Brands Entrepreneurship Jul 15, 2016

Northern Lights Cannabis Co. Keeps Its Mom and Pop Feel Even as It Grows

Mitch and Eva Woolhiser opened the doors to Northern Lights Cannabis Co. in early 2010 under the impression that they would have a small medical marijuana shop. Now, six years later, they have two retail locations, a superstar staff, and the title of the first legal recreational sale of marijuana in Colorado.

It wasn’t always apparent that this would be the career path for the Woolhisers. Mitch is a software developer who got his MBA and with it, a thirst for starting a business. Eva is a dental hygienist who took an eye-opening trip to Amsterdam and fell in love with the free culture of cannabis. When she realized that this free culture was starting in Colorado, she knew the cannabis industry was where she and Mitch should launch their business.

When they first opened Northern Lights Cannabis Co., Mitch and Eva knew they needed something to set their store apart from the other dispensaries. They quickly found their differentiator after visiting some of the other stores: they would give a stellar customer experience from the minute patients walked through the door. Eva noticed that a lot of the dispensaries they had visited were not at all geared toward an older, female clientele, and worked to welcome these customers at Northern Lights. At first, Northern Lights was “one store, one grow” which helped them to be a tight knit family. This is apparent to customers by the comfortable and friendly vibe of the store. “You don’t feel like you’re walking into Walmart to buy marijuana, where there are so many options [that] it’s overwhelming,” says Erika Lindenauer, a Northern Lights employee, “the way we do things is totally different”.

Erika and Eva at Northern LightsThe difference at Northern Lights is the clear concern the staff has for their customers. Lindenauer told me, “We really go off customer feedback…what brands you like, what oils you like, what products you like…that’s how we pick and choose what we carry.” Not only is customer feedback highly valued, so is customer education and knowledge. No product gets sold in the stores without the staff testing it out, making sure it’s a product they like, and one they think the customers will like. Eva and Mitch have also worked to make sure the staff is educated in things like the various strains, their effects, correct dosages, and the highs they give, so that they can pass along all of this valuable information to the customers.

Eva, Mitch, and the rest of the Northern Lights have clearly been doing things right, as evidenced by the second store that opened in Denver recently. It isn’t always easy; when they first started out as a medical dispensary they were small and largely unknown to patients. In addition to the challenge of acquiring a consumer base, the strict and often-changing government regulations in the industry proves another challenge to the Woolhisers.

Luckily, due to their love of the product, the founders stuck with it, and have since successfully made the transition from medical to recreational sales. By doing things like making sure every customer leaves with a smile, and giving patients a treatment plan that is carefully followed up on, Eva and Mitch have made Northern Lights a household dispensary names.  Plus, since the addition of the company’s third owner in recent years, Northern Lights is now majority female-owned business.

The founders and the staff at Northern Lights are optimistic about the future of the store and the cannabis industry altogether. “Expansion is always in the future,” Lindenauer told me, “[There are] so many directions [we are] looking to expand.”