A new cannabis startup is focusing on baby boomers and seniors with a direct-sales model, brought to retirement homes.

Just like parties where tupperware and beauty products are sold, Octavia Wellness hopes to capture a market of consumers who are aging and require relief from a variety of ailments. Arthritis affects almost half of all seniors, but is typically treated with prescription painkillers. The concern of opioid addiction and overdose applies to seniors as well, who are typically taking other pharmaceuticals along with pain medication, increasing the risk for accidental overdoses.

Research has shown a 71 percent increase in marijuana consumption by adults over 50 within the past ten years, indicating a shift in values when it comes to drug use. But navigating a modern cannabis market that contains products that didn’t exist 30 years ago creates confusion among senior who aren’t familiar with strains, terpenes, or the ideal combination of cannabinoids that treat their symptoms.

Octavia Wellness was founded to provide this specific market with clarity. The company focuses on retirement homes in California, and showcases cannabis products in a party setting. Octavia Wellness promotes alternative methods of consuming cannabis that are more appropriate in a community living setting, like edibles and tinctures.

Cofounder and CEO of Octavia Wellness Carrie Tice was inspired to launch the company through her experience in caring for her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and experiences anxiety due to the disease. When Tice started researching cannabis therapies for her mother, she was met with a lack of support on how to select products, as well as a safe space where she felt comfortable learning and discussing medical marijuana.

“We ran into the typical problems. There were too many products to choose from, and it wasn’t clear what she needed,” said Tice. “I didn’t know where to turn.”

After switching to a cannabis treatment, Tice’s mother no longer needs the benzodiazepine medication for her anxiety. “She’s our mascot, our guinea pig,” said Tice.

An Octavia Wellness presentation consists of a PowerPoint deck that provides a brief overview of cannabis, how it works, and testimonials from other seniors who have had success with medical marijuana. The company is aware of the stigma of marijuana among this age group, who has lived through a lifetime of cannabis prohibition and anti-marijuana propaganda.

Next, a wellness expert consults with seniors on how to obtain a doctor’s recommendation, how to choose products based on their needs, and steps them through the order process. These wellness experts take a 3-week course to become familiar with the products, but are not trained physicians or medical professionals. Most of the consultants are over age 60, helping them to relate to their customers on a generational level. Just like regular direct-sales companies, these experts work on commission. The products come with easy-to-follow instructions printed in large type.

After launching in 2016, Octavia Wellness has raised $835,000 in initial funding, and their employees went from 3 to 50 since then. Their website also features testimonials from people a lot like Tice, who are caring for aging parents and family members and need guidance in administering medical marijuana.

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