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December 20, 2021   /   Andrew Sheaffer

Imagine being part of a rapidly growing operation that is suddenly handcuffed from being able to perform day-to-day transactions simply for being in the hemp industry. Unfortunately, this imagination became a reality for one of the nation’s leading suppliers of industrial hemp seed.

international hemp logo

When International Hemp, a Denver-based distributor of grain and fiber hemp varietals, was shut down without notice by their previous banking partner, the ability to make and accept payments came to a screeching halt. International wires to their partners and distributors that were pending were simply never delivered and their business bank accounts were inexplicably inaccessible.

International Hemp supplies hemp seeds from varieties tailored specifically for hemp fiber and grain production which are all certified by the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). They distribute these specialized seeds to farmers all over the country who plant these varieties with the end goal of getting the hemp into market for grain and fiber production.

The hemp grain and fiber industries are still nascent and International Hemp is on the forefront of delivering high-quality hemp seeds to the market.

The News No Hemp Business Wants to Hear

Without any sort of forewarning, International Hemp discovered their bank accounts with their previous banking partner had been shut down. This incident had both short-term and long-term impacts on their overall business operations.

rachel johnson international hemp
Rachel Johnson,
COO of International Hemp

Rachel Johnson, the Chief Operating Officer of International Hemp, walked into several branches of the bank looking for answers or resolutions to the problem. To her surprise, she found neither. None of the tellers or managers she talked to could provide her with insights as to why the accounts were shut down. This created an immediate need for International Hemp to find a new banking partner so they could continue operating their business. With so few banks willing to accept hemp-related business customers, Rachel found herself staring at an uphill battle.   

The Search for a Hemp-Friendly Bank

International Hemp was cautious to use any bank that didn’t have a dedicated program for the hemp industry. The search proved unsuccessful after reaching out to multiple personal connections. Boldly determined, Johnson eventually turned to LinkedIn to help find a bank that welcomed hemp businesses.

There, she discovered West Town Bank & Trust and quickly found a team of bankers experienced in the hemp industry.

“I was completely transparent with West Town Bank about our hemp business. They listened to my story and welcomed me with open arms.”
– Rachel Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of International Hemp

Time was of the essence as they had international wires that they had to get out as soon as possible. West Town Bank was able to onboard them through the compliance process in a timely manner to get them up and running with not only a business bank account, but also payment processing services.

Achieving Business Growth From Being Able to Offer Credit Card Processing

Prior to partnering with West Town Bank & Trust, International Hemp had repeatedly tried to open a merchant account which would allow them to collect credit card payments from their customers. Their previous bank never allowed them to open this account, so International Hemp resorted to taking checks for some of their customers’ smaller purchases.

“With our business model, most of our business is conducted through ACH or wires, but there are times our farmers would want to make smaller purchases with a credit card”, Johnson says, “Since we did not have this option available to us, we used to have our customers mail us checks for these types of transactions. Sometimes we’d have to wait for weeks for the check to arrive and at that point we’d even lose track of which checks had arrived and which ones we were still waiting for.”

This delay in the transaction was causing International Hemp’s business to slow. Once the company partnered with West Town Bank, they were able to easily get a merchant account through West Town Bank’s payment processing service. This gave them the ability to seamlessly accept credit card transactions from their customers that prefer that option, resulting in operational efficiencies, happier customers and overall business growth.

International Hemp has lofty goals for their business and the overall hemp industry. They hope to expand the uses of hemp, particularly in the grain and fiber space. With a greater need for these type of hemp products, International Hemp will be able to position themselves as the leader in providing high-quality grain and fiber hemp varieties to farmers across the nation.

To accomplish this goal, Rachel Johnson stressed the need to bring legitimacy to the hemp industry. Something that is impossible without financial partners who are dedicated to the space. West Town Bank & Trust is proud to provide banking and payment processing services tailored to the industry, helping fuel growth for not only these businesses, but also the overall hemp industry.

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