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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

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Talley Wettlaufer, Vice President of Retail for multi-state cannabis operator Coralifsays she was one of the few who tried to convince the recruiter that she was not a good fit for her current role.

“I got an email from a recruiter on LinkedIn who just says, ‘Hey, can you talk to us?'” Wettlaufer says. “And I said, sure, I’ll have a conversation.” I was really excited about this opportunity [with Curaleaf ]—This growth, such development. It was really a time to create something and take my familiar retail experiences and lessons from that and put it into a new industry that hasn’t really been identified. After saying that, I was like, “Are you sure you want me? Are you sure you think I’m the right candidate?”

In fact, Whitlover was the right candidate. She has more than two decades of experience in global trading, retail expansion, profit loss and management, and has previously held positions at J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Petco. She moved to California shortly after the state launched legal sales of adult use in 2018 and says, “It’s been an amazing journey since then.”

Here, Wettlaufer reflects on customer experience, evolving retail trends, and the industry’s biggest challenges and opportunities this year.

Editor’s note: This interview has been modified for style, length, and clarity.

Melissa Schiller: Can you highlight some of the lessons from retail in other industries that you’ve taken to the cannabis industry?

Tally Wittlaufer: I think great service is important no matter what industry you’re in. So, it’s a great service whether you’re in a clothing store, whether you’re in a restaurant – it’s common in any industry. Every customer has experience. I think one piece is constantly looking at, how do we deliver a great customer experience? How do we make sure we meet our customers in whatever way they want to meet them in any shopping experience? We all have moments where we sometimes want to be fast and friction-free, and we want to get in and out. Sometimes, we want to browse. Sometimes, we want to have conversations. I think this was an important guiding principle for how I researched the creation of retail stores at Curaleaf. How do we meet our customers wherever they are on their journey, and meet them in each of those scenarios?

[I’ve been] Looking at our team and partners and making sure we give them a positive experience as well. Communication, consistency, and cultivating loyalty to Curaleaf is important. [Our employees are] Our best defenders, so it’s really important that we have teams that have ownership, understanding, support and can talk well and smoothly with our clients and deliver that experience. At the end of the day, it’s really up to our field team to be able to make it happen [that].

Michael: What is something most people don’t realize about working in the cannabis industry?

TW: How motivated is everyone in the industry and how do you need to lead. The ability to truly embrace change, adapt and pivot [is important]Whether you are suddenly transitioning to adult use, to a changing regulatory environment, to new products, or to ever-changing customer expectations. You have to be dynamic, and you have to be passionate about what you do to be successful.

If you haven’t been to a dispensary yet or don’t understand the market, I think that might come as a surprise. I guess people think of it as a secret [industry where] Everyone is upping all the time, and it’s a more familiar retail experience than I think most people understand.

One of the comments is me [receive] is that people don’t understand that all products come from the state. There is no cross-border trade, [and] People are constantly surprised, “Hey, can’t get what I bought in California, Arizona?” or [they are surprised] That everything is actually made there. This is just a way to open their eyes, like, “Why don’t I have the same product I bought here?” Well, you can’t. The law is still illegal federally, so interstate commerce is not available to us. Indeed, all products are local and really based on market dynamics.

Michael: What is the biggest challenge in running a multi-state cannabis operator like Curaleaf? How did you work to overcome this challenge in your current role?

TW: The maturity of the different markets and the diversity of the regulatory landscapes in which we operate. I think you have such differences from the West Coast, whether it’s Arizona or Colorado, to the East Coast market to everything in between, between medicinal use and adult use [market] maturity.

One of my biggest interests is building on commonalities. How do we have a strong foundation [with] People, processes, customer experience and not getting caught up in all the nuances? It’s very easy to just sit there and say, “This market is different. These products are different.” And you get caught up in the differences so that you don’t get a lot of leverage, and it’s hard to change them often. So, this was a big piece for us, building that foundation to be able to get leverage and be able to respond to market changes quickly.

Michael: What are some of the biggest opportunities you see for the cannabis industry this year? Is there anything that particularly excites you, whether it’s retail trends, legislation, or regulatory changes?

TW: I think the use of adults [legalization] In the East Coast markets it is really welcome and it will be really exciting. Hopefully New Jersey will allow adult use [sales] In the next two months. We know we have Connecticut and New York who have outgrown adult use. So, this is very exciting. It’s a huge opening. It’s bringing new customers into this space and really expanding the industry. These are very visible markets, and I think they are really exciting.

In addition to new products – the continuous development of products and more sophisticated