Ask a Dispensary Owner: Ry Russell of Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine

In the first installment of Leafwire’s exclusive ‘Ask a Dispensary Owner’ Series, we spoke with Ry Russell, owner of Budz Emporium in Medway, Maine – one of the most northern cities in the entire continental states.

Here are some great insights on the importance of pricing, transparency and truly listening to your customers.

What do you wish you had known before starting the process of starting your dispensary?

There is so much I wish I had known before I started opening the dispensary. I think the most critical is truly understanding your tax obligation. We learn a lot about 280e but until you actually process your taxes it’s hard to truly understand the impact. Taxes eat up roughly 35% of total revenue and you need to prepare for that. Remaining profitable while meeting your tax obligations is ultimately the name of the game.

What surprised me the most about opening a dispensary?

What had surprised me the most about opening a dispensary is the fine attention to detail. I came into this project with an extensive retail background and I felt confident and prepared for this undertaking, however, it is the hardest challenge I have taken on. Balancing vendors and prices with the value your customer expects is no easy task. Creating the ultimate in store experience that brings customers back over and over requires listening and adapting to everything that comes your way. A constant pivot is needed in this industry. 

How have you had to adapt the dispensary due to customer feedback?

The thing I am most proud of when talking about our dispensary is our commitment to customers. When we opened the store we were following the market. Our prices were too high and our selection was too small. We listened to our customers and we fight like hell for the best value and now budz emporium is the first store in the state of maine with a price match guarantee and the widest selection of top shelf flower from across the state. People now drive hours to visit us because we have the best value in the state by far. We wouldn’t have pulled this off if we didn’t have a deep and passionate relationship with our customers. 

What sort of payment challenges have you dealt with and what is working for you now?

Payment solutions is always a challenge. We started out with ATMs and then shortly after we opened the banks pulled them out. We went to a debit pay system and that network was taken offline a month later. Now we have a pin debit solution but we still do not rest easy. We always make sure we have a backup plan in the works in case a system provider goes offline. It is quite a headache and something we must be always paying attention to. 

Have you found any value in using loyalty programs or frequent shopper programs in order to drive loyalty?

Personally, I don’t use loyalty programs. We guarantee the best price in the state. We are often asked if we offer a loyalty program and we usually joke and say “we could, but then we would have to raise prices.” The customer usually understands and appreciates that we are sacrificing huge margins in effort to provide a fair price each and every single day. Honestly, I believe this fair and honest pricing strategy is the main reason we are doing so well. 

What’s some creative marketing efforts that you’ve tried out to generate business?

Marketing for an adult use business is challenging. The state has many restrictions that make it near impossible to communicate with customers outside of your store. However, we have found clever and crafty ways to advertise on the radio while remaining compliant. The radio has been our most significant source of customer acquisition. We do some newspaper advertising as well but the radio is where we see the biggest impact currently. 

Was hiring and managing a staff a bigger challenge than you expected?

Staffing is always a challenge, for any business. However, I think dispensaries have to be extra careful. We don’t have any job applications and I don’t post jobs online anywhere. I go about my day in the community and if I see someone providing extraordinary service I do my best to get to know them and invite them to join our team. I believe the best way to find good people is to observe people doing what they are supposed to be doing out in the world and then rewarding good behaviors. if people are doing their best work when they expect no one is paying attention they will do excellent work for a manager that cares about them! I am very proud of the team we have built at budz emporium! 

Any predictions for what the industry should expect in 2023?

I think mature markets are going to see the price of products continue to drop and the industry is going to have to get extremely invested in their communities in order to stay in business. The more things change the more they stay the same and at the end of the day the community needs to remain the center of attention.

Older Post
Newer Post