It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Rachael Rapinoe, CEO & Founder of Mendi, former professional athlete, cannabis plant educator/advocate, and beyond.
We were psyched to learn more about the Mendi brand and products and Rachael’s journey from the life of an athlete taking opioids for pain relief to shifting to a more plant based approach and how it led to her interest in education and advocacy for the cannabis plant. Mendi is rooted in empowerment and natural wellness pathways. Like many of our other favorite brands, Mendi was rooted in personal struggles and obstacles. Through this difficulty, she was able to not only find her own passion and pathway to natural toolsets and the importance of prioritizing wellness, but through Mendi she helped so many others do the same.
“My personal story is interesting for me to talk about because as I’ve gotten older, wiser and continued to grow into a more grounded, healed individual ‘connecting the dots’ of my own story and Mendi has been illuminating.”
When Rachael originally got into this industry, she was coming off being a professional athlete with a lot of injuries and in the midst of the overprescription of opioids era. At a certain point in her life she even abused opioids. So with all these stories going around for the past couple decades within the pro-landscape, she had this immediate inspiration to help people mitigate pain, inflammation and anxiety in a more natural way that she didn’t have access to as an athlete, which could have possibly prolonged her career. After being in this industry for a while and doing more self work, Rachael realized that her wellness journey actually started as a kid who suffered from anxiety and panic attacks.
“I have a long family history of mental illnesses that were of course undiagnosed because that was not something that was talked about, mental health was very taboo. As well as addiction, so when I look back on my childhood, I definitely had a lot of anxiety as a kid. I didn’t know how to deal with the weight of it all.”
The three things that Rachael says really helped her deal with her anxiety were movement, being outside, and mindfulness. Playing sports and living an active lifestyle, being amongst nature, and allowing herself alone time with her thoughts and feelings have been some of the ways she started developing and tapping into a wellness routine as a young child, even without knowing what she was doing.
“I knew it helped me deal with some of the anxieties and panic attacks I was experiencing, and fast forward now, I think I’ve always had a passion for bringing more accessible wellness tools to help people feel better and to increase people’s quality of life whether it’s through power of movement or through wellness solutions like supplements or educational materials. I’ve sort of always had this purpose in me and have been doing this work for a long time. As holistic wellness and mental health have become more normalized, taking care of yourself, especially for women, is deeply rooted in the mission with Mendi.”
Because wellness is such a broad term and can mean so many things to different people depending on their background and where they’re at in life, there’s many ways to approach it. “For Mendi and myself, the passion really lies with all the overlapping components of wellness. In other words, we know it’s not a one-size-fits-all or a quick-fix pill. Wellness is deeply personal, dynamic and that’s why education is really important.”
Mendi creates science-backed educational content because oftentimes, that's ultimately the deciding factor for a lot of people and their ability to connect with products. We love that Rachael is able to shine a bright light on all of the amazing benefits there are for athletes and those looking to enhance active lifestyles with plant medicine and the tools of nature. Mendi is empowering consumers who are already fairly health conscious but looking for trusted, plant-based solutions to solve real ailments in their lives– such as pain, stress, sleep and fatigue.
“We know if you take our gummies but you sit around all day eating bags of chips, our products may not do much for you. It might calm your state a little bit but you’re probably going to be in a systemically stressed state because of certain lifestyle decisions, so that may not be our consumer. Which is okay. We’re really focused on empowering consumers who live an active lifestyle, value all-natural choices, open-minded and looking for natural alternatives to keep them on this path tapping into their best self.”
That is what really excites Rachael. Coming from a pro athlete background, as well as six years as a performance coach, she’s extremely passionate about the power of movement and its full body benefits. When you combine the benefits of movement with these amazing plant powered wellness products, people’s lives could drastically change for the better. That is exactly why Mendi exists.
Mendi has an array of products for all types of wellness needs, whether it’s elevating your bath experience, massage therapy, or drinking something more medicinal like their drink tablets, everyone has a different preference of what feels right for their own wellness journey. Mendi stands by the quality of their products and their incredible stack of ingredients they’re putting together to help target four main benefits: sleep, stress, fatigue, and pain, which are essentially the building blocks for full body recovery. They offer a broad range of products with 8 different product categories for everyone’s different points of their wellness journey.
“It’s the marginal gains that we’re trying to help people with to increase their quality of life, but we know that it’s a process and certainly not a one-size-fits-all. We have a suite of products because we want to meet people wherever they're at on their journey.”
When it comes to the stigma of cannabis and sports, although many leagues and professional teams are loosening up on their bans, there is still a sort of stigma of CBD in general. To some it can seem like every other person is selling CBD, so it can’t seem very good. “There’s a lot of people in this industry and the markets have been very saturated. Unfortunately, it’s been flooded with a lot of poor quality products and it always just breaks my heart when I hear people say like, ‘oh I tried it once and it didn’t do anything to me’.” We’ve seen many companies falsely label their products or the low quality is so poor consumers think CBD just doesn’t really work. Although CBD is a very complex and powerful plant compound, its effects are subtle and best when taken consistently over time for maximum benefits.
“It was sort of touted as a cure-all and we know that’s not true, and I think many brands didn’t do a good job of stewarding the customer in a way that was educational, safe and that made them feel empowered to choose the best products for their personal needs.” We love that Mendi cares for the needs of its consumers and wants to actually help people on their journey.
In the beginning, Rachael faced a bit of stigma being in the sports industry while trying to make CBD products more accessible and more familiar to athletes so that they could play at the highest level. Although there is still some stigma around CBD, in the last few years the stigma has definitely shifted with the help of providing science-backed content, research, as well as anecdotal evidence that helps empower more people to make informed decisions. Not only are they fighting stigma on so many beautiful and unique levels, but they are providing education and tools to help people build up their own toolsets when it comes to personal wellness.
From recovery, to stress relief, community spotlights and beyond. It has been important to Mendi as a brand not only to provide amazing products for wellness, but to supplement that with educational tools and content. They knew after surveying what most people in general and particularly in the wellness industry struggled with; pain, sleeping, anxiety, and stress, that these were the top epidemics in this country that we probably will be continuing to fight against for years because of all the stress we are bombarded with daily, especially post-Covid. Rachael knew as a sports scientist and performance coach and someone from the professional training industry who has worked with many athletes that we needed to solve these major issues so many people are dealing with. Mendi knew how important sleep is for the body and wanted to make sure sleep and fatigue were a key focus. For those struggling with fatigue, they may not initially reach for CBD due to the misconception that it will make you fall asleep or work like a sedative. Because most people tend to reach for an energy drink when they’re in need of energy, they wanted to make sure they had an alternative to those as well.
“Yes, if taken in high doses CBD can be more of a sedative, but if taken in smaller quantities, it can actually keep you energy more sustained throughout the day and definitely more enhance mental clarity because of its stress-reducing effects. So, we thought it was really important to develop an energy category since fatigue is a common struggle with adults.”
We love that Mendi just tries to meet people with whatever they’re struggling with and what they’re looking to get out of their products and we truly think they’re changing lives. They make it easy for shoppers to find the perfect category for their needs. Mendi’s goals for its consumers are better sleep, less stress, pain management and fighting fatigue and they will probably stick with these for the foreseeable future. “I feel confident about these four benefit categories being a healthy foundation for full body care.” We definitely agree that these are extremely important for overall wellness and living your best life.
Mendi offers so many amazing options for a range of different types of wellness, self-care and relief and not only that but they offer some top quality products that they aren’t afraid to stand by. “I mean, obviously I am the CEO and founder so some people may think I’m biased, but I truly believe we have some of the best products, if not the best products, in the market that specifically target whatever your needs are.”
When it comes to her daily routine, Rachael likes to take one to two of the gummies a day, preferably the full spectrum ones which are .3% or less of THC but plenty of plant power. She uses the Stress CBD Oil Tincture with her morning coffee. The stress tincture is an amazing blend packed with ashwagandha, Limonene, Algal Oil (vegan Omega 3) and Vitamin D3 which help reduce stress, calm the mind, and also helps mitigate some of those coffee jitters. “I am a staunch coffee drinker. I don’t see myself giving that up. It's sort of like what gets me out of bed in the morning but it’s nice to have that balance with coffee.”
After her afternoon workout, she likes to take a second gummy to help with workout recovery because of the anti-inflammatory benefits of CBD as well as the little bit of organic cane sugar to kick-start her recovery. She likes to end the night with their best selling sleep product, the Sleep CBD Oil Tincture, packed with Passion Flower, Valerian Root, Hops, Reishi and Beta-caryophyllene, to help her get a good night's rest.
She also loves baths and is a big fan of taking a few baths a week as part of her full body care practice. It can be helpful for clearing the mind, anxieties you may be feeling and of course amazing for full body recovery, sore muscles, and achy joints. Mendi’s line of bath salts, their massage oil, and their muscle salve stick are all amazing products for so many wellness purposes. Their salve stick is their number one selling product for pain relief, probably due to its mess-free nature, Rachael’s favorite pain management products are definitely the bath salts and massage oils. “I’ve had four knee surgeries and an ankle surgery so my body has taken a toll. These products are so helpful, a couple days a week, rejuvenate my muscles, joints, tense areas and holistic head to toe recovery.”
Although she likes the salve, she prefers their massage oil for covering more surface area and providing deeper tension and muscle relief. As a fan of massage therapy, the massage oil is definitely her go-to, providing much needed relief for achy shoulders, knees, quads, ankles, arches, and more! “I always recommend exploring a routine that work for your personal needs.” They have so many incredible products in various categories and they can last a long time for those that aren’t taking them every day. You don’t necessarily have to follow a large routine like this, but it’s what works for her and her needs.
Mendi is also a brand that cares about its impact on the world. They give back in so many ways, from supporting amazing non-profits and community causes, to helping lift up underrepresented and marginalized communities.
“We are not a brand that is about making money and keeping it for ourselves. We aspire to build a brighter future for everyone in this world and I believe there’s enough for all of us to eat, even though marginalized communities (women, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC) continue to be told the scarcity narrative – there’s only room for a few at the top. We know this is false.”
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, this being her second company, Rachael believes it’s more about the journey, being inclusive, and building everyone up in the process. She wants everyone to win and have a seat at the table. We really respect this viewpoint and hope that more people can run their company with these ideals and values. “It’s what ignites us, ultimately if you don’t truly believe in your mission, it’s really difficult to make it through the rough patches. And the only thing that’s guaranteed in a startup are rough patches.” We think this is so beautiful watching businesses helping other businesses and not running your business in a greedy or selfish way.
As a queer woman in the community, Rachael is definitely familiar with being part of the marginalized community. She has raised money with less than 2.7% of VC funding going to women-led companies while 97% of the funding is going to male-founded companies. One can only wonder how this is at all fair, especially when statistics are showing us that women-led companies steward their money better and usually have better returns than male-founded companies. “If nothing else I’m on a mission to smash the patriarchy and I think there’s more now than ever who have the same mission.”
We are huge fans of brands that have an eye on their carbon footprint, from sustainability focused partnerships, eco-focused product choices, sourcing local, they lead by example when it comes to caring for our planet and community. When it comes to fighting for a better future, we love that Mendi actually cares about the planet we live on. Doing everything we can to take care for the world that we live in is extremely important to Mendi and their mission and they’re aware that we don’t get another world if we destroy this one. “The consumer industries produce a lot of waste. There’s a lot of plastic packaging used. It’s our ultimate goal to be B Corp certified.” We can’t wait for all of the amazing things to come from them in the future and appreciate all the work that Mendi is doing.
As they go into their fourth year of business, what Mendi is most looking forward to is for things to calm down after the chaos of the first three years of running a business and they’re excited to see more consistency in the market, the landscape, and supply chain and build off the foundation they’ve laid the past few years. Rachael is really proud of the brand that they started 3 years ago and where they’re at now.
“We’ve put a lot of energy and work into our brand, and staying true to who we are at our core. We nurtured a very proud, loud and loyal community and we’re eager to continue bringing more people into the fold.”
We’re so impressed by their ability to retain loyal customers and it’s because they provide such helpful tools and education that’s supportive for so many different people. People are inspired by the story of Mendi and we think it’s incredible how they’ve built a company that resonates with so many people. They’re excited to meet more people and bring more people into their community. Whether they’re working with customers, partners, athletes, investors, or even people like us, we love their collaborative approach to amplifying sincere stories and missions.
“Consumers are smart, I think they know immediately we’re sincere and well intentioned. More and more incredible people like yourselves are wanting to work together to steward our industry in a healthy direction and genuinely want to build a brighter future for everyone.”
It’s so refreshing to speak with a brand who has such a beautiful mission and values when it comes to actually helping the community and we can’t wait to see more of what the future holds for Mendi.