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May 28, 2019 Manufacturing insights

Garden Remedies mentors startup marijuana firms

Garden Remedies COO Jeff Herold

Fitchburg cannabis firm Garden Remedies is making headway in the adult use-market as its Newton dispensary is now open for recreational marijuana sales. Adult-use sales are coming soon at the company’s Marlborough and Melrose locations, but it's a cannabis mentorship program, the Catalyst Mentoring Program, the company is most proud of, said Jeff Herold, chief operations officer. The graduates were Caroline Pineau, owner and CEO of Haverhill Stem; Gerardo Ramos, owner and operator of Holyoke Green Growers; and Erica Travis, founder and owner of Lily Pad Healing Arts.

What’s the difference between Catalyst and other programs, like Sira Natural’s accelerator program?

There are definitely differences in the two programs. We take a more one-on-one mentorship approach. Incubator programs like Sira’s are a little different. With ours, you come more onsite, and we train you in our methods. Sira’s program takes equity in exchange for mentorship. Ours is 100% free. 

How was the program conceived?

About two years ago, we were having a meeting with senior managers, and we were talking about how difficult it is to get into this industry, especially so early on. We came up with the idea if we could just do a one-on-one mentorship program with some individuals in certain areas, we could do a lot of good with not a ton of effort on our side. 

How many graduated from the first class?

We had three. We trained one person each in production/manufacturing, cultivation and retail. Two of them were economic empowerment applicants. 

Are economic empowerment applicants – those disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs – the focus?

We look at that as a priority because we feel like we can help them the most. With that priority status, they’re quicker to the game with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, but we look at the applicants we have and try to make sure we have people who are as dedicated to this as we are. We’re putting a lot of time into this, so we want to make sure there’s something real on the other end.

Cannabis is a highly competitive market. Why create more competitors without benefiting financially?

We look at it completely different than that. The more successful this industry is and with the right people in it, it’s going to be better for all of us. We’re at such an early stage in the industry there’s plenty of room for competition and plenty of people will be successful. If we can help develop and mentor some new entrepreneurs to help maintain the industry, it’s good for us too. 

Are there any cooperation agreements between Garden Remedies and these companies?

Not on paper, but some have communicated their plans for us to be their first customer. We would love that. 

How many more classes are anticipated?

It’s a 14-week program, so we’d like to get in at least three times a year. We used the first class as a beta test to figure out what we needed to change. That class graduated at the end of April, and we’re hoping to launch a next class in June. 

How did the first iteration of the program work?

When we started it, most of them hadn’t really started their journey. By the end, everyone had achieved host community agreements with their local communities. They really started to develop business plans and start the application process. 

It was fun to see them work their way through it. 

What was the benefit to Garden Remedies, besides that feeling of satisfaction?

That was really the biggest thing, just seeing them be successful and giving back. It’s taken us a lot of work to get here, so we’d like to give back to anyone else. 

Again, this industry is extremely competitive. Why is Garden Remedies taking a different approach?

You see a lot of the big companies and publicly traded entities – we’re different. We’re not that. We’re in Massachusetts and Massachusetts only. It’s hard to raise capital in this field so you have to look at everything on the table. We did a whole friends-and-family thing and were able to get off the ground that way. 

This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ Staff Writer Zachary Comeau. 

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