We Meet The Founders of Bulgarian CBD Brand VIPRISER

VIPRISER founders, Shadi Saleh and Stefan Velev

VIPRISER founders, Shadi Saleh and Stefan Velev

With the CBD market taking off so dramatically in the UK, it’s easy to forget that the same is happening around the World, and one of those regions is Eastern Europe.   Prague hosts one of Europe’s most popular cannabis and CBD trade fairs - Cannafest.  The winner of the ‘Best Clinically Proven Brand’ at this year’s prestigious CBD Awards was hemptouch, a Slovenian brand and a lot of the hemp that provides the CBD oil found in the products we buy from UK online stores and in retailers is produced by Eastern European hemp farms. 

We can’t cover all of Eastern Europe in this one article but we’re delighted to have been able to do a Skype interview with Stefan Velev and Shadi Saleh, childhood friends and the founders of Bulgarian online CBD store VIPRISER.  Founded in 2018, VIPRISER Stefan and Shadi have combined their backgrounds in web development, online marketing and the pharma industry to turn VIPRISER into one of Bulgaria’s leading CBD brands. 

Having spoken to Stefan and Shadi in what was a fun and lively chat, I can safely say the photo perfectly captures the rapport between the two! Here’s what they had to say about the CBD scene in Bulgaria.

CIAO CBD:

What was your main purpose in starting VIPRISER? 

VIPRISER:

We started the site to help educate the Bulgarian public about this magic molecule and to introduce a wide spectrum of CBD products to the Bulgarian market which at the time had a very limited offering.

We deliberately introduced a wide range of products because we wanted to show people how much CBD has to offer, and the different ways you can take it.   We quickly became the leader in the CBD vape market and are now one of the main players in the Bulgarian CBD oil market. After only 9 months of trading we are a very recognisable brand amongst CBD users in Bulgaria.

CIAO CBD:

How is the Bulgarian CBD market developing?

VIPRISER: 

The Bulgarian CBD market is relatively new and untapped but the interest has been growing steadily. The first brands began to appear in 2017 and were exclusively online. CBD oil drops started to gain popularity with people using it for a variety of reasons.  Then in 2018, CBD oils started to appear in a few offline locations such as pharmacies and health stores.  Today, there are 15+ retailers which sell brands from across Europe including Switzerland, UK, Poland and Spain.

CIAO CBD:

Do you just supply just to Bulgaria or central and Eastern Europe too? And any plans to launch in the UK?

VIPRISER

Well, not yet but it is on the list. So far, we only supply to Bulgaria but very soon we will be expanding to Romania and Greece as logistically, it’s easier for us to ship there. The rest of Europe should come sometime in 2020!

CIAO CBD:

In the UK, the media coverage on CBD has been both positive and negative – is it the same in Bulgaria? 

VIPRISER:

Media coverage here has been limited but mostly positive and they have mainly reported on the scientific studies on the beneficial effects of CBD for certain conditions.   

With the growing popularity we expect negative coverage will start at some point, however, we as an industry have an obligation to be transparent with our customers, cite the studies but not to promise miracles. We want to be viewed as a responsible industry and not as snake oil salesmen.

CIAO CBD:

How do you select the brands you sell on your website?

VIPRISER

Before we choose a CBD brand, we always try the product ourselves, and we look for brands that can answer the following questions:

●      What type of hemp is used?

●      Is it full spectrum or from isolate?

●      Where is it grown.  Is it organic and pesticide free with no heavy metals or other pollutants?

●      What extraction process is used and where does it take place?

We also ask for certificates and analysis from independent labs that prove the cannabinoid content and profile.

Day-by-day we gather insights into what is a good CBD product and what our customers want.  If and when we decide to introduce our own branded products, we won’t be looking to bring another generic product to the market but to do something special. 

CIAO CBD:

Have your customers been open-minded and willing to embrace CBD? 

VIPRISER:

We have customers all over the country and we sell in the biggest cities and in the tiniest villages. Most customers are very open about CBD and have informed themselves before they make a purchase. We always strongly advise they do their research as there is a ton of information out there.

Sometimes customers have questions regarding the legality or the quality of the product and we happily answer those. Overall, we have been blessed with intelligent, good mannered and open-minded customers and they also help us to learn more about what they need, so we improve every day.

CIAO CBD:

What type of customers do you have?

VIPRISER:

We have two distinct types of customers – the ones who are looking to relax or have an alternative to smoking cigarettes, and they prefer to vape CBD. 

Then we have the customers who are looking to use CBD to help manage pain, anxiety, stress relief or for general wellbeing, and they prefer to take it sublingually. 

CIAO CBD:

What do you think of the growing calls for a common set of standards within the CBD market?

VIPRISER:

Standards are needed and would not hurt the industry but help it gain credibility and wider acceptance. However, we should be careful not to impose too many restrictions since we are talking about a plant extract with hundreds and maybe thousands of years of proven use and not about a new pharmaceutical formulation.

As such, CBD should be treated as a food supplement and not as a medicine. We should also be careful not to let the pharma industry monopolise the hemp extracts.

CIAO CBD:

Are you concerned about this happening?

VIPRISER:

It is always a possibility. Adding CBD to the Novel Food’s list is probably a step in that direction as it would significantly increase the costs of running a CBD business. Only very large companies would be able to launch products if expensive clinical trials are needed.

However, we are optimists and believe this won’t happen as the CBD wave has started now.  A lot of people are now familiar with CBD and they are going to get it one way or another.

CIAO CBD:

What about hemp production in Bulgaria?

VIPRISER:

We have a long history of hemp cultivation and use in Bulgaria including as an herbal remedy.  Before 1950 Bulgaria, like a lot of European countries, was a large hemp producer because the plant was valued for its strong fibre and also as a food source. 

Nowadays, hemp cultivation in Bulgaria is allowed and there have been a number of  licences issued by the Ministry of Agriculture. CBD oil extraction, however, is not allowed so most producers export their crop abroad and then import the CBD products from other EU countries is allowed as long as the THC content is below 0.2%.

CIAO CBD:

What do you think of Bulgarian brand Dragonfly being stocked in Boots and Harrods?

VIPRISER:

They are a quality brand and we really respect what they’re doing. They’re one of the pioneers in the Bulgarian CBD market and are one of the companies working to make CBD mainstream. That is good for all of us. 

CIAO CBD:

As a small CBD brand are you worried about big brands entering the market? 

VIPRISER:

We are not too worried about new entrants as we believe we will be able to provide value for our customers in any market circumstances, and we should never stop learning and trying to be better every day. 

We have built a name for VIPRISER and can rely on an intelligent and loyal customer base who share our values. We are two curious individuals and we believe we will have our place on the market for years to come, but small brands should stick together and co-operate as much as possible. 

CIAO CBD

How do you promote your brand when you can’t advertise CBD products?

VIPRISER:

This has been an issue since the beginning. Facebook has been very strict about not promoting CBD so we have to rely on organic content and growing our fan base step by step.

We have been meticulous about generating quality content that will rank high on Google and so far it has worked.In any case we would love to see some of these restrictions relaxed so we can promote on social medial just like other businesses.

CIAO CBD

What’s next for VIPRISER?

VIPRISER:

More and more new and cool brands to come! We are going to build the largest CBD store on the Balkan Peninsula and soon expand to the rest of Europe.

We’re going to keep adding lots of quality content and educational materials in local languages. Last but not least, we are going to launch 2 products that will incorporate all the insights and learnings we have gathered so far. Stay tuned!

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