We sat down to ask some questions of our co-founder and CEO, Ryan Hudson.
Tell Us About The Apothecarium’s Recent News.
We are very excited to announce that TerrAscend, a Toronto-based biopharmaceutical and wellness company that is focused on the cannabis market has made a significant investment in The Apothecarium. Teaming up with a larger company means that we will be able to bring the Apothecarium dispensary experience to more people, in more cities around the country. We are very excited about this move because TerrAscend really believes in our model of cannabis education, excellent customer service, and beautiful dispensaries. We are excited to work with them as we grow our business.
Should Customers Of The Apothecarium Expect To See Lots of Changes?
No, our customers won’t see major changes inside our dispensaries. Products, prices, and people should all remain more or less steady. Of course, we’re always looking to make improvements to the dispensary experience, but there are no dramatic changes planned. We chose to work with TerrAscend because they like what we’re already doing. We want to continue doing what we do best and they want the same thing. The main change that people should expect is to start seeing more of our dispensaries in other parts of the country.
Why Is The Apothecarium Teaming Up With TerrAscend?
The main reason is that we really want to bring The Apothecarium experience to more people. Our mission is to provide our members with quality cannabis in a welcoming environment with empathy, education and ongoing personal supports. We think we do it pretty well and we want to see more Apothecarium dispensaries in more cities. To do that, we needed a partner that could fund our growth.
Additionally, the industry is undergoing massive change and consolidation, and regulatory turmoil. We have around 200 employees to think about. To secure their jobs, it was clear that we needed to partner with another company.
What about TerrAscend was a Good Fit For The Apothecarium?
TerrAscend is focused on the health and science of cannabis. That’s a great fit for The Apothecarium’s focus on cannabis education and in-depth consultations. They are expanding into the U.S in a very deliberate and purposeful way. TerrAscend also wanted to work with us for the right reasons: they like what we’re doing and they want to help us bring our model to more people.
We had a lot of interest from different suitors, different investors. We chose not to work with a big tobacco company or an alcohol-focused company. TerrAscend is interested in learning from our team and I believe we have a lot to learn from them, too. Also, on a personal level, my partners and I got along well with the TerrAscend leadership team. We felt there were a lot of shared values.
It was also a priority for my co-founders and I that our employees be well taken care of. I’m proud to say that all of our full-time employees will receive stock in TerrAscend. The fact that TerrAscend wanted that too says a lot about them and is a big part of the reason we’re so happy to be working with them.
You’ve Led The Apothecarium Since Founding It in 2011. What are You Proudest Of?
Three things come to mind. First, whenever I see an adult bring their senior-citizen parent into The Apothecarium, I figure we must be doing something right. If people feel good about bringing their mom into our dispensaries, that makes me very proud.
Second, I’m intensely proud of the team of employees we’ve built. I’m especially happy that so many LGBTQ folks, women, and people of color have chosen to be part of The Apothecarium’s team. When you come inside our dispensaries and see our employees or look at The Apothecarium’s leadership team on our website -- we look pretty different from some other cannabis companies. Also, all those folks -- plus our frontline staff -- receive fully paid benefits: vision, dental, health and matching 401k.
Third, I’m very proud of The Apothecarium’s philanthropic efforts. Since we were founded in 2011, we’ve given away $429,538.86 in cash to local nonprofits. We’ve also given another $300,000 worth of in-kind donations for support groups and other community-minded efforts. That’s more than ¾ of a million dollars we’ve given back to our communities.
How Did You Come To Found A Dispensary?
Years ago I was standing in line at a dispensary, waiting behind a woman my grandmother’s age. Like me, she was there for a serious medical issue. But the people working there were unable to provide her the information she needed. That was my ‘lightbulb moment’ -- when I decided to create a dispensary where she could find quality cannabis and also the information and support she needed to use it safely and effectively, in a welcoming, non-judgemental environment.
Everything we do at The Apothecarium -- from the products we select, to the training our staff receive, to the way we design our dispensaries -- is intended to give her the experience she deserves. I know if we are meeting her needs, then we are probably meeting the needs of everyone who comes through our doors.
Is There Anything Else You’d Like People To Know About You?
I’m forty years old. I founded my first business when I was just 18, building websites. That business failed. So did the next one and the one after that. All six of my first businesses failed. I don’t come from money, so each time that happened I’d have to go get a regular job to earn funds for my next attempt at starting my own business.
The Apothecarium is my seventh business. It was my seventh attempt at succeeding and the first one that was any kind of lasting success. I am really glad that I stuck with my dream of being an entrepreneur. It took 22 years, but it finally worked out!
I should also mention that in our early years at The Apothecarium, there were many months when my partners and I could not afford to draw a salary -- when we actually had to put money back into the business just to keep the lights on and our employees paid. There were some uncertain times; I’m really glad we stayed the course.
What Will Your Role Be In The Combined Company?
My role and day-to-day involvement will not be changing. I will continue to lead The Apothecarium as CEO. I’m excited to focus on opening new stores and making sure our customers continue to have a great experience inside our dispensaries.