Photo: Courtesy Of Mendi
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Megan Rapinoe scored absolute superstardom in 2019, with her epic performance during the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The summer of Rapinoe ended with her named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, making her the first U.S. women’s player to get the award since Carli Lloyd in 2016.
While Rapinoe’s on-field efforts have been legendary and inspirational, she and her twin sister, Rachael, are hoping to leave their mark in a different field, CBD. They’re teaming up at Mendi, a new CBD brand that offers edibles, gel capsules, and topicals designed to help athletes recover. Rachael is the company’s cofounder, and Megan serves as a sponsored Mendi athlete and brand ambassador.
Both sisters have played soccer professionally, and both wanted a better way to recover from the sport’s wear and tear. That’s how they first discovered CBD. Following the World Anti-Doping Agency declassification of CBD as a banned substance in 2018, Rachael decided to launch Mendi to show the next generation of athletes a healthier way to manage pain. We spoke with Rachael and Megan about the story behind the brand.
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The appeal of CBD
Rachael: I blew out my knee twice in college. Of course, you’re prescribed opiates, and that’s our country’s solution to manage pain. So I battled the mental, emotional, and physical setbacks of recovery from an injury like that, as well as my body going through the withdrawal of coming off opiates. After I retired from pro soccer at 26 [she played on an Icelandic team], I started working in the medical and wellness fields. I noticed my sister, as well as a lot of other athletes, using cannabis products to help with recovery and performance. To me, that was a real game changer, and it shifted my entire perception of cannabis because they weren’t using it for stoner culture or to get high. They were using it as a wellness product. So that’s when I was introduced to CBD. I started using it about three or four years ago, and it’s totally changed my life in such a positive way.
Megan: CBD is a natural alternative that has helped me stay at the top of my game for several years now, whether that be regulating my sleep, relaxing on long flights, helping with inflammation, or recovering after hard trainings and games. Bottom line, it’s natural, and I don’t want to be filling my body with chemicals. I eat clean and train hard, so I want my recovery process to be as natural as possible.
From buyers to sellers
Rachael: Two and a half years ago, I met Kendra [Freeman], our other co-founder, who had been working in the cannabis space as a cultivator and grower for the past 15 years. She came to me with this idea of having an edibles line and topical line specifically for athletes and leveraging my connection and relationship to athletes.
We then added Brett Schwalger, who’s our creative and marketing director, were then accepted into Amy Margolis’s business accelerator program The Initiative, and here we are today.
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In my opinion, the entrepreneurial pursuit is for someone who has the passion and guts to keep charging forward with an idea, despite all the inevitable obstacles that lie ahead. Being an entrepreneur is really hard, and it’s not for everyone — which is totally OK. You need to really believe in your business. If you’re not passionate about your idea and where you’re going with it, it’s probably not going to work out.
Second, you can’t do everything alone. I work best within a team and a collaborative approach. It’s important to understand what you’re good at, where you add the most value, and get help with the other pieces. Find the right people and put them in the right places. Third, it’s never going to be perfect. Don’t let perfectionism hold you back.
We decided to build a sports brand in this space because we believe in taking care of our athletes. It’s really that simple. Mendi is poised to be the most trusted sports brand because we’re doing things the right way: Keeping the well-being of athletes at the center of everything we are doing and always providing the highest-quality products.
Mendi’s slogan to “Level the Playing Field” is both a nod to gender equality in sports and to encouraging athletes to use pain management and recovery tools like CBD.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Mendi
Getting sis on board
Rachael: Megan started using CBD because it helped her with sleep and as a wellness supplement. Then I was introduced to it because I saw her, as well as a lot of other athletes, using it, so that changed my perception of it.
Megan: I wanted a healthier, more natural option for pain management, sleep aid, relaxation while flying, and general recovery. Mendi’s mission really stuck with me — their desire to serve the athletes first and foremost, and to be our trusted brand. No one else is doing this with as much dedication and focus. Mendi is committed to a healthier lifestyle and changing the status quo around pain management and recovery in sports.
Rachael: Honestly, Megan was knocking at the door. She was so ecstatic to be involved with Mendi from the very beginning because she knows how important CBD is, not just for professional athletes but for everyone, as a healthier alternative for pain management. She’s experienced a tremendous upside from adding CBD in her recovery regimen, both on and off the field. As a businesswoman, Megan also understands this is a very exciting opportunity to acquire equity stake in an early cannabis startup. Mendi and Megan align on all levels. We are a force to be reckoned with.
CBD’s PR problem
Rachael: We got a lot of great feedback. One thing we kept hearing from athletes was that no one has sat down with them to explain what cannabis is, or what CBD is, or what THC is. Just providing a little bit more education around the plant helps the athletes understand what it is that they’re taking, and then they can become smart consumers so they can stay at top performance.
Why athletes should try their product
Rachael: We are directing athletes to the already proven and compiled research that is out there. Everything we cite on our website, or are communicating to athletes, is from our sports physiologist, Don Moxley; research articles; whitepaper data; or Athletes for Care, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the well-being of athletes by advocating for more research and education of cannabis. But really, there’s a ton of research out there. So far, we haven’t had an issue concerning athlete buy-in. A lot of athletes are using cannabis, and they have for many years. The issue has just been for these athletes to find a trusted brand.
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