Michal Takac has gone from being a cannabidiol sceptic to its most passionate advocate after undergoing a revelatory experience following a horrifying industrial accident.
The founder of CBD manufacturing and distribution companies PhytoPūr Bio and CBVIT talks to Jane Hall about his journey and what the future holds.
MICHAL Takac is something of a trailblazer when it comes to helping change the way society views cannabidiol – or CBD as it’s more commonly known.
He’s spoken out in the mainstream media on the positive effects he believes the compound (one of hundreds known as cannabinoids found in the hemp plant) can have on managing chronic pain.
And in 2018 he appeared on the BBC’s hugely successful Dragons’ Den where as an aspiring entrepreneur he pitched for investment for his organic hemp business – Carun – to the panel of five steely-eyed, potential venture capitalists.
It had taken six months of due diligence before the makers of the prime time reality show had finally allowed Michal on, but he left having secured an offer from ex-career banker turned entrepreneur and business turnaround specialist, Jenny Campbell.
Dragons’ Den Appearance
His appearance and success on Dragons’ Den went a long way towards helping destigmatise CBD in the public’s eyes.
Since then, Michal has helped pioneer the introduction of wellness cannabis products to a number of large retailers, including Holland and Barrett and Planet Organic, as well as hundreds of pharmacies and independent health and wellbeing stores.
He may now have moved on from Carun, but he is still very much involved in the world of CBD.
The former develops and produces a wide range of pharma grade, hemp-based white label and custom CBD oils, skin, body, hair and pet care products, at its state of the art facilities, for global client brands, one of which includes CBVIT selling direct online to the public.
Toe Transplanted To Hand
Both ventures have attracted the attention of cannabis investor Artemis Growth Partners, as Michal looks to take his business dream to the next level with, he believes, the medicalisation of CBD just around the corner.
Turn the clock back to the late noughties, however, and Michal could never have imagined that one day he would be a CBD entrepreneur. He readily admits he treated anything to do with cannabis with suspicion.
It took an horrific industrial accident to alter his views.
Fourteen years on, Michal is able to talk with quiet calmness about the day he lost his index, ring and little fingers on his left hand – even perversely seeing the catastrophe as good fortune; a chance for him to start his life afresh.
He was working on an industrial printing machine when his hand became trapped in an unguarded roller. “I was in the machine for over an hour,” he recalls. “The fire brigade were unable to break the machine open; they had to take it apart screw by screw. I can still remember when the ambulance crew was speaking with the hospital they were being advised to sever the hand because it was taking too long and I was losing too much blood.
“What followed was multiple operations. The NHS was amazing and they transferred a toe from my foot to my hand to give me some grip. I was a bit of a guinea pig as these sort of operations are usually done on children as the adult body doesn’t heal that well.
Hemp Helped Save My Life
“It was a long recovery and I was losing my mind. As you can imagine, I was taking a lot of morphine and later painkillers. I became very closed into myself. I had a social phobia and couldn’t go out, I was thinking that everybody was looking at me, and I was very wary about everything.
“I was really broken in the head because of that injury. But a friend of mine bought me some hemp ointment and hemp tea and I started using those. I was very doubtful about how a hemp ointment and tea could help my body and mind heal. I thought it was something dodgy going on. But when I tried these products, they changed my life.
“When I began using the hemp ointment the open wounds started to heal; the inflammation and the bad tissue started to go away and my movement began to improve.
“Combined with the drinking of the hemp tea, I stopped having the flashbacks, I slept better and I felt better. I was close to a breakdown, and I can guarantee that but for the hemp I would not be where I am today. I am 100% sure of that.
“That’s how I came to be involved in the industry.”
Michal endured three years of surgery, physio, and post-traumatic stress. The agony was worsened by being made redundant and having to undergo a four-year fight for compensation.
London CBD Shop
Now a convert to CBD, he immersed himself in understanding the science and effects of these cannabinoid-based products and also the regulatory hurdles that needed to be overcome to bring them to market. He says: “I don’t think there are many people who understand the market as I do. I have been in the business since 2010 and have done deep studies of the cannabis market.”
So convinced was he of the potential of cannabidiol that he invested a large chunk of his compensation money into opening the first CBD dedicated shop in the UK in London.
He quickly recognised that retail was too competitive and expensive for a small operator, however, especially promoting someone else’s brand. Instead, Michal turned his attention to two objectives: finding additional capital and developing a supply chain that guaranteed a consistent quality and low production cost that would eventually enable him to introduce his own brand if he wanted to – and offer high quality competitive manufacturing to other makes.
Fast forward to early 2020 and contract manufacturing business PhytoPūr Bio and distribution firm CBVIT were born – just as the global coronavirus pandemic struck.
It was an unforeseen crisis and one that could have easily brought two fledgling businesses to their knees. But thanks to a strong investor base, a fast changing regulatory landscape, his team’s expertise, and shifting public attitudes, Michal believes the future is looking rosy.
“The last 12 months have caused people to make health and wellness a priority and there is definitely more of an awareness of the benefits of CBD in all markets,” he says.
Eastern Europe Expansion
He is about to sign a deal that will see CBVIT moving into Poland, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and a new and updated range of products is being prepared.
In the UK, there are applications in with the Food Standards Agency and European Food Safety Authority to sell at table products when a Novel Food licence has been validated. There are plans to bring in new CBVIT ethical products and at PhytoPūr Bio the portfolio is being improved, new clients introduced, and applications made for medical licences.
Michal says regulation and decriminalisation across the board is influencing the UK and he can see big changes taking place in the next five to 10 years. “The UK Government is watching how Canada’s legal system has adapted to cannabis. With the successful decriminalisation of recreational cannabis there, it is likely that within the next five years they will be considering to implement it here.
“Cannabis for medical purposes has been approved with a prescription from a doctor in the UK since 2018, so it is all going in the right direction. But it is very slow and it is very complex. It is not as easy as people may think. They say, ‘oh, it’s only recreational cannabis. It’s amazing.’ It’s not. It needs to be approached with caution.
“CBD, in my opinion, will be fully medicalised definitely in the next decade, and wellness brands will disappear. It is good practice to be prepared.”
Pharma Route For CBD
Michal continues: “We are already discussing full pharmaceutical and medical marketing licences, so we can start moving towards the medical market. We want to bring our experience to new brands and we have some serious products to offer.”
But he admits that investors are scared to finance new brands. “It is not an easy task. But after Jenny Campbell exited we successfully attracted Artemis Growth Partners and have closed on two financing rounds with them. They are very supportive. You couldn’t imagine better investors. They are very knowledgeable people and know where the industry is going.
“It would have been much more difficult to have found a traditional investor. It took us six months of due diligence to get on Dragons’ Den, so you can imagine it would be the same thing with any traditional investors.
“From what I see, there are a lot of bad actors in the CBD business, so investors don’t have confidence, and there are a lot of people over-exaggerating and overstating what is going on in the industry.
“Everyone is advertising that they are the leading company, but most aren’t making any sales. It doesn’t give a good impression to investors.
“The enforcement of novel foods legislation in the UK and Europe will weed out most of the bad actors that have been selling low quality products and create a demand for high quality affordable products. That is our niche and we are excited about the future.”