by Sarah Ballantyne, owner Spiritleaf Vernon
For 19+ readers only.
Let me tell you about how I got into the Okanagan cannabis industry. I didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to leave my cushy government job and take on a risky new business on the ground floor of this new industry. However, over the 10 years I’ve watched my husband who has been an entrepreneur for 15 years go through the booms and busts of the Alberta economy I asked myself; could I do this? was there an entrepreneur inside of me? do I have what it takes to be self-sustaining? If so for how long?
TAKING THE LEAP INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Like I mentioned before, I worked for the government, a pretty straight forward and lifelong career for some. I took some time and thought about this new adventure (I go to the spa where it’s quiet). I was already performing all the same tasks and taking on similar responsibilities as an entrepreneur but just applying them to someone else business. I was already creating/implementing and training on new processes for a large organization. I was leading projects, interviewing and hiring, entering data, building relationships with key stakeholders etc, etc.
I am capable of this. We are capable of this.
We weighed all the risks, saved the cash, sought advice from family, friends, coworkers, financial advisors, lawyers. I then took a giant leap and listed our home for sale. This would actually be my second house I’ve listed and sold myself, I was already managing these properties and selling them…. That’s a business right? I never thought of it like that.
I listed that house on a Monday and planned an open house for Saturday. I was surprised when I booked a private showing on that Thursday and had an offer by Friday evening.
So I dug deeper.
We moved ahead and purchased a Spiritleaf franchise in Calgary. I took another “spa day” after the offer on the house finalized, then asked my husband if we could flip the whole project upside down and move from Alberta. We agreed on the Okanagan and the rest just fell into place and now here we are. The City of Vernon has given our application and location for a non-medical cannabis retail store a positive recommendation and we are now awaiting the final part of licensing with the Liquor & Cannabis Regulation Branch of BC.
Looking back I’m not sure why I was so hesitant, there is an entrepreneur inside me and the Okanagan has welcomed us in such a positive way and I look forward to new challenges, new relationships and sharing this journey with you all.
OKANAGAN CANNABIS SCENE
Okanagan Cannabis culture has been around since, well I don’t know when but I do know you can travel anywhere in the world and mention BC BUD and people know exactly what you’re talking about. A huge portion of that world famous bud is grown right here in the Okanagan. Similar to the vineyards and fruit farms we have in the valley, cannabis can be cultivated here on a large or small scale, indoor or outdoor, full sun or LED and on various watering systems. The amount of talent, skill and growing history from this region is unmeasurable and I look forward to watching not only the retail side grow but the research and development, cultivation and by products of this industry as we move forward within a legalized framework.
The tourism industry within the Okanagan is well known and vibrant. With the addition of Okanagan cannabis-related tourism, expect to see an increase and new creative ideas on how to incorporate cannabis to some of the Okanagan’s best, such as; weddings, wine tours, hiking tours, and yoga retreats. Local hotels/resorts, B&Bs and AirBnB’s are already promoting “canna friendly” accommodations to bring in this clientele. The pet industry has also embraced cannabis and local Okanagan company True Leaf out of Lumby now shipping products worldwide.
Many local companies that provide cannabis related services are starting to host community events raising funds for local initiatives. However, having to adhere to the Cannabis Act can be a bit tricky when promoting these events and is a learning process. I continue to share these events on my Instagram.
The Spirit Fund is a community engagement program with a focus on planting and growing deep roots in the Canadian arts, music, and culture communities through sponsorships, education, and other local initiatives.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM A LICENSED NON-MEDICAL RETAIL CANNABIS STORE
Curated and quality products within a warm and welcoming environment, with friendly and knowledgeable staff. We will have to wait and see how we can highlight that world famous BC Bud…. stay tuned.
Spiritleaf is about enjoying life with those who make us happy, and viewing every day as an opportunity to try something new. Breaking from norms, embracing the unexpected and sharing meaningful moments that shape who we are.
WOMEN IN OKANAGAN CANNABIS
I’ve had the privilege of attending a few local meetings hosted by the group Canadian Women in Cannabis. The cannabis knowledge within this group runs deep. From growing and diy products to the history and fight for legalization. This group is passionate, warm and inviting. I share all their events on my Instagram page.
Canadian Women in Cannabis—or CWIC (pronounced ‘quick’)—is a non-profit collective of women (and women-identifying folk) who want to be co-creators of their own cannabis experience in Canada. We’re building a social movement for the acceptance of the historically feminine nature of cannabis and for the de-stigmatization of it in the spaces we live and breathe. By collaborating, sharing, and amplifying our voices, CWIC members aim to advocate for fair, equal, and considerate cannabis laws across the great white north.
I have also been attending meetings with the group Vernon Women in Business. This membership group is filled with inspiring local businesswomen from Vernon and the surrounding area. I have decided to always Lead with Weed now and when I introduced myself as a small business owner of a cannabis store I was elated to be welcomed to this group with no stigma or negative comments, just pure support and a lot of curious questions.
Offering networking opportunities that inspire, educate and motivate women to be the best that they can be.
WORKING IN THE OKANAGAN CANNABIS INDUSTRY
The industry is still waiting on a program from the province as part of the Serving It Right program for liquor. To receive verification as a qualified worker, prospective employees need a criminal record check that can take between four and six weeks. Tourism companies planning on offering cannabis may require similar training. There is already an abundance of knowledge and experience in the Okanagan, and through its temporary use permits Vernon had 14 stores operating before Oct. 17, so there’s over a hundred experienced staff that have been laid off. Previous workers just need to come in line with the new security requirements and training. If anyone is interested in chatting further about employment opportunities please get in touch.