I’m a big fan of Chalice Farms, probably because I’ve visited some of their dispensaries while I was recently in Portland, Oregon. They do a really nice job with training their staff to be compassionate and kind. Great work by a company that really cares about their guests. For once I didn’t feel sold to, but guided by. You really have to experience this level of service yourself. At least I experienced a warm and friendly environment. Very refreshing indeed. Now, without further delay, may I introduce Jeff Yapp, the CEO of Golden Leaf Holdings.

Warren Bobrow= WB: Please tell me about yourself? Why Cannabis? What was your inspiration for the plant?

Jeff Yapp=JY: I currently work as the CEO of Golden Leaf Holdings, a cannabis company based in the Northwest. Our holdings include Chalice Farms, which is a chain of seven dispensaries in the Portland metropolitan area. Up until a few years ago, when I connected with a start-up cannabis company to help with technology needs, much of my career had been spent in the tech industry. Through that connection, I began to learn more about the associations from plant-based medicine to problems that many people in our country deal with – lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, etc. During my career, I had worked with large retailers through marketing and branding to help people understand products and how they could be conveniently implemented into their lives. I found myself waking up in the middle of the night to write business plans for something in the realm of cannabis.

Cannabis didn’t strike me as a health and wellness alternative until my son was born and diagnosed with Autism, Crohn’s Disease and Colitis. We took our son to be evaluated by specialists across the country, including Boston General, one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world. Time and again, we were told that our son would need to be institutionalized because his conditions would demand an extremely high level of care. My wife did not believe this was the right course of action for our son, and she demanded that we find a better solution to keep our son with us. We made a commitment that we would find a way to address his medical needs without surgeries or any pharmaceuticals.

This started our journey into alternative medicine, where we eventually determined that diet was an integral part of his treatment. We cut out all common allergens like wheat, dairy and sugar; and we learned through this process that if you nourish the body the way that it is intended to be treated, there is room to heal. Our son was able to speak when it had been predicted he would not have the ability to do so. Eventually, he was no longer testing positive for Crohn’s and Colitis, which demonstrated the effectiveness of plant-based medicine, which I now view as the future and next generation of health and wellness.

I then met William Simpson, the founder of Chalice Farms, an athlete who practiced mixed martial arts and was very focused on his health. He too had also experimented with all sorts of pharmaceuticals with the goal of reducing athletic pain. He told me a story about how cannabis saved his life by cutting out all pharmaceutical drugs, which he replaced with various forms of cannabis. He built the Chalice brand on a foundation of health and wellness, permeating down to the way he designed products and retail stores. As one of the pioneers of the industry, he quickly found himself as the CEO of a publicly traded company, which was not what he had sought out to do when he began his work in cannabis at the farm level.

WB: Please tell me about your company. What are your six- and twelve-month goals? 

JY: Chalice Farms was created in 2014 as one of the first cannabis companies in Oregon by William Simpson, who had a personal connection to cannabis and credited the plant to saving his life. Chalice Farms operates seven dispensaries in the Portland area and is a farm-to-table lifestyle cannabis company focused on health and wellness, education, product innovation and customer service excellence.

As we move forward this year, we believe continuing to drive the convenience and accessibility of cannabis to our customers is critical, which is why we launched our in-house delivery service earlier this year. Our six-month goals are to continue to provide the best customer service and ease of experience to our customers through our delivery platform, curbside pick-up offerings and safe in-store experiences, and to generate a positive cashflow as a company.

Our 12-month goals are to continue to leverage the incredible operating team we’ve built and to grow to a premier leader in the cannabis space nationally. We are also working on the continuing growth and expansion of our business. Through our genuine intention to drive our business as a leader in health and wellness, we foresee ourselves becoming a much bigger player in this industry.

Wb: What about stigmas? How do you explain to a potential client what you do?

JY: It’s interesting to look at stigmas towards the industry now, because I’ve found that over the past several years, attitudes towards cannabis have shifted dramatically. With the majority of my career spent in technology, which led to being introduced to a cannabis company, it’s clear to me that those two industries are working in partnership to bring the best that they have to offer to consumers. Because I’ve been involved in alternative health and wellness for 20 years through my experience with my son, this is a natural extension and I haven’t received any negative feedback towards my work with cannabis.

I look at cannabis in the same ways that I look at digital companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft – in phases. We are coming to the close of cannabis 1.0, which has been the infancy of this industry as states establish retail programs and wrestle with legislation. In cannabis 2.0, I expect to see market consolidation and higher-quality products emerging and in cannabis 3.0, I expect to see federal legalization, banking systems and a free market – it’s hard to predict how well we’ll see that succeed or fail. Overall, cannabis will become our next generation of health and wellness.

As cannabis companies have been deemed essential businesses over the past several months through COVID-19, we’ve seen more credibility given to the industry. Plus, recognition has been given to the nimble adaptations necessary for operators to survive. COVID-19 has shifted the industry to focus more on the health and wellness benefits of cannabis products, as well as has demonstrated the flexibility and adaptability of our industry through regulatory changes. On a state by state level, we’re seeing dispensaries across the country adapt to tackle regulatory challenges to best serve customers. We have seen companies transition to delivery-only models in some markets, adding express pick-up options elsewhere, and always prioritizing customer safety in retail stores with sanitizing stations and strict social distancing policies.

WB: What is your favorite food memory from childhood? What is your favorite kind of food now? From where? 

JY: My favorite food memories from childhood all come from spending time with my grandma. I would stay at her house on Friday nights and every Saturday morning, she would make a fresh cornmeal pancake in a cast iron skillet with real lard. Those pancakes were the best and crispiest taste I’ve ever had. I would always wake up early on Saturdays just to spend time with her; she always had a garden with fresh fruits and vegetables and a pasture with farm animals.

It’s funny now to see the trend of reverting to more of that style and method to eating in the same way that my grandma did. My wife has a beautiful garden and we’re getting goats and chickens. We are embracing a lifestyle with minimal processed foods. I love going to restaurants and being in Portland, where we have endless options of farm-to-table restaurants, fresh seafood from the coast, amazing wines and some of the best beer in the country.

WB: What is your passion? 

JY: My family is my passion. I’m blessed with an incredible wife and seven kids – my youngest is now somehow already 21 years old. The greatest gift that I’ve been able to give my family and my children is that each one of them is doing something that they love and are passionate about.

With COVID-19, our team has been working remotely and I’ve been fortunate to have more time than I ever expected with my family. My 30-year-old daughter and her fiancé are currently staying with us, another daughter and my grandson are staying with us, and we have a couple of our other kids here with us as well. It’s also the first time in nearly 40 years that I haven’t been on a plane every week, which has been a welcome break from travel to enjoy time with my family.

 

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