Beth Thuna, managing member and CEO of the woman- and Latinx-owned HPC Dispensary in Port Hueneme, Calif., is keenly aware of the nurturing effect that her leadership has on her team.
“The whole ‘family feeling’ is very important,” Thuna says. “It’s also highly competitive out here. You’re working against the big boys. … Having this great team that is there to support you … helps to continue our growth as a female-owned brand.”
To help support her staff, which has rapidly grown from eight employees to 52 since its founding in 2017, Thuna puts in significant effort to make them feel appreciated.
While HPC Dispensary offers its employees health benefits, continuing education opportunities and also expanded its paid time off (PTO) offering in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic—Thuna stepped up this year to also offer cash bonuses to her team, including an extra $100 per week for the first eight weeks of the pandemic, as well as additional cash bonuses over the holiday to say thank you for toughing out this unprecedented year.
As an essential business, HPC Dispensary still sees as many as 500 to 700 customers on its busiest days. The high-volume traffic can create a stressful environment, especially with new capacity restrictions and other pandemic-related adjustments. Thuna is a firm believer that when her team is happy, customers see and appreciate that, too. Therefore, it’s always been important for Thuna to also create camaraderie through both individual employee recognition efforts as well as team-building activities.
Some of those efforts may be small—such as catering lunch for the team two times per month. Others are a bit outside the box. For example, every month HPC Dispensary conducts a high-end photoshoot with partner brands for use in marketing materials both in-store and on digital platforms. Instead of hiring models, HPC Dispensary budtenders get in front of the camera themselves. “They get paid as models with a totally separate model fee. We go to different locations, it’s a really fun, morale-boosting [activity],” Thuna says.
HPC Dispensary also has dedicated a “Zen Room”—which boasts comfy couches, dim lighting, coloring books, local art, and more—that employees are free to use (one at a time during the pandemic) whenever they feel a bit stressed out or have a tense customer interaction—even if it’s not during a scheduled break.
“We have a very talented staff, and many of them are musicians. One in particular brought his guitar—so any tools they need in order to help with their relaxation, they’re more than welcome to come in and bring them to the Zen Room,” Thuna adds.
Employees also band together for common causes within their Port Hueneme community. HPC Dispensary team members donate their time, as well as monetary contributions, to Hueneme Beach to help clean the coastline, as well as clean and re-stock the beach’s public restrooms. This year, the team also made 30 pet blankets to donate to a local animal hospital. HPC also partners with California nonprofit Love Earth WEC to evaluate their own practices to reduce their carbon footprint. They’re scored by the nonprofit based on the practices they already have in place and make efforts to improve that score. Recently, they’ve switched to compostable consumer exit bags and utensils in their kitchen.
Establishing this strong, family-oriented culture at HPC Dispensary’s first location is paramount to the company’s success. “Even during COVID, we still wanted to be a really fun, happy experience to shop. And I feel that we’ve achieved that even during these difficult times,” Thuna says. “We want to bring that environment to our future location, and with this management team we have here at this initial location, we know that our culture will extend to any other location we’re in.”