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5 Tips for Owning and Operating Successful Cannabis Dispensaries

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Cannabis Dispensaries
PHOTOS | Shiny Bud
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The cannabis retail landscape has changed. Once regarded as somewhat of a novelty, legalization has allowed cannabis dispensaries to evolve into modern and innovative retail storefronts more akin to an Apple Store than the dark, secretive spaces they used to be. Some, like Shiny Bud, are proving to be leaders in the space, setting an exemplary standard of a contemporary cannabis retail experience.

Shiny Bud is one of Canada’s most successful dispensary chains. They pride themselves on offering customers a premium experience from the moment they enter, from a contemporary and inviting store design to highly trained staff, and of course, premium products.

Co-founder Alex Ledesma joined the cannabis industry when the Canadian government passed the Cannabis Act in 2018. She comes from a forward-thinking family of entrepreneurs, so the move to cannabis was an obvious next step.

“I saw an opportunity to be part of something big in Canada’s history, so we started following the industry, and applied for an application,” said Ledesma. 

Shiny Bud opened its first dispensary in Toronto on February 14. Fast forward only a few months, and the company has opened the doors to its fifth location in a small town called Orleans, just outside of Ottawa.

“We have a pretty aggressive rollout,” said Ledesma. “Coming from a quick-service industry, we’re quite comfortable with builds and finding locations. We took our expertise from that and put it into cannabis. And it’s all completely within the family.”

Shiny Bud was awarded 75 dispensary licenses by the Canadian government. The company’s expansion plans include two more Ontario store openings this year, bringing the total number of store openings to seven. And they have no plans to slow down.

“We should be hitting 30 stores by the end of 2021. And we’re planning on maxing out to 75 stores allocated. When we stop to think about it, it can take our breath away.”

The constant march forward of legalization has created an ever-growing interest in dispensary ownership. Below, Ledesma offers up five pieces of advice for those looking to enter the cannabis game.

1. Have a Well-Trained Team That’s Focused on Customer Experience 

As the industry is still so young, formal education in cannabis is still relatively scarce amongst prospective employees. For Shiny Bud, this presents an opportunity to reinforce one of their most important business objectives: provide cannabis education and training for their budtenders to pass on to their customers.

“Education is everything because the industry’s so new,” Ledesma said. “We truly believe that we’re an industry where we need to listen to our guests. This is one of the first things we teach our budtenders, along with providing a safe and educational experience for our customers in-store.” 

For many customers, the biggest value in going to a dispensary is learning which products are best suited for a specific condition or effect, whether they’re seasoned cannabis consumers or newly curious. 

“The goal for budtenders at Shiny Bud is to ensure customers are choosing the right product for them to provide a safe experience both in-store and at home,” Ledesma said.

2. Create a Guest Centric Environment 

This goes without saying, but customer service is critical to the success of any retail operation. Ledesma attributes Shiny Bud’s success to the brand’s core vision of providing a “fast and friendly cannabis retail destination.”

“We strive to offer our customers a unique and memorable experience — this has stayed with us since day one,” Ledesma said. “When you walk into any of our Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries, they’re bright, they’re big, and there’s a lot of education. The budtenders are dressed uniformly, and there’s personality — it’s not what people expect.”

Watching the change in customer demographic has been encouraging to Ledesma, who notes the increase in the 60+ demographic looking to add cannabis to their health and wellness, whether it be recreational, or to aid with a specific ailment.

“As a disclaimer, we always have to tell them that we’re not doctors and we can’t give them medical advice, so to start low and go slow,” Ledesma said. “It’s nice to see people like my mom, my dad, and grandparents come through the door, because you also know you’re helping break down the stigma.”

Cannabis Dispensaries
Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries are bright and clean, with plenty of quality products and customer education opportunities.

3. Stock the Best Inventory 

With so many quality products now available, choosing which ones to bring to Shiny Bud is quite a lengthy process. 

“We carry out a lot of research in terms of what’s new or trending, and what our customers are looking for in each location,” Ledesma said. “I wish I knew consumers’ buying preferences before our initial order was placed. We ended up buying too much!”

“We also use recommendations from our team members, our budtenders, and our customers. A lot of times we bring in representatives of the licensed producers to educate our budtenders about the products we’re selling.”

The three most popular purchases across three Shiny Bud locations are dried flower, vapes, and pre-rolls. “Our most frequently asked question is, ‘what is your highest THC or CBD?’” Ledesma said.

4. Have a Great Location  

The age-old proverb of “location, location, location” rings true in the cannabis industry, too. Finding the right real estate is arguably the most important part of retail success. Plus, because of the industry’s prohibition history and the nature of the products being sold, it’s important to find understanding landlords.

“Initially, landlords have said to us, ‘absolutely not, we will not entertain the idea of having a cannabis retailer here,’ so I invite them to take a look at one of our dispensaries so they can see the vision of what and who we are as a company and as an industry.”

5. Ensure Your Cannabis Dispensaries Connect with the Community 

Dispensaries are already major focal points in their communities. For Ledesma, giving back and helping break down old stigmas related to cannabis is a top priority. 

Shiny Bud is in the process of launching a collaboration with Tsaichedelic to create a line of tie-dyed tees and other merchandise. The proceeds will go towards supporting Cannabis Amnesty projects, like providing legal counsel to get those with criminal records over minor cannabis charges expunged. 

“Being a woman and a person of color in the cannabis space, I really believe in the fact that it needs to be the same playing fields for everybody,” Ledesma said. “Teaming up with Cannabis Amnesty just felt right.”

With the regulated cannabis market still so new, it’s important that business owners are able to adapt to changes and weather the ever-changing landscape of cannabis and the regulations.  

“It’s ever-changing, so we’re constantly learning and growing from it,” Ledesma said. “Regulations are always changing, so being fluid helps a lot.”

Look for Shiny Bud cannabis dispensaries in Canada and keep an eye out for their expansion into America in 2021.

Culture

Ricky Williams Flips the Script with new Highsman Brand

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PHOTO | HIGHSMAN

Once scrutinized by sports pundits and fans alike for using cannabis, Ricky Williams, is flipping the script with Highsman — his new cannabis lifestyle brand line of personally curated products.

Created to empower professional and everyday athletes as well as sports enthusiasts alike, Highsman offers premium quality cannabis as well as a collection of apparel and accessories designed to compliment an active lifestyle on and off the field. 

“It is time we change the way we talk about cannabis,” says Williams. “Highsman is about an appreciation for greatness. There is a passionate and dedicated team behind the brand, and together we want to help all people inspire greatness in themselves.” 

Initially offered as pre-packaged eighths, three cultivars have been curated by Williams to compliment moments in the day. Pre-Game is a sativa for an energized boost; Half-Time is a hybrid for focused awareness; and the Post-Game Indica offers a relaxed mood. A line of pre-rolls is currently in development.

Williams brings a deep knowledge of herbs, sports and wellness to the brand. He studied the origins of cannabis in the foothills of the Himalayas and spent years learning about the healing properties of the plant. He credits smoking cannabis as a way of overcoming the challenges associated with being a professional athlete, from social anxiety to physical injuries. 

“Highsman is at the intersection of sports and cannabis and was created for fans and aficionados of both.” says Eric Hammond, CEO. “Years in the making, Highsman launches at a tipping point where sports and cannabis collide, and we are excited to continue to break boundaries between the two.” 

A supporting collection of sports-inspired streetwear varsity jackets and baseball tees and must-have smoking accoutrements — rolling trays, pelican cases, water bottles — are also available. that compliments the Highsman lifestyle.

Highsman cannabis is available at select retailers in California and Oregon and online

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Culture

Stevie Van Zandt Launches Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary, Grown By Iconic Cultivator Chemdog

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Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary
STEVIE VAN ZANDT

Stevie Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Silvio Dante of The Sopranos, a New York Times best selling author and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — and he’s adding cannabis to his iconic credentials. Van Zandt is getting into the weed game with his eponymous line of pre-rolls under the name Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary. 

The pre-rolls contain high-CBD, low-THC craft cannabis grown by Smash Hits cannabis — Canna Provisions proprietary craft cannabis flower. Van Zandt is certainly in good hands as the Director of Cultivation of Canna Provisions is non-other than legendary grower Chemdog.

Meg Sanders, Canna Provisions CEO, said, “Little Steven wanted to be sure to have an approachable, low-THC and high-CBD cannabis that is less about the recreational high, and more for people seeking the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids like high-CBD cannabis on the body and mind.”

Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary Pre-Rolls | PHOTO CREDIT

According to the website, “this cannabis is meant to provide a powerful feeling of well being and enriching your endocannabinoid system with high-CBD and low-THC flower, so it’s less of a stoned-high and more a full body balancing effect with uplifting pep.”

Like so many others, the pandemic gave the guitar hero and a wake up call on the importance of personal well-being, promting him to create his Underground Apothecary, which offers a range of holistic teas, lollipops, candles and now pre-rolls.

“I have always demanded the very best from myself and of everyone around me, and my new wellness brand Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary is no different,” says Van Zandt. “Products like Smash Hits cannabis are like my other partners for the Apothecary – the best I can find in the world. So enjoy, be well, and stay focused on the only part of our destinies we totally control – what we choose to put in our bodies.”

“We need to help spread cannabis education, destigmatization, and stop unjust criminalization for a plant that not only does a lot of good, but has proven during COVID to be almost as essential as art to people’s well being and quality of life,” says Van Zandt.

To that end, ten percent of all profits from Van Zandt’s Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary will be given to the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization (NORML).

Canna Provisions, home of Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary | PHOTO CREDIT

Available exclusively at Canna Provisions dispensaries in Lee and Holyoake, Massachusetts.

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Culture

Stuff & Puff Berner’s New Cali Pre-Roll

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Cali
PHOTO | VIBES

Cannabis mogul Berner has dropped the latest must-have pre-roll paper from his premium rolling paper brand, Vibes. A fresh alternative to the traditional cone, The Cali is a cylindrical pre-roll tube that’s been designed for optimum airflow for the optimal smoking experience.

In a press release, the Bay Area rapper says that he’s been rolling for over 20 years, and that over that time, he was constantly told by friends that they would smoke joints over blunts if they could roll them. So he partnered with Greenlane to develop this innovative alternative.

PHOTO: Vibes

“As passionate smokers, and connoisseurs, we are gonna continue to focus on quality papers and products that consumers are missing, such as The Cali,” said Berner in a press release.

“All you have to do is stuff and puff with The Cali.”

The Cali is dedicated to those of us who like a big-smoke experience. We found the papers to burn very evenly and smoothly. They are also easy to extinguish and relight,  and even burn evenly in areas where I packed it too tightly or too loose (deliberately, before y’all start commenting). 

Plus, The Cali pre-rolls are massive, so make sure you have plenty of herb on hand for your next session to fully enjoy the experience either with your homies or when you’re chilling alone.

The Cali Collection | PHOTO: Vibes

The Cali is offered in three sizes — one, two, and three gram — across all four signature Vibes paper collections: Ultra Thin, Rice, Hemp, and Organic Hemp

Look for Vibes papers at your local retailer nationwide.

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