Cambridgeshire, UK – Two mums who made friends at the school gates have been jokingly branded “legal drug dealers” by their teenage children, after they joined forces to launch a cannabis oil business worth around £125,000 from their kitchen table.
When cannabidiol (CBD) oil made Samantha Day, 49, feel like the “dark cloud” marring her life had lifted, following breast cancer in 2017, she recommended it to her pal, Lorraine Clarke, 51, who had been struggling with her mental health.
Since first trying it in 2018, the friends, of Peterborough, have become such converts that they have joined forces to start their own CBD oil business Hapi Hemp- produced without the psychoactive agent THC that makes illegal cannabis users high.
Former PA Samantha, who has three children, Matthew, 19, Michael, 17, and Megan, 15, with her contracts manager husband Gareth, 49, said: “People are shocked when we tell them we sell CBD oil. Our teenagers think we’re some sort of drug dealers, but the benefits speak for themselves.
“For years, I experienced low moods and extreme tiredness, to the point where I could barely bring myself to get off the sofa.
“But within days of taking CBD, my energy levels were boosted, and my low moods disappeared – it felt like I had a rebirth. Neither Lorraine nor I have much business experience, but we both believe so passionately in CBD and want to help other people.”
Samantha and Lorraine, who works in publishing and lives with her sons Oliver, 17, and William, 15, from a previous relationship, first became friends in 2014, after chatting at the school gates.
Lorraine, whose partner Allan Butler, 52, is an electrical wholesale manager, said: “At first we just chatted about typical mum stuff. But then we got on to the subject of mental health and all that we’d been through and we started to confide in each other.
“It was wonderful to have Samantha to chat to because often you can feel alone. Our relationship blossomed and throughout the years we’ve supported each other before going on to become business partners.”
At her wits’ end, after a decade dogged by debilitating health problems, Samantha’s difficulties began in her thirties, with endometriosis – a painful condition where tissue usually found in the lining of the womb grows in other parts of the body.
She said: “I was in constant agony and feeling very depressed. My hormones were all over the place.”
After trying painkillers and other medication to treat her symptoms – all to no avail – she eventually made the difficult decision to have a full hysterectomy at Peterborough’s Fitzwilliam Hospital, in June 2008, aged 37, during which surgeons removed her uterus and ovaries.
Initially, her pain eased and her mood lifted, but her good health and elevated mood were short-lived, as 18 months later, she started feeling exhausted and miserable.
“I felt like I was walking around with my head in a fog,” she said. “I always felt run down, like I was about to get a virus – but the virus never came.
“I felt guilty, too, because I had a young family to take care of – but I felt constantly wiped out.”
After visiting her GP, Samantha was referred to a rheumatologist – a doctor that deals with musculoskeletal and autoimmune conditions – in mid-2011.
Around six months later, after a series of blood and body functioning tests, she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia – a long-term condition that causes extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, brain fog and pain all over the body.
She was also found to have sleep apnoea, which occurs when the airway becomes too narrow during sleep, causing breathing to stop and start. Samantha was given a CPAP machine – a special device designed to put pressure into your airways to keep them open – as well as medication to control her pain, but she continued to struggle.
She said: “At that point, I felt so physically and mentally exhausted I could barely get off the sofa – none of the medication seemed to work. My laptop was my lifesaver, as I started researching ways to help myself and came across CBD oil.
“But, much as the reviews were good, I was just a bit too scared to actually try it.”
Then, in another devastating blow, Samantha found a lump after waking in the middle of the night in late June 2017 with a pain in her right breast – which a biopsy at Peterborough City Hospital confirmed was stage three cancer.
She continued: “I was devastated. I didn’t want to die, I wanted to be there for my children. I was determined I was going to beat it.”
After eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, the 5cm tumour shrank and, in early 2018, Samantha had a lumpectomy – surgery to remove the remainder of the lump and its surrounding tissue – and four weeks of radiotherapy.
Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, when she was mid-way through radiotherapy, she became determined not to let her other health conditions rule her life.
So, remembering her earlier research, she decided she was ready to try CBD oil – which was made legal in the UK in 2018, provided it is properly labelled, has been tested and contains less than 0.2 per cent THC- although the NHS stresses there is no guarantee that all products claiming to be medical cannabis, such as CBD oil, will be good quality, or can provide health benefits.
“I’d had a serious brush with death, and it made me realise I needed to help myself,” said Samantha. “I didn’t want to feel tired and sad all the time anymore – I wanted to do something about it.
“I started to take CBD oil drops every day and, within weeks, felt the benefits. It was incredible. I was like a new person. The dark cloud had finally been lifted.”
Once her radiotherapy finished, Samantha was told by doctors that the cancer had gone.
She added: “I never got the official all clear as such. I still have to go for yearly scans to make sure it’s not come back.”
Meanwhile, Lorraine had been battling her own demons after enduring three tragic miscarriages and a still birth between 1999 and 2002 – sending her into a deep depression.
She recalled: “I suffered three miscarriages and then, I got pregnant again for the fourth time and I was six months pregnant when I went for a scan, the midwife told me she could no longer feel the baby’s heartbeat.
“The baby had passed and I had a stillbirth which was one of the worst days of my life. The doctors did some tests to find out what was wrong – but they didn’t find a specific cause.
“The experience triggered awful panic attacks. I’d be out walking and would suddenly have this horrific feeling that something terrible was going to happen.”
Despite taking a high dose of anti-depressants, Lorraine continued to struggle with her mental health.
Her low mood was compounded by the fact that she also has premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), symptoms of which can include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, anger and tension, difficulty concentrating, tearfulness, lack of energy and even suicidal thoughts.
“I was erratic,” she said. “One week I was hyper and happy and the next I would be in a really dark place.”
By 2017, Lorraine had reached the end of her tether and, just like Samantha had done nine years earlier, decided to have a hysterectomy.
But sadly, while recovering, she contracted a viral infection which landed her back in hospital, bedbound for seven weeks.
The delay in returning to normality took its toll on her mental health and she became consumed by panic once again.
Hearing about her friend’s plight, Samantha suggested she try CBD oil.
At first, Lorraine was sceptical, but eventually she agreed.
“It was something I’d researched and considered before – I’m a sucker for trying a new product – but I was a little sceptical,” she said. “Bit Samantha was just so passionate about it – it completely won me over. It didn’t hit me straight away, but after a few months, I felt a lot calmer and was sleeping much better.”
Determined to extol the virtues of CBD to others, in February 2019, the women joined forces and set up their own business, Hapi Hemp.
Samantha explained: “We were just two mums sitting around the kitchen table chatting when we came up with the idea, but we were determined to bring it to life.
“We tapped up our friends, family and credit cards and managed to stump up £5,000 each to invest. From there, we researched into CBD as we were determined to bring to life a product that was high quality, authentic and safe.”
She added: “We wanted to up the game within the CBD industry – because there can be a lot of cowboys – and make good quality products.
“We didn’t want to create just CBD oil – we wanted to create something with a more holistic approach, for women, that was more personal and made women, just like us, feel safe and happy to use.”
Despite being new to the world of business, Samantha and Lorraine wasted no time in researching CBD oil suppliers and even managed to secure an investment.
“With coronavirus it’s been a bit tough – but we’ve built the business from nothing so we have the sheer grit and determination to make it work,” Samantha.
Now, their business is thriving, and they sell an array of CBD products costing from £4.99 to £57.99.
Lorraine said: “We sell all sorts of CBD oils and teas, which are blended with rosemary, chamomile and lemon balm, making them even more calming. We’ve recently launched a new product – a CBD super food powder, which is mixed with turmeric.”
She added: “We would love to one day see our brand in high street retailers.
“CBD oil has given me a new lease of life and the fact we’re now able to help other people is just brilliant. We’re just two mums with an idea and a lot of passion, but we’ve totally transformed our lives and we hope we can do the same for other people.”
And Samantha echoes her pal’s sentiments, claiming that the oil has helped her to move on from her health ordeal and focus on the future.
She said: “Since I started taking CBD oil, people have stopped seeing me as a poorly person and started seeing me as a businesswoman.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without Lorraine. We’re total opposites, but we complement each other. She’s supported me through some of my toughest times and been there as my confidante – now we’re business partners.
“It’s daunting to start a new business in your forties – but with Lorraine by my side, I always knew we’d make it work.”