Small towns have a certain kind of magic when it comes to building and shaping a community, and it’s especially true for towns that are not only rural but also tourist destinations, much like Blind Bay, located in one of the most beautiful remote locations, the southern Shuswap region of British Columbia. Blind Bay sees its population practically triple in the summer – making it an ideal location for Copper Island Cannabis Co.
The degree of difficulty cannabis retailers face when starting up can vary and often depends on timing, local real estate for pending locations, the level of build-out, shopfitting, and even competition, all of which can make or break a business, especially considering the high costs associated with this part of the process.
Considerable effort goes into planning, renovating, and securing a cannabis retail license, but location is everything in retail and Copper Island Cannabis is very well-situated. It’s adjacent to the Blind Bay Village Grocer, the main grocery store which features a deli, butcher, bakery, and even a post office. Sharing the parking lot with a gas station, and the closest one to the lake and boat launch, it’s a busy hub for this small community that grows exponentially in the summer months, and ideal for Copper Island Cannabis as they are the only cannabis retailer in the area.
Copper Island Cannabis Co. is set in a unique, Quonset-styled house, formerly a rental property which was rented out for many years prior to becoming a cannabis store, and had to be completely gutted and renovated in order to fulfill licensing requirements.
Licensing is not something that’s predictable, and by the time the floor plan was approved, the contractor and his team completed the project within 30 days to have it ready to open before the end of summer. They ultimately opened in September 2021, giving them enough time to fine-tune everything and be fully ready to serve and educate their community.
It was the value of the plant itself that played a significant role in Ashley Jager’s retail success, and instrumental in how she returned to the cannabis industry, post-legalization, to become the store manager of the first and only cannabis shop in Blind Bay, BC.
Compared to legacy cannabis, where Ashley gained her industry experience, Copper Island Cannabis learned it’s not a good option to just use any kind of POS system. What helped them quickly identify the benefits in Greenline was that they knew what key functionality was missing in the previous system. They were using a decent POS software but it wasn’t cannabis-specific, so there were a few important features that it didn’t provide. Quite quickly they realized there’s a great deal of value in using a cannabis-specific POS.
“The compliance component definitely was one of the top selling points for us about Greenline,” Ashley said, “I was probably spending between 20 and 26 hours doing our federal reporting with the old system. To not have to spend extra time on federal reporting, it’s a huge blessing.”
The success of a cannabis retailer, as with most retailers, lies in the ability to translate reports well and use them to gain a competitive advantage. As the Copper Island Cannabis store manager, Ashley is no stranger to using the power of reports on a regular basis, and although she goes a step further by exporting data from Greenline to create her own spreadsheets, she adds,
“I definitely like seeing the hourly sales per day reports, that’s very important, we’ve used that information to really fine-tune our hours of business so we could make sure we’re open during the busiest times.
I just love being able to go in Greenline, on demand, to see anything that I need in terms of inventory, what I have in total in the store, for example, rather than having to export it.”
Tracking barcode scan rates in Greenline allows retailers to maximize on their budtenders’ skills and what they’re good at and can be used as a tool to enhance training. Ashley uses the system data to help budtenders identify each other’s strengths, specializations, and areas for improvement.
I love that I’m able to see what my employees are selling most of, that is a huge training tool. It’s really nice to see the breakdown per employee to see where we can improve or where we can give some extra training. It’s a really great tool.”
Some retailers are reluctant to switch systems, but Copper Island Cannabis needed a cannabis-specific POS to easily facilitate compliance. Inventory was another component that they had concerns about, and whether or not it was going to be user-friendly. It’s important that the POS is easy to use so budtenders can easily carry out the functions of their role, and especially for owners and operations managers, in a position like Ashley, where saving time and maintaining efficiency is critical. Greenline’s import catalogue makes it easy for retail managers to set up the inventory at the outset, to align with the variety of products they plan to sell.
The inventory & the way the inventory is set up in Greenline is flawless in my opinion, it’s super easy to use. That was one thing I was concerned about – is it going to be user-friendly? It’s really nice to use software where everything is laid out so clearly and really hard to mess up.
When it comes to purchase orders, you need to be able to correct any data entry issues easily and quickly in POS software, Ashley adds,
“I’ve made a couple mistakes over the last couple months in terms of purchase orders and it’s so easy to correct. I also really love the sales log in inventory, so I can see exactly when I put in a purchase order.”
The audit process in Greenline goes smoothly for Copper Island Cannabis and Ashley enjoys that it’s another one of those things that frees up time for managers. She says,
“It’s easy enough that I can hand our second tablet to one of my budtenders and have them count the store, it’s definitely a very helpful tool.”
Quite often with cannabis products the names and packaging are very similar so it’s not uncommon to accidentally ring in the wrong item. Ashley adds,
“It’s really easy to fix those types of errors which is super helpful because with a lot of other software programs, it’s a whole process to make those corrections, but with Greenline’s audit option, it’s literally one step and it’s stupid simple.”
While it’s obvious that efficiency is key in cannabis retail, it’s worth noting that for smaller stores starting out there isn’t always a huge profit to be made, and there is more responsibility falling on retail managers where time management is critical and saving any amount of time in workflows is significant.
As business has definitely picked up since opening for Copper Island Cannabis, the product import catalogues in Greenline have been extremely valuable. Ashley said,
“I’m making larger orders every week and because our consumer has no brand or product loyalty yet, we’re bringing in new products every single week, I’m so grateful I don’t have to manually enter each and every one of them.”
Customers can enter quantity thresholds, in Greenline, to assist with low stock and re-stock levels. When low stock quantities are applied to products, low stock alerts can be set up which will then send the customer an SMS text message notifying them that the product’s inventory levels have reached the low stock level. Ashley relies on this feature for their most popular products, she adds,
“When the products reach the minimum level, the system fires me a text, and then right from my phone I can add it to my next BC LDB order. That’s been really handy. The nice thing about having it come to my phone is, if I’m not in-store I can still keep tabs on what’s happening in the store in terms of sales, which is really, really nice.”
Greenline University is designed so that whether you’re an owner, manager, or budtender, you can easily go online and do self-training on the system based on your requirements. It’s simple and structured to help retailers succeed with their business operations at all levels while using Greenline.
Ashley has a smart approach in first training on the software, and then making sure budtenders stay dialed in within the industry. To get started, she uses Greenline University to train staff – forming the basis of what budtenders need to learn on the platform. Ashley said it takes about an hour and it’s easy for them to learn fast. She finds that it’s a valuable tool for retailers because it allows them to set up a new employee with the computer, provide training, and then go over any questions – essentially freeing up a lot of time that she’s grateful for.
I set up many product knowledge sessions, we’re trying to curate those relationships with our sales reps, especially because farmgate is supposed to be happening later this year. And we’re really trying to support local as much as possible.
“Knowing which grows are around, knowing the process which was used to grow the cannabis, those are the types of things that I really want my staff to understand wholeheartedly, because knowledge is power, and at the end of the day, all of us retailers are out here selling the exact same products.”
One of the most insightful things Ashley said, that may hold true for the bulk of retailers out there,
“People don’t have loyalty to a store for the store, the setup, or the product. It’s usually that they will have loyalty because they connect with one of the budtenders, and really appreciate our recommendations and the knowledge that we can give on the product.”
This sentiment certainly holds true, as evidenced by their amazing reviews on Google.
Copper Island Cannabis has a sharp team that draws from one another’s strengths and helps with any shortfalls when it comes to educating consumers with product information. All staff are set up each day with the latest industry news online and easy access to sell sheets from LPs. There is an up-to-date daily on ‘nice new stuff that’s dropped in Ontario but hasn’t come to BC yet’ as Ashley puts it, there are quite a few resources that I try to have readily available for all our employees.”
Copper Island Cannabis is fortunate that they don’t have any direct competition as they are the only cannabis store in the Blind Bay/ Sorrento area. Even so, they have carefully developed their brand by curating an experience for customers from the moment they walk in where everything is very clean, almost clinical, but still very inviting. It’s extremely well-organized with everything matched to their logo and lots of healthy plants.
Although they don’t display any physical products, they have product cards for each individual product with details including sativa/indica/hybrid selections and their associated terpenes, a picture, and even the producer’s logo to help their customers with brand recognition. With a large elderly population, Copper Island Cannabis makes sure that everyone is comfortable going into the store by making sure it’s a safe space for people of all ages to learn about the products. The product cards are useful and allow consumers to shop at their own pace. They can pick up the cards if they need to read it closer. There is also a ‘Self-care Corner’ where you can find topicals, tinctures, capsules, CBN products, and more.
To encourage and guide customers to make informed purchases based on the terpenes they gravitate towards, Copper Island Cannabis helps educate their customers via their custom-made poster featuring a terpene wheel of all the different terpenes and their flavours. It’s a nice touch and all part of the experience. This team cares, they get excited about cannabis, and they know their products well, and that’s the most important thing in cannabis retail – using product knowledge to build trust and respect.
Having just launched their online store, Copper Island Cannabis uses the Buddi software integration with Greenline and they’re excited to expand with delivery service this summer.
“I didn’t even need to look into any other integrations for the menu just because Buddi totally impressed me with everything they ran me through, I was just blown away.”
Ashley feels they are only winning with the online menu integration with Buddi, its ease of setup, and how customizable it is, plus that it comes completely free with Greenline – it’s a win-win.
To reduce the amount of paper they use, Copper Island Cannabis includes THC-level ranges on their product cards so they can be re-used, but for online ordering, they know it’s very important to have those exact numbers for THC/ CBD levels, so customers are better equipped to make an educated decision. Once they expand, Copper Island Cannabis will be in a good position to take advantage of Greenline’s functionality for multi-location THC/ CBD levels and bulk price updates.
“There are some people that you’ll just never get away from wanting the highest THC, but now we are starting to see a shift in perception of cannabis, how it’s consumed, and how the different terpenes can affect you. And it’s not just about high THC levels anymore.”
Copper Island Cannabis uses 2 Moneris payment terminals for their setup with one hardwired to the POS. Living rurally, the internet is always a problem, so they have a payment processing machine that also operates off their cell services, which are fortunately quite good, and useful for curbside pickup orders. For online ordering, if customers don’t want to pay online, Copper Island Cannabis brings the terminal right out to their car for payment.
Blind Bay Cannabis Co. sees a larger demand for craft cannabis, naturally, as there are so many grows local to them. The locals get excited to see cannabis locally cultivated in places like Turtle Valley, only about 20 minutes from Blind Bay.
Turtle Valley is where you’ll find Habitat Life Sciences Inc., a company that introduces a holistic approach to cannabis cultivation. Habitat produces some of the finest organic cannabis (yes, authentic BC bud!) using vertical growing techniques and aquaponics – not just for cannabis, but interestingly, also for Coho salmon, with mindful consideration of being economical while protecting all facets of the environment.
Craft cannabis is seeing far more innovation in terms of cultivation than we’ve seen since legalization. As we start to see industry improvements with regulations Canada-wide, and with thanks to associations like The Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers, ACCRES, a driving force of many provincial regulatory changes – with positive results for cannabis retailers, The Craft Cannabis Association of BC, CCABC, and the BC Craft Farmers Coop, BCCFC, whose combined efforts influence cannabis regulation in support of the craft cannabis industry in BC, craft cannabis growers can now look forward to the new farmgate sales program set to launch in BC hopefully by fall this year.
With a focus on cannabis that is local to British Columbia, Copper Island Cannabis Co. has a very different business model than most retailers. Using data from Headset, a Greenline partner for business intelligence, retail managers can reliably use consumer-driven industry data by province. Ashley says,
“Having access to that data is really important for us as retail managers. When I first opened the store, I was referencing Headset quite a bit, but as we are formatted differently than a lot of stores, there are very few products on our shelves that actually come from outside of BC.”
Copper Island Cannabis already sees the benefit of setting up accounts for their customers, especially for their elderly demographic who have been more excited about it than anybody else because they won’t have to save their receipts or packaging.
As budtenders encourage customers to set up an account, and as customers start making online orders and create their own customer profiles, virtually every transaction can be tied to a customer, and they can then use the growing customer account list to yield much stronger data analytics to fine-tune their product offerings even further for their clientele.
Once they have everything on file for customers, they’ll be able to build out a solid customer base to add more value to their marketing plans by sending monthly newsletters to feature product highlights, sales, and events. The Copper Island Cannabis team loves to talk about cannabis, and they intend to harness the power of social media (including Tik Tok – because they also love to have fun), so they can further engage and increase awareness with customers, producers, brands, etc.
When asked about customer support, Ashley didn’t hesitate to say how much the Greenline team has helped her along the way.
Greenline Support has been amazing. That’s one thing I very firmly believe in, customer service is everything in a business, and I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about the customer support that we’ve received. It’s been phenomenal.”
When asked if there were any challenges with using the software at all, Ashley said,“I’m struggling to think of anything. I had one issue one time the barcodes weren’t scanning properly but that was super minor and Greenline fixed it for me right away. Other than that, I’ve got nothing for you, it’s really easy to use.”
Cannabis retailers need to always be innovating, like Copper Island Cannabis does, to maintain their success and this includes exploring new tools. StrainBrain, for example, a product out of Toronto is essentially an online effect wheel where it’s a useful tool for people who are experiencing cannabis for the first time or starting to experiment with it, so they have an indication how different products are going to affect them. Copper Island Cannabis hopes to launch StrainBrain in their store before summer hits so they can add another layer of having customers trust in them and also educate themselves.
Ashley said it gets wild in Blind Bay in the summer, and with more than 30,000 cars passing through, they need a program, like Greenline, that’s capable of handling the high volume. Ashley adds,
“Now that we’re getting a little bit closer to summer, thank goodness we have Greenline all set up and operational and everybody’s trained on it.
In transitioning from a non-specific POS system, here’s what Ashley had to say (Google review) about how truly simple the process is with Greenline:
“Greenline has been an absolute pleasure to work with – right from the initial sales department all the way through to set-up, integration, and everything in between. Sales and Customer Success teams specifically were so incredibly helpful and patient with all my questions. I would give them 100 stars if I could! Thank you Greenline for making the transition between POS systems so seamless!!!”
With an early start learning the ropes in the medical cannabis industry, prior to legalization, Ashley ran a medical dispensary for several years. She credits her industry success not only to her experience in legacy cannabis but also on a personal level, and from a medical perspective, she has seen first-hand the benefits of the plant. Ashley’s mom, Trish Glazier, not only overcame, but conquered cancer, with cannabis. Following a stage 4 brain cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, she cleared herself with the use of Rick Simpson Oil, (RSO, also referred to as ASO).
Ashley’s mom is a true warrior, and a fine example of the useful power of the plant. She did, however, have the opportunity to meet Rick Simpson, and develop a strong knowledge base on its use and efficacy. It’s not a plant be taken lightly, as RSO oil, also referred to as Phoenix Tears, is a highly concentrated substance, a full spectrum oil that consists of the full cannabinoid and terpene contents of the cannabis plant in its raw form.
This is a personal story and not intended to impart any sort of medical advice. It is highly recommended to anyone considering its use, to educate themselves on risks, dosage levels, administration options, even referring to the advice of a medical practitioner could be useful – depending on their level of acceptance and/or knowledge. After all, we’re still trying to dispel the stigma surrounding the plant and improve efforts to share cannabis knowledge and its benefits.
Copper Island Cannabis/ Greenline integrations mentioned:
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