Since it launched in 2010, The Green Solution (TGS) has grown to include 17 locations in Colorado—the most recent of which opened in January in Pueblo. At each location, customers find a wide mix of flowers and concentrates, edibles and drinks, topicals and transdermals. But its more unique offerings—a retail concierge dedicated to every single shopper and a giveaway that awarded one lucky winner a new Jeep—keep customers coming back, says co-founder Kyle Speidell.
TGS shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to building its footprint and brand. “We don’t ever stop,” says co-founder Eric Speidell, who is also Kyle’s brother.
Eric and Kyle Speidell recently sat down with Cannabis Dispensary to delve into their company’s success, what the future holds, challenges Colorado dispensaries face, and more.
Cannabis Dispensary: Jan. 1 marked five years of adult sales in Colorado. Has the market met or exceeded your expectations from when you started your business?
Eric Speidell: I believe it exceeded our expectations. The recreational market took off very quickly and was the catalyst for our company to grow. We had two of the first 13 stores in Colorado day one (in 2014), and then we had a third store that opened the same month.
So, the first month we had three of the total stores out of all the recreational stores, and that really set the tone for our growth over the last five years in recreational markets.
CD: And how has the market missed your expectations or underperformed?
Kyle Speidell: We have such a lack of capital infusion to the industry that we’re essentially restricted in so many ways—Colorado was at the forefront of the industry. We’ve kind of been left behind where we could have been had we gotten more investment. So for us, I think that Colorado had a huge opportunity to really participate in that global industry. Not to say the state still can’t, but I think if investment would have happened two or three years ago, you would have seen probably the top 10 companies in the world for cannabis come out of Colorado. And I think we’ve lost that.
ES: We use the analogy that Colorado could have been the Silicon Valley of cannabis. And we lost that due to, I guess—in a very liberal state—a very conservative approach to the rollout. We were the true first social experiment of cannabis, particularly on a recreational level.
CD: Colorado is a really competitive market. How have you found so much success in applying for and winning a license?
KS: Applications are more of a work of art, to be honest with you. I think it’s something you have to prepare your mind for—it’s something you have to prepare a team for. The analogy is if you don’t have the right shoes, you’re not going to win the marathon. It’s just the way it is.
So, for us, when we embark on that journey, we always make sure that we’re laced up correctly. We understand exactly who the team is, and we use team members who understand the process and understand what we’re trying to accomplish. I think the strategy is one of preparation, but most importantly, I would also say it’s truly about your story. I mean, if you don’t understand your business—if you don’t understand what your objective is, if you don’t have a real business plan that’s actually laid out on paper that you can read yourself and understand—there’s no way you can articulate that to a government agency.
ES: We strive to ensure that the people around us are comfortable with our entrance to the community, and ensure that they’re a part of the communication upfront and not after the fact. The last thing we want to do is put up our store, put our sign up, and that’s the first time they figure out we’re there.
CD: How do you ensure each of your 17 locations has a menu that accurately represents and caters to its own customer base?
KS: We use our loyalty program, which is almost 100,000 members at this point. It’s free to sign up. We use people’s buying habits and try to tailor each store to that. But categorically, we use those trends to bring in more selection for certain products. For example, if a location likes concentrates more, we’ll try to broaden that selection.
We analyze retail clustering. We look at it store by store, look at similarities, and then we start clustering those as well. We start broadening the scope, as well as selection, and start using attributes of certain stores for others to see how they do or perform. And so, all that in conjunction is how we continuously change pricing and product selection, but still maintain the experience that we try to provide.
CD: Given cannabidiol’s (CBD) popularity spike, does The Green Solution have any plans to incorporate those products—carry more of them, or have a special section, for example?
ES: We’ve always been a firm believer in CBD and have incorporated it into many of our current products. Five years ago, we saw this CBD trend beginning, and actually made it one of our most predominant initiatives—to breed the strong genetics particularly for CBD.
We accomplished that. Our most famous strain currently is called Doctor Ruby. We started incorporating that into our grow facilities in 2014, which then led to a plethora of products rolling out with CBD in them in about 2016. And so, we continued to use that strain and a few others we breed as the catalyst for us to have true cannabis-derived CBD on our shelves.
“I attribute all our success to our staff. We have the top level, highest-grade staff members out there, and it’s because we believe we breed a culture that allows that to thrive.” Eric Speidell, Co-Founder, The Green Solution
CD: How are you training your budtenders and making sure they’re able to handle the influx of CBD questions?
KS: It’s really about getting the information to the retail associate, and we do that in a multitude of ways. The first is that we provide a robust new-hire orientation through our retail training—which is three days of nothing but education and testing.
But we also have something I believe is very unique to the industry, and that’s a learning management system (LMS), and that LMS is in every single store. So, there are kiosks that the retail associates utilize, and the kiosks provide a career path for them. The LMS incentivizes them to learn more.
Employee progress is benchmarked in rungs—rung one through six, and the sixth rung means you’re an expert. And each step is a test, and inside those tests include education and on-site training. We don’t believe that just forcing you to learn something is going to get you to learn it. If you’re incentivized to do so, it’s a huge opportunity to have a career with us, but most importantly, to make sure that you’re the most educated you could possibly be for your customer.
“If you don’t understand what your objective is, if you don’t have a real business plan that’s actually laid out on paper that you can read yourself and understand—there’s no way you can articulate that to a government agency.” Kyle Speidell, Co-Founder, The Green Solution
CD: Can you explain why you offer 30-day guarantees on your products?
KS: It’s as simple as this: It’s about customer satisfaction and standing behind your products. We’ve spent a lot of years perfecting them, so we stand by them—but most importantly, if there’s an issue with the product we want to know more about it to improve it, and we want to be sure that we are customer-centric and satisfy their needs.
A lot of times, people’s bodies are different, too. What we may recommend may just not work for you. And our opportunity there is to learn why, but also allow you to choose something different, or have a different experience. And that’s why our tagline is “experience cannabis,” because it’s about having a positive experience.
CD: You had a Marijuana Millions Giveaway on March 16. Can you discuss that promotion?
KS: The way that it works is: Customers who come in get a scratch ticket. But it also comes with every single purchase, if you so choose. When you scratch it off, you have the opportunity to see what’s underneath the hood—and prizes include anything from a free pack of papers to a free car.
We like to give back to our customers. It’s the way that the 30-day guarantee came about. We believe in the experience, and we believe in being the first of everything, and so this was a great opportunity to do that. Overall, it’s just been an exciting opportunity to try to do it in a time that is a little more difficult financially for people. You’re just coming off of Christmas. You haven’t gotten your tax checks yet. And so we get it. (Editor’s note: TGS gave away $1 million in prizes. A frequent TGS customer won the 2019 Jeep Wrangler on March 16.)
CD: What does the future hold for The Green Solution?
ES: We don’t ever stop. We’re preparing a year in advance, so anything you see happening in 2019 we’ve already shored up in 2018. We plan to open at least four more stores in 2019. All the licenses are already acquired, and they’re ready to be built out.
From the retail side, that’s really the footprint—and from the back-of-the-house side, we’re always trying to perfect our craft. We believe that one of the reasons why people come to us is because we offer such a diverse product mix. And it takes a plethora of infrastructure to be able to provide that—and that takes substantially more investment into all the different growing methods, as well as additional manufacturing capacities. So, we’ll see a little bit more growth on that side of the business.
Most people judge the size of companies by how many retail locations they have. I think what we do best is that we are just truly the most vertically integrated company probably in the state, and maybe in the nation. Not only do we provide the 150 different manufactured products that are unique to us, we grow in almost every type of methodology—from outdoor to indoor and greenhouse grows.
CD: What’s the biggest challenge of operating multiple locations—and what is something that you have found made the process easier?
KS: Consistency. To offer the exact same experience and brand promise. It’s the consistency in trying to replicate it over and over and over again in a retail chain that is very difficult. At this point, I hope other people try it, but just know that it’s difficult.
ES: I attribute all our success to our staff. We have the top level, highest-grade staff members out there, and it’s because we believe we breed a culture that allows that to thrive. And when we, as leaders, charge the hill, we know we have all these people behind us, and they’re all working equally as hard and understand the mission.