GO: What is your background in the industry and how was the legacy Eggs Canna brand founded?
OC: My husband, Andrew Cappellano, has been cultivating cannabis for over two decades, and his passion quickly turned into his life’s vocation.
One day in 2013, he approached me and said: “you need to quit your job because we are opening a cannabis dispensary and I need you to run it.” Of course I said yes, and jumped head first into an industry I really had no experience with.
Much of my time was spent learning all that I could about the industry as a whole and the cannabis plant and its many applications and derivatives.
So, in 2014, we opened our first cannabis retail store; in 2016, we were amongst the first retailers to get licensed under the old medical marijuana-related use (MMRU) license class in the City of Vancouver; and finally, in 2019, we again were amongst the first retailers to obtain our provincial cannabis retail license in the City of Vancouver.
As I have grown with the cannabis industry, my focus has been on strategic management, business development and growth, fundraising and everything and anything regulatory – including being a stakeholder for municipalities when they were drafting their bylaws.
GO: How has your company evolved over the years, spreading into the cultivation space?
OC: Andrew was very strategic in his approach. Having been part of the grassroots eco-system that was already established pre-legalization, he felt it would be best to start with retail and grow into cultivation!
Once our retail brand was established and well on its way, we purchased a 17,000 sq ft facility with the intent of turning it into EC Farms. This facility is to serve an underserviced market in the legal framework, and Andrew will be focusing on organic craft cultivation and bringing sought-after legacy strains to the legal market.
In 2021, we began to retrofit construction and although we experienced many challenges and delays due to the pandemic and other extenuating financial obstacles, we are very happy to announce that as of May 2023, construction is complete and we are eagerly awaiting our Health Canada license.
GO: As a unique position in the industry, describe the vertical integration of cultivation and retail.
OC: It is very important that we are vertically integrated and have that direct access to customer data in real-time so that we can cultivate products that are in demand. Likewise, it is equally as important for us as retailers to understand what is important for our wholesale customers.
We have a motto in our cultivation division – we are ‘by retailers, for retailers,’ and with that concept in mind, we only wish to supply our private retailers with our products and utilize direct delivery; we want to start to create competitive advantages for our family of retailers.
GO: How has the retail landscape changed over the last five years?
OC: The last five years have been very tough on many in the industry. There were significant retail licensing bottlenecks causing financial hardship for both retail and cultivation.
The framework was very onerous and much too restrictive, contributing to the continuation of the black-market long after legalization. Over the last year, however, I have seen positive changes to that framework, which I hope will continue and translate into profitability for the retail industry as a whole.
I would summarize that the first year of legalization was an absolute nightmare from a regulatory and profitability perspective, then years two-to-three were not much better, but at least stores were receiving licenses. But in year four, there were too many licenses being issued in clusters in several municipalities. Now in year five, we are all starting to understand the retail landscape and looking forward to some of the changes coming down the pipeline.
GO: What do you suspect the next five years will bring?
OC: I expect that the next five years will be the golden age for retailers.
Anyone who has weathered the storm thus far will establish their brand and customer base. With the continued relaxing of the framework and the implementation of the direct-to-retail program in B.C., retailers will be able to better compete with the legacy market and differentiate themselves through product offerings.
Although it has been a tough first five years, and I do believe that economic circumstances will dwindle growth over the next one-to-two years, I truly believe the end of the next five years will be exciting and prosperous for those who successfully navigated the first legalized decade.
Oana Cappellano is the president and co-founder of the Eggs Canna Group.