Max Benitah, Co-founder and President, Cann Shop
Max Benitah has had a passion for entrepreneurship for as long as he can remember, having started his first business operating vending machines while in university. Over the past decade, he’s worked his way up in the world of retail, managing supply chains across North America.
As a former high-level hockey athlete, Max began his cannabis journey to help treat his aches/pains and manage stress and anxiety. Aware of the stigma still attached to cannabis today, and with a vision to help destigmatize this experience so that anyone can feel comfortable making use of cannabis’ potential benefits, Max created Cann Shop, an education-focused cannabis and lifestyle store in Toronto, ON.
An avid proponent of living an active lifestyle, he can often be found running through his neighborhood and playing hockey with friends. When he’s not working, Max is dedicated to furthering his cannabis knowledge and traveling.
What was the inspiration behind the founding of Cann Shop? What are you hoping to accomplish through your company?
Having spent time working in California over the years, I was exposed to some innovative cannabis concepts that I had never seen before. When the Ontario government changed its cannabis license application process, we saw an opportunity to enter the cannabis space and bring some of those ideas to life in the Canadian market. It’s our goal to bring a sense of normality to the cannabis shopping experience and change the stigma around its consumption.
How is the cannabis industry evolving? And are the regulations that apply to your cannabis business subject to change?
Because of how new it still is, the cannabis industry is constantly evolving in Canada, in numerous ways. Due to the heavy regulations in Ontario, there are constant adjustments to the laws that govern how we operate. Everything from the products we can sell, to the way we can talk about them is subject to scrutiny and penalties. Truthfully, it’s a difficult space to navigate right now, but we’re hopeful that laws will become more favorable to small business owners as the industry continues to mature in Canada.
What are some biggest challenges for the cannabis industry in 2021?
So far in 2021, it’s of course been the stay-at-home orders we’ve experienced for most of the year. Without in-person shopping, it’s quite a challenge to run a successful retail business. Moving forward, I think the biggest challenge will be making consumers feel comfortable in brick & mortar retail and shopping in person again. With Cann Shop’s unique size (over 7,000 sq ft of retail space) we’ll be able to accommodate for social distancing and ensure consumer comfort, but for those with smaller retail locations, there may be some hesitancy from customers to return to in-store shopping.
How can cannabis companies change course, evolve, and mature in global markets?
There are many ways for that to happen, but ultimately, it’s going to come down to how creative cannabis operators can get while working within the respective legal frameworks of where they operate. Flexibility and adaptability will be the name of the game, as I think they will in many industries in the global market. Strong company culture can be a tremendous foundation that provides the flexibility to adapt to anything and that’s needed more than ever right now.
Already, we’ve seen consumer behavior increasingly lean towards accepting cannabis usage on a global scale in recent years and companies will need to be able to recognize their opportunities and capitalize on them.
The coronavirus crisis is reshaping the cannabis industry for the long term. What is your key advice to entrepreneurs to survive and thrive during this challenging time?
Be rigid in your principles, but flexible on your processes. As a business owner, you need to only worry about what you can control. As it relates to my industry, this looks like adapting to the protocols around in-person shopping, delivery, and curbside pickup while maintaining a positive attitude. We have also used this time to clean up our operational processes, rework our displays and create social media content. If your house is not in order, you can’t really be too concerned about the outside world.