Interviews

Building Your Dream Dispensary with Mike Wilson

The importance of the layout of your cannabis store

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Episode Description

Mike Wilson is the Founder and President of Temeka Group. He utilizes his strong leadership and management skills to oversee the job, from design to installation.

Today, we have an amazing in depth conversation with Mike Wilson, the founder of Temeka group and AnamiTech. Mike has been in the business for 31 years working to build everything from the Lakers fan store to huge cannabis retail stores. And Mike shares some insights for someone that might be wanting to create their own cannabis dispensary or retail store. He talks about how important the layout of your store is to customer experience, customer service, security.

He gives some insights on how you can use technology to really leverage your brand. And some creative things that Temeka is doing to help with compliance and give that customer experience a whole new level of just fun and delight, really for a customer, walking into a cannabis retail store to interact with the product in a brand new way.

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Episode Transcript

Tom Mulhern: Before we jump into the show. I wanna welcome you all here and remind you to subscribe to our show in your favorite podcast app, to get the latest episodes of the Kaya Cast and be sure to check out our website at kayacast.fm. Today, we have an amazing in depth conversation with Mike Wilson, the founder of Temeka group and AnamiTech as well. You know, Mike has been in the business for 31 years working to build every thing from the Lakers fan store to huge cannabis retail stores. And Mike shares some insights for someone that might be wanting to start up, create their own cannabis dispensary or retail store. And he really talks about how important the layout of your store is to customer experience, customer service, security.

He gives some insights on how you can use technology to really leverage your brand. And some creative things that Temeka is doing to help with compliance and give that customer experience a whole new level of just fun and delight, really for a customer, walking into a cannabis retail store to interact with the product in a brand new way.

So he kind of hints at that. So without further ado, let's just jump right into this interview.

Tom Mulhern: Mike Wilson is the founder and president of Temeka group. He utilizes his strong leadership and management skills to oversee the job from design to installation. The Temeka Group was founded in 1991 and focuses on turnkey services, conceptual designs, precise fabrications, and premium installations. Shaping spaces that really tell their client's story so they can meaningfully engage with their customers.

They're all about bringing a client's vision into reality. With a world class team who fabricates and installs state of the art designs Temeka Group is perfectly suited to handle every aspect of a project from start to finish. Mike is also the founder of AnamiTech and their goal is to provide easy to use.

Cost efficient business software for the industry. AnamiTech provides purpose-built applications that allow cannabis businesses to operate efficiently and stay compliant and for government agencies and financial institutions to connect with those businesses. Mike, I just wanna welcome you to the show.

It's so great to have you on here.

Mike Wilson: Thanks, Tom. I appreciate you guys having us looking forward to it and excited

Tom Mulhern: So Mike, the Temeka group started in 1991 that was 31 years ago and you must have tons of great insights of growing a successful business. So walk us through the story of Temeka Group and how we got to where we are today.

Mike Wilson: You know, started off in 1991 and as we talked about having this conversation, the evolution of retail, you know, you go back early nineties, you know, you think about technology, where it was, internet, all these type of things and where we're at today.

It's a dramatic, you. Difference. And, from us, what's exciting is, looking back at that, some just exciting projects we've done, we've done a lot of, brick and mortar retail that you look at inline stores from Vans, Hot Topic to Wet Seal jewelry stores, I've lost count. I think it's up in around the 7,000 range, but I honestly, I can pretty much say every mall in America I've built a store or built stores in.

Tom Mulhern: Is there one during that time that really sticks out as that big project that you kind of knew. Okay. I've made it.

Mike Wilson: I gotta admit, kinda getting goosebumps, talking about it. Growing up a huge Lakers fan. And when we did the staple center and we did the Lakers Clippers Kings team store. To do that was just, you know, was kind of numbing, you know, and when they did the grand opening James Worthy, and the group was there to welcome us and the ribbon cutting and stuff that was pretty much, I will say, a big trophy on the mantle for us.

Tom Mulhern: That's so cool. Even just to be in the stadium, but let alone to be working in the stadium. I mean, You basically can say you were in the NBA.

Mike Wilson: From there we've done, I think over 87% of the baseball stadium. So going into doing work at Yankee Stadium, Wrigley Field, these old archaic, historic stadiums, Dodger Stadium stuff, it's just really cool to be in there and kind of awe fact of just being, participating in those organization.

Tom Mulhern: How did you transition from that into cannabis? Like where did that transition come from?

Mike Wilson: well, It's kind of interesting, you know, in the two thousands, a lot of brick and mortar retail were, was dying, you know, going online as technology, we talked about nineties technology wasn't around two thousands later, two thousands that technology craze started going on on online sales. And we saw that.

And we pivoted, we did a couple different things. Museum work. We were very, very knocking on wood, fortunate to do the Johnny Cash museum, Glen Campbell museum, the Grammy's, George Jones. And those were really cool projects to do. And then, you know, we saw this stadium, what we were working on and in the mid two thousands I was approached me about some of these stores he was doing in cannabis.

And this is, the 2015 days of kinda, really didn't understand it, but I'm like, I built jewelry stores. I built Kay's, Jareds and all these jewelry stores seems about the same. So, you know, Went ahead and did a couple for him and he was doing well. Back then security and all that stuff wasn't sophisticated.

He ended up walking away from that business and closing up after a year or two, just because of just, the theft and just security reasons. He goes, it was a great business, but it just wasn't worth it. Roll into the mid 2015, 2016. I saw that pivot and I really focused on it and went after it, you know, and just saw the, the, the aspect of having 20 plus years prior to us doing jewelry stores, doing this aspect, it was a good fit.

So we jumped in and, got really lucky and got, into the space. And there's been, obviously growing and been very successful.

Tom Mulhern: And you've been working on projects across north America. Correct?

Mike Wilson: Yes. Yes, we are. We are a national, so from California to Florida, to New Jersey, Massachusetts, all across the United States, everywhere it's legal.

Tom Mulhern: Working with all these different dispensaries now that have a long history in cannabis. What are some tips that you can give dispensaries in regards to build and design perspective, cuz that has to factor into, how they run their business.

Mike Wilson: I think at the end of the day, at the beginning, when you start a new era of legalization in the state, it's very hyped up excited, emotional. And then, you know, I saw through Colorado and now in California is kind of normalizing, you know? so that's some things that, you know, Don't let the emotions get the best of you.

Secondarily ROI and due diligence and plan. Can't stress enough about looking at some of those things about how much money you really want to put out. Cause I see too much emotions get caught up into people and they grab that location. And then the end of the day, their budgets come in. They're like, whoa, that's a lot of money, so they gotta be in perspective with that. And then the government, with regards to pushing them into industrial spaces is a real hardship on this space. And I feel really bad for 'em because you think about taking a building that's supposed to be used for industrial use and pushing it to a retail use.

So that burden of cost is putting on the cannabis space to get that caught up to to be a retail store, which a lot of burden of cost. And it just subjected extra cost that they shouldn't be impacted with to start a business.

Tom Mulhern: How important is finding the correct location for a dispensary? Can they just set up shop anywhere or do they have to have a specific location?

Mike Wilson: Yeah. That's huge, in, in any business you gotta look at your demographics, look what's around you, California, more and more cities are coming on space right now. You look at Santana, that's been around for quite a few years. It's a set of area now, Costa Mesa coming in with a limited license nearby city.

Corona's coming on board. You gotta be careful and you gotta plan and think about other cities coming on board because once again, saturation of market, and I've seen this, in Elsanor stores are doing quite well. Then Willmar comes on. Board takes, 30% of that business. share away, that's a big chunk and it's normalizing, you know, it's not something that's a surprise to any of us.

The only problem is cities coming on board. And when that happens and how it's gonna impact your existing stores.

Tom Mulhern: Is there a certain way that, a dispensary owner can find a good location within their city, as they're looking around what's a tactical way that they could You know, kind of plan that out.

Mike Wilson: I think it's being ahead of the game. I've seen some people do really well thinking out loud, getting out there proactively getting a city that has not as many. And, some people get caught up in these big name cities. There's some small cities that the sales are great because you're very secluded and you've got a bigger thoroughfare of access to market.

So I think it's, not getting caught up into the game of having one in the saturated market because when you have 20, 30, 40 licenses in that city, man, that gets a very competitive market versus being alone by yourself with minimal competition.

Tom Mulhern: Have you worked on a project where you've tried something new and their sales go through the roof or something that you've done that has added a huge value to what they're doing as a dispensary?

Mike Wilson: I think the biggest thing that I could say there is, when you go back five, six years ago, lines were cool, you know, lines were, you've made it. . lines were not cool. So it's about customer experience efficiencies, getting them in and out.

And that's where technology and having some of these aspects of making a more efficient transition for the customer to come in, get their product, you know? And you got a couple customers. When you talk about this, you talk about the new experience. They wanna get the education. They wanna maybe have that one on one, conversation, but then you have some people.

When we first started talking about express windows, people were like, eh, no, I don't wanna do that. I want, you know, I wanted my brand. I wanna really educate the consumer, but some guys after they've been there twice, they know exactly what flower they're gonna get or edibles they wanna get in and out.

So that's where express windows and some other things that we've developed to get the consumer in and out quick.

Tom Mulhern: What's the importance of the store layout in regards to a few different things. So, you know, We talked about customer experience, but also customer service, like does the store layout of a dispensary matter? Is there ways that people can change the layout to increase their sales? How might it impact their sales?

Mike Wilson:  I think that goes back to, sometimes we'll get people come after they put their application in, they go, oh, we got this layout. This is great, but man, how many customers are you planning going through here? Boy, you know, you only got like two POS' in that head count that doesn't make.

So we've got some ratios that we look at that, based on the foot count that's gonna come through there. And then secondarily is that experience coming through there's the bodega style, that's the more the Apple Store versus the deli style or the I, I call it the donut shop.

I want that in the case and go. And there's a fusion between that. And that's where you see a lot more people go into, is that connection of both, because it's a fusion of 'em because you can have that customer experience educating, but also the consumer that could get right up to the glass case, get an express window pickup, or just go to the case.

I want that check out and go, and it's a lot quicker, efficient mannerism to get through there.

Tom Mulhern: Security is such a huge issue in the cannabis industry. So how does the stores layout impact the overall security of the store?

Mike Wilson: It's massive. And that's one thing that I will say that was very helpful. Getting in the space. We came from jewelry and jewelry, once again, you're talking about high dollar items, diamonds and stuff like that. And we, we dealt with the same thing. And one of the couple things that we came across was we see people and they put the vault up against the back wall and they're like no, no car can run through, grab that and go, so there was a couple things that were back from the old days, you know, and just working with a good company like, you know, Tony Gallo, at Sapphire, really good friends. Do a lot of work together, having those tight knit relationships with some of the best of the best with us, you know, teamed up.

So that's one thing we really pride on the team and the family of providers of work, Kaya Push all you guys. You know, We've got a really good team of network and people we work with, and that's really good as bringing the best of class to this space.

Tom Mulhern: Before someone starts building out their dream store. What should they think about is there a few things, like a checklist of things that they should be thinking about before they jump in?

Mike Wilson: What a lot of times we tell 'em to do is, give us some ideas, the customer experience, what do you know of this space? Obviously we kind of do an interview. What do you know, are you a retail background coming into cannabis? Do you know cannabis?

What is it? And then secondarily is, What do you like? It doesn't necessarily have to be a cannabis store. There's some people that traveled in some crazy place that I really like this look that we've came off of.

There's some that have taken from other stores or derivatives of their house, or, you know, some architectural, aspect.

Tom Mulhern: What's the craziest thing that you've implemented into a store?

Mike Wilson: The hardest thing. And I gotta say this one is when we need DTLA Stiiizy, you know, obviously massive flagship, but Retina. Who is the highest paid, graffiti artist was contracted to do work in there and dealing with him to get the work done. He had done a painting up on the wall trying to choreograph to get him there.

Literally took days of me going to a studio. Then he was supposed to show up at nine in the morning. He shows up at four in the afternoon. I literally did not leave until he was done until five in the morning. He aint leaving, like we gotta get this done because it was such a big impact at that store.

The guys at Stiiizy, you know, that was one of their kind of signature pieces when you walked out, was having this Stiiizy portrait. So I, I will say that was one of the more challenging aspects of it. For the most part everything's been fairly easy, you know, it's just kind of going from one concept of what they like and, and taking that into a, a concept with regards to the cannabis store has been pretty, pretty simple.

Tom Mulhern: Now do you offer solutions dispensary owner, that's wanting to do their dream store, but they may not have the budget to bring in a world class graffiti artist. Do you guys have an option for someone that's kind of wanting to dip their toes in on a more affordable level?

Mike Wilson: Absolutely. And you know what we've seen in the transition of the California market and other places, you know, the ROI. People got hyped up, got emotional buy, you know, wanted this big pretty store. But then the day, what we are actually launching in the next probably be available in 90 days is an economical display case.

Not much different than what you see, but we're building them in at mass quantities. So the scale price will go down, probably be a savings about 35%, but it's something that we could ship off that shelf. You can install it, it's gonna be POS back rack cabinets. Everything performed in the stores and the IP that we've learned for the last six years, we've integrated in our own line that we're gonna be having out available in four colors.

So we're really excited about that because I think it gives, some of these other, the small guys I'm always rooting for the small guy, to be able to do that. And then we can enhance, you know, the lipstick part of it with their logos, with wallpaper on the back walls, graphics, light boxes to make it apparent to their store.

So it. Custom, but it's not to the bigger extent of some of these build outs that are extreme.

Tom Mulhern: What are some creative ways that you're using technology to overcome some of the challenges of legislation and compliance in different states?

Mike Wilson: One of the biggest things we're working on right now is just, the education, the consumer, we think it's important because when we're going to these new states and talking about, you know, the experience with them. So first and foremost is that aspect of, you know, Peak Beyond is a system that we quite regularly use.

It's a lift and learn. But it also acts as another employee. So you could order the product and you. Like I say a lot of people don't understand Indica and Sativa and all these different things, they wanna learn. So when you go in there, they could educate themselves and not feel stupid going up the bedtender and have these conversations.

I don't even know how to say it, pronounce it correctly or have those conversations. So I could actually go to a nice, large screen touch and get those that, that data points.

Going back to you 2016, when I walked into the first stores and smelt it, I felt guilty because, it's that stigmatism of the past, and like I say, I consume, I did all that stuff, but it just was still I'm in a store that sells this, you know, it's like, holy crap, what the heck is going on here?

Tom Mulhern: I was surprised by the design and the layout of the store that I first went into how professional it was, how you know, clean and, on the outside up here, we have legislation that, you have to have the windows blacked out and everything.

And so you walk in thinking, oh man, what am I walking into? And then you walk into this beautifully designed store that you feel comfortable in and people are welcoming. And that makes a huge difference.

Mike Wilson: We were asked to do a deployment of four different brands at a retail show. It used to be called Global Shop. It was a big show for years and years, everyone. That's the go to for retailers and we took Cookies. We took Dr. Greenthumb and a couple other brands and displayed 'em there.

And we had people like Neiman Marcus like they were shocked. They, They had no idea, you know, and this was just this year, which you think they'd all be exploited to, but they were blown away. And, you know, we had a Cookies table that we've done with the technology with the flower table and like, Oh, my gosh, we could use this in our stores.

Like they were just blown away and it's kind of funny as parallels, how they're attracting each other and being, you know, looking at this and taking those integrations and potentially taking it over to the retail sector.

Tom Mulhern: What do you kinda see as the future of dispensary layout, design and building like, do you, do you see things that are kind of on, you know, the forefront and they'll just be normal?

Mike Wilson: When you go in liquor stores, you go in pharmacies, they're somewhat the same, you look at Walgreens as CVS and stuff there. The same. And that's why, we, this kind of small pivot we're doing with this, econo line that we're talking about is just making it easier for the consumer, because it is in the fact normalizing, there's a lot of hype in these new states.

We're working a lot of these new states with that happening. But at the end of the day I think there's gonna be a normalization and you know what? I look as 80% of it. The glass case and look, the 20% is the custom to make it look like the Tom store or the Fred store.

We can create it to whatever that consumer wants, or actually customer wants to make it look like, but the base points of the POS, the back storage and all that stuff will have right off the shelf. And then we can add the lipstick per se. To make it custom to that person.

Tom Mulhern: Must be so rewarding. Seeing someone go from kind of an idea to the finished product. You have this nugget an idea, and then for them to open a store, it must be so rewarding.

Mike Wilson: I love the little guy. I always love rooting for the little guy and we just love giving that part of it and seeing this small time guy in this city, wanting to open this door and going through that journey. And then we open over and him turn over those keys. I can't believe this is me.

I just, I can't believe this is me, so we get really excited and, you the fact that we've been blessed, I'm knocking on wood is just so many great customers. And the fact that some of these small guys goes, I can't believe these are the guys doing Stiiizy and cookies and stuff. And I'm part of this.

Like they get really geeked up. So I get excited just cuz I love the emotion. I just love them. Hyping them up just as much as the big guys.

Tom Mulhern: Tell me a bit about AnamiTech. You're the founder of Anamitech as well. You, do you sleep do you ever, it seems like you're just always going, what's some of the solutions that they're using for technology to help cannabis retailers be more efficient and compliant.

Mike Wilson: What ended happening is, was we're going through that journey of going through cannabis. You know, Obviously we were exposed to some things, you know, we'd come back and say, you know, who, who owns a license? Uh, Let me get back to you. Okay. Who owns a property? Uh, Let me get back to you, you know, and you start, you know, first we're like what?

They don't know that, but then you start thinking about the complexity of managing that, you know, when you talk about an LLC structure for every single ownership, cuz they're always different. Cuz the merit base of how they're awarded you look at, the properties and all these different things.

That was the first kinda aha. Then as we started working on build, build outs and stuff, it's just the connection within the inner departments. People are trying to use Smartsheets. They're trying to use Asana and we saw that it doesn't work. They're trying to force things. So that was kind of like the first rewarding part of what we had developed it's location based and what it is. It does a lot, it organizes your ownership structures. It keeps track of all that. Your licenses, it keeps track of your license and renewal dates.

I'm not gonna mention any names, but we have literally saved numerous licenses because you know, you open stores, you start going across, you forget about 'em all, and what it does. It's a database to keep track of that. It's a system that put the milestones out there. Keep the accountability. And put that out there for construction merchandising, and that consistency of SOPs in place. One of the biggest things that we've had in this space is the transition of people leaving.

If Mark leaves today, all that IP goes with them. If you use our system, It's documented in a way that it's done. So when mark leaves, guess what? It doesn't go away with them. And then the last part of it, the Green Gov part is sharing that data with the government. When you hear audits, these guys just, they run , they get scared, cuz it's intimidating.

So what we take is some of the, the, the compliance aspects of it, make it in a simplified way that they can, enter and not feel like, oh my gosh, overwhelmed, not having to go out and spend you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars on compliance things to be able to do. Not to mention just the communication between the municipalities in them, with regards to COPs developers agreements to have that stuff, we create the template.

So you could communicate with that government and the government likewise backwards. So it's just, it softens that, oh my gosh, it's an audit to something that's doable. You read through it, put this and we give an example of how to do it. So it softens that, anxiety that happens, in the current space, right now.

Tom Mulhern: You guys really offer that all in one solution, for a new cannabis business to open up.

Mike Wilson: We kind of feel like it helps like an owner's manual. When you get a car, you know, you kinda learn everything. It kind of gives that high touch of everything. You know, It doesn't do everything, but it kind of gives you guidance. We got partners, we're embedding their information in there with it. So if they need information with regards to any different services, we'll have all that in there.

But I kind of call it like the owner's manual. You can get in there, put your location in there, your license information, and kind of feel like I got this, you know, I like I, I can handle this versus the overwhelming effect. It's like, where do we even start?

Tom Mulhern: What are some of the cool, like new things you're working on with Temeka or AnamiTech coming up? You spoke about the value line that's coming up soon. So what are some of the other things you got planned.

Mike Wilson: You know right now, you know, getting the Anami thing, we're working a lot of different aspects of new markets out there. So we're excited about getting into the new states and things. We just got awarded the Mets team store.

So we're gonna do a whole design build for the New York Mets. And, you know, we're doing, I mean, even college, we're doing LSU to Alabama, you know, it's just, we're so blessed right now. I, I feel like, you know, to be in sports, cannabis, and some of the specialty things we have I couldn't pick a better job to have. I mean, Like I say, I work a lot, but I love what I do.

Tom Mulhern: It's like your dream as a kid, like all like sports and music and cannabis, like all the fun places to work. So that's so cool. You're living the dream, man. You're living the dream.

Mike Wilson: I am. And like I say, sometimes I pinch myself, how lucky and you're believe me, there's some bad days I have, it's like trying to keep up with all this and, This cannabis space is it is a tough place for, the cannabis people. I feel really bad for some of the situations that get put in.

As we're talking about the buildings they get put in the cost, you know, burden they get put, I mean, it's just, it's a, it's a shame, but it's the rules they have to play by right now. And, you know, they'll get by.

Tom Mulhern: As a successful business owner yourself, what's one tip you would have for dispensary owners to really grow their business?

Mike Wilson: I think the biggest thing that I see is don't be afraid to ask and talk to everybody else. I think at the end of the day we used to do a lot of action surf culture back in the day, and it was a culture. And I think in cannabis, there's a culture that people wanna help each other. And I think just having those conversations and don't be afraid to ask, most people will share that conversation. And, believe me when I went through this 30 years of my business, there's some things back I could look back and dang it, I wish I would've asked, but I was afraid. And sometimes you don't wanna look stupid. Guess what? There's plenty others that are out there do not be scared and ask those questions because it could save you a lot of money and save you a lot of heartache down the road, and that's, like I said, I've been there, I've done it.

I've made mistakes. But if I would've asked those questions and not been so damn scared to ask it, I could've got those answers probably to prohibited that.

Tom Mulhern: We have to be constant learners, and especially in the cannabis world where things are changing daily, it feels like, we need each other. We need to work with each other.

Mike Wilson: Absolutely. And like I say, every day changes every time you think you got it figured out there's a right turn.

Tom Mulhern: How can people find out more about what you're doing with Temeka and AnamiTech or, any events or things coming up that people can connect with you and find out more about, how they can get started working with you.

Mike Wilson: You could go to that Temekagroup.com or info@Temekagroup.com. You could put their, put inquiries there. We're always on there. We're trying to get, attending more events and stuff and getting our heads out there. Stiiizy they had a great opening in Wilmington a weekend before last, we got cookies August 13th in Miami.

So we're excited about that. We'll try to get more notifications on our social media sites of everything coming up as we do these grand openings and share it.

Tom Mulhern: Awesome. And we'll have links to your website and everything in the notes and on the website. Hey, I just wanna thank you so much for coming and being a part of the Kaya Cast podcast.

Mike Wilson: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Tom. And appreciate Kaya Push and you guys having me on.

Tom Mulhern: He really had so much to share about strategies for business owners in the cannabis industry to really get in there and utilize technology and store layout to make a customer experience.

When someone walks into your store, you need to think about the experience, the security, and really the sales. How your store layout can impact all of those things to make your location more effective to really build your business and the location of your store as Mike was sharing really makes such a huge impact.

So we wanna thank Mike again for joining us on this show. If you haven't checked out the kayacast.fm website. Make sure you head over there. We've got some episodes up. We've got, notes and links about the different podcast guests that we have. And if you would like to be a part of the Kaya Cast Podcast, be sure to head over there.

And there's a form you can fill out to be a guest on this show, share your experience of cannabis.

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