Rachael Rapinoe Looks To Revolutionize Pro Sports With Her Athlete-Empowered CBD Brand Mendi

The surname Rapinoe is today easily one of the most recognizable names in professional sports in the United States. And while two-time Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Megan has been making waves on the field with her soccer skills and activism, her sister Rachael, a NCAA National champion and former pro player who was based in Europe, is working to revolutionize the sports industry in a way we have never seen before.

Rachael is the CEO of the athlete-empowered CBD brand Mendi, based in Portland, Oregon. Mendi’s mission is to improve athletes lives using nature’s best recovery tools. With a hemp CBD line that’s USA-made from only the highest-quality, natural and 3rd-party tested ingredients, Mendi prioritizes health and safety with product development. While we are seeing a surge of CBD companies emerge in the wake of more and more states legalizing recreational marijuana and activists working to overturn criminal convictions around the substance, Mendi is charting its own path to disrupt the status quo as a highly differentiated brand entering into a rapidly changing segment–sports x cannabis.

As a women-owned company, it is only fitting that Mendi is partnering with two top female athletes as it gains more recognition in the industry – Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird. It was the first partnership Megan has announced with any brand since the World Cup. As an advocate for equal pay and inclusion, Megan wants this partnership to raise awareness of implementing diversity, inclusion, equal pay, equality, and justice into our communities and workplaces.

Sue joined Megan Rapinoe as the second sponsored athlete a part of the program. Add this to her list of accomplishments, Sue is becoming the first high profile basketball athlete to partner with a cannabis brand. We spoke with CEO Rachael about the famous Rapinoes, why the sports industry needs to include more health and fitness initiatives centered around cannabis, and how she hopes Mendi can be part of the wave of companies working to dismantle harmful stigma around the product.

Tell us how the idea for Mendi came about and how you and your co-founders launched it? 

Mendi was created out of a need for athletes to have a trusted cannabis sports brand. Many athletes have been using cannabis products for years, however no one has specifically filled the sports sector of the market. There needed to be a brand whose products are high quality, transparent, third-party tested and built from the ground up for athletes. 

We launched Mendi August 2019, and hit the ground running. We’ve gained an incredible amount of momentum in a very short period of time, and we have only scratched the surface.

Where does the name come from?

Mendi plays on the word mend. We provide the healthiest recovery tools for elite and everyday athletes, so we wanted that to reflect in our name. We wanted to keep it short, make it our own and easy to roll off the tongue. 

We are seeing an explosion of CBD companies across the US as it becomes more legalized and less stigmatized in certain ways. Why did you decide to focus on the sports recovery area in the CBD market? 

Exactly for that reason. This is a very crowded industry, with few regulations (yet), so we needed to clearly differentiate ourselves from the beginning. Although there are quite a few sports brands in this space now, we undoubtedly believe Mendi is differentiated in our design, brand, voice and high profile athletes. 

You and your twin sister Megan founded Rapinoe SC – a performance training company and lifestyle apparel brand. How has the work for this company informed what Mendi is doing today? 

My experience building and running Rapinoe SC equipped me for Mendi. The set backs, hurdles, small wins and triumphs all armoured me for starting my next company. Success isn’t built overnight, it takes years of practice and being in the trenches of the business world. One of the biggest take-a-ways from RSC that I’ve been able to implement with Mendi — lead with your heart. Consumers want to feel sincerity in brands. They’re smarter and savior than ever. Social consumerism has taken fire, especially in the past few years. So, if Mendi wants to be successful and separated from the pack, we need to have a genuine brand and voice that resonates with the hearts of our consumers. Just like Megan and I did with Rapinoe SC. 

Both Megan and her pro basketball playing girlfriend, Sue, are on the board of advisors for Mendi. How have they been utilizing their own reach in the sports world to talk about the importance of CBD in sports recovery? 

Meg and Sue have very influential platforms and the world knows they stand for more than just their sport. Having both of them on our team, in itself, lends credibility to the authenticity and validity of the Mendi brand. Sue especially, is known for taking every measure possible to keep herself healthy, prepared and fully recovered. If she’s talking about Mending giving her that extra 1% edge, it’s legit and other athletes are influenced by her testimony. 

While there is a lot of innovation in the CBD industry, there is a long way to go in the area of mass incarceration and legislation in some states. How can companies like yours play a vital role in moving the conversation forward in a positive and informative way? 

We created Mendi to provide healthier recovery tools to keep people on top of their game, but also to voice our beliefs regarding equity and equality. As we become more successful and continue to build a team of influential athletes, Mendi’s voice will get bigger and bigger. And we plan to use it for good, to make the world a better place. 

What kind of reception has there been for Mendi from the sports industry in general? 

The reception has not only been positive, but people are elated to see a brand like Mendi stake their claim in the cannabis sports world.

What are some of the barriers you have come up against, if any, so far with Mendi? 

The biggest barrier is getting professional leagues and sports teams to partner with a cannabis brand. The stigma is still very real. There are several leagues with strict cannabis policies, so it makes doing business difficult. It is our job to educate people, which will slowly destigmatize the plant. Once people become more educated and try our products, they become huge believers in Mendi.

We’ve seen a number of female-driven, and especially women of color-driven CBD companies emerge over the past couple of years. Why do you think this is important for this industry and entrepreneurship in general?

Equal representation is incredibly important, not just in the cannabis and sports industries, but in all industries. It is so important for young women, black men & women, hispanic women and men, and other L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ representatives to see leaders in the world that look like them, talk like them, and come from similar backgrounds. We all need leaders that resonate with us and are aspirational, to empower us to dream bigger. 

Where do you see your company in 5 and 10 years time? 

The most trusted sports brand in the world. 

Finally, what makes you a powerful woman?

I am a powerful woman because I am exactly who I am, everyday. I know my strengths, my weaknesses and I understand the power of working together towards a united goal. 

Learn more about Rachael Rapinoe and Mendi by visiting the website.


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