You can just tell within moments of meeting, speaking or otherwise engaging with Out & About CBD’s Co-founder Wayne Carkeek: The man has a heart of gold. Carkeek signs emails with smiley faces, openly advocates for mental health, and seemingly perpetually gives back to his gay community. His company, Out & About CBD, seems to reflect Carkeek’s values and sunny personality to a T. From the products’ rainbow packaging to the company’s commitment to help the LGBTQ community, Out & About CBD is one special corporate enterprise, that’s for sure.
Wayne and business partner, Ralph Fascitelli, center the company around serving those who identify as LGBTQ because shockingly more than 60 percent of that community suffers from anxiety and depression, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Carkeek is passionate about helping people manage their mental health because of his own battles with the issue.
Wayne Carkeek grew up in rural Montana and spent his early adulthood serving in the US military. On Thanksgiving, at 24, Carkeek told his friends and family that he’s gay. Unfortunately, not everyone applauded the veteran for his honesty, and he lost one of his closest relationships that day. After coming out, Carkeek says he continued to suffer from anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and panic attacks. He says at the time he feared discrimination, criticism, and acceptance in all aspects of his life, every single day. In 2017, while searching for an effective alternative to prescription drugs, Carkeek tried CBD for the first time, which he says has helped him tremendously.
As anyone can imagine, Carkeek continues to use CBD products daily and he’s happy to report that he’s been panic attack free since 2018. He credits CBD/hemp oil for helping him get his anxiety under control, which has allowed him to enjoy life more than ever before. Carkeek wants Out & About CBD to get people, yes, out and about, connecting with others, and loving every single day—exactly like he does now.
PuraPhy tracked down Carkeek to talk CBD, LGBTQ and being OK. The surprise? He had a lot to say. Let’s dive in.
BY SIMONE TEAGUE
Hi Wayne. Between COVID-19, the racial justice movement, and Gay Pride, there’s, of course, a lot going on right now. First of all, how have you been taking care of yourself during these unpredictable times?
Hi Simone. This year has been a test of strength for everyone. All our efforts have been adapted for the safety of our team and customers while we overcome the difficult times of COVID-19. We’re a growing CBD company, so shifting most of our operations to a work-from-home business was simple enough.
We were quick to recognize the injustices that Black lives face today. Looking back in our queer history, it was Black Trans women who lead the uprisings at the Stonewall riots, heroes such as Marsha P. Johnson. We’re all taking the time here to learn more about Black lives and share our understandings; all while keeping our focus on celebrating advancements of queer rights in June, a month that has a history for us, and we’re more than happy to support causes and add to the list of historical change.
Tell me about how you and Out & About celebrated Pride this unusual year.
Out & About has been on a mission to represent the true culture of LGBT as a brand dedicated to our community’s collective wellness, mentally and physically. This year we’ve been expanding our connections in queer and wellness businesses educating ourselves so we can pass along truthful, accurate information to our audience on LGBT history, culture, and health. One of our educators is Casey Tanner, a queer sex therapist who has her own beliefs in the wellness of CBD. We’re celebrating Pride this year by spreading all the knowledge we learn on CBD and LGBT.
Personally, my way of celebrating isn’t much different from the business. When you love what you do, it just becomes a part of you. With the restrictions of COVID-19, I’ve spent a lot of my focus reading on LGBTQ history and looking for windows of opportunity to safely connect with like-minded people.
What made you launch Out & About CBD?
We launched Out & About at the realization that my own gay anxiety wasn’t as uncommon as I previously thought. I had been using CBD for about three years to help with my anxiety and panic attacks when I met my business partner, Ralph Fascitelli. The first commonality we had was our passion for CBD; second was finding a mission to do some good in the world. After opening up to Ralph on all the ways CBD has improved my life, his questions turned into our research. What we found was a lot of the same data that organizations such as [at-risk LGBTQ+ teen focused] The Trevor Project speak on regularly. One being, queer people are susceptible to at least 2.5 times the anxiety levels of heterosexuals. This first statistic personally hit me with a mission. We launched Out & About CBD in March 2020, as a “do good, do well” company for the wellness of the LGBT community.
What’s the current business climate you’re experiencing?
The current climate is slightly different than we could have expected. With retail stores at a standstill throughout the world, we needed to shift all of our efforts into our ecommerce operation. This hasn’t been a setback in any way, but more of an opportunity to look at perfecting our online business. When businesses begin to open their doors again safely, we can begin looking at providing our products locally in our communities.
In ten words or less, what sets Out & About CBD’s products apart from your competitors?
LGBT-owned, queer CBD products, giving back to our community.
Tell me about your ongoing relationship with The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project is one organization that I hold close to me. After learning about them at 27, I felt cheated. I never knew they existed, even though they had been around since 1998, when I would’ve been having those first feelings of attraction towards men. Back then, phones and texting were becoming readily available, even to me whose family couldn’t really afford them. Had I known The Trevor Project was out there, readily giving advice and support to LGBT youth, I would’ve definitely called. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me until the age of 24 to be truthful to myself and come out. Remember the “do good, do well” mission? We give back to The Trevor Project because I believe that not coming to terms with who I am is a large part of what caused my anxiety and panic. If The Trevor Project supports youth who feel unsafe, or just need to talk about their confusion, then I want to back them in every way possible. Our queer youth deserve the chance to be who they are from the very beginning.
Also, Out & About CBD is dedicated to giving five percent back to LGBTQ organizations and, yes, The Trevor Project is our first official partner.
As one of the few LGBTQ-owned CBD brands, do you have a theory about why Out & About CBD isn’t surrounded by more like-minded companies, particularly since the gay market is famously ahead of the curve in regard to consumer trends?
As one of the few gay-owned CBD brands, we take even more pride to stand where we are. In my community, everyone loves the support that companies give during Pride. But what most don’t see from these companies is that Pride is just another marketing tactic to target the queer audience. They color their logo or products in a rainbow to show support for the month—but where does that support go in the remaining 11 months of the year? To marketers, Pride month is just another Black Friday, Christmas, Fourth of July, in other words, an opportunity to make money. If the company isn’t giving back to an LGBT cause long-term, then they’re just taking advantage of my community’s celebratory spirit.
Out & About CBD stands alone in our commitment to the LGBTQ community, not only because there are so few gay-owned businesses, but also because our community lacks constant support. We need more queer businesses in our world, and I’m certainly happy to have Out & About CBD set an important example.
Do you dare to imagine where Out & About CBD will be in 2025? Had I asked you in 2015 where the company would be in five years, you could’ve never guessed considering all that has happened and where we are today. I’ll rephrase: What do you hope the future will look like for Out & About CBD?
We have a lot of big plans building up for Out & About, many of which I hope to see by 2025. But we’re patient and my team approaches things in the right manner. I don’t like to push too much into planning and enjoy the natural development of growth, but if you are looking for a glimpse into my vision you could see Out & About CBD as the queer thought leader for CBD use. A brand to trust and one that sets the example towards sustainability and equal business practices. We hope to grow with our queer community and share with them, all of the incredible benefits of CBD wellness.