Serial entrepreneur Marc Siden, the Co-Founder and CEO of Cloud Water Brands, and his team have created a hemp-infused beverage that is at the intersection of functional wellness and good taste.
Building the Cloud Water brand means building trust among its customers who, according to Siden, believe in the product and love the fact that the team takes painstakingly extra time to ensure that they’re proud of what they deliver to market.
We caught up with Siden to discover what’s next for Cloud Water, the ‘ah-ha!’ moment that sparked his interest in CBD, and how he managed to build a diverse and loyal team, all while giving back to the community.
ForceBrands: Tell us about your background and how it led to the launch of Cloud Water.
Marc Siden: I learned so much about operating a business and made millions of mistakes by being a serial entrepreneur. I’m not a beverage person, but a good friend of mine approached me and mentioned that he was at a party in Los Angeles and tasted some CBD water that didn’t taste great. It turned out, his sister ran a flavor lab in New Jersey that has been making beverages for some of the largest companies for years.
He brought back some CBD and she created some samples for me to taste. I was familiar with CBD beverages and how they tasted, but these ones really stood out to me. He introduced me to several people in the industry who convinced me it could be a lucrative business. At some point, I turned to him at the meeting and said to make sure to find a good CEO. And all of a sudden, everybody in the room looked at me and said that I was the guy. He said he would love for me to be his co-founder, the CEO, and do what I do best. I was really humbled by the opportunity. We took the concept and ideated on who we wanted to be, what we wanted it to be, how we want it to be, and how we could be different.
FB: Let’s talk about your ‘ah-ha!’ moment — at what point did you realize you were onto something big with Cloud Water
MS: There’s an intersection of a lot of ‘ah-has.’ First of all, I started to use CBD on a regular basis and I took a certification course to learn more about it. I studied the science of it and was overwhelmed with its medicinal wellness properties. At the time, I did not know about our endocannabinoid system that naturally takes in and metabolizes cannabinoids. CBD has credible wellness properties — it can create homeostasis and balance in your life. As studies show, it helps reduce inflammation, anxiety, and pain; it’s treating diseases now, and the science gets even better. But, you know, my ‘ah-ha!’ moment was waking up: I’m a hockey player, I’m a little older, and my joints hurt. And as a result of taking CBD regularly, I started to feel a lot more fluid. My brain started to feel a lot clearer, and I said, ‘Wow, this stuff is real.’ So I realized we could make something that’s great for you, and that was a very special moment for me. The next ‘ah-ha!’ was when we did a very small launch to see if the thoughtfulness that we put into the packaging and all the flavor profiles would resonate.
FB: What excites you most about the cannabis industry? What are some of the unique challenges you’ve encountered launching a brand in this space?
MS: I’ve never been more excited, and I’ve never been more afraid. I think what excites me is that there is a huge market for this. There’s a huge demand, and consumers are very open to learning more and using CBD in various ways throughout their daily lives. It’s exciting to create something and receive accolades so early in your tenure: getting nominated for BevNET’s Beverage Showdown and receiving great reviews online. The irony is, it’s never been met with a stronger headwind with all of the regulations and security. You put out a great product, and people love it, and we’re transparent about the ingredients. But you have trouble marketing it in a mass way because there’s no clear path in which we do that. We’re very much in support of a regulated, predictable market. But in the interim, all of us are flying into these headwinds trying to figure out how to stay relevant and still push our products legally.
FB: Who do you hope will be continuous consumers of Cloud Water? And how are you marketing to this audience?
MS: CBD is ubiquitous in a sense that it can treat pediatric seizure patients and it helps people of all ages with inflammation, joint pain, and anxiety. When you look at some of the statistics, that transcends multiple demographic age categories and instances. It’s a little dangerous to go out and say, ‘This is for everybody,’ but we do believe in the versatility of our product. Also, we’re Cloud Water Brands, which means that we can not only come out with beverages but will produce other products in the future. We do see a broad customer right now through our social media and some of the limited marketing that we can do. We’re learning that millennials and Gen X are our primary customers. We find Cloud Water resonates most right now with these generations as they’re actively engaging with us on our social channels and coming to our events, but we’re certainly not ignoring other demographics that can benefit from our products as well.
FB: You work with various diversity nonprofits in your free time. How important is it for you to prioritize diversity and inclusion when continuing to build the Cloud Water team?
MS: I’ve always been a believer in giving back and I was raised to do so. I grew up in New York City, and some of my best friends early in life and still today are from diverse groups. I was always troubled with what I saw out in the world, and I got involved in working in underserved communities very early on in my professional career. And then, as I built my last business, I purposefully brought in a lot of interns and mentees who I wanted to expose to career paths. A few of them went on to work for me and with me for years, and then they’ve gone on to build successful businesses on their own.
I think the common denominator there is that they were given a chance and somebody who believed in them. They might have come from communities that just didn’t foster that as much, and sometimes opening a door for somebody is all you need. I’m happy to give somebody a chance who wants to take a chance on themselves.
FB: At ForceBrands, we believe that building the ideal team is crucial to the success of any business. How have you approaching building a cohesive culture and how would you describe your team?
MS: I’ve always believed in building human culture, and there are a couple of things that are very important to me. First and foremost, I want people to come to an environment where titles are put aside, where they feel they’re a part of a team and their work adds value. Most importantly, they know this is not just a job; they look forward to being a part of building something special. They’re not pushed to the background or left outside of secret meetings and different cliques. Every time we receive an accolade, I turn to the whole team and say, “Every single one of you had a part in this.” Creating that type of environment takes conscious effort. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by some incredible people — some of whom have extensive backgrounds in CPG like our chief strategy officer. I have folks on my advisory team who have helped scale brands. We rely on our scientists who are on our team to help create a very special, stable beverage. I think what defines Cloud Water is that everybody absolutely loves what we’re doing.
FB: It’s obvious that you value transparency, from using simple, familiar ingredients to posting your lab results on your website. Why is this important to you?
MS: We want everything we produce to be held to a very high standard. I want you to be able to know that what we say is in the bottle, is in the bottle and prove it. One of the reasons I said that we want a regulated market is because again, we have some really great people on our team who have fostered compliance and that type of integrity, and it leads to people trusting and supporting your brand in the future.
FB: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you could share with us? (Entrepreneurs and aspiring brand builders, take note!)
MS: One is something that my mother said to me: when you feel most needy, give. That’s how I learned to become more altruistic and just give my time to people. The other one is my friend telling me that the best investment you can ever make is in yourself. After I changed my mind frame of writing checks to other people, this knock came on the door, and I was afforded the opportunity to take on something that was very challenging and very scary. And it took a lot of belief in myself that I could do this.
FB: What’s next for you and the Cloud Water team? Any exciting new launches or innovations you could share?
MS: My next level of excitement is getting some clarity on the regulatory climate, so we can really grow the brand. We’re humbled by the number of emails and feedback we’re getting from all over the country. We’re getting requests from so many different places that want to carry our brand or want it shipped to them. I really want to get the business to a level where we really start answering that demand and continue to build our community. I’m also excited to think about future products and things that Cloud Water Brands can do. As science continues to improve, we want to create products that are in line with what our consumers are looking for and make them available throughout their daily lives.
Interested in working at an innovative brand like Cloud Water? Explore our specialized cannabis division HerbForce.