Unity Rd. Shop Owners Light Up South Dakota Cannabis Market
Unity Rd.’s local South Dakota shop owners are trailblazers.
B.J. Olson and Adam Jorgensen opened the first non-tribal, state-licensed medical cannabis establishment in the state on July 27, ultimately launching the new cannabis market. The dedicated entrepreneurial duo has infused their Hartford, S.D. cannabis shop with a deep commitment to the health and well-being of their community, and it shows with lines around the block and the authentic relationships they are forming.
Read on for more about what it is like to be first in the state, the experience of partnering with Unity Rd. for their journey into the cannabis space, and the moving stories they have heard along the way.
How did you know you wanted to become entrepreneurs, and why did you decide to venture into the cannabis space?
Adam Jorgensen: B.J. and I bring two decades of retail and wireless technology experience and training to the table.
After 21 years of working for Fortune 50 companies, I reached a time in my career when I was ready to work for myself and contribute at a higher capacity for my family and our future. I was looking for my professional work to have a greater impact on others and saw the opportunity with the emerging cannabis market in South Dakota.
We can operate a retail store with our eyes closed, but cannabis retail operations bring a whole new level of complexities we have never experienced. We chose to partner with Unity Rd. because the company offered us the opportunity to proverbially “buy the Lego set” and take the guesswork out of the process.
I believe 100 percent in the power the cannabis plant offers and that, as a country, this is very much the tip of the iceberg for the industry. Ultimately, as a believer in this product, I want to be part of the movement and help change perceptions around the plant. With the support from Unity Rd., we were able to cross the line first in our home state.
B.J. Olson: I was in a similar place professionally and saw this business opportunity as my vehicle to help as many people as I could possibly reach.
Why did you decide to partner with Unity Rd.?
Olson: When Adam and I began looking into the most viable entrance into this market, we had nothing more than our own experimental knowledge of cannabis—we didn’t know anything about the business side of the plant.
The first thing I did was search for organizations we could work with and began connecting with them to learn more. They all were excited to partner with us, have us invest right away, and tell us exactly what to do, except Unity Rd. Their team was the first to say, “Hey, let’s pump the brakes here. Let's get to know each other first to see if we’re a good fit for each other and if this is really something that you guys want to do.”
And honestly, it was that initial interaction that made us confident about this being a solid and honest relationship. The others we spoke with wanted to cash my check immediately, from our first conversation. Whereas it took four months before the Unity Rd. crew would even take a check from us.
It meant a lot to Adam and I knowing that they really want to be truly invested in us as much as we want to be invested in them. Learning more about their brand, processes, product and people involved, also made the decision simple. They were ready to hand us the playbook and offer support through every step of the way, all we needed was patience and the ability to execute, which comes easy as two extremely type A personalities.
I think we have the opportunity to help Unity Rd. shape its future just as much as Unity Rd. helps shape ours as local shop owners.
What was the experience like opening your doors on day one as the first non-tribal medical cannabis establishment in South Dakota?
Olson: It was unreal. We were unsure how legalized medical cannabis was going to be perceived in our city, or overall, our state. When we opened the door the first day, there was a line wrapped around the building for several hours. We’re truly passionate about taking a proper education-first approach surrounding medical cannabis at our Unity Rd. shop.
The most impactful moment for me on our first day of legal sales was when an 81-year-old woman, diagnosed with terminal cancer, came in and shared her story with us. After failed chemotherapies and radiation treatments, medical professionals had told her there was not much they could do to help with her day-to-day pain management. After researching the potential relief capabilities medical cannabis can offer, she decided to apply for a patient card. She came to our shop the first day with her husband because she was too weak to stand in line by herself and received an educational consultation from Unity Rd.’s Director of Education and Training, Fay Powell, on cannabis product categories, proper dosing and the variety of consumption methods. At the end of her visit, she expressed her gratitude to us for giving her a renewed hope to live her life to the fullest. Being able to make such an impact on our neighbors, truly is what Adam and I set out to accomplish in our hometown.
Not going to lie, it brought more than a couple tears to my eyes, but those are the moments we live for.
Tell us what it means to you to open up a cannabis shop in the community that you grew up in.
Jorgensen: I couldn’t be more proud. Not only did we open the first South Dakota non-tribal medical cannabis establishment but, on top of that, we did it in our home state, where all our family is from and continues to live.
We committed to being the first in this new market and had the luxury of being the only legal establishment for two months. We want to be a true ally for our community and are setting the bar extremely high for other cannabis businesses. We had the weight of the entire cannabis industry on our shoulders and want to ensure that we set the standards of what a true, local cannabis shop should look and feel like. Our Unity Rd. experience is unlike any others in our market, and we deliver this through unbelievable products and our education-first approach.
Olson: I’ve been ingrained in the Hartford community for the last 20 years. This is where I go to the grocery store, restaurants, school sporting events and PTA meetings. So, owning a medical cannabis business in Hartford and ensuring the success of it is vital to me.
Being in my hometown also gives Adam and I a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. We’re dedicated to having it become a highlight in the community, and fully believe in what we do. We take a lot of pride in the business we’ve created and the brand we represent.
How did the franchise support team aid you through the entire process of opening to operating your business?
Jorgensen: Unity Rd. has been there for B.J. and I every step of the way. Through the entire process. One of the only reasons that we're able to always throw the number one plaque up is because of their support. That can be broken down into every facet from looking at real estate to building designs, licensing, technology, staffing, training, product—you name it. We have a very distinct advantage in the industry by partnering with the first U.S. national cannabis dispensary franchise. We have an entire team in our corner to help us at a moment's notice, few other dispensary owners can say that.
Olson: Also, their team is made up of seasoned individuals who've been through the trenches and have the real experience from various franchise operations and both emerging and mature cannabis markets. That’s a rare find.
We always have somebody credible on the team to turn to, and it makes it much easier to follow because we know that they've walked a mile in our shoes.
In cannabis, there’s not much margin for error. As local business owners, Adam and I must execute each day. With Unity Rd. as a guide and the team’s unwavering support, we can focus on our business.
Jorgensen: They understand us, simply put. When we call our support team and need advice, we’re able to pick up the phone and call or send an email for help. This is a priceless asset to us and our ability to operate a cannabis business.
Olson and Jorgensen’s mission is to serve their community with a spirit of integrity. With a shared vision, this is the cornerstone of their thriving relationship with Unity Rd. From connecting patients to potential relief-giving medicine to becoming stewards in their community, they are primed for success as a true partner of Hartford.
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