Kayla Tait is the Manager of Lush Leaf Cannabis in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. Our member interview series highlights independent retailers that are dedicated to a thriving grassroots cannabis industry in Canada. Co-op members have pooled their resources to negotiate a fair price and equal opportunity in the marketplace and believe in hard work, fair play, and integrity above all else.

When did you first become involved in the cannabis industry and why?

KT: I was working as a personal trainer when my sister approached me to manage the store. She had received the licence but needed help. I was already using cannabis for pain management, and have a long history enjoying it. I said yes! I’ve been involved in the industry since legalization on October 17, 2018, we were one of only six stores open in Saskatchewan that day.

How has your relationship with cannabis and the industry changed since opening your store?

KT: I believe in the plant more than ever. I see so many customers that have experienced incredible changes in their life due to cannabis. A recent example of this is local elderly folks who have been finding arthritis relief using the Wildflower CBD sticks. Now that legalization has happened, we are seeing many new and innovative products like this that really contribute to customers’ quality of life.

I’ve also started growing personal amounts myself and I enjoy watching each stage of the plant. It’s beautiful to see, and my relationship with cannabis has only gotten closer.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when working with cannabis companies?

KT: To be honest, I’m not finding many challenges when working with cannabis companies. We’ve been ordering from the Weed Pool since the beginning which has a large selection of products at good prices.

In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the cannabis industry right now?

KT: Competing with the illicit market. Our hands are tied with all the rules and regulations the illicit market doesn’t have to adhere to. For example, some customers want 50+ mg in their edibles but we can only sell up to 10 mg per package. Our customers aren’t going to eat all of those candies to try and get the same result.

Another challenge I have noticed lately is less experienced budtenders entering the workforce. Cannabis stores are being treated the same as any retail job. But Cannabis is different. It’s important for budtenders to have knowledge of the products they’re selling not only for good business practices but for public education and safety.

What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given? In general, or in the cannabis industry specifically.

KT: Believe in the products you sell. Business will be much better if you can truly stand behind your products.

Why did you first join Weed Pool and what has kept you involved?

KT: We started with Weed Pool when it used to be called SICRN – Saskatchewan Independent Cannabis Retailers’ Network – before we even opened our store. Like other co-op members, we wanted to create a strong network because we knew the chain stores would come in and try to take over. We wanted to meet like-minded people who genuinely cared about the plant as much as we do.

It was a bumpy start when distribution first started, but now Weed Pool is an incredible machine. It’s my favourite supplier to order from because I always know what’s in stock, how much, and when it will arrive. Shipping is cheaper and turnaround times are fast.

Another important aspect is the availability of high-quality products from micro-growers. We get to support these small family farms and learn about the stories behind the plant. It’s nice to have these lesser-known products on the shelves because now understand the work that goes into it.

How has the Weed Pool helped your business succeed?

KT: The network of mutual support has been huge as an independent. Also being able to connect with micro-growers and highlight them on our menu helps us succeed. Weed Pool has introduced us to many small growers that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. Access to high-quality, unique products has given us a competitive edge over other nearby stores. There’s a great selection of products at all price points.

All of the cannabis stores around us are chain stores, and they all have pretty much the same menus. I’ve got a few of the same products here and there, but our menus are double the size thanks to the large selection of products Weed Pool carries.

People in our town often have to drive to larger surrounding communities to go shopping. But not for weed. We’re able to get any products you would see in cities like Regina or Saskatoon, shipped fast and for the same prices. In fact, people are driving TO little Esterhazy from surrounding communities for cannabis.

What do you believe is your biggest competitive advantage as an independently-owned business?

KT: Being independent allows us to truly make it our own. We get to tailor our menu to our community’s needs. People come in and notice we’re different. It’s not your usual, look at the screen and order kind of thing, customers come in to visit and linger for a while. It’s the kind of style and pace people here enjoy.

What’s your favourite product right now? Please tell me the brand and product name and why.

KT: Adults Only – NSFW tangerine 1.2g cartridges. Also, anything from Herba Farms!

We’re owned and operated by our members, so what matters to you matters to us. Members enjoy the largest selection of the best-in-market products at fair prices for everyone, shipped fast. See the benefits on our homepage and apply to join the Co-op today.