Peter Marcus, Communications Director at Terrapin
Terrapin is a consumer-focused cultivator, processor and provider of high-quality medical and recreational cannabis products. Founded in 2009, Terrapin has six storefronts on Colorado’s Front Range and operates medical cannabis grower/processor operations in Clinton County, Pennsylvania and Grand Rapids, Michigan.
What is the biggest obstacle you are facing right now in relation to the pandemic?
Quite frankly, it has been a stressful time operationally as we have scrambled to keep up with the changing times. There have been numerous changes in light of COVID-19. We’re proud to have succeeded in adapting to the rapidly changing landscape, none of which could have been done without our amazing family of nearly 300 employees. Operationally, the biggest changes have been adapting to local and federal health requirements in response to the virus. The health and safety of our employees and customers came first. We encouraged customers to use online ordering so that they could pre-order and quickly pick up their products without lingering in the stores and we instituted a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan which all employees were required to understand and acknowledge.
How are you adapting your business to meet the needs of your clientele?
Overnight, consumers demanded online ordering to curb external exposures. Terrapin had a system in place, but it was greatly underutilized. We quickly bumped up our online orders and express pickup systems.
At the same time, we experienced regulatory challenges in each market Terrapin operates in — Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Fortunately, regulators saw the wisdom of deeming cannabis an essential service. It was quite a milestone for the industry: Once illegal, now an “essential” service during crisis. We worked closely with regulators to ensure compliance throughout the process. There is still work to do, like offering more widespread delivery, but overall, we were able to keep up with the changing regulations, even if it was a challenge.
Terrapin also understood the financial struggles brought on by COVID-19. We postponed any celebration or promotion of 420 this year in an effort to encourage people to stay home during the height of the crisis. Instead, we offered discounts on products through the Terrapin Relief Package. Many of those discounts continue.
Are you experiencing an uptick or decline in business?
We saw an increase in online orders of more than 1,800 percent in the first few weeks of the pandemic and we have seen a double-digit increase in sales throughout the crisis, even after things settled into a “new normal.” This has indicated to us exactly why cannabis was deemed “essential.” For patients, cannabis is medicine, and for the adult-use consumer, it is a matter of comfort.
Fortunately, regulators saw the wisdom of deeming cannabis an essential service. It was quite a milestone for the industry: Once illegal, now an “essential” service during crisis.
What is your takeaway from the new reality of operating during the pandemic?
COVID-19 has had quite an effect on cannabis businesses across the country. Companies that entered the pandemic on strong financial footing are navigating this perilous moment just fine. Those that were already leveraged to the hilt and struggling to pay bills are in deep trouble. Reports have shown an increase in cannabis sales for companies focused on careful, strategic growth. Whereas, cannabis companies who grew too quickly are seeing that no industry is safe from disruption and are now experiencing financial distress. Still, the cannabis industry has achieved newfound legitimacy as most states deemed it an essential service during the quarantine.
What are you doing to keep it together both on a personal level and business level during these challenging times?
Great and important question! Our focus has been on our employees, who are being asked to do more during an incredibly stressful time. They are frontline workers, reporting to work even as we were under quarantine. We’ve thanked them and stayed in touch in as many ways as we can including financial incentives with TerraBucks to spend in our stores, paid sick leave, competitive salaries, flexibility in shifts, virtual town halls, gratitude videos, regular newsletters, employee of the month programs, and virtual happy hours. We're providing tons of resources to our employees and these are helping us all to keep it together during this stressful time.
Plus, we feel very fortunate to have been allowed to stay open, especially as others have struggled. As an industry, it is our responsibility to honour the essential workers who are working the front lines during this crisis. Terrapin has contributed $20,000 to Colorado’s COVID Relief Fund, and we are working with nonprofits to keep food banks and shelters open. Terrapin is partnered with about 19 nonprofits across the country, many of which have seen an increase in demand so we have expanded our efforts with these groups. (Information on the groups we support can be found here. If we’re going to benefit as a cannabis company during this time with an uptick in business, then it is our corporate responsibility to give back to the communities we serve through planting local roots.
The New Canna-Normal is an ongoing Q&A series with the cannabis community as we evolve to greet the new normal.