ONE37pm: Phiton, can you tell us a bit about how you and your family got started in the CBD industry?
Nguyen: Our family’s journey to CBD started years ago with a larger health awakening. Both my sister Mimi and our mother battled with cancer, and their experiences brought health to the forefront of consciousness. We became aware of our habits and what we consume in ways we hadn't been before and began to actively seek alternatives to the commonly accepted yet noxious prescription aids that mask rather than heal pain. It became a family effort, which brought us closer together than ever, and was an important lesson in the role that emotional support plays in mental well-being, and that mental well-being play in physical health.
At the time, the cannabis industry was medicalizing around us in California and new resources were rapidly becoming available. We began experimenting with products and found the effects of cannabidiol in particular to be profound. My frustrations with the limited options of consuming CBD led me to experiment with new methods of delivery that didn’t rely on the old mechanism of combustion, which is widely used yet damaging to CBD compounds and therefore diminishes the health benefits reaped. Mimi began researching the ingredients in our favorite products, which led her to experiment with higher quality CBD formulations. In addition to ourselves, we found willing volunteers in our friends, who tested our products through an experimentation process that would ultimately lead to the development of QWIN.
Interest in our experiments generated organically through word of mouth, and demand for us to create a product was too strong for us to not try. What we hadn’t realized was that our initial frustrations with products on the market were broadly felt and created major gaps in the industry. By the time we began considering CBD from a business standpoint and not just a personal one, it had already become a full-time job for us.
How much of a role does your family play in running the business?
Nguyen: QWIN has been an unusually collaborative venture for us. My mother, a first-generation immigrant from Vietnam, has a career in the music industry that extends well beyond her time as a parent. You can see the unique manifestation of her business instincts in my sister’s and my pursuits, which largely led us down different paths until recently. My projects focused on innovating the technical aspects of products with more user-centric design, simplifying their functionality while creating a classier user experience. My sister Mimi went into the film business while pursuing innovations in wellness as a passion project.
Our paths converged with QWIN, which engaged our individual passions in a common purpose. Throughout our personal experimentation with CBD, we noticed a theme of narrow branding: the products were geared towards young, masculine users and were unwelcoming on an entry-level basis. Mimi was the one to suggest I design a more universal device. Her largest contribution was, and continues to be, feminizing QWIN around these industry hurdles and centering the brand on wellness regimens that appeal to all ages, spanning all purposes. Our mother acts as a business adviser, lending her critique and wisdom to the brand.
Being family, our roles are often intertwined and hard to disentangle—but necessarily so. We each represent the qualities that different consumers look for in a CBD product, and I believe that is reflected in the user’s experience of QWIN. QWIN started as the unintended byproduct of a collaborative family effort and has strengthened with that structure into a collaborative business effort.
What is it like working with your family?
Nguyen: Chaos! But deeply rewarding in ways that other professional relationships are not. Like other families, we have a hard-wired pecking order that doesn’t easily translate into a working relationship. I think QWIN has been successful as a family business because we didn’t attempt to translate our preexisting dynamics as a family into a professional dynamic. Rather, the challenge was in avoiding the pitfalls of reverting to old family habits and relations, and instead finding a way to integrate individual working styles cultivated throughout our separate careers in business into a new professional system.
It has not been a clean, linear trajectory to success. Working together was a process of compartmentalizing the normal functions of a family from the operations of business over the course of several years, but that endeavor has elevated our levels of trust in each other and fostered a sense of camaraderie that I imagine most families and most businesses wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.