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Show on the Road

How do you overcome a ban on your product? Take to the streets, and educate consumers.

Timing wasn't on Mike Fata's side when he and his partners, Martin Moravcik, 40, and Alex Chwaiewsky, 38, decided to expand their Canadian hemp-foods company, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods & Oils, into the United States. They launched their products on the East Coast just 10 days before 9/11. A month later, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced a ban on hemp foods, causing the company's hemp products to be yanked off shelves.

In addition to challenging the ban in court, Fata, 28, and his staff took to the road to educate consumers about the benefits of hemp foods. Hundreds of in-store demonstrations later, Fata estimates they've reached more than 150,000 people annually.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Manitoba Harvest's favor in 2004. With 2005 projected sales at $2.5 million, Fata says, "The demonstrations are how we've become profitable and how we're going to stay that way."

Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the April 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Show on the Road.

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