So you want to open a cannabis-based business out in the open and become a member of your hometown's business community. You probably want to pay taxes, join the chamber of commerce, get a business license and keep the sidewalk in front of your shop clean. Well, you'll have an easier time of it if you have the support of your community behind you.
With a vague promise of legalization in the future In and no clear idea of what that means, many Canadian entrepreneurs are hurrying to set up shop and establish trusted brands now in an attempt to retain market share later. Being in legal limbo or what we euphemistically refer to as the "gray market" means that retailers must make nice with their neighbours as they try to manoeuvre a complicated or non-existent licensing process. The threat of police raids, loss of rental space and protesters are all very real. As if a retailer needed more issues to deal with!
Be Good Stewards Of Your Community
There are lots of ways to make a great impression and lots more ways to make a bad one. When we think about the stigma attached to weed what images come to mind? Rough and scary looking people, loose morals, unfriendly people, sexualization, corruption. So why not go out of your way to avoid being associated with anything like that.
Start with Appearances
Keep your shop clean and well lit, hire good people who are skilled at customer service and know the products inside out and love talking about them. Discourage the use of foul language, keep the tone pleasant and professional. Make sure that you don't encourage loitering in the street and ask your clients to avoid lighting up outside your shop. Keep your signage tasteful, and inviting.
How you are perceived depends very much on your actions and will impact your relationships within the community. First impressions count so make sure you are doing everything you can to create a welcoming experience.
Before you open shop take some time to go around to all of your neighbours to introduce yourself and say hello. Be upfront about your business and what you have planned. Offer to answer questions, host an open house or perhaps even private tours for anyone who is feeling particularly worried about cannabis coming to their neighbourhood. You want to highlight your professionalism and competence. Graciousness will go a long way here.
Give Back to Your Community
Look for opportunities to participate in community events. Does your local downtown business association offer mixers? Workshops? Go and particpate - if networking makes you feel quesy check out our list of easy tips for introverted cannabis business leaders. Offer to flip pancakes at the next community pancake breakfast, donate refreshments (non-medicated) to the next block party, sponsor a local team, particpate as a team with your staff in community fundraisers, host a fundraiser for a family in need, host an educational workshop and write letters to your local newspaper to help break down negative sterotypes.
You may do all of these things and still find that there are some in your community who just cannot become comfortable with cannabis. Be tolerant and patient, after all prohibition has instilled deep rooted fears into many people and the only way we can overcome those fears is with education and love.