ONE37pm: How did Mendi come to be?
Rapinoe: Mendi is a culmination of a long body of work. I grew up in rural California, where I saw drugs and alcohol abuse in my family. At 21, I started playing pro-soccer, and by 26, I’d had six surgeries. I’ve always been very passionate about the human body, and I was relying on opioids for recovery. I started training collegiate and professional soccer players, and that’s when I realized how passionate I was about the role recovery plays in being your best self.
I started seeing athletes using cannabis products, and I personally began using marijuana and hemp products. I immediately recognized the difference, and the entrepreneur in me saw the potential to take it further. We are a small business, originally we had five business partners, but now it’s down to Brett and me. We complement each other, and it’s been a three-and-a-half-year journey total.
Schwager: After working in design for 20 years now, Mendi was a long time coming. I had been seeking an opportunity to build a sports brand from the ground up in an entirely new industry, where the sky's the limit in terms of redefining what it means to be an athlete. Conventional sports culture doesn't have a great track record of fairly representing the competitive journey most athletes take throughout their life, and as someone who grew up hooked on youth sports and art simultaneously, I felt kind of locked into having to choose either-or, and be either a jock or an artist, sadly.
Fortunately, I grew up on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, and I think I subconsciously at the time had some sort of reassurance by all the musicians, artists, writers, and creatives living there that other career paths existed beyond sports. That perspective kept me going as I went to design school at UW while playing lacrosse. In a way, for me personally, you could say Mendi is the result of two decades seeking to expand what I thought were limitations of what a career journey looked like as a young, naive athlete.
ONE37pm: We are finally starting to see the stigma of CBD disappear. How important is that, and how do you hope Mendi continues to change the narrative in that regard?
Rapinoe: It is our job to tell sincere and real stories. Portraying cannabinoid products a certain way and governing bodies have not helped either. We want to tell the real story of cannabis in sports. People think athletes are smoking Js on the back porch, and that is a mischaracterization. Approximately 85-95 percent of athletes are using CBD in some form, and they are dealing with real problems such as stress and anxiety. We want to keep athlete health at the forefront. We are making some headway, and with Mendi, we are hoping to get support from the FDA. We’re excited to continue to destigmatize cannabinoids in a sincere, authentic, and very real way.
Schwager: We’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s an interesting space in the marijuana and CBD world because sometimes it feels like we are moving too fast, and then other times it seems that we aren’t bringing people up to speed fast enough. Unfortunately, culturally, we also live in a clickbait society, where people root for you to win and also fail. There are a lot of grey areas, and highlight reels don’t cover the whole story. We want to help bring down the stigma, and it’s going to continue to take a lot of hard work.