In some ways, the housing market crash of 2008 paved the way for the modern cannabis industry, as countless real estate professionals shifted their focus toward the previously clandestine world of medical marijuana.
“It was actually less risky to be in cannabis at that time than it was to be in real estate, which is ironic when you look at how stable real estate typically is,” says Kyle Speidell, the co-founder and co-CEO of The Green Solution, a vertically integrated cannabis company based in Colorado.
Speidell, whose family has a long history of working in real estate, says some of the leading cannabis entrepreneurs in Colorado have been successful, in part, due to their knowledge of zoning laws and conditional use permits.
“It’s no different than what a developer goes through,” he says. “I feel a lot of competitors I speak with have very similar backgrounds, and to be honest, a lot of them are the most successful I know.”
Now with 17 retail stores in Colorado, about 675 employees and a national franchising business, The Green Solution has become one of the major operators in North America. But it remains focused on the future and committed to breaking down the stigmas long associated with marijuana.
Marijuana Venture: What are the expansion plans for The Green Solution in 2019 and beyond?
Kyle Speidell: The Green Solution is excited for the coming year as we continue our upward trajectory. We recently opened our 17th location in Colorado and have plans to open several more stores in the next few months. We plan to be over 20 stores by the end of 2019. We have one in Aspen; we have one in Longmont, which we won on merit-based system; we have one in Glenwood Spring. Those three specifically are going to be really nice additions to the company.
Our rapid expansion continues nationally and internationally as well through TGS National. We have focused on brand consistency and scalability in Colorado that can apply to our national expansion. Every election seems to open up more and more doors.
We are also continuing to expand our cultivation side. We actually have 100 acres of outdoor grow in Trinidad, Colorado, so we’re continuing to expand that property and ensure there’s more capacity to supply the additional stores we’re opening.
MV: Is the company looking at California as a possible big new market?
KS: We are working on California with the right partnership. The Green Solution is based in Colorado and we currently have franchisees under the TGS National family of companies in Illinois, Florida, Oregon and Nevada. Our success in expanding The Green Solution brand is directly linked to the quality of the operator of each franchise and we hope to find that in California.
MV: When you helped start The Green Solution, were you already planning on turning it into a major national cannabis business?
KS: I would definitely say no. When you look at 2010, we were hoping for legislation because it was the Wild West. When you were only medical, you wanted to open the doors a little wider to serve people more broadly. The evolution was taking baby steps on legislative changes and acceptance. As laws changed, we saw the opportunity and we were able to say, ‘Now let’s look at this from a different lens.’ I would say initially the answer to your question was no, but eventually there was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.
MV: Do you have a dedicated team that is focused on real estate and store location? Is location a big factor in the opening of new stores?
KS: With a background in real estate, we knew getting into this business that location is important. Picking the right locations for all The Green Solution’s dispensaries has a direct correlation with the success of our brand. In 2012, we formed Speidell Real Estate Group, a commercial property management and development firm specializing in the marijuana industry in Colorado. Our development assets include retail stores, production/growing facilities, marijuana-infused product manufacturing facilities with a commercial kitchen and office suites.
MV: Vertical integration is big in states like Colorado and Oregon, but prohibited in Washington. How do you view vertical integration?
KS: Vertical integration allows us to create efficiencies in our supply chain. It has been necessary to ensure the consistency, quality and safety of our products. Customers enjoy knowing that brands like NectarBee are in each store and they can trust in the quality of the products. In turn, they become loyal to The Green Solution and our products. Although we produce a wide range in types of products, we are also proud to showcase other products produced by other reputable companies who we know and trust.
MV: What product categories are growing fastest in Colorado and in your stores?
KS: Concentrates are a fast-growing product in Colorado because many new consumers are more comfortable with using oil products rather than flower. Often used for vaping, concentrates offer consumers a discreet and healthier choice than inhaling smoke. Our proprietary NectarBee line offers pre-filled cartridges of CO2-extracted hash oil for portable vaporizers, which are one of our most popular, convenient and low-odor concentrates.
MV: What kind of non-cannabis products do you sell? Is merchandise like apparel, accessories and gift items a growing business for The Green Solution?
KS: The sales of non-THC products are important because we like to be a one-stop shop for our customers. We have accessories to be used with concentrates, including nails, dab tools and nectar collectors; cleaning accessories; grinders; hand pipes; water pipes; vaporizers; containers to stash The Green Solution goodies and gear; and novelty items, including greeting cards, games, shot glasses, pet accessories and more.
Plus, The Green Solution has become a popular, recognizable brand. The selections with our logo do very well and include everything from coffee mugs to inflatables for the pool.
MV: Are CBD products a big part of sales?
KS: We have started to ensure CBD is in all the products we sell in some capacity. We focus on the benefits of the plant and exploit that for consumer satisfaction. In essence, CBD is the focus of our products and could be said it is in almost all of our sales.
Our CBD products include flower, concentrates, tinctures, edibles, drinks and topicals. There are always customers looking for the pain-relieving attributes of this phenomenal cannabinoid without the psychoactive effects that are often associated with THC.
MV: How important is employee training?
KS: Employee training is essential to The Green Solution’s success as well as the safety and comfort of our guests. Our family of retail associates are well-equipped with the knowledge and experience necessary to provide a concierge-level retail experience to each guest. We’ve created an online training program that regularly quizzes our employees on different products and parameters. We have a “Learning Management System” that effortlessly trains retail associates daily and general managers also consistently touch base with employees with new information and best practices. Training is crucial to our team and to the industry as a whole.
MV: How does store design affect the overall consumer experience?
KS: We believe store design is one of The Green Solution’s key differentiators. Our stores are very modern in design, plus they are well-organized, brightly lit and welcoming. We’ve had guests compare it to a high-end electronics or make-up store.
Our layout is unique to the industry as we have built a high-volume model and infused tech into every portion of our experience. We aim to be comfortable and creative to enhance the customer’s experience.
Not only is the store welcoming, but our team is trained to greet patrons at their arrival to take away the intimidation factor for buyers who may not be savvy about our various offerings. The Green Solution offers a one-of-a-kind, concierge-level experience, ensuring friendly service by a team that is trained to answer any questions about our products. Our selection includes our award-winning flower, NectarBee concentrates, topicals and edibles and a wide variety of accessories. Overall consumer experience is very important to us and we’ve made the commitment in both design and employees to elevate each visit.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.