"Develop a business plan early on where employees are the focal point of your business. This will develop an internal culture that is unstoppable. Maintaining a positive culture, which requires constant attention, is vital to your success."
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Speidell Co-Founder, The Green Solution. When Kyle Speidell founded The Green Solution (TGS) in 2010, he brought the initiative and entrepreneurial spirit that made him a success in the real estate industry with him and has since become one of the leading pioneers and visionaries of the cannabis industry. As co-President along with his twin brother, Eric Speidell, Kyle has grown TGS into one of the largest dispensaries in Colorado. Kyle’s vision for TGS is to increase access to cannabis worldwide by providing consistent quality at competitive prices through a variety of distribution channels, prioritizing consumer safety and community education. He is responsible for managing TGS’ business operations, infrastructure, business planning, sales strategy, and corporate operations. Under Kyle’s leadership, the company has grown to 16 dispensaries throughout Colorado and continues its expansion statewide, nationally, and internationally with a Canadian partner, OrganiGram, Inc. The brothers were awarded one of the first licenses to sell medicinal cannabis in 2010 by the City of Northglenn, having successfully navigated early regulations. Shortly after, the remaining Speidell brothers joined TGS, Brad Speidell in 2011 and Nick Speidell in 2012, each assuming a role to lead different divisions of the company. By January 2014, Kyle was at the forefront of the industry and opened two new dispensaries for recreational sales on the first day of state legalization. Recently named one of “The 100 Most Influential People in Cannabis” by High Times magazine for his role as an industry innovator, Kyle is a voice for the industry and a champion for increased access. Through his leadership, TGS has garnered more than 80 awards for its flower, concentrates and topicals.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
In short, opportunity and necessity. My twin brother, Eric Speidell, and I have always been intrigued by cannabis and knew there was a lot of potential in the plant. He and I were part of the 2009 real estate bubble and had a lot of capital invested in our real estate portfolio. Due to the Cole memo from the Obama era, the cannabis industry emerged, which made the transition from real estate an easy decision. Together we founded The Green Solution, because we believed it was actually less risky to be in cannabis than in real estate at that time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We are steadfast in our lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. for the cannabis industry, plus we have invested large amounts of capital into economic studies for the industry. We were invited to speak to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) to present our findings so that we could get fair and sensible legislative bills through congress. Surprisingly, we found out that the JCT didn’t have even a basic understanding of the plant or its uses, which reaffirmed our belief in the importance of cannabis education.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
At the inception of the company we were legally allowed to advertise outdoors, so we retrofitted a scooter with a large advertisement on it to drive around the city. We were trying to be resourceful with creative ways to advertise without spending a lot of money, but we should have hired a professional welder. The sign itself came unhitched from the trailer and caused quite a mess. The lesson there was that it was worth the extra money to have it down right, whatever the task may be.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Always! This industry evolves so quickly and there is a lot of competition, so we are always motivated to be introducing new products or to be looking at cannabis from fresh perspectives. We’re also expanding our cultivation sites and have plans to open several more stores in the new few months. We have a team of developers who work on new formulas, new technology and new ideas on an ongoing basis. The newest products will be a complete revamp of our vape cartridge lines with 23 new options.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My family has been involved in our company since the beginning. My two older brothers have also joined the business and help run the company. We’re proud to be a Colorado-based, family-owned company and we’re grateful to have a supportive system in place that allows us to all work towards being a leader in cannabis acceptance and accessibility. The best companies are born through trust and dedication, and we owe it to everyone’s hard work that we have built the company to its present size.
This industry is young dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
In 2019, we are allocating more resources to focus on our national and international expansion, plus we are taking full advantage of our prominent positioning. Our (GREEN) Lifestyle app, which allows customers to keep track of rewards points that can be used in our stores, now has over 100,000 downloads. Most recently, we launched our “Marijuana Millions” giveaway to thank our rewards program members and to emphasize the exciting culture we have at TGS. We gave away more than $1 million dollars in prizes including a 2019 Jeep Wrangler. The reaction of the Jeep winner alone made the promotion well worth it.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
Three things that excite me include:
1. New innovations and products that expand our reach to the cannabis community.
2. Potential nationwide legalization that will be paramount to changing the United States place in the cannabis industry, worldwide.
3. The incredible lengths we have come in the industry to protect consumer health and safety.
Three things that concern me include:
1. Federal regulations that have made banking such an arduous task in the industry, leading to poor business processes,
2. The 280E taxation on cannabis businesses by the IRS, which are overreaching. It adds 100% of profits to cannabis businesses’ tax bill and does not allow for the industry to mature or reinvest.
3. Anti-cannabis initiatives from powerful companies that have their own reasons for wanting the industry to fail. It’s important for consumers to keep advocating for the plant every day.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
1. Child-resistant packaging is in short supply. In order to build a brand, you must differentiate yourself, and the lack of child-resistant container options makes it problematic. This is starting to change, but it is still very difficult to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
2. Over-production of cannabis leads to genetic drift. The commercialization of cannabis has created a previously unknown phenomenon with the plant where genes mutate as over-production occurs. It is very important to have research labs that can stabilize genetics in the long-term to ensure the best cannabis is produced year-round.
3. Banking is difficult in the cannabis industry. When we entered the industry in 2010, it wasn’t clear how difficult banking might be and it was a difficult process to overcome at the time. Today it is widely understood, but 10 years ago, this was an issue that jeopardized our businesses.
4. Again, and this goes back to banking, financing is extremely restrictive and onerous. At first, we didn’t think getting loans would be difficult. Later, we discovered that fewer than 5% of banks would work with us, and those who would offer astronomically high interest rates and extensive over-collateralization.
5. Taxation. Early on, the rules and terms of 280E were undefined and ambiguous. It’s a grave challenge and could potentially be the industry’s demise. This is an issue we’ve had to research extensively in order to define the best strategy and is a lesson for anyone getting into the cannabis business. It’s important to know the risks these businesses carry, and to be sure to have a strong strategy for investors and your future.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Develop a business plan early on where employees are the focal point of your business. This will develop an internal culture that is unstoppable. Maintaining a positive culture, which requires constant attention, is vital to your success.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Our mission, since we started back in 2010, has been to break down the barriers, walls and stigma of what cannabis used to be. We strive to help change the misconceptions and improve the perceptions of cannabis users, which we believe would bring good to society overall.