- Wanda James’ Simply Pure is rolling out a franchise mannequin to empower BIPOC entrepreneurs.
- As one of Colorado’s premier hashish firms, Simply Pure’s gross sales had been up 50% in 2020 from 2019.
- The retailer’s really feel and the way it sources merchandise had been impressed by high manufacturers Tiffany’s and Whole Foods.
- See extra tales on Insider’s enterprise web page.
In the over 5 years she served within the Navy, Wanda James rose from an officer within the University of Colorado’s ROTC program to lieutenant earlier than ending her obligation in 1991.
After stints as a pacesetter within the meals and beverage area, in advertising, and serving as marketing campaign supervisor for Governor Jared Polis’ congressional bid and on the finance committee for former President Barack Obama, the Colorado-based veteran now hopes together with her husband and enterprise accomplice Scott Durrah to deliver their hashish model, Simply Pure, to further markets and construct a franchise mannequin that empowers minorities in want.
In 2009, James started to see a convergence between enterprise, coverage, and activism in her life. She knew that the issuance of the Ogden Memo — which directed Western US attorneys to not focus assets on state-compliant hashish operations — was impending. The directive served because the precursor to the extra oft-discussed 2013 Cole Memo, which acknowledged the Justice Department would not implement federal hashish legal guidelines in legalized state markets.
James and Durrah determined it was time for Colorado to see its first Black-owned hashish model.
The choice to get their license stemmed from James’s brother, Rick, getting arrested at 18 with four-and-a-half ounces of hashish. He would serve six years of a 10-year sentence, 4 of which had him selecting cotton in a maximum-security jail.
“I couldn’t believe that the United States government would actually sentence a Black kid to picking cotton,” James informed Insider. “That’s cruel and unusual punishment no matter how you slice it,” she added.
The couple’s first dispensary, Apothecary of Colorado, opened in 2009. The following 12 months, their edible model Simply Pure got here on-line. Over time, the manufacturers would merge, with the corporate utilizing the Simply Pure title.
With over a decade available in the market, Simply Pure is thought to be one of the state’s premier firms. The couple stays lively in day by day operations.
“We ensure that quality is a focus and we ensure that customer service is job one,” James stated.
Colorado’s hashish gross sales reached a record-breaking $2.2 billion in 2020. Simply Pure reported gross sales had been up 50% for the 12 months, with the ultimate 4 months up 80% in comparison with 2019.
James shared with Insider how she bought the enterprise off the bottom.
An method backed by diamonds and produce
Instead of staffing budtenders, Simply Pure goals to create “budologists.”
“If you come to Simply Pure green [a newcomer to the industry], it can take you up to a month and a half before you can even get on our floor,” James stated. She famous that the coaching course of is multifaceted, together with a number of weeks of preparation with front-desk personnel to know buyer interplay.
With an array of prospects, James desires budding budologists to know their numerous wants and the way to work together with them. Training additionally contains time on the firm’s develop facility to know the cultivator’s aspect of the operation. Visits to companions permit trainees to study their coaching and procedures as properly.
The retailer’s design and really feel stand out as properly. Taking affect from jeweler Tiffany & Co., James stated the corporate maintains all of the wanted safety measures with out making it apparent on the gross sales flooring. Instead of massive guards on the door, the corporate has extra delicate practices that adhere to state rules.
“We go above and beyond with our security measures, but they’re invisible,” James stated.
Tiffany’s was the inspiration for safety, however one other retailer helped mannequin operations. “People always talk about being the Apple of cannabis, but we kind of see ourselves more like Whole Foods,” James stated. The feeling stems from product choices, with Simply Pure striving to work with solely high distributors and merchandise.
The companys Vendor Participation Program seeks to ascertain lasting partnerships. “We are specific about being able to be good partners with those vendors we put on our shelves,” James stated.
Awareness results in enterprise and private positive factors
James attributes a good portion of 2020’s robust efficiency on elevated purchaser accountability. “So many people came in this year and said they wanted to shop at a Black- and minority-owned business,” she stated.
“Seeing those people coming back because we’re an amazing business made us feel really incredible,” she added.
But greater than enterprise development, James’s focus is on serving to construct success for others.
Her brother turned a grower for Simply Pure after serving six years of probation. Today, he works as an assistant supervisor on the firm’s develop facility.
Rick’s case would not be James’ final interplay with nonviolent offenders. In 2020, she’d begin work with Arzelle Lewis, founder of printing and charity basis SweetFeet, on a bid to launch his father, Fred Harris, from a 96-year sentence on a nonviolent hashish cost.
James’ political connections and conviction helped advance the trigger. On January 15, 2021, Harris walked free after serving over 20 years in jail. James, who admits to not being emotional a lot, stated she cried upon listening to the information.
Despite the altering local weather in America, James nonetheless sees shortcomings in illustration in Colorado’s hashish sector. A 2020 Cannabis Business and Employment Opportunity research discovered that nearly 75% of Denver’s licensed operators had been white, whereas white folks made up 68% of hashish staff.
Never one to not act, James and Durrah are actually rolling out a franchise mannequin geared toward spreading the model whereas offering franchisees with entry to their trade insights. James stated she’s “excited to now truly offer what we hope is going to be an opportunity for more Black and brown ownership throughout the industry,” she stated. She not too long ago informed Cannabis Dispensary tentative places for franchises embody California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Texas.
In the previous, James and Durrah took out short-term loans and a mortgage on their dwelling to assist develop the enterprise. But now she sees a receptive area of traders for an fairness elevate. “I’m not going to say we’re still not fighting for capital, but folks are definitely interested — we’re having a lot of conversations,” she stated.
James additionally stated Durrah is “at it again” together with his newest edible line, BCause, which goals to work with Black-owned chocolate ventures and farmers within the US and overseas. The firm intends to donate 5% of all the road’s gross sales to causes starting from supporting Black and BIPOC companies to funding regulation education at traditionally Black schools and universities.