If anyone knows the ins and outs of building a successful retail cannabusiness in Minnesota, it's Josh Wilken-Simon, the owner of Legacy Glassworks. When Legacy expanded from Duluth and opened its second shop in Uptown Minneapolis, "people started lining up at 6 a.m. before the shop opened at 11 a.m. [and] the line to enter remained two hours long into the evening."
We sat down with Josh ahead of tomorrow's session of Blunt Strategy's Cannabusiness Strategy Series that he'll be leading for a quick Q&A.
BS: Tell us a little bit about your business and how you started.
JWS: I started my business in 2009 while attending Hamline University. My talented cousin was being exploited by a wholesale studio and struggling to make living and I decided to invest a small amount of money to buy some of his glass pipes at wholesale. At first, it seemed like a good way to make a few extra bucks in the summer, but, after taking my cousin's hand-blown pipes to the first music festival, I immediately knew I was going to start a business. For the first summer, I traveled the country going to music festivals and selling pipes campsite-to-campsite. Everyone was incredible receptive to hear the pieces were made by my family. The quality and prices also spoke for themselves. After the summer, I was in my senior year at Hamline and had saved enough from festivals to buy all the equipment to open our own glassblowing studio for my cousin to work in. After a year of selling his glass to shops around the state, I graduated and began my statewide search for my retail location. After opening small shop in Duluth in 2010, I invested every penny into expansion and nine years later I have two large successful galleries. What sets Legacy Glassworks apart is that we are the only store in the state of Minnesota selling pipes that has never sold any imported Chinese/Indian glass. We know all our artists personally.
BS: What is your advice when searching for a retail space?
JWS: When they say location is everything, they are not kidding. One mistake I have often seen is rushing the process. Take your time, make a huge spreadsheet, and don't rely on just internet searching.
BS: What are three things you wish you would have known before opening?
JWS: 1) The importance of high-quality (and sometimes expensive) professional help: accountant, lawyers and experts.2) Markets shift and change in every industry.3) Insurance will try to find loopholes to not cover any claims.
BS: How can you stand out in cannabis retail as the market grows?
JWS: Provide an experience not just an exchange of money for goods. Staff is always going to be customers' first and most important interaction with your business. Invest in them, and spend the time and money training them properly. Pick a theme and competitive advantage and stick to it. Don't try to have the biggest selection and the cheapest prices and the best location and the biggest sales and the most locations and the most events and the biggest advertising footprint.
BS: What are some ways you see retail changing as cannabis industry continues to grow in Minnesota?
JWS: Retail in general has taken a dramatic shift since Amazon and eCommerce has pushed out many brick and mortar stores. However, the cannabis industry has been somewhat immune to this shift. Expect retail space to continue a downward trend in rent due to high vacancies; however, be wary of building owners trying to take advantage of new cannabusinesses. Watch closely how and if delivery is allowed or regulated. Expect that dispensaries will be as common as liquor stores and related businesses will be just as prevalent.
There is still time to register for tomorrow's Cannabusiness Strategy Session to hear Josh share more details about the ins and outs of retail success.
Whether you're considering your own retail space, already run a retail space, display products in a retail space, or just want to learn more about what it takes to achieve success as a cannabusiness with a storefront, you won't want to miss this strategy series event.
Josh will cover topics including: finding a location, branding, employee structure, insurance, the importance of professional help, advertising, and more. Join us!
Please arrive a little before noon to grab lunch and get situated. Our program will begin at 12.
Tuesday, September 17 12-1pm
43 SE Main St Conference Room 145 Minneapolis, MN 55414