This week’s Trailblazer is Chris Jones, Founder of CANNABIS XPRESS. With seven locations- they offer a quick, easy, hassle-free cannabis shopping experience.
Questions with a Cannabis Industry Trailblazer
When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?
I’ve been in the cannabis industry for several years, where I first started at a publicly traded company listed on the Canadian Securities Exchange called CannaRoyalty Corp (CRZ) which then became Origin House (OH). While there, I actively led/supported six acquisitions and multiple investments in Canada and the US, with the largest one coming near the end of my tenure when our company was acquired for $1.1 billion by one of the top 5 largest US cannabis companies Cresco Labs (CL).
After working with one of the first round lottery winners in Ontario, and gaining insight into the regulations and building relationships with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario – I became even more interested in the idea of starting my own retail company. The opportunity was solidified when it was announced after the second license lottery in Ontario that they would open it up to a first-come-first-serve model for cannabis retail applications. I quickly formed a corporation, applied for the Retail Operator License and was one of the first 100 groups to be awarded it. I then raised approximately $1mm and opened 4 very early on stores in Ontario which had a revenue run rate of approximately $15mm. I saw how quickly the market was evolving and realized that everyone is opening large complicated stores that were focused on themselves and not the customer. This led me to sell my ownership in those stores and brings me to my current business.
CANNABIS XPRESS was brought to life after I identified a huge gap in the market for fast, convenient, low-cost cannabis retail stores. The business model for CX is to have 15 locations by the end of 2022 across Ontario in small to medium size cities and towns. All of our locations have under 500 square feet of retail floor space, and offer customers a highly curated menu of 75-90 SKU’s, which is tailored to the local market. We currently have 7 stores, all of which have been opened for less than $30,000 and are profitable due to our speed and rock bottom operational cost.
What gets me most excited about this industry is that it is still very highly regulated and challenging, and these obstacles lead to significant opportunities for those who are able to figure it out. To me, cannabis is also fascinating because of both the recreational and medicinal benefits that can be derived from the plant – which also provides another layer of opportunity, and being able to see and hear the impact that the plant has on people has been astounding.
Finally, it comes back to the money – I’m here to make lots of it.
What has been the biggest marketing challenge you have faced when working with cannabis companies/brands?
We see all challenges in this industry as opportunities to be different and to create a competitive advantage. There are over 1,000+ different products a retailer can purchase from the Ontario Cannabis Store, and having so much selection leads most retailers to purchasing too many and then not having their staff properly trained and educated on all of them. What we have done at CANANBIS XPRESS is limit our product assortment to a core list of items, and then work with the brand on in-depth training so that we ensure all of our staff know each product intimately.
If you could change one of the current Canadian or American marketing restrictions on cannabis, which would it be?
None. The current regulatory landscape is more favorable to our business model, and changes would likely be more beneficial for our competitors.
In your observation, what marketing techniques or channels have been most effective for cannabis companies looking to connect with consumers?
As a retailer, we have been successful in many small towns by connecting to customers through local business group pages.
What is one tip or piece of advice you would give to people looking to enter the cannabis industry?
Build a diverse but lean team, familiarize yourself with the regulations, ensure that you have enough capital to start and grow the business without dilution and be prepared to grind.
A big thank you to Chris for participating as this week’s Trailblazer! Stay tuned for another interview with a cannabis marketing Trailblazer next Thursday in the ADCANN blog.
Interested in working with one of these talented cannabis marketers? Check out our Agency Directory for a list of all the agencies that specialize in working with cannabis companies.