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Susan Scherer is a decorated oncology nurse and entrepreneur who takes patients’ rights very seriously. Her company, Heavenly Hash Creamery, produces high-fat, high-protein ice cream used for cancer patients. The twist? The ice cream also includes CBD, because cancer patients need it.
Susan talks with Andi about the tough choices she’s has to make to launch a non-traditional product into a very traditional industry, and how her oath as a nurse guided those decisions.
Connect with Susan on LinkedIn.
Susan Scherer: Once again, my main priority are these patients and their quality of life. I can’t cure them, but I can make their life better and that’s how we came to be.
Andi Graham: Hey everyone, this is Andi Graham, your host of Walk the Walk, a podcast for entrepreneurs running values-based businesses. I’ve got a great guest today. Her name is Susan Scherer and she started a company called Heavenly Hash Creamery. Susan started her career in the US military in the air force and then she gained 30 years of experience in traditional medicine. She was a nurse and an oncology nurse at that, and then she became an entrepreneur and ran a nursing based organization, which she’ll talk a little bit about.
Andi Graham: But her company now is called Heavenly Hash Creamery and they produce very high fat, high protein ice creams, perfect for cancer patients. Cancer patients often lose a lot of weight and have a hard time struggling to eat when they’re going through treatment. And ice cream tastes a lot better than the products that are traditionally on the market, like Ensure and Boost.
Andi Graham: But the one thing that’s unique about this ice cream is not just it’s fat and protein content, which are remarkable, but it’s also that she has added cannabis to the ice cream. Apparently, which I was surprised to learn from Susan, cannabis is used pretty regularly in oncology treatments, whether it’s under the table or above board. And cancer nurses, oncology nurses, know that it’s extremely helpful whether or not it’s legal and people need to find a way to get it.
Andi Graham: So she started this Creamery, ice cream company, and she’s been working in struggling to get this to market, working with the regulatory boards in the state of Florida, trying to find a way to get this to patients who desperately need a solution like this. It’s been a struggle for her and it’s been a true test of living her values, which there’s a neat story about that in this interview. So with that here is Susan Scherer.
Andi Graham: All right. Hi Susan. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Susan Scherer: Thanks for having me.
Andi Graham: We are in the middle of such a weird time right now where we’re all stuck in our homes or in our offices, but a lot of just being lonely, for me. I don’t know how you’re feeling right now.
Susan Scherer: Not lonely. I’m getting out. We’re still manufacturing ice cream because it’s a healthcare product. So it’s been busy. It hasn’t really slowed down at all.
Andi Graham: You are doing something very interesting and you and I were connected in such a strange way by so many different people. I kept hearing your name, so I thought I have to get you on the podcast. But tell me a little bit about yourself and about how you got to where you are now.
Susan Scherer: Well, I am an oncology nurse, a critical care nurse, by background. I went into cancer care at Moffitt from 2004 to 2012. At the end of 2012 I started my own company called RN Cancer Guides and I actually hired nurses to help cancer patients and their families navigate all the aspects of their care. Because there was never anyone outside of the system that was only beholden to the patient, the patient always had to rely on what the hospital was saying, what the physicians were saying, and nobody’s talking to each other.
Susan Scherer: Because we were inviting oncology nurses to go into the doctor’s appointments with them, I actually changed the Patient Bill of Rights in the state of Florida in 2017.
Andi Graham: That’s incredible.
Susan Scherer: Thanks. Yeah, I was sitting at a hospital and it was either a people magazine with Brad and Jennifer on it from years before or the Patient Bill of Rights. So that’s what I read. And in September of 2017, my husband died unexpectedly. So it really threw our family for a loop. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. So here we are, at the end of 2017 and knowing a lot of people, the community, I just didn’t feel like networking.
Susan Scherer: Next, somebody dragged me out. I eventually met somebody who made ice cream and I said, “Can you make me a high protein, high fat ice cream for cancer patients?” Because one out of four cancer patients, that have stage four cancer, will die from what’s called cachexia, muscle wasting syndrome. They won’t die from their cancer. And all we’ve had is Ensure and Boost. And it doesn’t taste good and when you bought-
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: … prizes like, that’s just wrong. Right? And I remember always in nursing as an in-patient, patients, no matter what stage of [inaudible 00:04:58] loved ice cream. And it was something that they could swallow.
Susan Scherer: And then knowing the work that I did in Tallahassee and knowing that oncology nurses, we have a tendency to go back to the fallback of cannabis when all else fails. And we’ve always had. We never took our foot off the gas pedal where that’s concerned.
Andi Graham: Really?
Susan Scherer: Yeah. Patients will ask us, “Is it time? Should I ask my son? Does he know anybody?” And then we start hearing that they’re doing it and it’s making them feel better. They’re not having to pay for all this medication. They’re not having… Like Zofran for example, which is an anti-nausea medicine, can cause a lot of constipation. So everything has a side effect. So knowing that I had these connections and that the cannabis world was just coming on the scene, so to speak, I contacted the people in Tallahassee and said, “What do you think of adding cannabis to this?”
Susan Scherer: And so I went home and thought my husband put the idea in my head, and that’s where I got Heavenly Flavor. But hash is also [inaudible 00:06:12]. Once again, my main priority are these patients and their quality of life. I can’t cure them, but I can make their life better. And that’s what that’s all about. And that’s how we came to be.
Andi Graham: That’s amazing.
Susan Scherer: Patients will tell nurses stuff that they won’t tell others, [inaudible 00:06:34] and we’re beholden to the patient, not the institution, for which you work. And so there comes a time when you’re like, “You know what, this is going to make you feel better.” And I would rather have a patient that knows what’s going on than having one that’s worked up on Vicodin and Dilaudid and morphine. How do you want to live like that?
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: Why is that acceptable? And nobody questions that because it comes from the pharmaceutical industry, but yet there’s the stigma of cannabis. And if you look at the history of cannabis, the whole reason it was outlawed was because they didn’t want competition with the paper companies. This is driven by something else, not because people were using it as a gateway drug. It’s ridiculous. And so since I was already disruptive in the industry [inaudible 00:07:31] have the best of both worlds, right?
Andi Graham: You’re in Florida, obviously, and you’re producing in Florida?
Susan Scherer: Correct.
Andi Graham: I’m pretty sure we can’t use… Well there’s medicinal cannabis, right? Is legal now. So you can produce using that or is it just CBD right now?
Susan Scherer: It’s CBD right now. That is because that’s what the state law has access to do. We had some time there where we had to stop making it, and I’ll get into that a little bit later. But as of January 2nd, we’re able to start producing and so that’s what we do. And now we make all four flavors, high protein in a 50 milligram CBD cup. And the protein is nine grams of protein and four ounces.
Andi Graham: Wow.
Susan Scherer: That’s a lot. And you can’t even taste it at all.
Andi Graham: That’s incredible. That leads me a little bit to… And I think this is interesting, because you talked about you are there to protect the patients and their needs and not the industry or the boards. And so I’m curious, this podcast in general, is about people who Walk the Walk of their own core values. And that’s sounds like some really strong personal core values. Do you have defined core values for your business or for yourself?
Susan Scherer: They are very reflective. They’re almost exact. So to tell you the truth.
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: Integrity is huge for our company. It’s huge for me, protect your patients, increasing their quality of life. You have to have compassion and you have to have a knowledge base. What we do is based on scientific data or knowledge, evidence-based medicine. When we talk about adding the protein and the effects that it has, I don’t make any claims on the CBD part.
Susan Scherer: But I think honesty. Another thing that drives us is that I am a firm believer, and if you ask my kids and the people that know me, you’re put on this earth to do something, not just take up space and air. And I think that that is the most important thing to me, is that we need to contribute and make people’s lives better.
Susan Scherer: And now to have RN Cancer Guides make people’s lives better, but the ice cream can affect so many other people, not just cancer patients. So when we go to making our product, whether it’s the packaging and the QR code that goes back to the testing or however we test it, we test our product many times. The whole reason we stopped for a year was to work with the state and regulation for dairy products and setting that bar really high.
Susan Scherer: Because now I feel protective mother bear against products that aren’t legit out there. And I believe in regulation. So like people that hide from regulation were actually-
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: When we did our test run, the state was there and brought it back to their labs as much as we were bringing it back to ours. And so it’s important to have a quality product that will protect everyone.
Andi Graham: Was there any time that you had to make a decision for your business that was difficult and you decided to use your core values to sort of guide that decision?
Susan Scherer: Absolutely. So for up to almost a year we were making this CBD ice cream and it was this very gray area. It was selling, we were gaining momentum. People knew about us all over the United States and Spain and England and Canada. And to put the brakes on that, to wait for regulation to come out and work with the state, was a decision we had to make.
Susan Scherer: Could I continue to do that? Yes, I could have continued to sell if it was about making more money. But that was something that I had to hold. And it was also knowing that I wasn’t able to help people for a year. Was I okay with that? And it was something I struggled with. And the right thing to do is everything that our values are based on; this integrity and being truthful and transparent and compassionate.
Susan Scherer: And so that won out and said, “You know what, it’s not about as much as everybody loves the ice cream and they want it and it pays the bills, we’ve got to hold and do what’s right and set the standard and work with the state and help with these regulations.” Florida is the only state in the United States that has dairy regulation in HAP framework. We’re it.
Susan Scherer: So everybody is looking at how we’re doing it and because we are working with the state, we’re it. Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever don’t have that. We have that. And it was because you wait and you do the right thing and people are there to help you.
Andi Graham: That is incredible. That must have been really tough.
Susan Scherer: It was a hard decision to make, to have to pull back. I had to hide my phone number, which is 1833-ICEWEED.
Andi Graham: Oh.
Susan Scherer: My business partner was like, “No, it needs to be a regular phone number.” I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s such a good phone number.” It’s still the phone number, it’s just I had to say the numbers. But yeah, when we ran our salted caramel run, I believe it was the 10th of March, the state being there, I actually had a cold and I didn’t want to take the chance. So I didn’t show up for that run. Everybody else was there, but I was not there.
Susan Scherer: And we can produce about 12000 cups coming off the line. We have the capability to produce up to a million cups a month off this line. And I was sitting in bed and I’m sniffling, I got this cold. And I was like, “You know what? We just made history. It has never happened that a state being there allowed the law to allow us to put cannabis in a food product on a mass production scale. We just did it for the first time in the United States.” How cool is-
Andi Graham: That is so cool. Wow. You had a videographer there, right?
Susan Scherer: Yes.
Andi Graham: Okay. I mean, if you-
Susan Scherer: [inaudible 00:14:38] that’s what you want to know. But yeah, so I got pictures and video.
Andi Graham: All right. As long as there’s something, because you can document that later even if you’re not there.
Susan Scherer: But yeah.
Andi Graham: That’s good. So the industry you’re in, the ice cream aside, the cannabis side of things, the CBD side of things, is a still somewhat controversial topic. And I’m curious if you’ve run into any instances of conflict with people, with professionals or colleagues or with just the general public that you’ve had to deal with.
Susan Scherer: Well, everything is an education, right? We talk about cannabis, but cannabis comes in two different… It’s like the family, and then you have hemp on one side, which has 120 cannabinoids. Cannabid oil, CBD is just one of them. And then you have THC, the marijuana plant, which has a lower amount of cannabinoids but a higher amount of THC. And people all of a sudden assume that you’re going to get everybody high. And so I’m like, “No, no. As much as they want to, no.”
Susan Scherer: The other thing is I think that when we went into this, like I said, it’s a huge gray area, Wild West. We’ve been at it now for over two and a half years and had seen it evolve with the same players and seeing regulation and seeing how things are going. We’re educating physicians on what the product is. They’re getting better about it. They feel comforting knowing that Israel has been studying cannabis for a very long time. There’s about 42000 papers out on it.
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: So it’s been around for a very long time. So there’s probably been more work done on this than the pharmaceutical industry.
Andi Graham: I think people like you are helping normalize what should have been normalized 70 years ago, honestly. Why do I feel comfortable drinking a glass of wine but not having a little marijuana or doing even the recreational side of things?
Susan Scherer: I totally agree. And we now know that the endo-cannabinoid system, which we were just taught as medical people within the past few years, that everybody has, and without it, you wouldn’t be here. That the endo-cannabinoid system is in-connected to the central nervous system. And that’s why nobody… You’re not going to stop breathing. It’s not connected. Doesn’t happen. But yes, the push of all the other narcotics. And especially [inaudible 00:17:10] our service members, I’m ex-military. And when I see that service members are coming back and pushed up to 11 medications and then you’re worried about the suicide rate and it’s like, “You know what, this has got to change.” We have something that works, let them have it. It’s got to change.
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: I think it’s remarkable. And I’ve always said, I think that the world has provided us the antidotes for a lot of things, we just haven’t used them. And when I look at people that have had fibromyalgia and a lot of other disease processes and things that are happening in work what the endo-cannabinoid does. There’s two sets of receptors. There’s CR receptors in the brain. It’s one. And then two throughout the body. And it’s responsible for basically resetting the mitochondria inflammation pain, in the brain, for example. With those neurons, those receptors, that’s what formed our brain. There’s actually Cannabinoids in breast milk. So we make them.
Susan Scherer: But we were supposed to get them from our food and everything’s been so GMO-ed that we don’t. And it sometimes makes you wonder, and this is my own hypothesis, not anybody else’s, but from what I’ve seen. It seems to be that we have a lack of this endo-cannabinoid in our body and it’s causing a lot of these issues. Because why is it that when someone with fibromyalgia has tried everything, and some of them that’s been on tons of seizure medicine, flips over to using a product that puts the cannabinoids back, it stops. You know, Parkinson’s patients.
Susan Scherer: And now we are seeing that it is rebuilding the neurons in the brain and those pathways and putting things back together. And it’s amazing. And that’s what happens with addiction. You are only supposed to take pain medicine for five days. But what happens is your brain starts to want more and more in these connections cease to exist. And so what you’re seeing is the rebuilding of those connections and it’s pretty remarkable.
Andi Graham: That is remarkable. Wow, that’s awesome. So you guys are still up and running and producing ice cream.
Susan Scherer: We are. We’re running our next batch of Lemon Blueberry and French Vanilla, which is really cool with the CBD in it. And that’s going into production next week, I believe. And-
Andi Graham: And when I look at your website, I see that it’s available at, traditionally, like vape stores and places that carry CBD products. How are we going to get this stuff pushed out through traditional channels?
Susan Scherer: Well we’re working on that. That was part of the reason to have the non-CBD product, was to get those non-traditional retail locations used to the idea of our ice cream and used to the fact that we are using it as a medical delivery system, right? It’s e-commerce on the website, so anybody can order and we’re shipping overnight or today. So nobody needs to be here. Of course it depends on the state. So not every state allows a hemp food product. As you know, the FDA-
Andi Graham: Yeah.
Susan Scherer: … Is saying no, but yet the FDA is fast tracking anti-malaria drugs right now, without clinical tests. So I guess it all depends on what you’re looking at. But in the state of Florida, we have their full support and definitely can get it out all over here. So anybody who wants it. And the list of States are actually on the website that we can ship to.
Andi Graham: And what’s the website?
Susan Scherer: The website is www.heavenlyhashcreamery.com.