It’s our birthday!
So, it couldn’t be more fitting that our birthday falls on April 20th every year as that is known as 420 (4/20), it’s like it was meant to be! I remember 2 years ago having some delays opening and the exact date ended up being the 20th of April with our first customer on April 22, 2019! What a journey it’s been since then, although it feels like just yesterday that we opened up.
CEO Devon Lailvaux walks us through the Nature’s Relief journey. It’s incredible to see some of the highlights over the last two years; where we have come from, where we are today and where we see ourselves in the future.
In the beginning
Natures Relief started as a dream or vision to one day get involved in the cannabis industry because of its economic potential to empower South Africa all the way from agriculture sector, to manufacturing, distribution and export, to the end use for its amazing health benefits.
The journey started in 2012 when first looking into cannabis. It was always seen as a drug and after further inquiry into the medicinal use I decided to give it a try. I immediately noticed certain benefits such as improved sleep, recovery from training, stress and sometimes even focus and creativity and something just didn’t add up! How can something I’m finding so beneficial be so “bad” and illegal and taboo? And yet have very little evidence of dangerous side effects, deaths or addiction? And why are there so many success stories and amazing life changing experiences people have had and become better people from? All these questions lead me down the rabbit hole of research, reading clinical trials, published papers and watching endless videos of scientists and doctors explaining how these things actually work in the body. The evidence was overwhelming and states in the USA had already started legalizing it. Therefore It was just a matter of time until South Africa followed suit and I wanted to get involved.
2016- South African government releases applications for manufacturing of cannabis
In 2016 the South African government released applications for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing and opened the doors to the start of the legal industry. I had just returned from a successful professional rugby stint in France and immediately started looking at options to see how and where to get involved. At the same time my personal interest in plant medicines came from being an athlete focused on health and performance and a chronic knee injury that didn’t go away over a good few years and eventually forced me to research new alternative ways of healing. First changing my diet, I learnt how many nutrients and antioxidants we were missing out on from processed foods and a huge change I noticed was from moringa oleifera, which I took daily for about 6 months in 2016/2017. I noticed a remarkable change in my energy levels, immune system, recovery and my gut and digestion and along with the sleep and stress benefits from cannabis it opened my eyes to the power of nature.
2017 – The start of Grow Green distribution
The business first began through the start of Grow Green Distribution which I started when returning back to Durban to play rugby and had time on my hands. I managed to find 2 key suppliers through personal contacts I trusted, using honesty and integrity as my moral compass and the third key component was the consciousness of the people I met. I wanted to work with like-minded people who truly sought the greater good for the world and the people who live in it and who were actually doing something about it to help. These 2 relationships were extremely valuable as I managed to quickly learn from them all about how the plants Moringa and Cannabis worked, firstly how they grew and survived and thrived and what they produce, and secondly what those compounds do in the body and how they can help. I was able to link the products it to the right people where if there was something good for inflammation, I would connect it to athletes, or something good for focus, I’d apply it to students or business people. And so, the journey began as I started selling moringa and cannabis products to health shops, pharmacies and gyms, each time meeting people who were smarter than me who I could learn from. We then started exporting Moringa to Europe and the UK which was a huge learning curve understanding compliance and organic certifications, where we had to make sure our products were absolutely clean, pure and free of any chemicals.
Through Grow Green distribution all products come from a single place where we quality control each product and carefully select our supply chain partners. That company is called Grow Green distribution.
2019 – Our first dispensary opens
The goal was to get cannabis extracts that are tested and measured and then to help people learn and be capable of using these substances safely and adequately for their condition or health goals.
I remember there reached a point where I had multiple requests from people with cancer, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s and other severe diseases or conditions. All I had was the assurance from my own suppliers that products were safe and pure and the fact that I had seen the source and was happy with the outcome. At that point I felt that I couldn’t continue to supply these people without some form of medical advice or through a doctor, and that is when we started working with a dispensary and soon after that we opened our first dispensary with a qualified clinical homeopath who was and is still one of the smartest guys I know. That was the start and the solution we really wanted to create was offering a safe place for people to come and learn about cannabis and speak to a qualified doctor about how to use it and voice any concerns around medication they are taking or other treatments they are undergoing. My role in all of this become all about sourcing ethically and making sure that we know exactly what is in each product, where it comes from and how to use it safely, and that there was recourse to suppliers.
Setting up this dispensary model was not easy, especially without a blueprint in a new industry, with new products and the dedicated services we wanted to offer. I couldn’t have done this without the help of my partner who joined me in 2019 to open our first store. He is of the greatest assets to our company, a highly ethical and experienced person who had worked his way into highly responsible roles in corporate and found his way to help me scale my business. This was my father Gary.
November 2019 – Our Johannesburg store opens
From opening our first store in April 2019 we reached 500 patient/ customers by October and decided to open a 2nd Branch in Olivedale. This was the first test to see if we could replicate what we had done in Durban and we managed to do it, linking our products and systems we managed to open our doors in November.
Our goal is and has always been to learn as fast as possible about each case and how each product worked for the various ailments or complaints presented by customers. To do this we had to record stock and customer details accurately and perform follow up calls to reach out and guide use and dosage and gain valuable feedback on each case. This was done for 2 reasons, firstly to hep our customers and patients reach their health goals and get successful results, and secondly to see what works best for our R&D of our products to refine and create new solutions that were more effective and also more cost effective. These substances are lifechanging, and their healing potential is so broad that we couldn’t stop at just the basics, we needed to learn and create unique solutions for those that need it! We quickly learnt how much anxiety, stress, depression and chronic pain there is in society and the number of pharmaceuticals people were taking with no sustainable results, we also learnt how many people struggle to sleep and the scary fact of how cancer is thriving in today’s society under the stress and consumption patterns we live in. All I saw at this stage was a huge opportunity to help people help themselves and turn their problems into opportunities of growth and our business and shop as the platform to give hope back to those who have lost it and guide them to try and reach their full potential.
Expanding our range and reach
Since opening in 2019 with about 25 different products on our shelves, a small consultation room and an office for wholesale and distribution, with 3 staff in Durban North, a whole lot has changed! One thing that hasn’t, are the fundamental principles that Natures Relief and Grow Green are built on and that is honesty, integrity and conscious living. We are constantly thriving to improve but sometimes its important to see how far you have come, and today I am extremely proud to say we have served over 2500 people and successfully followed up with over 1000 with a 70% success rate in achieving improvement in our customers conditions! From sleep, to anxiety, stress, depression, focus, energy, gut health, cancer treatment and many other ailments and diseases, we have been able to help people achieve a better quality of life. And in many cases, people have managed to get off their chronic medication by choice and experienced amazing results with our natural treatments.
We have formed strategic partnerships with multiple reputable suppliers and manufacturers who help us exceed expectations when it comes to quality and consistency and have the ability to create so much more. Our supply chain has formed a formidable foundation as we have now opened up franchise opportunities to those who also want to create a healing and progressive environment in their own locations and can support them with more and more use cases and data each day.
We have since expanded our range to include the widest range of cannabis extracts in the country, a broad range of mushroom extracts, created unique formulations that are the first of their kind combining both CBD and mushrooms for ailment specific purposes
2020- Expanded our Durban store to a bigger branch
We recently moved into a new larger premises in Umhlanga Rocks, where we have a board room for training, a bigger consultation room and a coffee shop soon to be converted into another exciting offering. We have also upgraded and improved our website and online services with passionate employees who care about the people they deal with and will help them get whatever they need as soon as they need it. Lastly, we have also recently registered our product applications in the UK as we aim to drive our export business and expand the local economy through demand for our healthcare and performance solutions.
Our aim has always been to collaborate with like-minded people. Our core purpose is to unlock human potential helping people unlock their abilities by empowering themselves through what they put into their bodies. We have aligned with other companies and people with the same motive trying to connect a full holistic offering of tools that help you heal and perform to the best of your ability.
So far we have taken part in three cannabis expo’s and have expanded our community reach beyond social media. We have partnered with Reset collective for wellness days; Runex for a 12 week programme, yoga events with several well-known yogi’s and have recently expanded into fine dining food infusion events and weekend retreats.
To have the ability to help others is one of the most amazing feelings you can have in the world. If we can even help one person through their day or make a positive difference in their life through knowledge and quality healthcare then we are on the right path. Today our focus is always to be consistent and learn so we continue to serve our valuable customers and help them, their friends and their families achieve a high quality of life, with good moods, open communication, energy, smiles, laughs and good service. We want to create a happier and more productive environment for us all, really stimulating growth and good relationships in our community, bringing people together to be stronger together.
The future of Nature’s Relief
Now that we are just 2 years old and so much has already happened, its quite interesting when thinking about where we are going because there are a lot of options and opportunities. However, it is key to know where you are going in order to make the decisions you need to get there. Where Natures relief is going is we aim to bridge the gap between medicine and holistic healthcare and change the way we see health and performance. The body is an amazing organism and with the right knowledge and input we can really achieve anything. With this in mind, we would like to have multiple store locations around the country offering our products and services and sharing our knowledge and experience about how to use various natural medicines along with nutrition and exercise to reach your health goals. Whether it’s a severe medical case trying to heal and rejuvenate, or a wellness case dealing with stress, anxiety and fatigue or a performance case trying to exceed all limits on the field or in the classroom or boardroom, we have the solutions for you. And with our supply chain and key strategic relationships with some of the smartest people we have met, we will only be creating more and better solutions as we go. Our ultimate goal is to create sustainability, from sustainable health and wellness to a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy.
There are projects in the pipeline going into blockchain decentralized data storage and data transfer solutions to help people store and manage their healthcare data, help them transact safely with us and achieve further benefits with us using these systems. It sounds farfetched but we are about you, the person who wants to achieve a better quality of life, more enjoyment, more success, and strong relationships.