All Careers Considered: Going from a Creative Advertising Major to Co-founder of a Business with Garrett Greller

This week we spoke with Garrett Greller. Garrett graduated from IU in 2018 with a degree in creative advertising and is the co-founder and Director of Marketing and Product Development at Uncle Buds Hemp and CBD. In this episode, Garett shares how he got the idea for the business when he was a student at IU and how his classes and relationships with faculty members in the media school were essential to the success of his business. Enjoy the episode! 

Transcript

MOLLY: Hey, Hoosiers. Welcome back to another episode of All Careers Considered. This podcast is produced by the Walter Center for Career Achievement, which is the career services center that specifically serves students and alumni in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. We’re on a mission to help you achieve career success by supporting you in your pursuit of impactful experiences, designing your life, sharing your story and building meaningful connections.
My name is Molly Burkhardt. I’m the assistant director of strategic alumni engagement for the Walter Center. And I’m also the host of this podcast. You may have heard that you can do anything with the college of arts and sciences degree, and I’m here to show you that that really is the case by interviewing alumni to ask them how they got to where they are now.

Next up is my interview with Garrett Greller. Garrett graduated from IU in 2018 with a degree in creative advertising and he’s also the co-founder and director of marketing and product development at Uncle Bud’s, hemp and CBD. And this episode, Garris shares how he got the idea for the business. When he was a student I knew and how his classes and relationships with faculty members in the media school were essential to the success of his business. Enjoy the episode.

Alrighty. Thanks for being here, Garrett.

GARRETT: Thank you for having me.

MOLLY: Yeah. So you are the co-founder and the director of marketing and product development for Uncle Bud’s Hemp. So I’d be curious for people who might not be familiar with your company, if you want to tell us a little bit about your company that you started.

GARRETT: Sure. So Uncle Bud’s was actually all started when I was a sophomore at Indiana University. It all started to solve a problem that I’ve had since I was 16 years old, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my knees back hips and ankles. I tried really every prescription medicine over the counter and nothing worked for me.
So I set out to find a natural alternative that would work better than those. And I came across this special ingredient called hemp and CBD and yeah. Worked with an FDA registered lab in the United States to formulate a topical pain relief product that would work for me. And it all started with just one CBD pain relief product, and that worked so incredibly to help my aches and pains that I knew right then and there that I had a business to start. And it all started on the couch with my dad and we launched Uncle Buds, like I said, when I was a sophomore. So around 2016 bootstrapped my way through Indiana University. I was an advertising and marketing major, used my classes as much as I could to help me with my business, started it with under $5,000.

And right as I graduated, I met my current business partner, Bruno who had relationships with big box retailers and experience in launching brands. And he saw my story. He saw this great product that was working for so many people and saw an opportunity to really help bring this worldwide. And now Uncle Bud’s has grown from that one pain relief product. We have over 85 different hemp and CBD products across skincare, personal care, antibacterial, ingestibles, pet products, everything you could think of. And we’re sold on around 15,000 retailers, everyone from CVS, Walmart,Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Vitamin Shop, GNC and we are endorsed by some big celebrity names like Magic Johnson, Jane Fonda, Toni Braxton, and it’s grown into one of the number one hemp and CBD brands in the world currently. So it’s really exciting because you know, it all started at IU, bootstrapping it with my, my teachers and my friends there. And it’s grown into this real big business. So I’m happy to tell the story.

MOLLY: Yeah, that is really cool and super impressive. And I feel like that industry is you know, really growing right now. So it sounds like you kind of, you know, hit the ground running with a really great idea and it was a perfect time to do it too. So that is really cool. I’d like to go back a little bit and hear if, you know, growing up and as you were in high school and deciding to go to IU, did you kind of think that you might want, want to be an entrepreneur at some point or you know, what were you kind of envisioning that you were going to do with your career?

GARRETT: Yeah. So funny enough, like I’ve say I’ve been an entrepreneur since eighth grade, I started a business selling duct tape backpacks and duct tape wallets to all my middle school friends and then a photography business in high school. And me and my dad were always coming up with funny new business ideas, but I wanted to go to IU originally for the business school, funny enough, and Kelly’s really hard to get into if you’re not a direct admin. So in the first couple of weeks after taking K201, I’m sure kids will relate,I went to a majors fair and I was like, I’m going to see if there’s anything else out there for me.

And I love the mix of creativity and business. So, I saw the Media School was just starting out when I was there when I was a freshmen and I saw an advertising major and I immediately changed my major from marketing to advertising to get more of that creative side of it going. And that was one of my greatest decisions I made in college because it gave me the time to launch this business, and alongside with these classes of advertising, and I was able to use my business in many of my classes as projects, and that was the best part about it. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t know if this business was going to take off or anything, but I was doing it out of a, kind of a passion because it was a product that worked so well for me that I wanted to get it into as many hands as possible. And as soon as I started getting customer feedback of this pain relief product changing their life or their grandma’s life or their mom’s life, I knew I had something special, and I wanted to run with it, and that’s really where my entrepreneur spirit started young, but it took a few different businesses to get to Uncle Bud’s.

MOLLY: Yeah. Well, it sounds like that you know, that creative advertising was a perfect avenue for you to start kind of, learning about starting a business from a more creative aspect. I’m sure a lot of students will relate to, you know, maybe they were thinking they were going to be in Cali and then it took them a different direction and it all worked out perfectly. So that’s really cool. I’d love to know a little bit about the product development side. So did you, you know, like actually just start making this product, like in your, you know, your dorm room or what did that look like? Who was kind of the one who put the product together? Like at the very beginning.

GARRETT: Yeah. Good question. So I’m, I’m originally from Los Angeles, California and I originally tried a CBD topical balm from an approved California dispensary, walked in with my mom for my first time. And it works great for me, but knowing I was going to Indiana university, couldn’t bring that there legally.
So that’s why I did some research and I found an FDA registered lab in the United States and they said they could do hemp or CBD legally, as long as it. It’s from hemp, zero THC, none of that stuff that gets you high. I said, that’s great. Go ahead and. Let’s try to make, have them make some formula, send some over to my myself to try. And they put together around 10 different pain relief formulas. I tested them on myself. I would run around a track, put myself in as much pain as possible without the pain, really fun and try each different pain relief until I found one that worked for me. I found the formula that was just fantastic, better than the balm that I tried from the dispensary and it brought my pain from a nine to a two. And that’s basically how that first product started. It was just testing it on myself, but with an accredited FDA registered lab. So it wasn’t just made in my dorm, it was made with a real scientist with science behind it. And that’s the same with all of our products, because it’s really important with hemp and CBD that you’re getting quality stuff or any cosmetic, anything you’re putting on or into your body, you want to make sure you’re getting the highest quality stuff.

MOLLY: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So when you were a student, I can imagine that you were very busy. You’re kind of running your own company and you know, your student at IU. So tell me about, you know, just kind of from the student side, you know, just being a 18 to 22 year old being in Bloomington, what was that like? Were you involved in anything else on campus? Did you do other internships? What was your kind of life like as a student outside of the business?

GARRETT: Yeah. So I was in a fraternity. I was in AEPi which was a huge help for my business. You know, that’s a, that’s a big network of people. That’s 220 kids that are there to help you. And I used them for a lot of things when I was starting out my business, even I would I would use them to decide what logo I wanted.
And then I loved being in AEPi because it allowed me to do the philanthropic things that we were doing. So we did animal house there and raised money for all different types of stuff. And I didn’t just use them to help my business, but they, they really did help my business. Using that network, they spread it to their parents, they spread it on social media. They, they wanted to help. Because that’s the best part about being in a community at IU.  And then the other thing that I just loved was I loved every class I took. Every advertising and marketing class, I was also a marketing minor through the Kelley school,so I, I truly love those classes because they applied directly to what I was doing in the real life. So I would take what I was learning in class and then go home and try to see if I could apply it to Uncle Bud’s. And it, I was always able to in some way, shape or form. And yeah, I think running a business alongside of taking these classes, I’d recommend anyone to do, cause it’s only going to help your curriculum. Surprisingly enough, like it made me kind of understand it because you’re able to apply it to real life stuff rather than just reading a textbook you’re you’re doing it and saying, “Oh yeah, that makes total sense, what they’re talking about there.”

MOLLY: Sure. Absolutely. I’m curious, Garrett, if anyone, you know, obviously you were super successful, you know, running this business as a student, you were sharing it with your peers and everything. Was there any ever anyone like a teacher or peer that kind of said, like, you’re really going to do this. I mean, I don’t think this is going to work out. Did you get any doubts or were people for the most part, you know, like all on board and super supportive?

GARRETT: Oh, no lots of, lots of doubts. Definitely a lot of doubts. In 2016, no one knew what the word CBD even was. People thought I was giving them something that would get them high people thought it was coming from marijuana. That’s something that has been the it’s a learning curve CBD. We were early in teaching it and getting people to trust it and getting people to know that it won’t get them high. It’s just an ingredient that is great as an anti-inflammatory. It’s great for all different types of things.  So I was getting doubts from all over, especially being that kid from LA, coming with a CBD product to Indiana, to the Midwest. People never heard or saw this type of stuff. And they’re scared of it. And teachers were even a little skeptical of it and scared of it and were like, “what are you doing there’s a hemp leaf on your product?” So teaching people and to this day, it stays true to our brand is being a leader in teaching people about what makes CBD and hemp so safe and what separates it from the scary ingredient THC people might think. And I think that was the biggest doubt that I got from people, not that I was starting a business, but more that I was starting a business in this kind of gray area category that no one really had ever heard of at that time.

MOLLY: Yeah, no, that makes complete sense. And that’s what I kind of figured, but I was curious to know about what that experience was like. I also saw Garrett that you did a couple of internships at, it looked like different types of production companies while you were a student. So tell me a little bit about that. What kinds of you know, experiences did you get in those internships?

GARRETT: Yeah, so I’ve always loved startups. I was big into virtual reality when that was first starting up that industry. So I was, I entered that a sorta John VR and Felix Felix and Paul VR, which made cinematic virtual reality experiences. And alongside doing that, I was also running Uncle Bud’s and this was always during summer, but I loved working with small teams and growing an idea from the beginning. I think that’s the entrepreneur in me. I think it’s a faster way of growing and you learn a lot more cause you wear a lot more hats at a startup. So those internships are, were great for me because, it allowed me to do a lot more than just focus on one thing, in the production world, you’re obviously doing, you’re going from cleaning dishes to also like working with some of the head executives. So that’s why I always recommend people take a look at startups, especially as an internship, because you’ll learn a lot more than you think it’s not as a systematic, they don’t set up exactly what you’re going to do. Your day to day can be so different, which is always exciting.

MOLLY: Sure, absolutely. That sounds like it was a great experience. Okay. So tell me a little bit about when you were getting ready to graduate and, you know, kind of do this business full time. You have your degree, you’re moving back to LA and then you said that you met your business partner Bruno. So tell me a little bit about you know, where did you guys meet and how did that what did that kind of look like?

GARRETT: Yeah. I always like to say it’s a little bit of a Cinderella story. Because I had accepted a job outside. I was ready to kind of shut Uncle Bud’s down at my end because it was only staying afloat and wasn’t ready for me to be a full time [job] after college. My dad met Bruno through a mutual friend after telling the story one last time, Bruno loved the story and said what he could do with it. And when he said the opportunity of what we have here, I immediately rescinded my job.
I said, I’m going to take a risk because you know, life’s all about taking risks, especially when you’re young and graduating. And I said, why not? Let’s, let’s give this six months, let’s give this a year. Let’s see what we can do with this together with Bruno. And that was the best risk I ever took. It happened right as I was taking my finals senior year.

I remember getting our first order from Walmart and having to design a PDQ a sidekick, which I’ve never done in my life and five new products all while taking finals. And it was just like the most exciting, hectic – I feel it literally feels like it was yesterday, which is crazy – hectic time ever. And I was just remember, like, going out of classes to have these phone calls with Bruno and being like, I got to go run back in. I have to get, see this lecture cause I have a final coming up, but I’ll have this design by right after that. And that was the most hectic and exciting moment ever. And. It’s just one of those wow moments that are like, wow, I can’t believe that actually happened. I can’t believe we met this guy by chance. But it was after three years of ups and downs of launching this product. So I think a lot of entrepreneurs have those aha moments where they meet someone that’s pivotable and changing the way that their business runs and happens.

MOLLY: Yeah, absolutely. And just kind of a follow up question, it sounds like your dad, I mean, obviously you are the, the main person of this business, but it sounds like he kind of knew some people and maybe like, does he also have an entrepreneurship background?

GARRETT:  So my dad was definitely an entrepreneur. He launched businesses throughout his right, when he graduated college, he actually had his first business. Funny enough. So we were always having a good time thinking of new ideas and launching stuff together. I always say use my coach. And and entrepreneurship was our sport. Sadly enough, my dad suddenly passed away this year in June. So now uncle Bud’s is you know, there’s even more passion behind it than I’ve ever had before. It’s something that we launched together. He wanted to do it to solve my aches and pains, but it was also our dad and son, you know, project that turned into such a big business. And he got to see where it turned, what it turned into. And he was so excited and it is one of my biggest motivators today is to just, keep getting this into people’s hands, keep making him proud. And I’m grateful that I got to run a business with my dad. You know, most kids never get that opportunity and I got to take everything that he had to teach me. And I, I took it all in for two, three years. I learned everything I know about sales and entrepreneurship from him, and he was an expert at it. So I’m grateful for Uncle Bud’s not just for my own selfish reasons of aches and pains are gone, but also that I got to have that time to launch the business with him.

MOLLY: Yeah. Wow. That is such an incredible story. I’m sorry to hear about your father, but it sounds like what a cool legacy to leave and that you all were able to start that business together. So that’s really cool. So kind of on a personal note, I know you’re from Los Angeles, but obviously you moved back and you’re living there now. So what is it like living in Los Angeles as a young professional? You know, do you stay in touch with people or how have you kind of found like a community in LA?

GARRETT: Yeah. So I’m originally from Manhattan Beach, California. So a small beach town in Los Angeles. So people actually thought I was crazy to move out of LA to go to Indiana but I say the opposite. I’m like, no, it was so great to have four years in the Midwest, meet people from all over. That’s the best part about IU, you will leave there knowing people from almost all 50 States, because it’s so great. And I’m one of my only friends that ended up moving to LA, but that’s the fun part. People want to come here to visit. I get a visit in every different state. It’s so easy to keep in touch with everyone. Everyone’s still so supportive of uncle buds and what I’m doing. And I’ve made some of the best friends of my life there. And they’re just all incredible people. Everyone I met at IU and I’ve stayed really close with nearly every single person. And that’s the best part about, I guess, technology today, it’s easy to communicate and you can work from wherever and be from wherever and Uncle Bud’s has always been a remote business. So it’s always been easy to travel and see them. And I see them on my business trips and it’s great.

MOLLY: Sure. Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, I think that’s kind of all the questions that I have Garrett. I’d love to, you know, just kind of wrap up. If you have any kind of last words of advice for students who, especially students in the College of Arts and Sciences that are, you know, trying to develop a product or they want to be an entrepreneur and are kind of trying to figure out how to navigate the resources and just kind of do all of that. What kinds of words of advice would you give to students who might be in that position?

GARRETT: Yeah. So the first word of advice, I always like to give any entrepreneurs is just do it. Like if you’re thinking about not doing it, because of whatever my advice is just do it, you know, like there’s no downside to doing it. The worst thing that happens is you’ll learn something new and that’s the best part about entrepreneurship. So there’s never a negative of trying something. There really isn’t. And then my second word of advice, especially while you try to launch product is use your resources, use your teachers. They want to help you. They want to see you succeed, use your friends. They want to help you. They want to see you succeed and you just never know where your business will go. And it could end up something like this. Like I, like I said, this is a Cinderella story. I was shutting it down my senior year of college and look at what happened today. I had never could have imagined Magic Johnson would be my business partner holding my products, endorsing it in Forbes magazine, but it happened. And I really think that because it could happen to just a normal person like me, it can really happen to anyone else as well.

MOLLY: Yeah. That’s great advice. And if students, you know, wanting to connect with you or just keep in touch or not keep in touch, but you know, stay up to date on your products and everything. Is there a place they can find you either on social media or something like that?

GARRETT: I think the best way to find me as LinkedIn, I’m always responding to LinkedIn requests and just going to the Uncle Bud’s Instagram. I run that as well. So if they want to fall along there, they could see the, the progression and follow along with Uncle Bud’s or shoot me a personal message. I’m always open and happy to talk to kids because you never know who the next Uncle Bud’s is going to be.

MOLLY: That’s very true. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Garrett it was great. Getting to talk to you today and best of luck, I’m excited to see kind of where your, your company and your journey takes you.

GARRETT: Thank you so much.

MOLLY: Yeah. Thank you. Thanks so much for listening today and thanks to my fantastic colleagues for providing production assistance and inspiration for the podcast each week. Those folks include Ian Sory, Camryn Schreiner, Maureen Langley, Amy Cornell and my entire Walter Center team.  To learn more about the Walter center at IU and the services, resources, and events we offer. Please check out our website at careers.college.indiana.edu. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to receive timely updates from the Walter Center as well. To connect with alumni like the one in this episode, please make a profile on the Walter Center Success Network. It only takes a few minutes to create an account and start building your professional network. If you liked what you heard today, be sure to subscribe on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcast to make sure you don’t miss an episode and last but not least feel free to reach out to me. Molly Burkhart personally on LinkedIn, or send me an email with any questions or feedback you might have.

Thanks again, everyone. And we’ll see you next time!

By Camryn Schreiner
Camryn Schreiner Videography Intern Camryn Schreiner