While the CBD industry may not be a rich man’s game, Deep Patel proves that it is definitely a young man’s game.
Although he’s only 22 years old, he’s already built and sold his first business: the Gen Z entrepreneur’s hugely successful Penguin CBD brand was recently acquired by leading CBD rubber brand Verma Farms. Pinguin was named the # 1 CBD Brand of 2020 by Snoop Doggs Merry Jane, named one of the best CBD oils by major health publications like Healthline and Medical News Today, and recognized popular brands on the market by Buzzfeed and Rolling Stone.
More notably, Penguin was booted by a 20 year old; No investment capital was raised. A native of Georgia, Patel started Penguin in October 2019 shortly after dropping out of college. He calls the last 18 months “an unforgettable journey”.
“I was already running a successful marketing agency when it was time to decide where to go to college,” says Patel, who made the decision to drop out of college early in class. “I realized that I would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to graduate – but I’ve always believed that experience is the best teacher.” A decision that many would consider risky was not only sensible but also exceptionally lucrative.
He decided to start his business on CBD based on his personal experience with the herbal dietary supplement. It makes sense that someone who ran a successful marketing firm in high school would also be the type of person who has trouble turning their minds off to rest … and this was the case for Patel, who first used it as a sleep aid CBD came. “My mind is always on and moving at a speed of a million miles an hour, which affects my good night’s sleep,” he says. He started looking for a means that would enable him to continue using all this mental energy and actually be able to sleep.
“CBD became a part of my nightly bedtime routine and eventually my daily routine,” he says, but he found it difficult to get more information about what was in the various hemp products he consumed. “I did all of this research and kept coming across walls and roadblocks,” he says. “It was impossible to find detailed information about these products – and when I found information, it wasn’t always great. Often there were questionable chemicals or lower amounts of CBD than advertised. The whole thing was repulsive. “
Patel saw an opportunity in the failures of the burgeoning industry. “The industry was growing in popularity, and there was this big gap,” he recalls. “It was a breeze for me. I decided to start Penguin right away. “
While new to the hemp industry, Patel already had years of experience marketing his marketing agency and advising companies like Cellucor and AT Kearney – an experience that would be invaluable if he entered an extraordinarily competitive market.
While most brands targeted health-conscious millennials, Patel’s brand targeted his own generation: the older Gen Z segment. This was another key to his success in a challenging year. Penguin started just before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020.
“The [CBD] The market is saturated and the competition is fierce, ”says Patel. “So we took a different branding approach than most brands and focused on liveliness, closeness and trustworthiness.”
Since he aimed his products at a hyper-curious generation who love #LearnOnTikTok, Patel made sure education was a primary focus. “Once we get a customer’s attention, we build a relationship through education,” he says. “We gain trust by providing a variety of educational information, quick and thorough communication, and complete transparency.”
Patel explains that his customers base their daily routine on CBD products – be it his best-selling cookie and cream CBD oil, CBD capsules, topical cream, or the downright youthful CBD gums made from sour worm. While each of them is quirky, they offer significant benefits and have been built into the daily routines of their clientele. “Maintaining a trustworthy and deliberate relationship with them is key,” says Patel. “This is what brings customers back to Penguin time and time again and enables us to build that long-term relationship.”
As part of its efforts to promote transparency, Patel’s business is pulling the curtain back and allowing its consumers to see what the company is seeing: laboratory test results. “We regularly send our products to third-party laboratories for testing. We then publish these laboratory results on our websites so that our customers know exactly what they are getting. “
This may not seem like a key differentiator at first glance, but given the nature of the unregulated nutritional supplement industry, it can be difficult for a consumer to distinguish between a real health product and a sketchy nutritional supplement. With the FDA taking a hands-off approach to this sector, it’s up to brands not only to regulate themselves, but also to educate their audiences – and Patel was up to the task.
Patel notes that transparency was the most important factor in the success of his brand. “It creates trust,” he says. “And there is nothing more valuable for a brand than the trust of its customers.”
By focusing on differentiation, deliberate Gen Z marketing, and ethical branding, Patel was able to grow Penguin at a time when thousands of CBD brands were going out of business (mainly due to the economic hardship caused by pandemics and COVID). He says these adversities are taken for granted. “Being an entrepreneur means constantly trying to overcome obstacles,” he says. “Sometimes you know these obstacles – such as entering a saturated market – and sometimes they are unforeseen and sudden, as was the case with COVID. I don’t think that there is one greatest challenge or one obstacle, but that the sum of all these obstacles is the greatest challenge. “
His solution to overcoming said obstacles? “The challenge is to find the motivation and attitude in you to keep moving forward, no matter how high the peak, and to understand that these obstacles are only part of the path to success.”
Patel is thrilled that his company was acquired by Hawaiian hemp brand Verma Farms as part of a cash deal, but he’s even more proud of the educational experience. “Penguin taught me more in the past year than I would have learned in four years in college,” he says. “I am very proud of the actual experience and knowledge that I have gained on this path. I have become a well-rounded entrepreneur. “
“I am also very proud of the team that I have built. A team of people who I consider my friends, ”he says. “They are incredible people who care about the brand, our customers and our mission.” With the recent acquisition by Verma Farms in May 2021, that team will change, but Patel will continue to act as a consultant.
“CBD has helped me a lot personally and has been an integral part of my health routine as an entrepreneur,” says Patel. “It helps me sleep and calms my mind. I can have more energy, think more clearly, and be a better person overall. Knowing that with Penguin I can do the same for my customers is something I will always be grateful for. “
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