Written by: Harrison Tew and Shelby Andrews
Many customers have inquired about how exactly Stop & Smell the Roses (one of the first Ontario CBD retail stores) began, and where our Founder’s inspiration came from. We love to share our knowledge and experience with our dedicated community, and we thought the best way to do this would be through a personal interview with Cody, which answers many of the questions we have been asked in store.
Cody, like most business owners, speaks passionately about his work; but unlike many business owners, Cody is driven not only by business growth, but by a moral obligation to educate the public.
“I always think back to my father; if I knew what I know now about the benefits of CBD, he would have had a much better quality of life… I feel it would be irresponsible not to share this information.”
Building an Ontario CBD business from scratch
Why did selling CBD occur to you as a business option? What was the first step you took?
CC: The main reason I chose to start an Ontario CBD business was simply due to lack of access. When my father was sick with cancer, it was very difficult to get him access to any sort of alternative medicine. Later, when I was suffering from epilepsy and making the decision to stop taking my pharmaceuticals, I didn’t have the information I needed available to me in terms of product, dosages or anything else. I knew that if I was looking for alternatives, there had to be other people looking for them as well.
Why do you think you were one of the the first people to start selling CBD? What has stopped people from doing this in the past (in your opinion)?
CC: It’s so new – CBD – it’s just beginning to be studied seriously. There aren’t a lot of people that understand how it works and what the benefits are. Many people are also still unaware about legalities – many don’t even realize it’s a safe and legal option.
What were your first steps when getting started?
CC: Firstly, I developed a website for online sales. My first few sales were actually jusrt friends or family who knew my story and were amazed at me being seizure free because of this product. Once the story began to spread, we had people coming into our stores and asking to hear more. Eventually word of mouth just took off.
Legality and stigma
What were some of the biggest issues you had to work through when getting SASTR started?
CC: The biggest issue was just getting people to understand the general legalities of hemp-derived CBD. The hemp regulations have been around since early 2000s, but the technology available to start hemp-derived CBD production is new (in the last few years). So while the product is a fairly new concept, the regulations have been around a very long time. But because the product is new, people are just now learning about these regulations.
Getting a bank account was also an issue. We went through 4-5 different banks, our PayPal account has been shut down multiple times, we’ve had police pay us a visit at every location upon opening.
The cool part, though, is that everyone has been open to listening to us and respond in a positive manner once they understand we are legal, we are licensed and we are here to help.
When you have law enforcement in your stores, what is their approach to talking about your products and business?
CC: They usually walk in hesitant. You can tell they are trying not to make assumptions, but they’re used to seeing things like illegal dispensaries, not legal Ontario CBD shops.
The industrial hemp regulations are clearly posted in all of our stores. When people have questions about legality, we can easily walk them through the regulations, as well as showing them Health Canada’s website, along with our lab tests to show we don’t sell any products with psychoactive properties. Once we do this it’s usually a much more positive conversation.
In fact, when we opened our Port Elgin store, Saugeen Shores Police had an entire meeting about us. It’s cool to see them willing to learn, and in turn help teach.
What the future holds
Do you think CBD is going to become a common household product? Could it end up being a replacement for some traditional medicine?
CC: I would like to see it develop that way, but I think we are going to see a lot of negative influence from pharmaceutical companies. They’re worried that their industry is in danger.
So, you expect a lot of resistance from pharmaceutical companies in the future?
CC: Yes, there already is. The way I see it, it’s going to be 5-10 years before we see this as common knowledge. There’s going to be a lot of misconceptions that we will have to set straight. Luckily, I have an amazing team to help me with this.
What motivates you to continue growing your business despite the backlash?
CC: It’s the fear of misconception. If we aren’t here giving the correct knowledge, who will? The opioid epidemic is huge right now and is growing faster than we are…so this product is needed.
The SASTR stores are quiet, intimate and very low key. If everything goes ideally for the next 5 years, where would you like to see Coulson’s Cannabis and the SASTR brand?
CC: It’s almost like a lifestyle brand. I want people to look at us like a normal store. There are so many assumptions, I really want to keep these stores family oriented, accessible and ensure people feel comfortable when they walk in. You can’t ask a computer these intimate questions (about CBD). CDB isn’t one size fits all, if it were we could run on a model like Tim Hortons and just keep pushing product out. But it’s not. People come to us with very personal ailments and trusting us to find a personalized solution for them. It’s all about personal connections.
If you have any questions about CBD, or further questions about Stop & Smell the Roses, contact us! We’re happy to help.