How Reakiro Continued Their Hemp Business in Ukraine in Spite of the War

It’s hard enough to run a growing business in a new industry with constantly changing regulations. And then your country is attacked by an invading army.

This is the exact situation that Stuart McKenzie, CEO of Reakiro, a hemp and cbd business, faced when Russia invaded Ukraine.  Many of their employees were able to leave Ukraine and move to Poland where Reakiro had another facility, however, many of their employees stayed in the Ukraine. Reakiro committed to help their employees to find safer places to live and work, but the invasion continues and Reakrio continues to find ways to thrive and serve their growing customer base.

How has the war in Ukraine affected Reakiro? What decisions did you have to make as CEO?

When the war first began, our priority as a company was finding out who wanted to leave Ukraine, who could leave Ukraine, who was going to stay in the country, and how we could support them. Reakiro has a facility in Poland which many of us relocated to as our new home when we had to leave Ukraine

To help those who were staying in Ukraine we helped members of the team move out of apartment blocks and into houses, and out of the city centres and into more rural areas where risk and danger has been considerably lower.

In many ways, the last few years of adapting to the pandemic had prepared us well for working together when we were physically apart, but saying that, one of the bittersweet silver linings from this year is that many of us have been together in Poland living and working close to one another, which has made us that much stronger as a team.

As CEO I knew that we had to find a way to continue as a business through the war. I know that’s not what many people would think about if they found themselves in a warzone, but the reality is we need to make sure the business is solid so that we can continue to support all of our employees through this turbulent and uncertain time.

What challenges has the Reakiro team met this year?

One of the most difficult things we’re dealing with is that no matter what we’re doing these days, we’re always thinking about the people who are still in Ukraine. While many of us managed to leave, there are many who had to stay. 

As I mentioned before, a big group of Reakiro employees relocated to our facility in Poland at the beginning of the war, and as a team we repurposed part of the facility in order to receive and distribute donations such as clothes, food, and medicine, which were coming in from all over Europe to go to those still in Ukraine and to those who had become refugees in Poland. Our staff have been dedicating voluntary hours throughout the day and night to help sort and distribute these items.

In October we were honoured at the World CBD Awards in Barcelona for our charitable work this year, which was a lovely moment for the team to be recognised for everything that they’ve been doing. Now we need to continue to emphasise that the war is ongoing and people in Ukraine need support from those around the world even more than they did at the beginning. We really hope the global attention doesn’t wane as time goes on.

What does the future look like for Reakiro and the CBD industry?

The future of the CBD industry is very, very positive. There’s new legislation coming which will allow new innovation, greater awareness of the capabilities of CBD, and ultimately for the industry to grow. It’s currently near impossible to innovate new products because of the restrictive Novel Food regulations. But as this changes the industry will be receiving more investment from other sectors, allowing reach and awareness to grow hand-in-hand. The momentum of the CBD industry continues to grow and grow as the products continue to bring positive change to people’s lives.

As for the future of Reakiro specifically, we’re looking to move into the medical cannabis space and we’ve partnered with a company in Malta to produce medical grade cannabis to distribute around the world . Medical cannabis products contain CBD and a high THC level and can only be accessed with a prescription. 

The doses of THC in question would be low enough not to make someone ‘high’ but medical cannabis is something that could help so many people experiencing many different conditions including pain management, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and also anxiety and panic attacks. We’re working towards closing the distance between doctors and medical cannabis, to help health professionals understand just how instrumental these natural products could be to helping their patients.

What are the challenges that the industry as a whole faces?

The biggest challenge we’ve always faced as an industry is how people perceive the hemp plant. Hemp is one of the world’s most resourceful plants, it can be used to make houses, batteries, clothes, and superfoods. This was recognised for thousands of years while people used hemp for a variety of reasons, but then when its growth was prohibited for 100 years all of that knowledge was erased. Now it’s our job as an industry to erase the image of a stoner with a joint and replace it with the knowledge of a plant that offers so many resourceful natural solutions. We need to do this in order for all our work in other areas, like product development, to have the true impact it deserves.

What drives and inspires you to continue on this mission every day?

The sense of being on a mission to change the world for future generations is my biggest motivator, and I think this would apply for many people in the industry. This isn’t a sector that people go into to get rich quick; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re thinking about generations and generations ahead, our children and grandchildren, and hoping that the work we put in now is going to make a difference.

I know that sounds like quite a lofty ambition, but we can already see things changing now. In the relatively short time the CBD industry has been truly alive it has shifted firmly into the mainstream and we can see that people’s attitudes, and people themselves, are changing. Not a week goes by that I don’t get a message from someone whose quality of life has dramatically improved since using CBD, whether it’s helping with sleep quality or managing pain and mobility so that they can now do things like go on bike rides with their children with ease; nothing motivates me more than this.

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