“I’m a firm believer that you go through certain things in life that prepare you for the next chapter.”
Speaking is Nick Warrender, Founder and CEO of Lifted Made, a premium hemp, delta-8, and cannabinoid company based out of Illinois. Lifted Made’s products serve to provide wellness for those using them, and this wellness is all too intrinsically related to Warrender’s journey as a man.
The Lifted Made team were nice enough to send me some Lifted Made products to review, and I giddily obliged.
However, what I didn’t yet know, was that Warrender’s journey as a person and an entrepreneur was like none other I’d heard before. And his ultimate prosperity, while by no means unfinished, is the product of an extremely rigorous journey that required him to find severe spiritual purpose and resolve.
“Now looking back on it in the position I’m in now, had I not gone through all of that, I wouldn’t be prepared to take the leadership role that I’m in today. So I’m actually really thankful for it,” says Warrender.
An unexpected turn
As a high school student, Nick was a top tier basketball prospect just starting to feel the effects of scouting in early high school.
“It taught me a lot of work ethic, how to be coachable, take direction, respect authority and work as a team leader. A lot of the groundwork for my professional career came from basketball.”
Though if you would have asked him as a 16-year-old, his professional career would have been in basketball. But everything changed on one family vacation in Belize.
Nick was abducted, and wound up in a shady prison where he contracted a viral autoimmune disorder. The traumatic experience was harrowing in itself, but its ramifications were even longer-felt, when the sickness he contracted derai led his hopes of continuing a basketball career.
“I learned a lot through that process of being sick, being in a hospital,” says Nick nostalgically. “What’s really important in life, how to make an impact on the world. And it was a really grounding experience. It was a tough experience. [I’m] thankful now looking back on it, because it was extremely humbling, and definitely changed the pace of my life.”
A changed pace
Warrender’s unfortunate experience led him down an unconventional path. While the normal college student was partying, having their first beers, Nick was in and out of the hospital.
“I had to go a different route. I went down a spiritual path, just to get some of these baseline questions answered in life that I hadn’t thought about. Purpose of life, figuring out who I am as a person.”
Cannabis and hemp were tools that made life easier, during 6 years in and out of the hospital. In 2015, amidst severe inflammations and full-body pain, when CBD was less known, Warrender found such relief from even just two cannabinoids.
“I had such high pain levels that I was like, ‘man, if this can help me, I can’t imagine, how this could impact other people,’” he recalls.
And he knew that tinkering with the cannabinoids and other properties could have different restorative effects for other people. There was an opportunity, and even bedridden, Warrender wasn’t going to pass it up. This realization ultimately led him down the path of entrepreneurship. But first, what started was his foray into the music scene.
Producing and opening up for Kid Cudi
“When I lost basketball, I was extremely lost. Like I told you before I was kind of going down this spiritual journey to figure out a little more depth in life and music became a new outlet for me. I started doing production, I started performing,” recounts Warrender.
It was a small passion at first, while everyone else living the “normal college experience” was out partying, Warrender was building his way up, producing music in a small studio. Eventually, that effort earned him the opportunity to open up for Kid Cudi for a show in Milwaukee.
“I had a great time doing it, and it was sort of the same mission of just trying to be a positive impact on people’s lives and get them to think a little bit deeper about purpose in life.”
But music wasn’t paying his bills, and Warrender harkened back to those years prior where the hemp and cannabis opportunities helped him out exponentially. Hemp and cannabis opportunities, like the products laid out before me.
Lifted Made products
In front of me sit two Premium Pre Roll URB Finest Flowers Mountain Mango pre-rolled joints, packed with CBD and CBDA. I spark the first joint; a smoky-yet fruitful potency emanates from the flame. The joint burns up like a lighthouse, beacon flashing with each force of the pull.
I feel an immediate calm, but it’s hard to grasp exactly what CBD/CBG and other related cannabinoids do in their efforts. It is not a physical high like a hum reverberating through my body. It is not a sudden blockage in my head that stops me from the overthinking I’m accustomed to. Nor is it a feeling of unmitigated laughter and bliss.
I am no scientist or doctor and I will not pretend to be. The fact of the matter is the URB pre-rolls immediately put me at ease without taking away any of my mental or physical function. The joint burned and burned, smoother with each pull, until I set it down and continued to engage in my endeavors.
The 10 URB nano gummies, also spread out in front of me, are compact and delicate. The flavor is not overpowering, nor is the gummy nature that can so often leave you with that gloppy-saliva feeling in your throat. With 100 mg of hemp-derived delta-8 THC, I take it slow, and settle into a nice, relaxed high.
My thoughts are with me, pronounced even, and the smell of the capsule in which they came gives me a feeling of tranquility. Finally, there’s the URB Delta-8 THC cartridge. This is what I was really excited about trying.
There’s no bite to the pull of the cartridge. In fact this is the smoothest and most delectable cartridge I’ve ever used. It is a mixture of fruity and savory.
The high was immediate; I felt my eyelids grow heavier, my breathing slow, and my thoughts flow wistfully away. Wistfully, perhaps, to the first time I tried the fabled “marijuana” plant in high school.
Similar to myself, but in much great excess and prominence, Warrender found hemp and cannabis, and in it, salvation.
Salvation in entrepreneurship
“If you’re going through hell don’t stop there, that’s not a good destination,” says Warrender.
“I’m a firm believer that there’s tests in life, just like there is in school. The biggest learning happens through painful experiences. Going through those experiences gives you tools. And those tools typically help you for what the next chapter of your life looks like.
Warrender saw something in hemp and cannabis and the relief it could provide for people. He also saw a problem with smoking tobacco. Lifted Made was thus birthed as an E-liquid company, to “help gear people away from combustible cigarettes and tobacco, which was and still is the highest death rate in the country. I think it’s like half a million people a year die from smoking complications, smoking related diseases,” details Warrender.
Warrender, already introduced to CBD, decided to add a CBD vape additive to Lifted’s products. “Our mission has always been consumer-good products that can make a positive impact on people’s lives.”
And Lifted Made CBD was the next step of this journey. The pre-roll joints I tested were evidence of how far the company has come.
I asked Warrender about what he’s taken from his basketball past into his entrepreneurial life.
“In the basketball setting, there’s some people that you need to come down on hard. [And] there’s some people that are so hard on themselves that you need to nurture… As a leader, [you need] to be able to tell the difference, you have to be able to read who it is that you’re working with, and how you can best support them and their position and for their life as well.”
Past shaping present
The core values of basketball and team that Nick grew up with, still translate to his life today. How do you lead? Are you able to push through adversity? How do you keep your eyes on the present while also trying to get better for the future?
“We want to build a company in this space that brings all these great entrepreneurs together, that have different talents. Our goal is to create this vehicle where people can come to a decentralized public company, work together, still operate their company and be in a position to have a bigger impact.”
The times may have changed with the pandemic, in fact the virus hit hard in the U.S. just right after Lifted Made was acquired by another company, publicly traded Acquired Sales Corp (ticker AQSP). But Nick Warrender serves as COO, Vice Chairman, and highest shareholder of AQSP and is excited for the new chapter.
The mission for Lifted Made hasn’t changed. And in an industry that many states label as essential, there are many more people to help and positive impacts to make on people’s lives daily. Now is not a time where Nick is stopping to smell the roses.
Nick lives in Kenosha, WI, a town previously not easily recognized or marked on a map, but now lives in a sort of infamy. It is here he recounts on his past with a humble understanding. Life is what you do when one door shuts in your face. Or when the ball at the buzzer doesn’t go through the hoop as expected. How do you get up?
Basketball, and the sudden absence of it, helped Nick build up the thick skin that he would later down the road need in the entrepreneurial and cannabis spheres.
“When you push forward, new opportunities open up, new networks open up. And you become the person that you need to be for that next chapter [of] life,” says Warrender.
“If you stay stuck in traumatic places, and then let them drag out and let them define you, you miss out on becoming who you need to be for the rest of your life. That keep pushing forward mentality really opens up the door for future success opportunity.”