The NatureBox headquarters, a dash from downtown Redwood City, is in an airy building with natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows bordering the street.
This would be an ideal setting for an automobile showroom (historically, it was) but now it’s lined with standing desks, couches, whiteboards, a large external air conditioning unit and hundreds of pounds of snacks.
These aren’t your mother’s carrot sticks; The snack company’s catalog runs rich and deep with the likes of dried chile mangos, turmeric black pepper popcorn, sriracha cashews and chocolate chip cookies that won’t give you a stomachache—it’s a cornucopia of reimagined snack favorites made with a healthy focus.
“Munch away on whatever you’re craving and feel good about what you’re eating” reads the label on the back of the trail mix.
In an intriguing twist a few months ago, NatureBox took that feel-good eats concept one step further by developing a line of hemp-based cannabidiol snacks, a slightly radical shift made by the company’s CEO after discovering the immensely positive health effects CBD had on his own daughter.
Although individual rooms exist within the headquarters, this CEO’s desk is in plain view off in the corner surrounded by employees.
It’s not a hectic office space and the murmur of phone calls and chatter doesn’t interfere with John Occhipinti’s concentration as he stoically sits at his desk with a pair of noise-canceling headphones on. Eyes closed, he’s meditating. As he’ll do throughout the day.
“I’m listening to a smattering of YouTube-guided meditations,” he later explains. “My mind will run in a lot of different directions and this will get me grounded in more creative energy, then productivity comes back. You listen to your heart to see if it’s beating.”
He’s more blue jeans than Brooks Brothers, wearing a light- blue Vineyard Vines shirt, which seems to enhance his already radiant blue eyes.
Prone to smiling and unafraid to use a whiteboard to help illustrate a point, John (or “John O,” a sometimes nickname inspired by an old email he had while working at Netscape in the 1990s) leads NatureBox with a relaxed and focused direction.
“My kids gave me a bracelet that says Be Present,” he says, gesturing to his wrist. “That’s what I’d preach to them when I used to drop them off at school.”
The fact that John is this easygoing while overseeing a multi-million-dollar company with over two million customers is an attribute of a person who believes deeply in the mission of his work.
Not only do NatureBox’s products allow people to snack without the result of an unhealthy diet, but the new line of CBD chews is at the vanguard of creating products that soothe folks who often endure anxiety, migraines or stress.
A serving of six chews contains 25mg of CBD with zero THC. They’re in three flavors—pineapple, passion-berry, and watermelon- lemonade—with a bag selling for about $20 if you have a membership with the company.
NatureBox introduced their CBD chews earlier this year and the snacks were an instant success, racking up 1,000 people on a waitlist and then selling-ing out in their first week.
Creating a new genre of wellness products were not John’s initial plan when his firm, Wheelhouse Partners, assumed control of NatureBox in 2017.
But the father of three gained motivation after witnessing first-hand how CBD soothed the intense migraines plaguing his middle child. He detailed the personal journey on a blog post in May 2019 titled, “Why CBD is what’s next for NatureBox.”
John describes how his daughter Gabby was suffering from a week-long headache, an extension of the chronic migraines she’s endured since childhood.
They tried several solutions—visiting multiple medical specialists, changing diet, hiring a masseuse—yet the pain would not subside. One morning, after learn- ing from a friend about CBD, John, and Gabby decided to give the experiment a shot.
“I went down and bought a tincture of non-THC CBD at a dispensary. She had to wait in the car since she was under 21 and I came out with a brown bag.
I looked into the bag and joked that we just scored,” John laughs while retelling the story. “We didn’t know how much she should take so I put two drops under her tongue. In an hour, her headache was gone. It was like, ‘Woah, this is something.'”
Raised in Woodside off Cañada Road, John was predisposed to the entrepreneurial spirit before he could drive a car. “We joke that we didn’t sell lemonade on the corner; we sold zucchini because that’s what we were growing in the back-yard,” John says.
His father was a tech entrepreneur who worked with the likes of Don Valentine, often referred to as “the grandfather of Silicon Valley venture capital.”
“My dad’s way to communicate was to talk about what he loved: conflict resolution and people skills,” John says. “He talked about board meetings and how he dealt with conflict. I was in the board-room at a very young age.