Running as an independent cannabis store rather than a franchisee has its own challenges and opportunities. Serena Somani, recently underwent the journey from a Tweed franchise to the independent operator of 4K Cannabis.
Origins of 4K Cannabis
After cannabis legalization in 2017, Somani knew she wanted to join the industry and make a difference: “I’m a huge advocate of cannabis and the plant. I really wanted to push forward de-stigmatization and normalization of cannabis consumption. There are so many unique aspects of cannabis; you can enjoy a fun night out without a hangover keeping you from crushing it the next day. I love my daily workouts to pump me up; I’m an active person and an alcohol hangover can bring about the blues and sluggish-ness! There’s so much potential for therapeutic and recreational uses—it’s the perfect business.”
Delays in Opening
In 2018 Somani got ready to enter Ontario’s second round retail lottery, however, due to the documents that government requested at the time and bank processing requirements she was unable to make the deadline. “Due to the delays I had to wait and apply based solely on merit,” she explains. “The next hurdles we faced were opening a bank account and building out a shop during COVID lockdowns.” Opening a bank account added six months to their timeline and added extra fees that other businesses don’t need to deal with.
Opening under a corporate name, the process was lengthy and had they not franchised the store could have opened a year earlier. “Delays took so long,” she laments. “And all of a sudden we were now stuck with COVID construction shutdowns and paying rent for so many extra months. If we had opened earlier as an independent, we would have avoided paying rent for months of a shop sitting empty.”
The Road to Independence
A corporate relationship can sometimes be difficult to execute. Somani explains, “We had some challenges; from lengthy paperwork delays to lack of brand support. We put a lot of money into marketing the franchise name, but ultimately the franchiser dissolved their retail brand, and removed the name in January 2023. From there, 4K Cannabis retail was born. One of the big challenges of going independent is we have to win over our consumers’ trust. We are the same people providing the same excellent service.”
Like with any of life’s challenges, we learn along the way. Somani says, “We learned that customers are not brand loyal to shops yet. The industry is young and people are determining which brands they like. It’s clear that corporate names don’t drive customer traffic. It’s the people and the offering that make the difference.”
With such a young industry in Canada, there’s so much room to grow, and 4K Cannabis wants to take this opportunity to build a brand for the people. “We genuinely care about the cannabis industry; we care about the selection of products we offer and strive to keep everyone from value seekers to connoisseurs pleased, we stand by what we’re selling,” Somani notes.
4K Cannabis is newly launched and focused on becoming Durham region’s #1 choice for a cannabis in-shop experience and delivery service. “We’re always looking to improve, grow, and expand—putting out our best for our team and our customers,” says Somani. I’m a big believer in learning from my experiences and others around me. Everything happens for a reason. I’m proud of the journey my team and I have gone on and I’ll apply what I now know to my future road map.”