Shaina Kerrigan and the Balancing Act at Molly J.

During her near decade-long tenure at San Francisco-based tech company Yelp, Shaina Kerrigan learned to plug in wherever she was needed. The immense responsibilities made her an asset, but they also burned her out.

“They called me the Swiss army knife,” she recollects. “It kind of took me all across the business, which was really great in hindsight. I now realized that gave me this wide breadth of knowledge on all the different sides of the business that then I kind of took with me as I started my own thing.”

Shaina Kerrigan/Molly J.
Photo by Lauren Segal

Kerrigan left Yelp after she had her second child, needing to take time off for herself and to raise her family. But with nursing at night, she struggled to keep her energy up and maintain a healthy sleep schedule.

At the time, cannabis had been medically approved in California but required a user to have a medical card, leaving barriers to entry in the cannabis space. “I did it anyway because I was so desperate,” Kerrigan says of obtaining medical marijuana. “And so, I went through the process of getting a card, which was fairly intimidating.”

“And then I walked into a dispensary, which was equally intimidating because I was the only female there, let alone mom, for sure,” she says. At the dispensaries she visited, almost all products had high contents of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that leads to a “high,” in the form of either edibles—food products, often gummies, infused with THC extract—or dried flower.

Kerrigan recounts one of her first visits when she asked a worker for help choosing a product and he brought her over to look at bongs. “And I’m like, I have two children,” she remembers. “So, it became really clear really quickly that the cannabis industry as a whole was not tailored towards women or especially moms in those early days, and it was just way too potent.”

Her early experiences experimenting with different forms of marijuana to help her sleep and be more productive throughout the day led her to start sharing what products worked for her and what products she recommended other moms to stay away from. “I started to have Tupperware style parties at my house and then at other people’s houses,” Kerrigan says.

“And through those parties, I learned pretty quickly that moms—because that was my demographic—moms really wanted to take the edge off, but they didn’t want to get high, because as a mom, you’re on the clock 24/7. You can’t be high ten at night or whatever,” she emphasizes. “So, CBD was where most moms kind of leaned towards or what kind of spurred a lot of interest.”

Kerrigan also discovered that many mothers were looking for a replacement to a vice they already had for relaxation: wine. “It’s sort of like what they found about cigarettes, that it was much more of the experience of popping open the bottle and pouring—this feeling that you get when you’re about to pour yourself a glass of wine.”

She realized she needed to recreate the luxury of wine with a product that also helped take the edge off, had less calories, didn’t lead to a hangover, and didn’t create a mental fog. And living in a culture dominated by both wine and cannabis in California, she learned to marry the two. Kerrigan then set out to create a beautifully packaged, luxurious confection that tasted and felt like a treat.

Molly J. product
Photo by Lauren Segal

Eventually, this project led to Molly J., Kerrigan’s CBD company with a “mission to spread the chill” and provide relief for mothers and women experiencing burnout, anxiety, sleep depravity, inflammation, and more.

Kerrigan connected with a pastry chef who played around with complex formulations and flavors to create the blends you can now find on Molly J.’s gummy menu: sparkling pomegranate, elderflower grapefruit, blackberry rose, and pear ginger.

Of course, these gummies had to provide more than just blended notes, so one of Kerrigan’s first formulation included CBN (cannabinol), the sleep-related compound. And after polling Molly J. consumers on what they used the products for, she learned one of the uses was for hangovers. “Which isn’t surprising,” she says of the use, “because CBD is an anti-inflammatory, so it can really kick hangovers after drinking.”

Through continued polling of consumers and external research with medical professionals and food scientists, Kerrigan began creating a reputable, high-quality hangover product. “We started with CBD being the blockbuster ingredient, and now we’ve definitely graduated into this mindset that CBD can be the foundation upon which all these other plant materials can have a play for whatever ailment we’re trying to focus on,” she explains.

Upon receiving a box of Molly J. gummies, it’s impossible to not notice the intricate attention to detail Shaina Kerrigan has instilled in her products. She wanted to play into all the senses and spent time researching Apple’s packaging to create a tactile sense of happiness. From the magnetic flap closed with a ribbon to the custom rounded gumdrop shape of the gummies that look like a box of luxury chocolate bon bons, the experience of consuming a Molly J. gummy is meant to feel like a moment one has earned after a long day.

As Molly J. continues to expand and reach a wider audience, the core of the company still reflects Kerrigan’s personality and priorities: to spread more chill in the world. “I look back now, and I realize that I left Yelp because I was getting burned out and because I knew I no longer had my chill anymore, and I was seeking that out,” she says. “You have one life to live, and are we going to waste it feeling anxious and stressed out all the time? It’s a waste of a great life if we’re doing that.”

Molly J.’s great success has led to a major partnership with Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness brand, goop. Molly J. created a special botanical line of products for goop that ended up being one of the best-sellers on the entire goop site during the holidays—one of the most influential holiday gift guides in the retail space.

But, because of heavy regulations on cannabis products, Molly J. is not allowed to advertise on Google or Meta and is considered high-risk in payment processes, making its fruitful foray into the public space even more admirable. “We really do believe in the power of this plant, and we’re just waiting for a little more guidance and clarity and regulations to make it easier to operate in,” Kerrigan says.

The post Shaina Kerrigan and the Balancing Act at Molly J. appeared first on American Healthcare Leader.

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