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Steps to Opening a Dispensary

This 3-part series takes you through the entire process of starting and running a dispensary. Part 1 covers the process of prepping for and submitting your cannabis retail license application. This is Part 2 and it covers the list of things you need to do before you open. Part 3 covers how to refresh your marketing strategy as the market matures and expands in your state. 


You successfully completed your cannabis retail license application. You wrote your business plan, and celebrated the approval of your application. Now, you’re eager to open your doors to the customers who are also eagerly waiting. Like many, you may want to be the first dispensary in your neighborhood to open.

But take a step back, and ask yourself...am I really really ready for market? This article will guide you to your answer, and give you a checklist of things to do before you answer “yes.”

 

When You Open Prematurely

Repairing damage takes more time, effort and capital than doing it right the first time.

This is why experts and consultants that specialize in pre and post-license cannabis consulting emphasize taking it slow and steady. This stage in the dispensary lifecycle is often overlooked...especially in emerging markets, like the East Coast medical market.

In our webinar, “Dispensary Marketing: From Application to Expansion,” my co-host Ashley, gives us some expert insights into the do’s and don’ts of the post-application stage. Ashley Picillo, the Founder and CEO of Point7 consulting identifies three of the most frequent challenges they’ve seen faced by dispensary clients across Canada and 18 US states. These are:

  1. Not enough product
  2. Not staffed well
  3. Limited hours of operation

 

limited hours of operation when dispensaries first open is a problem

How to Know When You’re Ready to Open Your Dispensary in Any Market - Medical or Recreational

 

According to Ashley and Point7 Consulting, You’ll be ready to open when you can provide the experience you want every customer or patient to remember.

It’s more important to be their best dispensary experience than their first dispensary experience. Especially in emerging medical markets, customers will want to shop around and check out everything that’s out there. But if you can create a memorable experience for them, your store will be the one they return to after they’ve checked all the others out.

 

Tip: Use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to help you create that memorable experience for your customers .

There is, of course, a lot that goes into creating a “destination dispensary.” To get to this point you’ll need to complete many tasks before that “open” sign goes up.

 

Steps to Opening a Dispensary

These are the items you’ll want to check off before opening. Doing each of these will bring you a step closer to providing your desired customer experience.

 

the steps to take before opening up your dispensary image

 

1) Build Industry Relationships -

Anyone with experience in the cannabis industry will tell you that we are a close “community.” After all, we all have to come together to fight the stigma. This means that relationship-building within the industry is key to running your business. You’ll want to immediately begin exploring the cannabis landscape in your area. You can ask for introductions and attend industry events to meet potential strategic partners, vendors, software providers, compliance regulators and even staff.

 

2) Build Your Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure -

The first step will be to hire someone to head all IT. This person will help you in the software vetting process. The two most important pieces of software for dispensaries to set themselves up for success are a point of sale system (POS) and customer relationship management (CRM) software.

You’ll always want to make sure you have your website and e-commerce covered. Before making software purchasing decisions, we recommend that you download and read  “The Ultimate Dispensary Software Guide,” which will guide you through purchasing, adopting and using dispensary technology.

Baker dispensary customer relationship and marketing management platform

 

3) Begin Building Your Customer List

Hit the ground running even before you open your doors by building a list and collecting potential customer data. Your marketing and advertising efforts to build brand awareness and anticipation will drive potential customers to your website. Use the Baker Collect tool to capture this information and begin building a list, which you can use to build customer loyalty from the start. Right off the bat, you should communicate to your list when your open date is, your hours of operation and any other promos you’ll be running for opening day.

 

4) Hire Staff

Most successful dispensary owners and cannabis consultants describe how important it is to carefully select your staff. These are your brand ambassadors that will create the first impression your community has of budtenders. Their prime strength should be knowing the cannabis plant, and knowing your product well.  

DSC_1752

 

5) Order Product

Finally, it’s time to order wholesale products. This is a tricky step when there is absolutely no inventory data. There is concern you will run out of product – after all, we always see lines out the door of dispensaries in emerging markets. There is equal concern you will order too much –after all, you need enough capital to keep you going until you become profitable.

To help you make these decisions, we recommend talking with a consulting firm, like Point7 or an analytics provider that can give you some insight into trends and data from other similar markets.

 

The First Few Months

This will be a learning experience. The biggest thing to keep in mind during this time is to make decisions that will set yourself up for long-term success. Set yourself up for expansion now, so you won’t have costly and time-consuming repairs to make in the near future.

As a first step toward success, request a demo of Baker to get started building your community of loyal customers.

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» Ready for Part 3?  Go to Marketing Strategy for Expanding Dispensaries

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