The retail dispensary franchise is changing the game for both the franchise and cannabis industries
What if there was a market, in its infancy, that represented over $11bn in the United States alone in 2018? What if that same market was projected to exceed $23bn by 2022? What if that market was still in the raw, emerging Wild West of its lifecycle with no “household names”, rare and fragmented expertise, no consistency or industry standards, and had never heard of franchising? That day is now, and that industry is cannabis.
As the nascent cannabis industry inches into the mainstream market, the collective ears of global entrepreneurs are perking up. The highly regulated sector boasts alluring possibilities for those savvy enough to break into the business, but the obstacles between getting started and reaching the goal are challenging. The emerging markets of the United States and Canada, for example, have taken very different approaches and the opportunity varies largely from market to market – not only at the national level but state to state, county to county, and even city to city. Some of the differences range from full legalization to it being completely illegal. Navigation of this complex opportunity is difficult and even savvy investors need someone with experience to help them enter safely and establish themselves as a market leader. Cannabis, meet franchising.
Founder and owner of ONE Cannabis, Christian Hageseth, is fond of the quote: “pioneers get arrows, and settlers get land”. ONE Cannabis and Unity Rd. is the franchise that has been taking arrows in this industry for a decade, so they can now guide the settlers. These years of experience in running a business in an industry as it developed, changed, and then pivoted again and again, have led to systems and processes for success in running a profitable and compliant dispensary.
ONE Cannabis entered the enticing marijuana market driven by one simple idea: imagine what a franchise model could do in an industry where a 37-store operation is considered a giant. Imagine if we had systems and processes for entrepreneurs to enter more safely and take advantage of the incredible and rarely matched financial opportunity. Imagine if a company had many years of experience in franchise program development and could translate more than a decade of cannabis systems for success.
There are many, many hurdles to consider, for instance, cannabis regulations vary by state and product can’t cross state lines. Cannabis is one of the most lucrative but complex industries in the world. But, ONE Cannabis’ unprecedented franchise model breaks down the barrier to entry, making the reality of cannabis entrepreneurship greater to a broader group. The company’s business model is the first instance in which the risk is mitigated to such a degree that franchisee prospects realize it is actually possible.
“Franchising in cannabis has never been done before,” says Justin Livingston, vice president of franchise development, who has over a decade of franchise experience and a reputation for growing nationally recognized brands. “We’re going about it the right way; building our teams and franchise system with the intention to be not only the first but the best, and setting the standards for those who will surely follow. This industry is primed to explode, and franchising will play a major role in that.”
The company’s abilities stem from the comprehensive pool of knowledge it draws from the two previously unmarried worlds of franchising and cannabis. A collection of industry pros developed the robust ONE Cannabis franchise system based on the history of Hageseth, who has been active in the Colorado legal cannabis industry since its inception in 2009, when he launched Denver’s Green Man Cannabis. “You can only get this level of understanding through experience, which means a lot of trial and error,” said Hageseth. “We want to help others succeed by giving them the roadmap we never had.”
The safety of a Unity Rd. franchise
The company’s earliest franchisees said they were able to see the opportunity for what it was – a chance to leverage someone else’s knowledge in order to open their own dispensary doors with confidence. ONE Cannabis franchisees are guided through every step of the process, from application and SOP integration to tax navigation and employee training. Since those first franchisees, the company has expanded its team to over 100 employees and has a robust pipeline of eager entrepreneurs wanting to enter the market with the safety of a franchise.
The barrier to entry into the cannabis market is perhaps the most substantial of any market, driven by the complexities of the laws and the ever-changing rules that vary from one market to the next. Compliance guidelines rival the weapons and oil industries and far surpass alcohol. Longtime franchise veteran and ONE Cannabis COO, Mike Weinberger, says: “The level of complication on so many aspects of this industry make it one of the toughest businesses to see true success. Franchising helps navigate those complications; however, no other industry in the world needs help, knowledge, and support more than cannabis. Our systems are set up to keep people safe and we set them up not only for success, but success that can build generational wealth and change family’s futures.”
The ability to join a franchise system to open a cannabis dispensary is the answer to making the industry more accessible in its entirety. Instead of navigating the complexities alone, ambitious entrepreneurs can take advantage of an experienced team and years of success running compliant and profitable businesses within the cannabis space. “At its core, good franchisors help prospective entrepreneurs enter a market they otherwise may not be able to enter or set them up to be more successful than if they had gone it alone,” says Livingston.
The benefits of franchising in cannabis don’t just extend to new entrepreneurs. The current cannabis industry is primarily made up of small, independent shops that don’t have the bandwidth to truly realize their business potential. Franchising allows existing cannabis owners to benefit from ongoing support across all areas of the business so that they may focus on growing their enterprise, rather than working in store.
“After a decade of operations in the legal cannabis market, I’ve seen it all,” says Hageseth. “Surviving the challenges of the past has paved the way to systems and processes that we can now translate to a top-tier franchise program and help usher in the next generation of cannapreneurs while building brand presence, industry stability, and pioneering a safe and consistent way forward for the industry as a whole.”
Listen to our podcast with Mike Weinberger, the chief operations officer of Unity Rd.