in his hand and non-diabetic neuropathy in his foot. And while stressed that she cannot make medical curative claims with her formula, she noted there were positive pain relief results in both test cases.
Clark launched Sholla Therapies in September, one year after Gold Coast Mobile Massage began. She estimated her start-up costs were around $1,500, with the rather low expense level maintained due to donated assistance at several points, including a graphic artist massage client who created her labeling and a friend who laid the foundation of her website. She also maintained a soft launch for the product, which she creates at home and packages in four-ounce jars.
Mago Green has been sold via wholesale in one-dozen batches to massage therapists, spas and chiropractors across Connecticut and in Arizona, California, Rhode Island and Tennessee, while the product has been sold for $49 to individuals via postings on Facebook. While Clark is interested in expanding Mago Green into retail stores and has considered offering a larger sized jar, she prefers to roll out the product at her own speed and is in no hurry to move into mass production.
“My passion is in the product and doing the massage,” she said. “All of the business stuff is new to me and it has been a learning experience.”