As a leading cannabis retailer in the competitive Nevada market, The+Source has become a prime example of how a well-run retail operation with a razor-sharp focus can not only survive, but thrive. Andrew Jolley, the company’s founder has an extensive business background and understands that while the cannabis industry is unlike any other, it still has to operate with an eye to the basics: great customer service, convenient locations and an expertly curated selection of products.
Jolley also knows that all retailers are ultimately judged on profits, and that profits often come from unsexy things like sales per square foot, inventory turns and margins. Recently acquired by Green Growth Brands, The+Source continues to expand and recently announced the opening of seven new locations.
Despite the legal cannabis industry’s rapid growth, director of operations Brandon Wiegand says now is not the time for entrepreneurs and activists to become complacent.
“Our industry started from passionate, committed individuals who were engaged in the democratic process. We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” Wiegand says. “As an industry, we have an obligation to stay engaged and involved in the political process. Don’t get lazy, stay engaged — get out and vote! Your voice matters. Our industry is proof of that.”
Marijuana Venture spoke with Jolley and Wiegand about what it took to build a successful cannabis retail business.
Marijuana Venture: What originally got you interested in the cannabis industry?
Andrew Jolley: My childhood friend taught me the importance of cannabis as medicine when he used it legally to treat a serious illness while living in California in the late ‘90s. After he moved back to Nevada and no longer had access to medical marijuana, he was prescribed a heavy opioid and passed away after taking the first dose. This tragic experience convinced me of the need for medical cannabis.
So when Nevada passed its laws allowing for medical marijuana businesses to be licensed, I jumped at the opportunity to be part of the movement and to take advantage of the historic opportunity. I’m so glad that I did. Being on the frontlines of this industry has been a very challenging, rewarding and wild ride.
Brandon Wiegand: I have been a cannabis consumer for most of my adult life. Like many others, I enjoyed the effects and benefits of cannabis, particularly as an alternative to alcohol consumption. I was interested in helping the industry transition from the counterculture to the mainstream by being in a position that would allow me to share my passion for the cannabis plant and play a role in changing the stereotypes that had previously existed.
MV: What are your backgrounds, and how did they influence your decisions when it came to cannabis retail?
BW: I was in commercial real estate and development prior to stepping into the cannabis industry. The real estate world is multidisciplinary, much like the cannabis industry, so having a diverse set of skills, the ability to analyze a lot of data and iterate quickly have certainly bled over to the way we run our retail operations. Perhaps, most importantly, I know the value of forming and developing a strong team that you trust, letting them do their jobs and supporting them in their efforts.
AJ: I’ve spent the past 15 years starting and investing in several commercial real estate related businesses. This diverse and unstructured background helped me focus on the critical importance of geographic location and how to best position a business to understand and meet the needs of our customers. I was also very comfortable with the uncertainties of a startup venture and being involved in a heavily regulated industry.
MV: How is Las Vegas different from the other legal markets, and how has that affected the customer experience?
AJ: The secret to the overwhelming success of Nevada’s marijuana industry is twofold. First, we have the fewest number of licenses per capita compared to other states with both recreational and medicinal cannabis programs. Second, our industry is heavily regulated and held to the highest compliance standards in the country. These ensure the owners and operators of these privileged licenses follow the rules and look out for the community.
One of our core values as a company is “seriously fun.” This means strictly following the rules is an absolute requirement and we take it seriously. But having fun is also strongly suggested.
BW: I believe that Nevada has done the best job developing regulations that work for the industry. Las Vegas is a town that is steeped in hospitality, including resorts, casinos, restaurants, shows and nightlife, and our residents know what to expect when it comes to service and experience, leading them to have high expectations as a result.
This means that we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and constantly deliver on those expectations. Our customers are local, and we are only as good as our last visit.
MV: Who designed your stores, and how important is interior design in this business?
BW: The store was designed by Semone Gell with a lot of input from Andrew. Store design is an integral part of the customer experience. It also serves as a “flag” for your customers — the look and feel of your store convey a lot of non-verbal information to your customer about who you are and how you operate.
AJ: Having spent a ton of time secret-shopping dispensaries across the West Coast, I was very passionate about developing a customer-friendly, engaging and welcoming customer experience. To achieve this, we came up with a fresh approach to cannabis retail that relied on a modern, clean aesthetic that focuses on the beauty of the product and with highly passionate staff. I like to say that our store showcases the product and our people showcase our passion for cannabis.
MV: What non-cannabis retailers impress you? What is special about how they operate? Did you copy some of their strategies?
AJ: Trader Joe’s. Their employees are amazing in every way and their culture shines bright. Similar to Trader Joe’s, we developed our core values as a company fairly early on and we use those core values to select and evaluate out team members. This gives us a shared sense of purpose and allows each team member to feel like they are in control of the work environment.
BW: I am impressed by the retailers that deliver an amazing customer experience — places like Apple, Trader Joe’s, Sephora, Nordstrom, IKEA and so on. These retailers have taken the time to truly understand their customers and have given a lot of thought to the experience those customers want.
We have certainly copied the strategy of focusing on our customers and delivering the experience they want.
MV: How important are your employees, and do you have any incentive programs that keep them happy?
BW: Employees are critical to our success. We have many team members that started with us from day one of operation and are still here.
We take great care of our team members so that they will take great care of our customers. This industry attracts individuals that are very passionate about the industry and our products, so we are very liberal with samples, encouraging our team to use the products we offer and share their experiences. We pay a slightly higher rate than others and have a reputation of being a great place to work, both of which have helped us attract and retain top talent. We also throw really great company parties!
AJ: Many dispensaries sell good products and many companies make good products, but I’ve yet to find a team as passionate and dedicated as ours. I learn something each time I interact with our team and their enthusiasm for cannabis is infectious. We offer higher than average pay, health insurance benefits and financial incentives to help reward our staff for their efforts.
MV: What would you do differently now that you’ve been open for a while?
AJ: I would have built larger facilities from the beginning.
BW: There is not enough room to even scratch the surface. Suffice it to say that we are learning and improving, each and every day. The pace of change in our business is rapid and it requires that you iterate and learn quickly.
MV: What, if anything, has surprised you about the cannabis industry?
AJ: How much I’ve learned listening to our customers. I’ve been moved to tears on multiple occasions, hearing stories of how access to medical and recreational cannabis has positively impacted the lives of our customers and employees. I never get tired of hearing from our customers.
BW: The pace at which the industry has grown has been the most surprising. I think five years ago no one really had any idea that we would be looking at so many states with medical and recreational legislation in place or being worked on. As a result, the pace of innovation and growth has been lightning quick.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.