Congratulations! If you’ve dreamed about owning your own marijuana dispensary, you’re looking at quite a lucrative niche. Opening a dispensary is a lot of hard work, and it requires keeping up with the ever-changing marijuana laws on both state and federal levels.
I’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to start a dispensary using the lean startup method so that you don’t waste your time and money. This business startup method was introduced by an author named Eric Reis and he later published the 2011 book, The Lean Startup Method, in which he further explained the method.
Before I teach you all about the lean startup method and opening a dispensary, I’m going to describe the traditional business startup method and explain why it doesn’t work.
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The traditional flawed business startup process
Usually when you find instructions for the traditional business startup method, they look something like this:
- Identify a passion or skill set you can cash in on (in this case, I’m guessing it’s cannabis).
- Write a marijuana dispensary business plan.
- Fund your business.
- Choose a location for your business.
- Choose a structure for your business.
- Decide on a business name.
- Form your business formally: register your business, get tax IDs for your business, apply for business licenses and permits, and open a business bank account.
- Ultimately fail because this method is flawed.
You can see why many business owners see this business method and think it looks like an effective and logical way to start a business. (Well, until you get to number eight.) This startup method makes it appear as though having a formalgood business plan, funding, and a good location, you won’t need to put much work into your business for it to be successful and the profits will just flow in.
This plan and its advertised outcomes may sound nice, but the reality of opening a dispensary is quite different.
You can follow all the steps to the traditional business startup method and your business could still fail. In fact, four out of five businesses that were started using the traditional startup method end up failing within their first year of business.
These failed businesses don’t fail because their owners were lazy or unambitious. Instead, they failed because they were built on shaky foundations due to the fact that the traditional business startup method makes three flawed assumptions.
Assumption 1: You have deep and intimate knowledge of your market.
If you’re here to learn how to start a dispensary, you’re probably not an expert on the cannabis industry. You may not know important facets of opening a dispensary such as trends in cannabis retail, state and federal marijuana laws, the application process, or how to obtain a license to sell medical marijuana.
As a new dispensary business, you’re not likely to have the kind of knowledge about the marijuana industry that the traditional business startup method assumes you have. If you support both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana use, you’re probably familiar with various cannabis products, but that’s not the only thing you need to know to open a dispensary.
The first flawed assumption that the traditional business method makes is that you have intimate knowledge of the marijuana industry—knowledge that you simply don’t have when you open a dispensary. The type of knowledge that the traditional method assumes you have can actually take decades of experience in the cannabis industry. Therefore, believing that you know it all automatically when you open a dispensary is a deeply flawed assumption.
When you open a dispensary using the lean startup method, however, you gain knowledge and experience in the cannabis industry while you’re running your dispensary. This is easier than opening a business using the traditional startup method because you don’t have to simultaneously learn about the industry while also running your business, which means it has a better chance of succeeding because you aren’t as strained.
Assumption 2: Your needs and wants are more important than your customers’ needs and wants.
The main goal of any business is to make money. But if you aren’t willing to listen to your customer’s wants and needs, your business won’t survive for long.
The traditional startup method encourages you to think about the reasons YOU want to own a marijuana dispensary. This plan doesn’t bother to consider the cannabis needs of your customers, or even why they would buy cannabis products from your marijuana dispensary.
Without feedback from your clients about your dispensary, your advertisements will come off a bit like “Please buy cannabis from me.” This is obviously not an effective advertising method and could even affect your business’s image.
When you use the lean startup method to open a dispensary you’ll learn about other dispensaries in the area, your potential clients, and what they want from a cannabis dispensary. Is it hard for people to get to a marijuana dispensary because there aren’t any in your area? Do other dispensaries not carry cannabis products that consumers want (like gummies or vape cartridges)? Do customers want certain strains of medical marijuana?
The second flawed assumption that the traditional startup method makes is that the wishes of business owners outweigh the needs of consumers.
When you use the lean startup method to open a dispensary, asking clients what they think about other dispensaries and what they want to see from your cannabis dispensary is encouraged. There are less financial risks with this method because you won’t need to sink loads of money into a marijuana dispensary before you know whether it will succeed or not. The feedback you obtain from potential clients is highly beneficial because it will be the basis of your dispensary business and influence your inventory decisions based on your customer’s needs.
Assumption 3: You have unlimited cash to burn.
If money were an infinitely renewable resource, it would potentially solve many problems worldwide, but alas this is not the case. Because of this, entrepreneurs and investors spending money willy-nilly is not a good model for maintaining wealth. You’ll have to take some financial risks as a business owner, but your business won’t make money if you’re wasting it.
Opening a dispensary means selling cannabis products such as vapes,Delta 9,CBD gummies, and vape cartridges at first (federal law doesn’t prohibit selling Delta 9 or CBD), which is probably a far cry from the cannabis dispensary wonderland that fueled your dream of becoming a dispensary owner.
If you were to start a dispensary using the traditional startup method, you would jump straight into opening a big medical marijuana dispensary and activities like creating a diverse inventory, following state regulations about cannabis, obtaining a license to own a dispensary, meeting state and federal compliance requirements, and learning tons of different laws about medical marijuana usage—all without knowing which business strategies work for your dispensary. The traditional startup method assumes that you have the funding and experience to run a large-scale cannabis dispensary, have done the necessary networking to make contacts in the cannabis industry, and can immediately open your dispensary and start making a profit.
It can cost between $150,000 to $2 million to start a dispensary. That’s a lot of money and since the average person can’t afford to replace that much if their business fails, I’m betting that it would be a devastating blow to your finances as well.
When you use the lean startup method to start a dispensary, you can start your business in smaller increments while making important connections in the cannabis industry, learning about other dispensaries in the area, and making money before you take any significant financial risks.
If you’d rather own a dispensary that thrives and grows rather than becoming one of the four out of five businesses that fail using the traditional startup method, then the lean startup method is a better choice for you.
What is the lean startup method?
The lean startup method is made up of three core ideals: build, measure, and learn.
When you start a new dispensary using the lean startup method, you’ll experiment with various product ideas and ways to improve your services. An important aspect of the lean startup method involves using the cheapest, most efficient methods to sell your products. You start gaining experience in the marijuana industry immediately, but you do so more gradually than with the traditional startup method. The lean startup method is the more suitable startup method of the two because the traditional method essentially dooms your business to failure by requiring you to create and adhere to a business plan before you fully understand how to run your dispensary successfully.
The first phase is the build phase. During this phase you’ll go talk to local people to ask what problems they have with other dispensaries, identify a problem you can solve, and then develop a solution to the problem that meets the needs of your customer base. Are there not enough dispensaries in your area? Do people want a variety of different cannabis products or strains? Are local people uninformed about the legal methods of obtaining medical marijuana?
The second phase is the measure or test phase. You actually test the solution you developed during the build phase. This will give you important information about whether your solution will work for your marijuana business. Do people like the products you’re selling? Do people like the recommendations you’ve made for them? Have you made a profit selling cannabis products? What is your best-selling product?
The last phase is the learn phase. This phase provides you with important information about how satisfied your customer base is with your products, services, and the overall consumer experience of your marijuana business. How do people feel about the quality of the cannabis you’re selling? Do they like your vape cartridges, gummies. or cannabis flower more? How does your dispensary compare to other dispensaries in the area? If one of your ideas or products fails, you can abandon it before spending more time and money on something that isn’t working. Being able to focus on profitable and effective products and services will lead to a more successful marijuana business for you.
Why use the lean startup method?
Would you buy a product if you knew it had an 80% chance of failing within a year? It sounds silly when it’s asked that way, but that’s the reality of starting a business with the traditional startup method. Four out of every five businesses that start with the traditional method will fail during their first year.
When you start a dispensary using the traditional startup method, you take significant financial risks. You don’t conduct market research or learn about the industry, you simply dive right in and hope it works. But as a dispensary owner who used the lean startup method to start your business, you’ll constantly test different ideas and services to your clients with products that meet their cannabis needs based on their feedback. When you start a dispensary using the lean startup method, your business has an automatic advantage over cannabis businesses that use the traditional startup method. This is in part due to the fact that you’ll create a community for your marijuana business that will eventually make up your customer base.
When you use the lean startup method, your startup costs are minimal compared to the costs you have to pay if you use the traditional startup method instead. This is because the traditional method assumes that you have enough funding to cover high startup costs on your own. The lean startup method allows you to learn about the cannabis industry and run your marijuana business successfully. Without the added stress of taking unnecessary financial risks, your marijuana business has a better chance of surviving well beyond its first year.
How can I tell you so confidently that the lean startup method will give your cannabis dispensary a better shot at success than using the traditional startup method? That’s easy. I’ve started five different businesses during the past eight years using the lean startup method. I was successful at selling three of these businesses, and I’m still running the two others to this day. I’ve helped thousands of people start successful businesses, and I can help you start your cannabis dispensary, too!
How do you use the lean startup method to start your cannabis dispensary?
When starting a new business, I always use the core ideals of the lean startup method: build, measure, and learn. The lean startup method will cut the startup costs of your cannabis business and ensure that it has solid business foundations and that you have all the tools and experience necessary to run a successful cannabis dispensary. This is a better option than the high startup costs and shaky business foundations that the traditional startup method provides.
The first phase, the build phase, is where you’ll create a plan and start building your cannabis business. You do this by identifying a problem that community members have with other local dispensaries and within the industry, creating a community for your cannabis business, identifying an opportunity to provide a solution, and developing a solution.
This phase is important because it gives you a way to find out whether the ideas you have about your dispensary are good, and if your solutions satisfy your community’s needs. The goal of the build phase is to create a solid business foundation for your dispensary and ensure that you have the knowledge and tools you need to succeed in the cannabis industry.
Step 1: Identify a problem
The first thing you need to do is identify a problem that many people have, which you think you can solve.
Unfortunately, you can’t jump right into selling cannabis products and hoping that people buy them because that isn’t an effective business model. There are lots of new businesses in the cannabis retail industry and people won’t just throw money at every new small business that pops up. A more effective business strategy is to present consumers with a compelling reason to buy your products.
Finding that compelling reason can be tricky.
First you need to discover a “pain point,” which is a business term used to describe a problem that many people have that causes them enough pain or distress that they seek a solution to it. Typically people will either devise a solution themselves or pay someone else to provide them with a solution. You want your dispensary to be that solution.
But you can’t just mirror other local dispensaries’ sales tactics and products. Instead, you need to identify a need that local people have that can be solved by your cannabis dispensary specifically. Are people in your area looking for a marijuana business or medical marijuana dispensary only to find that there isn’t one for miles? Are there a lot of dispensaries in the area who all adopt the same stale sales tactics?
Take a vested interest in the concerns that local cannabis consumers express. Their wants and needs and the information they provide you with will greatly benefit your marijuana business in its infancy. Do other dispensaries neglect to inform people about various creative ways to use cannabis to treat various ailments? Would people like to see more variety in the products and cannabis strains sold at dispensaries? Do people want to see a dispensary with a less sterile, stiff environment and more of the fun of an old-school head shop? Do people want Delta 9 THC and CBD products?
Once you’ve talked to several people, some common problems should become evident, and you can include questions about them in future surveys. Ask about how much these problems affect consumers. Asking about other dispensaries will give you some knowledge about the cannabis industry, people’s satisfaction levels with other dispensaries, the types of cannabis that are currently popular in your area, some of the ways people are using cannabis medicinally, and the types of services that people expect from a new dispensary. From this information you can choose a problem you want to attempt to solve.
How do you choose which problem to focus on?
There’s no cut and dry method in the lean startup method for choosing the problem you want to address. However, these three recommendations should make choosing your problem easier:
- Choose a problem that a lot of people have in common. Are there not enough dispensaries in the area? Do they not sell the strains that people want to see? Do people want more CBD options that they can take and still be productive?
- Choose a problem that is a “pain point.” You don’t want to solve a problem that no one cares about. The more distress that a problem is causing people, the better a choice it is for your marijuana business. Do people want cannabis products that won’t show up on drug tests? Do they want more edible or vape options?
- Choose a problem that you can feasibly solve. If people want more unique cannabis strains that are bred in-house by dispensaries and you have no experience with crossbreeding cannabis strains, this isn’t a problem you can easily solve. However, you can offer new strains each month to change up your inventory and menu a bit.
The main goal of this step is to choose a problem that affects many people, causes pain or difficulty in their lives, and that they desperately want a solution to—bad enough that they’ll pay for it.
Step 2: Build a community
The next step is to build a community for your marijuana business. Members of this community should be made up of people affected by the problem identified in the first step. Luckily, our technology-driven culture makes creating an online community quite easy. Social media is a great resource to turn to. Create a Facebook group, a Reddit forum, or an Instagram page. When you complete this step you will have created a community full of people who are affected by the problem you’ve identified, are therefore interested in solutions to that problem, and become a pool of potential customers. While building your community you’ll also work on developing the brand and sales tactics of your new cannabis dispensary and conduct important market research. All this research and work would take three steps to complete if you were using the traditional startup method, but with the lean startup method you can complete them in one simple step.
While online communities are great, it’s a good idea to have diverse community options for your dispensary, so build an offline community too. You can do this by creating a club or meetup group that has regularly scheduled meetings. Offline communities have their own advantages when you compare them to online communities, such as more intimate face-to-face interactions with community members and live feedback in real time. Interacting with community members in an offline environment can make customers feel closer to you, giving them a more favorable opinion of your new cannabis business.
Another thing to consider during this step is visiting local business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, to find out about the various benefits they can provide your small business.
Reasons to build a community:
- You can learn more about the problem you identified in the first step and gain an understanding about how deeply it affects members of your community.
- It provides you with a medium to start developing the brand and advertisement strategies of your small business, and allows you to test them on potential customers.
- You have a customer base that has already been prepared before you open your dispensary. This means you have an advantage over business owners who choose the traditional startup method to open their business and then have to raise a customer base from scratch.
- By creating a community for your dispensary, you create an opportunity to obtain funding for your cannabis business before it’s officially open.
How to build a community:
- Create a Facebook group and grow it by discussing topics that interest cannabis users and enthusiasts, different strains, sharing different pipes or trays that people create, and even cannabis-related memes. As you post more content, comment, partake in discussions, and interact with your community, you’ll notice that it will steadily grow.
- Create Twitter polls for people to interact with. People love interactive content and allowing consumers to voice their opinions is a good way to gain followers while also creating excitement about your small business.
- Post pictures from various cannabis events, such as the High Times Cannabis Cup, and post them to your social media accounts.
- Network using social media platforms. Reach out to owners of other cannabis dispensaries, small business owners, marijuana activists, and local officials because you can use these relationships to benefit your dispensary. These relationships can provide you with valuable information about the cannabis industry, like federal law regarding cannabis, the dispensary license application process, state law, state compliance regulations, permits you need to acquire, and more.
Creating an online community for your cannabis business gives people a place to voice their opinions and provide you with feedback. The best thing about this as a business owner is that people will freely give you this information. They’ll tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly about other businesses, as well as your own. They’ll tell you all about the types of cannabis they’re currently purchasing, how much other dispensaries charge, how satisfied customers are with other dispensaries, and what they’d like to see from a new dispensary. This endless amount of important information is why it’s important to complete this step.
Building a community is also important because it provides you with free advertisement for your dispensary. Your community members will interact with your posts, and the more they do, the more visible it will become, growing both your community and awareness about your dispensary. When word gets out that you use customer feedback to improve your products and services and actively interact with your community, people will flock to join it because of your brand reputation.
Step 3: Identify a Solution Opportunity
Unfortunately, identifying a problem isn’t enough to solve it. So the next step is to determine how you can solve the problem you’ve identified.
During the course of your market research and community building, ask people questions about the dispensaries they’re already using, their favorite products from other dispensaries, the advertisements that your competitors use, and how satisfied they are with the cannabis and the service other dispensaries provide. Your community is a great place to ask these questions and start thinking about possible solutions.
Some questions you should ask include the sales and promotional tactics of other dispensaries, various types of cannabis that they sell, if they’ve visited their dispensary’s website, what sort of information was available on the website, and if they could easily make online purchases from the website to pick up at the store.
Learning about the sales tactics of other businesses, the types of products that customers want to buy and how they’re using them, and about their ideal dispensary will help you shape your business. This information will help you brainstorm and identify a solution to the problem you’ve chosen to solve.
Step 4: Develop a solution
The next step is to develop a solution that your store can provide. This could take some time and creativity because the ideal solution will be one that satisfies your community’s needs and that they like enough to pay for.
How to develop your solution:
- Think about possible solutions that your store can provide. If people have voiced complaints about dispensaries not offering enough of one type of product, that’s the first product you should add to your inventory. If they’d like a dispensary with employees that are knowledgeable about the products and easy to talk with, that should become part of your brand.
- Ask for feedback about your solution ideas. Your solution needs to meet the needs of your community, so how they feel about it is more important than whether you think it’s a good idea. Your solution should ideally be something that your potential customer base is in favor of, and you must find something that the majority of your community agrees will adequately solve their problems. This is a good time to talk to other dispensary owners to find out whether your solution idea is feasible.
- Create and develop your MVP, or Minimum Viable Product. This is the product or service that costs the least, is most easily produced, and will provide your store with the most profit.
The best solution will solve your community’s problems, will have minimal production costs, and will be easy to deliver to customers. The creation and development of an MVP for your store means that your products and services won’t cost much to produce, and because of the financial strain this eliminates, your dispensary is more likely to succeed through its first year and beyond.
The next phase is the measure phase. What I mean by “measure” is scientific measurement. So you can think “experiment” or “test” rather than grabbing a measuring tape. During this phase you’ll perform many tests to find out whether your solution is viable.
Step 5: Test your MVP
Once you’ve come up with a solution, determined that your community is happy with it, and created your MVP, it’s time to test it out. Experimentation is a major part of the lean startup method, so you’ll run a lot of tests for your dispensary over the years.
There are a lot of factors to consider when creating your MVP, such as state and federal regulations, licenses and permits you may need to obtain to set up booths or stalls, and whether cannabis for recreational use is legal in your state. But one of the great aspects of the lean startup method is that if you choose an MVP that doesn’t work out, you can always go back to the drawing board and start the process over again to find one that does.
It may seem backward to test your MVP before you seek funding for your store, but it actually makes sense from a financial standpoint. If a financial institution were to be given two separate candidates for funding and one had already done thorough market research, created a community of potential customers, and proved that its products would sell, while the other just had a dream and a hunch that it would succeed, which would you choose to back? Most financial institutions would award the funding to the business that has been tested.
The prospect of testing your MVP may seem scary, but it’s actually quite easy, can help get the word out about your business, and is an important part of the lean startup method.
There are a couple of ways to test the MVP of a cannabis-based business. Because you don’t have a license to open a dispensary, it’s not legal for you to hand out free samples of marijuana and the federal government would likely have a field day with that. But Delta 9 THC and CBD are both perfectly legal. There aren’t regulations barring businesses from selling them, and you can find them in many retail stores, gas stations, and head shops. The easiest and most cost-efficient way to test your product is to hand out samples of CBD or Delta 9 THC gummies. (Pro tip: Cut the THC gummies into quarters so that people get just enough to get a pleasant feeling without being overwhelmed.) And check IDs because it’s against the federal law to give either THC or CBD to minors.
To do this, you need to find a good location where people will be interested in your products. This is going to be tricky in some areas. You don’t want to set up a stand with free THC gummies outside a school or church, for instance. But you can set up a stand at farmer’s markets, flea markets, local events and festivals, or at concerts and live music shows.
Ask customers questions about your products and service. Are they happy with the overall experience? Do they like the taste of the gummies? What’s their favorite flavor? If you chose THC gummies, are people comfortable with the dosage? Would they come back and buy more?
You can tell if this step was a success if many people give rave reviews about your products and say they would come back. It didn’t go well if you had few takers because, let’s face it, if you’re handing out free cannabis products there should definitely be a crowd around your stand buzzing with excitement.
Step 6: Sell your MVP
Now you’ve tested your MVP and learned a little about your market, so it’s time to sell your MVP. Using the lean startup method to start selling your MVP is less exciting than your fantasies of owning a dispensary, however.
This is the last step before you get feedback about your product and then seek funding for your store, so it’s a crucial step and you want to get it right. Completing this step means that your dispensary will have an automatic leg up on dispensaries started using the traditional startup method. This step will prove that you can sell your products, that your business is successful, and that you deserve funding to expand to a store.
Of course, because you don’t have a license to sell marijuana products yet, selling your MVP will look a bit different, but it’s still quite doable. You can start by selling Delta 9 THC and CBD gummies, vape cartridges, and vapes. Just as in the testing phase, choose a good location to set up a stand or table. You could sell your products at various local events, fairs, music venues, live concerts, and more. There are lots of places where cannabis products will be appreciated. You could even set up a stand to sell your products if you find a good enough location. A stationary location and daily sales will gain you loads of loyal clients. Of course, check IDs because federal law prohibits selling cannabis products to minors. And you’ll want to choose a location that isn’t close to schools, playgrounds, or other places where children could be exposed to your products.
Selling your MVP allows you to learn about what works for your business, develop your marketing strategy, learn about the laws and regulations of your state, and gain faithful customers that love your brand.
The last of the core ideals of the lean startup process is learn. After you build your business idea and measure it to see if it’s an effective option, you must get feedback to find out how people feel about your solution. With this feedback you can improve on the services you provide and grow your business in a way that customers will like.
Step 7: Get feedback on your product idea
By the time you get to this step, you’ve already created and interacted with a community and customer base for your dispensary, identified a problem that affects your community, provided a solution to the problems people in your community face, and developed, tested and sold your MVP. Going through this process means that you know which marketing strategies work best for your business, and approximately how much money you can make with your business. The next step is to get feedback on your product idea. Here is how you can use feedback from your community to learn and achieve business success:
- Ask your community members questions to find out which products they like the best, what they like about your products, how they compare to your competitors, and what they would like to see more of.
- Give close and thoughtful attention to customer feedback. Do your clients have an enjoyable sales experience with you? Do they like the flavors of your products? Are your products strong enough (or too strong)? What is your most popular product? What is the one thing that is repeatedly suggested in comments on your website?
- Use the feedback that your community gives you to improve different areas of your business. Over time, doing so will ensure that your business is tailor-made for your customers, which means they’ll be more satisfied with your products and services.
You can get much of this information from social media. Start by creating polls on various social media platforms or create a survey for your website or landing page. Read online customer reviews about your business, as well, because they’re often full of information about how you can improve your products and services.
Once you’ve gathered feedback and read through it all, and you feel you have an understanding about what your clients want, it’s time to make feedback-inspired changes to your business. When you make changes to your products and services at the behest of your community, your clients will be happier, and happy clients lead to more overall business success.
Pay attention to the new marketing strategies, sales, and promotions offered by other dispensaries and cannabis retail stores. Each new sale and drastic change in marketing strategy is an attempt by your competitors to solve problems your community has voiced. If these attempts fail, you’ll know to steer clear of them. But successful attempts indicate that you should use similar tactics.
This research and the feedback that you gain from your community will help you to grow and expand your business. It will help you compete with other cannabis retail businesses, as well, which is massively beneficial to the overall success of your business.
So, you’ve proven that you can successfully run a cannabis retail business, done research, and obtained customer feedback to improve your products and services, all of which will make your business more successful in the future. Now is the time to consider expanding your business from a cannabis retail business to a dispensary or store. This means it’s time to start the application process to get a license to own a dispensary, getting other necessary licenses and permits, and following state laws and regulations to get the store of your dreams. All the experience you’ve acquired from completing the lean startup method process should make drafting a good business plan, choosing a business name, and obtaining funding from a financial institution a breeze.
You still have a lot of work to do once you get the funds you need to start your dream dispensary.
Because you’ll need to hire employees, you need to obtain an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, from the IRS. It’s also a good idea to open a business bank account for your dispensary.
It’s important that you decide on a business structure for your dispensary. There are many options, such as partnerships and sole proprietorships, so don’t make this decision lightly. For more information about forming an LLC, which could help protect your personal assets and keep them separate from business assets, check out my article about How to Form an LLC.
You’re also going to need what is known as a “registered agent.” A registered agent is a person or entity that accepts mail and legal notices like Service of Process on behalf of your business. For more information on registered agent services, check out my article on the Best Registered Agent.
Choosing a brick-and-mortar location for your dispensary is a major decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. On top of all the usual considerations for a business, such as visibility and foot traffic, there are legal considerations and regulations to contend with as well. Many states require dispensaries not be located near a school, church, residential zone, or even other businesses. It’s important that you choose a location that meets all the requirements and laws of your state.
Here’s a list of some other activities you’ll need to complete to ensure that your dispensary is successful:
- Hire Employees: When you’re working with a retail product that many people would commit crimes to obtain, it’s important to choose a team of employees that you trust. Here are some of the positions you should consider hiring for: general manager, budtender/sales associate, greeter/receptionist, operations or compliance manager, education officer, accountant, marketing manager, and IT professional.
- Follow state requirements: Many states require dispensary owners to meet a number of requirements in order to remain compliant with state law. Some of these things include, but aren’t limited to, licenses and permits, regulating the sale of certain retail inventory, security protocol, tax on certain products, and insurance.
- Hire a security team: Dispensaries not only have an inventory full of what is considered a narcotic by federal law, but they also do business in mostly cash. This makes them vulnerable to all sorts of crime. You’ll want to hire a good security team to keep your store, your money, your team of employees, and your inventory safe. Aside from on-site security guards, it’s a good idea to check into some state-of-the-art security systems and software. And you’ll want to hire an inventory manager to ensure that inventory theft is minimized. An inventory manager is also a helpful team member because you’ll always know who ordered, stocked, reported, and distributed your products, and they’ll work closely with your security team.
- Find the right vendors and breeders: If you’re running a dispensary, it’s crucial that you stock quality products in your store. Part of this is working with the right vendors and breeders. There are quality breeders all over the United States, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a few in your state. There are also many reputable breeders and vendors online around the world, providing a whole new world of cannabis for you to sell.
- Switch on the utilities: Now that you have a brick-and-mortar location, it’s time to have the utilities turned on. You’ll need electricity, water, gas (or another heating method), and air conditioning, among other things.
- Business Software: Before you soft open your dispensary, it’s time to get some good business software. Good business software can help you keep track of every sale you make, manage taxes, inventory, and payroll, and more. In short, business software can make running your business far easier. Check out my article about the Best Business Software to learn more about what software can do for your business.
- Acquire legal advice: There are so many laws and compliance regulations for dispensaries that it’s mind-boggling. It’s a good idea to make sure that your business is following compliance regulations because dealing with legal problems could be a major setback for your business. But online legal services can walk you through the legal compliance regulations and make sure you’re on the right track. To learn more, check out my article about the Best Online Legal Services.
- Experiment with your products: Just because people rave about your current product catalog doesn’t mean that you should chisel your bud menu permanently in stone. Offering up new products and flavors means that your clients will have access to new experiences and could come away from the experience with a new favorite product. To ensure that your menu doesn’t get stale, offer up new products, strains, or flavors on a weekly or monthly basis. If one of your promotions is successful, consider giving it a more permanent position on your menu.
- Get your own marijuana cultivation facility: Of course, when you first open your dispensary, you need to go through other vendors and breeders to get your hands on product to sell. But eventually you need to get a place to grow your own product. Many states require this of dispensaries, so even if your state doesn’t, it’s a necessary step to take to ensure that your dispensary can compete with bigger dispensaries. It also lends major credibility to both your product and your dispensary if you can say it was grown in-house.
Congratulations! It’s hard work to open a dispensary. Opening a business is made more scary by the fact that four out of every five businesses built using the traditional startup method will fail during their first year. But by choosing the lean startup method to start your dispensary instead, your store will have a better chance of success. These are the steps to start your business using the lean startup method:
- Identify a problem.
- Build a community.
- Identify a solution opportunity.
- Develop a solution.
- Test your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
- Sell your MVP.
- Get feedback on your product idea.
The process isn’t finished when you complete the last step. You will complete the build, measure, and learn process numerous times throughout the life of your business, which will ensure its continued success.
No matter which startup method you choose, starting a dispensary is difficult. But if you have dreams of meeting the cannabis needs of your community and the drive to push through and do it, the lean startup method will give you the security of knowing that your business will be more likely to succeed.
Congratulations again, and best of luck with your dispensary!
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