When Steve Lopez joined The Green Solution in February 2018, he was coming from iModerate, a consumer research company. Bringing in someone with a customer focus may have been just what The Green Solution needed to fuel its seemingly endless growth.
As of July 2019, The Green Solution had 17 operational cannabis storefronts in Colorado, making it—by Lopez’s count—the second-largest MJ chain in the first state to launch legal recreational marijuana sales. And the vertically integrated company had plans to open four more shops, including one in Aspen, over the next several months.
“Usually, I’m brought in to turn around companies. … On this one, it wasn’t a turnaround at all; it was more keeping up with the growth,” Lopez said.
Marijuana Business Magazine sat down with Lopez to learn what makes The Green Solution stand out among its many competitors in Colorado.
What have been some high points for you at The Green Solution?
I’ve had many. This is the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. It’s so fun being in a whole new industry.
One of the things I’m used to (when) coming into companies is I really got to change the culture and get people impassioned about what they’re doing. But when I came here, I didn’t have to worry about that at all. You’ve got a highly motivated—no pun intended—team that is already impassioned about the product.
So I didn’t have to do anything on the culture and passion side; it was really just strategically growing and making sure we have the infrastructure to support that.
What have been some of the hurdles The Green Solution has encountered?
The hurdles are always the local government. Everybody has different regulations, but we have a fantastic legal team as well as a regulation team. So, when we know we’re going to open a store, they work very closely with those local governments to make sure we’re putting our best foot forward and our name is always highly regarded within the government.
What tips would you offer other companies looking to build retail chains of their own in other state markets?
Our biggest thing we’ve always focused on is our customer experience. We really want to educate folks when they come to our stores, so we have concierge-level service. When you come in, you actually have one retail associate—other people call them budtenders—but that person stays with you through the whole transaction. And that’s to help educate you.
We have a lot of folks who have been on the sidelines (because of) the stigma around marijuana. So, when they come through our doors, we can slowly walk them through it, show them all the things we have available. Making sure we’re taking time with customers to make sure they get what they need, we find that leads to a high level of loyalty.
How does customer service inform the products you offer?
We get feedback from our customers constantly on products. They’ll tell us, “Hey, we’d like to have this kind of flavor,” and we put that into R&D.
Our product line has blown up. Even since I started here, I think we probably have easily another 150 products on our shelves these days, directly from consumer feedback on what they want and would like to have available.
Why hasn’t The Green Solution yet expanded into states outside of Colorado?
Originally, the approach was doing a franchise, so we’d be able to cookie-cutter those out and give franchise owners the guidance they’d need.
But then (we) realized, to hold our brand standards and the level we hold all our current outlets to, we really wanted to be the owners of those. That’s what the focus is now.
What are some of the pros and cons of being vertically integrated?
We’re completely vertically integrated. We grow our own product indoors and outdoors, and we’ve got four grows total: three indoors and one outdoor facility. It’s fantastic knowing exactly what your growing process is and how you treat it.
Being vertically integrated, the biggest pro is you control the supply chain throughout. So every step of the way meets our standards. We know exactly how we want it to be, and we make sure that it gets delivered to our customers, to deliver on their expectations.
What’s nice about that is by the time it gets to the retail floor, we know we’re delivering on those expectations.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.