As cannabidiol (CBD) continues to surge in popularity among consumers on a global scale, it is natural for one to feel concerned that the industry is taking a wrong turn, from local retailers with holistically centered missions to sprawling conglomerates featuring lifeless, dime-a-dozen products.
James Thompson and his e-commerce business Calm Peak CBD falls into the former category, embodying the image of David versus Goliath. Thompson, born in Seoul, Korea, described himself as an Army brat who “travelled all over.” He eventually ended up in the U.S. and attended college in California on an art and dance scholarship.
“I’m real creative. I like coming up with names and logos. Marketing is me. I just love doing it,” Thompson said. After college, he entered into the private sector as a budding entrepreneur and would strike gold with a business called Smoothie Joes, based out of Birmingham, Alabama.
It was during the foundation of Smoothie Joes that Thompson learned what it would take to run a successful business. “I had a line wrapped around the building. I couldn’t believe it,” he said. Eventually, however, misfortune would befall Thompson with the dissolution of both his marriage and business, leading to a lifestyle he aptly described as “burning the candle at both ends.”
Following his divorce and fears that he would lose his daughter along with his business, Thompson fell into a depression. Thompson began experimenting with drugs and drinking heavily because he “wanted to die inside,” the entrepreneur told MACE.
“I was doing drugs and didn’t care,” he said. Everything changed for the entrepreneur one morning after he suffered a near-fatal mini-heart attack, leading to hospitalization and a torrent of negative prognoses. It turned out that the episode was the result of five blood clots located in Thompson’s heart, kidney and elsewhere throughout his body.
“It was crazy. They [doctors] couldn’t understand how this young guy had five blood clots.” Thompson said it got so bad that his family was expecting his to die at one point, which thankfully never materialized. As a result of the hospitalization, he was prescribed up to 11 drugs for various conditions, including high blood pressure.
“After about five years nothing seemed to be working. I was always tired, lethargic and experienced a range of side effects,” he explained. The side effects would become so overwhelming that Thompson began experiencing suicidal moments. It was at that moment that he decided to make a change, leading to an appointment with a holistic practitioner who prescribed him CBD. He began taking the products, working out frequently and noticed a sizeable drop in body weight.
After a period of taking CBD and exercising frequently, Thompson returned to his original practitioner for standard testing and stumbled upon an incredible surprise — the test results were positive, much to the shock of his doctor. “I’ve never seen them [numbers] like this,” the doctor told Thompson.
Thompson’s life changing experience with CBD would take him on another entrepreneurial journey, this time, the creation of a CBD company which would eventually go on to become Calm Peak. “I captured lightning in a bottle that will probably never happen again,” Thompson said, harkening back to the popular Smoothie Joes.
During this formative period Thompson noticed that many entrepreneurs were staking claims in the CBD industry, which was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss. “If I did not get in on it right now, I would be behind everyone else. Went back to my work mode, like I did with the smoothies. Researched it [CBD]. I wanted to create a brand.”
After many growing pains, Thompson eventually found a private label producer based out of Colorado with 100% THC-free products, which would become the backbone of Calm Peak. “Picked six of their best products and invested in a website. It took a while.”
When asked how he landed on the name Calm Peak, Thompson said there was just something about it that he could not put his finger on. “I just fell in love with the name Calm Peak, I don’t know what it was about it. I didn’t want to be like every other CBD company, they all sound the same.”
Fast forward to today and Thompson continues to expand his product line, from Calm Peak apparel to CBD-infused coffees. “We are considered a health and wellness company,” he said.
“I wanted to help people. I experienced something really traumatic, and I wanted to come out of it. So, I wanted to provide an alternative medicine,” Thompson said, comparing himself to other retailers looking to make a quick bucker over actually helping consumers.
The hard work has paid off for Thompson, with Calm Peak winning “Best Edible” at the Original CBD Expo Tour in Indianapolis, Indiana, and “BEST MINOR CANNABINOID FORMULATION ” at the ORIGINAL CBD EXPO MIDWEST in Denver, Colorado, in 2021.
Calm Peak has also been named as the official sponsor and headliner for the upcoming Original CBD Expo Tour in Orlando, Florida, from Aug. 27-28.