Opening a business at the beginning of a pandemic is likely far from an entrepreneur’s business plan. But for this brick and mortar cannabis store in Chilliwack, there couldn’t have been a better time to do business, despite some initial hurdles.
Vikram Sachdeva moved to Canada in 1999 and completed his Hotel Management Certificate in 2001. He was working as a manager at Pizza Hut at the time, but his entrepreneurial spirit led him to look into franchise opportunities. It was then that he bought his first subway store in Chilliwack.
“I was 21 years old at the time. I took out a loan from one of my aunts who was a dentist in Kelowna and the rest was from the bank, ”says Sachdeva.
The business owner transformed the subway branch into the ten best stores in the province. From then on he owned more businesses. Sancheva says that from his experience he not only learned how to run a business, but everything about the franchise model, branding and marketing.
A seed is planted
(Seed & Stone Chilliwack)
In 2015, Sachdeva found the opportunity to capitalize on his entrepreneurial experience and start a business in an industry he was passionate about – cannabis.
“When I discovered cannabis, I became a better person,” says Sachdeva. “As soon as it was legal, I decided to apply for Chilliwack.”
While Sachdeva was excited about the prospect of opening a new store, he first wanted to do his market research thoroughly.
“I stood in front of my shop and at a gas station and talked to people and asked them what they thought about cannabis and if they would be interested in signing a petition [for a local store]”Says Sachdeva.
After receiving 500 signatures, Sachdeva knew he was on the right track. But finding the perfect place was not without its hurdles. The businessman says there were 11 listings on the website that he wanted to purchase.
“I wanted it to be industrial, not exposed to children, not set back from the community,” says Sancheva of his ideal retail location.
Growth of a vision
(Seed & Stone Chilliwack)
In 2018, Sancheva applied for a license, but in what he described as “a challenging emotional time,” he was faced with even more obstacles to the Council, across point and border lines.
After the council gave him a license, Seed and Stone were finally able to come to life. Sachdeva had a very specific vision for the store in mind. Although people told the entrepreneur that “a fancy cannabis business is a crazy idea,” he stuck to his creative vision of creating a high-end cannabis space.
Inspired by the strong branding of Subway and Tim Hortons, Sancheva set out to create Seed and Stone. “I wanted to create the best customer experience and ambience as well as a unique interaction with the product,” says Sachdeva.
Sachdeva was able to present over 100 varieties of cannabis under the interior design company Barbel. “I wanted it to be as visual as possible. When you enter there is a back ledge. People can see the indica or the sativa. Then there is a fridge for groceries up front, ”says Sachdeva.
Sachdeva said he also wanted the customer experience to be as seamless as possible. While he wants customers to be able to get the right education on his products and spend time with their budget tender, he wants customers to be able to “come in and grab something – it has to be quick” .
When it comes to aesthetic design, Sachdeva says that while everyone opted for “bright and white like Apple,” they opted for a warmer library atmosphere with a fancy sliding ladder.
The entrepreneur also said that the inspiration for the business comes mainly from nature. “BC is so beautiful. I am a very nature-loving person. I spend a lot of time camping in the forest. I wanted to bring this element into my brand. And also an element of spirituality and meditation, ”he says.
Sachdeva designed the store’s logo and branding to represent “a flame burning inside,” with seeds symbolizing life, inspired by the forests of BC, and stone representing strength, inspired by the Chillwack Mountains.
The future is not set in stone
(Seed & Stone Chilliwack)
Although opening at the beginning of a pandemic was probably the furthest off its business plan, Sachdeva says Covid likely increased sales with the final opening of Seed and Stone on February 20, 2020.
“I think it helped us. I don’t know if that was normal traffic, but people said they got the check from the government, there were waves, people were stocking up on cannabis, ”says Sachdeva.
And although business is booming now that marijuana marketing is illegal, Sachdeva said it was a struggle initially to get the word out. He says he would stand and dance in front of the store every day with a sign directing potential customers to his store.
Inspired by his father’s time in the Indian Army, Sachdeva says one of his main goals in his business is to inspire people to find out who they are and to get rid of the stigma that often comes with marijuana.
“It’s about the journey inward. You have to find out who you are before judging others. “