THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
25th August, 2022 0
One of the most welcomed additions to the Saginaw cannabis marketplace is the newly opened Sozo, which is located at 2617 Bay Rd. and recently had their ribbon cutting on June 10th of this year.
According to Chief Strategy Advisor Kristi Kelly, the company was formed in 2018 and is vertically integrated to accommodate the needs of both medical & adult use patrons.
Their flagship operation is based in Warren, Michigan, along with cultivation and processing labs that supply other stores in Flint, Cheboygan, and Muskegon, with the recent Saginaw store being their fifth opening. The company is also poised to open a sixth location in Pleasant Ridge, which is near the Ferndale & Royal Oak areas of Detroit in late August.
Kristi has been working with Sozo since the company was founded by CEO Aaron Rasty and Nathan Kelly, and is involved with strategic work and getting various applications approved by the State of Michigan. “This company is really the brainchild of Aaron and Nathan, who is a Michigan native, and Sozo has distinguished itself by accommodating the needs in markets and states for providing high-quality fast growth product in competitive markets at affordable price points,” she explains.
“We are very customer oriented and specialize in generating a large scale of high quality product at a reasonable cost that allows us to pass that on to our customers,” she continues. “There are two sides of the Cannabis Industry: people focused on generating a large volume and yield, versus people paying attention to the craft of cultivation. But our business model puts the two together. We pay an incredible amount of attention, diligence, and love into the cultivation process.”
Domingo Rodriguez is manager of Sozo’s Saginaw operation and started in the Cannabis industry nearly 4 years ago as a sales associate with Skymint, helping them open 8 stores. After that he was recruited by Liberty Cannabis to open 5 stores in California and Michigan, however the Saginaw native got homesick so returned to the Great Lakes Bay region to work with Sozo. Starting from the ground up he’s had a hand in opening 16 stores all together since he began his career.
When asked what distinguishes Sozo the most from other dispensaries, Domingo references their ability to listen. “Sozo is smaller than many companies out there, but for this level of the game what makes them standout is their ability to listen and care. With the large companies the voices of sales associates are often not heard, but Sozo is very customer based and they also listen to their employees at the ground level and are very quick to respond to the needs of both their customers and associates.”
Kristi confirms Domingo’s sentiment about Sozo’s focus upon customer satisfaction. “We take a very customer-centric approach,” she notes. “Our initial work charts put customers at the top of the pyramid hierarchy. We’re a younger company so we constantly test and refine what we are learning and by recognizing that we have a passion for getting things right.”
In terms of innovative products offered by Sozo, at the top of the list is their Dablicator, which is a process for administering oils that is unique in the state of Michigan.
“There are many useful applications of oils for patients with different medical conditions, where you can smoke, eat, or ingest one’s medicine in different ways,” explains Domingo. “But with the Dablicator - especially for cancer patients wishing to use that instead of Chemo - you can more accurately measure your dose and it has a recommended use for each day that you can apply accordingly for whatever health issue is going on.”
“With the oils and creams there exist so many different applications, depending upon the condition you are focused upon addressing. Certain terpenes & cannabinoids are either diminished or augmented depending upon the condition and application being targeted, and our in-house team of chemists will break down the genetics in each strain to address that specific condition. Some help with relaxation, others with lethargy, others with pain management, so there’s more science involved than most people see, which is why our trained staff is here to guide them.”
“According to our licensing agreement, we are the only company in Michigan with access to that technology,” explains Kristi. “The company that pioneered the Dablicator is based in California; and whether you are a medical patient where precise dosing is critical or simply like oils and want an efficient way to dispense it, this product is unique. Normal devices melt the oil upon contact and our tips allow for more efficient dosing. When dealing with medical patients, anything you can do to create predictability is important to that process.”
While the biggest challenge for the adult-use and medical cannabis industry is the rate of market saturation over the past two years, Kristi is optimistic about Sozo’s future. “I think the industry as a whole was surprised by the speed at which the marketplace became saturated with so many dispensaries, but all of us anticipated a day that would happen not far off the horizon.”
“From the conversations I’ve had with my peers, most of us thought it would take a little longer to hit the degree of saturation we now have, but at the end of the day cannabis is a commodity,” she states. “Markets perform with cannabis the way they do with any commodity - when the supply is high prices get low, and when the supply is low prices go up - and what we’re seeing now is a reflection of that dynamic.”
“Some of the larger players are closing down cultivation and retail operations and when these market fluctuations come there are tough choices to make. Our hope at Sozo is that our business model offers us more flexibility. As we continue to operate efficiently with high quality products coming out of our cultivation system, it allows us to remain competitive in the current marketplace,” she concludes.
“Our retail department spends lots of time analyzing data on what consumers are interested in, what’s moving on the shelf, what isn’t moving, so we stay on top of that. Because we’re a smaller company we have the latitude to make responsive decision in real time, and our customers tell us through their words, actions, and purchases what they want.”
With some of the most reasonable prices and quality flower in the region, Domingo says another distinguishing factor of Sozo is the attention they pay to the quality of their product. “If a certain strain of flower is a couple months old they will discount the price, whereas other stores can have flower sitting in their jar for over a calendar year and still well it at a premium price. Sozo always carries fresh quality product.”
Domingo says he is also seeing a lot of newer users taking the route for edible products.
“They might not like the aspects involved with smoking a product, so they go the edible route,” he explains. “We can guide them with low dose products so they have no negative side effects but offer enough of an effect to quell whatever they are seeking and make them feel a little different. With CBD products it takes about a week of daily exposure in the system to work and is not an overnight fix. Just like any medicine, it comes in different doses and we are here to guide them how to start with waxes, flowers, and the Dablicator.”
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)