Michael Baghoomian, CEO of Muscle MX, grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah with a passion for an outdoor and active lifestyle. He has an MBA and Masters of Engineering from the University of Utah. Over the past 10 years, Michael has co-founded two other tech startups that have resulted in positive acquisitions for his team and investors. His love for the outdoors inspired him to turn to nature for the purest ingredients to create the highest quality products for Muscle MX. Michael founded Muscle MX on the core belief of “clean wellness”. Muscle MX only uses non-toxic ingredients that are perfectly designed to help your body be pain free. In his free time, Michael can be found enjoying outdoor activities, like hiking and skiing, with his family.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I never intended to be in the cannabis business. Back in 2015, I was in the middle of a tech startup that was focused on sales and marketing. I did hold some curiosity in the space because it was just starting to become a booming market. I was actually studying some of the bootstrapped marketing tactics the industry was using because of their limitations with social and search. I always held the belief that great ideas come from some of the outlier industries like cannabis
Then in 2016, my father had a major stroke that caused all types of complications to his body. One of the issues from the stroke was my father’s constant state of pain. Needless to say, my father’s condition really impacted our family. We spent a lot of time going to treatment facilities and senior care centers. During that time I watched him go through all types of therapy along with opioids to treat his pain issues. It was at that time I was looking at other alternatives to help my father. Being in Utah, using THC based products was impossible and risky. During my research, I came across CBD as a new compound that was having some success in helping seniors treat pain symptoms. With a lot of help from my co-founders, Kami, Chris, and Trina, we continued researching by actually creating sample topical CBD balms in the kitchen to be used during my father’s treatment process. The reality was that we really didn’t know what we were doing at first. We didn’t know how much CBD to use or what other ingredients to use. We did have a couple of advantages that helped us develop the first iteration of our CBD balms, which was my engineering background, and Kami’s lifelong pursuit of quality products. We were mostly naive about the process of creating a solution that would be effective. We used an analytical approach to developing different formulations along with a dosage of CBD along with a testing protocol. We didn’t try to overthink the process on what to use in the balms, we just went by what felt good and that it didn’t smell like cannabis or medicine.
Over a period of time, myself and my co-founders helped create and test our CBD balms and batches started to become effective. We were actually seeing results with my father in terms of his pain and comfort levels. We then gave our first batches of product to other friends and family that had various aches and pains so that we knew for sure that it worked, and worked well. We were getting such good feedback that other people began to hear about our “magic cannabis balms” and requested samples. It was at that point that Muscle MX first started to take shape. From tragedy to opportunity.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The cannabis and CBD space is dynamic and fluid. Rules and regulations are changing all the time. Add to that the whole movement of people shifting towards more organic and natural health and wellness products. It really creates a vibrant and crazy marketplace. As a business, we must adapt and change to stay competitive and compliant. It also imperative that businesses become champions for their cause. You just can’t sit back and let others do the hard work to create change. At Muscle MX, we really wanted to help develop the CBD industry and help it become a mainstream industry.
In 2018, the State of Utah passed SB130, one of the most aggressive laws to help set up the program to regulate CBD under the Department of Agriculture. At the time the bill was passed, there were only a handful of people in the state that had experience growing hemp, process the oil or manufacturing products with CBD. I was part of the minority. So once the bill was signed into place, I became directly involved with the Department of Agriculture’s CBD program as one of the advisors to help shape CBD Manufacturing guidelines for Utah. Now that might not sound interesting but there’s not a lot of opportunities in the country where state officials and business leaders can work together to develop one of the premier CBD regulatory programs in the country.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We were working on one of our first large test batches of Muscle MX Recovery Balms, when we made a call to add liquid magnesium. We thought why not add a powerful ingredient to the batch while we’re in test mode. We had a bottle of the magnesium and thought…why not. We were super excited about this batch because it was the first time we were pouring batches into our commercial ready molds.
After pouring our batch of 100 samples, we let them sit overnight in our lab. Well, the thing about our balms is that all the ingredients used are either oil or wax-based. So if you know the basics of chemicals, oil and water don’t mix. The next day when we came back to inspect our new batch we discovered a large puddle of water underneath our molds. Basically, all the magnesium liquid separated and leaked out of the balms. At first, I was shocked and disappointed because we wasted all this money on our first commercial ready batch. I sort of thought we blew this business before it even got a chance to start. Just as I was about ready to dump the whole batch in the garbage out of anger, I noticed the bottle of magnesium sitting on the counter. I slowly turned the bottle around to reveal Magnesium Liquid on the label. I just had to burst out laughing out of relief and my stupidity.
That incident was good practice when it came to the development of our products. It taught us that we needed better processes in place when we came to this business. You can’t just improvise.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Gummies, Capsules, KT tape
At Muscle MX, we are always working on new concepts and products. We don’t believe in white labeling someone else’s creation. Our customers deserve better for their hard-earned money. In this industry, there are a lot of companies that are in it to make a quick buck off a rising market. We don’t believe in that. So when it comes to new projects, we like to take our time in examining the market. We are constantly asking ourselves, what do our customers “really” need. We establish a specific need and develop a product to help address it.
We just launched an exciting lew lotion called Muscle MX Restore and it’s starting to really move with our customer base. The lotion is the first of its kind because it helps ease pain, acts as a moisturizer and protects the skin by using nano silver technology.
For our next series of products, we are looking to develop products that help both athletes and seniors to recover better from activities. The focus is on integrating existing tech like KT tape, joint formulas and CBD. It’s hard to get into too much detail but we are excited for the future and helping our existing and future customers.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It’s hard to pick a single person when so many have been very helpful along the way. However, my original founding partners, Kami Day and Chris Pietz, have been crucial to our success every step of the way. From Kami’s kitchen to commercial production that now services over 2,000 stores, she has turned into an incredible Chief Operating Officer and is critical to our success. Without our entire executive team and their hard work, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The future looks bright!
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
The CBD market is really crazy right now. For years, traditional marketing efforts like social, search, digital advertising, radio, etc have been limited or non-existence. But the market is starting to open up to CBD companies. The landscape is really changing for the better.
The one thing that has really for us to this point is the development of products with a purpose. From the start, we focused on creating products that worked in conjunction with each other to provide our customers with much needed relief. If you look at our family of products, each was designed for a specific purpose. None of them overlap or a slight variation of each other. Our purpose is to make it easy for the customer to decide what works for them.
Since this industry moves fast, our marketing efforts have to move at the same pace. We need to look for ways to be experimental about how to reach our target customers. One of the most eye-opening things we learned is we market to our products to different customer segments, in particular boomers and elderly. Most seniors hate to be treated differently. They wanted to be treated the same. They want the same product and messaging as our younger more active customer segments. The human condition is the same across most age groups. They all want quality and effective products.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
There are several things that excite me about the market.
- More people every day are learning the benefits of CBD and cannabis and how it can help them.
- Professionals like physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists and some doctors are finally accepting CBD as a viable option for treatment.
- The variations on how CBD is delivered to the body from both inside and outside. I think there are several startups that are really learning and experimenting on ways to deliver CBD to the human body.
- Actual studies being conducted by universities and organizations on the effects of CBD on the human body.
The three things that cause me the most concern:
- Less reputable companies trying to make a quick buck of the CBD “trend”. With such a new market, it worries me that lesser companies are going to hurt the reputation of companies like Muscle MX before the market has a chance to really grow.
- The glut of products on the market that are not clean and produced without concern about the long term health of the customers. Finding CBD at your local gas station really causes me to wonder where the market is headed.
- False information on both the good and bad effects of CBD. There are tons of media sites, blogs, social posts spreading false information on CBD in the hopes of gaining clicks. People need to be diligent on where and how they get their information on CBD.
- Companies trying to put CBD in all type of products that don’t make sense. CBD shampoo, sexual aides and lipstick don’t serve the best interest in the market for the long term. Companies are just looking to cash in on the market excitement for CBD.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
- CBD is not just for the young. If you look at the cannabis space, most of the marketing has been focused on a younger demographics. So when we started Muscle MX, our thought process was to develop a product that was focused on a younger, more active lifestyle that was users of other cannabis products. We soon realized that our assumptions were completely wrong and that CBD was a different animal. From the initial release of Muscle MX Activate and Recovery, our strongest customer segment has been seniors.
- The general public has no idea about the difference between CBD and THC. The market is in its infancy stage, so you really can’t blame people for not knowing the major differences. You need to continually educate your customer base and guide them along. Only a small portion of the population really knows what are the true benefits of CBD…….this is a marathon.
- Be educated about the consumer packaged goods industry. Regardless if you are developing CBD products or shampoo or snack products, people really need to be educated on how the CPG space operates. There are some dynamics between wholesale, online, distribution, pricing, marketing etc. that at times can very confusing. Every day I’m amazed by how many grocery store chains there are in this country. You need someone on your team that is experienced in navigating the landscape.
- The shifting CBD regulatory landscape. Since 2016, the regulatory landscape of the CBD market has caused havoc in the industry. The FDA’s inability to come up with a standard guideline has caused confusion amongst retailers, consumers, banks, social media platforms and media. The indecision of the federal and state governments over the past few years has put a slight stranglehold on the market that’s ready for rapid growth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for regulations to protect retailers, producers and consumers but the timeframe has to be sped up.
- The CBD market is an exciting space to be in right now. I remember the period of time from 1994- 2005 when the internet first really started. There was such an exuberance about how the world wide web was going to change everything from communications, gaming, ecommerce, banking etc. At that time, everyone was trying to get in the space as a website developer, graphic artist, programmer and entrepreneur. The market with crazy with good and bad players. Everyone was trying to make a quick buck. The media was trying to fight back the change the internet was impacting globally. Eventually, over time the market consolidated into a mature platform that benefits a majority of the population and businesses. I see the CBD market along with cannabis going through the same market growth but on a smaller scale. Right now we are just in the infancy stage where the market is taking shape with tons of good and bad players are entering the market. Eventually, the market is going to be shaped by new federal regulations that will shape the future growth of the market. Stay tuned and buckle up.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
You need to give employees space to thrive. Give them independence with a certain amount of accountability to see if they truly can excel in their role. At Muscle MX, we look for people that can perform at a high level without constant management oversight. You need employees that you can trust that will show up every day and look for ways to help the company succeed on their own.
Pay employees proper wages. Trying to be cheap and taking advantage of your team’s desire to be in the CBD space will only come back to bite you later. Take care of your employees and they will in-turn take care of your business.
Hire people that are passionate about the CBD industry. Bring people into your team that are ready to champion CBD, the benefits and your brand. A team of employees that are focused and excited to be in this space, can really do wonders for your company in a crazy market.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Readers can follow us on Instagram at Muscle_MX and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MuscleMX.CBD.Products/