With nearly 700 employees supporting 15 retail locations, including the industry’s only outlet store and a location in the first-ever “pot mall,” The Green Solution stands as one of the nation’s largest cannabis companies.
Kyle Speidell and his twin brother, Eric, have had an interest in marijuana for most of their lives, but like many, viewed it as merely a pleasant social accoutrement.
But in 2009, the first Colorado dispensaries began to open and the brothers’ interest was piqued. With the real estate market (the brothers’ former business venture) on a downturn, Kyle and Eric began to explore business opportunities within the emerging cannabis industry.
“We actually called a new dispensary in late 2009 and asked if they were really allowed to be open, and they said ‘yes,’” Kyle recalls. “So we immediately hired an attorney to understand the laws.”
After pooling together nearly $100,000 — relatively meager seed capital for a cannabis business — they founded The Green Solution (TGS) and opened their first dispensary in Northglenn, just a few blocks from their childhood home.
The Speidells’ first shop eventually became two, then three and a host of other entities have followed.
“We come from humble beginnings, and it was a fight to even stay open during the industry’s infancy,” Kyle says. “With the lack of capital and the uncertainty of regulations, it was almost impossible to dream big early on. As we made it through certain hurdles of the industry, the viability and longevity became more apparent and our mindset changed about who we could become as an industry leader.”
The Road to Expansion
As the company grew, so did the responsibilities. Encouraged by their early, rapid growth, co-CEOs Kyle and Eric brought their brothers, Brad and Nick, on board to assist with operations and help grow the business. The family’s desire to keep operations under tight internal control led TGS to become the most vertically integrated company in the industry, with branches extending well beyond traditional cannabis enterprises.
To support retail, a cultivation operation came first. Then came Colorado’s largest manufacturing facility, where the company produces its NectarBee line of concentrates, topicals and edibles.
To protect these assets, S-Type Armored was created. Led by Nick Speidell, who assumed the role of chief information security officer, the S-Type’s fleet of armored vehicles and security personnel exclusively serve the needs of all TGS facilities, including the retail stores, which are overseen by chief dispensing officer Brad Speidell.
The company built out multiple grow locations, including a research and development facility, to keep up with the rising demand. Additional divisions emerged as the company continued its retail expansion and identified more business needs. Each subsidiary under the TGS umbrella serves the specific needs of its stores.
Early in the company’s development, a level of dissatisfaction and disappointment occurred with the available traceability and point-of-sale software on the market for the cannabis industry. The solution came in the form of a new subsidiary, Dellock Digital, which develops proprietary software for TGS. Though customers are unaware of company-specific software, it serves as one of the many behind-the-scenes examples of TGS’s ongoing efforts to remain an industry leader.
The numerous wholly owned subsidiaries provide great benefits to TGS retail and uninterrupted service to its supply chain. The driving objective of the company is to create a customer experience unlike any other in the cannabis space today. Defining the company’s retail model often leads to comparisons to well-established mainstream brands, like Apple and Ikea, because of TGS’ aesthetically pleasing retail layout and customer-centric service. It has repeatedly won Westword magazine’s People’s Choice category for “Best Dispensary to Take Your Grandmother To.”
From their experience in real estate, Kyle and Eric are well aware of the old adage, “location, location, location.” So with cannabis tourism continuing to grow steadily in Colorado, it’s no accident that some TGS stores are in close proximity to public transportation, including Denver International Airport and Union Station.
Customer experience plays a vital role in the company’s success as well. The Speidells believe vertical integration results in a retail experience in which customers develop brand recognition, trust in the quality of the products and loyalty to the store because nearly all products sold are branded and/or produced by TGS.
“Opening our first store and grow is what has made us who we are,” Kyle says. “Our ambitions then took us to opening our own MIP (marijuana infused products), which has established us as the ‘Trader Joe’s’ model of the industry.”
Getting to that point didn’t happen overnight, though. Understanding that success doesn’t happen by accident, the brothers expect a strong work ethic from all company personnel. TGS was built on a desire to be the best in the cannabis space and business attire is expected in the corporate offices. Additionally, uniforms provide a professional and consistent look to the retail, cultivation, manufacturing and security divisions.
Before retail employees are allowed to work with customers, they receive training at TGS Management, the company’s corporate office in downtown Denver. In addition to training, corporate supports all retail and subsidiary operations in a variety of ways and is home to administration, accounting, auditing, purchasing, merchandising, wholesale, human resources, information technology, legal, marketing, design, communications, patron support services, TGS National and International, and the company’s executive offices.
Exclusive Retail Experience
Upon entering any TGS store, customers experience a bright and airy interior with a meticulously arranged floorplan and a clean, professional appearance. The interior design is a combination of pleasing aesthetics, functionality and compliance. The emphasis on compliance is paramount at TGS. Anticipating how future regulations will shape the industry is a daunting task, but the company does its best to reflect what the future of cannabis retail will look like.
“No one gives as much attention to the customer experience as we do,” says Casey Efting, TGS retail regional manager. “Our stores are bright and wide open, with all of our products presented in a way that customers don’t have to ask, ‘What do you have?’ Our staff will walk inexperienced shoppers through all options and make sure their cannabis experience is unique to their needs and desires. Once a customer is familiar with our products, we encourage them to use express shopping via our mobile website or call-ahead line. They have the ability to browse each store’s entire inventory, pick out what they want and have it waiting when they arrive.”
When customers enter the main retail floor, they receive a friendly greeting from a designated retail associate (TGS doesn’t call them budtenders), who remains with them throughout their visit, including checkout.
Many customers appreciate this concierge-level customer service, but for those shoppers looking for a more independent experience, retail associates remain nearby to answer any questions.
Investing in Culture
TGS also reaches potential customers and cements brand loyalty with existing patrons with special events and sponsorships through its High Rise Media subsidiary. TGS brands and employees were highly visible at past Riot Fest musical events, a multi-day festival of punk and alternative artists. The festival was held in both Chicago and Denver — where TGS was a major sponsor. The untimely passing of one of the event organizers prevented it from being held in Denver in 2017, but efforts are underway for its return.
TGS is also an owner and sponsor of 420 On The Block, an April 20 celebration and music event that debuted in 2017 in Denver. At these cannabis culture events, the TGS “Cannabus” maintains a visible presence. This company-owned, full-size bus serves as a welcoming refuge for those who want a place to relax and consume cannabis (where local and event regulations allow it).
Another TGS media property is “Blazin’ Hit Radio,” a radio show hosted by two of Denver’s former top radio personalities, Larry Ulibarri and Kathie J. TGS owns the radio studio and is the program sponsor. For many years, Larry and Kathie J hosted one of the city’s top morning radio programs. Now, they create cannabis-themed laughs exclusively for TGS.
“Focusing on our media company helps us change the culture of the nation,” Kyle Speidell says. “These key times in our history have allowed us to (both) be in the industry and influence the industry.”
TGS has won multiple awards for its flower, concentrates and topicals.
The company offers customers five flower categories from which to choose: Private Stock, Feature, Top Shelf, Value and Ground Flower. The criteria for this ranking includes potency, aroma, cannabinoid profile, bud structure and demand.
A “flower panel” is on display for every available strain, from classic industry standards, like Blueberry, Durban Poison and Bubba Kush, alongside proprietary TGS strains like Lupe Shine, Phaser and Black Hole. The panel contains a photo of the cultivar as a growing, mature flower, as well as general information about that particular strain. A cured bud sample completes each flower display.
“As always, we have some amazing (flower) in the early stages of R&D,” research and development manager Kevin Sullivan says. “While it takes the better part of a year or two for it to be released to the public, we have some (outstanding) stuff coming down the pipeline.”
While flower is a big hit with the TGS clientele, concentrates are a growing segment of the industry — particularly with younger consumers. TGS’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facility produces the company’s NectarBee line of concentrates (including hash, hash oil, wax, shatter and rosin), edibles (a regularly changing line of infused dessert items, tinctures and sodas) and topicals (lotions, salves, balms, scrubs, bath fizzies and other products).
TGS uses a variety of extraction methods depending on the type of product being created and many products come in sativa, indica, hybrid and CBD versions — some of them strain-specific, all color-coded for easier identification.
All purchases also come in the company’s exit bag. Paper bags that are folded shut or stapled are the industry standard, but TGS sets itself apart by sending customers home with an exit bag made of sturdy fabric with a child-resistant drawstring and locking mechanism.
The exit bag provides customers with peace of mind that even if small, inquisitive hands get a hold of the bag, there’s very little chance of them gaining access to the contents. It’s a small but important measure TGS takes to ensure marijuana products remain exclusively adult property.
TGS’ successful business model paved the way for its stores being offered as franchise opportunities, with numerous options available to investors. The company continues its rapid expansion within Colorado, nationally and internationally with a Canadian partner. The company’s franchise subsidiary, TGS National, concentrates its efforts into promoting TGS brands beyond Colorado.
With an established business model, successful vertical integration, trained sales associates, a committed corporate team and a vision for the future, the Speidell brothers have paved the way for continued growth and expansion in the cannabis space.
“TGS National has a franchise disclosure document that has gained compliance with the rules and acceptance of registration by the Federal Trade Commission for The Green Solution Retail and NectarBee Manufacturing franchise models nationwide,” says Trent Woloveck, president of TGS National. “With this in place, TGS National is one of the most uniquely positioned entities in cannabis to build brand integrity and standardization across the globe, while scaling at the pace needed to capture a large market share in the retail channel of the cannabis industry.”
With franchise operations in Florida, Illinois, Nevada and Oregon, TGS National is actively building brand awareness throughout the country, providing a proven business opportunity to a growing number of investors.
“TGS National is looking forward to continuously expanding into new states and developing relationships with individuals who not only want to get into the industry, but roll up their sleeves and help develop a brand that’s going to be known worldwide,” Woloveck says.
Phillip Samuelson is the director of communications for TGS Management.