Purpose underlies Simply Pure’s expansion into the business model that is synonymous with company names like McDonald’s and Taco Bell.
“Simply Pure will continue as being a dispensary model that we’ll be looking at franchising across the U.S. and working with social equity partners to be able to give them a turnkey operation,” said Wanda James, Simply Pure’s CEO and owner.
It’s all part of an effort to welcome people of color, women and veterans into the industry as owners and support their success, said James, who herself is Black, a woman and a former Naval Intelligence officer. More than 10 years ago, James founded the Denver-based cannabusiness with her husband, chef and restaurateur Scott Durrah. It has since grown into a formidable operation with cultivation, dispensary and manufacturing verticals.
Just as McDonald’s has been able to provide an existing business structure, products and brands that franchisees use for their stores—and in turn, create generational wealth—James said the goal with Simply Pure’s franchise model is the same.
Tentative locations include California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Texas, she said.
James is focused on making Simply Pure a valuable resource for its franchisees, not one that will tell them to sink or swim.
“I’m using the phrase that we want to be the ‘dolphins’ in every deal out there with our partners,” James said. “For so many years, people have talked about [how] they're ‘sharks.’ … It always kind of works out negatively. I've sat down with my team, and I said, 'I want us to go out there and find deals and partnerships in which we are the best possible partners, and we’re going to give everybody the opportunity that’s working with us the best opportunity to succeed.’”
A Brand Supporting Causes
In another effort to address social justice, Simply Pure will also launch a cannabis brand, BCause. Five percent of funds raised from the brand will go toward Black causes, such as helping people of color attend law school and assisting with the release of inmates who have been imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses.
The “B” in the name calls attention to Black causes, James said, stating, “BCause is about putting Black before causes.”
“Hopefully, with BCause, as we go into different states, we’ll be using growers of color, manufacturing facilities of people who meet the DEI standards,” James said. “In some places, we may do it ourselves.”
Business’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices that Simply Pure will evaluate include the composition of their boards and the clients with whom they work. “I believe it is becoming very clear what companies are focused on ensuring DEI,” James said. “Sadly, the ones that are not are also easily recognized. The change to focus on DEI usually happens after an embarrassing call out on social media or losing a large client.”
She points out how companies that focus on DEI often have higher profitability, adding, “It is nice seeing Black talent in demand.”
As a sign of its recent success, James said Simply Pure’s dispensary will log a 50% increase in sales for 2020 compared to 2019.
“The reason for that—and I had asked my staff [to ask] anyone that's had a chance to come to Simply Pure … ‘How did you find us? What brought you in today?'” James said. “Overwhelmingly, the response has been that 'We want to support a Black-owned business that’s doing good while doing well.’ We’re thrilled to see people coming back around to support us because we’re Black-owned. But then people are staying with us because we run a great business.”
As a whole, Colorado’s total retail cannabis sales totaled $1.7 million in 2019, and $2 million between January and November of 2020, according to the state’s Department of Revenue.
Political and Financial Developments
Over the years, James has drawn upon experiences she’s had in politics to legalize and regulate cannabis and support social justice in and around the space.
She served on Colorado’s Amendment 64 adult-use legalization campaign committee about a decade ago. “After legalization, I worked on several of [Former] Gov. [John] Hickenlooper’s cannabis workgroups for edibles, packaging, dispensary operations, and communications within Colorado. I’ve also worked on reform, regulation, and policy in Jamaica, Maryland, and California.”
Furthermore, Simply Pure supports National Expungement Week and has been working with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on social equity. “He just announced that Colorado will [request] $5 million to fund the program,” James said, “That is something we are very proud of.”
Nationally, she said she sees hope for legalization under the Biden-Harris administration.
On the finance side, Simply Pure is working on an equity raise with Arcview Capital and Spur Bridges to support its growth. “We've just put out our raise right now, so we’re looking forward to moving forward with that,” James said last week.
She said the franchise model is needed because people looking to enter the industry require support.
“One of the things that I spoke about with our team is, when we started this 10 years ago, or more than a decade ago, my husband and I, Scott, believed that running a good business is all that you needed to do,” James said.
“But now what we're finding is that it takes so much more in the cannabis space to be successful. That’s why this is needed at this time, because jumping into this industry is amazingly difficult, not just for social equity folks or first-time business owners, but seasoned entrepreneurs such as myself and my husband.”