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Matt Stiegler Interview | PROACTIVE Podcast by MeMedia #121


Therapeutic uses for hemp have drawn keen interest in Australia lately. 

On this episode of the ProActive Podcast, Chris Hogan sits down with CANNABELLA Skincare Co-Founder Matt Stiegler, who explains why this once banned plant has become such a hot commodity in cosmetics and medicine.



- [Announcer] Welcome to The PROACTIVE Podcast brought to you by MeMedia.

- Good day, Chris Hogan coming to you from MeMedia studio here at Burley heads for episode 121 of The PROACTIVE Podcast, and today I have with me, Matt Stiegler.

- Yep, that's it. Stiegler, Stiegler.

- Stiegler, Stiegler from Cannabella. How are you, Matt?

- Good, doing good.

- Cannabella started 2020, is that correct?

- It started about three years ago, but launched it to the market 2020.

- Excellent. And so new to the market in 2020. What a year to start a business.

- And Cannabella is a skincare company.

- [Matt] Yup.

- And we have some of the range right here, but it is made from hemp seed oil.

- [Matt] Yeah, that's the base, the base ingredient.

- Hence the name Canna, meaning cannabis and Bella meaning beautiful, I imagine.

- Well, that name came about, we lived on a road in Sydney called Carabella. So it was like a play on of that name. Carabella, Cannabella.

- Okay, good. Well you're I guess you're lucky then, that Bella means beautiful.

- Yeah, that's it.

- And so right, what's it been like starting a business in 2020?

- It's been surprisingly good for us. Like more people have gotten to health and wellness. They've had time to chill out, I guess, and figure out, what they wanna do in their life with the whole lockdown and the world turning upside down. So it's been, all right. When it first started, we were like, oh shit, this isn't good. Like it's not a good time, but we've pulled through all right.

- Great, great to hear. And so three years ago, what started all this?

- So about bit over three years, 3 1/2, nearly four years ago, our mum was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And basically she was a couple of blood points away from not being treated conventionally. And so that's when we decided to with chemotherapy, give her cannabis oil to help with through.

- And so that is that CBD oil or is that--

- THC. THC and CBD, so full plant.

- And what did that do?

- So basically she couldn't handle the painkillers. They were making her sick and first drop of cannabis oil we gave her was an instant turnaround. Started eating again, didn't even have to take a Panadol and got her through that whole episode that she was going through.

- Fantastic. And was she doing chemo as well?

- Yep. Yeah, so she had about six weeks of being, not misdiagnosed, but having a run around with the doctors. She was going to all different kinds of physio-therapy 'cause she had back pain. So that was what they put it down to. So they were sending it a physio, all different kinds of different alternative therapies with back pain stuff. And by the time they gave her a pet scan that's when they figured out that there was something a bit more serious.

- Right. And so how did this product come about based on, I guess it was ingesting their cannabis oil--

- [Matt] Yeah, yeah, that's right.

- So how did the skincare sort of come about then?

- Well, that evolved over her side effects of the chemo. So she was having dry skin and mouth ulcers. So we saw how well the cannabis oil or the THC was working internally for her. So I thought I'll add a bit into her skincare and see how that works. And she was seeing really great results with that. And basically through her treatment, I changed her diet around to raw vegan and heaps of green juices, just put her on the whole health paths of detoxing and helping supplement what she was doing. And yeah, so the skincare was the last thing I looked into ingredient-wise cause I changed got rid of all the chemicals and all that out of her diet and around the house. So yeah. So the skincare was the last thing I was looking into and as I was like melting it down on the stove, I was reading the ingredients that was in it. I thought, well, shit, they're no good. So started making it from scratch, just watched YouTube videos on how to make skincare. That's how it evolved.

- Awesome, so no background in skincare.

- [Matt] No.

- No?

- [Matt] Nah, my background is in music.

- Proper hack?

- [Matt] Yeah.

- Love it. And just living by life experience basically.

- Yeah, yeah. I went down the whole rabbit hole of nutrition and health about 10 years ago when I went raw vegan. Did it like a detox, I was doing like nine day juice fast and all that kind of stuff, and that led me into, I guess, the knowledge of plant based medicine and how I could put that into helping her.

- Yeah, same. Remember years ago when hemp seed oil wasn't able to be legally sold on the counter. And as a food, the nutritional profile was absolutely beautiful. The bioavailability of a plant-based omega 3, 6, 9 oil for ingesting was only basically able to be sold on counter probably a couple of years after I first saw it for topical use or for animals.

- [Matt] Yeah, only, yeah.

- And then that became legal for humans to be able to ingest and such a beautiful thing. I find that oil when I'm taking it, I'm brighter, my skin's a lot better, and who knows what else?

- Yeah, well, it's unreal. Like 3 1/2 years ago, hemp seed was basically, you couldn't sell it as a food product. So we had to treat our mom illegally, like through the compassionate market of finding suppliers It was like bizarre, bizarre that hemp seed was still illicit as a food product.

- Exactly. And so the oil is actually comes from the crushing of the seed and the oil extracts from the seed. It's not from the plant fibre--

- [Matt] No.

- Blended plant fibre or anything like that.

- Not hemp seed.

- Yeah, yeah. So I guess you got to clarify that for people. Sometimes they don't really understand where the oil is coming from, but yeah. And the hemp seed is actually beautiful to eat as well. I love it as a alternative for, I guess, cracked wheat in a Taboola, something like that. But mate, back to the product. So there was basically this topical ointment or skincare that your mum was applying to improve through reaction she was getting from dried skin from the chemo. And so what happened after that? Your mom's using it, what happened?

- So, yeah, basically she was getting complimented on her skin, even during chemo. She didn't have that chemo glow. She was getting a lot of sunshine, being out in the sun outdoors. So she was getting complimented on a skin and people were asking about it. I had other family friends and friends of friends that were had parents or someone going through radiation and asking if that could help with them and even people who have eczema, psoriasis. So word started to spread out a little bit, like people pretty interested in what I was doing. So I, for about maybe close to over a year, I was just making it up and just giving it out and not even really thinking of it as a business. It was just helping people.

- And so, as a skincare product, I've noticed that you're basically not making claims to what it can do for people other than pretty much hydration.

- Yeah.

- Which is a great, I think a very smart way to go, because once you start making claims on bottles and--

- Yeah, it's a pretty shady area. Cause it can help people, but sometimes some people it doesn't help. So yeah, it's hard to make a claim on a product 'cause some people, it might not work for them.

- Yeah, for me personally, my body loves it. So I use it all the time.

- Which, I mean, if it doesn't cure a year eczema or psoriasis, it's gonna still make you look good.

- Well, I have a confession to make. I do use the hemp jelly in my hair. That's the only thing that I use it for. One of the reasons why I think that's actually a great idea is because the amino acid profile is so high in hemp seeds which means protein, which protein helps repair, and that's my theory around, well putting in my hair potentially helps repair my hair.

- It's a building block of protein.

- It's the building blocks of life. So that's my little tip for people out there. I have tried the face mask. I think I did that the other day and looked absolutely ridiculous as you do, but lo and behold felt good. Maybe I left it on too long.

- Yeah, 15 minutes max.

- Oh, yeah, right 'cause it dried on my face, like I can't move.

- Yeah. You want it to dry up like that, but don't leave it on for longer than 15 'cause it's the green clay can pull it out a bit too much of your skin.

- Cool. So in terms of the range, you've got quite a range. Can you sort of run me through, I guess the ones that I can't see names of but I can see Clarify serum. So what's that all about?

- So basically the original product that I made was a hemp jelly, being a balm, I mean, you won't be able to see it on film. So it's like a green balm. People do ask, will it make my face green or your skin green. It doesn't. That's the chlorophyll that's in it.

- It's really great during winter actually.

- Yeah, even for summer, for sunburns, even for like blue bottle bite like stings. Any rashes, anything like that? So the hemp jelly was the original one. Contains Australian organic beeswax as well. So it locks in that moisture and creates a barrier. So that's what my mum was originally using. And then it led in more into the Renewal serum as well. So that one's great for, the feedback we get from the Renewal serum is random, from anything from treating people's dandruff to preventing mouth herpes.

- [Chris] Right, okay.

- I know it's random.

- [Chris] Interesting feedback.

- Had a few people tell us, if they feel a tingle coming on, they'll put that on and it stops it from even coming out.

- [Chris] Amazing.

- So I can't make any scientific claims on that yet. Not yet. Not until we get the science behind it. But with the range. So they were the original products I made, 'cause I knew nothing about skincare, really. My skin care was just basically what I used was argan oil. I was surfing in Morocco about 10 years ago or 11 years ago and got really sunburned and that's all you could find really was just argan oil. And yeah, that's all I used for a long time then led me into using hemp. And then we create blends. It's just not about the hemp. It's about the other plant-based ingredients that we use, like broccoli seed, watermelon seed.

- [Chris] Fantastic.

- So, they were the original two products. Then people were asking, I've got oily skin, dry skin, and I didn't really know anything about different skin types, about combination skin, dry skin, oily skin, acne prone skin. I just thought skin was skin. So that's why we created three products, three face serums. So the Clarify serum is a super lightweight serum. So it's great for people with acne or oily prone skin. Dissolves in really quick. It's got tumeric in it so it's in anti inflammatory and as well as Australian sandalwood and then the CoQ10 is a mature skin one. So that's got vitamin A, vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10.

- Where's the CoQ10 coming from? 'Cause I believe that most people source that from the animal industry.

- [Matt] Yeah, it's completely vegan.

- Great, where does that come from? Do you know?

- So it's pretty much it's lab made. So I'm not sure exactly how they produce it, like the scientific side of it, but yeah. So that's good for anyone over the age of 30 really. 'Cause mature skin's over the age of 30.

- Very good. And so where did you actually originally start selling this product?

- Via Instagram? Yeah, I was just posting a few photos of it on Instagram. People were asking to buy, so I'll just send them over my PayPal details then PayPal blocked us 'cause they thought we were selling illicit drugs. So we got blacklisted from PayPal. Then that led us onto being deactivated on Instagram. So whole product range, the Cannabella range doesn't contain THC or CBD, but it does contain unfiltered hemp seed. So when you see the products, you'll notice that it is a bit thicker and you've got to get the bottles of good shakeup. So it's completely unfiltered. So it's higher in chlorophyll and that's great for repairing the skin and putting oxygen in the skin as well.

- And of course they were all wrong. They didn't need to ban you. God, they just sticklers, aren't they?

- [Matt] Yup.

- And so what happened next?

- Yeah, so then it gradually built up, made the website and just started like, yeah. Over time, over a year or year and a half, we just started selling and started doing the markets and getting into retail.

- Markets?

- [Matt] Yeah.

- That would have been always fine. Markets are fantastic place. Just like a retail store is to get that customer interaction and get that feedback. So you did those pretty early in the piece, right? The markets?

- No, well, we did them at the start of the year. We got two or three markets in before COVID hit.

- Yeah, that's what I meant. Sorry, yeah, yeah, of course. Alright. So, you have two or three. Just in that space of time, I'm pretty sure you did experience people coming back though, is that right?

- Yep, so we have the skin care industry, what I've learned it's based on giving out samples. 'Cause you got to convince someone to change what they're already using or what they already like 'cause some people will be thinking, rose hip that works for me and until they try, like for instance, our Renewal serum does contain rose hip, but when you mix it in with some other plant oils as well, like a little boost, like it's a synergy effect of boosting the plants together. So yeah, I'll give out samples and I'll notice I'll get an online sale or they'll come back the following market day and buy.

- And so investment wise, has it been 100% your own family just testing and boot strapping this thing?

- Yeah, so originally I was working down in Sydney. It's where I'm originally from. Working full-time and just pumping my own money into it.

- Good stuff. I love a part-time gig on the side. And is this your full-time gig yet or?

- It's getting there, yeah. Pretty much.

- So almost a full year of basically just part-timing it, building a brand.

- We're lucky that in a way when COVID did hit the government will pretty much be giving everyone a salary. So that gave us that time to lock in and not have to worry about how we're gonna feed ourselves. So it almost worked out perfect timing, the COVID for us. Other businesses obviously suffered, but I guess for new businesses starting out or working out an idea, it gave them an opportunity to lock in and--

- Yeah, as long as you're employed just that right amount of time beforehand, it was all good, huh?

- Yeah, yeah.

- Lucky, lucky. They do say the best time to start new business is in a recession. We weren't officially in a recession then, but you could argue otherwise. And the reason why that is, is because essentially you solving a problem that people really want solved for them at probably the hardest times of their life. And being a beauty is a great industry to be in because it actually makes people feel good. It boosts their self-esteem. So you're in the beauty game, albeit you probably can't claim, well, you can't claim too much, but your product practically in the skin nutrition games. And I've been there before, albeit I failed in that market. So you're doing better than me already. And where do you think this might lead to? Have you got any ideas, like visions or big grand goals?

- Well, we have the whole how it all began. It wasn't just about the skincare with our mum with helping her. It was about other supplements she was taking like liquid chlorophyll, all the green juices and a few other supplements. So for us, it's about being into the whole health and wellness game. So we've got other products we're working on. So it's just not about skincare. It's more about creating a lifestyle and advertising a good lifestyle for people. 'Cause there's no point thinking cannabis oil is gonna work for you or end up with cancer and go, I'm just gonna do cannabis oil and eat McDonald's and junk food and all that stuff. You got to work on the whole package. And you wanna prevent yourself from even getting sick in the first place.

- Yeah, as we would say, be proactive. So that's one thing I learned from a plant-based diet is that it is probably the most proactive way to keep yourself well. Effectively you're taking care of your gut flora, your microbiome, and you're keeping all your nutrition at an optimal level. Obviously if you don't do it right it's not kept at an optimum level.

- Yeah, well, you've got that like vegan movement now that they're pushing all like the fake meat and the Beyond Meat or whatever it's called. And it's not even food.

- It's processed again, we're going back to processed. So early in the piece, I think I was healthier 'cause I'm about the same amount of time. About 10 years ago, I started being vegan and early in the pace, it was proper hard to actually go out and buy anything off the shelf that was vegan.

- It was like plain tofu or maybe like saute tofu in the packets.

- That didn't exist back then.

- So it was pretty much TemPay and Tofu, I think that was about it.

- And there was no desserts. I think maybe if you're lucky you could have got like a roll ball, some kind of date with a bit of coconut, shredded coconut on top. That was about it, and that was a treat.

- Yeah, it was. I found myself consuming a lot of sort of Indian, Asian food because I could make that vegan and still get a real flavorful meal. And I was probably excited about those meals. Still eat them today. But the introduction of the processed food, yeah, it's changed things. Yeah, it makes life a little bit easier for a vegan, like you get home late at night or whatever it is and you can slap one of those things on the barbie and feel like you're part of the party with the rest of the people sometimes at a barbecue where you just go, yeah just put that over there. Don't let it touch the other stuff.

- Yeah, 'cause you can never really eat out. Eating out was pretty much impossible. Now, so many restaurants have a pretty extensive vegan option now.

- Yeah, I remember it was really funny early in the pace. Can I have something vegan and the chefs at the back in a pub on the gold coast here would just flat panic and basically put some lettuce, some carrot, and some tomato on a plate for me and that was it.

- Or even if you ask for a hamburger with no meat pattie just be like what? Yeah, freak out. But then even being raw vegan's harder 'cause I don't even understand that.

- [Chris] Oh no.

- But I think that will eventually become a bit more mainstream.

- No, I'm not sure where I see it on the raw vegan thing. When I went vegan, I went hardcore. Like I just went, right, let's go. And I went raw and I was eating just raw broccoli and basically some lettuce and some tomatoes and cucumber and stuff. And my body detoxed like hard. And it was pretty disgusting. I actually had like, almost head to toe pimples. And I was like, what the hell is going on? What's wrong? And then after a couple of weeks, like, Oh yeah, really lethargic and all that sort of stuff. Didn't know what I was doing. I couldn't find many books on the topic. And then I only had some of my friends who were being vegan for years before me to talk to. So yeah--

- It's pretty hard. It freaks people out when they go from like a standard diet or standard way of eating to like, Oh, I'm gonna do a detox and clean myself up and day three they just freak out and go back to what they were doing before. You got to do a bit of a gradual process.

- Absolutely. A hundred percent go to gradual. I did end up going back to gradual 'cause I didn't know what to eat and it made a lot of sense. So that's great. I'm glad to hear that you're looking forward to that holistic health range of products. And I suppose there's a bit of like loosening of the rules that needs to happen a bit. You know what I mean? It'd be great if this product could have CBD in it. It's already been able to be prescribed across by a GP and found in a chemist here in Australia. But it still has to come a little way before you can, I think, have it in a skincare product, and albeit there probably be some stupid costs for licencing fees or something or other.

- It'll make it harder. So next year it'll be over the counter at the chemist, but it's only from oscillate, not from a full spectrum CBD.

- [Chris] Right.

- And the dosages are low. And even the THC that they prescribed for people going through cancer or any major health issue, it's so low. Like basically you need, if you have cancer, you need the, they call it Rick Simpson oil. That's a guy that was pushed it... He was making YouTube videos. I saw a YouTube video of him probably around 11 years ago or 10 years ago when I got into the whole raw vegan and you get down that whole rabbit hole of YouTube and finding out more and more information. It was a Canadian guy called Rick Simpson. And he was curing people of cancer. You basically get the bar, mix it in with alcohol. I think he was using, I can't remember when he was using. I don't recommend his method 'cause I think he uses, I can't even, NAFTA, I don't even know. It's an American or Canadian terminology, but anyway, you cook it out. So you basically you're washing the bud, cook it out in a rice cooker and you're left with a resin. And that resin is like, it's strong. You have a little bit of that and it'll send you to another world. That's why you got to work up your dosing.

- We don't advocate that. We're not advocating that at all. In fact, let's not give any recipes on this show. But yeah. What you're saying is that I think that what is potentially gonna become legal, probably isn't gonna do anything anyway because they're all worried about I guess what they could do to people.

- They might cure them.

- Don't even say that.

- Nah, look, my father died from cancer as well. I went vegan not long after that. I got really angry with the public health system. And basically his quality of life for the last year of his life was really shit. He went through chemo--

- It should be the first option they give people with pain is cannabis, not opiates. The opiate addiction crisis that's going on in Australia and even in America, how many people are dying from it. It's insane. You can't die from cannabis. You can't OD on it. Like it's impossible. The only way you're gonna OD is maybe if you eat too much food from, you know.

- You do something stupid because you're high. Basically you go and do something else stupid because you're high.

- But even doing like reading up on that and I never really knew much about cannabis when I was younger. It wasn't really a thing that I was into, but till when my mum got sick and I started reading up more and more on it and discovering that our bodies actually have an endocannabinoid system, which is a major suit. It's basically, if that system's out of balance, your whole body's gonna be out of balance. You can't function right. And it's a major system, just like the nervous system, muscular system, skeletal system. And they discovered that 30 years ago, but no one knows about it. You could probably ask anyone about the endocannabinoid system and how it affects your health and no one will know.

- No, and then science still needs to come a long way in that space. And yeah, I've read similar stuff and even chocolate, dark chocolate actually can trigger the CBD receptors in our brain.

- There's heaps of plants out there that are working with that system. So they discovered it, or THC was discovered by an Israeli guy called Raphael Mechoulam back I think in the '50s. So he discovered the THC compound in, or scientifically discovered it. And I think they were working on it more again in the '80s. I think it was around the '80s where they discovered how THC affects the body and that's when they discovered the endocannabinoid system. So it was only just from studying what THC does they discovered like a major part of our body, not just our body, but animals as well.

- Well, I guess Cannabella will evolve with the times and the legal system and at least you're making some headway here and it's great to see. And just to be clear, there is nothing illegal about these products. And running Facebook ads has just recently become a thing you can do. You finally got past that hurdle. It's one of our experiences as well when trying, I guess controversial, if that's the right word to use, controversial products on Facebook as an advertising platform, it's just about persistence. So if you are failing there, by all means, get in touch. We have been quite successful there and a well done to you guys for sorting that out. So I think I really wanna just finish off by saying that well done on creating a product, and especially in this time and doing the hard yards, not expecting the overnight success, doing the part-time gig. You've probably been, what've you been? In a garage or something similar just keeping it clean and vastly clean out a garage and that's where we started.

- Pretty much, just a spare room. Cleaned it out and yeah.

- Yeah, and that's where all the best businesses start. Mine started there too. So hopefully I can claim some big success from that as well. Mate, well done. How does everybody stay in touch and stay across Cannabella?

- Instagram is Cannabella_AU. Website, Email is

- Beautiful. I love the products guys. I can definitely vouch for them. And my wife loves them too. Anybody I gave them to, especially during winter, that's when I first started using it. We were just like so grateful. And my kids love the, I think it's--

- [Matt] The Tropica.

- Yeah, they love that. Especially for just before bed if they were having any sort of skin rashes or anything like that, dry skin. Probably about nearly full body.

- Yeah, well I made that one for myself originally because I surf. So that was made for me for after day spent out in the sun, just got Alovera, watermelon seed and I was trying to make it smell like surf wax. A lot of people have smelled surf wax before, but you wanna eat it. It's a natural version of what surf wax would smell like. I dunno. It's a cross between surf wax and a cocktail.

- Cocktail for your skin. Beautiful. Thanks so much, Matt. Thanks for coming on.

- [Matt] Yeah, thanks for having us on.

- And that's enough from us. You can check out many more podcasts on Apple and Spotify, or you can hit our YouTube channel or even our website, and the podcast is The PROACTIVE Podcast. Thanks for watching guys and see you again soon.


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