1. We love that you’re from Venezuela and moved to the Big Apple to study design as we can see the beautiful branding and art direction in your brand. Please tell us more about your personal story.
I’m deeply grateful for having been born and raised in Venezuela. It gifted my childhood with a propensity to revere nature’s beauty. Venezuela is a geographically stunning region – amongst its bounty are breathtaking mountain ranges, emerald colored Caribbean waters, snowy Andean peaks, and awe-inspiring table top mountains in the Venezuelan Amazon. It’s impossible to grow up amongst such beauty and not feel a deep humbling connection to the land. I also grew up with architect parents who taught me that considered simplicity allows for natural elegance. That notion, and the splendor of my homeland have influenced how I approach design. Cerena’s branding is the direct result of both.
There was magic too. A kind not too dissimilar from the one present in Chilean novelist Isabell Allende's stories about magical realism, where the fantastical is seamlessly interwoven with the mundane. I was raised by a family full of women who consulted brujas (spanish for witches), passed on wives tales, herbal remedies, humorous proverbs, casual spells and tricks to influence the weather and protect small children. This culture of magical thinking left me with a rich imagination and boundless hope for what could be overcome and made manifest. Which bits of what was shared down were mystical truths, the power of ritual, a placebo effect or mere nonsense is unknown and in my opinion, somewhat irrelevant. To me, magic lies within an inner knowing of the power of nature, and it is unconcerned with the pace at which science catches up with intuitive and ancestral wisdom.
Moving to the U.S. as a 13-year old was a bit of a shock to the system, but we fortunately moved to a county with a phenomenal public school with an art magnet program. I found my sense of purpose there. Thanks to my education at Dreyfoos School of the Arts I was able to get accepted in the country’s top design schools. Coming to New York was a dream, and I am so grateful for the many doors my talents and hard work have been able to open. I have worked with heroes and magnificently talented people and on really beautiful products. Looking back it's hard not to get emotional about how I’ve transformed from an artsy weird little brown girl who believed in magic to a young woman designing for multinational brands, being able to support her family back home and start and fund her own business… still weird and still believing in magic.
2. What made you want to start a CBD company? Where does the name Cerena come from?
We started a CBD company back in July of 2018 after learning my partner's dad Dennis had decided to become a hemp farmer shortly after being forced into retirement. Chris, my partner, was initially surprised — this was an uncharacteristically risky move due to his father’s lack of farming experience — but he felt his father’s enthusiasm and resolved to find a way to support this new adventure. As we studied hemp, we started to realize the potency of the plant. This could be our future, and it could be The Future. Hemp was a way to partner with Chris’ dad, sure but it was also a channel through which we could both work to bring the healing nature of hemp to more people.
I was initially apprehensive of CBD as I’m very sensitive to substances and was unsure whether I’d enjoy it or reap any benefits from it. But it has been personally revolutionary. As someone working high-stress jobs and not a stranger to anxiety, hemp taught me what calm feels like during a challenging day. I’m also allergic to nsaids – neither aspirin, advil, nor ibuprofen could ever come to my rescue. Our products have gifted me with comfort during my cycle, and after physically demanding days. I now want to share this natural magic with everyone.
Dennis is no longer farming, but he helped open up a whole world for us and we have done our due diligence to source excellence and innovation in farming, extraction, and manufacturing. Our goal has been to bring to market products we ourselves, as discerning consumers, would buy above others.
In Venezuela, "El Sereno" is a term that describes the palpable feeling in the air as the late afternoon transitions into early evening, when the heat of the day gently cools and an evening dew starts to form. The term captures a shift in energy. Our name is the female embodiment of this term. In Spanish language, nouns that end in "o" express a masculine quality, so we've made the name feminine by ending it in "a".
3. Where do you source your CBD from and what makes your company and products stand out?
Our hemp-infused products are unique because of how they’re made. Aside from being USDA certified organic, our foundational hemp oil is derived from clean vapor extraction, an innovative, gentle distillation technology that preserves the plant’s natural ratio of active cannabinoids and terpenes more effectively. This is important because other extraction methods often burn off the plant’s good-for-you terpenes, taking away the full spectrum benefits the hemp plant has to offer. While terpenes from other sources can be added into any formula, we believe in the original terpene synergy of our hemp plants. Our extract has a taste and smell reminiscent of honeysuckle, pine, pepper, and a nutty follow through.
We know that CBD is just one of hemp’s many gifts. We diligently study scientific research and anecdotal evidence regarding how each active component in the plant benefits well-being. Using our full-spectrum vapor extracted oil as a foundation, we intentionally formulate our products for targeted benefits with supplemental cannabinoids in effective concentrations — for example, there is 500mg of CBG in our ALIVIO drops to help alleviate menstrual pain and improve recovery.
As for our proprietary topical formulas, we pair the power of hemp with other potent and consciously-sourced botanicals. For example, we collaborated with the scent artist Tatiana Godoy Batancur to create the grounding synergy for our aromatherapy roll-on ALINEA. It smells like a forest in the Pacific Northwest after a morning rain. Paired with our full-spectrum extract it helps calm inflammation, while the olfactory experience returns you to the present moment.
4. There is a love story with your business partner, how is it working together?
This question made me smile, and then awkwardly laugh a little! Working together with my life partner has been all the good things: it's been wonderful, it's been a challenge, it's been a huge growth process for both of us as individuals and as partners in all things.
It's been a real gift to be able to create something together. We come from very different worlds and I’ve really enjoyed being witnessed in my creative process by him, and in turn witnessing him in his entrepreneurial dexterity. We’ve gotten to know each other more deeply as we both feel a sense of purpose with this venture. There’s power in that.
Like many other couples in business together, we have certainly struggled to set boundaries on when work stops and personal life begins. The pandemic certainly exacerbated the issue as we both found ourselves working from home from our open space mini loft (a.k.a. a studio apartment). But the love and respect we have for one another drives us to learn how to communicate better, hold and give space to one another, and figure out how to work smarter. The business has certainly brought us to a greater sense of union, it’s been tough at times but ultimately a very rewarding experience.
5. What are some of the ups and downs of being in this ever growing green space and as a small business owner?
The simple fact is that none of this is easy. We had no idea how to run an e-commerce business or bring a wellness product to market when this all first started. Nonetheless, we were determined to learn as much as possible and willing to fail forward in order to evolve. Everyday is filled with new challenges and surprises, some exciting and some stressful. There are a lot of restrictions that naturally come with the cannabis space, and as a bootstrapped business we have to be creative and resilient in order to continue to flourish.
That said, there has been plenty to write home about. The best ups have come from the customers we have been able to help and the feedback we’ve received on our products. My heart warms when people compliment our branding, but the real joy comes when we hear stories of how our products are making a difference in people’s lives. There are a lot of recreational uses for cannabis products, I delight in the medicinal ones. For me, it's all about when I hear someone is sleeping better than they have in months after taking our NOCTURNO drops, or that they are feeling a little more courageous to face the day thanks to our CALMA drops. That’s what makes the “downs” worth it. It’s confirmation we can be of true service.
6. We hear Cerena is being featured as part of NAKED Retail’s “The Future of” Summer series. What can we expect from this experience?
Yes, we’re extremely excited about the opportunity too. NAKED curates a unique space for people to experience innovative products from forward thinking and inspiring brands. Aside from having the majority of our formulas available, we’ll be providing free sample kits to anyone who’s interested. When entering the space, we shouldn’t be too hard to find, simply follow the smell of our burning incense rituals as they envelope the room.
7. We love that you are a Leo, Aries rising with your moon in Aquarius, which you proudly list on your bio (we’re into Astrology and highly recommend you listen to THE Space #002: Your Horoscope for the Year: 2021’s Cosmic Forecast with Shannon Aganza of Moon Gathering). How does your sign relate to your day to day with Cerena?
What a fun question! As a Leo Sun, I seek to celebrate every little bit of progress we make, every sale, every review, every breakthrough and new inspiration. It’s the little wins that bring joy day in and day out. As an Aries rising, I am constantly seeking balance to my ability to overwork and overextend myself. My rising gives me great work ethic and determination but I find myself resourcing to Cerena’s products to cool all that fire! And this is where my moon comes in: as an Aquarius moon I find that I replenish my depleted energy by diving into a book, stimulating my intellect by learning new things, and above all sharing time with my friends and family.
BONUS Svn (7) Speed round:
- One song you listen to on repeat: “Siempre en mi corazón” by Los Indios Tabajaras
- Book or Magazine you are reading: “Jasmine Water” by Maria Haddad
- What you’re looking forward to in 2021: Hugs and reconnections of all kinds.
- You can only have one meal, 30 days straight on an island (don’t worry about the health aspects), what is it? Fried plantains sprinkled with paisa cheese and papaya salad.
- Who’s on that island with you? My sisters and brother. It's been far too long since we’ve seen each other.
- Last thing you watched on TV: The Handsmaid Tale. Yikes.
- Favorite Quote: “To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.” – Rumi
A WOC-led CBD brand, our category-defining products are designed to facilitate a shift into calm, relief, or sleep using innovative vapor extraction and ancient plant intelligence.