Company Name: Bud’s & Roses Collective, Inc.
Year Founded: December 2006
Ownership Structure: Non Profit Mutual Benefit Corporation, CA
Management: Aaron Justis, President, Secretary and Treasurer; Tyler Wadleigh, Head of Cultivation
Headquarters: Studio City, California
Industry Segment/Category: Producer and Medical Retailer
Current Markets/States Served: California
Current Number of employees: 15
Market Strategy/Goal: Have largest and best selection of Cannabis Products for medical patients in Southern California
2014 Current Revenues: $2.5 million, tracking to $3.3 million in 2015
Current Retail Product Mix: Flowers, Edibles, Concentrates, Clones, Consumption Gear
Expansion Plans: Statewide in future
Financing strategy: To date from operations and personal seed capital
Bud’s & Roses
Axl Rose of Guns and Roses hit the rock scene in Los Angeles in 1985, and many anointed them as the second coming of the Rolling Stones in helping to revive the mainstream popularity of rock music. Some 25 years later, Aaron Justis officially took over Bud’s and Roses in Los Angeles after following in the footsteps of his mentors and path blazers, Jack Herer and Steve DeAngelo.
Aaron’s career as an activist started many years earlier when, as a 21 year old, he read Jack Herer’s book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and begin attending NORML events where he met his heroes and decided to begin a hemp and organic t-shirt company that carried pro medicinal marijuana and pro cannabis messages to promote the cause ending prohibition. He even worked Herer’s booth at trade events around the country. His new business and activism took him and his best friend, Tyler Wadleigh, to Amsterdam for the 1998 & 1999 Cannabis Cup where they won Best New Product for their hemp clothing. They also met Adam Dunn, a legendary hemp advocate and one of the first big U.S. seed peddlers and future High Times Cultivation editor, Kyle Kushman, who helped him promote his clothing line.
Raised in Rockford, Ill, Aaron was always a go-getter. The budding entrepreneur dropped out of high school at 16 and completed his GED at 17 before enrolling in a community college while working and starting successful businesses in and around his hometown. His first retail store, Power Communications, taught him a lesson he still applies to this day: make sure you stock the very best products based on consumer needs and wants, and carry a large selection. He also continued his activist efforts that fortuitously led him to Bud’s & Roses in 2010.
A consulting group led by DeAngelo, Erich Pierson of SPARC, and Don Duncan, ASA founder, encouraged him to take over the Bud’s & Roses operation that was doing a paltry $40,000 a year. He implemented the Harborside Health Center wellness concept and other changes when he and his partner formally took over in 2010. One of the moves that Aaron implemented that he swears helped Buds & Roses survive the turmoil in LA in 2012, was vertical integration, where he began growing his own stock and tapped into product being grown by family and friends in both Northern and Southern California. Tyler headed up his growing efforts and over the next couple of years with a core strategy of:
- The Best and Largest Product Mix in LA;
- A wellness theme for Medical Marijuana patients;
- Providing an upscale environment open to all clients and,
- Becoming active in the industry, and winning industry product awards for exceptional quality.
It all came together and the business began yielding dividends. Remaining active in the LA community, Aaron also helped set up a local Medical Marijuana Advisory board.
But as they were moving towards official LA licensing, the war against all LA dispensaries broke out when the Los Angeles City Council voted to ban all dispensaries in 2012, shortly after Aaron’s family finally moved to LA to join him from Illinois.
During our interview, Aaron explained to me that LA dispensaries are not licensed and they are protected by limited immunity. He estimates that there are about 100 in LA today that have immunity as long as they follow the limited immunity rules. To fight against the citywide ban, a coalition was formed between the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA formed in 2008), consisting of the operators in compliance in the city, Americans for Safe Access, and the local UFCW Local 770 Union. A ballot initiative on three (3) separate propositions was added to the 2012 city ballot. Ultimately, a limited immunity ordinance was put into law that also taxed sales revenues at 6 percent and the businesses reopened. There was one catch, however: businesses that sought to move locations had until Dec. 17, 2013 to reopen and could move to a better location if they could find a landlord to sell or lease them property that complied with city requirements.
The current location in Studio City was secured by the narrowest of margins (they signed an agreement with a willing landlord on 12/16/13, thanks to prominent cannabis attorney Henry Wykowski’s last minute efforts!). The new facility which cost about $55k to outfit, has about 1,600 SF of retail space and 1,400 SF of on-site grow space. And with the full concept in place in a strong, high trafficked and cool area in Studio City, Buds & Roses saw its revenue climb 66% to $2.5 million last year.
Aaron and his team continue to innovate and move in a direction that will eventually allow Buds and Roses to expand in the future throughout California. They are building their intellectual property, continue to win awards (20 High Times Medical Cannabis Cup awards) and could potentially begin wholesaling at some point in the future.
Of course, his future and the future of LA Dispensaries and grows in the Golden State are still up in the air until the state finally comes together and passes statewide medical cannabis regulations to clarify the current situation, hopefully in the not-to-distant future. Aaron is working with ASA and the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA), and with his hero Steve DeAngelo (who the protégé sits on the board of the National Cannabis Industry Association with) and other prominent entrepreneurs and activists that have bled for the cause, and he he is optimistic that something may happen in 2015. Who would have expected anything less from the man who was emboldened by The Emperor Wears No Clothes almost 20 years ago?