At some point everyone who works with Chelsea Mulligan asks her why she doesn’t just go out and get her own cannabis license. After all, since 2013 she’s composed multiple winning license applications, opened 39 stores and helped the Foundation of Cannabis Unified Standards develop guidelines and work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Mulligan says her passion lies in opening new businesses, so she didn’t want to be limited to just one location. But at the same time, she didn’t want to remain a consultant forever.
Mulligan’s dilemma came to a head at the end of 2019 when an associate connected her with Kathryn Blackwell, an expert in restaurant franchising, who was looking to join the cannabis industry.
Blackwell has more than three decades of experience in restaurant franchising and is the co-founder of Kahala Corp., an international franchisor that owns 12 brands, including Cold Stone Creamery and Taco Time, and more than 3,500 operating locations. Combining her franchising savvy with Mulligan’s expertise in cannabis, the duo in March 2020 formed Open Dør Dispensaries, a turnkey cannabis retail franchise.
“It is the perfect team to create a legacy and build long-term plans with,” Mulligan says.
Mulligan says Open Dør Dispensaries provides a modern cannabis retail model that takes the complexity out of cannabis for franchise dispensary owners, customers and investors. Despite the constraints from the ongoing pandemic, Mulligan and Blackwell were able to launch the business in December 2020 and anticipate the first official Open Dør Dispensaries to debut very soon.
“Having the opportunity to take 30 years of experience from one industry and bring it into a completely different industry, that has been a major shift for me and a really good one,” Blackwell says. “It’s something I am really proud of. Having true franchisees in the system, getting ready to open their locations and putting all of our SOPs and operations manuals to work, that’s going to be a milestone.”
Hitting that milestone is one of the main reasons that compelled Blackwell to join the industry in the first place. Blackwell, who is not a cannabis consumer, had her curiosity in the industry piqued years after the launch of several state-legal recreational marijuana markets.
“I was planning on making a stop at a dispensary and just literally Googled ‘marijuana’ and all these pins popped up,” Blackwell says. “There were couple that I drove by and didn’t even slow down.”
That was the moment Blackwell realized that she wasn’t aware of a brand that was indicative of quality in the cannabis industry and that there was a huge opportunity for a company that could create that sort of recognition.
Today, Blackwell and Mulligan are positioning Open Dør Dispensaries to be that company.
“I think the biggest milestone for me would be launching the first Open Dør location and creating a legacy for myself instead of helping other people create theirs,” Mulligan says.