We opened our first dispensary in 2017 and the outpour of love that we received was tremendous. We had vendors and cultivators that we’ve worked with for three years send us care packages and products for free. We had people reaching out to us, we had our customers come out and give us flowers and share our story on social media and say, ‘Hey, this is not how we all feel, and this is not what we represent.’ The cannabis community is filled with a lot of loving people that really care about the industry. It filled my heart with joy to see the amount of love we were getting from the community.
” The cannabis community is filled with a lot of loving people that really care about the industry.
GCV: Wow, I’m so sorry that happened. It’s great to hear that the community was there to support you, and I’m sure they were simply returning all the love and support that you’ve outpoured to the community for the last three years. I’d love to hear more about Elev8 and the size of your operation today.
Adedeji: Our Eugene, Oregon location employs five employees currently, and we’re growing. We have Athol, Massachusetts locations where we have ten employees and we’re looking to bring on twenty more. We are estimating that we’re going to have a total of 30 employees in each Athol store once we start ramping up. Each city that we’re in is only giving out two licenses, and we own one out of two.
” Each city that we’re in is only giving out two licenses, and we own one out of two.
GCV: It sounds like the team is growing super quickly! Going from a ‘COE’ to a good team must be an exciting journey to be on.
Adedeji: It really is, and we’re super excited. It’s a humbling experience and I am excited to share our philosophy of ‘Treat everyone like gold.’ We live by and die by our eight core values which are Love, Inclusion, Authenticity, Growth, Hustle, Ownership, Generosity and Empathy. That’s we’re about.
GCV: I’m sure it has not been easy in a lot of ways; it’s a tough industry to be a pioneer in. What has your experience been with finding a sustainable banking partner?
Adedeji: Well, I’ve got the perfect story. Outside of being in the cannabis industry I also own properties in Massachusetts. We were banking with US Bank, and all of a sudden they closed our account. They didn’t even tell us the reason. The only reason I could think of was they found out I also own a cannabis company. They closed our account during COVID-19, one of the hardest times. We have payroll and we have bills to pay. They were sending out my check, but it took some time for the check to come in.
” They closed our account during COVID-19, one of the hardest times.
Just being associated with the cannabis industry, just having equity, could potentially lead to your personal accounts, or even accounts from your other businesses, being closed. Thankfully we were one of the first people in Massachusetts to get licenses and we were able to work with a great credit union here to set up our banking. In Oregon, we just re-opened and we’re on a waitlist for six months just to get our bank account open. Now I’m just taking a huge risk doing everything in cash.
GCV: What is it like operating in cash?
Adedeji: There has to be a trust factor – we trust our employees and we trust our managers. I really wish there was more of a digital side of it where we can see everything that’s going on. It leaves us blind outside of our POS telling us what we’re making and camera footage. Having it in the bank just makes everything easier. You have a track-record, you have paperless, access to what you’ve paid. But now you have to make sure that you’re keeping track of every receipt possible. It’s just crazy.
” We could be focusing on more important things outside of worrying about banking.
We could be focusing on more important things outside of worrying about banking. There’s just so many different pieces where it would be easier if we could have everything in one place. But for now we have to wait. We’ve paid the fees and sent in the proper documentation they requested.
GCV: What else should we know about being a cannabis entrepreneur?
Adedeji: It’s very capital intensive. You need capital to really make it work, and you need a strong team to help you with your growth strategy to really succeed. I like to say, ‘It’s not about how much you make, it’s about how much you can keep.’ This industry is very highly regulated, and there’s high taxation associated with this business. It’s wise to get experienced CPAs and make sure you’re filing your taxes correctly.
” You have to make sure your books are on point.
You have to show that you’re doing everything right and by the books, because otherwise it can come back and bite you. If your exit strategy is to buy or sell, your investors, or whoever is going to buy your company, are not going to waste their time if they can’t understand your books. You have to make sure your books are on point.
GCV: What has your experience been like with investors?
Adedeji: We raised $1M and worked with investors on debt loans with terms for a win-win situation. I think that they respect my hustle. It’s all about relationships. Your reputation follows you, and people want to bet money on people they believe are going to win. Compared to what people would naturally spend to get into the cannabis industry, I am able to reduce the cost by using my experience and my foresight. To do the application sometimes people are paying $300,000, but because I have a robust amount of knowledge within the industry, I save a lot of the cost associated with the license application process.