It’s passion that keeps Michael Taylor ‘13  going, but it was his professors who helped the 28-year-old start his own Hemp and CBD oil store in Dayton, OH.

“I would not be where I am today without the help and passion of Miami professors,” Taylor said.

Taylor and two other Miamians founded the hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) brand HempXclusive, which opened its first store in a Dayton, Ohio, mall in November 2018 and a second store in Fairfield, Ohio, on Friday, March 8.

The startup also recently signed a national deal which will allow them to open three to four new locations every four to six weeks until they have a presence in over 90 North American retail centers and malls.

CBD is a non-psychoactive compound derived from cannabis that many users and some experts say can reduce anxiety and inflammation, among other medicinal benefits. Plants in the cannabis family (hemp and marijuana are the two most famous) contain varying levels of both CBD and THC, the compound that produces the plant’s signature high. The plants can be selectively bred into strains that have higher or lower concentrations of either CBD or THC.

Taylor, the company’s founder, CEO and technical officer, majored in commerce with a minor in biology and is well-versed in homeopathic medicine. Josh Fishman, a sophomore at Miami, is the company’s chief marketing officer and Joe McKinney, also a sophomore, is HempXclusive’s chief operations officer.

The three met through Miami and, with the coaching and encouragement of various Miami professors, took the plunge into the world of entrepreneurship with the launch of their own CBD and hemp brand.

Taylor described himself and his partners as “not businessmen, but healers,” and said that, though business is an important part of their success, what truly drives them is the faith they have in CBD oil as an alternative or supplemental treatment for many ailments.

As popularity of holistic and organic healthcare is on the rise, Taylor said he believes CBD oil is the answer to many common problems. The products his company sells include pure CBD suspended in coconut oil, salve sticks (a lip balm-style cream to be put on various parts of the body) for aches and pains, capsule vitamins to aid with sleep and increase energy, energy drinks, gummies, vape juice and various creams and products for pets.

Taylor said their products have been extensively researched, and the men advertise their products as treatments or aids for conditions such as chronic pain, anxiety and depression, innsomnia, ADHD, epilepsy and high blood pressure.

The store contracts out to a private lab to test their products, Taylor added.

They face the daily challenge of defying cultural stereotypes of “ineffectiveness” surrounding CBD and holistic health, though they say that each of their products is researched and tested extensively.

“We just press on, try to stay true to the passion,” Taylor said.

The CBD industry is booming. Leading industry experts at the Brightfield Group predict the market will be worth an estimated $22 billion by 2022. Its success is largely due to its perceived effectiveness and a recent increase in science-based evidentiary support.

The HempXclusive brand uses CBD isolate instead of “full spectrum” oil, which contains trace amounts of THC. The process used to create the isolate is more expensive and time-consuming, Taylor said, but it is worth the time and money and ensures the end product contains no THC.

“Ours is a better product, cleaner, safer, of superior quality,” Taylor said.  “We have the best intentions at heart and want the best for our customers.”

Taylor attributed his and his partners’ success to Miami, and especially to Miami’s regional campuses.

“I had amazing mentors there, and the regional campuses allowed the convenience I needed to get my brand off the ground,” Taylor said. “It comes down to the professors. If you have the passion and the work ethic, they will respond in the same way.”