Just a few seconds past 9 a.m. on April 1, 2019, The Hunny Pot made history. With a swarm of television cameras and media reporters looking on, the first physical retail cannabis sale in all of Toronto was conducted at the company’s flagship location, cementing The Hunny Pot’s legacy as the first legal marijuana store in all of Ontario.
But transacting the province’s first physical cannabis sale would not be The Hunny Pot’s only claim to fame. The store quickly smashed expected sales numbers for that opening day as well as 4/20, and would go on to set provincial and national sales records through the summer of 2019.
As with any major success or milestone achievement, there were multiple factors at play in The Hunny Pot’s meteoric rise — including a clear vision, a solid team, and an experienced technology partner in Cova that helped the operation open for business on a tight time crunch and keep up with the shockingly high sales volume that would follow.
From Lottery to License to Industry Leader
Under Ontario’s lottery-based licensing system that was still in effect at the time, the process of getting to that momentous first sale was an arduous one, filled with sleepless nights and long days.
Cameron Brown, spokesperson for The Hunny Pot, recalls it well. As a long-time friend and business partner to The Hunny Pot owner and founder Hunny Gawri, Cameron was the first to come aboard and help Hunny plan, assemble, and launch Toronto’s premiere cannabis retail location from the ground up — all in less than three months’ time.
“In the first week after Hunny won the license, I think I slept a combined 20 hours in seven days,” Cameron remembers.
As the saying goes, though, hard work pays off — and Hunny, Cameron, and their crew put plenty of sweat equity into getting The Hunny Pot where it is today.
Creating the Right Experience
Faced with the challenge of building a brand new business in an uncharted industry and on an insanely tight deadline, Cameron says he and Hunny had their work cut out for them. One of their first major undertakings was to design The Hunny Pot’s cannabis retail customer experience. To get a better understanding of the possibilities, the duo flew to Colorado to conduct field research in one of the most mature marijuana markets in North America.
“We were there for 48 hours, and we toured through 17 different dispensaries,” Cameron recalls. “We just went from store to store and said, ‘We’ve never consumed before… show us what we need to know.’
“We went through these locations, picking little pieces that we liked, taking notes along the way and buying different products just to get a feel for the packaging, the product, and the process.”
Ultimately, Cameron says that one dispensary experience in particular set the tone for what The Hunny Pot would strive to be.
“What we found was that there were too many stores that we could go into, tour around, and not be assisted by any kind of staff,” he continues. “But there was one location that, as soon as there was a budtender available, we had essentially a one-on-one experience.
“Not only did that provide us with more education and more insight, but it gave us that feeling that we were buying the right product… and that’s where we started to form the core values of The Hunny Pot.”
That focus on delivering a personalized experience to every single customer is what Cameron says truly sets their store apart. Even since the addition of an express checkout option, the majority of The Hunny Pot customers prefer to wait for the one-on-one service.
“Even now, as customers are more educated and knowledgeable about cannabis, 64% of our clientele is still waiting in line just to get that budtender experience,” Cameron says.
Picking the Right Partner
Along with designing the ideal store flow and customer experience, Hunny and Cameron knew they also needed the right technology partner in place to help bring their vision to life.
“When it came to POS, we were worried about a lot of factors,” Cameron says. “Our first priority was compliance, second was data security, and third was reliability — not having an outage when we’re trying to process what we hoped would be a lot of transactions.”
Cameron says he and Hunny were both impressed and relieved to learn that Cova’s parent company was a well-established POS and retail management provider with more than 20 years’ experience in the wireless industry.
With extensive backgrounds in wireless and retail, Cameron says, “We knew this company. We knew that they were big enough that they were not going to go down, and they were not going to be bought out.”
“Having our data stored in Canada, using sophisticated encryption and first-class infrastructure, was also a really big deal for us, and helped remove a lot of POS options from our list,” Cameron recalls.
“Especially in the cannabis industry, there are a lot of people invested into a lot of different companies that you don’t necessarily know about,” he continues. “And a lot of the smaller point of sale systems worried us from not only from a data security standpoint, but also, who’s invested into these companies, and would they be able to take our data out of the backend?
“So, the history and security of Cova’s parent company is what really put Cova at the top of our list.”
Along with an unparalleled customer service team and impeccable response times, Cameron says that Cova’s commitment to compliance and its adaptability truly shine through.
“We always say, ‘License first,’ and that really just means understanding and maintaining compliance at all costs,” he explains. “As the AGCO is learning more and more, they’re constantly changing and updating their systems, their sheets, and their reporting.
“I find that Cova is already implementing changes in their compliance reporting before we even know that the AGCO is making a change, and that’s a huge factor for us, because license is always first,” Cameron says.
On the back of the success of its flagship Toronto location — which averages roughly 1,200 daily visitors — The Hunny Pot is looking forward to the launch of a second site in Burlington, slated to open in February 2020.
Canada’s Leading Choice for Cannabis POS
With its home base in Vancouver, Cova is proud to be the POS of choice for 90% of Ontario’s cannabis retailers and 65% of Canada’s marijuana stores overall. If you’re ready to learn more about how Cova can help you keep your cannabis retail operation compliant while delighting customers with an unrivaled experience, tap the button below to get started today!