Why I Left Real Estate to Work in Marketing for a CBD Startup

  • Ellese Symons is VP of Marketing at Balanced Health Botanicals, a family of CBD brands.
  • After working in the real estate industry for a few years, she wanted to get into a startup with a meaningful vision.
  • She moved into the CBD industry, first in a customer service role and later in marketing.

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Real estate is part of my DNA. I moved a lot growing up, and in my family, a house wasn’t just a home – it was an investment opportunity. I learned how to determine the value of a property based on its potential, not its current condition, and by the time I was 18 my parents had repaired and remodeled over 70 homes across Colorado.

After college, my father and sister and I bought distressed apartment buildings and renovated them into beautiful properties. My sister and I later started our own company, Highline Residential, which repaired and remodeled homes in Colorado.

Business was booming for about two years and we loved the work. In 2012, more Wall Street investors poured into the Denver market and started outbidding us in home ownership. Eventually our margins began to decline and it was time for a new business perspective.

In 2014 my sister and I were recruited to work as real estate agents at Sotheby’s International Realty.

After a couple of years I wanted to work with corporate real estate clients

In spring 2016 I joined CBRE, a commercial real estate brokerage company. My role was helping tech startups find office space. The companies I worked with were full of young professionals eager to get the big idea of ​​their organization off the ground.

I was inspired by their passion and felt that there was something missing from my career path that I had learned as a child – how to invest in potential. I decided to change my career and wanted to put down roots in a small startup with a vision that I could contribute and believe in.

As I was exploring my options, my dad told me about a little company he’d invested in called CBDistillery. In 2016, CBD was just getting started in the consumer goods market and few people knew what it was.

My opportunity came when my dad asked me to drop off Costco sub sandwiches with the staff at the CBD distillery who were packing and shipping


Black Friday

Assignments. The small team of six worked around the clock, filling thousands of orders.

I was fascinated by the courage and commitment of the team and wanted to take part straight away

I offered my help and the team gladly accepted it. While everyone was focused on fulfilling orders, I stepped in to answer customer service emails.

I was definitely not the most qualified customer service candidate and I was very fortunate that the team placed their trust in me.

I spent hours researching to answer customer questions and many customers told me over the phone how CBD has changed their lives for the better. A customer with Crohn’s disease said he was grateful for our Black Friday sale because it allowed him to afford a product that would give him the relief he needed.

After seeing the effects of our products firsthand, I was quickly convinced that CBD would change the world and that this company would be at the forefront of it. I was fully there.

After working as a customer service representative for a year, I switched to a marketing role in March 2017

Under the guidance of our former CMO Chris Van Dusen, I focused on content, SEO, building an affiliate program, creating email campaigns, optimizing the website, and launching new social media pages. Chris was a great mentor and taught me a lot about the basics of marketing.

Today I am Vice President of Marketing and lead a team of 12.

My marketing career has been unconventional and I will always love real estate

That said, I don’t regret making the switch to the CBD industry – it feels great to do work that can make a difference and help people.

When considering a career change, follow your gut instinct. Even if you have to catch up, you will likely be more successful doing something you love. I also highly recommend finding a good mentor in the industry that you want to get into.

For those interested in the CBD industry, I recommend researching your options and partnering with an organization that is doing things right. There are many CBD brands out there that are cutting back and not offering their customers the best and safest products. Make sure you start with a trustworthy company as it is more likely in the long run.

Do you have an unconventional career path or have you undergone a unique career change? Send an email to Laura Casado at [email protected]

Ellese Symons is Vice President of Marketing at Balanced Health Botanicals, a family of hemp-derived CBD brands that include CBDistillery and BOTA.