Svn Questions with Onda founder, Stephen Smith
1. You are kind of a bad ass. You are a professional photographer, you own a 170-acre property in Oregon called Crow Creek, you did a solo motorcycle adventure through South America, worked for a Biodynamic vineyard in Colorado and you are the founder of Onda Wellness (whew!). Tell us a bit more about how all of these experiences led you to start Onda.
That’s a very generous compliment. I suppose I have been curious and have worked hard to make a living while exploring these interests and passions in an overlapping sequence. One time my grandmother introduced me as the grandson that doesn’t know what he wants to do when he grows up. But I knew at an early age if I could stitch these experiences together it would create a very unique perspective going into each subsequent career adventure. My high school thesis paper in the late 90s was on the many uses of Hemp and I suppose it has come full circle. I have always been fascinated by the cannabis plant and how it worked so well with my body and mind even though it was quite taboo in North Carolina at the time, and to this day. My time as a photographer has come in handy with our story telling, working as the director of business development for the first Biodynamic farm in Colorado taught me about farming, sales and growing an artisanal farm brand, homesteading has taught me about patience when starting from scratch with a long term vision in mind and not to bail when things get uncomfortable! I’m grateful for the diversity of my experiences as they have all come into play in creating ONDA Wellness with my business partner.
2. Can you talk a bit about how you handle juggling all of these things: freelance photographer, homesteading your property in Oregon and juggling all things involved in a CBD startup?
I’m not sure I do! In the first two years of building ONDA I was picking up whatever photo jobs I could to pay the bills but at this point 100% of my time goes to running the company. Over the last two summers while on my land in Oregon I worked hard to find a balance between the office work needed for ONDA and taking time to step outside and work on building fence or construction projects. The ideal balance for me is split between office / business hustle and ranch work. Pushing the body and mind in this rhythm seems to keep me somewhat sane. This summer I will be spending more time at our Oregon hemp farms when I’m not on the property and then will be transitioning to more farm focused work in coming years. At least that’s the goal.
3. Does one story stand out to you from someone who uses your products, that really made you realize “wow, I am really helping people”?
Wow, there are quite a few that truly inspire us to keep working hard to get this medicine to the people. But one young lady, I believe she is 8 years old, has been suffering from severe seizures her whole life until December when she started with ONDA. She was using a very expensive CBD tincture from a dispensary that her family was administering to her with inconsistent results. Apparently, she loves the flavor of our 600mg tincture and has not had one seizure since she started with ONDA. That makes me so happy to know the impact this medicine could be having. I lost a very dear friend, and the daughter of my business partner, to a seizure 4 years ago. So, this story truly resonates. If we can help folks find relief, then we are succeeding.
4. What makes Onda unique, what is your favorite Onda product?
I’d say our focus on the farming practices as well as our infusion process. With my background in Organic and Biodynamic farming we are committed to sourcing from the most progressive and talented farmers that we can. And they happen to be some good friends! We have no interest in being a part of the commodity hemp market but rather engaging in long term, deep relationships with farmers that are focused on biodiversity, soil heath, regenerative practices with their own commitment to their impact on their communities and ecosystems. We pay well above the average price per pound that many others pay if they even know their farmers. This is medicine and we need to hold space against corporate industrial agriculture as companies in an emerging industry by setting the bar high and not being driven by profit and efficiency but rather quality and environmental impact. This is one reason why we are a member of 1% For the Planet. We want to use our business for good.
Because we believe in honoring the true and full integrity of the plant, we do not strip away the crucial constituents necessary to a more effective and bioavailable CBD rich hemp oil. Therefore, we use no solvents or machines but rather we infuse our hemp in oil and let the fats do the work. Using things like CO2, alcohol, butane or hexane truly disrupt the structure of the plant leaving you with an over processed and stripped part of what was once a whole. Not our style. Whole plant medicine all the way!
5. A few months ago, you co-hosted a CBD dinner event in Topanga with Tenzo. Can you tell us a bit more about this event? It sounded and looked magical!
We are constantly inspired by the talented people we are lucky enough to meet and when the juices start flowing and ideas start flying, we collaborate. We met the Tenzo team at the Echo Park Craft Fair and began to discuss the parallels between whole food as medicine and whole plant medicine instead of over-processed foods and plant medicine like isolate CBD for example. We teamed up with Conscious City Guide and the Mercado Sagrado crew to host this otherworldly dinner where we were able to discuss why sourcing, farming and ranching are so important not only for flavor and nutrition but how responsible land management practices are truly healing the earth. Each event like this really brings people together and new friendships and partnerships always come as a result. And the view was something else!
6. Do you have a morning ritual? What does that look like?
I try! But I am on the road constantly, so it is tricky to keep it steady. I will say that when I am home, I usually let my dog jump in bed for a little morning cuddle then get some water boiling for tea. I try to do at least 15 min of yoga or stretching and maybe sneak in a meditation if I’m not too fidgety. Then I might work for a bit then make breakfast. I have always had a habit of waking up with an annoying sense of urgency and jumping on the computer to work but I’m realizing that’s a crappy way to start the day and trying to allow a more gentle way to get going. If I’m lucky…
7. If you were stranded on a deserted island, and you could have any 5 things with you what would they be.
Surfboard (I hope there are waves!)