Living the Dream: Helen Cho

Nick from Aloha Green Apothecary displays some of the clones from the company’s grow operation, which has steadily been growing since its founding less than three years ago.

Helen Cho

Director of Strategy

Aloha Green Apothecary

Honolulu, HI

It looks like 2019 is going to the biggest year yet for Aloha Green Apothecary and the state of Hawaii Medical Cannabis Dispensary program! Reciprocity is set to begin before the summer and we have our fingers crossed for a smooth rollout when the Hawaii Department of Health is ready to launch the program. In a market where tourism is a major part of our economy, being able to serve visitors with medical cards from their home states could increase our business significantly — so much so that we are developing major new operating and marketing strategies throughout the entire company to get ready for the influx.

With this massive opportunity right around the corner, our executive team has been thinking a lot about what we want to accomplish. Interestingly, these discussions about the future have given us a chance to look back at how far we’ve come, and there is much for us to be proud of. 

Three years ago, this company didn’t even exist. Today, our vertically integrated company has more than 60 employees and nearly 40 medical cannabis products available at the dispensary. In mid-2016, we won our license with the highest scoring application for the island of Oahu (Hawaii’s most populated and popular island), and our company was created. We planned construction “stages” to begin cultivating plants as quickly as possible while further expanding. Being the first to plant also meant being the first to open a dispensary in Honolulu. Since then, there have been many other firsts over the past two-and-a-half years.

At our production facility, we built and filled up our multi-room greenhouse and then dialed in the environmental controls. The small team at the farm has grown into robust departments, recently celebrating our 100th harvest. A full laboratory was installed and staffed, enabling our company to begin making a wide range of concentrate products.

At the dispensary, we expanded our products to include topicals, tinctures, cartridges, shatter, rosin, RSO and medicated mints. Once our general marketing strategies were implemented, we introduced a VIP service, “The Healing Club,” and began going out into the community with a monthly, educational “Cannabis 101” event series. We have also partnered with five local nonprofit organizations, increasing both our exposure and our community involvement.

As a company, we spearheaded the creation of a trade association of the eight licensees in Hawaii, which allows us to work together as industry leaders when interfacing with legislators and regulators. On the national playing field, Aloha Green Apothecary became the only producer of Kiva’s Petra mints outside of California. We even made it on to mg Retailer’s “50 Best Companies to Work for in Cannabis” list — as one of the youngest companies to make the cut.

As we continue to grow and expand our market to include visitors to our beautiful island home, the focus of our company will remain the same: we are dedicated to ensuring our local patients have access to the consistent, premium medicine. The bigger we become on a global scale, the more our roots will deepen in Hawaii, and the better we will serve those who made us who we are.

We have grown quickly, learned a lot and dreamed big. And now is the time for us to jump up to the next level. See you there!

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