After wrapping St. John, Newfoundland’s George Street Festival this summer as the only cannabis company on site, promoting the launch of their new app and sharing information about their nine retail locations representing nearly a quarter of cannabis retailers in the province, Oceanic Releaf owner and CEO Taylor Giovannini reflects on the remarkable growth of her company as it occurred in tandem with the plant’s transformative impact on her own life.
GO: Why was Oceanic created?
TG: Oceanic was created because everyone in the world understands the ocean as healing. It was founded organically and accidentally through helping a family member on his journey, which I wasn’t aware was actually my own. I made a batch of brownies for my husband’s grandfather and really helped alleviate his pain. It was an ‘aha moment’ for me, born out of medical need and the dream of helping as many people as possible.
GO: How did you work inclusivity into your branding?
TG: Oceanic evolved by leaning into the recreational side of things and having the opportunity here in Newfoundland to open up stores. I understood very quickly that there was a stigma, and that the stigma would hinder anyone who really needed the plant because of what they’ve been taught. So, I focused wholly and truly on creating a space and an atmosphere that was comfortable and stripped of stigma. That’s what Oceanic represents – it’s this brand of acceptance and education.
GO: What other methods are you using for differentiation?
TG: From my own experience, I didn’t want to ask stupid questions when I went into a store, so I was trying to figure out how to strip this completely down. How do we do that? We sell coffee! We sell coffee to differentiate ourselves from cannabis and to educate people. And then we also had the first drive-through in Canada. I have been super keen on that from day one; for parents. At the time cannabis became legal, my son was two and he’s literally attached to my hip. I thought, how do I physically go in stores when I can’t leave my baby?
GO: Was there any pushback from the community when you began operations?
TG: I’ve never seen any pushback whatsoever. I believe people listened to me because I don’t look like the stigma and because I’m very upfront and transparent about learning about this plant. Even though I’m the CEO and owner of Oceanic, I’m on the same beginner journey as everyone else. I engage with the communities and they’re more than happy to have safe and responsible cannabis rather than their local drug dealer.
GO: Can you describe more of your retail landscape?
TG: We have nine stores, and the ninth will open likely in August. There are four tiers in Newfoundland and all our stores are tier one, which are standalone stores that only sell cannabis. Three of our nine have drive-throughs and we’re working on a fourth. We also sell coffee from a local roaster in all of our stores and cannabis apparel and accessories. Of course, the number one question we get is asked is “is your coffee infused?” We have a little meme that says: Our coffee is plain Jane, not Mary Jane.
GO: Were you cultivating before retail? What brands have you sold?
TG: No, actually we opened up the stores first while we were in the process of getting our license. Our store opened first and then we got our cultivation license and then our sales license. We hold 60 per cent of our shelf space with our three in-house brands: Oceanic, our homegrown flower and pre-rolls, Seaweed is our curated brand from other craft growers in Canada, and Booty is our value brand. Then we also have partnership brands. Higgs is an L.A. brand that is super cool – we just launched it. Of course cannabis can’t cross borders, but brands can! Then the other 40 per cent of shelf space are carefully selected partners like Organigram, Delta 9, and Aqualitas. We’re also already in the German medical market and, I mean, I want to be global.
GO: How has the personal journey of Oceanic changed your life?
TG: I believe in Oceanic and what it’s capable of doing. I’ve also learned that this is a lifestyle. It’s a complete lifestyle change in so many aspects of my life, and I’m a better everything because of cannabis. Now I’m a better mother, I exercise, I meditate; I use it for everything and it elevates my life in all aspects.
We’ve got a long way to go still to be, what I would consider, successful, but I think the groundwork has been laid, especially with the partners that we have in place.
Taylor Giovannini is the owner & CEO of Newfoundland’s Oceanic Releaf.