Editor's Note: Dragonfly Wellness was also honored in the 2021 Best Cannabis Companies to Work For - Cultivation program.
Dragonfly Wellness, a vertically integrated cannabis operator based in Salt Lake City, Utah, maintains a community-first culture, and community engagement plays a pivotal role in its retail operations.
The company operates 50,000 square feet of cultivation space in Moroni, Utah, as well as a retail pharmacy in Salt Lake City. To connect with its patients, Dragonfly Wellness aims to hire medical cannabis patients to work in its store, so they can share personal experiences and knowledge with customers.
“We have moms that have recovered from cancer that work at our pharmacy,” Chief Strategy Officer Narith Panh tells Cannabis Dispensary. “We have dads that have kids that suffer from conditions. … It’s just this real hodge podge of different perspectives and different people, but we can all come together and share one common goal and one common purpose to be a part of a community where you don’t have to hide using cannabis.”
All photos courtesy of Dragonfly Wellness
Dragonfly Wellness has a retail pharmacy in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a cultivation facility in Moroni.
Dragonfly Wellness is locally owned and operated and is also a minority- and female-led company, which Panh says helps drive decision-making within the organization.
“The ones who are most disadvantaged by cannabis and people of color are the ones being left out, looking in,” Panh says. “I think that’s something that’s incredibly powerful and unique about our organization. Being minority-led and female-led provides a very different sense of business, a different sense of compassion in business, that I think lacks in typical American business.”
Dragonfly Wellness’ CEO, Hoang Nguyen, is from Vietnam, but has lived with her family in Utah for the past 30 years.
Panh is a minority owner in the company and a Utah native, as well, although his family initially came to America as Cambodian refugees. When he was just 22 years old, Panh was diagnosed with a bulging disc, which caused him to suffer chronic back pain. Panh turned to a healthy, holistic lifestyle, including yoga and cannabis, to manage the pain, and later recommended cannabis as a treatment for his younger brother after he was struck by a car.
Dragonfly Wellness looks for passionate employees to work in its pharmacy, and Panh says the staff strives to not only sell cannabis, but to also empower the local community to make better choices about healthcare.
“[The] people that are working there are actual patients, and patients that are very engaged in the community,” Panh says. “They’re the ones that are advising and consulting and recommending different types of products for people. … [The] staff that we bring on board is very open and willing to try new products, even if it’s something they traditionally haven’t. … We’re patient-first, so that drives our patient experience. We’re not in there to create a retail experience and push customers through and get to the next one in line. We really take the time and dedication to make sure every patient walks out of there feeling confident about the products that they have.”
The company, which also ranked on Cannabis Business Times’ 2021 Best Cannabis Companies to Work For – Cultivation list, strives to operate as a family, Panh says, and emphasizes that no one role is more important than another.
Dragonfly Wellness executives lead by example, participating in community outreach projects and working alongside employees in the pharmacy.
“The first six months of our pharmacy operations, I was behind a counter every single day, six days a week, from open to close,” Panh says.
Dragonfly Wellness offers all employees a monthly stipend to allow them to purchase their allotted amount of medical cannabis, which is 113 grams of unprocessed flower in a 28-day period. While Dragonfly Wellness currently does not offer traditional health insurance coverage, it is in the process of vetting different insurance program options now that it is a larger company and can qualify for employer-sponsored health programs.
The company also provides cannabis education materials to its patients and employees. Patient-facing education is developed in-house by Dragonfly Wellness’ staff members, and includes videos, articles and blog posts that cover everything from how to identify high-quality flower to how to use vape pens and concentrates.
“We encourage all our staff to get engaged, whether it’s being involved in content creation, writing essays and articles, writing blogs, getting involved in our social media—all of that is providing opportunities for our employees to grow,” Panh says.
Dragonfly Wellness' drive-thru keeps staff and patients safe.
Dragonfly Wellness is currently developing an internal, employee-facing e-learning platform called Dragonfly University that will cover best practices for the entire cannabis supply chain, from cultivation to processing to retail.
The company has also worked to protect its employees during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, especially at the onset of the crisis last March, when Utah’s cannabis businesses were declared “essential” and allowed to remain open during coronavirus-related shutdowns.
“Early on, it was a little bit scary for our team because they had to be on the frontlines,” Panh says. “We didn’t know anything about COVID at the time. Obviously, as leaders, the best we can do is give confidence in our team that leadership was making the right decisions or following the right guidance, leading by example.”
And despite the pandemic, Utah is seeing steady patient growth in its medical cannabis program, Panh says, with roughly 18,000 patients enrolled since the program launched in March 2020. While increased demand continues to put pressure on the state’s supply chain, Panh says cultivators are starting to catch up with increased production and more pharmacies are slated to open in the first quarter of 2021.
“Here in Q1 this year, we expect seven more pharmacies to open their doors, so that’s going to spread that reach even more, spread more awareness, so we certainly expect patient growth to continue at the rate it’s going,” Panh says. “By the end of next year, we should easily be at 40,000 to 50,000 patients, no problem.”
Dragonfly Wellness aims to meet the ever-increasing demand with engaged employees who are invested in giving back to their local community. The company hosts community clean-up events and supports local non-profit organizations and community outreach programs, including the Geraldine E. King Women’s Center, a homeless shelter that provides services for women. Dragonfly Wellness provides the shelter with stipends so clients can participate in the company’s community clean-up events, which Panh says has an “incredibly powerful” impact.
“We’re empowering them by giving them the opportunity to work, earn their own money, and be able to then go and buy something,” he says. “For them to be able to do that for themselves is incredibly powerful, and it helps change people’s lives."