Paola Fernandez, is the founder & CEO of High Hemp, an ancillary cannabis company. She is a deeply ambitious person who has created her own unique line of ultra-high quality, specialized cannabis wrappers. What her dreams have actualized is the precise, attention to detail manufacturing of flavored and unflavored, tobacco-free wrappers. Cannabis wrappers are commonly used for rolling up cannabis blunts. Blunts typically are made with loose cannabis stuffed into a tobacco leaf. The use of tobacco is problematic because the nicotine that tobacco contains is highly carcinogenic. This chemical, nicotine found in the tobacco leaf negates any healing benefits of the cannabis. There are much healthier alternatives to smoking harsh tobacco leaf wrappers such as hemp, a natural alternative to carcinogenic wrappers. Tobacco and cannabis, are really not so perfect together, even though they have a long and tempestuous history. Offering an alternative to the typical tobacco wrap, Paola has set her mind to work and she created her line that is described, quite clearly as the anti-tobacco wrap.
Brilliant she is!
Please enjoy this interview. Paola has it going on and she deserves success in her own way.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Why cannabis? What was your path to the plant? I noticed you are the anti-tobacco wrap. Any reason? (I don’t use tobacco and find it generally off-putting); Health reason? Social?
Paola Fernandez=PF: My personal path to cannabis started before I was even aware of what the plant was. Growing up, my father was an entrepreneur in his hometown of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and established the first head shop known to that area in 1986 four years before I was born. I have vivid memories of spending time at the shop with groovy black light posters, lighters, tapestry, and ashtrays. They all had a leaf on them, once I got older I realized that leaf that stood out to me was the cannabis leaf. My dad continued in the smoking accessories business and also ventured into the traditional tobacco manufacturing business. Creating products like flavored cigarette paper, tobacco blunt wraps, and cigars. I spent my early twenties dividing my time between the head shop and helping him develop new brands from his business. That time is what really guided me to the plant.
Spending my time every day at the head shop helping people navigate through the ever-increasing amount of accessories to smoke your preferred plant. It gave me a real insight as to how many possibilities there are to smoke. With every person having their own rituals and preferences. The second part of my time was spent developing products for said clients through my father’s tobacco business. What stuck to me the most with this insight was the need for a tobacco-free option to roll blunts, which is a form of rolling a cigar with a sheet of homogenized tobacco paper (blunt wrap), a tobacco leaf, or taking a traditional cigar and replacing the inside with your preferred herb. Reading the effects nicotine has on the body is shocking, especially when mixed with plants like cannabis.
I also saw a first-hand account of how these tobacco products were made, including processing with heavy chemicals, harsh pesticides, child labor to farm tobacco leaves, and as I mentioned earlier very large amounts of nicotine. All of these eye-opening experiences pushed me to find a solution that would be the complete opposite of what is offered to consumers today. Arriving at the perfect solution, why not wrap your cannabis with hemp? Taking the traditional papermaking process and stripping it away from all its harsh chemicals. Creating a simple organic hemp sheet, keeping the hemp so untouched it tests positive for CBDs. This product revolutionized the industry and created its own category in the dominant tobacco industry. Clients fell in love with the idea of being able to enjoy the “blunt wrap” experience without all the disadvantages of tobacco with the added benefits of hemp. Newly added taxes and regulations added to tobacco products, we were able to dominate the market very quickly.
WB: Please tell me about your company. What do you do which is different, therefore better than your competition? What is your 6 & 12-month goals?
PF: In 2016 our company created a revolutionary product, hemp wraps. An all-organic sheet of hemp paper made to roll your own herbs. Sold in a foil pouch equipped with two hemp wraps, and two cardboard filter tips. This small kit was the product that skyrocketed our sales, almost immediately. Being first to market definitely has its advantages as we hit tradeshows with a one of a kind product, taking everyone by surprise. This product completely eliminates the need to use tobacco ever again. Rolling cannabis with hemp sheets just seemed like the obvious answer all along. Creating this product every step that we take is a conscious effort to benefit our customers smoking experience, and the environment. We pride ourselves in only using all-natural products, and organic hemp.
While also eliminating as much plastic as we can from our packaging. In the next six months, we hope to launch our next big project hemp sheesha. We are transforming a 400-year-old tradition, which traditionally uses high concentrations of tobacco with a one of a kind hemp replacement. This hemp sheesha is made with all organic ingredients to create a relaxing smoke. The CBDs in the hemp base will relax every part of your body. On our to-do list as well is to continue adding to our line of flavors. This is a part of creating High Hemp Wraps that I love. Being able to launch and surprise our consumer with a new flavor, is by far my favorite part of the job. Curating each flavor and making a unique blend to wake the senses as you smoke. I’m hoping to be the Baskin-Robbins of hemp wraps.
WB: Do you have a mentor? What about stigmas? What is the market that you want to penetrate the most, why?
PF: I have a few mentors that have helped me throughout my entrepreneurship journey, but out of everyone, my dad has definitely been the one to open my eyes. He showed me hat with hard work, and determination you can be successful being your own boss. Always creating long-lasting relationships with honesty and integrity. Never reaching a limit to what you can create. Cannabis/Hemp business even with the awakening we’ve had in the past years is still very much stigmatized. Especially when it comes to everyday business operations such as banking, and insurance. With the addition of being a brown female in the LGBTQ community, my business is at times questioned, which I feel like other groups wouldn’t struggle with. There’s a market that I would like to penetrate that I believe is overlooked. The cannabis market has been heavily dominated by males. I would like to create a different approach that also speaks to the woman consumer. As they become more comfortable openly smoking we hope our product speaks to them.
WB: Do you cook? Who taught you? Do you have a food memory you’d like to share? Favorite (pre-covid19) restaurant, where?
PF: I love cooking, it’s definitely one of my favorite past times. From watching my mom and binge-watching the food channel I curated my own style of cooking. One of my favorite memories was taco Tuesdays. My mom and I would create delicious vegan tacos, with portabella mushrooms replacing the meat. One of my favorite meals to this day. My favorite restaurant pre-COVID has to be this local Mexican restaurant in my local town. From their chips and salsa to a variety of tacos you can never go wrong.
WB: What is your passion?
PF: For me, life’s biggest passion would be creating. Either a product, marketing campaign, or new business. I’m most happy watching ideas grow from a thought to a fully developed concept. The endless work that goes into creating is always, rewarded at the end. Waking up every day with the privilege to create my own ideas is a blessing. I would hate a world where I had to conform to a 9 to 5 and manifest for someone else.