Tatum Drewes, mother of two under two, owns the CBD + coffee shop Khepri Cafe in Chicago, IL and founded Khepri Maternity, an online platform with specially formulated CBD products for mothers and mothers-to-be.
GBE: You’ve got two businesses, is Khepri Cafe your first business ever, or did you have business experience prior to that?
TD: I have had business experience prior. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a serial entrepreneur, but every business that I’ve ever owned has always represented me in such an exact way at that time in my life. I also own Higher Healing.
Higher Healing is a sports focused CBD and educational company that I started six years ago and still exists. I think education is so important in anything you’re doing and to really share with your client or your customer what or why they are using something is necessary.
So rewind a bit, I was a hairstylist for 15 years prior to Higher Healing. And as a hairstylist it was my responsibility to find clients, maintain those clients and build strong personal relationships otherwise I had no one in my chair. I was in charge of my own success in that sense. I eventually became a self contractor in the industry and was in business for myself. That taught me a lot of responsibility and laid some groundwork for when it did come to owning my own businesses.
Along with being a hairstylist, I became a global educator for one of the top hair color companies. Being an educator has always been in my blood. It was my passion, I was great at it and it was very present in my life. I found it important to share with people so they can better themselves or their skill.
During that time in my life, I traveled a ton, my traveling led me to start cycling for charity around the world. Cycling around the world led me to become an advert athlete and being an athlete came abuse on my body, injury and fatigue and that’s when I found cannabis. CBD, specifically, changed my life. My injury changed, my movement increased, my anxieties disappeared, and in result Higher Healing was born. Higher Healing’s focus was to educate society on CBD and cannabis. Six years ago, this was such a new industry and at that time it was the wild wild West, it still is, but the world didn’t have legal cannabis careers available. It was so new to lawyers, researchers, insurance companies, consumers and business owners. I looked at my success with CBD and my pain, how it helped me and knew I wasn't alone experiencing chronic pain. Taking vicodin or oxycodone to cover my injury was not an option. CBD supported me in the way I needed it to. So I studied plant medicine, I studied cannabis and I continue to share what I learned with the world. I started Higher Healing and wanted to give people new options in natural healing and plant remedies.
GBE: There’s always a lot that goes into getting a business off the ground - especially a brick and mortar. Tell us how you started Khepri Cafe.
TD: My backstory is quite long but when opening a brick and mortar the intention was very much to have a space to retail CBD products, natural herbs and host educational and social events. It was the idea and the demand from my current Higher Healing customers that gave me the strength to move forward. We were open to hosting a whole slew of different industries and subjects, not exclusive to cannabis.
After choosing the location- in our neighborhood, we knew it needed to be coffee, along with heavy retail. Coffee has always been present in my life and a bit of an interest. We chose our location, being just 10 steps off the “El'' in Chicago, a train that travels all throughout the city. It was always an idea to offer (CBD) coffee, smoothies, CBD beverages of all sorts to compliment our classes–morning networks, mom groups, smoothie bowl classes with intention herbs, sort of thing. So we began the build out, including an inviting large seating area to work all day and plug in all while enjoying being part of the community.
This was such a new industry for me to dive into: construction, design, restaurant equipment, contracts, permits, etc. It wasn’t necessarily scary, I trusted myself but I also pushed myself to ask questions and use my resources. Anytime you start a business, there are going to be growing pains and learning curves, but if you don't take that leap, how will you know?
On February 12, 2020, our doors opened, five weeks later, the Covid shutdown happened. Like many other businesses, we had to pivot. No one was going to attend events anytime soon, one key component to our business model.
We navigated into being a full functioning conscious coffeehouse, with a full made-to-order menu, carry out option, grab and go section, and CBD products. We became a destination spot for CBD, cannabidiol, and people trust my knowledge and recommendations with CBD therapy. I am known as one of the experts in Chicago. It has unfolded in such an unexpected way. It has not been easy, but it’s been wonderful at the same time.
GBE: What had you decide to open a coffeehouse, and what do you hope it achieves?
TD: As I mentioned before, it was our intention, and we still hope to execute what we originally anticipated the space being used for, to host and support events. I like to call our cafe, a conscious coffeehouse, Khepri Cafe. Khepri is an Egyptian God, the God of creation. To represent renewal of Life, to stay mindful of our choices, in food, movement, language and natural supplement. That is very much our philosophy.
Our tagline is “living consciously + creating community”. It’s our goal, and always has been, to bring people together, like-minded people and create a strong community. We want to be seen as a safe and welcoming space in Albany Park. Offering social events for all ages, educational and physical classes. Right now we are recognized for our fresh, intentional food menu, retail that supports small businesses, and a very cozy environment that offers a large CBD selection. The pandemic has guided us into a new path, but I am confident we will be able to achieve our original goals as well.
GBE: What are some of the major challenges you’ve had to navigate as a brick-and-mortar business owner?
TD: Oh some of the major challenges, it seems like when you overcome one challenge, there’s another one waiting for you shortly after. I caught myself saying, “okay, when we get over this, it’s going to be good”, but the fact of the matter is that everything‘s not always going to go as we expect. Learn to adapt, read your audience and pivot.
Some of the major challenges have definitely been the Covid shut down, but the silver lining there is I had a beautiful daughter during quarantine and I was able to be home with her. I believe it’s very necessary to find the positive in tough situations.
Other challenges being, the current supply chain and inflation issues, the learning curve being new to the industry. We were also vandalized and harassed with posters of gentrifying the neighborhood when we first opened, which is absolutely ridiculous. Our neighborhood has so many vacancies and we were just trying to add to and grow the community that we lived in.
I look very young for the accomplishments I have achieved and some people just don't like that. You can get judged right away or excuses are made that some exterior thing got you to where you are. That fuels me more than anything. Keep pushing for what you want.
GBE: What would you do differently if you started over again?
TD: If I had to do it all over again, the first thing I would do is not hire a contractor. We didn’t have the best relationship with our contractor and it ended up costing us way more than it needed to. Seeing things in hindsight, I absolutely could have hired professionals and organized things on my own.
GBE: You’ve also started Khepri Maternity as a mom of two. Tell us more about what this company is and who it’s for.
TD: Yes, Khepri Maternity, this is my identity. I am so proud of this company and what we are doing. Khepri Maternity is a curated line of pre and post-natal products that support mom and baby. We offer natural products that alleviate physical and mental side effects that come with pregnancy, labor, and postnatal. But to me, it’s so much more than that. I have welcomed two beautiful daughters, through home births since April 2020. Our products have helped support myself and so many others on this journey, Motherhood.
Our website has a platform that encourages a community to come together and write, “Letters to you.” This is a safe space to release your emotions and connect. This platform has been very therapeutic. I invite you all to check it out.
"I realize that there’s a common ground for most women and postpartum, but there also needs to be a space for siblings, children, grandparents, significant others and partners; because when a baby is welcomed into this world it affects all parties. Letters to you is a platform, a safe space, that welcomes all letters written by you or anonymously. Release your emotions and write. We’re here to listen."
GBE: Tell us about the process of working with formulators to create your specially developed products.
TD: I have been working with our formulators for quite some time now. They have created three products for me, formulas that we specifically own. I present to them what type of product I am looking for; texture, benefits, specific key ingredients, and the experience, is it warming, cooling, etc. The formulator then creates multiple varieties that I may be interested in based on my requests. From there we narrow it down to a few. I then test it out in the field, get feedback, make changes, and that process continues until it's exactly where I want it. Once I sign off on the specific formula, we own it. That formula can not be replicated or used by another company unless given permission or I choose to private label it. Some of our products have taken over a year to get it right, but it’s perfect.
GBE: What are some of the bigger goals you have for your company in the next few years?
TD: Khepri Maternity will be focusing on building our brand, growing our B2B relationships and plans to release a few more key products. We plan to build our Letters to You community and partner with some key players in the industry.
I am studying to become a health/life coach for pregnant women and postnatal care. That is an additional service Khepri Maternity will offer. We have bright eyes for the future and we are focused.
GBE: Many women in our community want to start a business but haven’t made the leap yet. What advice would you give to the woman who is holding back from building something of her own?
TD: Take the leap. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and have a similar desire to work hard and reach goals. Use your resources, ask questions.
A quote that I like to go back to is, “Be water”.
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless - like water. That is a truth. Be simultaneously without form and every form possible. No resistance. Adapt.
To check out her businesses and stay connected with Tatum, visit:
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