Warren Bobrow=WB: Where are you from? What propelled you on your journey? How does cannabis inspire you?
Justin Dye=JD: I grew up in Winslow, Indiana, a small rural community with a population of 1,200 in the southwest corner of the state. The major industries were coal mining and farming with honest and hardworking people. It was a great place to grow up. I grew up a big sports fan and have always been very competitive. For college, I attended DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana where I majored in Political Science. As I began my career, I brought with me not only the great education I received from DePauw but also the hard-working, honest and competitiveness that were instilled in me from growing up. These traits are what have propelled my career throughout the last two decades.
Most recently, I served in a number of executive roles at Albertsons Companies, where I helped lead the national grocery chain through a period of tremendous growth. I saw an opportunity to apply my experience in scaling businesses to the cannabis industry, which is what brought me to Schwazze. You would be surprised to see the similarities between the grocery and cannabis industries! Similar to the saying in grocery, farm to table; at Schwazze, we view ourselves as “seed to sale” with everything in between – growing, manufacturing, distribution and retail operations.
I believe in the potential of cannabis to improve the human condition, but it is up to our industry leaders to harness that potential. Cannabis inspires me to build a wider network of access for people whose lives can be improved by the plant. Only through purpose, innovation and business performance can we bring the best cannabis experiences to more people. Every day I get the chance to lead a business that supports the health and well-being of our customers and communities.
WB: Tell me about your company? How is Schwazze setting the stage for the next era of cannabis? What’s next for the Schwazze house of brands?
JD: Looking back to 2014, Medicine Man Technologies had humble beginnings as a private consulting company. Now, under the new Schwazze name, it’s positioned to become one of the largest players in cannabis. This stage of rapid company growth has been a long time in the making, and I am honored to be leading the charge.
Colorado was the ideal place to start our story, where the sophisticated market enabled us to establish expertise across our key operating areas. Our leadership team has been building a blueprint for success as a vertically integrated operator in cannabis, with a strategy for expansion. The acquisition of Mesa Organics and its extraction and manufacturing operations, Purplebee’s is the first of 11 pending acquisitions we already have planned, and we will be continuing to grow into the future as we build the Schwazze brand portfolio.
As we start our next chapter, our team is focused on bringing the Schwazze brand to life across every aspect of the supply chain, from cultivation to retail. The next era of the company will parallel the next era of cannabis: maximizing the customer experience, providing great products, researching plant genetics and cannabinoids to help consumer with medical and everyday needs. We will likely see more consolidation in the cannabis industry, enabling operators like Schwazze to reach more consumers with high quality products and experiences.
WB: What are the challenges currently facing the cannabis industry? How is Schwazze overcoming those challenges? What is your vision for what happens next in the industry?
JD: Since joining the industry nearly six months ago I have learned a lot about the cannabis market. First and foremost, the industry is incredibly fragmented. There are hundreds of dispensaries, growers and manufacturers across the regulated market; in Denver for example, there are more dispensaries than there are Starbucks locations.
As we have seen with legacy cannabis players, some companies have inefficient operating structures, weak balance sheets, limited capital, and unprofitable. Schwazze is building a strong business with a focus on innovating and delighting our customers, operational execution, and financial discipline to create value for our shareholders and various stakeholders.
Beyond that, we have prioritized hiring and assembling extraordinary leadership. We’re creating a rock-solid talent system by unifying some of the industry’s most respected pioneers under the Schwazze portfolio, starting with Jim Parco, Co-founder of Mesa Organics and Purplebee’s.
With the right people in place and the right resource deployment, we’ll be able to advance the cannabis industry with new offerings. For instance, we’ll see more retailers shift to omnichannel shopping formats (a shift made even more necessary by the pandemic; Schwazze created an online marketplace to fill this need). I also envision more data-driven insights that lead to more customer engagement, such as personalized loyalty programs.
WB: Do you cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to prepare? Who taught you? What’s your favorite restaurant? Where?
JD: To be honest, I enjoy eating meals more than preparing them. However, I am a good clean-up man and a decent dishwasher. My favorite restaurant is the Chicken Place in Ireland, Indiana, it is one of the best kept secrets in the midwest.
WB: What is your passion?
JD: It is pretty straightforward: spending time with my wife and family, vacation travel with friends, live music and reading. I love building great teams and businesses that make a difference.