Jeff Starling 0:00
We can’t promote a whole lot of stuff. So I’m like, What can we do? What are we allowed to do for our customer base that resonate, that they would appreciate that the state’s not going to complain about or fight us. So we’re trying to find creative ways to do that. So I’m like, hey, let’s give away a gaming system for gamer day. Just as a thank you, you know, that we got some more ideas along those lines, just some, some ways to increase that engagement to make people feel like they’re more tied to us. Even though we sell the same stuff as the guy up the street.
You’re listening to To be blunt, be podcast for cannabis marketers. Were your host Shayda Torabi and her guests are trailblazing the path to marketing, educating and professionalizing cannabis light one up and listen up. Here’s your host Shayda Torabi.
Shayda Torabi 1:02
Hello, hello. Hello. Welcome back to the show everybody. My name is Shayda Torabi, and I’m the host of To be blunt, the podcast for cannabis marketers. Thanks for joining me today. I’m excited because today’s guest Jeff Starling is one of the owners of the source. The source is a medical dispensary in Bentonville, Arkansas, not gonna lie, didn’t really know much about Arkansas prior to this conversation. So we unpacked a lot. And Jeff is really, really, really smart and gave us a good pulse on the source, what’s happening in Arkansas, and just so many other cool little tidbits about how he’s marketed his brand. And so I’m excited for you guys to meet him and to hear his story. So without further ado, let’s welcome Jeff to the show.
Unknown Speaker 1:49
My name is Jeff Starling. I’m one of the managing partners of the source dispensary in Bentonville, Arkansas. How did I get into cannabis? I’ve been a longtime user have always supported the product. I always thought that, you know, times were going to change and it would be something that publicly the attitude would change towards as well. You know, really, I got a phone call from my father one day. And he said Just so you know, we’re working with a team to put together a application to obtain a cultivation and dispensary license in Arkansas. And I thought he was messing with me. I knew that the laws were, you know, the vote Miss. Very, very closely. The first time they got put on the ballot for MediCal program. We knew it was coming the second time, I didn’t know he was trying to get involved. So you know, a year and a half long application process later, a lot of hoops a lot of red tape, we did not get a cultivation permit. There’s a lot of interesting things that went on in Arkansas that we won’t get into. But the dispensary permits came up and we ended up getting one at our location in Bentonville. And, you know, a year and a half later this is this is all I do. This is pretty much my lifeblood at this point. And it’s really cool to get to work with my father.
Shayda Torabi 3:10
And so it’s called the source. It’s a medical dispensary in the state of Arkansas.
Unknown Speaker 3:15
Yeah, Arkansas. Yeah,
Shayda Torabi 3:17
I’m not gonna lie. I’ve never been to Arkansas. And I’m also going to follow that up with I never even I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t even know Arkansas was medicinal. I think there’s a lot of states that are flipping, but for both my benefit and my listeners benefit. Can you maybe walk us through a little bit of the cannabis landscape in Arkansas? When did marijuana become medicinal? Was it a pretty quick? I mean, you said it was kind of like a close, close vote for it to get passed. But how long has it been legal? And what does that look like?
Unknown Speaker 3:51
I’m pretty sure it was 2018 that actually got voted through, you know, they, it took them a long time to get the rules in place, figure out the governing body and develop the application for both cultivators and dispensaries. And, you know, there there was just a mad dash for people to go out and get their medical cards because I think every state goes through that where, you know, they’re like, Oh, hey, we’ve got medical now I’m gonna go get my card, but the industry takes so long to develop. But at the at the onset, the way that the state did out was there were a total of eight zones in state and each zone receives four dispensary licenses. So it’s all geographical based on population densities and everything. So we are in zone one in Northwest Arkansas. There were a total of 32 dispensaries licensed and there were a total of five cultivators licensed as well. You know, there were 240 applications, I believe for cultivators, I think there were over seven or 800 for dispensary. So the success rate was very, very small. I mean, obviously, you know, we like to think we got, we got a hold of a golden ticket. You know, as soon as the dispensary licenses were issued, they kind of underestimated the market here as far as what they thought the supply landscape would look like. And it’s really what the patient landscape looked like. We also think that the pandemic got a lot of people motivated to go get their cards, because there was a huge spike after the initial shutdown. And once the doctors started doing telehealth, for people to go out, get the cards. So we’re over 75,000 patients today. I think they thought those were the numbers at a mature market after two years. And it’s I think we’re I mean, we’re a year and a half in and those numbers aren’t slowing down. So it’s it’s a very tight landscape of supply is become constrained to the point where the original Constitution amendment had up to 40, dispensary’s and up to eight cultivator cultivator permits to be available, they have gone out and issued the following three. So there are now eight cultivation permits active in the state. But again, I mean, it’s, you know, a year and a half to two years down the line till these these last three are going to be able to be online and have product available there say over a shorter timeframe. But you know, we’re, we’re all just kind of operating the best we can given the constraints that we’re being faced with right now. And that’s really supply.
Shayda Torabi 6:33
Yeah, that’s such a interesting thought I wasn’t even thinking through and I’m glad you pointed out the differentiation of you wanting to go after your cultivation license would which to clarify for again, people listening cultivation would mean that you’re actually growing, producing extracting creating products, versus a dispensary license is really you just dispensing other people’s products? And so because it sounds like there’s more dispensing licenses than cultivation licenses, there’s not as many people producing products or sounds like the product set is pretty limited.
Unknown Speaker 7:05
Yeah, it’s that and I think the, you know, there was a delay for I believe it was eight months between the issuance of the cultivation permits and the issuance of the dispensary permits. So that was at least allowing the courts to get in here. Yeah, I will say there are there are two of the original cultivators that we still have not had product made available to us yet. So wow, you know, and we’re there two years from having should have had their doors open, we’re a year and a half into this market. And, you know, anyway, they should be online, and we should product available. So I think really what happened was licensure for patients, you know, people going out and getting their cards, you know, wanting to try medical marijuana as a replacement for for opioids and in Arkansas is quite a battle opioid problem compared to a lot of the other states. So we saw that big transition and I think that demand just outpaced what supply was able to keep up with. So you know, we’ll see, we I think 22 of the original 32 dispensaries also have the ability to grow and have the ability to process on site as well. So you know, we will eventually once once the site is fixed up and we’re we have our grow room inspected and everything we will be able to grow some so there will be some patches to the supply lines there. But as a dispensary you know what we’re able to grow we’re gonna sell the house more than anything so it if you don’t have your grow going the other dispensary is kind of having their own product really doesn’t help you right now.
Shayda Torabi 8:46
So to get into the source, which is your medical dispensary. I mean, like you really your only your customers are medicinal. So it’s not that you don’t mark it to them. But obviously they’re looking at it more from a medical application than Whoo, I want to you know, recreationally enjoy cannabis. And I think when you’re looking at other markets, when you’re looking at the types of products that they’re producing and the wide range of products and you’re just talking about the supply chain. This question is kind of loaded, but I’m trying to lay it all out there. It’s like do you see because it’s medicinal, you have certain products that people are purchasing Do you see if it’s because you’re an Arkansas people maybe have a stigma to some of the other ways people are consuming like is flour the most popular to people like edibles I was going through your site and I saw some of the brands that you carry and for people listening maybe this is their first episode joining us but what people always are shocked to hear is you can’t cross state lines. So even if California has all these really cool fun brands like you cannot sell those brands in your dispensary those products that you sell in your dispensary have to come from your state, which leads into that cultivation strain. And so I’m just kind of curious, you know, who are these consumers and are they like I Like edibles or I like or like is vaping a thing? Are there a lot of topical purchases? Or is it flour? What is that like in Arkansas.
Unknown Speaker 10:08
So predominantly, we sell a lot of flour. It’s the most approachable form of a cannabis product. We actually have a much older client base than we thought that we would originally. You know, going into a dispensary whether it’s medical or recreational, you assume that the counterculture is going to be the biggest part of your demographic in Northwest Arkansas, especially the portion of it that we’re in, hasn’t pretty large retirement community. If you ever make your way up to Arkansas, especially this part of the state, it’s beautiful here, and our winters really aren’t too terrible. So we have a lot of retirees here. And we’ve been very surprised that one of the biggest demographics that we serve our 60 and older women, and you know, there’s there’s a huge kind of segment of this industry that is targeting that demographic as well as the stay at home mom as being you know, demographics that cannabis, whether medical or recreational can can benefit or, you know that that’s a demographic that could enjoy the product. So discretion has a lot to do with those demographics being able to enjoy. So yeah, we do sell a lot of the vape cartridges, we do sell quite a bit of edibles, especially with all the different flavor varieties of the producers have provided us with as at this point we go through a lot of So, um, flour will always be number one, I think it’s, it’s, there’s something about just consuming flour that I think so much of the marketplace just wants to continue to do. It’s also the most affordable. And that’s something that we’re seeing, especially with, you know, somewhat limited supply as the pricing is still pretty high for what the industry what we’re hoping it will end up at. But you know, it’s again, it’s simple supply and demand economics, you know, we get a lot of complaints about pricing, but we just keep saying it will get better and will get better, you know, bear with us, every time that we get any kind of discount, we immediately just pass that through. So
Shayda Torabi 12:21
is the pricing because of the cultivation, or the supply chain, I guess just like delay, or is the pricing because there’s only so many dispensaries that are operating is combination of all
Unknown Speaker 12:34
of it. It’s a supply chain. You know, once there’s more product available on these suppliers. It’s almost like they have to start lowering their margins, lowering the prices and everything just because, hey, there’s well there’s more competition right now. And you know, the market is going to be a little bit more saturated with products. So we hope that things will start to move towards a normalized level. And they will I mean, if you look at states that that originally started out medical, the prices are high, they eventually get dropped down as more supply becomes available in the market. And then you have the same thing when it goes wreck the prices steep up a little bit because there’s so many new dispensary’s yada, yada, and then the price will come down to some of that starts to normalize. So we’re, we’re already seeing it from the super high levels than it was in year one. It’s just you know, it’s still it’s the number one issue with with patients is availability of supply and just the cost right now. So to answer your original question, which I was trying to get with my rambling No, I mean, it’s flour is king flour will probably staking for a while. I mean personally, that’s that’s my go to so same.
Shayda Torabi 13:42
It’s just it’s convenient. Like you said, it’s approachable. And I think when you have that layer of the culture of cannabis, it’s obviously what you identify means smoking and Jay smoking a blunt like Rolling Papers. I think those are all very, you know, popular characteristics of consuming cannabis. But I’m very aware as we have new consumers hitting the market, especially from a patient perspective. Even in CBD, I see it all the time, you know, people who will come and be like, Oh, I would never smoke pot, but I heard CBD can help with X, Y or Z. So I’m sure you’ve a lot of people who probably didn’t even consume cannabis. Obviously, illegality is a big factor in that but it was illegal. They didn’t consume it. They couldn’t get it in their state. And now like your identify, maybe they’re at a certain point in their life. Maybe their doctors are encouraging them. I mean, I am curious to because we’re talking about marketing. If it’s a if it’s a product, or it’s a recreational market, I do think you have regular consumers that are obviously again doing it for fun, but because you’re medicinal, is there any sort of partnership or relationship with the doctors like do you know, I guess to back up, there’s only so many dispensaries in a certain geographical area are there also so many doctors who are prescribing And then to broaden that question, again, because I think medical varies state to state. What is the medical application for cannabis? Is it pretty all encompassing, you know, anxiety, pain, sleep? Or is it very limited to chronic illnesses? Because I think those are linking pieces that as a brand you’re trying to Market. But if people are like, Oh, I need product, and I have a medical card, and my doctor said, I should go to the source, it seems like a pretty straightforward path to acquisition, if that makes sense.
Unknown Speaker 15:31
Yeah. And, you know, the interesting thing here with the doctors is, well, it’s really the the qualifying conditions. Yes, I mean, we have chronic illnesses that make up predominantly the qualifying categories. But we also have PTSD and chronic pain. So with PTSD and chronic pain, I mean, it’s it’s a lot looser over requirement than you normally get with some of these states that required, you basically have to be terminally ill to qualify for a medical card. When those qualifying conditions have PTSD and chronic pain, you get the you get the pain doctors, you get the doctors that come in, and they set up clinics. And you know, they’re doing telehealth, and you call them and you talk to them about your your conditions, and they basically, they then will send the recommendation off to the state, or to give to you to send on to the state. So it’s not terribly difficult in Arkansas to obtain a card, there are a few doctors in our area that provide that service. And I mean, more than anything, you can pull up a weed maps or leafly. And those doctors are listed on there. As far as doctors that have developed a reputation for issuing medical cards, or that flat out specialize in it, your general practitioner might not be as encouraging to go get a medical card. But that really depends on a patient’s relationship with the doctor. I mean, if that’s something that the doctor feels is warranted, then yeah, they’ll issue the recommendation themselves. But in order to allow a doctor to have a recommendation, they do have to register with the state and get a qualifying number and that way that it’s not just some some guy saying the nation. So it’s, and I think that’s a big part of what has caused so many license holders or start so many card holders to get the cards is the fact that we’ve got those kind of all encompassing conditions, right that make it a lot easier for somebody to qualify.
Shayda Torabi 17:38
So you still it sounds like have I mean obviously and the next question I want to lead into is your brand I think the source is such a beautiful dispensary. I encourage everybody listening to go to their Instagram go to their website as somebody who loves branding, and personally has been to dozens and dozens of dispensaries. Like it looks beautiful. And so I think that’s something that I observe about your brand and your dispensary that if I’m being honest, isn’t always such a concern for businesses. And I think depending on what state you go into and what the market is, I mean, I love Colorado but Colorado to me isn’t really known for the brands. I think when you go to California you see the design of the dispensary. You see these luxurious, you know, accents or attributes. And in Colorado, it’s like weeds legal, we just want to be able to get it and so I don’t know if if there was any of you like why why did y’all care enough to create a brand if you’re one of these few dispensary’s right like why does it matter?
Unknown Speaker 18:41
So one of the biggest things in with the way that they’ve set up the market here there are only really three cultivators producing right now so all of the dispensaries are selling the same products. So there is no product differentiation really the only differentiation is currently it’s if you have supplier not so you know and that’s really the only way that people have been able to set themselves apart so we’re sitting here looking at this building and being like what can we do you know, how can we set ourselves apart from that really sterile Apple Store field to dispensary is that you’re starting to see kind of take over the industry in a lot of places. I mean, it’s medical people want it to be clean. But there’s there’s no attitude, there’s no personality, there’s no there’s no feeling behind it. And I mean, as you see on my wall behind me, I mean I love art, I love pop art. I love graffiti art. So I reached out to some buddies of mine I mean in Northwest Arkansas is is booming for the art scene. I mean we’ve got murals all over the place. There’s always new ones popping up. So we just have a, a huge, you know, the supply of talent in this area. So I went to somebody That I thought had some styles that reflected what we thought a dispensary that had all the nice attributes of being a clean place to obtain medicine, but also have that kind of funky appeal that comes with the industry that resonates with people that are users. And I just want a different direction with what you see than what a lot of places are doing. And, you know, we’ve got some fantastic murals on the outside of our building, we’ve got a living sign that, you know, itself waters itself three or four times a day. It’s I mean, it’s awesome. We’ve really used the exterior mural and these and these living pieces to be landmarks for ourselves. Because, you know, with the state regulations, we are not allowed to produce signs, we can’t have any kind of signage on the exterior of the building that is detached. We can’t put a sign that says dispensary. We couldn’t even put a sign on the roof that said the source. We’ve been able to put some stuff in our windows, but that’s about it. So how do you let people know where you are, and when you’re not allowed to let people know where you are? So we said, hey, let’s do something funky and creative. So that when you’re driving down the road, and we happen to be at one of the busiest intersections in Northwest Arkansas, less than a mile for the new Walmart home office, on this corridor straight to the to the airport. So the funny thing for us is you get all these Walmart execs and some of these big vendor execs that they get to drive by are really, really pretty dispensary and you know, they’re looking at it, you know, they’re gonna be like, Oh, what’s that? Now? That’s the that’s the medical dispensary here in town. Oh, really, Arkansas. So it’s been really cool. I mean, we see people drive by as I’m out there looking at stuff or, you know, trimming trees or whatever. And everybody looks, I mean, you don’t see somebody that’s driving by. It’s not just sitting at that intersection, just staring trying to figure out what that building is. So I wanted us to be eye catching, I wanted us to draw attention. But you know, for me, supporting the arts is super important. And we’ve got a really, really cool platform to be able to do that. You know, creatives love cannabis, it definitely it gets the juices flowing, as they say, we’re happy to be a part of that. And being in Northwest Arkansas, we’re going to be able to do more along those lines. So yeah, brand is super important, you know, the limited tools that we have to brand ourselves, they have to be as loud as possible with saying in the regulations, and I think people are going to be surprised kind of moving forward with some of the things we’ve got planned. And some of the other ways we’re going to get involved with the community. So it’s, that’s that is our platform for branding, because we can’t do it in a traditional sense. You know, I can’t brand I really can’t brand discounts or specials, or I can’t advertise in a regular way. So we have to be creative. And unfortunately, we’ve got some experienced burns, they’re really helping us to do that. Because we’re not we’re not brand people among the partners, we’re, you know, we’re cannabis people, but we’re not necessarily at the forefront of how to get this message out and make it work. So I’m very pleased with everything that we’ve done so far. It’s got some exciting things coming.
Shayda Torabi 23:30
I loved learning all about that. I think that’s the spirit of cannabis and marketing that I wanted to capture. And it’s being creative and being adaptable in this industry. Because I think something to point out too is depending on where you sit in the space, what and how you market is going to vary, right? So because you’re a physical dispensary. It’s crazy to me, I mean, just like at a baseline, like you can’t have fucking signage on your building. And I think people would assume Oh, you should be able to obviously have signage like that thought process doesn’t even track for them. And so for you to have this hurdle of I have this physical space. Great. We got a license. Now how are people going to find us? How can we set ourselves apart? That’s another key piece that I wasn’t even thinking about. But yeah, you have pretty much a limited supply or limited amount of resources and they’re all selling relatively the same thing. And it sounds like right now pricing isn’t something that you can really fluctuate on. So what do you compete against? You’ve got to show people this creativity, this accessibility, this almost community aspect, it sounds like to like you are a pillar of the community you’re trying to help champion cannabis and, and get people who need their medicine to have access to a high quality source. And yeah, somebody who’s very into the branding side of things, murals being like every time I go to a new city, I want to go find the cool murals and so just what a union way for you to create buzz and awareness. And so I guess a question I have for that is, because it’s a mural, and people are creating content in front of it. Is there any problem with social media or not? Because it’s kind of an ingenious way, like you have this almost like agnostic background. People know, it’s the source, they’re going and creating content for you, you can repost their content, you don’t have to really be creating the content. So it seems pretty smart ashran? Or if you have any problems with that,
Unknown Speaker 25:32
no, no problems. I mean, we’ve the exterior wall with all the geometric shapes, and everything has already become an influencer target. So we’ve definitely had some will show up just to take pictures outside of our building. You know, we always ask that you tag the artists and we can ask to be tagged as well. But some people aren’t like, Nah, I’m not going to tag you, we’d store on my page. All right, whatever, at least tag the artists so that they can get the recognition. Do you
Shayda Torabi 25:59
have your Instagram on the like, on the mural? Like, is it painted somewhere?
Unknown Speaker 26:04
Ours? No, that’s a good idea, we should put ours on there. But his is on there, for sure.
Shayda Torabi 26:09
I was gonna say I was just in Phoenix, and I saw a mural and it literally had the artist and also had the place that it was at. And I just think those little extra things that can help that person, connect the dots to tell the story for you. Okay, so free tip.
Unknown Speaker 26:24
Oh, thank you, I appreciate that. We’ll, we’ll make sure that gets put on there. But no, I mean, even you know, some of the the uniform medical signage, the green cross, we can’t put that anywhere. So there’s just usual things to look for that they’ve just completely handcuffed us on. And honestly, you know, a year into us being open and the direction that we’re headed, and kind of the avenue that we’re going to, I don’t want to say express ourselves, but at least make ourselves be seen and noticed and thought of is different. We’re I’m almost happy with the way that the things laid out. Because it’s forced people to get creative. And that’s right, think a little bit more outside of the box to develop a brand image. And, you know, I’m I love I just like I said, I love street art. So I could see us running a lot with this. And, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got plans for the future that are gonna create some new walls, and we’ve got some very interesting ideas for it. So I’m anxious to get some of that going, that’s for sure.
Shayda Torabi 27:25
Yeah, I love it. You’re making me literally wonder if I can paint a mural on the side of my building that I don’t own, I rent for our CBD shop. And I’m like, I love murals. It’s such a good idea. But I love what you said. And I think that that’s such a, an important piece of this conversation is like welcoming the challenges like this industry is not a straight and narrow path. And I think that has been a really key piece for me and having these conversations is just being inspired by what you know, my guests are doing as well as just thinking through all the different regulations and laws and really trying to understand what we can and can’t do, but like not in a negative way. And, uh, this is an opportunity. We have this wide open space, you know, we can’t play here. I can’t play with signage, but like, oh, here’s a blank wall. Like why don’t I take advantage they didn’t say I couldn’t paint on it. You know, it’s just like shifting your perspective and getting creative, which, like you say creatives love cannabis. So it’s a match made in heaven. But I think as a business owner, as a brand operating in this space, I meet so many people who just get so frustrated at the roadblocks that are putting their way instead of looking at it like, fuck that way. I’m gonna go this way and try to do something interesting and different. And so it’s really cool to see that you’ve taken what other people might see as a hindrance and turn it into a really like a really cool opportunity and then furthering like, into, like what you said, the arts community and being this, you know, this brand that really cares about connecting beyond it sounds like just cannabis. So it’s really cool. I have a question for you around. So your medical dispensary, you have a retail location. You said something about technology. I know from just doing some research prior you’re using Jane, you’re doing online ordering. Are you doing delivery? Like what is that whole scenario? What is what is the technology side of your business look like?
Unknown Speaker 29:14
So obviously the pandemic forced everybody in the industry, at least at the retail level, whether medical or recreational to completely rethink their approach to the day to day operations. At the time, we did not offer online ordering it was in the works. We are not doing delivery and at this point, the state has made it kind of difficult to make it affordable. Just with the staffing, the insurance, the vehicle all the requirements just to be able to do it on a daily basis. It makes it to where you’re almost losing money trying to keep that operation going. So operationally, I mean we had to shutter the doors quickly, you know, as most places did in switch to an online platform, which definitely came with a very steep learning curve, a lot of a lot of mishaps. It just like anything, but at the same time, you know, you have to applaud platforms like weed maps and leafly, that all of a sudden, were like, Hey, we’re doing 90% of all cannabis transactions done in the country, through our platforms. So you know, as COVID spread across the country, everybody shut the doors went online, I can imagine was a nightmare for them to try to either just facilitate it all. So we started to quickly realize some of the shortcomings of the platforms we’re using. Mainly, it’s always the same, I mean, you can upload some pictures, but it’s very uniform on how each store is able to prevent them present themselves on the on the platform. So we did some digging, our GM, David did some digging on some other options. And Jain essentially provides a white label menu platform that you can customize with your look and your feel. It’s very functional, it’s helped quite a bit with kind of streamlining some of the processes that we were having with it has its own hang ups. I mean, it’s a platform that’s under development at all times, like like most sales platforms are. So it’s, it’s got some things that need to be worked out. But it’s really allowed us to have a means of communication that fit within the state requirements that we can direct to consumer communicate, you know, email, we got shut down, we were trying to do a MailChimp and another email service. And because of the nature of the business, they shut us down, even though it was purely informational. You know,
Unknown Speaker 31:46
elsham hates cannabis.
Unknown Speaker 31:48
I mean, I just we weren’t, we weren’t selling anything. We weren’t offering discounts, it was more like, hey, we’ve got some new strains coming in Friday, come check them out, not even listing them, but it’s a little cannabis. So. So you know, you have to find a platform, you know, we Facebook is about the same. They’re just, it’s purely informational. If you’re not just talking about your business hours, they’re going to shut down the post. So Facebook, US was a complete loss. Instagram is so gray, navigating their requirements and what passes is acceptable publication. And what it does is again, so with the app, now, through the Jain platform, we have direct to consumer messaging, that we can control our audience, because they have to verify that they’re of a certain age, we can also put their card information into their profile so that we know that they’re actually going to customers. And, you know, it allows us to have that level of communication that we didn’t have before. And that’s been very important to us, you know, we ran, we ran an initial special trying to get people motivated to use the platform. And we sent out a discount code for people to use on the platform, as well as everybody that came in store, a little code that they got in the card in their bag to try to get them to use the platform. For the first time, we had great success. We’ve got a lot of people transitioning over. And it’s also caused us to realize some shortcomings, that that that platform has as well. But you know, we’re working pretty extensively with Jamie to get all that stuff figured out. It’s just unique. It allows us to put more of us on that platform and not just be Oh, here’s another store with the same product in the state of Arkansas.
Shayda Torabi 33:32
Yeah, like you said, I think it’s really important to create a communication stream with your customers, no matter what point of the industry you find yourself in. And so it sounds like you tried other platforms, which are probably a little bit more familiar, like weed maps or leafly. I mean, I’ve even been on both those platforms from a CBD perspective. They’re great. As a consumer, I do use those platforms when I’m searching in new states, especially as like a discovery type of tool. But I know that not every tool that exists is the right fit for every brand out there for every product. And so it really sounds like you knew enough about what you were looking for that you were trying to go search for that. And then it also sounds like no solution is perfect. So there’s still some shortcomings, but you’re at least like in the in the movement of trying to create more consistency for your consumers. And so I am curious, kind of to loop back around from a branding but also an education perspective. Like, I imagine your customers are sometimes maybe first time consumers. You’re trying to get them in the store. You’re trying to get them to use the app, but from an in store to an app experience or online ordering experience. Do you have trouble or how do you attend to questions? You know, how is this product going to make me feel or it’s my first time how much should I use? How hard or or easy is that conversation around educating consumers on the actual plant
Unknown Speaker 34:59
you want? The things that and I’ll speak for the other partners when I say this, that we’ve been so lucky about is our initial staff, our Oji crew, if you will, has been phenomenal. I mean, these people walked in the doors, knowing way more than we did. And they know the product, you know, we get decent information from the cultivators, a lot of it is strain research, just that strain research by consumption, if you will, that, that our our bud tenders are great. I mean, you know, they, they talk amongst themselves at the stores talking about, you know, the latest strains and the latest products that have come in. So there’s a huge education piece there, just in between the bud tenders and how they interact with our customers. I think more than anything, you know, they really have carried our whole team at keeping our client base educated. And, you know, I’ve sat through or been in the store when bud tenders are helping First time users and you can tell I mean, there’s there’s a bit of deer in headlights when some of especially some of our older consumers that are first time, they just simply don’t know. And now it’s this, this medical opportunity for them to get relief. So it’s how do you talk somebody through? Well, I saw back in, you know, the 70s. And well, but it’s not that way anymore. It’s it’s regulated, it’s it’s tested, you know, there’s, it’s chemical and metal free and mold free. And there’s all these requirements. So we’re sitting here saying, to start with, it’s safe, it’s something that you that you’re going to be able to consume, without fear of what’s in it, essentially. So getting past that is the first hurdle of it. Granted, if they’re if they’ve walked into the door, they’ve kind of already had that conversation with their doctor or with themselves. So they’re, they’re ready to purchase. But it’s, it’s really just kind of talking it to a level where people are comfortable and answering questions and making yourself available. And that was really, really challenging, challenging during the initial stages of the pandemic, because that whole interaction between customer and budtender was gone. I mean, we we moved everybody online, so there, there really wasn’t a lot of communication back and forth. And a lot of it would happen at the pickup window. So it was a difficult time for everybody. I’m grateful that we at least had, what six months before, you know, six months of being open and develop that relationship with a lot of our customers before that pandemic kit. But we rely a lot on our bud tenders to keep our keep our clients educated. And you know, we get them assets they need if they ask for them. When we’re producing our products and growing our strains, we will have a lot of information I mean that really gives us a chance as a brand to shine once we have our own products in house. So what we do then will be very different than what we do now. I’ll just say that
Shayda Torabi 38:04
quick break to say thank you to restart CBD for sponsoring this podcast, restart CBD is a brand my sisters and I founded in our hometown in Austin, Texas, we operate a retail location as well as an e commerce store and you can browse our wide range of CBD products at restart CBD calm. Again, thank you to restart for allowing me the time and resources to put on to be blunt, I hope you’ll check them out for your CBD needs. Let’s go back to the episode. Well, what better way to learn than to watch what other people are doing and go through it yourself. But no, I think that’s a really smart point is just to obviously, as a marketer, I always like to highlight from personal perspective, like I’m not great at everything. So I have to surround myself with more qualified people, smarter people, you know, and so I think when you’re going into this industry, I appreciate the the transparency of like, you know, I didn’t know maybe as much and so here we were able to bring in this team of people who are really passionate about the plant. And I do think that that’s, again, you know, Colorado, California, they’ve already had such reputations around cannabis that I think even without it being legal, obviously when it went to more of the legal side, both from medical and then to adult use, you saw people who were more familiar than not but I can imagine, Arkansas, as a state has a certain stigma around it. And so being you know, a dispensary in the middle of town, it’s it’s different. And people have a lot of questions and they don’t know and, and you know, I’m just a big believer in education and helping consumers understand what they’re putting in their body because for me, it always comes back to those are the people who are voting. So if those people have a bad experience with a product at my store, or or product that I’m selling or producing or whatever, then that person might have Not, you know, a great experience and that will lead them. So maybe not thinking positively about cannabis. And that will maybe lead to them, you know, not being a positive resource for their people or their, you know, community, which then turns into those people ultimately going and voting. And so it’s, it sounds kind of, you know, like a big grand idea, but I’m always a one to one conversation person. And so I love that you highlight, you know, the expertise of your bud tenders, you’re educating them, you’re training them, but then you’re also kind of like empowering them to go forward and help connect the dots to the consumer of Yes, like you said, like, this is a safe product, check the box, you know, you’re buying it for me, it’s a safe product. But then I think there is that exploration, which I personally love about cannabis, it’s let’s see what this can do. And as you probably know, and I know, every strain is different, every type of product is different, and how those products then interact with the consumer is going to also be different. And, and that’s a hard pill to be on as a brand in a new emerging industry in an emerging state where you’re like, yeah, I’ve smoked pot before, but like, now you’re coming to me with chronic pain and you’re expecting it to work. Shit, that’s a lot of pressure. Which one’s the right one? And how much do you take? And, and so I think those are conversations that again, depending on where you’re at, in the process, whether you’re a brand who’s packaging, you know, flour, or you’re actually the dispensary who’s dispensing that product to a consumer, it’s just something that I think brands need to think about in a space.
Unknown Speaker 41:27
Just anecdotally, one thing that always makes me laugh, kind of what you were alluding to earlier, as odd smoke before you get the the older retirees are like, Oh, I you know, I smoked before, but it was back in 70s. It’s like, let me start out by saying that this isn’t the same cannabis you smoked in the 70s. You know, there are things like that it’s almost as a warning to I mean, you know, people are like, Oh, well, I’ve been I’ve had this you know, we call it Mexican weed. But you know what I mean? That just brick, terrible stuff. Crap. Yep. Yeah, that they’ve been able to get I’m like, you got to take it easy. You know, this is, this is not that this is potent This is, there’s there’s love and science and years of technology and expertise behind this now. So just be careful. But no, it’s that’s the one thing we always have to say to everybody is, each strain each product each, whatever is going to affect people differently. So ease into it, you know, that’s, that’s the number one thing is you, you can always do more, but you can never do less. So just remember that and just ease into it. And if you don’t like it, come back, we’ll try to get you set up with something different, or different. You know, it’s, there is a product for everybody. There’s a strain for everybody. You know, a lot of people suffer from that that anxiety that they get from smoking certain straights, specifically citybus. So we try to steer people over to something else. And we encourage our customers to come back and talk about their experiences with the bud tenders, so that we can find the right product for them. You know, this is all about trying to find people relief and trying to get people off opioids if we can, I mean, good, gosh, it’s it’s such a bad problems, especially in this state, that if we can help people make that transition, and just live healthier, lifestyles, and then by all means that’s what we’re here to do. And you know, we want people to feel relief, we genuinely want people to feel better, and to be able to use this product to improve their lives.
Shayda Torabi 43:30
I think that you are doing a beautiful job at it sounds like obviously, the branding is so gorgeous. And again, to kind of reinforce what you were saying. It’s like, yes, this is a plant, there’s science, it’s medicinal, you want people to feel comfortable. But I do think there’s an error of normalizing it. And I think that it’s an important piece. And it’s blending in these creative pieces. Like, yes, there’s the marketing function of I can’t put a sign up, and I’m a business and so I want to be creative. Let me build a mural only painted mural. But then I think that there’s also this normalization side where it’s why can’t a cannabis dispensary have a beautiful, badass mural? For the sake of it? Yeah, just because. And so I think there’s this beautiful opportunity where it’s like we’re being forced or pushed into certain directions, because there’s all these limitations in our way. But at the same time, I think it’s pushing us further into normalization. So another point that just came to my mind, too, we’re talking about technology, for better or worse, COVID push this industry online. Yeah. And I think that that is something that you mentioned was difficult, and I can relate because we we also have an online presence. I know CBD to actually you know, full THC products is a little bit different. It’s because of the legality and what platforms and stuff and there’s still some similarities where I saw so many brands who are in Austin who were not prepared for COVID nobody’s prepared but like without that online presence, and when COVID happened, it was like, Well, fuck, how do I get online? Well Do I do and how do I connect to my consumers? And and I think, for better or worse, you’re seeing the industry being pushed in that way. Yeah. And so unfortunately, it’s a little bit of survival of the fittest, but at the same time, it’s like, well, yeah, now we can be online. So I know Instagram, Facebook are touchy subjects for everybody in this industry. But I do see these external forces pushing us in a way that’s like, why not like, let’s test it, let’s see what happens. And you know, some people are getting shut down, and some people are pushing the expectation of what we can actually do. And so, yeah, it’s it’s kind of exciting to see brands like yourself, kind of take it head on and be like, yeah, this sucks. But also, we want to, like, throw all the punches we can, so why not?
Unknown Speaker 45:42
Yeah, we were, you know, debating our online presence and what we really wanted to do precoated starting to kind of put things in place, how do we how do we want to develop it? Do we want to be on all the platform’s? And then it was, you know, a week later, you know, New York is this huge hotspot, and it’s starting to really show signs of how bad the problem is going to be. Of course, we didn’t get it really bad here. It’s like May or June, but again, you know, we’re sitting there every day being like, do we, when do we shut down? Well, how do we do this? What are we going to do? And, you know, the biggest looming issue to us was, well, we can just shut down because we don’t know how long this is going to be. This is not going to be a two week ordeal. So how do we keep open? How do we provide the service and the medic, the medicine that we’re providing? So we had to make that online switch within 48 hours? And I mean, like he said, It was crazy, you know, we’re running everything through our security window. So the window you normally show up to give the ID and your medical card is what we’re pushing product out one person at a time. I mean, the bottleneck was atrocious, we had to shut down one day, because we got so flooded with orders that it was just like, there’s no way no way that we can do this. So you know, within two days, we had two more security windows cut in, we’re doing three pickup windows all the time, I mean, it, it ramped up, and we were able to adapt. But you know, that’s, that’s really my point here is is adaptability in this industry is key, just going in with that retail approach, like, yeah, I own the store, you know, I’m gonna push the product, I’m gonna, I’m going to have somewhat of a presence. So kind of let people know what’s going on, isn’t enough. I mean, you really got to go out and push that engagement, especially in a market like Arkansas, where we’re all selling the same stuff. So you really have to set yourself apart somehow, in that, you know, for us has been engaging. And whether it be through murals, or through giveaways of completely unrelated products. I mean, we’ve got, you know, international gamers week is September 12. And we’re giving away a Nintendo Switch, you know, we can’t promote a whole lot of stuff. So I’m like, What can we do? What are we allowed to do for our customer base, that resonate, that they would appreciate, that the state’s not going to complain about or find us. So we’re trying to find creative ways to do that. So I’m like, hey, let’s give away a gaming system for gamer day, just as a bank, you know, that we got some more ideas along those lines, just some, some ways to increase that engagement to make people feel like they’re more tied to us. Even though we sell the same stuff as the guy up the street.
Shayda Torabi 48:31
I’m so excited for you. I like seriously up to some really cool stuff. It’s clear that not only are you passionate about your community, but you really want to figure out ways to give back to it and be a part of it. And so I think that it’s such a beautiful thing to get connected to people like yourselves, who are, you know, fighting the good fight in your state in your city and having those conversations and just trying to create a safe space where people have access to high quality cannabis. And that’s really what it’s all about,
Unknown Speaker 48:58
you know, a lot of it is it’s reducing that stigma. You know, I think when we first opened the doors, everybody was concerned all there’s a dispensary there now it’s gonna bring all this crime and it’s gonna be ugly. And while we did have an issue with the parking lot, because there were so much traffic, so much car traffic that, you know, we’ve got it fixed, it’s all beautified. Now, the site looks a hell of a lot better now than it did a year ago. But that stigma of us being there is just gone. I mean, you know, you don’t even hear about it as much as we did on the onset. It’s just, it’s just another business on the street that happens to have a kick ass mural in a badass living sign on the property. And honestly, when you drive by minus the large amount of cars in the parking lot, that’s what you see. You see this badass mural in this badass sign? And that’s where we are right now in Bentonville. That’s, you know, we’ve just created an image for ourselves and You know, as far as the general public, when you drive by, you get to see some art. So that whole stigma of us being this ugly thing in the center of town, it’s gone.
Shayda Torabi 50:11
You’re literally making me want to come to Bentonville, Arkansas, so bad
Unknown Speaker 50:15
will come home.
Shayda Torabi 50:16
And I never want to go to Arkansas more than right now. No, honestly, super grateful for our conversation. I know our listeners probably got a kick out of learning what y’all are up to in Arkansas, please let us know how we can find you online and connect with your brand.
Unknown Speaker 50:33
So we are at the source NWA on Instagram. You can type into source Bentonville on Facebook and find us and our website. It’s the source dash AR calm
Shayda Torabi 50:47
the source dash ar.com Thank you so much.
Unknown Speaker 50:51
And we’ve got our our Jane web platform menu is on there. So you can kind of see what we’re doing with product right now and what’s available in the state. But yeah, come check us out. If you’re in Arkansas, Arkansas does have reciprocity laws. So make sure if you’ve got a medical card from your home state, see if it’s possible to come here, and we’d be happy to see.
Shayda Torabi 51:14
Ooh, that was such a cool conversation. I personally took so many little notes from that. I think that I loved the part especially when Jeff was talking about not being able to put signs up and how he used the mural as obviously a way to get signage but also as a photo opportunity, which can create more marketing opportunities because people will come take pictures in front of your wall. So if you guys have any free space on any of your buildings, and you want to paint a cannabis related mural, or just a regular mural, probably be a solid idea and a good way to market your brand. So hope you got some takeaways from this episode. Like always, I appreciate you. Thanks for your listening for your time. If you have any feedback, please reach out to me on instagram on LinkedIn. You know I love to hear from you guys. This is a two way street. So let’s keep it conversational. Thanks again for listening to this episode and I’ll catch you on the next one.
I love this episode of To be blunt. Be sure to visit the Shayda Torabi comm slash to be blind for more ways to connect new episodes come out on Mondays. And for more behind the scenes follow along on Instagram at the Shayda Torabi