One of a Kind: Rachael Rapinoe

One of a Kind: Rachael Rapinoe
What makes her great: Former professional soccer player, trainer, and coach, Rapinoe studied biology and medicine and has an obsession with performance and recovery. Based in Portland, Oregon, and starting her company on a foundation of inclusion and equality, Rapinoe is a significant force in America’s cannabis legalization movement, and her CBD-advocacy has gotten support from many professional athletes, including her sister, Megan Rapinoe—one of the most dynamic, outspoken American athletes of the past 20 years.
What she represents: Mendi, a CBD brand, focuses on pain relief, inflammation, and “neuro balance,” which includes anxiety and sleeplessness. Data-driven and research-based, Mendi is a trustworthy destination in a burgeoning, sometimes confusing, field.
What she stands for: “The number one driver of this industry is education.”
Ben Kaplan caught up with Rapinoe from her Portland home.
  • BK: Why did you start Mendi?

    RR: I had been on a journey as an athlete and taken every pill under the sun and started seeing other athletes in my network using this stuff—CBD—and they didn’t have a trusted brand. They just kind of bounced around.

  • BK: Were you familiar with the cannabis world?

    RR: Not until much later in my life, but what I realized four years ago with Kendra [Kendra Freeman, co-founder], was that there was a need for proven high-quality sport recovery pills in the CBD space. We thought: let’s create a brand in this space that stands for something beyond our product line; advocate for the industry and be inclusive of all people.

  • BK: You have a famous name. Were you wary of getting into weed, even if it’s just CBD?

    RR: It’s one of those things that people either understand—hemp and cannabis and the difference between CBD and THC and what gets you high and what doesn’t—or they just don’t get it and don’t want to. And that’s also fine.

  • BK: CBD, in particular, can be confusing.

    RR: Many people don’t even know that hemp is legal in the US and that you can buy CBD online and get it shipped to your doorstep. I understand, of course, the nervousness. Especially with athletes, so much of their life is about testing and THC specifically, so it’s either you know, or you’re interested in being educated or else you’re entirely miseducated. And with the miseducated, I mean, the fear is visceral. You can’t do anything about that.

  • BK: Tell me about your evolution from a soccer star to CBD magnate.

    RR: I come from a sports science background, got my undergrad in biology, and built a training business in Portland, where we stress the importance of recovery for performance. But my entire academic and professional career has been built around health and wellness, how do you be your best self through movement, nutrition, and sleep?

  • BK: That led you to CBD?

    RR: It’s absolutely in the health, wellness, and performance space, but also for me, there has to be that “heart box.” I lead with my heart, and there has to be meaning behind my work, and I think Mendi can impact the industry.

  • BK: What are your goals?

    RR: Hopefully, change the world.

  • BK: And what would you change?

    RR: I’ve learned there’s much healing power in the plant, and it’s so much better for you than the drugs Big Pharma are feeding the world.

  • BK: Are you going to take down Big Pharma?

    RR: I very much wouldn’t mind disrupting them.

  • BK: Tell me about how CBD is sold in the States.

    RR: You can buy CBD products anywhere. Sporting goods stores, outdoor retailers, just not in cannabis dispensaries, but it’s pretty much everywhere else.

  • BK: So, what’s the number one problem right now facing the CBD industry?

    RR: People with money have come in and tried to commodify the hell out of it, losing our integrity. They’ve oversold CBD and moved it from a scientific conversation to a magical cure-all, which scared off the consumer base. The number one driver of maturity in this industry is education.

  • BK: Where do you see CBD research going?

    RR: Controlled studies with data and science to back up what the hemp plant can do so cannabis plant consumers understand what they’re putting in their bodies, like Advil. But until we have controlled medical studies, we can’t point to data. Let’s get the science.

  • BK: And how has CBD worked for you?

    RR: Pain relief and neuro performance are the two areas we undeniably see the benefits. I rub a topical where I have joint pain and can take an ingestible for the calming effects. I use it as a daily supplement, and it keeps me balanced—no high highs or low lows. I’m an avid coffee drinker—all day, morning, afternoon—and I’d get afternoon crashes. But after six months of taking CBD consistently, I didn’t feel like I needed coffee in the afternoon, and there were no crashes. My body feels more balanced with its energy.

  • BK: What makes Mendi different from other CBD companies?

    RR: There are other great CBD brands, but our supply chain is all-natural, from start to finish. We know where our cannabis is grown and what’s in the soil. Our products are all organic, and a lot are vegan, and we work with chemists on proprietary blends that meet the needs of athletes.

  • BK: I’m a huge sports fan, and your sister is one of my favourite athletes. When she scored her goals against France in the World Cup, I hung her picture on our corkboard for my daughter. It’s refreshing to see her advocate for CBD.

    RR: I started using cannabis because of Megan and the athletes she was hanging out with. That spawned my interest in cannabis as a recovery tool. I had only seen people using cannabis as “stoner culture” as fun and at parties, but she used it for recovery. She didn’t want to put other pills in her body.

  • BK: Does Megan smoke weed?

    RR: She used to a little bit, but she doesn’t smoke at all. It’s gummies, gel caps, and tinctures—healthier ways to ingest.

  • BK: Do you see Mendi making all sorts of other products?

    RR: We won’t ever have vapes or anything like that, but back to Megan, you know, she was stoked about our company. She had been using Mendi for a while, and other CBD brands were wanting to sign her, but it was a no-brainer to go with us. She’s not cheap.

  • BK: That’s cold. Your sister is negotiating you hard.

    RR: She’s an endorsed athlete. We pay her for sure, and both Meg and Sue Bird have equity in the company. We want them to have skin in the game, and we lucked out to come to market with Megan. It’s given us a ton of traction.

  • BK: I feel like the moment is right for a company—whether it’s CBD, cannabis, or even our magazine—to stand for something like Megan has and like you do. You sort of have to in 2020, or else you’re almost complicit in the racist, misogynistic system.

    RR: I had the inside scoop on how athletes work hard to build their brand, and more athletes every day are being very selective about who they align with. With so much inequity in female sports, they’re using their platform beyond just the product pitch. That’s why we came to market during the World Cup with Meg and Sue, and with Nneka, who’s about disrupting the status quo of sports ownership, now more than ever, there’s a massive appetite for standing up for the right things.

  • BK: And for you guys, what is it?

    RR: Levelling the playing field. When we looked into the market, it was the perfect opportunity not only to tout cannabis and its benefits but to champion, these athletes—whether gay or Black or Indigenous or Trans—this is the time for representation and to truly celebrate and amplify their voices.

  • BK: Take us out of here with a look into your crystal ball. Do you see America legalizing cannabis anytime soon?

    RR: With a new president in office, and a new speaker of the house, and hopefully that will happen very soon, I think legalization can happen quickly. I’d like to reimagine a whole new world.

"One of a Kind" is a new series dedicated to philanthropy, innovation and social justice leaders making our cannabis industry grow. If you’d like to nominate someone, please send an email to Much love.