When Andy started Hemp Helps, his goal was to create a different kind of company – one that helps make a difference in the world.
With that in mind, Andy created a platform for hemp – a place where people could come to learn more about hemp as well as shop for variety of hemp products ranging from food items to even hemp pet products.
As a Low-Profit Limited Liability company, Hemp Helps is a hybrid of a non-profit and for-profit organization. As its main social cause, they work with Trees for the Future to help plant trees and to reserve the trend of deforestation.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and what made you get into the hemp industry?
Andy Zarycki: I came over to the United States from Poland when I was 3 years old. I have lived in Chicago all my life and now live in the suburbs. Ever since high school, I had a knack for numbers. This made me puruse accounting for a profession. But I always wanted to have my own business and had an entrepreneurial mindset – I think it might come from the fact that my parents owned their own business.
I was always interested in cannabis as I was around people who were in to medical/recreational marijuana. But when I really started getting interested in it was when I started looking into hemp. As I did more research, I realized there was something missing in the hemp movement. So that made me start Hemp Helps.
How you first learn about hemp?
AZ: In my junior year of high school, I had a speech class. For one my speeches, I had to do my own research on a certain topic and present on it. So I first thought about doing it on marijuana and why it should be a serious medical option in our society. But my teacher said that was a very cliche topic. So I looked into it further to see how I could put a spin on it, and that’s when I ran into hemp. So I pitched the idea to my teacher that I would present on hemp and all its potential industrial uses. She really loved that idea.
Why are you so passionate about hemp?
“I don’t think hemp is the one-and-only solution, but hemp can be part of the solution to fight climate change.”
AZ: I consider myself an environmentalist that really cares about the planet. I am conscientious about nature and have even started recycling programs in my old office jobs. I also realize that there needs to be a solution to help the world be more sustainable. So in this effort, I think hemp is a great option to help the world.
I don’t think hemp is the one-and-only solution, but hemp can be part of the solution.
I also think there were political and corrupt reasons why hemp was banned in the first place in the 1900s and I really want to be able to fight to bring hemp back. I believe if more people are buying and demanding hemp, it’ll offer more growth in the hemp industry.
Tell me about Hemp Helps. What’s the backstory on how it came about?
AZ: When I started researching hemp, I realized there was a gap in the movement – there wasn’t anything that promoted hemp to be used in people’s everyday lives. So I was hanging out with a friend of mine at his house one day and I started to pitch this idea to him. Our vision was to focus on two areas:
- To get people to use hemp in their everyday lives
- Educate people on why hemp is so great for people and for the planet
He was completely sold and we started the company there that night. I had come up with the name “Hemp Helps” ahead of time, so we bought the domain name and designed our logo by drawing an “h” that looks like a smiley face.
One of the movements I love about Hemp Helps is your partnership with Trees for the Future. Can you give us some background on how that came about? How have customers taken to it?
AZ: For our non-profit side, we were brainstorming on how we could help the environment. We thought about just donating to a hemp organization, but I wanted to make a direct impact.
What’s the best part about being an entrepreneur in the hemp industry for you?
“What’s exciting about being a startup in the hemp industry is the fact that it’s just the beginning for this plant. There’s so much potential”
Being an entrepreneur is the ability to come up with something in your head and then making it a reality. Watching that vision grow from the beginning to what it is now has been the best part for me.
What’s exciting about being a startup in the hemp industry is the fact that it’s just the beginning for this plant. We don’t know where this industry will go, and to me that means there’s so much potential.
What has been the biggest challenges?
The fact that it is not fully legal in the United States. Because it is illegal, there is still a big taboo and stigma around it.
In this environment, the biggest challenge for me has been that it is not fully scalable yet. Up till now, I have been juggling a full-time job while also investing time and money into Hemp Helps.
Have there been any obstacles along the way that have taught you valuable lessons? Any that you’d like to share?
The biggest lesson for me was that if you want to do something, do a test run first. When we started Hemp Helps, we wanted to launch our own product. So we started off with hemp shirts. After getting so caught up in the sales and marketing of those products, I realized this was taking me away from my original vision and goals.
So since then, I wanted to get back to my core value. So now, I always ask myself: how are we going to provide products or services that align with our core value?