Living the Dream: Helen Cho

Helen Cho

Director of Strategy

Aloha Green Apothecary

Honolulu, HI

Life is more fun with friends, and business is better with good partners. Aloha Green Apothecary is the first cannabis company in Hawaii to work with edibles giant Kiva Confections and the only dispensary outside of California where Kiva Petra Mints are sold. For a new dispensary in one of the most heavily regulated cannabis markets, that’s kind of a big deal (and a dream partnership).

If you’re looking into partnerships that can strengthen your business in 2019, here are some important things to consider:

1. Be thoughtful about the partnerships you pursue.

Are your brands and values aligned? What are you trying to accomplish? Does a partnership help achieve that? Would the growth of either company strengthen or stress the partnership? For example, we don’t have any plans to start R&D for developing the kinds of products Kiva makes.

Our focus is on flower cultivation and manufacturing concentrates, two things Kiva doesn’t do. As both companies grow, we wouldn’t be creating a potentially awkward situation where we start stepping on each other’s toes. We couldn’t say that for some of the partnerships we were considering.

2. Have a thorough vetting process.

While the actual negotiations only took three weeks, we took our time to get to know their team, understand the partnership and the requirements and ensure things could work as discussed — logistically, financially and rationally. There were visits, phone calls, emails, lots of questions and answers and still more questions. Our vetting process undoubtedly helped make the negotiations swift and positive. By the time papers were ready to be signed, we both knew it was a great fit.

3. Create a partnership that benefits both parties.

Kiva, an established brand, wants to expand into new states with growth potential, like Hawaii (where, at the time of writing, our regulations are shifting to allow reciprocity, opening the tourist market to legal cannabis). We work in a small industry with only two other competitors in our Oahu island market, and our goal is to maintain our leading position. Working with one of the few widely recognizable names in cannabis and introducing a polished, unique product raised our young company’s brand value considerably.

4. Get out of each other’s way and do your part to show your commitment.

Working with Kiva is a good fit because they are experts in making the product while we cultivate high-quality cannabis within Hawaii’s regulated market. We trusted that the other would deliver their best and didn’t look to point fingers when things didn’t go exactly as planned. It was simply a matter of making the right tweaks and each company doing their part of the “heavy lifting.” We invested a lot of capital and time for the equipment and implementation of processes within our regulations and environment, and Kiva works very closely with us to make sure we have the support and resources to make the best possible product.

5. Remember that partnerships between companies are still partnerships between people.

Do you like and respect them as people? Our leadership team spent time with Kiva’s team and founders, both for business and in informal gatherings. We enjoyed being with them and getting to know each other. Positive interactions can make the daily grind pleasant, and that’s vital when you’re creating something together.

2019 is going to bring lots of change to our industry. When we work together, we are stronger and can navigate these uncharted waters much more easily.


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