Next up for Tanisha Robinson: CBD drinks

Katy Smith
Tanisha Robinson

The former CEO of BrewDog USA is out of the beer business and into her own venture selling canned CBD drinks. 

Serial entrepreneur Tanisha Robinson, who founded Columbus dining coupon company Fudha and on-demand graphic apparel printer Print Syndicate, says she's ready to ride the coming tidal wave of growth in the cannabidiol space. Her new venture, W*nder, will specialize in flavored sparkling waters that contain CBD, which is gaining in popularity as a dietary aid. 

"I see CBD as something similar to where craft beer was 30 years ago in the U.S.," she says. "We're just at the very early stages, so there's a huge opportunity to be one of the first brands on the market." 

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The global CBD market—which touches cosmetics, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals and more—was estimated at $1.34 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow at 33 percent a year through 2025, according to San Francisco-based Grand View Research Inc. 

Over the summer, Robinson worked with friend Sang Lakhani, chef and owner of The Table who is a friend of Robinson’s, to refine flavors. After much taste-testing among friends and family—some of whom have become investors—the pair settled on four flavors, which are being formulated for mass production by St. Louis-based Flavorman: 

  • Breakfast Club, blood orange, mint and ginger

  • Born to Run, lemon and rosemary

  • Fast Times, cucumber, mint and lime; 

  • Night Moves, blueberry and basil 

BrewDog founders James Watt and Martin Dickie are investing an undisclosed amount in the business as well. 

“Tanisha did a great job building BrewDog in America, and we’re eager to see what she will do with W*nder in such an exciting space,” says Dicke in a release. Robinson left her “chief disruption officer” role with the company over the summer. 

“The reality is, I love the fray,” she says. “I love early-stage, taking an idea and turning it into a business. I’m not a maintainer—once the wheels are on, I get a little bit antsy. This is an opportunity for me to get into an industry really early stage and build a company here in Columbus and own the vast majority of the company.”

Robinson’s experience and the relationships she formed growing BrewDog USA 500 percent over two years, going from startup to distribution in nine states, will serve her well as W*nder builds a distribution network. To begin, she envisions a popup, perhaps in the Short North, early in 2020. Robinson also has been talking to salons and spas. 

Columbus-based Piink Iink, a studio by Columbus College of Art & Design grad Jenny Boehme, developed the branding for W*nder.

Robinson visited farms and labs to identify suppliers of cannabidiol, and she found a few that are vertically integrated—they grow the plant and process it. Knowing the source and makeup of their food is important to consumers, so the plan is for every can of W*nder to have a QR code that can generate the lab results from that particular batch, she says. 

The drinks will not contain THC, the compound in cannabis plants that makes people feel high. 

W*nder, like her other ventures, has a social bent to it, too. She explains her so-called 420 Rule for the company:

“You know, as I look to the cannabis space, there are a whole lot of already wealthy, straight white dudes that are investing, and they’re going to make a fortune,” Robinson says. “And actually when I say this to wealthy, straight white dudes, they’re like, ‘Yes,’ so there’s no harm. And you know, unfortunately, there are a lot of individuals and communities that have been harmed by the prohibition of cannabis [because they have been disproportionately arrested and jailed for marijuana-related offenses].

“The challenge for black and brown people, and I’m personally very aware, is it’s really hard to raise capital,” she says. “We plan to take 4.20 percent of our profits and invest in entrepreneurs from communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the prohibition of cannabis.”

Katy Smith is the editor of Columbus CEO magazine.