Putting Down its ‘Roots’
Colorado’s largest medical and adult-use cannabis company, Native Roots Cannabis Co., sets its sights on going national
After nearly 10 years, Native Roots Cannabis Co. has become Colorado’s largest medical and adult-use cannabis company by helping its customers and nurturing a positive work environment with its employees. “This organization has been built on a motivated, passionate and capable team,” CEO Ryan Brown declares.
Based in Denver, Native Roots offers THC and CBD products in 24 locations, including its 19 marijuana dispensaries and five hemp-derived CBD wellness locations. The company’s roots go back to 2010 when the state of Colorado first regulated medical marijuana dispensary sales, allowing The Dandelion and Native Roots Apothecary medical dispensaries to open.
But after the state passed a law allowing the adult use of cannabis, the owners of the dispensaries merged their businesses. “Those two decided they would be better positioned and they would have a better opportunity to liberate happiness if they would drive the business forward together,” Brown says.
Under the Native Roots banner, the owners pursued a broader cannabis roll out with retail operations. Today, the company has 19 dispensaries in Colorado as well as five CBD-only locations that focus on the wellness and therapeutic benefits of the products.
In addition, Native Roots manages two retail locations in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that do business under the Garden Variety name. “It’s a fun, tongue-in-cheek brand,” Brown says.
Being the Best
Brown joined Native Roots when a longtime friend brought him to the company in 2016. “I had come out of grad school and was working with a number of national and international companies throughout the United States,” he recalls.
After providing Native Roots with consulting services, his friend tried to convince him to join the company. Although Brown was initially hesitant, he changed his mind after meeting with its primary investor and seeing production facilities. “I completely bought into how it was taking this industry seriously and looking to provide an incredibly high-quality experience to consumers that they hadn’t seen in this space,” he recalls.
He praises the team at Native Roots. “Every day, they’re making sure that they’re getting the job done,” Brown says. “[We have] an extremely passionate group of team members that commit to making sure this is the best business in the industry.”
It also operates with a fun, collaborative environment. “We like to manage and govern this organization not on ego but on capabilities, ideas and information,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who you are in the organization – you have an opportunity to contribute.”
Today, under Brown’s leadership, Native Roots is underway with multiple projects, including evolving its retail experience. “Some of our stores operate as a traditional retailer where you can look at a set of products on a table in front of you,” he describes.
Usually, Brown says, customers will have a conversation with store employees who guide them in their purchase. However, “We’ve been working on dramatically enhancing that store experience where people experience different types of shopping patterns,” he says.
Through the new system, he says, people will be able to shop in the stores on their own, as well as buy items via e-commerce. “[We’re] making sure that’s aligned with the in-store experience and providing a meaningful experience for folks so they can shop for cannabis like they shop for food,” he says.
Already, Native Roots has started testing the new in-store experience at its locations in Colorado. The company also is focused on opening new locations in the Northeast and Southeastern United States.
“There’s also some exciting market opportunities through places like Illinois,” he adds. “We’re making sure that we’re positioned to have winning positions in each of those key areas.”
According to Brown, Native Roots strives to reach a broad audience with its marketing campaigns. “A lot of the industry speaks to the same consumer through the same channels with the same message,” he says. “[We want to] differentiate from the way that the rest of the industry works.”
Although many of its competitors aim their marketing towards young males, “The fastest growing segments of the cannabis industry are baby boomers and more of a female audience,” he says. “We need to find more ways to tell the story of Native Roots to attract those individuals.”
Brown sees a strong future for Native Roots, which has survived the tumultuous nature of the cannabis business. “The industry throws you a tremendous number of curveballs,” he admits, noting that these can range from non-compliance incidents to licensing efforts to evolving state regulatory changes.
However, “The amount of resilience and passion amongst this team wells me up sometimes,” he says. “Over the years, we’ve made a number of decisions to make sure that the business is positioned for the long haul.”
The ultimate goal for Native Roots, he notes, is to open a strong national network of stores built on its values and pursue the happiness of its customers. “We’re not too far away from that being manifested,” he concludes.