This Millennial Founder Is Making CBD Less Serious & More Diverse

One way to deal with anxiety? Start your own CBD company during a pandemic.

Photo by Kimberly Crooks ; Illustration by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist

When Kimberly Crooks graduated from college, everything was coming together. She landed a job she felt passionate about, and she was being paid well. But she felt anxious knowing the job stability at the small business was not concrete, and frankly, she still felt just as anxious as she did when she was unemployed. She’d always struggled with feeling overwhelmed to the point of regular panic attacks, and those spikes in stress had not waned. As she looked into ways to manage it, CBD came up a lot. The problem for Crooks—a 24-year-old struggling to negotiate chronic anxiety and the lifestyle of a social 20something—was that the CBD products out there felt so damn serious

“At that time, over the past couple years, the options for CBD were limited to the really big players in the industry, and they had very medical, clinical vibes,” explains Crooks, now based in Houston, Texas. “It was not something I wanted to pull out while at work or when hanging out with friends. I didn't want that jarring packaging to force me to talk about why I was taking CBD.”

Crooks didn’t care about a label emblazoned in buzzwords like “extra strength” and “50,000 mg CBD” in size 24 font. She wanted something cute. Something portable; something realistic for young professionals going from work to dinner with friends with nothing but their small purse. So Crooks founded Chill Mary, a CBD company that would make CBD more accessible (and more fun) for people like her that felt intimidated by mainstream offerings.

She set out crafting a tincture from scratch, spending six months researching the processing types, farms, and procedures for high quality CBD oil. She found an experienced family farm in Kentucky growing by organic standards without any GMOs, a trusted third-party lab to test every batch of the final formulas, and hit the ground running with the Ease-me Wellness Elixir

"Best Bud" Facial Oil & "Rose Bud" Facial Toner | Photo By Kimberly Crooks

“I want to promote self-care for young people who are just starting out in their careers or trying to cope with the overwhelming stresses of college life,” says Crooks. “We truly are a millennial, Gen Z brand in the sense that through our thoughtful sourcing practices, we want to touch on all forms of wellness and sustainability—both in our daily lives and in how we interact with the Earth and the people around us.”

Chill Mary is still within their first year of business, and what a year it’s been. Since March, Crooks has seen an increase of 250% in products purchased from their e-commerce site. She also saw how customers were not only using the tincture sublingually, but topically, and the simple formula of MCT organic coconut oil and full-spectrum hemp-derived CBD oil was working wonders on their skin. Just last month, she rolled out the Best Bud rosehip facial oil and the Rose Bud facial toner, two clean, green skincare products made with the same CBD oil as the tinctures. For the face oil, the formula added carrot seed and pomegranate oil to the 300mg full spectrum CBD, and the Rose Bud facial toner infuses rose and peppermint into the 150mg CBD balancing spray. The mid-range prices are accessible to 20something budgets, and the website playfully presents the products with iridescent backdrops and a little Claire’s Jewelry-eqsue nostalgia.

CBD; clean skincare; millennial branding—this is a winning combination for most right now. Crooks had banked on that. What she hadn’t banked on was a social revolution that would transform the way she looked at herself as an entrepreneur and cannabis founder. 

“When I started Chill Mary, I intentionally didn’t show a picture of myself on the “Meet Chill Mary” page on our website,” recalls Crooks. “I wanted to avoid anyone’s preconceived notions they might have about a young Black woman, and since I'm not an influential player marijuana/CBD space, I didn't know how my presence would be taken in the industry. I didn't want to kill Chill Mary's shot because it even started.”
By the time July rolled around, Crooks took the plunge and added her photo to her website. She now feels proud to show who is behind Chill Mary, and proud to show what a founder in CBD can look like. 

“I mean, think about it; the audacity I have as a 24-year old, Black-Jamaican woman to start my own company in one of the most competitive industries is insane,” says Crooks. “But people are seeing that and they want to support that. I've come to realize that my existence in this space is revolutionary. Overall, my company and I want to empower those who are trying to reclaim their being and are using wellness of the body and mind to do so. The founder just happens to be black af lol.”

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Lauren Yoshiko is a Portland-based writer and co-host of Broccoli Magazine's podcast, Broccoli Talk. She was among the first journalists to cover the commerce and culture of cannabis starting in 2014 and her work has since appeared in Willamette WeekForbesRolling Stone, and Broccoli Magazine, among others. Follow her on Instagram at @laurenyoshiko for Portland breakfast sandwich recs, stoned nail art, and moderate cat content.