Today we're gonna get to know our friends at I71 brand Select Co-Op. I sat down with their founder (who we'll refer to as Mr. Quiet) recently to gain some insight into what it's like to run a cannabis gifting company in Washington, DC during these tumultuous times.
GT: Tell me about I71. What does it mean to you?
MQ: I71 represents an opportunity. I've been watching The Men Who Built America and I love the idea of being able to take advantage of a situation, an industry, a market. Capitalism, right? And it's very rare that anybody, any regular person, in our life in America gets a chance to be a part of an emerging industry. We might get the scraps, but to actually be a part of it is like very rare. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for a black man.
GT: Do you live in the District?
MQ: Yes, for about five years now. Before that, I was right across the street in Maryland, so I've always been in the area.
GT: So how long has Select Co-Op been around?
MQ: Our Co-Op has been around for almost 2 years now. I started with a backpack and a couple ounces. And I had worked at a bunch of pop-ups before that.
I used to work a table for another guy. We did events around H St, at a bakery on North Capitol, and the bigger spots over by Rhode Island Ave. I'd walk in the room, have two NOS energy drinks, put one down immediately. Drank the whole thing, one swig, slam it down. 'Let's go! What do we need to hit?' I brought that energy to it and took it personally if someone got by my table.
GT: What have your learned since entering I71 that you wish you had known before?
MQ: I wish I would've saw the Viceland episode that told me about the I71 market and how prevalent it was sooner.
GT: So your only regret is not getting in sooner? laughs What's your favorite thing about running a weed company?
MQ: My favorite part about this as anybody that knows me is the weed, the weed, the weed. I grew weed in my house because of I71. I studied the strains, I've grown. I've got family that grow it legally in California. I was doing this for nothing but weed. I like weed. Like I have a plethora of weed right in front of me now. Most of these guys don't even smoke. I smoke weed all day. My favorite part is the free weed.
GT: How long have you been smoking?
MQ: Almost 25 years now. I started smoking when I was like 16, but I really got into it senior year of high school since I already had my credits, had got accepted to college, and I was just coasting.
GT: What do you like to smoke?
MQ: I'm a flower guy. I got a bunch to do most of the time. And like a lot of people in our city, I'm a sativa smoker, preferably. When you get to the highest strains that we carry, it doesn't make as much of a difference if they're close to 50/50 because it's so good, but I mainly look for a sativa 70% and up.
I'll get other flowers for flavor and mix it in sometimes. The edibles that we carry now, like the new Big Bad Sour Bears, all that stuff is incredible. It's so good that I can't use it. I really can't because I always have something to do. I'd need time to be that high.
GT: What about concentrate?
MQ: I love it. I'm mainly into flower, but sometimes I put a little THCA crystalline in it. An occasional edible when I got the time and concentrates when I don't.
GT: How has business changed for you during the pandemic?
MQ: It's been interesting. We closed our pick-up location but have grown 30-40% bigger just offering delivery. So when the pandemic came, and all these other companies had to close while they changed how they operate, we got a lot of people coming to us for the first time. And most of our new members almost seemed...relieved at of our level of professionalism, our service, and the fact that we're always on time. Like when I say on time, I don't mean like 'between 3-4, 3:30-4.'
If we say 4:15, we're going to be there at 4:15. We make sure that we have enough staff available to take care of members on an hour's notice, so that helped a lot.
GT: It sounds like you've made the most out of I71, but DC could have licensed dispensaries if not for the Harris rider. Between operating under I71 and being licensed, which do you see as the better opportunity?
MQ: I would like it to stay as it is, really. I don't need legal dispensaries. What people don't realize is, once you have the legal dispensaries, you're going to have what happened in California. You'll have this big bubble- high prices, high taxes- and then it's going to settle all down, back to where it should. Where who's real is real. I don't really have time for that process.
And we're the nation's capital. So if there's people that don't want LA-style dispensaries all up and down the city, that's reasonable because it's the Capitol.
GT: So you don't currently plan to pursue a license if they become available?
MQ: If they do, it's going to be a finite number like they did with medical licenses in DC. And they've probably already going to be decided who they go to. And they're probably going to people with millions & millions of dollars that are cool with other people with millions & millions of dollars.
GT: Hard agree.
MQ: You saw the pro basketball player (Norbert Pickett) over in Northeast who’s got his medical dispensary over there. He had to work for years, all kinds of shenanigans, and spend money just to open a dispensary. It's not even cranking, but it's open. And they had to give it to them, since they have 20% minority ownership. You gotta be somebody like that. You know what I'm saying?
GT: But it'll be a win for the customers, won't it? That's what everybody wants.
MQ: When Boehner and the people that he works for come, it's shitty weed overdone by the corporations, they're exploiting everybody, nobody makes money from that. And overall people aren't even happier with the actual weed. I go to these legal markets and our weed smokes theirs. Maybe Boston is on our level. But out West, Select Co-Op's menu can go up against MedMen’s menu, all day.
Planet 13, been there. We got more strains. Our shit is more fire. As someone who's been there, I've been to 10-15 different spots in each place. We are doing it better than anyone else in this country. What I'm looking forward to, if it does go corporate, shout out to Cookies, holler at me.
GT: What did you do before you got involved with I71?
MQ: I had a small cleaning business. After I left college, me and my cousin started a company and I've been working for myself ever since. I took all the same principles from that company and applied them to this. You know? Be on time. Do what you say you're going to do. Be where you say you're going to be. Be honest with people. Don't take advantage of people. Create value. Make friends. And make sure people know you're there.
GT: Any other advice you'd share to someone starting an I71 company?
MQ: Nobody wants to buy excuses, so get rid of those. Don't take yourself too seriously. Be happy to be here. That's my number one rule. Be happy to be here. And don't forget about the re-up.