Sweet Flower CEO Timothy Dodd said that the company has a goal to change the cannabis shopping experience with its modern, sleek stores and staff trained to educate customers for the best experience. Photo contributed.
Written by Frank Lopez
Cannabis companies are continuing their campaign to connect with the business community in anticipation of the first dispensary licenses expected from the City of Fresno in the first quarter of this year.
Some firms have already joined the Fresno Chamber of Commerce to start building connections and navigate the market.
Scott Miller, interim president of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, said since recreational cannabis is now legal and regulated, the Chamber will work with cannabis companies to help them integrate into the community.
“Our goal as a Chamber, now that it’s legal, is to help them be the best versions of themselves and get plugged into the community and be positive actors,” Miller said.
If there are enough cannabis companies that join the chamber, it’s likely that it will facilitate an affinity group for cannabis businesses.
Though it is a new industry for Fresno, Miller said the chamber wants to bring cannabis businesses into the chamber just like it would any other business.
The chamber hosted a forum — “Central Valley Cannabis: The Legalized Business” — on March 11 on CBS 47 at 7 p.m. The event featured a panel of experts including local legal authorities, public health officials and cannabis companies vying for a Fresno license.
Sponsors of the event that are also involved in the application process with the city include Sweet Flower, Embarc and Medallion Wellness.
Based in Culver City, Sweet Flower is one of the members of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce that is competing for two retail licenses in Fresno.
Sweet Flower has already made an unconditional commitment to the city, having created a community advisory committee of local stakeholders, contributed to the Community Cancer Institute and the Poverello House, and if granted licensure, will contribute 2% of its profits to the Fresno community reinvestment fund.
Sweet Flower has two proposed storefront locations: One on Marty Avenue south of Shaw Avenue and another at Olive Avenue and First Street.
“I think it’s very important that we put our best foot forward and operate as best-in-class model operators so that we can help the industry evolve in California,” said Tim Dodd, CEO and co-founder of Sweet Flower.
Sweet Flower was founded in 2018 and has four stores operating in the Los Angeles area with two more on the way.
Dodd has a background in media and has led strategy and development teams at Warner Bros. and Time Warner Cable and served as the vice president and general manager of Neustar Media.
Dodd said that they reached out to the Chamber last year and most recently joined at the chairman circle level.
Once the licenses are awarded, Dodd said that cannabis business members should create a cannabis business council with the chamber to develop the best operating procedures to ensure a strong, secure and responsible cannabis industry in Fresno.
A big part of Sweet Flower’s plan to give back to the community is to hire local people, especially those who have prior cannabis convictions.
Dodd said that the more open and transparent cannabis operators can be, the more the community at large would accept them.
“Collaboration and competition is really important for industries that are new and young and need to be established,” Dodd said. “Creating a cannabis business council within the framework of the Fresno Chamber is the right way to go.”
A majority of the cannabis companies applying for a license in Fresno are from out of the area, but two women from Fresno could have their cannabis retail storefront where a former Fresno landmark once was.
Towertopia, founded by Kerry Burrough and Maegan Mitchell, along with other investors, has plans to open a dispensary in the Tower District in the building of the former Chicken Pot Pie Shop.
Burrough is the owner of KB Venture at the 500 Club, a third party proposition player services company, and Mitchell is a registered dental assistant.
Burrough said that it was important to have a freestanding building with ample parking in a location that will be easily seen, and on a street with a two-way flow of traffic.
She said being local and that knowing the community they will operate in brings value.
“Fresno is a big community but very tightknit,” Burrough said. “We have lots of ideas on how to give back to the community — education wise and obviously financially, and we are excited to be able to do this for Fresno regardless of whether we get the license or not.”
Because both Mitchell and Burrough both were struggling college students working to make ends meet, they both understand the struggles people can go through, which is why they want to offer jobs with higher wages.
Employees will be making $23 an hour, and as the minimum wage increases, Towertopia will always keep the starting wages at 175% above minimum wage.
Mitchell said that she saw the medicinal benefits of cannabis through seeing how it helped her father, and she wants to continue helping people through the new business venture.
“I love helping people, that’s what I do at my job now, and I want to be able to use this opportunity to help people with pain management and anxiety,” Mitchell said.
Burrough said that they have reached out to the Chamber to discuss different membership options that would be available to them should they receive a license.
“This is going to be a great step for the city and so many people are going to benefit so many ways, whether its tax revenue or outreach programs, schools, other services, or just medicinally—this is going to be great for Fresno,” Burrough said.