Rita Tsalyuk is an entrepreneur who loves to wear multiple hats.
She is a real estate broker, civil engineer, computer programmer, and a home health care agency owner who saw business potential in growing marijuana and selling it retail.
When the Longmont invited proposals to grant licenses to retail marijuana establishments, her company Yuma Way, LLC applied and was awarded one of four licenses granted by the city in July. “We got selected because of our location,” Tsalyuk said.
If she had failed to get the license, she would have lost six-months rent for the property at 900 S. Hover St., Unit A, which now houses Twin Peaks Dispensary.
She opened for business for recreational marijuana in late November and for medical marijuana in mid-December. She plans to add an educational resource center at her 4,500-square-foot facility.
Her market research showed Longmont had a need for retail marijuana establishments. In Colorado, there is one retail marijuana store per 10,993 residents, and prices for marijuana products in the Longmont area are about 1.5 times higher than in the Denver area, she wrote in her license application.
We recently met Tsalyuk, CEO of Yuma Way, to learn more about her business. She owns three marijuana dispensaries, two marijuana growing operations and The Coffee Joint, a cannabis social consumption, entertainment and educational center in Denver.
1. What‘s the toughest part of the marijuana business?
The problem is regulations. There are times when the state and city regulations don‘t talk to each other, but you‘ve got to follow both.
The business changes all the time. We make quick decisions that can be risky.
A few years ago, the city of Denver denied a license after we built a dispensary. The city simply said the rules have changed. It was a pretty nerve-racking experience. The city later approved the license after another company — in the same situation as us — challenged the city‘s decision legally and won.
2. What‘s the fun part of the marijuana business?
The business of figuring out what‘s next. It‘s similar to figuring out a puzzle. The fun part is we‘re able to participate in something that is bigger than us. Recently, someone from Canada interviewed me about the etiquette of cannabis consumption. I had until recently not consumed it.
Until few years ago, there were not even 30 marijuana-related products, and today the number has gone up to 700. Each morning I get up to find new products becoming available.
Recently, I began using edibles to sleep better. It‘s not exactly a sleeping pill, but it helps me overcome anxiety and helps me fall asleep.
My mother, who is 83, takes a 5 milligram gummy for pain relief, and worries about getting addicted.
3. Is it hard to find employees for your marijuana business?
No, people are easy to find, but good people are hard to find. I look for three qualities in potential employees. I look for focus, motivation and integrity. Skill can be taught, but personalities are hard to alter. I have more than 40 employees across different operations in my company.
Isn‘t the retail marijuana business getting crowded?
Yes. That‘s true. But we compete on the basis of product, price and service. Right now, there are only two retail marijuana stores within the city limits of Longmont.
The easing of the social stigma around cannabis consumption is helping the market grow. Even in the Old Testament, there‘s only one prohibition: ‘Don‘t grow marijuana where you planted grapes last year.‘
The bulk of my customers at the dispensary are middle-aged professionals who are looking for relief from pain or anxiety. I also see young people at the store, and many of them want to do computer coding for the cannabis industry.
5. What‘s your next step to grow your marijuana business?
I‘m in the process of opening a new dispensary in Adams County that will serve customers in Arvada and north Denver.
I want to expand the business in other states. We applied for a medical marijuana license in New Jersey, but didn‘t get it. We are still exploring markets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. We want to go there because we have friends there.
Michigan and Canada also are on our radar.
But we aren‘t considering California, because legal and illegal marijuana dispensaries operate side by side. It seems there‘s no enforcement.