Rachael Rapinoe is an ex-professional soccer player, who hung up her cleats in 2010 after a series of injuries left her reliant on prescription medications and opioids. Rapinoe (whose twin sister is soccer star Megan Rapinoe) wanted to find a natural way to manage pain, stress and sleep and so began searching for natural remedies, which led to the founding of Mendi. The company sells a range of full-spectrum hemp CBD products, including tinctures, gummies, essential oil blends, capsules and bath products. And while the start of the pandemic coincided with Mendi’s first full year in business, Rapinoe and her team successfully weathered the storm and today the Portland, Oregon-based entrepreneur is focused on making Mendi one of the top lifestyle cannabis and hemp brands in the market.
Rapinoe’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
I am an ex-professional athlete who had many injuries in college. I was over-prescribed, so I over-used and abused opioids and other prescription medications as a result. We see this problem happening with too many athletes and active consumers who just want to feel their best, using all-natural solutions. This is why I cofounded Mendi, to empower active and healthy lifestyles with reimagined plant-based wellness tools so they can thrive by naturally overcoming ailments that are holding them back.
How do you define success?
Success can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but for me success means living a balanced life, full of love and community, while also trying to be my best self everyday. I want to live with purpose and mindfulness, and work to create a net positive impact on the world, while not sacrificing my mental health and wellness. It’s that simple for me.
Tell us about your biggest success to date.
My biggest success so far is difficult for me to answer. I am proud of my entire body of work because it has purpose from beginning to present. After I achieved my master’s degree, that set me on a 10-year course in the health and wellness industry. I built a performance training business which impacted thousands of young, aspiring athletes across the country. I’ve had the experience of coaching and training many kids and adults worldwide, and I truly feel honored that I’ve been afforded the opportunities to make positive small changes in peoples’ lives. I’m still doing this with Mendi; it just looks a bit different. The products we create have purpose and genuinely increase peoples’ quality of life. There’s no better feeling as an entrepreneur.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
I’d say the biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is culture development and hiring the right people at the right time. You’re moving at fast and furious speeds, having so much to tackle every week that oftentimes the culture development and human touch points get overlooked. Teamwork is the only way to make the dream come to life, so it’s incredibly important to make sure everyone on your team feels like they belong, has a sense of purpose and knows exactly how they are going to help with the collective company goals.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Yes, the global pandemic has been very difficult to navigate. 2020 was our first full year in market and we could have never prepared to be faced with all the challenges of the past two years.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
It’s very easy to get caught up in the fast pace startup life and feel like if you don’t go now you’re going to lose your opportunity. Part of that is true, you can’t wait for perfection. But, it’s equally important to take the time to be extremely thoughtful in a lot of the early decisions, particularly around your business strategies, brand and product positioning and knowing in depth who your core customer personas are.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Love and connection. I know that sounds cheesy, but during some of my hardest days the only way I find peace is when I step back to find gratitude in all the love and connection I have in my life. It’s my source of strength.
Who is your most important role model?
My twin sister, Megan Rapinoe. ◼
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