Michael Forbes is a BC entrepreneur who has brought his experience in medicine, business management, production, and retail into several successful cannabis outfits in the province and across Canada.
In addition to an array of businesses outside of the cannabis space— pharmacies in BC and Alberta, a brewery on Salt Spring Island, and a storage facility in Sooke, BC—Forbes has also founded the micro-business park Sitka Weed Works in Sooke, opened numerous cannabis stores across the country, and is the CEO of Adastra Labs, a cannabis extraction facility in Langley BC.
With a BSc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of British Columbia, Forbes is also certified in cannabis plant production and facility management, as well as age management medicine and hormone restoration, and he owns three methadone clinics.
Bringing his array of experience into the cannabis space on both the medical and “recreational” side is as much about his passion for people and plant medicine as it is about developing thriving businesses and navigating a highly regulated industry.
“I am an advocate for helping patients have a better life, and I believe in plant medicine,” says Forbes. “Our bodies have evolved over thousands of years with nature, so the medicines that plants provide typically work better in the body and are safer than alternatives. And more specifically, cannabis has been shown to provide relief for chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia.
“My decision to enter the cannabis space was informed by this knowledge of its benefits and wanting to enhance the quality of life for patients, as well as my personal passion for solving complex problems.”
Sitka Weed Works
Ever since he started his first pharmacy in his early 20s in the early 2000s, Forbes realized his knack for operating a retail business, scaling up to a workforce of 350 people. This eventually aided in his development of a chain of retail cannabis stores across Canada, and led him to develop a business park for micro-growers on Vancouver Island and a processing facility in Langley.
“Sitka is unique,” he explains. “It was set up to help bring higher-end craft products to market while also working with legacy growers in the micro space. The cannabis market has been constantly evolving, and consumer demands are shifting. We are seeing that the market is now starting to desire (and demand) higher and higher quality cannabis.
“Since Sitka was created to be a high-quality, high-end brand, it is extremely well positioned to provide the products consumers are looking for and play a key role in this niche area.”
Sikta is currently home to several micro producers who can sell through Sitka’s in-house processor or to third-party processors, ideally giving clients a leg up on entering provincial markets.
Avoiding common mistakes
With the number of people investing a lot of their own money to enter the cannabis industry, especially micro producers transitioning from the legacy space, he says his business experience can be an asset.
“My recommendation for those looking to avoid making common mistakes is to educate yourself or bring on expertise that will help you navigate all the regulations. Ensuring that you’re aware of what the regulations mean will help you make decisions regarding the future of your business that will pay off in the long run.”
While some might think the industry is easy money, the reality is quite the opposite.
“I think a lot of people rushed in thinking it would be easier to operate and make it in this market than it is. Regulation is a convoluted and tricky part of the industry that few have the experience to navigate. On top of that, banking regulations have also made it very difficult. I hope those can be changed to be like any other legal Canadian business.
I recommend others in the industry buckle up, watch overhead, and plan to be in a marathon. It is critical to pace your growth and make sure you stay in positive cash flow. And, of course, try and enjoy the ride!”
Navigating provincial markets
A key to Sitka’s success, he continues, is providing the additional knowledge and infrastructure for smaller growers who may not have the interest or ability to navigate the often complex process of being able to sell into a provincial market.
“I think that producers struggle in this area because there can be a tendency to direct all focus on growing, or alternatively, all focus on business functions like sales and marketing. I think that being a skilled grower is only half the business, and quality assurance, distribution, team management, and sales and marketing make up the other half. Both sides of the business need to be mastered, as they work in lockstep with each other to achieve success.”
Another piece in any business, he says, is building strong, cohesive teams.
“It is imperative to learn how to build teams with individuals that have unique and diverse skill sets. It may sound cliché, but you need to surround yourself with people who share your passion and have specific talents that you don’t have. This has always helped keep me from working in an echo chamber and ensures that different perspectives and considerations are brought to the table.”
Content sponsored by: Sitka Legends