The Cannabis Business Office's Social Equity Licensee Highlight series dives into the stories of social equity licensees currently operating in the cannabis space. By exploring the unique backgrounds, challenges, and opportunities of these owners, our case studies serve as unique window into the cannabis industry and a way for businesses to learn from one another.
High Demand Delivery is devoted to the task of distribution of cannabis in Colorado by providing flexibility and reliability to their partners. The business developed a delivery solution with dispensary profitability in mind.
What sparked your interest in the cannabis industry?
Each owner at High Demand Delivery has their own specific story of what brought them to the industry. Overall, it was a combination of serial entrepreneurship and legacy participation, as well as the fight towards normalization of cannabis and black-ownership in this regulated industry that made our participation a must.
How will your work impact the community?
Community is very important to us, and giving back to the community through contributions is key. Last year, we were able to donate financial support to the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) association and Movement 5280. For a new startup with one contract at the time, this was definitely a milestone.
In addition, bringing more people of color from the community into the industry through job creation and ownership is a priority. We have diverse hiring practices that focus on employment opportunities for community members that have been impacted by the war on drugs, veterans, and women. As our business grows, we will continue to support the community with a focus on athletic and educational sponsorships and financial contributions to community organizations that support youth.
Is there anything interesting about your backstory that you’d like to share?
Before starting High Demand Delivery, co-founders Terrence Hewing and Sarah Woodson were both negatively impacted by cannabis probation prior to starting their first cannabis ancillary business, Kush & Canvases, LLC. Around this same time, co-founders Cliff and Lillian Stokes were owners of a 420-friendly, black car limo service called High End Transportation. Cliff and Sarah saw the opportunity for a strategic partnership in 2016, where they referred customers to one another.
After five years of working together and collaborating, COVID-19 caused High End Transportation to close and left Kush & Canvases fighting to stay open. When cannabis delivery finally became a licensed business type, the already existing synergy and business history made the partnership a wonderful opportunity.
Please share something unique about your company.
We are the first social equity licensed transport company and the first operational social equity transporter and delivery company in Colorado. Since June 2021, we have completed just under 1,000 deliveries. We have a full eco-friendly fleet of seven vehicles and are 100% minority-owned, 25% veteran-owned, and 50% woman-owned.
What challenges do you face as a small business and social equity licensee?
As a new delivery company and small business, our goal is to grow and scale. Right now, we have a medium-sized fleet of seven electric vehicles, multiple social equity partners in our business, 15+ years of logistical experience, and 20+ years of business experience. Despite our business acumen, assets, and being fully licensed, we still have yet to secure a client in Denver. It almost appears that being a social equity license holder has created this road block and became our biggest challenge in securing additional contracts. We have personally reached out to over 60 stores and have had 24 meetings. The majority of the stores we have met with are currently delivering and have opted to stay with in-house delivery. However, we continue to reach out and make new connections to secure more contacts.
What would you change about the Colorado cannabis industry if you could?
Less than 9% of the stores in Denver have opted into delivery. An additional license type that is not reliant on existing retail stores would be the most important change for social equity in the Colorado cannabis industry. Warehouse/non-retail storefront delivery (compared to retail-only delivery) is the last real remaining opportunity to be a part of the plant touching market. This type of delivery allows a business to purchase at wholesale then deliver directly to customers, instead of delivering goods already priced at retail prices. Especially since the majority of all new social equity licenses are non premise transporters with delivery permits, and the majority of the transports do not have contacts!
In addition, because capital is the biggest burden for social equity applicants, fees for Social Equity have to be reduced - and in certain cases waived - for a period of time to help social equity applicants.
And finally, more cities have to open up for social equity applicants. Denver - which is the only city that is focused on a robust social equity program - must remove distance restrictions and setbacks, as well as allow applicants to open new retail stores in neighborhoods of undo concentration through the exclusivity period. Without this change, it has been a pattern that only social equity applicants that are well funded and a part of the existing industry prior to social equity will benefit. Every new store in Denver is attached to a well funded existing member of industry that happens to qualify for social equity.
We are developing a case studies series to tell the stories of social equity licensees currently in operation in the cannabis space. If you are an operational social equity licensed cannabis business, please complete our form so we may consider you for a future edition. The next two questions are screening questions. Additional questions will appear if you are eligible.