Location, Branding, Scalability: Essential Dispensary Insights

Episode Description

Welcome to another enlightening episode of the Kaya Cast Podcast, the go-to resource for cannabis dispensary owners aiming to expand and refine their ventures. Today, Brytany Melville from Forte Operations joins us to unravel the complexities of launching your very first cannabis store. With her extensive experience since 2018, Brytany has ushered numerous dispensaries into profitable operations and today, she shares her wealth of knowledge tailored for both budding and seasoned dispensary entrepreneurs.

In this episode, we dive deep into the critical decisions that shape the success of a dispensary, from selecting the perfect location and sizing it right to staffing and future-proofing the design. Learn the significance of a meticulously planned build-out, as Brytany reveals why a 1,500 to 1,750 square foot layout might just be your sweet spot, or how even a 450 square foot space can churn substantial revenue with robust operations.

Discover the nuances of market saturation, operational costs, and how innovative branding and marketing strategies can avert potential pitfalls in the initial 90 days post-launch. Brytany also touches on the challenges and lesser-known realities of cannabis consumption spaces, sharing insights that could redefine your approach to incorporating these in your business model.

Join us as Brytany unpacks the steps to navigate the milestones from lease signing to the grand opening, ensuring you're not just opening a dispensary, but crafting a resilient business designed to thrive in an ever-evolving industry. This episode is packed with actionable strategies, professional anecdotes, and foundational advice paramount for anyone gearing up to make their mark in the cannabis retail space.

Don’t miss out on this must-listen episode for invaluable insights that might just be the key to unlocking the potential of your cannabis dispensary. Tune in now and equip yourself with the knowledge to build, launch, and scale successfully.

Available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Chapters:

00:00 Introduction to Opening Your First Store

00:15 Guest Introduction: Brytany from Forte

01:00 How to Choose the Right Location

03:18 Considerations for Consumption Lounges

06:18 Planning Your Store Build-Out

07:37 Major Milestones Before Opening

09:49 Avoid these Common Build-Out Mistakes

13:02 Future-Proofing Your Layout

18:56 Hiring and Team Building Correctly

33:03 Marketing Strategies and Brand Development

41:34 Post-Opening Marketing and Sales Strategies

48:58 Conclusion and Where to Find Forte

Find out more about Forte Operations at:

https://forteops.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/forte-operations/

https://www.instagram.com/forteops/?__d=11

#kayacastpodcast #cannabisindustry #businessgrowth #entrepreneur #profitmargin #businesstips #startup

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Tommy: There is just so much to learn when opening your first store. How big should my location be? How can I future proof my build-out? How many employees should I hire? And when branding marketing to troubleshooting sales in the first 90 days. Brytany from Forte joins today to talk about what you should consider when opening your store. She has helped countless dispensary's open since 2018 profitably. If you're opening your store today or planning to in the near future, this episode's for you.

[00:00:29] Intro: Welcome to the KayaCast, the podcast for cannabis businesses looking to launch, grow, and scale their operations. Each week, we bring you interviews with industry experts and successful retailers, plus practical tips and strategies to help you succeed in the fast growing cannabis industry.

[00:00:54] Tommy: Brytany thank you so much for joining us today.

[00:00:57] Brytany: Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here.

[00:01:00] Tommy: What are some of the considerations someone should have when picking a location? When somebody is looking at square footage, is there a parameter that they should kind of look into? Is it a thousand square feet, 2000 square feet?

[00:01:13] Brytany: Yeah. Um, great question. I think if, if you have a business model that might, um, expand to 10 to 20 retail stores and having some flagship locations, um, with a little bit higher price per square foot might be ideal for you. But my like threshold, like my ideal square footage is like 1500 to 1750.

I think that gives you ample space, but we've also opened stores at like 450 square feet and I've also opened stores at like 6, 000 square feet. So it really depends. But, um, Like we had one retail store that on a really busy day, we were doing 110, 000 a day, and that was in just under 1400 square feet. So it is tough and it is tight, but if you have strong retail operations and a good team, you can make it work.

And ultimately markets will saturate themselves. So you may need that extra square footage for the first year or two, but when you're in year five and. The floodgates have opened and you have someone right down the street or heaven forbid, right next door to you. Having low overhead is what will, help sustain your business.

So it's, it's not one size fits all. Some people own their property, so not having the overhead of paying a lease, uh, really helps. And then you can really get creative and, and do a lot with a larger footprint. But, um, again, it depends. And, and let's say your model was to be an in and out express store.

That's, that's just, uh, operating with delivery, with click and collect, and a really small menu items. And the mission is to get people in and out, then you might be okay with something around So, it just depends. If you want like an education focus, like event centred, dispensary, and with the potential to add on maybe like a consumption area down the road, then you would be looking at something maybe like 2500 square feet, but you can get creative without a, how to offset some of that cost with additional revenue streams that way some, some dispensary owners have, have gotten pretty innovative with.

So again, Depends, but my favorite like square footage is 1750.

[00:03:16] Tommy: It seems like that is a sweet spot. what are your thoughts on consumption nowadays?

[00:03:19] Brytany: Probably not the most popular thoughts compared to a lot of people just because of, uh, really strong restrictions around like food and beverage regulations.

So it is a really hard business model. to be profitable if you don't have like the retail component there. Um, because if you are like, if you do have a consumption lounge, sure, someone might buy a pre roll, maybe they'll buy an eight, but they're not going to sit there and keep spending money on cannabis.

Whereas if you're at a bar, like you can keep serving people beers or glass wine. Uh, it's, it's really, it's, it's a hard business model to be profitable. Also, if you can't serve food as well, um, and then mixing food in there and cannabis, it is, it is extremely challenging. Um, where I have seen some success is where, um, again, it depends on your region and municipality rules and regulations, but, um, they had it regulated as like a, a testing.

Consumption sites. So essentially brands could pay to have the operator, um, have a business where customers could come in and test the product, and then it would be giving feedback for what's coming down the pipe, um, for that specific brand. So again, but they had a retail store. Alongside it. So yeah, consumption lounges are obviously, um, really fun and interesting.

And I think if you're in a place like Vegas, uh, it really makes sense, but it's, it is a challenging business model to, to see profitability in my opinion and experience.

[00:04:55] Tommy: My thoughts are exactly, I think if you're a first time retailer. You get, running a retail store is difficult. Let's do that.

And, maybe you can open up a consumption lounge later on, and maybe later on you see business models that fit and you can learn from other people. But I really do think that the first to market in this area or, you have to have deep pockets or you have to be very experienced.

[00:05:20] Brytany: Yeah, definitely.

And what people don't often realize is, is that that with consumption, typically the restrictions are on smoke law, like you can't have vaping or smoking in um, buildings unless you're grandfathered into some old, old, old rule from like 50 to 100 years ago. Um, but a lot of the times a way around it is if you have edibles or beverages, um, and typically after an item's been purchased, the regulators don't really You know audit it as much because it's already been purchased.

So for example, we've done in quite a few different dispensaries consumption where um, like they're paying a little bit extra for a drink that we just up the price a bit because we make it into a Mocktail for them and they sit there and consume their cannabis beverage within the four walls of the dispensary.

So although it isn't Um, like inhalation, they're still sitting there and able to consume a weed beverage more like an edible Uh in the in the dispensary walls

[00:06:18] Tommy: So let's say if somebody got a location and it's a thousand five or whatever, what is the thought process that they should have when thinking about the build out?

[00:06:28] Brytany: Yeah, I, I always think it's like a chicken and an egg situation for people. Like, where do you start planning? Um, when do you start paying invoices? But I think the first kind of, you know, ideation set is once you sign your lease, figuring out just the overall layout, like where is your cashless going to go?

What about your vault? How big do you need it? Um, how many tills do you need? Do you want like an education area? Is there going to be a front foyer? I think number one, before you even engage, whether it be a retail specialist, an architect, interior designer, is to figure out. Just to kind of ideate around that, um, and, and again, it goes back to figuring out what your business model is, what your vision is.

If you're going to be an express store that in, that's in and out, maybe you do have a drive thru and it's a really small square footage inside and the whole goal is to get people in and out of the store and you're pumping out delivery, uh, you know, I don't know, but I think the overall planning stages is it really comes down to what's your business plan, what's your vision for your dispensary and, and start, start there.

Yeah.

[00:07:37] Tommy: When somebody is, building or starting their store and they're marching towards opening day? What are the major milestones that they should really keep track of?

[00:07:49] Brytany: Yeah, that's a great question.

So, how we support clients, in the first phase of their pre open, pre launch phase is through a, a pretty, like, detailed work back session where we kind of will map out these, these milestones and I'm, I'm sure you have the same experience. You plan for one thing and Completely have to deviate off, add three months to it, throw that plan in the garbage, and then pivot the other way, so we come up with like a high level plan to put in place just so there are targets, but first and foremost, I think it's your building permits, permitting if you're not zoned for retail, that in certain areas can take a lifetime.

So figuring out all of your permits and getting that. Down pact is like number one milestone and then I think the second which ultimately in my experience takes a huge amount of time and Typically, there's a lot of back and forth is figuring out your design and locking down your design A lot of times this is where new dispensary owners have a ton of input because it's the most exciting phase Where you're picking colors you're figuring out your millwork.

What about your cash desk this this? Hardware, I like black versus white for your iPad stands. What about TVs? What's going where? Do we want this artwork here? Do we want a fish tank with these? Fish flown in from who knows where over here. And that's what I find takes up the most amount of time because, you know, that's the exciting part that, that new owners ultimately fixate on is, is coming up with something, um, to really showcase what their vision is, uh, internally.

And then what you don't realize is if you do have an agency that's mocking up everything, like those renderings alone, sometimes people, Charge 000. So if you're going back and revising all those renderings and, and then you have to change your electrical plan because you need data drops over here and you want kiosks here, like it takes a lot of time.

And if you have to resubmit that because, you know, so that's, that's another major milestone is walking down.

[00:09:49] Tommy: Sorry, why should somebody, I mean, based on your, you've seen so many stores open and I, I'm a big believer in minimum viable product, especially if you're a first time retailer

how do you know if you did X, Y, and Z in the build out? That would give you a return. And the return that you're getting probably ties into whether or not customers are willing to pay more. Or faster or come back, what are some of the things that you've seen during the buildup phase that our listeners can avoid?

[00:10:20] Brytany: Right. Again, another extremely unpopular opinion, but um, spending money on things that aren't going to make you money I typically don't, unless you have like a couple million dollars to throw into this project and it's a massive art installation by like a local artist that's coming in, then maybe that makes sense.

And it's in a flat, it's your flagship store in a big city, and it's going to be a tourist destination. But for again, 95 percent of other stores that just don't do that. Isn't the case. Spending money on fixtures, assets, designs that aren't ultimately going to make you money is, is what I always advise against.

Whereas if you, during the design phase, we kind of work for your, for your store to be able to grow with your business growing, that's when you can layer on those things. specific pieces down the road. And, um, with us during the early stages, we work with your, GC, your electrician, your IT team, your security team to pre plan for that down like three years later, which you might want to consider.

I don't know, for example, adding kiosks, if your volume is too big, or let's say the regulations change and we want vending machines. Or federally we legalize and we don't need ATMs. You kind of do need to pre plan so you're not ripping up millwork and having to close your doors because it is super costly in your business.

But, um, I think you asked, you asked me what the, the main mistake is. And it's, it's, unfortunately it's spending time on a lot of those specific pieces that aren't going to make you money. And sometimes I'll see new dispensary owners want to take up like prime real estate, a huge whole wall and just put.

A graphic piece there when also you could fit like 250 SKUs and you could maybe have a brand or Have a pay to play deal right there. So you're going to offset your lease with somebody else paying it, potentially, depending on the regulations. And to me, that's like more of a focus right off the hop when you are figuring out how to just pay back your probably pretty decent, amount that you've put in at the beginning.

[00:12:17] Tommy: I see this often too, is the emotional decisions that are made early on versus the rational decisions.

[00:12:24] Brytany: Definitely. I always say 80 20. It's my approach to absolutely anything.

So it's like 80 percent be realistic, be strategic, bring, design your store to me, be the most like efficient and profitable and the other 20% You know, play around with it, have fun. Obviously you want like an engaged team as well, but I always think it's like right off the hop, dedicate and like allocate that spending into building a really good store operations and team.

Like Good price for them. So just reallocating the spending into your people and your processes is what my suggestion is for like You know first and foremost when you come to market

[00:13:02] Tommy: Brytany you mentioned future proofing your layout Having it flexible for the future.

What are some of the considerations that someone should have in? What they built today and what should they consider tomorrow when they get busy?

[00:13:17] Brytany: Yeah Um That's a great question. And I guess maybe I'll use New York as an example, um, or Jersey. So those stores, it's no secret. Some of them are making like 30 million a year.

So you do need, uh, in those locations somewhere, anywhere from 10 to 20 cash registers. Whereas, you know, in five years, you might need that or not need that just because of, um, how the market rolls out, but, uh, you obviously want to get customers in and out of the door. So. Uh, and, and with like the tech hardware plus your software subscriptions, some of the point of sale companies, um, and your ancillary CRM platforms, they'll charge you per terminal.

So for example, if you do have 20 cash registers, depending on who you're with for your, for your tech stack, that might cost you an extra couple thousand dollars a month. And down the road, you might want to scale that back and reallocate that hardware to another store. So I think having, um, like, kiosks and cash stations that are flexible to being adjusted around and maybe you don't have them mounted into every area is something to consider because, um, yeah, some of those stores won't need that amount of just like Support in a couple years.

So I think planning for the future that way is super important. And then also always having electrical places because if you do want to throw in like a little shop and shop or a kiosk somewhere Um, but you don't have electrical there so you can't just like plug into the floor. It is really tedious I've been there and have to at the end of the night take the ipads bring them to back plug them in make sure the Team doesn't forget.

Otherwise, you don't have your kiosks in the morning. So that's just something to think about. Um, when pre planning

[00:14:59] Tommy: That is huge. I actually, I never thought of that, but it's a, it's a big thing. It's a little thing that is a big thing.

[00:15:06] Brytany: Yeah. Even like for, with you guys, for, um, with, with Kaya, if, if you want to dedicate, like, if you, instead, if you don't want your customer or your staff members to time in for the start of their shift on their phones, because some people don't like them to be able to do that because they'll just go to the back and time in in the back and then come onto the floor five minutes later, um, some dispensaries might just have like a dedicated, um, Till right there for the people to take the picture of time and boom, start their shift.

Um, but if you only have two or three cash registers and you have a lineup that might be a little tedious for somebody to jump in, cut the customer off, time in. Um, whereas if you pre planned to have like a dedicated staff station in your store, um, during busy peak times of the business, it's, it's just something to That you don't typically consider or think of if you've never opened a dispensary, like that, that, that you wouldn't, you wouldn't consider that at all.

Yeah,

[00:16:04] Tommy: so we talked about building permit and designs. What are the other milestones that our listeners should be wary of when they're opening up?

[00:16:12] Brytany: Um, I would say the next is partner planning. Uh, so there are, you know, numerous different ancillary businesses, uh, that integrate with your e commerce, that integrate with your point of sale.

Um, that are, you know, SEO, also your payroll. You need to also decide on your security. That's your security software. Do you want physical security? What about your cash handling services? What about your IT? Do you need a marketing agency? So, that in itself, People don't realize recurring or ongoing costs, monthly costs for those really, really add up even if it's just like a 500 service here and there.

So that is typically the next milestone that we tackle is partner planning. Who do you need? When do you need, do you need this custom app? That's 5, 000 right off the jump, maybe depending on how many stores you're opening and your location. Um, 000 into just getting your website really, and then also during that partner planning phase, figuring out how to negotiate those contracts is really challenging because, um, there is sometimes some wiggle room with those contracts that like a new licensee wouldn't typically be privy to, or, or have experience with negotiating.

Um, because you know, at the end of the day, And so our businesses are going to tell you that you need this right off the jump and to sign, to sign with them. So I think that's like the, the, typically the next milestone that we tackle and then after that is your financial planning. So once you figure out what your, all of your partners are and what your costs are going to look like, um, we start.

Financial planning based on, you know, a little bit of light sales projections, but what your ongoing monthly costs are. and from that point, we start developing some like loose sales targets so that you can start figuring out and forecasting how, you know, you're going to pay back what you've put into the business.

And then also what you can, um, typically allocate to like labor, labor budgeting. So that would be the next milestone. And then after that, I would say a major one would be your, your marketing planning, um, just due to the strict regulations federally, uh, statewise and on any of the social platforms with community guidelines, typically that is just like a area of frustration for a lot of people.

It's not like any other area or any other company in retail where you can advertise on billboards, on TV. Uh, signs anywhere you can send. Ads, or you can pay for ad space. Like you can't do that in weed at all. Um, so that in itself, coming up with your marketing plan is, is what we spend like a decent amount of time with as well, with, with clients we work with.

[00:18:56] Tommy: When should hiring start? How many months or days before opening day?

[00:19:02] Brytany: Great question. Uh, again, it depends on the, just, org, uh, architecture of that, like, specific business. Uh, let's say you just have one dispensary and it's a family that's all hands on deck running the store, four of them in there 40 hours a week.

You might not need to hire anybody until like, uh, two weeks before. Um, but let's say Let's say it is a licensee that also has a full time job. Maybe they have another business on the go. They might not even live where their license is and where their store is going to open up. So typically hiring like a general manager or a store manager at like two months out for your first store is, um, Is great because in my experience, I started off as a store manager of a dispensary.

Um, you want to hire your own team. You don't typically want to have anybody else, um, doing like building your team for you. It's super helpful if that person feels involved in, in that process of selecting different people with different strengths to ultimately help run and scale your business. Uh, then I would say maybe start your interviews for bud tenders and your leads like six weeks out, at least, again, depends on where you're located.

Some smaller towns might be a little bit tougher to get, um, talent to work, but, um, some bigger cities, like we have thousands of people applying.

[00:20:28] Tommy: What is the thought process that someone should have to determine How big their team needs to be.

[00:20:35] Brytany: Well, um, that's a really great question also. So typically when we do our financial planning session, we'll have like an idea of like, you know, how much money they need to make to be profitable.

And then we'll do some loose sales projections just based on like six years of analytics and data that we have in new and emerging markets. The thought process there is also volume and the positions that you're going to have and full time versus part time. So if you have a high volume store and high volume in my experience is anywhere over like 35k a day, that's like super high volume.

Um, you might need. Like 30 to 50 people if you're doing like a hundred K a day like some of the big big flagship stores Where they're in states that don't have much competition like they could have like 75 people on their roster again a lot of like staffing experience In my time is is typically by tenders You have like a decent amount of them are part time and then your lead is like Budtenders or your education specialists or your cannabis guides cannabis leads those are the ones that are hitting like 40 hours a week and you'll have a Couple of a couple like a handful of those and then you'll have like your key leads or your floor managers Maybe you'll have an associate manager and then you'll have a store manager.

So again number of employees really depends on Location, involvement of owners and, um, availability.

[00:22:07] Tommy: A lot of it is based on how busy do you expect? Is there considerations that a business owner should have when determining, okay, I think I'm going to be this busy, which is it really the emphasis where everything else kind of relies on?

[00:22:21] Brytany: Yeah. So, um, First and foremost like do your own research look at the liquor stores and the wine stores and the grocery stores around your area And just do some digging like go in and ask the employees how big they or how busy they are How many people they see a day? Honestly, just like post up outside and see how many cars go by if you have parking and there's Other businesses in there.

Just sit there and and you can kind of start to guess how many people are going to be there. Um, and then another really, really great, um, planning suggestion is to just go into another dispensary, even if it is a competitor of yours, and make friends with the team and the owners. A lot of the time, New dispensary licensees are so friendly and willing to support and share their experience and knowledge with you.

And if you're not, like, right across the street from them, and you're at least a couple miles away, they're going to likely share some insight with you. Maybe they're not going to give you their exact sales, but, um, they'll be able to give you some kind of a, uh, like, insight there. Um, and then also your point of sale team might be able to kind of help forecast a little bit, just based on what neighbor.

Neighboring businesses are doing. Um, but ultimately it is, it's like one of the most challenging things to do in startup, um, is projecting sales. And I always say to plan lower than what you think you're going to do, um, right off the hop, but also be able to have a plan of attack to adjust accordingly, because the worst thing is to not, um, be set up to scale and have enough people to actually work for you.

But, um, plan to like run a nimble ship and, and run like a, They're not a tight business operations because it's extremely hard to train a team to scale back after you've given them all this support. They have 20 people working at once and like everyone, you know, gets three days off in a row. Like it's impossible to scale that back once you've already implemented all of those things right off the get go.

So I always say like run, run a nimble ship if you can write off or a nimble business, um, right off the get go. And then layer on as you continue to scale.

[00:24:33] Tommy: That's a really good tidbit there. It's really setting the right expectations. And I think the ideal world is the owners are involved, and if the owners are involved, there's just so much more flexibility.

[00:24:45] Brytany: Yeah, definitely. It is like there's positives and you know, challenges to having ownerships and the ownership. Ownership involved. It's tough because then you're an owner and then you're also giving direction to your team members and you do end up spending a lot of time together and form like a friendship relationship rather than just a professional relationship.

So if you don't have management and leadership experience as an owner, it's tough. Your team sometimes might take advantage of that. And it is challenging to run a business that way. Um, and then the owners, like sometimes they'll get super emotionally involved and, uh, it is hard to step back and, and push things and delegate things onto your team because, you know, you want to feel so involved and And own every area of the business.

But if you're not training somebody to take over and run it for you, you can't focus on your high level move the needle activities, like scaling, maybe opening a second store, maybe taking a look at, um, partnerships and figuring out what, like, innovative tech is coming down the pipeline. You can't focus on that if you're 40 hours In your store selling weed with your team.

So it just, again, it depends on what your business model is, if you're planning to scale and open up more dispensaries, getting out of there after three months and passing the torch to your team to run will ultimately like lead them to more motivation. So the more creative you can get with like role, um. Like roles within your store is ultimately what's going to keep people there if they're like engaged and challenged.

[00:26:17] Tommy: Oh, let's talk a little bit about that. What are certain roles that you should get your team involved in and own?

[00:26:24] Brytany: So what we typically advise is like to break your store up within, um, certain areas of architecture.

So you'll have like sales, you'll have customer service, you'll have product, you'll have inventory management, you'll have compliance, you'll have loss prevention, operations, um, and then based on like who you've been interviewing and what you see their skill sets are and the business model. roles that you've created for your store, uh, dividing responsibility within those areas of your retail architecture typically is the best bet.

Whereas if you just hire a hundred percent, like OG team members that have been trapping, you know, for the last 10 years, you're just going to have that homogenous group of, of. Leadership and sales which is great. It's it's super important. Those are the people that paved the path for us to be where we are today But then you also need to keep in mind you might need somebody that Has come from like Starbucks or tech sales or something to be like your sales gun on the floor You might need somebody that's super just Just focused and really organized and clean to be able to, you know, keep control of your backup house because it is a lot with with reporting and inventory and management, um, so planning that way and interviewing based on strengths and plugging people into those areas, um, is, is what I've found.

I've seen the most successful way to, to build out a team. I don't know if I answered your question there, I completely deviated to a different thought. No, no,

[00:27:57] Tommy: that's, that's, I think that's perfect because we always talk about what are the major processes that drive the business. And you have to really understand the major processes before kind of really anything.

From your experience, what are the top skill sets or? Things to look for when hiring a GM?

[00:28:17] Brytany: It's a really great question. Uh, and most dispensary owners are like dead stuck on that. Their manager needs to be somebody that's a massive cannabis consumer and knows a ton about weed and so on. They are this like, you know, knowledgeable person that's maybe grown their whole life and, and whatnot when really, to be honest, like, I think those people should be your, like, salespeople on the floor.

Um, they're the ones that are going to be selling and talking and educating to your customers 40 hours a week. Um, so your store manager should have, like, obviously consume cannabis is, is super helpful. Um, cause then you can motivate the team. If you don't smoke weed, it's really hard to. Motivate a team to stand behind you to learn more about products that are coming in.

Um, but operations focus and like business acumen, because we're in such infant stages of, um, cannabis legalization, you have to be able to flex, adapt, learn regulations, and wear the hats of so many different roles as a, as a manager. Um, and then at the same time, still creatively motivate your team to come in and So I, I think, um, just business acumen, willingness to like adapt and grow with a business is, those are like my, my main personality traits for a store manager.

[00:29:38] Tommy: You mentioned operations. Which areas of operations do you feel that a GM should be strongest in or, you know, strong in?

[00:29:46] Brytany: Yeah, I would say procedures and policies. Um, and it does sound redundant and not important, but if you have, uh, SOPs and training put in place and implemented, uh, right off the hop before you even open, it is so much more seamless in my experience to be able to get everybody on board.

There's no gray area. It's all seamless. It's all black and white. You have job descriptions, you have pay bands, you have ways to organize your back of house, how it's alphabetized, when the vacation policy is, what the book off time is. Like if all of those things are set in place right off the jump, it is so much easier and less of a headache than to implement them six months down the road and say, okay, guys, actually, this is a new policy we're rolling out.

You have to be. In the store five minutes before, or you have to book something off three weeks before, or you need to make sure that you're wearing a black shirt, or this is how we organize the back of house. It's So having that right up the hop, I think, is, is super helpful, um, for your whole team.

Because you can't teach an old dog new tricks. And we've walked into stores like two weeks after opening that didn't have a receiving process and a reporting. They weren't doing the reporting, like, at all. They didn't even know how to access their cameras. And it was just a couple weeks and you could just just from walking through that they were hemorrhaging money from like every area and nothing was organized.

And even just a couple of weeks in retail, it takes no time for things to start unraveling. you know, that's why people sang franchises in, in restaurants and in weed too, because all of those years of, of trial and error, um, and policymaking and testing, um, have been, uh, And you to you. Like a guidebook ready to open, so you don't have to do all of that.

Um, so yeah.

[00:31:40] Tommy: What's the worst is when you have two owners that are co GMs? And the rules aren't written down. So, time off policy, for example, it can get very confusing for the team.

[00:31:53] Brytany: Yeah, definitely. Or, for example, and this is what I've run into with so many people with Kaya. Or just like, if you don't have a HR background and don't really understand payroll and then have to deal with stuff.

and book offs and, and some people on salary, some people on hourly and bank vacation versus like paid out vacation. That is just like a foreign language to people. And if you don't have that set up and established in your employment agreements and in your back end setting of your payroll software, again, it's extremely challenging to roll that out to somebody who is, thinks that, I don't know, I'm used to getting all of my vacation pay bank so that when I take time off, I can, you know, still get paid.

Whereas if you just say now we're paying it off or paying it out every two weeks, it's that in itself, it seems minimal to an owner operator, but to like a bartender that's making, you know, maybe just over minimum wage, it is a lot. So again, establishing like those guidelines and setting those, um, expectations right off the bat.

right off the hop is, is typically what, what we kind of suggest and work with dispensary owners to start thinking of before they open.

[00:33:03] Tommy: I want to talk a little bit about marketing because when do we start marketing? So when a business that's just opening up, when should, They think about the marketing plan and what is included in a good marketing plan.

[00:33:17] Brytany: I think there's so many different areas within marketing. So, you know, there's social media, there's digital, there's your loyalty marketing, uh, and obviously you need to consider where you are in the U S for example, because state to states, there are limitations on how you can, you know, If you can promote bundling, discounting, the word loyalty, etc.

So, um, coming up with your marketing plan at pretty early stages, I think is typically where we suggest. Um, so like step one is. And although some people go, um, more in depth in this area than others, but having like your brand package with your brand voice, um, is super important because that way, any business that you collaborate with, any partner that you have, any ancillary business that you're working with, they just, they have an idea of, of who you are and no, you don't need to necessarily pay an agency 20, 000 to come up with this crazy 100 page brand book with Kaya.

Your ideal customer and your tone of voice and typography times five. No, you don't necessarily need to do that, but you do need like a, who you are, what you stand for, what your values are and your colors, your logo, your icon, and like a, just, you know, that high level starting point so that every other business that comes in to support you kind of like has an idea of, of what your direction and your vision is.

So the sooner. The better I think to start with that marketing plan is important. Um, because it really will help dictate the rest of your like loyalty role, your digital strategy, um, your internal marketing initiatives. Are you doing events and, and so on and so forth. So sooner, once you have your like store design finalized, I always suggest to people to start kind of ideating on their marketing plan.

[00:35:13] Tommy: What is involved in coming up with a brand promise and where do you, where does somebody start?

[00:35:19] Brytany: Where we typically start is just by asking a dispensary owner, how they got into the business and what really motivated them to apply for a cannabis store. A lot of people have, Really heartbreaking, fascinating, amazing stories of how they got to where we are today.

Some people honestly just saw a business opportunity and just want to open a store. Um, so maybe that doesn't tell like a great captivating brand story, but um, You know, there's, there's been people that have opened cannabis dispensaries just because of, like, certain ailments where they've been on having narcotics their whole life and transitioned out of there.

There's families that have been growing cannabis for years and years and, you know, wanted their own dispensaries and have poured their, like, life into it. whole life savings into this. So I think like, number one for us is, my first question typically when I hop on a call with somebody is how did you get into this?

What brought you into this? Like, tell me your story. And you know, then you can kind of really figure out what the ethos of their brand is. And we aren't a branding agency, but you know, I do really resonate with people's Stories. And if they want that to kind of be showcased and, and come through, through their store and their training and, and who they're building their team, I, I think that's important and why shouldn't they tell their story?

[00:36:36] Tommy: After somebody has really solidified what their branding should be, what's the next steps in the marketing rollout?

[00:36:42] Brytany: Probably figuring out their website because, um, You know, there's again, so many different options with what you can do for delivery, for pickup.

Um, if you're using an e commerce platform that's separate to your point of sale company, like there's, there's just a lot of, what type of menu do you want? Do you want to have something super custom? Um, are you going to have like a blog on there? Is the push to get people to subscribe, like having the website, once you have like your, your branding?

Kind of figured out what would probably be next step. And if you are going to do like a, a loyalty integration or a CRM platform to support with any type of capturing there, you're going to need to demo them all. Cause there's quite a few of them. Some of the biggest, the bigger players are like AlpineIQ and SpringBig, um, but coming up with a compliant capturing strategy for that, that's not really compliant within like cannabis, but within, um, like state, state laws, is, is super important, um, as well, and then implementing that into your training programs is super important because if you're scanning IDs and you're, the information's already in your point of sale, depending on where you're located, you might have to have like a double opt in process so that you are compliantly capturing those people's information, and all of that, Like takes quite a bit of time.

We like piloted a loyalty program not long ago that took like four months to pilot in, you know, before rolling it out because there are some regulations that are extremely hard in the U S to interpret. And like for in New York example, you can't have things discounted. Like you can't have a. Uh, uh, regular price, sale price, and then advertise that to people at all.

But, there always are, like, creative ways to navigate around those so that you are, um, you know, giving some type of, like, advantage to your customer for shopping at your store.

[00:38:46] Tommy: Right when the doors open, I always see chaos in a good way. There's just so much happening after opening day. When should a retailer hone in on their loyalty program?

[00:38:59] Brytany: Another really, really great question. I think if you aren't ready to roll it out right off the hop, just ensure that you have practices in place to capture information. And if you're not using an ID scanner that will populate the information into the point of sale, then manually just have the team, um, Ask for first name, last name, email, and phone number even to start, uh, and then work it into your processes so that your employees are saying to every single customer, have you shopped here before?

If they say yes, great, give me your last name. If they say no, oh, would you like to be added to your system? It's just to keep track of your purchases and we'll let you know when we have events. whatever it is. That's your compliant way around, around that. So again, you might not want to rule out a whole royalty program right off the hop.

Um, but to start capturing customer's information from the day you open is super imperative. Uh, and also Rolling out like set discounts, for example, okay, seniors day on Thursday, 15 percent off or veterans day, Monday, 15 percent off. And, and having those expectations solidified, those, those discounts solidified and rolled out right from day one.

It's impossible to take them away and although you might think it's bringing people through the door And maybe sometimes it is if people tell their friends and word of mouth when you are taking a look at your margins and Your monthly discounts, it adds up to like thousands and thousands of dollars and you can't take away those discounts like two years in.

So that's why I always say for people just, you know, maybe if you want like neighboring businesses. To have a discount because then they're going to refer people that are your neighbors to come in. Starting off with that makes sense. But having like discounts every day of the week for certain demographics of people, ultimately you're, you're eating away at a huge part of your profitability.

[00:40:55] Tommy: Yeah. We see businesses die because of that. They discount themselves to oblivion.

[00:40:59] Brytany: Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah, it's a, it's a race to the bottom and it, the industry where we're not, Operating on traditional retail, like clothing, retail, um, margins at all that are at like 150%, sometimes like every, every little bit counts.

Instead, I would rather give like a better discount to my team members so that they're trying more product and engaged to try more products and maybe spending some money on craft product when they typically wouldn't, um, because that's how you're going to sell that, those specific SKUs. If, if your team's not trying it, you're, you're not going to sell it..

[00:41:34] Tommy: You never know what your sales are going to be when, before you open. What happens when your sales are 50 percent of what's forecasted? What are some good marketing strategies that can increase your awareness in the community that you're in?

[00:41:47] Brytany: So 50 percent below what you forecasted, I'm assuming. Um, yeah, hit the pavement, introduce yourself to any of, um, the local businesses to get people in the door. Like even if it starts just with employees, um, depending on where you're located in the relationships that you have, we've done like collaborations with hotels where you can have like a little bit of a menu, like if you're a tourist destination, you could have like the menu at the hotel so that they can scan a QR code.

Order delivery. Um, you could do events if you wanted to. Again, it's It might be challenging just in terms of regs and advertisements, but events draw people in. Um, signage also. It is, signage is a tough one, like you can't really, like the, the states really limit you with, with the types of signage that you can.

And New York specifically, you can really only have like, uh, points about your business on your signs, um, but we've been creative and like had other businesses, paid them like a couple hundred dollars a month to have a sign pointing like to go buy weed over there. So again, um, that, that really works and honestly the, the number one traffic driver digitally is, are your reviews.

So if you can get your Google listing up, optimized, completely filled out, great photos there, and have people leave reviews with target words like cannabis, dispensary, delivery, THC, like any of those things that people would be googling, then that's like single handedly the best traffic driver because that's what you're looking for.

And if you look at the backend of like Google business, you can always, it'll give you every month I think it is, it'll give you like the most searched terms for your business. And it's always like weed near me, cannabis near me, dispensary near me. So if you can have like the Google, your Google page optimized and have like a decent amount of authentic reviews from people right off the hop, that's like a huge, huge success. Traffic driver in itself.

[00:43:54] Tommy: That's amazing. That's so true too. Google my business.

[00:43:58] Brytany: Yeah, yeah, definitely. Um, other than that, it's like, you know, ultimately location is everything. So you might have the best store with the best team and the best weed, but if you're in an inconvenient location, the reality is, especially if you're in a city that people don't really drive, um, and it's super accessible, they can go down the street to their own dispensary.

but if you do have a good location and people don't know you're there, that also is. because you can't do much advertising. Um, there's some really great companies that do like mailer campaigns in the US, um, to send out like, you know, Hey, we've just opened over here and you can target certain zip codes, but, um, that's like a couple grand investment as well.

So, uh, yeah, a couple of different things that you can, that you can do, um, to drive traffic, but ultimately, honestly, I would say like number one is starting with our views.

[00:44:50] Tommy: Do you guys help in the online marketing aspects of Dispensaries?

[00:44:57] Brytany: Yeah. So, um, specifically within, um, like SEO, what we do, we don't do SEO, but we do ongoing marketing services where we help optimize that.

And maybe for example, it might be having a initiative for the month where the bartenders are given goals of getting. A certain amount of reviews and the winner gets like a free bong or something at the end of the month so that they're incentivized to do that or I don't know whatever whatever it might be for that month and then also, um for email campaigns.

Um, we will also help like strategize and manage your digital strategy that way for um, Your customers that are in the store. So again, a lot of restrictions on emailing them. Hey, we're having this big blowout sale, which honestly you don't want to do that anyways, but having strategic, thoughtful, intentional emails to go out that aren't spammy, uh, is, is, is sometimes super helpful combined with like, Text message campaign.

Again, even though texting is also extremely hard with the mobile providers putting restrictions on anything to do with Canvas, but, um, yeah, we, that's what we help post open services, um, for dispensary licensees.

[00:46:11] Tommy: I'm sure that there's just so much nuance in terms of what you can test, getting that feedback and reiterating on your test.

[00:46:19] Brytany: Definitely.

[00:46:21] Tommy: Yeah, a lot of people get the misconception that, you can try things one time or two times, and if it's not successful, you stop. But it's really a march, a slow and steady march towards perfection and you never reach perfection.

[00:46:34] Brytany: No, no. And, um, just being really reactive with, um, like I'll just use sales as an example, is just so self sabotaging to your business.

You might see your competitors dropping their price. And if you, like a gas station, just mimic and drop all of your prices to meet. Your competitor, it's, it's ultimately just going to be a race to the bottom. Whereas if you can strategize and come up with, you know, maybe it's a couple skews you do, but you're diversifying your cannabis selection and you're bringing in other products that maybe have a higher margin and that any of your, um, brand takeovers.

Uh, that you're doing or you're, you know, um, like promotions for the next month are like thought through and combined with a in store incentive for your teams, then your teams are motivated to sell products that you've really kind of researched and figured out are going to move the needle. Maybe it's a higher margin price point, or maybe, you know, it's a, it's a brand that you really, See value in collaborating with and they mean something to you and they're going to do something for your team Like I don't know they'll win an iPad at the end of it, whatever it may be But you can't just plan those things and be proactive Reactive and and slap a sale on the wall because it just it just doesn't work.

You have to pre pre plan honestly, like in advance, so that all areas of your business are, um, cohesive and can speak to one another because you will have to take a look at your e commerce and what it looks like online digitally. You will have to take a look at what it looks like on your digital menus.

You will have to take a look at how it's coming up on the tablet from your bud tender, or And also if you want to email about it, what it's going to look like there, if you want to pull it onto social media, how it's going to, you know, showcase on social media, you have to make sure that your comms are really strong internally so that your team knows what's going on and, and they're educated on how to compliantly talk about the sale.

Because a lot of times for the first two years, you'll have your inspectors come in and they'll secret shop to see if you're, you're educating or you're selling in a way that isn't compliant. So you have to make sure that in turn your turn. Internal memos, your team is well versed with what's going on.

So there's, there's like 10 different touch points. If you're doing a rollout for a sale, for example, or for, you know, a campaign that's coming down the pipe.

[00:48:58] Tommy: Thank you so much. You dropped a lot of gems today. How can our listeners find you?

[00:49:02] Brytany: So you can visit us online at forteops. com. That's That's F O R T E O P S dot com.

Uh, online you could book a demo with me or one of our other cannabis retail strategists to just walk through high level where you're at with your business and what your vision is and how we can potentially support roll out your store. Um, and we'll also include, uh, the email address below in the comment section here so that you can reach out with any inquiries, um, and set up a demo with us.

[00:49:31] Tommy: Thanks, Whitney.

[00:49:33] Brytany: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:49:34] Tommy: I hope you guys enjoyed this up. So wherever you're listening, please like, and subscribe to our pod, it really, really helps the channel out. Until next time, take care.

[00:49:43] Outro: Thanks for listening to the KayaCast podcast. We hope you enjoyed the show. Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast in your favorite podcast app, or visit our website to learn more about our guests and to access the full archive of episodes from the show. Join us next time as we continue to explore the world of cannabis and help you grow, launch, and scale your business.

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