As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Fedele, the CEO of PūrWell. Jonathan Fedele co-founded VirtuOx in late 2005 and has been a Board Member since its inception. Jonathan has not played an active role in the day-to-day operations of the company; however, he assisted VirtuOx in the 2018 acquisition of Instant Diagnostic Systems. Jonathan has spent the past 20 years as the President and CEO of two successful healthcare entities that he also co-founded. Jonathan’s first tenure as CEO was with Pulmocair Respiratory, a Durable Medical Equipment provider and specialty respiratory pharmacy. Jonathan co-founded Pulmocair in 1999 and led its growth and progression over the next 11 years to become one of the largest home oxygen providers in South Florida, serving over 1,800 oxygen patients from its 4 locations. In 2010, Jonathan guided the company through a successful acquisition by Rotech Healthcare, a national, publicly traded DME company. Most recently, Jonathan was the CEO of Activa Home Health, a Medicare Certified Home Health Agency he founded in 2009. Activa earned a 5-Star rating by Medicare and was ranked in the top 3% nationwide for achieving the highest quality of patient care outcomes. After growing the company to over 12 million in annual revenue, Jonathan successfully prepared Activa for and completed an acquisition by private equity investors in April 2018. Jonathan currently operates PurWell, LLC., which sells its’ own line of industrial hemp products in the healthcare market. Jonathan received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of South Florida. While there he was elected to the Order of Omega Honor Society and was the President of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. He is married to his college sweetheart and they have 3 children. Jonathan enjoys boating and waterskiing with friends and 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 have been working in the sleep industry for approximately 15 years and during that time our company, VirtuOx, has tested over 5 million patients for conditions such as sleep apnea and insomnia. Many of these people struggle with sleep and unfortunately many of them take prescription medications and over-the-counter sleep aids that do more long-term harm than good. We heard about the many benefits of CBD and so we started working with a reputable manufacturer on a custom formulation to help this population. Our flagship product, PurSlep, which includes full spectrum hemp oil, along with a blend of holistic supplements, was launched and the response was so overwhelming that we decided to create an entire line of full spectrum hemp oil products designed for the medical community, called PurWell.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We launched our PurWell product line in February of this year. In March, we exhibited at Medtrade, our first trade show and conference. The crowds at our booth were always rows deep. It was non-stop for two days. We ended up taking home the Provider’s Choice Award for best new product. It was an amazing experience that validated the work we were doing in this space. What a great way to get your company off the ground!
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 showcasing our products at a medical conference and accidentally brought our CBD pet tinctures with us. A conference attendee was adamant about getting samples of the bacon flavored pet tincture and when he was asked if what kind of pet he had, he replied that it was for him, because he loves bacon! We learned two things from that; either leave the pet products at home when attending a human conference or start carrying bacon flavored human products!
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
We recently launched a free PurSlep product sample program for physicians to offer their patients. We are also in discussion with two prominent research universities about conducting clinical trials with our products. It’s too soon to share information publicly about those, but we are very excited about the opportunity this may bring.
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?
Aside from the usual suspects; God, my parents, my wife and children, who have all played a major role in my success as an entrepreneur…. I’m extremely grateful for the amazing team we have at PurWell. Each of them brings their own personal experience with CBD that has made them passionate about this industry. They love helping people and they love sharing their knowledge with our customers.
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?
It’s no secret that social media changed the way companies advertise and reach their audiences. Unfortunately, in our industry that too is a challenge because of the restrictions most social media platforms, like Facebook, put on Cannabis companies. You have to find other ways to reach your target audience that comply with those rules, and drive those consumers to your company’s website. Start by finding your niche and focusing on population groups within that sector.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I am excited about the future of the Cannabis industry mostly as it relates to the medicinal benefits the plant possesses. Now that more research is being conducted, it will be very interesting to see what those studies reveal. I’m also excited to see the increased amount of positive exposure for the industry and the support that is coming from more and more political figures and lobbying groups.
While the exposure can be a good thing, it also concerns me. All the hype surrounding hemp CBD products leads to an increased number of companies entering the marketplace that go unchecked. As a consumer, it is incredibly important to know what to look for in a qualify hemp product and ask a lot of questions.
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.
1. Keeping up with the ever-changing laws and regulations can be a full-time job by itself. When I got into the business, I was told by industry insiders that when the 2018 Farm Bill passed it would legalize industrial hemp on the federal level and bring clarity to other regulatory questions. While it certainly helped, we are far from having all the answers.
2. Banking and credit card processing won’t be easily accessible to your business. Obviously, this is still a major issue with Marijuana businesses, but it’s not much better on the industrial hemp side. PurWell was one of the thousands of CBD companies that were using merchant services provider, Elavon, who several months ago dropped all of their CBD merchants. It took a lot of time and energy to find a reliable and fair processor that we could work with. There are some solutions out there but many of them are not the traditional, domestic banking solutions. They also come with hefty rates and fees.
3. You’re going to have to sell a lot of CBD to cover your overhead! As an experienced entrepreneur I actually knew this, but one thing I underestimated was the amount of resources PurWell would have to devote to educating our customers on everything CBD. Most of our revenue comes from our B2B customers. We spend a lot of time educating them on why they should carry PurWell products in their stores. Then we spend more time educating them and their staff on how to sell it to their customers. To do it right is costly.
4. You’re going to absolutely LOVE this business! The moment I attended my first MJBizCon event I fell in love with the Cannabis industry. There were people of all walks of life in attendance. From tie-dyes to suits, experienced businesspeople to wannabe entrepreneurs; everyone looking to cash in on the “green” rush. I was also astonished by the level of innovation that has already transformed the industry in its short lifespan. Every day is exciting in the Cannabis industry and I absolutely LOVE it!
5. You’ll change lives! Prior to launching PurWell I had read many stories and testimonials from people who experienced the benefits of hemp CBD, but it really hit me when I started personally speaking to our customers who have shared similar success stories. Almost every day I encounter someone whose life has been changed for the better after using our hemp CBD products. I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of hearing that!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
We all know that employees can make or break a company. The most important advice I can give is to find employees who are passionate about the industry. Then trust them with responsibility and empower them to make good decisions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Too many people in this country go hungry each day, while it is estimated that 25% of all food brought home to American homes goes to waste. If there was a safe and sanitary way for that food to make it into the hands of those in need, wouldn’t that be something?
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!