VIKRAM SACHDEVA, CEO OF SEED & STONE - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
VIKRAM SACHDEVA, CEO OF SEED & STONE HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
For the past two years, Vikram Sachdeva has made his mark in the cannabis industry with a growing chain of cannabis boutiques located across British Columbia.
He started Seed & Stone in February 2020 with a deep passion for the plant and a motivation to create an open space for positive cannabis culture. With the stigma and history attached to cannabis, Vikram created Seed & Stone to be an advocate for cannabis culture by promoting wellness and inner growth, and to offer a unique buying experience by providing high quality products that not only lifts your spirits but inspires you to embrace your journey within, through cannabis use.
With Vikram’s appreciation for the region of BC, Seed & Stone showcases local micro-growers in their stores and has partnered with the Songhees Nation of the lək̓ʷəŋən traditional territory in BC to co-operate two stores in Victoria. Vikram’s goal for Seed & Stone is to be the top-of-mind brand for cannabis, and to be the go-to source for cannabis products and education.
Prior to Seed & Stone, Vikram had 22 years of retail experience in marketing, business development, and customer relations with leading retailers such as Subway and BC Liquor Distribution Branch. Vikram has owned and operated Subway franchises in BC and was a member of the Subway FaF board which oversees marketing spend for all franchises in British Columbia.
"Cannabis has long been a part of BC history and BC cannabis is world renowned. We strive to stay true to this heritage and continue to support BC’s economy and allowing customers to build a stronger appreciation for craft cannabis."
Why is Seed & Stone unique?
With the recent boom in retail cannabis stores opening across BC we adapted our business plan to stand out from the crowd. This was accomplished by focusing our attention on craft cannabis and working closely with local producers to promote BC Grown cannabis. Cannabis has long been a part of BC history and BC cannabis is world renowned. We strive to stay true to this heritage and continue to support BC’s economy and allowing customers to build a stronger appreciation for craft cannabis.
Seed & Stone is based in BC and therefore the company puts local producers and products first. Each location has a large BC Grown section which is constantly changing, this allows customer to sample a huge varies of BC products. In addition, customer have the opportunity to meet & greet the producers who have grown their cannabis first-hand at the pop-ups which are hosted at Seed & Stone. This creates a unique chance for customer to learn about what they are consuming while fuelling the BC economy.
Tell us about innovation at Seed & Stone.
As the legal Cannabis Industry is such new industry in Canada, this has allowed Seed & Stone to be at the forefront of innovation. From the layout and management of the stores to the operations of company itself, each aspect allows for new creative processes to take shape. The stores are designed to allow for customer interaction and education, which until recently was unheard of at ‘pot shops’. Each store creates a welcoming high end feel which is inviting to people of all demographics. The budtenders themselves have the opportunity to not only meet but learn in-depth information from the vast variety of licensed producers which Seed & Stone has developed outstanding relations with.
What are the biggest emerging trends in your industry?
One trend we see is that there is rising traction towards Pre-rolls, edibles, drinks and vapes consumption. We have noticed that this phenomenon is more prominent in city centers compared to the suburban centers and by watching this trend closely we are able to better adapt and provide consumers with a more customize selections of products. Another interesting trend is that the prices of legal cannabis have been gradually declining and are currently at their lowest level making it very competitive against illicit cannabis. The enforcement against illicit cannabis needs to continue to ensure the viability of legal cannabis.
What drives you as an entrepreneur?
Throughout my life I have never been the type of person who follows a predetermined path or fits in society's “box”. I have always had the thought that there must be something more, something new, something I’ve never done before, so why should I settle for the me forward in my life? As the Founder and CEO of Seed & Stone I now wish to instil this kind of drive into my employees. I encourage them to seek out new methods and means to accomplish our goals. I empower them to be their own leaders and masters of their talents, and to bring up those around them as I have with them. This kind of leadership requires a great deal of understanding and the realization that my team too does not fit in a predetermined box, by accepting and welcoming this Seed & Stone is unlike any other cannabis company out there and will continue to break the mold for years to come.
"Endless opportunities! The cannabis industry is still very young, and this allows the market to remain dynamic and fluid on all fronts. Because of this, Seed & Stone has had the ability to attract a wide range of talented individuals to work within our company. They are given the opportunity to be trailblazers and work on projects which have never been done before."
What excites you about working in the cannabis industry?
Endless opportunities! The cannabis industry is still very young, and this allows the market to remain dynamic and fluid on all fronts. Because of this, Seed & Stone has had the ability to attract a wide range of talented individuals to work within our company. They are given the opportunity to be trailblazers and work on projects which have never been done before. Every success fuels the next and every finished project adds tremendous value to Seed & Stone. No two days are alike and our employees, including myself, no longer “work for the weekend” but rather “work for the Mondays”
What external factors are most challenging for the industry?
There are two key economic factors that are most challenging. The first is the impact of COVID on Tourism. BC bud is world-renowned and legendary across the globe, the only way people outside of Canada can experience is via tourism. COVID has been very tough on the cannabis industry as tourists’ activities were minimal especially in BC where tourism generates ~$20bn in revenue annually. We need to continuously watch out for any affirmative actions taken towards this aspect.
The second factor is funding from the financial systems, especially banks. The large banks have largely stayed away from participating in funding retail stores (even for the working capital) even in B.C. which has been more prudent in issuing licenses. This needs to change for the industry to progress to the next level.
How is Seed & Stone setting an example to the industry regarding diversity?
The cannabis industry is a complex, interconnected world where diversity in the workplace has become an asset for the company and its employees. Diversity fosters innovation, creativity and insight which unleashes the true potential of this invaluable asset. Diversity with a business more then just finding a balance within our employees regarding gender, race and ethnicity. We aim to add diversity in all aspects of our dealings from our hires to our partners and sponsors to how we support the communities we serve. By allowing diversity to envelope our company we open very unique doors and build partnerships which create new and exciting opportunities which would have been missed if we stuck to the typical definition of workplace diversity.
Tell us about CSR and sustainability at Seed & Stone.
Seed & Stone ensures that the communities which welcome our stores to their neighborhoods benefit from us being there. This is done in a multitude of ways. This includes hosting shore-clean ups, collecting donations to local food banks, veggie plant donations to local community gardens, hosting less fortunate families over the holidays by providing gifts and necessaries.
Within the company, Seed & Stone offers it employee wellness program from fresh snacks, BBQ, extended time off, area beautification, tournaments, recycling bottle programs which give back the money to our employees and much more. As cannabis delivery opened for retailers recently, Seed & Stone leads the pack with Hybrid and fully electric cars to reduce our carbon footprint. In addition we worked out a strategic logistics plan to ensure drivers greatly reduce the number of trips per day, thus reducing traffic. Stores are also built to be energy efficient; from the type of lighting used to sourcing local contractors/vendors and feature items. Each store has a recycling program for containers, vapes, batteries etc.
"Seed & Stone is working toward ending the stigma around cannabis consumption through store design, legislation and the community. By working with local communities and government, Seed & Stone aims to educate and promote cannabis in a healthy and safe manner."
What improvements do you want to see in the industry?
Seed & Stone is working toward ending the stigma around cannabis consumption through store design, legislation and the community. By working with local communities and government, Seed & Stone aims to educate and promote cannabis in a healthy and safe manner. There are many benefits and applications of this plant, but current legislation places many restraints on retailers. This is partly due to the fact that this is such a new industry. Seed & Stone chooses to work with local and federal governments as the industry expands and by being the ‘poster-child’ hopes that this will strengthen local, federal and other retailers’ faith in the industry and finally remove the stigma around cannabis.
What makes a good leader?
A good leader is someone who can truly understand another individual’s perspective, without judgement or haste, and influence both the person and themself for the greater good. It’s about surrounding yourself with good and bringing other’s up with you.
About Seed & Stone
Cannabis for the curious: Our mission at Seed & Stone is to provide our customers with an exceptional cannabis retail experience that speaks to local sensibilities. Through community engagement, we are committed to creating a safe and convenient place to interact with cannabis products.