Sometimes, being first is the main objective, and the crew at Sira Naturals knows what first feels like. The vertically integrated cannabis business was the first to receive a recreational cannabis license in the state of Massachusetts following the state’s Cannabis Control Commission meeting June 21, 2018. Being first, apparently, feels humbling.
“ … we stand on the shoulders of countless individuals, advocacy organizations, business leaders, and elected officials who have made the regulated cannabis industry possible,” Mike Dundas, the company’s President and CEO, told Marijuana.com in an email.
After experiencing how difficult it was to start a cannabis business, Sira Naturals launched The Sira Accelerator, a mentorship program that offers entrepreneurs and small businesses a way to better navigate the regulated cannabis industry.
“Raising millions of dollars for a nonprofit with no industry experience and no collateral, in a legally ambiguous industry. That was tough. In fact, this is one of the reasons we launched our recently announced cannabis business acceleration program The Sira Accelerator,” Dundas wrote in the email. “This program is designed to help entrepreneurs and small businesses learn from our experiences, leverage our technology, and world-class cannabis extracts to make their journey easier.”
Dundas discussed the road to success for Sira Naturals.
Q. How does it feel to have received the first adult-use cannabis license east of the Mississippi River?
A. How sweet it is. But what feels even better is to be working shoulder to shoulder with some of the most dedicated and talented people I have ever known. The Sira Naturals team has done an extraordinary job of staying on point no matter how challenging the circumstances. On behalf of the entire Sira Naturals family, I am very proud of this historic honor.
Q. What did it take to get to this point?
A. A great team, a lot of hard work, and good fortune. The single most important skill to have for success in the regulated cannabis space is the ability to continually scan the horizon for changes in the business and regulatory environment and pivot the model as appropriate.
The second most important skill to have is the ability to fail fast and recover faster.
Over these past five years we’ve built our state-of-the-art cultivation facility, opened three beautiful and inviting dispensary locations which serve thousands of medical marijuana patients, and are now excited to pursue a path toward being the leader in the adult-use space. We’ve failed a lot, that’s why we are successful.
Q. Do you feel your experience on the retail side helped you to better navigate the cultivation licensing process?
A. In Massachusetts, there are two components to licensing: the state process and the local process. The key to navigating the state licensing process for all license types is this: Read the question and give a succinct answer. I’ve seen a lot of people overthink application responses. I’ve also see a lot of bogus answers. Spend a lot of time getting to know your regulations, prepare short but substantive answers, and deliver.
The local process is a lot harder. Your team needs to make your host community comfortable with cannabis activity in general, and your company in particular. This involves outreach and education. It involves getting yelled at by people with outdated ideas. It involves the capacity to put yourself in their shoes and taking your opponents by the hand and teaching them why your way is the best way forward for everyone.
There is nothing more gratifying than making lifelong friends out of angry opposers. Sun Tsu, the ancient Chinese strategist teaches us that “to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue one’s opponent without fighting is the true mark of a skilled leader.”
Q. What were the biggest hurdles?
A. Raising millions of dollars for a nonprofit with no industry experience and no collateral, in a legally ambiguous industry. That was tough. In fact, this is one of the reasons we launched our recently announced cannabis business acceleration program The Sira Accelerator.
Q. How will adding cultivation improve your vertically integrated business model?
A. Receiving the first cultivation license for adult-use cannabis helps to expand our model beyond vertical integration. As the adult-use market continues to grow, Sira Naturals now has the opportunity to participate in that growth by making our premium products available to a larger community than ever. Customers will be able to experience The Sira Difference with our products throughout the state, and hopefully come experience that difference in-person at our dispensaries.