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Expanding a leading cannabis retail brand into New York

On this episode of BofC Live, we connect with Korin Neff, Founder & CEO of B Cubed – a social equity venture with the exclusive right to develop the Fire & Flower brand into the New York tri-state market.

Fire & Flower US has recently opened an initial store in California and is expanding their footprint via their partnership with B Cubed.

We wanted to connect with Neff in advance of Business of Cannabis: New York where Fire & Flower US/B Cubed are sponsors.

BofC Live is the daily news and interview program of Business of Cannabis. Business of Cannabis highlights the companies, brands, people and trends driving the sector.

Listen to this episode of BofC Live, and all BofC Live episodes, as a podcast:

BofC Live Transcript

Rosenthal: Korin, nice to see you. 

Neff: Great to see you Jay Rosenthal.

Rosenthal: First, quick shout iut to Emory University Class of 1996. We have know each other, I wanted to say 20-something years, but it’s dangerously close to 30 years that we’ve known each other.  We went to university together but it’s great to see you on the cannabis front. So thank you for making time. 

Neff: Well, thank you for having me and it’s great to have a friendship turned into something like this. 

Rosenthal: There was a big gap in between when we didn’t see each other or talk to each other outside of social media but I’m glad that we are seeing each other and talking to each other now. We’re actually working together for an event that we have all coming up – Business of Cannabis: New York on September 29. Fire & Flower and B Cubed – your company – are exclusive partners in the tri-state area. Talk a little bit about B Cubed and sort the relationship you have with Fire & Flower. Sure. 

Neff: B Cubed is a women-owned business that I started with with two partners. Our vision is to responsibly expand access to cannabis for women, minorities and veterans. We were looking at partners that were like-minded and  share the same vision and values as us. We were really fortunate to connect with Fire & Flower US. They are the exclusive license holders of the Fire & Flower brand and technology stack in the United States. So we have the fortune of being able to be help them grow in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut markets and being able to really understand the landscape here but have the power of a really amazing brand and some pretty amazing people behind it too. 

Rosenthal: And folks certainly on this side north of the Canadian border, know Fire & Flower and the tech that they use and the position they have in the secto. Obviously, they’ve made it very clear that they are looking to expand the brand in the US as well. And in the tri-state area seems to be a key focus with you and the team at B Cubed. And things are moving fast now where they were moving slowly before. I think it’s mostly based on New York’s effort. Is that how you’re seeing it as well? 

Neff: There have been a lot of fits and starts where we’re like, “mobilize everything right now” and then there’s a bit of a slowdown. I think there’s some healthy competition between New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, so I think that’s going to keep the momentum going from here on out. So, we’re ready and getting ourselves poised, but also trying to do things in a responsible way: find people on the ground and all of those markets that can really help us understand the consumer base that we’re trying to attract, understand the local municipalities and the right ways to operate. 

Rosenthal: It’s interesting because what appeared to hold back New York maybe a year or more ago, aside from political scandal, was the focus on social equity and doing right by the people who have been harmed by crackdowns on this plant and communities that have been adversely affected. And now New York is trying a more robust approach than many, or maybe all, states have in the past and really making a core to legalization efforts. I think you’ll see a similar thing in New Jersey and Connecticut as well, and it seems to be sort of that Venn diagram that you guys are overlapping with them, where that’s your focus to and and just talk a little bit about that. 

Neff: I think New York is trying to learn the lessons from other states that tried to promote social equity and maybe it didn’t roll out quite as people had anticipated that it would. So New York has made the commitment that 50% of its licences will go to social equity applicants. We’re women business owners, we can’t understand the perspective of every population that might be disenfranchised, but we certainly understand the struggles of being women in business and are trying to empower ourselves with that and also find an opportunity to empower others. So we are really focused on bringing minorities into our group, bringing veterans into our group, working on things like expungement projects and educational programs. So you have communities that were largely impacted by ”war on drugs” for many years and it became this terrible cycle of incarceration and then lack of education. So we’re trying to bring education to people because we know that in New York alone they are expecting somewhere upwards of about 60,000 jobs to become available in the cannabis market. So we want to be there to train people, educate people and then also work with communities to them understand that there’s not necessarily a negative stigma attached with cannabis, that there’s a lot of positives aside from just tax revenue. 

Rosenthal: Well tax revenue can get a lot of municipalities and cities moving as well, so let’s not downplay that, but the jobs and frankly many cannabis retailers or dispensaries that we’ve seen in Canada, Colorado, California tend to be very, very good neighbors, right? They drive a lot of foot traffic. They are sort of economic drivers by block or by city and so it’s really important and sort of your focus on. As I said, you’re a partner and sponsor for our Business of Cannabis: New York event coming up on the 29th. It’ll be nice to be back in person safely with all the COVID protocols, actually connecting with people who are moving the industry forward in New York.

Neff: Aside from our friendship and the fact that we’ve known each other forever, one of the draws was first of all I love the ironic twist on having a cannabis event at the Rainbow Room. I mean who could say no to that, but also, we’ve talked about the sponsors that have been popping up and some of the people that have just joined us attendees. It’s really nice to see people that I’ve known in the industry for a while, so it’s a great group of people that have been trusted colleagues of mine for years.

Rosenthal: I want to thank you and the B Cubed team and Fire & Flower US. We look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks and thank you for your time today. 

Neff: Thank you Jay.

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