Startup culture has taken as many turns as your average Hollywood script. The typical out-of-the-garage business celebrates successes and documents near death experiences from the founder(s) who risked everything to bring us something we didn’t know we needed. The classic rags-to-riches story draws audiences of all ages from around the world.
The path to the climactic scene of total success is generally less whimsical or dramatic to portray on our screens. Some entrepreneurs, however, have pivotal moments that they discover accidentally or are driven by outside forces.
Garrett Greller grew up in California, always testing ideas with his father. Greller, co-founder of Hemp and CBD from Uncle Bud, tried and failed many times before entering the third decade of life. He was an entrepreneur before he knew what that meant.
The origin of his entrepreneurial journey was revealed through a medical need story in which the 14-year-old suffered from arthritis in his knees, back, hips and ankles. The curious go-getter began his research and discovered that applying CBD had a huge impact on his state of physical comfort.
Over time and education, Greller found himself at Indiana University Kelley School of Business. However, misaligned professional scenarios caused Greller to change direction while continuing to learn about the medicinal benefits of CBD.
Greller’s film most likely kicks off with a scene of a pen, a letter of offer, and a 20-year-old contemplating the next decade of his life. His thoughts on CBD had become a business on the brink, but was he ready to take the reins?
The skilled scene-stealer that is Greller, he put down his pen, looked back on his early years with curiosity and intuition, and bet big on himself. It also didn’t hurt that he had a keen sense of marketing. The power of the story, it seems, has been in his blood from the start.
This reporter spent time with Greller in Los Angeles on the eve of a major Uncle Bud sponsorship featuring undefeated boxer Ryan Garcia. What follows is a condensed version of several interviews with Greller, her mother and her inner circle of advisers over three days.
Rod Berger: I say that with great respect. There’s an almost romantic notion that I take from you when you talk about the story of Uncle Buds. Stories about you and your father and his influence on you as a person and business owner. It sounds like an idyllic father-son relationship that continues to have a profound impact on your life.
Garrett Greller: The way I see it is that I grew up learning entrepreneurship. From the age of 10, I was passionate about entrepreneurship. I went to meetings at USC with my dad when I was 12. I would come up with ideas from a screwing up jar of peanut butter to start my first business selling duct tape wallets.
So for me, entrepreneurship has always been like sport. I played sports growing up, but I always had a passion for business. I’ve always loved the mix of creativity in business to create solutions to problems.
My dad was always like a sports coach, but sports was a business. So, from an early age, that’s what made me love the process. It’s not something I do because I want to get something out of it. It’s something I do because I love doing it.
Shepherd: Every success story requires a bit of pixy dust to ensure a relatively clutter-free path. I feel like your time at Indiana University served two purposes for you.
Greller: I have always excelled in school. The field in which I found the most success was business and, more specifically, marketing and advertising. I was fortunate to have professors and a university supporting my efforts with Uncle Bud’s.
I would go to my teachers and say to them, “I have a business that I am building. can i use it [assignment] as a project for my business? And they let me. It was an essential element in balancing the life of a student and an entrepreneur. Because I was able to learn and work on my passion, I experienced an academic success that I had not, to date, known.
Shepherd: Was there a moment when you knew you were an entrepreneur? So many people claim to be entrepreneurs, but often they haven’t put their skin in the game. Was there a time when you said, “Sure, I’ve had this business for that time, but now I have crossed a threshold? I am an entrepreneur.
Greller: I think you’re an entrepreneur when you like solving problems. I think everyone has their own definition of an entrepreneur. You can be an entrepreneur in your work in a company if you always strive to creatively solve something new.
I wanted to be an entrepreneur all my life. I didn’t know that I wanted to have my own business. I knew I would have been enterprising in any job I took on, trying to solve problems creatively. I think that’s the entrepreneurial process.
Shepherd: Let’s talk about the business. Let’s talk about consumer education on the benefits of CBD and the realities of market myths and associated stigmas.
Greller: Education is the most important thing for us to succeed. We want to educate people early in their experience with the product. No one knew what CBD was when I launched this product (Uncle Bud’s) with just one painkiller.
I was a kid in California creating a legal version of the hemp product, and I needed to educate everyone. I basically had to say, “Don’t worry; it’s not going to get you high. This is from actuality. It’s like the other things you buy at your local grocery store. Try it. It is a natural product and it will help you.
Like me, I was trying a bunch of prescription drugs that were giving me terrible side effects. But I always tried them because you are told to try different things. I firmly believe that you always want to learn about the positive and negative properties of a product.
So when I first found out about CBD, I wrote a four-page article, put it on my parents’ desk, and said, “Can we try this?” And they were open to it. From that moment I knew I had found a cure for my ailments and began to devote myself to education and helping others.
Shepherd: Let’s talk about the health and wellness industry and wider acceptance. So you’re sort of the new kid on the block. The perception of healthcare is that it resides in an inaccessible ivory tower. Do you care about your acceptance in this community, or are you indifferent to outside perspectives?
Greller: We’re here to innovate in a category that hasn’t changed for quite a long time. The pain relief industry floods us with ads touting the impact, but a significant number of these remedies use chemicals. We are proud that our products are all natural. This is how we disrupt the community as a whole.
And that was the most important thing when releasing this brand, something you can fully trust.
Do not ask me
Shepherd: You have a whole list of celebrities that are part of the Uncle Bud ecosystem. Is it fair to say that your marketing and publicity chops have influenced your cast of such notable athletes and celebrities?
Greller: Celebrities such as Magic Johnson and Toni Braxton, Jane Fonda and Seth Jones support our company and our products. These are recognizable names, not just a 20-year-old with arthritis who said it changed his life.
The impact of their collective participation and endorsement has led to millions of people giving amazing reviews. I never imagined that these trusted names and faces would support my brand. It supports the scenario that a shared mission can go a long way in building communities.
Shepherd: That initial endorsement came from your late father, who met the famous branding expert Bruno Schavi. Many know Schiavi for his work with the Kardashians and Janet Jackson, among others.
Speaking with Schiavi, for this story, he shared that your genuine passion for business made the decision to join Uncle Bud’s easier, even if you’re a Millennial. [laughs]. “When I first met Garrett, he reminded me a lot of myself. When I was his age, I was always thinking about the next big idea. So I have this chance meeting with his dad and I hear that Garrett is 21 and still in college. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of working with a Millennial, but Garrett changed everything. He was super focused from the start and it was a choice easy to associate with. We are incredibly similar and I really enjoy our working relationship.
Greller: If you think about it, I met Bruno, who had a string of successes, and we bonded immediately. My father had always taught me that being an entrepreneur meant being willing to take risks. My dad told me at that time to take a risk and give it away [business] a chance. He told me I could find a job anytime. It was, he said, our chance. At that point I was in, and the rest is history.
I am very aware that the support I received from my late father, my mother, my extended family and friends and Bruno continues to play an important role in the success of Uncle Bud’s.
Greller’s story has only just begun. Though young in the eyes of traditionalists, he embodies the next generation’s unwavering belief that good ideas topple any market villain.
The Kelley School of Business has played a supporting role in the market success and global accolades Greller and Schiavi are currently receiving. Still, more stories about supporting education for the unconventional student could be helpful in accelerating future innovations and stories depicting a unique and dynamic cast of characters.
Greller, the ever-humble and optimistic entrepreneur, bets that audiences and consumers will continue to find magic in his story.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.