A company whose hemp products are sold by major retailers in eight countries evolved through founder Garrett Greller’s class projects while he was a Media School student.
Greller, BA’18, started Uncle Bud’s as a college sophomore.
The company initially sold a single pain relief product through its website. It now offers a portfolio of hemp products for all varieties of needs – everything from sunscreen and skincare to pain relievers and pet grooming supplies. You’ll find it in major retail stores like Kroger, Walmart and Urban Outfitters and on Amazon, advertised nationally on television, endorsed by seven-time Grammy winner Toni Braxton and featured on three billboards in Times Square.
Greller created the original product as a remedy for his own arthritis, an ailment with which he was diagnosed at age 16 and was unable to relieve with any of the usual solutions.
“I tried every single prescription drug, over the counter, diets, acupuncture, nothing worked for me,” he said. “I had heard of the benefits of hemp and the different pain relief qualities that come with it, so we wanted to test it out.”
He turned to an unbranded hemp product, where he finally found a solution.
After his own success with hemp, Greller decided to start a company based on his story, with hopes that more people might be able to discover the plant’s potential benefits.
Because he started Uncle Bud’s during his time at IU, Greller says he had the unique benefit of being able to work and grow his business through his coursework.
“A lot of entrepreneurs will say that they don’t need college to do what they’ve done,” Greller said. “I actually would say the opposite of that: IU and The Media School are a big reason my business is where it stands today.”
Greller said his Media School education gave him a nuanced understanding of the advertising and marketing landscape. That in turn gave him the confidence to start and grow the brand internationally.
“When I graduated The Media School, I knew I could use this valuable knowledge to help create powerful marketing and advertising strategies that would make Uncle Bud’s a trusted household brand name,” he said.
One of the most important lessons Greller learned through the process was to use his resources. He consulted professors for advice. He used his company for class projects where it fit. He got voiceover help from one of his instructors, John Bailey, for the company’s first promotional video. When designing packaging and logos, Greller consulted his fraternity brothers as a makeshift focus group.
“I got to start the conversation about what I was doing with my company and where I wanted to take it,” he said. “That’s how I was able to get close to my professors and use them for all the knowledge they have to give.”
Greller came to IU with hopes of becoming a marketing major through Kelley. Like many before him, he struggled in K201, so he knew he needed a new plan. At a university majors and minors fair, he learned about the then-new Media School and its advertising concentration. He changed course immediately.
“I’m not a numbers guy. I’m a creative thinker when it comes to branding and marketing,” he said. “I knew The Media School would give me the best opportunity to show that.”
Through his coursework at The Media School, Greller grew his brand from the ground up, and when he graduated in May 2018, he kept the ball rolling.
Greller found a business partner. He continued to learn about running and marketing a business. He expanded Uncle Bud’s from a single product to an entire line of products.
“The way we are trying to position ourselves is, we have products in every category you can think of,” he said. “We have hemp products for pain, we have hemp products for anti-wrinkles, face masks, sunscreen, body wash, massage oil.”
There wasn’t a clear demographic for Uncle Bud’s, Greller said. He found that to be both a challenge and a blessing.
“Because there is no specific demographic, we have to test out different things, different ways to get this into the market,” Greller said. “There are different ad policies that may restrict what we do, and we find ways around doing it to ensure that people are seeing our logo, our name and our products everywhere.”
Uncle Bud’s offers a breadth of products for all wants and needs, but there was also a learning curve in trying to build a business marketing a product many people were not entirely familiar with.
Many people don’t understand the difference between hemp and marijuana. They see the seven-pointed leaf on the company’s products and conjure negative connotations. Others don’t understand the difference between hemp seed oil, the basis for Uncle Bud’s products, and CBD.
But despite those hurdles, or maybe even because of them, Greller is always prepared to face new challenges.
“You just always have to be ready to solve that next problem,” he said. “If you’re always ready to solve that next problem you’ll fear nothing.”
As he’s grown his company from a single pain relief product to an entire line of internationally available personal care products, much has changed about Greller’s company. But one thing remains the same: the name, and what it stands for.
The name Uncle Bud’s stuck because it was cheeky, a play on hemp’s proximity to marijuana, and because it emphasized something familial.
“I started this with my dad in our living room, and we were like ‘Uncle Bud’s … that’s a good name for a hemp brand,’” he said. “We got the trademark and we think it sticks, and people like the name Uncle Bud’s because everyone has an Uncle Bud.”