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Meet Red Belly Honey Founder Joline Rivera
I had the pleasure of getting to know the founder of one of my favorite brands Joline Rivera. I’m a huge tea drinker and infuse my own honey with cannabis. I usually infuse my honey with a cannabis strain with a high percentage of THC to help me relax and sleep at night. When I found Red Belly Honey-Hemp Honey Infused by Bees, Not By Humans I was very intrigued. I instantly thought hmmmm this can’t be better than my honey, and I was quickly proven wrong. Red Belly Honey in fact did help me relax at night so I was able to fall asleep naturally and I was also able to use it in the morning as well and It didn’t give me that overall heavy “stuck” feeling so I was still able to be productive. Meet Joline Rivera the Founder of Red Belly Honey!
Q: Hi Joline! Where do you live?
A: I live in Chicago Illinois.
Q: I recently re-located to Chicago and I love it here.. Tell my readers what’s the name of your company and what you do in the Cannabis Industry?
A: I have a few companies…Kitchen Toke Inc, a culinary media company, Red Belly Honey is the first natural product food infused with CBD by nature, and Rbel Bee Honey Gummies, a function gummy snack sweetened with honey.
Q: I absolutely love your honey and, now I’m a fan of the gummies. I love the sweet with a little spice flavor. Explain in detail what it means for your honey to be infused by bees, not humans ….
A: The bees are eating a full-spectrum “hemp nectar”—they are free to roam and gather nectar as they choose or decide when they want to eat the hemp. They mix this oil based nectar with other flower nectar and express it into the honeycomb cell. We know there’s CBD in our honey but we didn’t put it there—the bees did.
Q: I love that! What’s your favorite CBD or THC or are you a hybrid girl?
A: My favorite is CBD with a little bit of THC. I don’t like being high. I can’t function in my day-to-day like that—but I also don’t like being drunk or altered in any state. Relaxed, yes—but not high. I know I’m not the only one, if there’s one, there’s more.
Q: I can definitely relate. Most times I medicate with strains that give me a mood boost, make me creative and productive. I hate that stuck feeling you can sometimes have with some strains. Are you a wake-and-bake kinda girl and How do you start your day?
A: I am not a wake-and-bake person. I launched Kitchen Toke to teach others how to infuse their food—I’m not a smoker. I do believe cannabis is food and food is medicine and believe cannabinoids should be in our food at every meal.
Q: A woman after my own heart. Our web-series Kooking with Kush teaches “Everyday People” how to infuse their food at home. I do smoke but I prefer eating over smoking. Smoking is sometimes harsh on my throat. What does your day look like. Take me into the life of Joline….
A: Sleep is always my priority. I know with the enormous amounts of stress and anxiety running a start-up my body needs sleep. Eating healthy is my second priority so I make sure my day has foods available to me that help me function better. This might all sound boring, but prioritizing my health is the foundation for everything I’m doing and all my success. I HAVE to start with me and then I move through my morning with 3 goals I need to achieve at my desk. I also have one “shoot your shot” moment every single day. I take one. I have to. I’m a huge believer in asking. You always have to ask for something. Two answers out of three are good: Yes, No & Maybe. If it’s a “Maybe” I can usually turn it into a yes and if it’s a “No” I take that as a “No right now”—I’ll always come back to it or improve myself to turn it into a Yes!
I make sure I spend time with my dogs. They’re getting older and it not only makes them happy but it makes all of us happy.
Running a start-up takes ALL my thinking 24/7. It never turns off. I go to bed worrying about the competition and wake up worrying about the competition. I’m on all day, every day. Even when I’m reading I’m reading something to advance myself as a founder of my business.
I play games to win.
Q: I love your drive and motivation. I recently went to the dentist and found out I’m grinding my teeth at night because of stress so I can definitely relate to the stress and anxiety we deal with when starting a new business. I also found myself sleepless at night so that’s why I started infusing my honey yo help me sleep naturally. That’s one of the main reasons I searched and found your honey. Tell my readers about your new gummies ….
A: I come from a long line of people who suffer from diabetes. I myself have insulin resistance. I also know what it’s like to cut ALL SUGAR & CARBS from my diet—I’ve done it a million times by now. I can do it, I can live that way, in fact, I’m really good at it. BUT, I don’t think I should have to and I think it’s unrealistic that anyone else will too. With Red Belly Honey I ask folks to just replace their refined sugar with honey and they’re already better off. There’s no other natural sweetener that’s healthier than honey. Add CBD to it and BOOM you have a double functional food in a single ingredient.
So—it became pretty obvious early on that if I wanted grocery store shelves filled with natural infused food, I could create some of them myself. So I started with our sweet tooth. Everyone has one. But now, with Rbel Bee honey gummies, you can not only satisfy a sweet craving it does so much more for you than that. You’re feeding your endocannabinoid system and our gummies, unlike anything else on the market are meant to enjoy the WHOLE BAG, because no one eats just one!
Q: That is so good to know. I struggle with weight especially at my age. It’s harder to lose it when you’re in your 40’s. I have a big sweet tooth, so instead of lunch I can eat a bag of gummies. Knowing your gummies are good for me makes me feel better, plus they taste great as well. What was your inspiration to start this company?
A: I helped bring Red Belly Honey to market because there were so many other brands adding refined sugar (which is horrible for you, it causes inflammation) to CBD-infused foods. It doesn’t make sense. CBD is known to be anti-inflammatory and sugar causes inflammation—these two ingredients should never be in the same food. It’s terrible.
And then I wanted candy, I wanted candy that WAS GOOD FOR ME and TASTED GREAT. Imagine that—healthy functional candy that you don’t feel guilty about, in fact it’s quite the opposite, I feel so good eating our gummies! I love satisfying my sweet tooth after dinner knowing that I’m enjoying a healthy treat and preparing myself for a good night's sleep too! What’s better than that?!
Q: NOTHING! Your gummies are so tasty and I love the texture. What made you start eating cannabis?
A: After 20 years of working in food media, I learned the father of my closest friend was diagnosed with lung cancer. Nellie and I had worked closely together for nearly a decade. Her dad, Fred, spent 5 years in a losing battle with cancer. I had heard about culinary cannabis from chefs I worked with but noticed no real credible source to show me how to do it myself. By 2016, I called on friends who helped get some cannabis-infused chocolates for her dad, Fred.
I ferried them to St. Louis and he ate them. I watched a very sick man finally experience pain relief. It was life-changing; his six daughters were grateful to hear him announce “I’m hungry”, smile and laugh. We all cried...that day was the last time I saw Fred, he passed away on June 2, 2016.
This experience changed my life. I wanted to help one more person like Fred have ONE GOOD DAY. There was a white space to be filled for people who don’t smoke cannabis but might be willing to try it in food—for pain, nutrition, health, and wellness. This was the day Kitchen Toke was born...it’s a magazine & digital platform devoted to the culinary cannabis for health and wellness.
Q: Wow! I myself use cannabis to medicate. It started in 1999 when I was having bad side effects of chemotherapy and lost my appetite and couldn’t keep anything down. A woman gave me a joint and told me to try that. My appetite came back and I started to get my energy back as well. Fast forward to 2013 I was in a bad accident that caused me to start having seizures. I was diagnosed with epilepsy from my head trauma. After a year or so on different medications and nothing helped My neurologist put me in the NYS medicinal marijuana program and it changed my life. I truly believe Cannabis saved my life. Has your company joined the fight for social justice in the cannabis industry?
A: All my companies and myself are part of Heart Community Capital founded by Eugene Monroe. Heart is building a black-owned full vertical cannabis company. Heart Community will invest in minority-owned companies, help bring them to market, and reward consumers with equity in the company. Everything Heart Community is about is what we’re about. They not only talk the talk they walk the walk. They’ve invested in Red Belly Honey/Rbel Bee and I’m also a part of their board. So to answer your question—I’ve aligned myself and all my companies to be connected both personally, with my heart, and financially to those committed to leveling the playing field for black and brown people. I could not LOVE what Eugene Monroe is building more—no one else is doing what he’s doing.
Q: You are absolutely amazing! I’m going to check out Heart Community! What are the changes you noticed in the Cannabis Industry since you started?
A: It’s strange we’ve come so far yet we haven’t moved at all. We’re still fighting for equity. We’re still waiting for social equity licenses in IL. We still can’t promote on social media—not even CBD. We’re still stigmatized as drug dealers. Black and brown people are still in jail for minor cannabis offenses.
And yet, the cannabis industry is growing at a rapid pace. The house passed it again recently and they’re making more headway on more bills. CBD was hot a while ago and has no signs of slowing down. More and more people are opening up to the idea. The more we’re in charge of our own health with the pandemic making it very obvious it’s up to us—the more people consider a functional ingredient like cannabis.
Q: Everything you mentioned saddens me but also added a battery in my back to get involved. The Productive Stoner Blog” will HIGH-Light all of the people who use cannabis and still get things accomplished. How has cannabis impacted your life for the better?
A: Cannabis is responsible for helping me be pain-free every day. This allows me to exercise, work, and most importantly sleep. I was in a terrible car accident that herniated 3 discs in my neck. I work out, I go to a chiropractor every week, and I eat healthily and that includes cannabinoids in every meal. I’m so much more functional because of all of this and it all starts with cannabinoids.
Q: That is the main driving point when I speak to people about cannabis. I always stress the medicinal properties of the plant and remind them that “If nature is illegal then freedom never existed” Cannabis is a healing plant! Has your company done any charitable work in the name of cannabis?
A: No. I often talk about this. We’re a brand new start-up. There’s so much I’d like to do but right now I have to stay focused on growing the company. The stronger our financial position is, the more I’ll be able to help people/organizations later. I get impatient, so this is hard for me.
Right now we’re looking at organizations to partner with to double down on saving bees. I’m concerned about the planet like most people. I know our hemp nectar helps bees survive pesticide poisons, but I’d like to also work with organizations to help support them in sale proceeds and possibly provide our honey as a vitamin supplement to help bees survive pesticides—they’re everywhere and if we don’t do more, we’ll lose our bee population.
Q: You are so motivated to help … in time I know Red Belly will be a household name. Have you experienced any discrimination being a women in the cannabis industry?
A: I sure have! I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t focus on it and it’s not something I ever really acknowledge or give energy to. I know that women and minorities are looked at differently, but to be honest, this doesn’t cross my mind when I’m talking about my company. I’m too busy building and creating excellence to give that any time.
Q: That’s the way to take it on! Any last words or wisdom for a person who wants to know more about cannabis but is hesitant because of the stigma surrounding it….
A: Yes. Open yourself up to it. Read about it. Learn about it. Start with the first issue of Kitchen Toke—there’s a lot of beginner information in there and a glossary of terms in every issue that continues to grow. Don’t feel embarrassed, we are ALL still learning. There’s no such thing as an expert in cannabis—there’s way too much research that needs to be done.
And if you decide that cannabis is not for you, that’s okay, but don’t keep it from everyone else.
Thank you so much for an amazing interview Joline!
If you want to learn more about Joline Rivera, you can find her at: