Leading One Of The Most Successful Cannabis Retail Brands In Canada
"We didn’t create Superette to be just another dispensary"
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There’s a popular story told within the cannabis industry today.
The core narrative within this story is whereby we depict those who are new to cannabis as the so-called suits and those who have been in the cannabis industry prior to legalization as the OG’s.
A crucial component of this story is that those who are joining the cannabis industry today are doing so purely in the pursuit of benefiting from the profits that are now being generated from cannabis, however, what this narrative fails to reveal is that many of the people who meet the criteria of being a “suit” are in fact some of the most passionate people found within the cannabis industry today.
One amazing example of this is Mimi — who prior to joining the cannabis industry in 2017 worked in investment banking, however, driven by a strong desire to pursue her passion for cannabis she left her job in the corporate world and joined an early stage cannabis retail startup called Tokyo Smoke, a company that was shortly afterwards acquired by Canopy Growth.
In the time since Mimi has built one of the most successful cannabis retail brands in all of Canada, and for today’s edition of Four PM I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mimi to learn more about her unique journey into the cannabis industry, the inspiration behind her current company and much more.
Mimi Lam is the the Co-founder and CEO of Superette.
📸: by Jen Squires
What was your motivation to join the cannabis industry back in 2017?
The combination of believing in the power of the plant and not enjoying my former job was a pretty big motivation.
I began smoking weed in university, mainly in social settings — but it wasn’t until I was working 100+ hours a week in a stressful job that I started discovering how helpful cannabis is to my overall well-being.
By mid-2016, cannabis had become a pretty big part of my life and I began actively learning more about cannabis and its potential benefits. At the time, I was in a stringent and corporate role that no longer resonated with me. I had zero passion for it.
The cannabis industry was calling my name — not only did I enjoy consuming, but I had also become intrigued by the opportunity of the impending federal legalization in Canada, and ultimately legalization around the world.
I had to be a part of it. So I jumped right in, and I haven’t looked back since.
What has been the most valuable lesson that your team members have taught you?
My team is my rock; they have taught me that I am not on this crazy ride alone.
Before Superette, I had never experienced what it's like to be supported genuinely. I had spent much of my career working in silos and in rigid environments, putting up an ice-cold exterior, and thinking I had to do everything myself.
The Superette team members shape the current Mimi you see today.
They are the core of what inspires me every single day. Together, we take more risks, celebrate small things, communicate, and push each other. These incredible humans have shown me compassion and empathy that I've never experienced. I can be authentically me (all the quirks included) – all things I had never previously believed to be possible in my career.
Being around people who value having fun and being kind is infectious & that energy is the foundation of building a legendary brand together.
Superette has of the most unique customer experiences in all of Canada, what was the inspiration that helped shape this experience?
Familiar retail environments have largely inspired Superette’s experience we see around us — think corner store, deli, diner, your favourite hangout spot down the street.
We drew on these as inspiration as they bring a sense of familiarity for customers and truly normalizes the cannabis buying experience. We are intentionally normal. We merchandise weed like food in deli cases, we have accessories stocked on full shelves, and we have stools at a bar where you can chat with your budtender. We design spaces that are intuitive and give customers agency over their journey in our stores!
What also sets us apart in a landscape filled with Apple-inspired aesthetics is our fun approach. We surprise and delight customers through playful and memorable moments in-store, whether that be an old-school arcade game on the retail floor or a Pizza Phone serving as a one-way hotline to a local pizza joint! Our team is always high vibes, knowledgeable, and makes each interaction special.
We didn’t create Superette to be just another dispensary, our focus was to create a retail experience that is welcoming and playful and that resonated with anyone who walked in.
From a regulatory standpoint, what needs to change for the Canadian cannabis industry to become the best version of itself?
Some areas that have quite a bit of room to grow are social equity and programs to support the transition of the legacy market. From the perspective of operations-related regulations, packaging and labeling are hot topics.
We can’t be talking about cannabis without also talking about social equity, though unfortunately, it has been largely left out of the conversation in the Canadian framework. It would be a huge step in the right direction to have social equity prioritized in licensing and for the records of prior cannabis convictions to be expunged.
Canada has not prioritized a productive inclusion of the legacy market and instead has put up entry barriers. For this industry to succeed, we need to see the support and incentive to bridge legacy into legal on a national level and in each market.
Separately, the current state of packaging requirements drives up producers and ultimately customers’ costs, and adds significant environmental burden due to excess material and waste. In addition, cannabis equivalencies need to be updated to advance customer understanding and information (for example, currently you can’t purchase 6 units of 2.5mg THC beverages, but you can get up to 1,000 packs of 10mg dissolvable THC powder, it’s wild!).
And as with any consumer-facing product, a brand communicates its identity and messaging through the label, allowing customers to make buying decisions. The prohibitive nature of today’s plain packaging requirements should be updated to reflect the realities and desires of both the brands and buyers.
What has you most excited about the future of the cannabis industry?
Wow, this is tough, there are so many things!
Firstly, I am excited for legalization globally and for the acceptance and active research of cannabis by medical and academic communities. With this broader acceptance, developments like discovering new genetics and truly understanding the different cannabinoids and terpenes will be fantastic for this industry.
Aside from that, I love to consume cannabis with the things I do, so I can’t wait for a future where cannabis is integrated into experiences. Today, I smoke weed and do yoga and take baths with infused bath bombs; tomorrow, I hope to be a guest at a cannabis-friendly spa. I want to go to restaurants that pair cannabis with food, and I want to stay at hotels where I can wake & bake.
I’m always curious about and experimenting with new products, so sign me up for tasting and tours! I’m fascinated by consumer experiences, I am here for a future that explores the endless possibility of how cannabis can be explored for adult use enjoyment!
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